Saban Cometh: The first true Saturday of the 2008 college football season.
Ah, the first day of the college football season. All across the country teams are hammering out those last wrinkles in the game plan, the local fan base has convinced itself that this is “the year”, and the top 5 are playing teams so far below them in talent it's a miracle if they are held to 50 points or less. Yes, ladies and gentleman, the best time of the year has finally begun!
East Carolina vs. Virginia Tech
East Carolina 27
Virginia Tech 22
This game was entertaining but sloppy. Both teams committed multiple turnovers, both teams had kicks blocked and run back, and both teams played fairly solid defense. Pirates' quarterback Patrick Pinkney played a largely flawless game, going 19/23 for 211 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions. He added a touchdown run in the fourth quarter to bring East Carolina within 2 points and make it a one score game. If you're Frank Beamer you have to be concerned about the lack of improvement from Sean Glennon. He won the starting job over Tyrod Taylor, but if Glennon keeps producing 139 yard zero touchdown 2 interception performances it probably won't be too long before Taylor gets playing time.
Utah at Michigan
The good news for Michigan is that once the defense settled down the Wolverines held Utah to 3 points in the second half. The bad news is that the offense is very bad. The Michigan quarterbacks combined for 19/38 and 167 yards. Utah, on the other hand, schooled Michigan on how the spread option is supposed to work. Quarterback Brian Johnson threw for 305 yards and running back Matt Asiata consistently slashed Michigan's defense for 5.9 yards a carry, helping the Utes pick up 16 points in the second quarter and build up what would prove to be an insurmountable lead. Michigan's front seven did look noticeably faster and in better shape than they have in the past. In particular, linebacker Obi Ezeh might be someone to keep an eye on in the future.
Mississippi St. at Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech 22
Mississippi St. 14
How do you out gain your opponent 322 yards to 243 and still lose by 8? Your historically mistake free starting quarterback throws 4 interceptions. Wesley Carroll made a name for himself last season by playing mistake free football and not turning the ball over. Saturday he did the opposite and Louisiana Tech made them pay. Anthony Dixon looked good when he had room to run, but was never really a factor in the game.
Michigan St at California
Michigan St. 31
There wasn't a lot of defense being played out west. The Bears racked up a ton of yards on the ground, with Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen rushing for 111 and 101 respectively. Brian Hoyer, the Spartan quarterback threw for 321 yards, but was very erratic for most of the game and saw a lot of his passes bouncing off the turf a couple yards in front of his receivers. Mark Dell accounted for most of those by having a monster game and hauling in 9 catches for 203 yards. Javon Ringer ran for a workmanlike 81 yards and two touchdowns, but wasn't much of a factor in the outcome.
Illinois vs. Missouri
This was, by a large margin, the most exciting game of the day. Chase Daniels and Jeremy Maclin put on a show in St Louis, with Juice Williams answering a lot of doubts about whether the offense can work without Rashard Mendenhall. Daniels threw for 323 yards and rushed for 46 more in some key situations for the Tigers. Maclin only caught 4 passes for 31 yards, but gained 201 yards on special teams including a 99 yard kickoff return in the 2nd quarter that gave Missouri a lead they would never relinquish. The Illini put up 532 yards themselves, most of it due to Williams' 451 yards passing, as his receivers proved they're more than just Arrelious Benn. Chris Duvalt and Will Judson both accounted for over 100 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. Both teams need to drastically improve on defense if they hope to seriously contend for a conference title or BCS berth, although Missouri has a better chance due to a soft schedule.
Stanford:Oregon St. isn't a bad team, and for the experienced Cardinals to come out and beat them is a huge statement. Expect them to finish somewhere in the second tier of Pac 10 teams with Oregon, Arizona St., and California.
Alabama: Saban's team fired a huge shot across the landscape of college football Saturday night by not only defeating Clemson, a team with national title aspirations, but defeating them easily. That sound you heard was Auburn and LSU crapping their pants.
The ACC: The two favorites to win the conference, Virginia Tech and Clemson, both lost non-conference games on Saturday. Virginia Tech to non-BCS East Carolina, and Clemson to an ahead of schedule Crimson Tide. At this point, even if one of them ends up winning the conference, who will take them seriously? They really need Wake Forest, North Carolina, or an ahead of schedule Miami team to be better than expected or an already downtrodden conference will fall even farther in the public eye.