This was one of the more eventful opening weeks college football has seen and because of the good matchups we quickly learned a lot about a good many players and teams.
We found out LSU was a pretender. Ok, I’ll admit I bought in into the hype too. They returned so many starters! It just goes to show how important the QB position is, and they’re obviously not getting good QB play.
Someone other than Clemson finally exposed Oklahoma. Houston didn’t fluke their way to a win. They were clearly the better team with better QB play. OU’s loss is good for the ACC. All the pre-season talk about the Clemson/FSU loser sneaking into the playoff relies on some two-loss conference champions. I think we get that out of the Big 12 now and likely the Pac-12 (South Division favorites UCLA and USC each took a loss today). With LSU losing, the biggest obstacles to a one-loss ACC Atlantic runner-up may be Houston, Notre Dame, and the Ohio State/Michigan loser. Time to start cheering against them (even though Houston is sooo like-able).
UGA also found their starting QB. It seems clear that Jacob Eason is their best option moving forward. UT and UF struggled and if Eason can give them quality QB play in their very run-heavy offense they can win the SEC East. They get an over-rated Tennessee at home. Despite winning, the Vols had a bad week in what was really an awful opening week for the SEC (barring an Ole Miss upset of FSU on Labor Day). Tennesse was outplayed by App State, who really blew the game in the final minutes and OT.
Other SEC disasters included: LSU losing to Wisconsin, Kentucky losing to Southern Miss, and Mississippi State losing to South Alabama. Not quite disaster-level, but Missouri lost to West Virginia and Arkansas struggled with Louisiana Tech (21-20). UGA, Texas A&M, and Bama (so dominant) salvaged an otherwise poor showing by the nation’s best conference. (We can acknowledge they’re the best, but it’s become a modest margin).
Of course Auburn gave the SEC another loss as they fell in an admirable battle to Clemson. We highlighted the matchup between Auburn’s D-line and Clemson’s O-line in our preview articles and that’s where the action was for the Plainsmen. They did a great job containing Watson and bottling up the run (Clemson: 3.4 YPC). Watson didn’t do much with his feet or on the roll-out. Auburn is a different team with a healthy Carl Lawson and we have to admit, Kevin Steele coached a good game.
Jordan Leggett had a drop and a false start, but no catches. Clemson’s receivers didn’t seem to get much separation from Auburn’s DBs. Fortunately, Mike Williams didn’t really need it as he snatched back shoulder catches all night.
One QB situation we didn’t discuss above was the one in Auburn. They played three different QBs throughout the game and it did not work well. In fact, it played a big part in the loss for them. At one point, John Franklin III was driving and they inexplicably replaced him with Jeremy Johnson who threw a pick two plays later. In one of the biggest spots in the game with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter, they replaced Sean White with Jeremy Johnson on fourth-and-one situation, telegraphed the QB Power, and had it promptly stuffed. Field goals on those drives or a TD on one of them completely changes the game.
We said for Auburn to win their D-line would need to outplay our O-line and Sean White would have to play a comparable game to Watson. Check the box on the first of those, but Sean White finished just 10-21 passing with an INT.
I was miffed by the last two offensive plays for Clemson. Auburn was out of timeouts when Gallman ran out of bounds on third down. I would have preferred a kneel to that! That’s a situation where you center the ball with a simple A-gap run to the middle of the field, burn the clock down to 10-15 seconds, and then you can kick the field goal or run another HB dive. Once he ran out of bounds with 40 ticks left, you had to kick it. Is our FG unit so bad that Dabo was scared of a blocked kick? I don’t know what other explanation there is. A made field goal is as good as a the first down there (either seals the win).
Fortunately, Jadar Johnson was the hero of the game. He had a bad pass interference, but also had a nice interception on a poorly thrown ball (the receiver was fairly open). More notably though, he tipped the Hail Mary in the end zone before the final play and then swatted the last gasp attempt to the ground. Great plays by Jadar to move the Tigers to 1-0.
Although Clemson played poorly, the offense being the unit that struggled seems preferable (we had to struggle on one side of the ball). If the defense is this far ahead of schedule, I feel good about this team. Surely the offense will get back to form moving forward.
Here’s a video I shot with MarkRogersTV with a bit more detail on Clemson’s performance: