Well, that happened.
Week 1 of college football is almost in the books. We still have LSU-Miami, Virginia Tech-Florida State, and thanks to a weather delay, Breakfast with the Zips at 10:30 AM Sunday when Akron and Nebraska will finally play.
That was one of the least memorable opening weekends in years. I usually have the bladder of a camel on these days, but I snuck in at least four bathroom breaks throughout the day. Four bathroom breaks! I found more time to pee than Shea Patterson had time to throw. Here’s hoping the Sunday/Monday slate does something to leave a lasting impression.
But hey, even if there wasn’t much great college football, it beats no football at all.
The biggest takeaway from Week 1? For several teams, it’s time to panic. Here’s my official Panic Meter rankings after opening weekend:
The saving grace for Kingsbury in 2018 was supposed to be his defense. Well, that unit did everything but walk the ball into the end zone themselves against Ole Miss in Houston. The Red Raiders gave up 47 points, while Jordan Ta’Amu threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns, and Scottie Phillips rushed for 204 yards and two scores. There was nothing Tech could do to stop Ole Miss, who has an offense that would be right at home in the Big 12.
The Red Raiders took a big step back on offense while returning eight starters on defense. If Kingsbury can’t even rely on his offense to bail him out anymore, this could spell disaster. Kliff Kingsbury’s a dead coach walking.
Panic Meter: 9
Since Fedora came to Chapel Hill in 2012, the Tar Heels are 1-6 in season openers. 1-6!!!!
I did my best to defend him after the Nightmare on Trade Street, otherwise known as his miserable series of statements at ACC Kickoff in July. I gave him credit for handling the sneaker scandal swiftly and appropriately. I offered him a pass for losing nine games with a heavily-depleted roster in 2017.
There’s no excuse for UNC’s performance Saturday. Not even a competent fourth quarter can salvage what was a directionless effort from the very beginning at Cal. Nathan Elliott looked out of sorts – if the offensive line even gave him time to throw. Play-calling was questionable at best (a common theme in the Fedora era), and penalties crushed them on both sides of the ball.
If it weren’t for the Heels showing a pulse in the fourth quarter, I would have been starting to panic if I were Fedora. They need to dominate a bad ECU team next week, and probably upset at least one of UCF, Miami and Virginia Tech over the following month to keep Fedora off the chopping block. After Saturday’s effort, it’s in range.
Panic Meter: 8
What on earth was this gameplan? While I’ve never gone full Skip Bayless over Harbaugh, I’ll happily admit I’ve defended what he’s accomplished at Michigan so far. Even in the losses Michigan’s suffered over the past few years, the Wolverines have played well enough to win, and every team they’ve lost to finished in the top 17 of the AP Poll. They’re competing with the big boys, they just haven’t been able to break through and win.
Not tonight. Michigan beat themselves time and again in a 24-17 loss at Notre Dame. Somehow the Wolverines ended up with the ball with 90 seconds left and a chance to tie, but Patterson fumbled trying to escape about 18 Irish defenders. It was that kind of night.
There are enough athletes on the offense that should make Michigan dangerous. Chris Evans is a lightning bolt at running back. Donovan Peoples-Jones is an NFL-caliber talent at receiver. Michigan shouldn’t be scraping and clawing to get to 17 points.
It would be insane to put Harbaugh on the hot seat. He’s won too many games in his career (before Michigan) and recruited too well to worry about his job security yet.
…but that was clearly Michigan’s worst performance in a regular season game in his four seasons. I was impressed at times with Brandon Wimbush and Notre Dame, but there’s no question that I Michigan cut down on half of the mistakes it forced upon themselves, the Wolverines would have won going away.
As bad as Michigan played on Saturday, I would argue that Michigan State and Penn State played worse in their openers. But neither the Spartans nor Nittany Lions have Jim Harbaugh, so they won’t face anywhere near the attention Michigan will this week.
I’m not writing off Michigan quite yet –– but Harbaugh has some changes to make if he wants to finally finish higher than third in his own division.
Panic Meter: 6
The consensus grade on Tom Herman’s hire at Texas last year was an A-plus. With his ties to the school and his knack for beating bluebloods at Houston, it seemed like a slam dunk that Herman would bring the swagger back to Austin, even if it took a year.
