Was it the greatest opening weekend in the history of college football? Thanks to the marquee matchups, the Irish/Longhorn instant classic, and the fall of the SEC the answer is undoubtedly yes. Tuesday morning arrived returning the same verdict always delivered after opening weekend: college football is the greatest sport in the world and preseason polls are as valuable as Mark Stoops's halftime adjustments. College football has returned, oh what a season 2016 may be.
What do we know? Let's start with our Louisville Cardinals.
Thursday's opener against Charlotte was a much needed exhibition game that allowed Louisville to rotate its roster while building confidence at every position. The 49'ers didn't offer much of a test, yet, Coach Petrino and staff now have some valuable game film to work with. Louisville's biggest question mark entering the season was its offensive line and unfortunately the opener didn't offer much in the way of answers. Charlotte blitzed relentlessly, "kamikaze blitzes" according to our coaches, thus allowing/forcing Jackson to use his legs. These suicide blitzes resulted in the effective use of slip screens to the running backs, but did little to assist in evaluating the line. Expect a truer test against Syracuse, as well as a much more deliberate tempo on offense due to Syracuse's relentless fast pace.
There were other revelations to be made following Thursday's thrashing. For one, Lamar Jackson may be Louisville's first Heisman Trophy winner. Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, and Lamar Jackson are the three most electrifying and game changing athletes in college football. Their speed, coupled with the ability to shift directions on a dime, make all three must see TV. Of the trio, Lamar is the only quarterback and will be the only one to touch the ball on every single play. Disappointingly, the Heisman Trophy is often handed to the best player on the best team, not the best overall player in football. If the Cardinals beat Florida State, if Jackson stays healthy, if Lamar continues to destroy record books, and if Louisville finishes 10-2 or better, then Action Jackson should be in New York with a very good chance of securing the hardware. Those "ifs" may be monumental, but Lamar Jackson has the potential to be the greatest player in the history of Louisville Football so yes, I am buying his stock.
Lastly, Louisville has improved its coaching staff by making the correct choices in replacing departures. Lamar was bound to improve regardless of who was the quarterback coach, but Nick Petrino has earned the title regardless of his last name. Jackson's motion is seamless and it is exciting to watch him turn his head through his progressions when given time. Lonnie Galloway was a massive upgrade at the wide receiver position and his hiring is paying just as big of dividends off the field in recruiting. Keith Heyward has also been impressive on the recruiting trail, however, his first big test as secondary coach will come Friday night against the Orange. Kudos to Coach Petrino for surrounding himself with one of the best staffs in the country.
What do we know? The SEC will once again hitch its wagons and prayers to Nick Saban's coat tails.
I am not an SEC hater, I am proud alumnus of the University of South Carolina, but it is ok to be unbiased when making observations. Georgia aside, the SEC East looked abysmal this past weekend, and even with UK's embarrassing loss against Southern Miss the Cats have the ability to beat most teams in their division. South Carolina and Vanderbilt gave viewers an excellent rendition of the Basement Bowl, Tennessee should've lost to Appalachian State, Florida struggled mightily against UMass, and Missouri was handled with ease by West Virginia. The SEC West has been the saving grace of the conference for several years now, but that division had an even worse weekend than the east. LSU is now regretting not firing Les Miles as the Tigers' offense continues to be incompetent, Mississippi State lost to South Alabama, Ole Miss is a good team, but blew a 22 point lead to the Seminoles, and Auburn generated no excitement in their home loss to Clemson. Remove Saban's Crimson Tide from the SEC and what do you have? It is a long season and teams will improve, but once again it's Roll Tide or bust for the mighty SEC.
What do we know? Houston is for real and should be undefeated on November 17th and college football needs an eight team playoff.
The Cougars were arguably the most impressive team this past weekend as they dominated "Big Game Bob" and his Oklahoma Sooners. Tom Herman's bunch looked solid in every facet of the game, but their biggest test will be focus and mental preparation as they demolish nine cupcakes awaiting Louisville. Also, as proven each and every year, the preseason polls are a necessary evil. Folks need something to argue about and debate prior to kickoff, but way too much stock is still put into these initial rankings. It is always obvious that roughly 8-12 teams each season could manage to beat any other team. Shorten the regular season by one week, expand the playoff field to eight, and sit back and watch the non-conference schedules continue to improve. Five spots in the field of eight are reserved for the power five conference champions, the next three are selected based on a composite of all ranking systems, the top two seeds get a double bye or no bye, and voilà, a true champion will be crowned.
What do we know? Charlie Strong can still seize the moment.
No Louisville fan should root against Coach Strong, he brought the Cardinals back to relevance, but I am very thankful he left. Strong could always get his teams to play their best games under the brightest lights, yet, it was the other 10 or 11 so-so performances per season that left me uninspired. Texas has a future/current phenom in its true freshman Shane Buechele and the Longhorns may challenge for the Big 12 crown in 2016.
What do we know? The ACC has three playoff contenders (verdict out on Miami as of now) and they're all in the same division.
Florida State, Clemson, and Louisville each showed the makings of a contender in week one. By October 2nd the country will know if Louisville is to be the ACC Champion. The Cardinals will face a formidable test Friday in Syracuse due to Dino Baber's high flying offense, we should all be on the edge of our seats. Hopefully Louisville takes care of business and Coach Petrino moves to 9-0 on Friday nights. I am not sure how I feel about the Cardinals having to play the two ACC juggernauts before the season is even a month old, but I guarantee a positive answer on October 2nd if things go to plan. Clemson, Florida State, and Louisville will have completed their round robin before November so if the ACC is to be represented in the College Football Playoff, then the country will know by Halloween.
What do we know?
College Football has gloriously returned to us all and 2016 may be a year of the Cardinal. Stay healthy, stay humble, enjoy the action that is Jackson, and BEAT SYRACUSE!
All Hail UofL !!