And That Takes Care of That, Doesn't It?: There's one annual tradition we won't get to experience this year, and that's the debate over whether #24 Boise State deserves a shot at the national title (or, for that matter, even a BCS bid). In their annual season-opening "Look, we played a big" game, the Broncos ventured into hostile territory and fell 17-13 at #13 Michigan State. The Broncos were outrushed by Sparty's Le'Veon Bell 210-206, and only Bell's inability to kick his own extra points prevented him fron outscoring Boise too.
Naturally, there are two takeaways most people will remember here. One is that Bell is a Heisman candidate, and the other is that Boise sucks. Both positions require a little further contemplation. Ball did put on a hell of a show, but all too often he was able to bust big yardage because the defense simply wasn't where they were supposed to be. I don't want to suggest that Ball's easy to bring down -- indeed, there were in fact a few plays where he carried Boise defenders forward a few yards after Carter Blackburn excitedly announced he'd been stopped cold -- but in general the Bronco defenders did bring Ball down when they finally located and got their hands on him. Ball very well could have a special season ahead of him, but he needs to face a real defense before we start talking about giving him big stiffarm trophies.
Conversely, as poorly as Boise's defense performed, it's worth noting that the team lost 17 starters from last year, went into a road game against an opponent that was this close to the Rose Bowl last year, and still had a chance to win this ballgame behind a rookie quarterback. Much of this was directly attributable to Chris Petersen, who may very well be the greatest coach in college football. I, for one, wasn't necessarily convinced of this until last night; watching the adjustments Boise made offensively was eye-opening. No, Boise never did get into the end zone as the result of an offensive drive. That's all on the Spartan defense and a lack of experience and execution by the Bronco offense; it should be obvious to anyone who was watching the game that the play-calling for Boise was sharp.Over at The Only Colors, SpartanDan provides some brief post-game insights (no in-depth writeup yet); on the other side, Kevan Lee at One Bronco Nation Under God likewise has some brief comments.
Does Anyone Even Know What This Means?: Tennessee jumped all over North Carolina State early, ultimately riding 332 passing yards from Tyler Bray to a 500-yard offensive performance and a 35-21 drilling of North Carolina State in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicates. As the first half ended, the Wolfpack had closed to 22-14, and had just halted a Tennessee drive at the goal line when Bray fumbled into the end zone and NCSU recovered. However, those 14 points represented the only time during the entire contest during which the Wolfpack had their act together. The night was a disaster for the Carolinians, punctuated by All-American CB David Amerson getting beaten and beaten badly on not one but two long pass plays. The end result was a 35-21 win for the Vols.
What's not in question here is that North Carolina State, especially the linebacking corps, has major problems on defense. What is in question, and is so as a direct result of that assessment, is whether Tennessee's actually any good or not. It was a dominant performance on the night, to be sure, but I think we're going to have to see more from the Volunteers before starting to think of them as contenders in the SEC East. For more analysis, you've got the NCSU viewpoint from Backing the Pack's Omega Wolf and Rocky Top Talk's Joel Hollingsworth offers the Tennessee position on the matter.
I Think They May Be Out of Luck: Maybe it's just something that sometimes happens when the Cardinal meet San Jose State. More likely, it's losing one of the best college quarterbacks ever. Either way, Stanford barely escaped the San Jose State Spartans. The Cardinal only managed to build a 17-3 lead by halftime, which was bad enough; then Things Got Worse. The Spartans found the end zone twice in thirteen minutes to tie the game at 17, and only a miscue by SJSU running back DeLeon Eskridge allowed Stanford to regain the lead. Eskridge fumbled late in the third quarter, setting up a 20-yard Jordan Williamson field goal to put the Cardinal back on top 20-17.
From that point on, it was back-and-forth to no avail for both offenses, and when Ed Reynolds picked off a David Fales pass with just over a minute to go, Stanford had escaped with the win. Were I voting, I'd have to drop Stanford off my ballot here despite the victory, as you just can't be in a position where you need a stop against San Jose State and still think of yourself as a top-25 squad. That said, it was a scrappy effort by the Spartans, who came oh-so-close to giving the doomed WAC a 3-1 start to the season. For more on the game, pay a visit to Rule of Tree and read RedOscar's recap.
"Wagner Has a Football Team?": I only mention this game because it was this close to being the third FCS-over-FBS upset of the weekend. Florida Atlantic was very bad in Howard Schnellenberger's final sally last year, and I don't think they're any better now under our old friend Carl Pelini. The evidence: a miserable 7-3 win -- at home, no less -- over Wagner, a mediocre FCS program. Wagner took a 3-0 lead in the second quarter and held it until early in the fourth when FAU finally got on the board with a 39-yard pass from Graham Wilbert to Byron Hankerson. And that only happened because after thirty whole minutes as a head coach, Pelini already made a change at quarterback.
Below The Black Line: Today's installment at TOG includes a bottom-feeder D-III conference suddenly posting non-conference wins, a wild finish in the wilds of Northern Minnesota, a blowout in the season's first game on the Emerald Isle, and the unstoppable death march of the vile Warhawks of Whitewater.