Like a Soviet refugee walking into an American grocery store for the first time, I was simply overwhelmed yesterday. No, not by the amount of toilet paper I saw, but by the unbelievable amount of great college (fantasy) football action that kept appearing on television.
The 2009 season is going to be just like every single season that has come before, almost impossible to predict. But this doesn't mean we're going to stop trying, because what fun is that?
There's so much to be said for cracking that first cold one at the tailgate. For trying to get iPhone coverage in the stadium to keep up on the nation's action in between plays. For quickly heading back to the tailgate or the comfort of your big screen to flip madly through more games than anyone can humanly watch, yet still curse when there's one game that's not on. For excusing yourself from the dinner table enough times to have grandpa tell you about his own problems with frequent urination, blissfully unaware that you're wondering how in the hell Oklahoma only has ten points. For convincing yourself that walking the baby around the bar area of the restaurant will indeed calm her down, as the sound of post-game revelers slamming their pints has a soothing effect.
There were 63 college football games yesterday involving teams from Division 1-A. And I was interested in every damn one of them. From Virginia Tech to Alabama played before a rabid crowd and to millions of people nationwide all the way to Eastern Michigan vs. Army, played before an announced crowd of around 15,000 family and friends, every game does indeed matter.
It's Labor Day Weekend. THE SEASON is here. Buckle in boys and girls.
Hopes that Roy Helu Jr. would bust out with carries befitting the ONLY back in Lincoln were quickly met. 16 carries for 153 yards and three scores are numbers posted by a conference's top back, and one of the nation's true workhorses, two titles that may be held by Helu at season's end.
Blaine Gabbert sure looked like he understood what Brad Smith and Chase Daniel had done before him. Facing what was expected to be a much-improved Zooker D, Gabbert appeared every bit the calm, collected veteran. Focusing on Danario Alexander (10-132) while involving many others in the prolific passing attack, Gabbert threw for 319 yards and three scores in an interception-less masterpiece.
Choose an adjective: stud, star, workhorse, beast. They all apply to Mark Ingram's performance last night. Teams can spread em out and wing it all they want. When the air turns cold and a defense needs to be kept off the field, I'll take my chances with this sophomore than can churn out yards like the Amish does butter. And how's that for a week one simile? Like riding a bike kids.
Thatta boy, Joe Webb. Facing an overmatched defense whose offense couldn't sustain much, the UAB signal caller met our lofty expectations, throwing for 221 yards and two scores while scampering for another 194 and two. Up next are the SMU Mustangs, another team that seems to tell the less-speedy half of its roster to go work with the defense.
We were a little skeptical when Purdue coach Danny Hope named Ralph Bolden his starting back. After all Jaycen Taylor has worked his way back after missing all of 2008 with a knee injury, and his experience had to win out, right? Guess not. While the Toledo defense isn't quite a juggernaut, Bolden's 21-234-2 performance should not be overlooked in any way, shape or form. He's certainly earned the right to lead the ground attack into the hornets' nest that will be Autzen Stadium next week. It looks like the Boilers have a nice 1-2 punch at tailback, though Bolden is the man.
Speaking of Toledo, when Aaron Opelt finds a receiver he likes he sure sticks with him. Last year Nick Moore caught 20 balls in the Rockets win in Ann Arbor, and yesterday Stephen Williams went for 15-185-2 against Purdue. Williams will be a great fantasy option all year, and if you can guarantee me that Toledo will wing it 69 times per week then I'll say the same for Opelt.
If Dave Wannstedt was looking for someone to take the running back job then freshman Dion Lewis (20-129-2) certainly made a strong case. Nab this youngster right now.
Jimmy Clausen and Michael Floyd did look scary good. Though still, with such great efficiency and success in the passing game, one would think that Armando Allen would've had bigger holes to run through yesterday. The Irish put it all together and this will be the most balanced attack in the Midwest. And I really like young Jonas Gray.
