CRAWFORD | Return of the Monday Morning Quarterback, internet style
WDRB's Eric Crawford reviews Week 1 of college football locally and nationally with a run through the weekend's highlights and a look ahead at next week.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Let’s see if I can remember how to do this. A reader mentioned to me at the Kentucky State Fair a while back that he missed my “Monday Morning Quarterback” feature during college football season. It’s a short series of items I used to do in my newspaper days. I basically started it up because that Monday column could be the toughest of the week. Saturday was often a travel day. I needed something to fill the space. (I stole the idea from Mike Barry, who had written a similar feature for the paper years before.) This season, I’ll resume the effort here. Hopefully, it’s like riding a bike . . .
RED 1: Say hello to the NCAA FBS leader in passing efficiency after Week 1, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. You’re probably going to see his name pop up a few times in this piece. For all the talk about his legs, all that offseason work on his passing game appears to have paid some dividends. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 286 yards and 6 touchdowns. Or consider it this way -- every fourth pass he launched wound up in a touchdown celebration.
RED 1: Also, meet the NCAA FBS leader in passing yards after Week 1, Western Kentucky University quarterback Mike White. I guess we can stop talking about QB uncertainty on the Hill. In his first game, the South Florida transfer completed 25 of 31 passes for 517 yards and three touchdowns.
BLUE 14: It’s still one of the more amazing stats of college football’s opening weekend. Kentucky ran just 14 plays in the second half of its 44-35 loss to Southern Mississippi. Turnovers were the biggest culprit, a pair of Drew Barker fumbles and an interception cut drives short. But the result was a Kentucky defense that was on the field far too long against a good USM offense. The Golden Eagles ran 95 plays in the game to UK’s 50.
CRIMSON 135: Junior running back Devine Redding of Indiana finds himself among the Top 20 nationally in rushing after carrying 22 times for 135 yards in the Hoosiers’ season-opening win at FIU.
HIKE! HIKE! Several things on the way up in college football -- hype for Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, after an eight-touchdown run-pass performance. ESPN had him at No. 4 on its Heisman list after Week 1. Expectations for Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns, who beat Notre Dame 50-47 in double-overtime. Strong may have to be hospitalized for a defense that allowed 47 points, but the QB combo of Shane Buechele and senior Tyrone Swoopes and the ultra-up-tempo offense of new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, who has a name like a NASCAR pit crew chief and the speed to match it, has them buzzing in Austin. Also in Texas, Houston should make a sizable jump in the national rankings after slapping around Oklahoma. The Cougars are legit.
FIRST AND FOREVER: The first weekend of the 2016 college football season was billed going in as perhaps the best ever in college football, and it actually lived up to that hype. Upsets abounded, and not just in Lexington (though the betting line on that game was actually even in some places by kickoff). Richmond knocked off Virginia. The Texas A&M team we last saw being run all over by Lamar Jackson and Louisville in the Music City Bowl beat UCLA in overtime. South Alabama beat Mississippi State. Wisconsin beat LSU. Houston beat Oklahoma. Texas knocked off Notre Dame. Appalachian State almost did it again, losing a close one at Tennessee.
THIRD AND SHORT: It wasn’t the first option at quarterback, nor the second, but the third who wound up getting the job done for Alabama in its 52-6 season-opening rout of some directional school from out West. Let’s see, what is their name? Oh yeah. USC. Jalen Hurts, a true freshman, fumbled his first play from scrimmage, but came back with a vengeance, finishing with 150 total yards and four touchdowns. WKU will get an up-close look at him this weekend.
HAPPY RETURNS: I need to mention these two guys. Pitt running back James Conner is a player everyone can cheer for. He returned to the field after winning a battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma, and his 17 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown is little more than a sidebar. His simply suiting up and taking the field is a victory. Also welcome back to Georgia running back Nick Chubb. You always worry when an elite back goes out with a knee injury. Chubb returned with a statement against North Carolina, carrying 32 times for 322 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 33-24 Georgia win.
S-E-C? S-E-C? The top-rated conference in college football went 6-5 against non-conference competition to open the season. Alabama, Texas A&M and Georgia had impressive wins against ranked opponents. But there were also losses to South Alabama and Southern Mississippi, and LSU lost to an unranked Wisconsin team. Florida only led UMass 10-7 entering the fourth quarter. There’s still plenty of quality at the top. The depth of the league, however, isn’t as strong as it has been.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: ESPN said after Week 1, the playoffs look like this -- 1. Alabama; 2. Houston; 3. Ohio State; 4. Michigan. Thus, ESPN proves that it can pander to big fan bases as well as anyone. I have no problem with the first three. I would expect after tonight, Florida State should get the No. 4 spot, or Clemson, though it was less-than dominant in a 19-13 win over Auburn.
PHOTO BOMB: Picture of the weekend in college football was a screen shot: Traveon Samuel of Louisville sitting next to Lamar Jackson. The resulting “Samuel L. Jackson” screen grab when crazy on Twitter, until it came to the attention of the actor himself, who Tweeted this:
GAME BALL: Lamar Jackson was named The Walter Camp Football Foundation National Offensive Player of Week, and that’s good enough for me. He’s the third Louisville player ever to win the honor, joining Gerod Holliman in 2014 and Elvis Dumervil in 2005.
THE PICKS: Louisville by 10 at Syracuse. Florida by 14 at home against Kentucky. Indiana by 14 over Ball State and Alabama by 24 over WKU.
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