October 18, 2021

College football Week 1 overreactions: Alabama is national title favorite, Clemson might not be playoff-worthy – USA TODAY

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2021/09/07/college-football-overreactions-alabama-clemson/5735340001/

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So are the results from Week 1 in college football.

In a sport where there is no preseason, the opening games are never going to works of art. Turnovers, penalties, special teams miscues and uneven play are going to be the norm, rather than the exception.

That leads to the inevitable misguided analysis that occurs from having a small sample size to evaluate teams. Many of these opinions start with the seed of bias that has been planted during the offseason. The results from the opener only validate them in their minds. 

But don’t forget, this is a 12-game season where a close win by Oklahoma doesn’t mean they’re a pretender or an impressive performance by UCLA won’t mean much in November if the Bruins can’t navigate a difficult schedule.

So with that in mind, here are of some of the biggest overreactions from Week 1. 

Alabama will cruise to the national title

The Crimson Tide might repeat, but not because they thrashed an overrated Miami team. Alabama was last preseason No. 1 in three consecutive seasons from 2016 to 2018. In two of those years, it blew out No. 17 Southern California and Louisville in the same way it dismantled the Hurricanes. Yet the Crimson Tide didn’t win the title in those campaigns. The year in the span they did win the national championship – 2017 – the opening win was against No. 3 Florida State, but they still lost later in the regular season to Auburn. Alabama looked great. Just don’t put the invincible tag on them just yet.

Bryce Young will win the Heisman Trophy

In the same way predicting the national champion is problematic after the first week, successfully handicapping the Heisman race so early is another futile effort. Yes, Young was outstanding against Miami and he surely is at the top of the list with Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei all struggling. It’s still a long season to go and Young hasn’t played a Southeastern Conference game, especially on the road. There are still going to be growing pains ahead. Also, remember where Joe Burrow and DeVonta Smith were after the first week of the previous two seasons. Neither was anywhere near the top of the list and emerged as dominant winners.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young scrambles away from Miami safety Gilbert Frierson (3) during their game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Texas is the class of the Big 12

Saying the Longhorns are back has reached the same status as the little boy crying wolf, however, the defeat of No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette was easily the best result of any team in the conference. Steve Sarkisian’s debut couldn’t have gone much better and quarterback Hudson Card looks solid. 

The other three ranked Big 12 teams – Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State – won by a combined 18 points against Tulane, Northern Iowa and Missouri State, respectively. Expect major improvement from that trio going forward. Then there’s Kansas State lurking. The Wildcats handled Stanford with quarterback Skylar Thompson back at full strength. It’s looking a like a very balanced race in the league that has only just started.

Clemson may miss out on the playoff

It was an offensive nightmare for the Tigers as Uiagalelei made his first start after Trevor Lawrence’s departure. To be fair to the sophomore quarterback, none of the issues against Georgia should be laid at his feet. This was mostly a failure of the Clemson offensive line to handle the defensive front of the Bulldogs.

The good news is that the Tigers won’t face another opponent as difficult as Georgia. There’s time to sort out the problems on the offensive line and get Uiagalelei more comfortable with his receivers. Ultimately, a loss by seven points on a neutral field to a top-5 team isn’t a killer for this team’s lofty goals even with the Atlantic Coast Conference off to a slow start. If the Tigers win out – and they’ll be big favorites in the rest of their games – then expect them to be in the field.

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei is knocked to the turf by Georgia defender Travon Walker during their game at Bank of America Stadium.

MISERY INDEX WEEK 1:UConn keeps getting embarrassed; Clemson’s best days in past?

WINNERS AND LOSERS:Georgia, UCLA notch statement wins; ACC has rocky Week 1

Oregon will be no match for Ohio State

There’s a reason the term look-ahead game exists. It’s easy for a team to have one eye on a bigger opponent that is coming the following week than being focused on the task at hand. So the Ducks went flat, especially after taking an early lead on an underrated Fresno State team.

So this week’s trip to face the Buckeyes should be a walkover, right? However, Week 1 worked perfectly for Oregon. First, the Ducks got a needed test in the fourth quarter – which they passed – and they’ve been a bit humbled, negating any chance of overconfidence. Meanwhile, Ohio State is dealing with a different psychology in its preparations. The Buckeyes are a two-touchdown favorite, and Oregon’s struggles might reduce their sense of urgency, especially after a lackluster showing by their own run defense. This shapes up to be a close, tense game for four quarters.

Indiana was overrated and Iowa was underrated

Let’s not write off the Hoosiers too soon after their tough loss to Iowa. Michael Penix Jr. was returning less than 10 months off knee surgery and clearly was not at his best. His three interceptions, two of which were returned for scores, decided the game. Give credit to the Hawkeyes for their defensive performance, but that is likely the worst game Penix plays all season and he will improve. A better opportunity for Indiana to prove itself comes Sept. 18 against Cincinnati.

For Iowa, yes, it scored 34 points, but the questions on offense were not answered. The Hawkeyes gained only 303 yards and the passing game still has concerns with Spencer Petras completing below 50% of this throws. A bigger test comes on the road this week at Iowa State. Then we can make a better judgment.

Mississippi is a contender in the SEC

A dominating performance against Louisville was most impressive because the Rebels shut down the Cardinals after allowing 38.3 points and 519 yards per game last year. It’s a great first step for a unit that is benefitting from being in its second season under defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin.

Let’s go easy on extrapolating this success against an SEC schedule which will provide significantly more challenges on both sides of the ball. The Rebels likely will stick around the Top 25 for most of the season. Beating the likes of Alabama and Texas A&M might be too high of a mountain to climb.