"Action" Jackson here, and what a time to be alive. College football is back, and MAN, what an opening weekend it was. Upsets, overtime thrillers, come from behind wins, and the best Labor Day weekend we can half-remember. There were many games this past weekend, and I want to highlight some of the biggest storylines that caught my eye and that I feel impacted the world of College Football.
The return of Texas Football
Charlie Strong's doubters are quickly becoming a dying breed. The Longhorns' 3rd year head coach is the real deal, and he's proving to the world that University of Texas football is relevant again. The unranked Longhorns played the #10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at home this past weekend, and in an up and down game that saw numerous shifts in momentum and a nail-biting double overtime finish, Strong's squad secured the upset 50-47.
Strong previously coached at Louisville, where he had a similar situation as this one at Texas: a slowly dying program with a lot of good recruits in the area, but not a lot of excitement around the team and a lack of real leadership at the head coaching position. Enter Strong: he installs his own set of rules, his own brand of discipline, recruits the players he wants in his offense and defense, and changes the culture to reflect his mentality. In other words, what a damn good head coach does to a bad team to make them good again. Strong's effect was evident at Louisville, drawing NFL level talent such as Teddy Bridgewater and DeVante Parker, and making them 11+ game winners regularly and competing in high level bowl games.
Will he continue this trend at Texas? It sure looks that way. Notre Dame came into the game as a College Football Playoff contender, with a Heisman contender in quarterback DeShone Kizer. Strong's Texas teams the past two years lacked offensive continuity, and a lot of that was fixed this past Sunday by freshman quarterback Shane Buechele, a highly touted recruit who kept the Longhorns in the game on impressive drives to keep the game interesting. Long-maligned Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes was the hero of the game; the senior quarterback that every media analyst wrote off as a bust was given the ball in a special Wildcat package where his 6 ft 5 in frame could be a used as a running threat. All night, Swoopes would threaten to break a big run, and that big run came in double overtime when he broke multiple tackles on his way to a goal-line touchdown in an almost Vince Young-esque manner.
Will the Longhorns' continue their resurgence? Will Charlie Strong make this a respectable program once again? Can someone explain to Notre Dame that Brian Kelly isn't a good coach? Find out next time!
The ACC is coming for you, SEC.
"It was only opening week. Quit playing, it'll be fine."
"Lol ok bro, not like it's a real thing though. You funny, Jay."
"Who the hell do you think you are? Don't EVER question Saban! I'll find you! ROLL DAMN TIDE!"
Despite popular opinion to the contrary, the SEC's little brother is all grown up, and he's very mad at how he's been treated for so long. The ACC has long been the poor man's SEC, with schools such as Clemson, Miami, and Florida St. providing the highest level of competition but still coming up short to SEC teams. There seems to be a shift in the winds, however. SEC team Ole Miss led against ACC team Florida St. by as much as 34-6 at one point, and a freshman quarterback named Deondre Francois led a high powered Florida St. offense to come back and win the game 45-34, the largest comeback in the history of Florida St. football. That's the same Ole Miss that beat Alabama two years in a row. Yep, these guys. This is not new. Florida St. regularly beats up their in-state SEC rivals, the Florida Gators, who are very competitive in SEC play.
ACC powerhouse Clemson, similarly, has been beating SEC resident University of South Carolina for the past 3 years with superior recruiting, coaching, and all around talent. That same Clemson team almost beat Alabama in the last national championship game, coming up short 45-40. They opened up their season this weekend by beating unranked Auburn on the road; although unranked, Auburn is a tough team at home and they had their fans ready for a game on the Plains. My point? The SEC is not as invincible as they thought they were. The ACC is full of teams that now recruit the same players Alabama, LSU, UGA, and other powers recruit, and those players are liking what they see at Clemson, FSU, and Miami. They like beating their friends and family that chose the SEC in games that show just how competitive these teams can be.
I hear you, Rickey from Athens. Yes, UGA won against ACC team North Carolina, but your team almost lost a close one. For most of the game, they were unsure of how to stop the Tar Heels' offense. If not for some Nick Chubb heroics, UGA would have one in the loss column. And yes, Jim Bob from Mobile, your Alabama squad is unstoppable, but we all knew that. Go back to your easy chair, we'll get to you in a moment.
In the the chase to catch and surpass SEC powerhouses, there's less ground to cover. SEC beware, the ACC is coming for the throne.
The juggernaut that is the Crimson Tide
"Hear ye, hear ye, make way for Emperor Saban, ruler of the land and all things Crimson! Look upon his team, Auburn, and despair!"--Squire Lane of the clan Kiffen
The Crimson Tide win. And they win. And they win. Nick Saban will go down as the best coach in the history of college football. No one in college football outside of Bear Bryant has had a team this consistently dominant, and Saban has done it in a lot less time than Bryant did. Saban recruits the best players in the country, and he reloads an already stacked offense and defense every single season. 5-star players sit on the bench in the hopes they can finally get a chance to play. In other words, they are the Patriots and everyone else should just pray Saban/Belichick gives up and finally retires so the rest of us can have fun again.
Alabama beat USC 52-6 this weekend in a game that was definitely over by about halftime. They brought in a freshman quarterback who made the USC defense look silly, while they beat around the USC offense with constant waves of pressure from all angles on defense. Basically, what Saban does every season. With the exception of a Lane Kiffen troll or two, it was business as usual, and the Tide look ready to defend their national title and make another trip to the annual College Football Playoffs. There is nothing more to say than these guys looked downright scary at some points. They rushed 4 players and still generated constant pressure and sacks on USC's young quarterback. Their secondary played basic man-to-man and cover 3 and they still blanketed USC's talented receivers. The freshman quarterback showed no signs of nerves or shock at the stage and walked into the end zone without being touched twice, while making big time throws against a certain corner who I thought would be a Heisman Contender (sigh....).
The Crimson Tide are on top and will be there for a very, very long time barring Saban's retirement or Lane Kiffen causing them to implode like he always does. It's fun to watch teams compete for the top spot in college football, but it's harder to watch when the top spot is cemented by an elephant covered in houndstooth colored paint.
These are my takeaways from this weekend's college football action. Comment and let me know which you think was more impressive: Houston's upset of Oklahoma, or how quickly Bob Stoopes and Brian Kelly lived up to expectations and lost big games?
Reach out to me on Twitter to continue the conversation @mrjackson__
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