Week one of college football in the books and the Governor’s Cup, well this particular Governor’s Cup (there are many, including an NFL pre-season game, a youth soccer tournament, a road running race and a yacht race) is headed back to Lexington for the fourth straight year.
Here’s what impressed me and here’s what worried me for these teams from this game. It’s just one game, so some of these impressions and worries may be unfounded, but one game is what we have to work with.
First what impressed me for the Cards:
- The offense looked cleaner and more in control. Obviously Bilal Powel was a monster (153 yards on 16 attempts and the lone U of L TD). I thought Vicor Anderson was effective, but not as effective as I had expected, he did have a nice kick return that started the momentum swing. The running game looks in fine shape.
- I felt the pass routes were crisp and QB Adam Froman made nice reads and OK throws.
-The O-line held its own.
- Defensively, I saw sure tackling and speed to the ball. The defense just needs a couple “special” players and it would be very good. As it is, I suspect the defense will be good enough to compete with their schedule.
-The real improvement I have seen to this point with the Cardinals is in attitude. They seemed very willing to mix it up with the Wildcats and made a few impressive physical plays as well. I look for that aspect of the team to grow faster than the others, as that aspect (the desire to hit and make plays) is a matter of motivation and effort. Meanwhile the ability to make those plays will comes as the skill level improves.
And what worries me about the Cards:
-They lack the downfield dimension to the passing game right now, as Froman’s deep arm is suspect in the accuracy department, and none of the current crop of wide outs have shown the ability to get behind the defense. Josh Bellamy was supposed to provide some of that, but he was injured delivering a key block on a return early and did not return. Will be interesting to see if he becomes that threat as the season wears on.
-Always worry about injuries with Powell and Anderson’s injury history. The team may need to rely on the running game an awful lot.
-Outside of Doug Beaumont and TE Cameron Graham the hands of the receivers were buttery. Oily. Not as in smooth, but as in slippery and non-gripping.
-No sacks. From a team that struggled mightily to pressure opposing QBs a year ago, this is worrisome.
- As is to be expected after what the team has been through the last couple of years, they seemed to lack confidence. Once they got a little of that going for them, they were right in the game. The first quarter reeked of 2009 Louisville football, but once they gained a footing, and coach got into them at the half, they were better than alright. This will need to be overcome in order for the Cards to have success.
On the other side, what impressed me for the Cats:
-Randall Cobb, but I already thought he was a heck of a player. In my preview I said he’d be the difference and I don’t think that was too far off.
-The only reason Cobb wasn’t the total difference was Derrick Locke’s performance. He is often thought of as a track guy, but showed some good toughness to go with the speed. He may not be the proto-type feature back, but he will do quite nicely for the Cats.
-Despite sharing Ohio heritage, I am not a big Mike Hartline guy. i thought Hartline performed well and I can see how that QB held off a challenge from the talented Morgan Newton for the starting role. His arm is what it is, but he displayed smarts and savvy I wasn’t sure he possessed.
-The WRs played well, and I sort of expected them too. Ruark and Matthews I knew about. I wasn’t ready for Radcliffe’s La’Rod King though. He looked very good coming back for that deep ball. The play of this group was a big reason Kentucky was able to rack up nearly 500 yards.
And what worries me:
-My overall impression is that this group is slightly worse than last year’s group and many around the bluegrass felt last year’s group needed to be improved. It will be interesting to see this team take on the charachteristics of Joker Phillips as they progress. There is top level SEC talent on the squad, but I am not sure there is enough support around them for the Cats to really make waves in the league this season.
-I worry about tailback depth behind Locke still. Donald Russell looks the part, and had a nice back-up game, but he is untested and Locke has been injured before.
-I still worry about Hartline’s ability to make plays. He can play, but not sure HE will beat you by himself.
-The defense gave up 300+ yards to a Louisville team that is challenged offensively and learning a new system. This is terrifying when you think about the talent and coaching in the SEC.
Overall, watching from my director chair in G control, I thought it was a lackluster game. By the time the action was competitive, the Wildcats had a two TD lead, so the score wasn’t. Both teams can be mildly encouraged and mildly fearful of their season as a whole.
Elsewhere in college football, my trepidation about Big East favorites Cincinnati and Pittsburgh proved well-founded. Really the Big East looks like a mess on top. I still think the bottom (Syracuse, winners over Akron, and Louisville) are improved.
EKU conference-mate Jacksonville St. defeated Mississippi in OT. An OVC team over an SEC team- yup. Maybe the SEC is down this season.
First year starting quarterbacks struggled (for the most part) In addition to Pitt being upset with a new QB in Utah:
Garrett Gilbert, Texas: 14/23 172 yards, and no TDs. No Ints. either. His #5 Longhorns slid past the Rice Owls in a game closer than expected.
John Brantley, Florida: 17/25 113 yards and two TDs. Florida struggled to get past Miami. The Ohio one.
Robert Bolden, Penn State: 20/29 239 yards and two TDs against FBS Youngstown State. Not awful I suppose, and bigger problems may have been revealed for the Nittany Lions (like why a FBS QB is completing 84% of his passes against them)
Teams with highly touted returning QBs seemed to fair better: Alabama(McElroy), Ohio State(Pryor), Miami(Harris), Iowa(Stanzi), Wisconsin(Tolzein), Georgia Tech (Nesbitt), Arkansas(Mallett) and Florida State(Ponder) all blew away overmatched opponents (like Texas and Florida should have). Meanwhile Kellen Moore and Andy Dalton lead their perspective BCS busters to impressive wins over top 25 opponents.
Week One top 5. My top 5, using week one as the main basis:
5. Oregon (72-0 over New Mexico): I don’t think they are all that good and I know their opponent New Mexico is NOT, but they scored 72 points. TB Kenjon Barner had 5 TDs. Number 5 for now.
4. Ohio State (45-7 over Marshall): Starters pulled at 42-7. Marshall’s lone TD came on a blocked FG. Will know more after Miami this week.
3. TCU (31-24 over #24 Oregon State): I will give them this spot for this week as their win over Oregon State, combined with season expectations.
2. Boise State (33-30 over #10 Virginia Tech): I still don’t like this team, but they came out ready to play and finished strong to knock off a top opponent on the road. Nice win for Boise and will set up an interesting run for a national title, particularly if 2 or 3 BCS teams manage to run the table.
1. Alabama (49-3 over San Jose St.): Defending champs, looked great without Heisman winner. No reason to doubt them and no reason to think they will lose anytime soon (I suspect the anticipated match-up with Penn State will be another tough one for Big ten fans to take.)
Other teams I am impressed with and will be watching closely: Nebraska, Auburn, Michigan, Georgia.