Week 1 of the college football season is always ripe with overreactions and must-win games that really aren’t.
Two months from now we’ll laugh at some of the early season story lines that seemed so important at the time. No reason to panic or crown any team at this point.
Everybody just relax.
All that said, Florida State really could have used a victory to wash away some of the lingering negativity from the first losing season in Tallahassee since 1976. Instead, Year 2 under coach Willie Taggart started with a collapse against Boise State.
The Seminoles seemed to have every advantage, with Boise State traveling across the country for a game originally scheduled to be played in Jacksonville at night. Instead, it was moved to Tallahassee with a noon kickoff because of a hurricane heading toward Florida.
It was a program (Boise State) that knows exactly what it is, fearless and confident, beating one that is still searching for that elusive winning culture that Taggart talked a lot about this offseason. Sure, there is still some roster building to do at Florida State, but the window for blaming Jimbo Fisher for the mess left behind is closed.
So what now? On the bright side, offensive coordinator Kendal Briles did find some ways to mask Florida State’s still weak offensive line and get production from quarterback James Blackman and some legitimate offensive weapons. Boise State is as good or better than pretty much every team left on Florida State’s schedule outside of No. 1 Clemson and maybe No. 8 Florida.
Florida State’s biggest problem going forward might be negativity and doubt. Taggart wouldn’t be the first coach with a high-profile program consumed by it. Think Rich Rodriguez at Michigan and Charlie Strong at Texas. They weren’t necessarily good fits in the first place, but once they got off to bad starts they could never dig out. Every game was a referendum on their programs and fans just never got on board.
That’s where things stand now at Florida State. Is Taggart on the hot seat in Year 2 with about an $18 million buyout? Probably not, but he desperately need to change the conversation and Saturday was an enormous missed opportunity.
Then again, at least Florida State didn’t start the season by losing to a team that finished last in the Sun Belt the way Tennessee did.
Justin Fields put together a game’s worth of highlights in half a quarter for Ohio State against FAU. The much-anticipated debut of Fields as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback resulted in four touchdowns in the first four drives.
The rest of the game was kind of sleepy for Fields and the Buckeyes, who will get a better test next week when Cincinnati comes to the horseshoe. Fields, the former five-star prospect who was a backup to Jake Fromm at Georgia last season, has immense potential. He is the type of player who could make Ohio State a threat to the Alabama-Clemson reign atop college football.
For now, that’s still just potential, but Fields’ development will be one of the stories of the season in college football.
BIG 12 SCARES
The Big 12 was on the brink of an embarrassing first Saturday of the season, with three of its teams struggling to shake FCS teams.
The most startling scare came in Ames, Iowa, where No. 21 Iowa State needed three overtimes to beat Northern Iowa. The game had all the making of a classic upset. The Cyclones held a big advantage in yards from scrimmage and had plenty of opportunities to build a comfortable lead. But they made just enough mistakes and UNI just enough plays to turn to make hearts stop at Jack Trice Stadium until the relieving end for Iowa State.
Less surprising was Kansas scoring late against Indiana State to give Les Miles his first victory as Jayhawks coach and West Virginia needing to rally against FCS powerhouse James Madison to make coach Neal Brown a winner in his Mountaineers debut. Neither of those teams is expected to contend for a Big 12 title.
Iowa State, however, has been the consensus third-best team in the Big 12 coming into the season. That could still be the case. It was a weird game and almost losing to an FCS team is also called winning.
But Oklahoma State showed it could be ready for a rebound in the Big 12 on Friday night at Oregon State. The Cowboys unveiled an exciting quarterback in redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders to go with running back Chuba Hubbard and preseason All-America receiver Tylan Wallace. Oklahoma State had an atypical 7-6 season last year after three straight 10-3 seasons. That might have been just a blip for Mike Gundy’s team.
AROUND THE COUNTRY: North Carolina coach Mack Brown returned to college football with an upset against South Carolina. The ACC Coastal is so wide open that the Tar Heels shouldn’t be counted out. … No. 1 Alabama hammered Duke in its annual neutral site opener and the most notable part might have been Tide coach Nick Saban getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for screaming at officials with his team leading 35-3 late in the third. … Another former Georgia quarterback had a strong debut with his new team. Jacob Eason threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns as No. 13 Washington cruised past Eastern Washington. Eason is another pivotal player this season. If he reaches his five-star ceiling, the Huskies become a serious playoff threat. … No. 24 Nebraska didn’t look like a team deserving of a ranking against South Alabama. That game was a reminder of why the Cornhuskers went 4-8 last season … The American Athletic Conference grabbed a couple of Power Five pelts in the opening weekend, with Memphis beating Ole Miss as a follow-up to Cincinnati’s victory against UCLA on Thursday … Boise State’s comeback victory gave the Mountain West three victories against Power Five teams this season, with Hawaii beating Arizona in Week 0 and Nevada stunning Purdue on Friday night.
By RALPH D. RUSSO AP College Football Writer
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