Friday, August 30, 2013

Finally--College Football is back!

Sure, the Royals were competitive further into the season than is normal in Kansas City.  And, yes, it was fun to watch Kansas native Gary Woodland make a late season surge on the PGA Tour.  The Kansas City Chiefs are generating optimism and Sporting KC is once again a contender for an MLS crown.

But, finally, FINALLY--College Football is back.  The season kicked off last night and immediately reminded us of why we love this game that features the best regular season in sports.  ESPN viewers were treated to the pageantry of the SEC with a marquee opener of North Carolina at South Carolina, followed by Ole Miss against Vanderbilt.  Fresno State held on in overtime against Rutgers.  And, USC went on the road (or should I say ocean) to beat Hawaii--not the easiest of away games.

Let's break down a few things as we open college football in full swing this weekend.

Heisman watch:  Is Jadeavean Clowney a product of the hype machine?  The kid is incredibly talented and his mega-hit in last year's Outback Bowl is the stuff of YouTube multi-million viewings.  Yet, he took plays off last night, was frequently double-teamed and seldom was a factor.  Unfortunately for Clowney, there are infrequent occasions for a defensive lineman to have "Heisman moments."

Underrated:  The Pac-12 is loaded this year.  Stanford and Oregon are top 10 teams, USC will rebound from a miserable 2012, UCLA under Jim Mora has an electric QB in Brett Hundley, Washington is much improved and look out for the Arizona schools.

Overrated:  This is the year the Big 12 needs to put up or shut up.  Oklahoma State may be the cream of the conference crop but it's schools like Oklahoma and Texas that need to win big games again.  Kansas State is the darling of local media but, once again, no one nationally is taking them seriously.  Baylor may have the most productive offense in the country but can they stop anybody?  The league has lost a bit of its mojo and now trails the SEC and the Pac-12 as a power football conference.

Weis:  To Charlie's credit, he is not automatically granting starting berths to his crop of junior college transfers.  Kansas is disappointed that highly regarded Chris Martin was booted from the team, that transfer Nick Harwell has to sit out a year, and that Marcus Jenkins-Moore is out with a knee injury.  That means other transfers must step up and, thus far, only a select few are listed as starters.  Good for Weis--he knows fans want instant improvement but he also understands the need for long-term stability and cultural change in the program.  Improving in the win column is a must to show progress but, after next week's opener, where will KU get its wins?  A win at Rice on September 14 is absolutely critical.

Pinkel:  There's a hot seat in Columbia, MO and Gary Pinkel is on it.  What's the number of wins required for this season to be a success?  The Tigers had better start 4-0 (although a trip to Indiana will not be a sure win) before road trips to Vanderbilt and Georgia followed by visits from Florida and South Carolina.  If the Tigers are 5-3 at that point, they could easily finish 7-5; if they are 4-4, then it could be a struggle to become bowl eligible.

Snyder:  How does Saint Bill improve on last season?  Gone are Collin Klein and Arthur Brown but methinks that Purple Nation will see a reloaded K-State.  The 'Cats won't make a second straight BCS game given the prospects at Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas but will likely finish fourth in an improved league.

Bye-bye:  It's bye-bye, BCS.  The system that irked fans, coaches and media types is giving way to the College Football Playoff in 2014-2015.  Yet, for all of its faults, the BCS did successfully pit one versus two on a consistent basis, even if the ranking system riled up emotions across the country.  We look forward  to the new four-team playoff and the controversy that will occur the first time that the fifth ranked team cries "foul!"