Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights from the first weekend of the season. And, in case you missed it earlier today, check out the latest edition of the NFP Top 25.
• Alabama remains at the top of its game. Despite all of the talk that the Crimson Tide's defense would take a step back because of the losses of top players Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Josh Chapman, new faces emerged on Nick Saban's defense Saturday night against Michigan to give fans hope that the unit will be as stout as ever. Linebackers Trey DePriest, C.J. Mosley, Nico Johnson as well as cornerback Dee Milliner stepped up and started to assert themselves as the new stars of what will once again be a dominant defense. And running backs T.J. Yeldon, Eddie Lacy and Jalston Fowler combined to lead a strong rushing attack against the Wolverines, helping soothe the fans who worried about the loss of Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson. It was a thoroughly dominant effort from 'Bama, and all eyes will now turn to the September 15 road matchup with Arkansas. The scariest aspect of this team, which jumped out to a 31-0 lead against the Maize and Blue, is the fact that this offense seemed much more aggressive under new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who took over for Jim McElwain after he accepted the head job at Colorado State.
• Can Connor Shaw remain healthy for a full season? That's a legitimate question that South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has to be asking himself right now after the Gamecocks' offense went nowhere when Shaw was on the sideline last Thursday night in the close win at Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks are not the same team without Shaw on the field, as they lose the run threat and the improving passing game that he brings to the table. Carolina can be a good team with a strong defense and the run game led by Marcus Lattimore, but it can't win the SEC East without Shaw, who needs to do a better job of protecting his body when he slides to the turf after a run.
• Thomas will be just fine. If you follow a college football game along on Twitter, you already know that overreactions to plays, players, coaches and teams in general are aplenty. That was no different on Monday night, when many wondered why Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas was being showered with love by NFL Draft analysts, especially as the monstrous dual-threat signal-caller struggled to find his rhythm against Georgia Tech in an ACC Coastal division matchup. But we have to keep in mind that the Hokies were reloading on the offensive line and at receiver, and Michael Holmes was being broken in as the No. 1 running back. It may have been an ugly offensive showing, but Thomas made big plays when it counted. And he was doing it against an inspired Al Groh-led Yellow Jackets defense. Thomas remains one of the more intriguing pro prospects, and he's the reason why Frank Beamer's squad can win the ACC this fall.
• Can we fast-forward to November 3? The Oregon-USC contest at The Coliseum on the first Saturday of November should be quite an offensive showcase. Marcus Mariota looked like a battle-tested veteran in his debut as the Ducks' starting quarterback against Arkansas State, while Matt Barkley picked up where he left off from last year in the Trojans' opening contest against Hawaii. While I don't love USC's defensive line, I'm not sure if Oregon's undersized defense is a great matchup against the 'SC offense. Expect a lot of points in that showdown -- and for the scoring to continue in a likely Pac-12 title game rematch. The question is whether the two teams will knock each other out of BCS national title consideration.
CONTINUE TO PAGE 2 FOR MORE AFTER FURTHER REVIEW: WEEK 1
• Concern at OU? The Sooners didn't play well offensively, defensively or on special teams in their road opener at UTEP. Should OU fans be worried? I don't think there should be much cause for concern unless the subpar play carries over into Week 2 or longer. The offensive line should eventually be fine, the offense will get in a rhythm and Mike Stoops will bring back the swagger to the defense. Special teams, however, is the one phase that cannot be overlooked. It needs to be cleaned up, especially before the team gets into the meat of its Big 12 slate.
• Nunes needs to play better, but...While new Stanford starting quarterback Josh Nunes does need to play better than he did in the team's opener against San Jose State, it's the Cardinal defense that really needs to clean up its act. Already with the burden of having two new starting safeties, the team's corners didn't play their best last Friday night. Poor tackling was plentiful in the secondary and the defensive front wasn't able to apply much pressure. Those were issues last year in losses to Oregon and Oklahoma State.
Granted, it was against a UMass team making its FBS debut, but Connecticut's defense dominated the Minutemen last Thursday night. The Huskies held UMass to just 59 yards of offense and three first downs, as UMass did not have an offensive snap in UConn territory. If junior-college transfer Chandler Whitmer plays turnover-free and Lyle McCombs gives the team consistent efforts on the ground, the Huskies could be a player in a wide-open Big East.
We'll see if UCLA can get improved play from its defense this fall, but Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin are going to be tough to stop on the ground all season in the Pac-12.
McNeese State, which rushed for 298 yards in its victory over Middle Tennessee 27-21 last Thursday night, the program's first win against an FBS school since 2001.
Eastern Washington quarterback Kyle Padron threw for 260 yards and a touchdown in a 20-3 victory against Idaho last Thursday night, as the former SMU starter began a new chapter to his career. The Eagles are hoping he could have similar success as former Mustang Bo Levi Mitchell, who led the Eagles to the FCS national championship in 2010 and won the Walter Payton Award as the division's top player last year. It was the Eagles' first victory against an FBS school since beating Idaho in 2003.
Carl Pelini won his debut as Florida Atlantic head coach when his squad beat Wagner 7-3 on Friday night. The former Nebraska defensive coordinator replaced the retired Howard Schnellenberger.
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