Even though my fantasy football team is poised to take the cake this year, college football has drawn the majority of my attention recently. With RG3 as my teamâ€™s quarterback, I am displaying my confidence in the ability of todayâ€™s CFB athlete to translate their game into the pro ranks. Week 1 of the 2012 CFB season raised my excitement, particularly because of the world-class athletes we see on a game-by-game basis. For example, Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who represented the US in the long jump competition this summer, was able to pull down 1 catch for 8 yards against the Wyoming Cowboys this week. In the same game, another Texas wideout, Jaxon Shipley, reeled in 7 balls for 45 yards, including a touchdown and an even more impressive catch where he completely changed the direction of a screen play that seemed doomed from the start, resulting in a first down. There are athletes everywhere you look, ready to make the big play that may just end up leading to an embarrassment of the other team when all is said and done.
In the interest of time, (I donâ€™t want to consume the entire HornSports homepage with one article) I will briefly run through most of the top 25, grouping some teams together who may be in similar situations at this point. Heisman candidates are plentiful and are starting to make their names known nationally. So, letâ€™s get this weekâ€™s installment of â€œThe Landscapeâ€ started with the number one team in the land, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Numero Uno â€“ Alabama
Some debate transpired following Alabamaâ€™s leap over USC in both CFB polls to take the top spot. Thereâ€™s no debate for me, considering major D1 coaches have the ability to basically decide their first three opponents of each season. With the destruction of the Wolverines, Alabama sent the first shot heard â€˜round the CFB world. Their current number one ranking is the 16th time on top under Coach Saban. Saban would receive an A++ if possible, simply because the decision to face Michigan proved to be more than wise. The rest of the SEC is looking directly up to the Crimson Tide, as they continue to recruit impact players at impact positions.
Overall Grade: A+ (A stands for Awesome)
On their Heels (No. 2) â€“ USC
USC appears to be the Kentucky Wildcat basketball program of CFB. John Callipari and Lane Kiffin have shown the proficiency and intuition to almost monopolize the talent pool of their sport. Matt Barkley is the hands down favorite for the Heisman at the moment and Marqise Lee reminds me of current Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin. Their ability to make plays and gain ridiculous amounts of yardage after the catch keeps defenses on their toes and scared to death. If you havenâ€™t seen Leeâ€™s touchdown catch on the first play of USCâ€™s season last game, then stop everything and watch this: http://scores.espn.go.com/ncf/video?gameId=322450030. Given the opponent was Hawaii, Lee easily outran their entire defense on that play. Also, the addition of Silas Redd at running back and the four turnovers forced by the Trojan defense should mean great things to come for USC.
Overall grade: A+
The Next Tier â€“ LSU (3), Oregon (4), Oklahoma (5), Florida State (6)
All three of these programs are dangerous in their own way. Although Les Miles has proven the ability to coach a winning team that lacks elite quarterback play, some major flaws showed in the teamâ€™s opening game against UNT. Hard-hitting safety Eric Reid terribly overplayed a slant route that resulted in a Mean Green touchdown, showing perhaps the teamâ€™s largest deficiency. Besides Reid, there is absolutely no experience of note in the entire Tiger secondary. The loss of the Honey Badger will only put more pressure on the two starting LSU freshman cornerbacks. A team that, in my opinion, would trample over LSU is the mighty Oregon Ducks. Their offense will certainly be flashier than their uniforms this season, mostly thanks to early Heisman candidate Deâ€™Anthony Thomas. Thomas, who sports the number six, took only seven touches to eclipse the 100 total yardage mark for the game.