Fast forward to that second year, and Texas is now 0-2 against Maryland under Herman. I don’t care that Maryland is slowly building up some talent on its roster, the Terps have no business competing with – let alone beating – Texas.
The Longhorns would have to absolutely melt down for Herman to be in any sort of trouble at season’s end. I think even a 4-8 season wouldn’t cost him the job already. But Texas should be the best job in the country, and right now they’re just begging for the Mack Brown era to make a comeback.
Panic Meter: 5
THE JP TOP 10
If you forgot how this works, my rankings will look VERY different than whatever you’ll see from the AP later this week.
But who needs the AP when you’ve got the JP?
My rankings are based solely on what we’ve seen on the field this season. That means Clemson stomping Furman doesn’t earn them the No. 2 ranking, like it will in the AP Poll on Tuesday. As the season unfolds and teams play more meaningful games, we’ll get a truer sense of who the best teams are, and my rankings will slowly start to be closer to what you see from the regular polls.
The point of this is to show how stupid preseason polls can be. It unfairly penalizes teams who we don’t expect much from in August, and unfairly elevates name-brand teams who might not be as good as their pedigree would suggest (hello, Michigan and Texas).
I’ll update this with a full JP Top 25 on Tuesday each week, but for now, here’s the JP Top 10:
Easily the best win of Week 1. The Tigers took the Pac-12 favorite’s best shot and hung on to win. The Gus Bus should roll into Starkville on Oct. 6 with a perfect 5-0 record.
I mean, what more is there to say? At one point Saturday night I flipped back to check in on the Tide to see FORMER SEC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR Jalen Hurts taking snaps in garbage time. No matter how mad Saban wants to pretend to be, just hand them the trophy already.
Hello and welcome to the Oklahoma bandwagon. This is your captain speaking. Our next destination is the national championship game. Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.
- Notre Dame
Even if Michigan looked like garbage, they’re still one of the most talented teams to lose on Saturday. Props to Notre Dame for finding a way to hang on. This rivalry should be here to stay again.
- Ohio State
I can’t decide if I was more impressed with Dwayne Haskins’ five-touchdown effort or the fact that Urban Meyer managed to go a full day without releasing another public statement. On a day where the Big 10 East looked downright awful, Ohio State looked ready to roll. The Buckeyes are the prohibitive favorite in the division right now.
Other than Michigan and Washington, Texas was the most talented team to lose on Saturday, so I’ll slide Maryland into this spot. Before you send me angry tweets, go look at the rest of the scores from Saturday. Who else deserves this spot?
Also, cool move by Texas declining the penalty when Maryland began the game with 10 players in honor of Jordan McNair. Can anyone show this to Michelle Beadle for me?
If Auburn was the best team of Week 1, then how can Washington be that far down the list? The JP Top 25 looks at the quality of your performance, not just whether or not you added another mark in the win column. The Huskies made their fair share of mistakes, and a few questionable calls could have made a big impact on the game, but Washington hung around with an SEC contender. That’s still impressive.
- West Virginia
A 90-minute lightning delay might have been just what West Virginia needed. After sputtering to just 13 points by halftime, the Mountaineers poured it on Tennessee in the second half. More importantly, my prediction that this would be the drunkest game of the weekend did not disappoint.
Pat Fitzgerald managed to find a replacement for his all-time leading rusher, Justin Jackson, in Jeremy Larkin. His 140+ yards and two touchdowns lifted the Wildcats to a close win over a promising Purdue team. They also did it with Clayton Thorson missing a large chunk of the game while nursing a lingering leg injury. I doubt the ‘Cats will make this list for long, but not many teams can say they beat a Power Five team in Week 1. Northwestern can, and they earn the ninth spot this week.
I’m not sure Kirby Smart has the stones to do it, but Justin Fields is the best quarterback the Bulldogs have. Jake Fromm’s leadership and experience is what’s keeping him on the field right now, but I can’t help but watch fields and think I’m looking at a Jameis Winston/Andrew Luck-type talent. When Alabama’s standing between you and a conference title, you can’t keep a guy like that on the sidelines.