The college try: Breaking down Week 1 of the football season

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    University of Toledo running back Bryant Koback, a Springfield High School alum, was one of six Rockets' running backs to run for 20 yards in the opening win vs. VMI.


  • One weekend of college football is (mostly) in the books, with Toledo, Bowling Green, Ohio State, and Michigan all opening the season Saturday. OSU and Toledo had little trouble earning wins against overmatched foes, while BG and UM fell to highly touted opponents.

    What can we take from the openers? Blade college football reporters Kyle Rowland, Nicholas Piotrowicz, and Brian Buckey along with sports columnist David Briggs put what happened into context:

    David Briggs: The national view

    Most weeks in this space, I’ll break down my vote in the AP Top 25 poll. But with ballots not scheduled to be turned in until Tuesday because of the holiday, we’ll make do. Here are quick takeaways from the opening weekend:

    The biggest poll riser: Not sure yet.

    ■ The team poised for the biggest drop: That’s easy. Meet 2018 Michigan, same as the old Michigan.

    For as much as we want to believe in Shea Patterson, the Wolverines’ 24-17 loss at Notre Dame showed us there might be no saving Jim Harbaugh's program. Michigan still has no offensive line, no lucid offensive plan, and no answers when the stakes rise.

    Central Catholic graduate and University of Cincinnati running back Michael Warren scores a touchdown Saturday against UCLA.
    Central Catholic graduate and University of Cincinnati running back Michael Warren scores a touchdown Saturday against UCLA.

    ■ I don’t know which fill-in Ohio State coach had a better opener: the current one or the former one.

    OK, we do. It was Luke Fickell, going away. For as solid as the Buckeyes looked under Ryan Day, Fickell — now in his second year at Cincinnati — led the Bearcats to their biggest win in recent memory in a 26-17 stunner at UCLA (thanks in part to three touchdowns by Central Catholic alum Michael Warren). 

    As for another former Ohio State assistant, Tom Herman, the Texas coach — and Zach Smith’s strip-club sidekick — should probably spend more time on football. With the Longhorns’ 34-29 loss at Maryland, Herman is 11-11 in his past 22 games dating to his time at Houston. 

    ■  Who in the world would schedule Alabama as its opening opponent?

    As Louisville became the latest to learn in a 51-14 loss, there’s no amount of money worth that kind of pillar-to-post beatdown. The Crimson Tide have outscored their past seven curtain-raising opponents — Power Five teams Michigan, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin, USC, Florida State, and Louisville — by a combined score of 271-91.

    Nick Piotrowicz: The playoff four (today)

    1. Alabama (def. Louisville 51-14): A bold decision here with the Tide at No. 1. (OK, maybe not.) But Alabama did nothing to dissuade anyone with another ho-hum dismantling of a likely bowl team from a power conference.

    2. Clemson (def. Furman 48-7): The defensive line is outstanding, but quarterback is the topic du jour with the Tigers. Highly touted freshman Trevor Lawrence looked great in the opener, adding intrigue with incumbent Kelly Bryant still starting — at least for now.

    3. Georgia (def. Austin Peay 45-0): The Dawgs will get a test Saturday at South Carolina, but they look well-stocked to repeat as SEC East champions.

    4. Ohio State (def. Oregon State 77-31): The big plays allowed were concerning, but the Buckeyes’ offense will be in contention for the best in college football as the Dwayne Haskins era started with a nearly perfect afternoon.

    Brian Buckey: The MAC view

    ■ The Mid-American Conference, which seems to have an upset against a larger conference team every year, failed to record a Week 1 win against an FBS opponent. With Akron’s game at Nebraska canceled, the MAC was 0-5 vs. Power Five teams. The closest game was Kent State’s 31-24 loss at Illinois, in which the Flashes led 17-3 at halftime.

    ■ Tyree Jackson, Buffalo’s standout quarterback, threw six touchdown passes in three quarters of action in the Bulls’ 48-10 victory against Delaware State. He found All-America receiver Anthony Johnson for one score as Buffalo cruised to a win to begin a season with high expectations.