Florida State also made quick work of their first opponent. The victory wasnâ€™t the big story out of Tallahassee, however, as two-time All-SEC defensive end Brandon Jenkins was lost for the season. Jenkins had opted to stay for his senior season to continue to show his superior pass rushing ability. Although FSU has another force at the opposite DE position in Bjoern Werner, no backup will have the disruptive impact that Jenkins had in the ACC, which will almost certainly affect the team greatly. On the bright side, the Seminolesâ€™ schedule is more than manageable for the first half of the season so the team will have time to recover from the tragic loss of Jenkins. Lastly, OU also has a bit sour of a taste in their mouth after the first week. They did win by a rather sizeable margin, but were tied at 7 with UTEP after one half. Landry Jones was sacked a total of three times, while the Sooner defense was holding their own in the meantime. If the OU front line continues to be pushed around as the season progresses, then the Big 12 may pose problems for their offense.
LSU: A- (Defense is key in the SEC)
Oregon: A (Chip Kelly and Nike are attracting recruits ingeniously)
Florida State: A- (Injuries are unpredictable)
Oklahoma: A- (Stoops knows how to win and now has the help of his brother at D-Coordinator)
Third Tier: SEC Powerhouses â€“ Georgia (7), Arkansas (8), South Carolina (T-9)
This group of teams shows adept offensive play and great defense as well. Tyler Wilson, Arkansasâ€™ senior QB, set the school record for most passing yards in a season opener (367). The 24 points the defense gave up against Jacksonville State will need to improve quickly, however, with #1 Alabama looming on Arkansasâ€™ schedule Week 3. Wilson, combined with first team All-SEC running back Knile Davis, could make for one of the best one-two combos in all of CFB and could make some national noise.
Speaking of making noise, the Gamecockâ€™s leading rusher, Marcus Lattimore, will barrel into (and sometimes completely through) an opponentâ€™s shoulder pads for all to hear. Heâ€™s got everything a running back needs, and really showed in Week 1 that he was capable of finishing off a run. Steve Spurrier has everything he needs to make a push for a national championship.
All Teams: A- (Georgia is still without two Cornerbacks and two linebackers due to suspension. Arkansas and South Carolina both struggled more than expected against their first opponent)
Nipping at their Heels: The Big Ten â€“ Michigan State (11), Wisconsin (13), Ohio State (14), Nebraska (16)
Leâ€™Veon Bell. The name speaks for itself, or at least it will after the next few weeks when the rest of CFB finds out about him. He is setting the tone for this group of teams that stress running the football. Heâ€™s built like Arian Foster and runs like him too. With first-time starter Andrew Maxwell at quarterback, Mark Dantonio gave Bell 44 whopping carries, resulting in 210 rushing yards. That is easily the most mind-blowing statistic of Week 1. Also in the running for the Heisman is Wisconsin tailback Monte Ball. He compiled 32 rushing attempts in Week 1 and added a score on top of that.
The Big Ten is an exciting, hard-nosed conference. It will be fascinating to watch the top dogs literally beat up on each other as the season grows older. The three-headed running back attack of Rex Burkhead (Nebraska), Bell, and Ball will put all Big Ten defenses to the test.
MSU, Ohio State, Nebraska â€“ A (All with impressive victories)
Wisconsin: A- (Northern Iowaâ€™s Freshman QB, Sawyer Kollmogren, threw for 265 yards and three scores)
5th Tier: The Rest of the Big 12 â€“ West Virginia (T-9), Texas (17), Oklahoma State (18), TCU (20)
The Big 12 has made their presence felt across CFB, with the two biggest additions (TCU and West Virginia) looking to prove that they belong. And boy, do they. Geno Smith is clearly the best quarterback in the conference and Gary Patterson is doing great things in Fort Worth. Oklahoma will have to be worried at all times about any of these teams defeating them and possibly defeating them embarrassingly. The talent is there.
All Teams: A- (Each team has a kink or two to work out)
It is important not to look too far into Week 1 results, but that doesnâ€™t mean team struggles wonâ€™t carry over into the following week. If teams continue to struggle come time for conference play, they may be in for quite the surprise. All the more reason to continue to monitor the CFB landscape, even when you are adding and dropping players in your fantasy football league.