Granted the Sooners were without their two offensive stars, but last night's game with BYU looked like one of those bowl matchups where one team was thrilled to be there while the other wondered what time the flight back home would depart. More depressing than watching Sam Bradford hanging out in a t-shirt next to Jermaine Gresham was the lackluster effort put forth by the Sooner offense.
Arrelious Benn left early, and Juice Williams struggled to get anything going as the Illini stunk up the dome. Pundits can point all they want to the significance of USC vs. Ohio State next weekend, but it's games like this that have led to the Big Ten's deserved reputation of late.
It's a good thing I advised fantasy owners to start Eastern Michigan's Andy Schmitt and Jacory Stone...each struggled to get anything going as the Ron English era opened in Ypsilanti with a resounding thud.
Granted Dezmon Briscoe's suspension that ruined a whole bunch of fantasy weekends was related to his transgression this spring, but it's hard to not think that those that drafted Briscoe and LeGarrette Blount early may find themselves looking up at everyone else in the standings. Hopefully the Kansas stud wide receiver is back for good next week, but another misstep and it looks like it could be curtains for him in Lawrence. And it doesn't appear the KU offense is hurting for playmakers at all.
Years from now, when we're all old and gray, we're have a term for a gutty, record-setting quarterback and face of the program who consistently kills the fantasy weeks of his owners. We'll say, "Man you'd have won your week if you didn't get Grothe-ed again." Matt Grothe is a fantasy week executioner, though anyone that still relies on him to win weeks gets what they deserve.
Our MAC boys, Tim Hiller and Dan LeFevour, combined for one touchdown in tough outings against Michigan and Arizona, respectively. While both will still post plenty of great performances this season, it's hard for even the best "mid-major" quarterbacks to thrive if running for their lives. Ask Colin Kaepernick.
Al Groh...the tribe has spoken.
I've decided to award a nickname to North Carolina's Ryan Houston. I shall call him "The Beagle" due to his impressive nose for the end zone. I hope Houston doesn't mind.
Sure it was against Idaho State in a game already decided, but ASU's freshman Brock Osweiler went 4-5 for 43 yards and a score. Just saying.
Great to see Ryan Mathews bust a long one on his way to 103 yards in limited duty.
Speaking of Ryans, how bout that Mr. Ryan Williams for Virginia Tech?
With a name like Channing Trotter you just have to be really good, either as a running back or a thoroughbred. Anyway 16 carries for 102 yards and three scores in the opener and this UNLV back is a fantasy factor.
Where did that come from Kevin Riley? We've been telling everyone that Cal is the closest thing to an "8.1 yards and cloud of dust" running team, and you go out and toss for four scores.
Don't worry that he was held out of the end zone. Kansas State's Daniel Thomas saw 23 carries and gained 104 in the lackluster win over a UMASS team without John Calipari or Marcus Camby. He is going to be a fantasy factor in the Big XII.
Aggie freshman Christine Michael made the most of his 11 carries, gaining 93 yards and a touchdown while teaming with Cyrus Gray in the backfield. Meanwhile, Jerrod Johnson accounted for over 400 yards from scrimmage with three touchdowns. Gee, it's a good thing Mike Sherman decided to let him start...
Sure they barely escaped with the win. But I don't think Ohio State could've scheduled a better matchup prior to USC than Navy. To call it a "tune-up" would be a disservice to a team that epitomizes toughness and discipline. Navy tells you they're going to run it right at you and then does just that, and no element of the USC ground scheme will be a surprise for the Buckeyes. The speed and depth of the Trojan ground corps? That's another story.
Looks like Michigan State will continue to feature "The Blair White Project" in its passing game.
Jonathan Dwyer simply gets it done.
Give me one Gator to start on a weekly basis and it may not be Tim Tebow. With the injury woes of Rob Gronkowski and Jermaine Gresham, the nation's top fantasy tight end currently hangs out in Gainesville and is named Aaron Hernandez, though those that saw Dennis Pitta operate in the middle of the Sooner defense could make an argument as well.
Enough for now. The weekend of action is not over...time to start looking at the rest of the action while keeping an eye on week two.