    ■ Ball State quarterback Riley Neal and running back James Gilbert had their seasons derailed last year by injuries. The duo came back in a big way in a 42-6 win against Central Connecticut. Neal passed for 259 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, while Gilbert rushed for 100 yards and a score.

    Three reactions

    Brian Buckey: Toledo 66, Virginia Military Institute 3

    1. Cody Thompson is back. In his return from last season’s broken leg, Thompson made a big play on special teams early in the game, taking the ball right off of VMI punter Reed King’s leg to come away with the ball in the end zone for a punt block touchdown you don’t see often. He also had three catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.

    2. Toledo’s running back depth was on display as six running backs — Shakif Seymour, Bryant Koback, Art Thompkins, Nevonne McCrimmon, Ronnie Jones, and Nicholas Sims — each recorded at least 20 rushing yards. 

    3. Jamal Hines, a true freshman defensive end from Cincinnati, impressed with seven tackles, 2½ tackles for loss, and a sack. Toledo recorded four sacks as a team, which is a good sign for a team that is trying to develop an improved pass rush.

    Ohio State receiver Terry McLaurin is lifted in celebration by teammate Jaylen Harris after scoring a touchdown against Oregon State on Saturday.
    Ohio State receiver Terry McLaurin is lifted in celebration by teammate Jaylen Harris after scoring a touchdown against Oregon State on Saturday.

    Nick Piotrowicz: Ohio State 77, Oregon State 31

    1. The Buckeyes’ offense should be excellent. The Beavers aren’t exactly the Steel Curtain, but Ohio State should have a top-five offense. The line is solid, quarterback Dwayne Haskins looks ahead of schedule, and the running back duo of Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins probably is the best in the country.

    2. But the defense needs work. Ohio State allowed touchdowns of 49, 80, and 78 yards in surrendering an alarming 31 points to an Oregon State team that isn’t especially talented. The Buckeyes, particularly at linebacker, had better make improvements before a Sept. 15 game against TCU.

    3. So far, so good. The Urban Meyer suspension and saga that followed didn’t spill over onto the field. The Buckeyes played well from the outset under acting coach Day, who has made it his task to keep the season on track.

    Kyle Rowland: No. 12 Notre Dame 24, No. 14 Michigan 17

    1. Shea Patterson was adequate in his Michigan debut. Sure, there were three crucial negative plays he was involved in — sack, interception, fumble — but he completed 20 of 30 passes for 227 yards, the most the Wolverines have thrown for since November, 2016. Yes, you read that right.

    2. The problem on offense was a line that talked a big game during the offseason, then laid an egg. The tackles — Jon Runyan, Jr., and Juwann Bushell-Beatty — were routinely beat, causing the pocket to collapse quickly and failing to open run lanes for Karan Higdon and Chris Evans.

    3. A vaunted defense proved its worth — and it wasn’t Michigan’s. At least in the first half, which essentially decided the game’s outcome. Notre Dame outgained the Wolverines 233-90 in the half and led 21-10. Nine starters returned for Michigan, yet the mental blunders, inopportune penalties, and missed tackles gave the impression of inexperienced underclassmen floundering in the moment. 

    Nick Piotrowicz: Oregon 58, Bowling Green 24

    1. Talent won out. The first-quarter score — Bowling Green 10, Oregon 0 — might have raised eyebrows, but there was a certain inevitability with Oregon’s talent compared to BG. The Ducks quickly put an end to the Falcons’ fun: they scored the next 37 points and turned the game lopsided by halftime.

    2. The Falcons have real weapons. Scott Miller (13 catches, 166 yards, two touchdowns), Andrew Clair (113 yards, receiving touchdown), and Jarret Doege (22 for 38, 253 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions) were problems for Oregon. The BG offense has high-scoring potential.

    3. The Falcons had too many headaches on special teams. A bad snap on a punt led to a safety, BG burned a timeout because of punt-team confusion, went 1-for-3 on field goals, and averaged a paltry 33.7 yards on punts. 

    Kyle Rowland: A closing haiku

    An answered prayer?

    UM in need of substance;

    Not bloviating