Wednesday, September 9, 2015

HTR's Weekly 25: Week 1

For a while here, I dabbled in writing a little about Chicago sports (which, as I then had the time, was fun, even if it went unread), I've written traditional game recaps of various Big Ten games (football and basketball) and various other little things along the way.

But, when I started this thing five years ago, it was with football, particularly Michigan football, in mind.

So, while my work as a regular journalist keeps me busy, I'm going to try to create some regularity here. I've tried in the past, with some success during the football and basketball seasons, before dropping back once summer hits.

Well, I'll worry about the summer once it returns next year: for now, the easiest way to stay engaged in the college football scene is by, what else, compiling a weekly set of by and large meaningless rankings.

Does my opinion mean anything? No, not really -- but the older I get, the less justifiable watching hours of football becomes without doing something meaningful with it ("meaning," here, is a generous term).

So, with that, here's my personal top 25 after the first week's worth of action:

1. Ohio State. Talk about a no-brainer. The Buckeyes marched into Blacksburg, missing their best defender in Joey Bosa and several other players, and still dominated despite turning it over a couple of times. Braxton Miller as utility playmaking type is a terrifying concept. Who would've thought that he would one day be a Heisman a wide receiver? That spin move will probably feature prominently in college football promo commercials for OSU games the rest of the season, and for good reason. Ohio State appears to be on track to cruise to another playoff appearance.

2. Alabama. The Crimson Tide simply beat up a Badgers team that, for the first time in recent memory, is somewhat shaky on the offensive line. Even so, the Badgers' normally prolific rushing attack was non-existent, with UW tailback Corey Clement carrying it just 8 times for 16 yards before sitting the rest of the game out with an injury. While Joel Stave had a nice game, UW had no answer for Alabama's own rushing attack. It should be no surprise that, like conference mate Georgia, Alabama has multiple tailbacks who can get the job done. Quarterback Jake Coker's (15-of-21, 213 yards, 1 TD) longest completion of the day, in fact, was a 33-yarder to tailback Kenyan Drake. Once again, Alabama appears to be the football equivalent of the trash compactor from "Star Wars."

3. TCU. Okay, you can say the score of their season-opening win at Minnesota didn't inspire confidence. But I give credit for road wins, and the Gophers aren't a pushover. Minnesota lacks offensive punch, but they're still a tough out, and the Horned Frogs got the job done on a hot evening in Minnesota (yes, hot, Minnesota).

4. Auburn. Similarly, it's hard to say the Tigers had an exceptional Week 1, but again, I give credit for beating a real opponent. More importantly for Auburn fans, the defense looked okay, forcing two turnovers and holding Louisville quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Reggie Bonnafon to a combined 5.06 yards per attempt. Sure, new Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson struggled, but I think you'd rather have the defense do okay and the young quarterback struggle than the other way least at this stage of the season.

5. Michigan State. Again, file this under the "not impressive box score but still good" category. Also, props are in order for traveling to Kalamazoo. Of course, this week's tilt against Oregon is the nonconference game of note for the Spartans.

6. Baylor. Maybe I'm giving excessive weight to the halftime score against SMU (28-21, Baylor). But, again, this was a road game, and it's a long season. As long as they continue to win, that first 30 minutes will be nothing but a minor footnote.

7. Notre Dame. Okay, beating Texas -- let alone dismantling them -- doesn't mean much now, but the Longhorns were at least expected to be able to play some defense. The Fighting Irish disproved that assumption, racking up 527 yards of offense and holding the Longhorns to just 20:50 in possession (yes, I know, a meaningless stat in and of itself, but still an indicator of how the game went).

8. Oregon. I know, it's only Week 1, but the Ducks gave up a whopping 42 points and 549 total yards against Eastern Washington. That won't work out too well against conference competition.

9. Georgia. A ho-hum blowout, a college football Week 1 tradition. Todd Gurley is plying his trade in St. Louis, but Nick Chubb and Keith Marshall will do just fine for UGA (that's an understatement).

10. UCLA. Virginia isn't a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination, but the Bruins looked strong against major conference competition, and quarterback Josh Rosen was tremendous (28-of-35, 351 yards, 3 TDs).

The wild back 15:

11. USC
12. Florida State
13. Clemson
14. Texas A&M
15. Georgia Tech
16. LSU
17. Arkansas
18. Ole Miss
19. Boise State
20. Oklahoma
21. Missouri
22. Tennessee
23. Arizona
24. Mississippi State
25. Utah

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