By James Ward
Wayne Gallman: The Clemson success and hype train has largely centered on Heisman contending, all-world quarterback Deshaun Watson, but against Auburn, Wayne Gallman was the most valuable offensive player for the Tigers. Underrated.
Pac 12: The Conference went 7-5 in Week 1, but in a few marquee matchups, the Pac-12 had key losses. Alabama throttled then No. 20 USC for a disappointing opening season loss for the Trojans. Texas A&M held off a fourth quarter comeback from last week’s No. 16 UCLA and beat the Bruins in overtime. Overrated.
Les Miles: The Mad Hatter was in danger of losing his job for most of the second half of last season. In the end, LSU President F. King Alexander decided to sign Miles to a contract extension. After Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin, the hot seat is white-hot and former LSU players are calling for Miles to lose his job. Overrated
Mike Riley: I have a pretty sweet job. I get to talk to college football coaches a lot (admittedly, mostly introductions and pleasantries), but in my experiences, Nebraska head coach Mike Riley is one of the nicest guys in college football. The Huskers beautiful tribute to fallen punter Sam Foltz last week only further demonstrated Riley’s likability. Underrated.
Alabama: Is it possible the No. 1 team in the country is underrated? I think so. The Crimson Tide destroyed last week’s No. 20 USC on Saturday night in Dallas – an opposing team with a ton of NFL talent. I know it sounds like a Week 1 overreaction, but freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts might be the most talented quarterback Nick Saban has ever had in Tuscaloosa. Underrated.
The SEC (aside from Alabama): So Alabama is the clear No. 1 team in the SEC, but what team is No. 2? LSU was the second highest ranked SEC team in the AP Preseason Poll, but they lost to Wisconsin. Tennessee was supposed to contend for the SEC Title, but they struggled against Appalachian State. Texas A&M and Georgia both beat good Power Five teams, but neither looked dominant. After one half, Ole Miss looked to be the clear answer, but the second half against Florida State changed everything. The Seminoles came back completed the largest comeback in school history. Overrated.
Week 1 Schedule: Last week was the best opening weekend of college football ever, or so I’m told, and that was before any of the games kicked off. There were plenty of blowouts (Ohio State and Michigan combined to score 140 points), but Houston/Oklahoma, Clemson/Auburn, Notre Dame/Texas and Ole Miss/Florida State all delivered on the hype. Underrated
Week 2 Schedule: As good as last week’s matchups were in college football, this week matchups are equally as bad. (Spoiler alert: I am picking Middle Tennessee State to cover.) According to Ralph Russo of the Associated Press, this is the first college football weekend where there isn’t a game involving two AP ranked teams since September 8, 2012. College football is back, but this weekend is for diehard college football fans only. Overrated.
Three Things You Probably Didn’t Know:
- There are four schools from Texas in the Big 12. The starting quarterbacks of three of these schools are both sons of former Texas Rangers. The baseball team. The fathers of TCU’s Kenny Hill, Texas’ Shane Buechele and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes all played at least ten years of Major League Baseball. (h/t @RichAckerman)
- In the 2015 College Football Season, the FCS went 9-96 against FBS opponents. Last week, the FCS went 4-42 against FBS opponents, but three of those wins were against Power Five opponents. In Week 1, Eastern Washington beat Washington State, Northern Iowa beat Iowa State and Richmond beat Virginia to start the year.
- Houston pummeled Oklahoma in what was regarded as their Big 12 showcase. Sports Illustrated reported that Tom Herman is due $2.5 million raise in each of his first two seasons if the Cougars jump up to a Power Five conference. It’s difficult to get inside a head coach’s head, but Herman is building something special in Houston and it is difficult for me to imagine him leaving H-Town.
Middle Tennesee (+4.5) at Vanderbilt: This week’s pick of Middle Tennessee is a good indicator to the dearth of interesting college football matchups. Middle Tennessee is a very good offensive team. They scored 55 points against Alabama A&M last week, largely behind the arm of Brent Stockstill, who threw over 300 yards for the fifth time in his last six games. The reigning Conference USA Freshman Player of the Year benefits from an offense largely based on passing the football. The Blue Raiders lost to Vanderbilt last year in Week 2 by the final score of 17-13, but the Commodores win snapped a three game losing streak to Middle Tennessee. When Vanderbilt rattled off five straight wins to close out the 2013 season, it looked like the Commodores were no longer the cellar dwellers of the SEC. But James Franklin left Nashville and they’ve gone back to last place under Derek Mason. The Blue Raiders are a live underdog, but take the points.
Arkansas (+7.5) at TCU: Arkansas is 30-3 lifetime against TCU, but they haven’t played since 1991 when both teams were in the SWC. Arkansas was 8-5 last year and they opened up this year with a win against Louisiana Tech. Arkansas has improved every year under Bret Bielema, but I’m not sure this Razorback team is capable of winning nine games. However, I do think they are capable of staying close with a TCU team that gave up 41 points last week to South Dakota State.
The Razorbacks returned nine starters on defense and have one of the most experienced defenses in the SEC, while TCU lost all of their leading offensive players from last year to the NFL. Both teams won tough games last week, but in vastly different styles. Arkansas needed a game winning drive to topple Louisiana Tech, while TCU hung half a hundred (+9) on South Dakota State. Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen and running back Rawleigh Williams got better in the second half against Louisiana Tech and I expect them to keep that momentum going in this week’s game against TCU.
Washington State (+10.5) at Boise State: Washington State is 4-0 all time against Boise State, but they haven’t played since 2001. The Cougars were my dark horse team heading into this year’s college football season, but a loss last week to Eastern Washington wont help their cause. Last year, the Cougars lost to Portland State in the first week, but went 7-3 in the Pac 12. Washington State returns Luke Falk at quarterback, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. They also return their leading rusher (Gerald Wicks) and receiver (Gabe Marks) from last year.
Saturday is Boise State’s home opener and the Broncos have won 14 straight home openers (coincidentally, their last home opener loss was against WSU) and the blue turf is one of the best home-field advantages in college football. Is Boise State better than Washington State? Probably. But are the Broncos 10.5 points better than the Cougars? Not a chance. Mike Leach has turned Washington State into a legitimate Power Five football team, but starting the season 0-2 would be a step backwards.
Last Week: 2-1
Season Record: 2-1
Ward’s Winners Overall Record: 32-21-0