Football is back in our lives and won’t leave again until 2020. Rejoice!
Week 1 is nothing more than syllabus week for the sport and while some missed the first week of class, most showed up and just went through the motions.
However, meaningful information does exist even within the sloppy microcosm that is Week 1. But you must sift through the pseudo truths to find the genuine.
The first week of college football is in the books, save Notre Dame vs. Louisville, and we have learned a little about Michigan, the Big Ten, and college football at large.
If the first week of the season is syllabus week, Michigan’s offense is the awkward new kid in an AP class. There is a learning curve and shaking the summer rust off will take time.
The Josh Gattis era is underway and while it was far from perfect, it was a promise kept of offensive innovation. Shea Patterson attempted 25 passes in the first half, which equals the amount he averaged per game last season.
22 personnel (two running backs, two tight ends), the staple of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan, was barely used. The scheme was primarily 12 (one running back, two tight ends) or 11 (one running back, one tight end) personnel, which is more pass friendly and modern across college and the NFL.
Growing pains are to be expected with a new offense, especially with key pieces (Jon Runyan, Donovan Peoples-Jones) being sidelined due to injury. The offensive line must adjust to new protections, shifts, and audibles, while Patterson must build rapport with the plethora of young talent at receiver and running back.
Above all, this was a joint practice for Michigan and a bowl game for Middle Tennessee State. The Wolverines wanted to rotate players, try new things, and find out what works and what does not in order to improve.
The Blue Raiders fancied themselves 2007 Appalachian State like every small school when visiting the Big House. Young quarterback Asher O’Hara did everything he could to procure a victory, but the Blue Raiders leave Ann Arbor with nothing more than morality points.
The Big Ten is the best conference in football: Justin Fields is Braxton Miller 2.0, Michigan State’s defense is poised to be historic, and Penn State is still scoring against Idaho.
Every team in the conference won this weekend except Purdue and Northwestern (way to go, guys!) and every winner achieved victory by at least ten points.
Sure, some of the games were ugly, but the only thing that matters is winning and 12 of 14 teams got the job done.
Even the perennially mediocre found success. Brandon Peters was dominant for Illinois, Rutgers may have secured their only win of the season, and Indiana held off Ball State, to add some depth to the recently top-heavy conference.
While the success may be scarce for the latter teams, each of them are now only five wins (with 11 opportunities remaining) away from bowl eligibility.
Be careful which narrative you buy into after one game.
Last season, unranked Maryland beat ninth ranked Texas to kick off the season and did not make a bowl game. The Longhorns doubled Maryland’s win total, beat Oklahoma, earned a spot in the Big 12 title game, and beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
College football is chaotic and unpredictable, but this year, the first week was seemingly all chalk. Only one ranked team has suffered a loss (Oregon- 11) and that was due to it being the only game featuring a clash of two ranked teams.
Several ranked schools looked less than impressive at times including Alabama, Iowa State, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, and Iowa. Most of these teams went on to win big, but some did not, and frankly the size of the outcome does not matter except for fan perception.
In college football, style points are irrelevant to gaining acceptance into the exclusive postseason tournament as long as winning is achieved.
If you are a Power 5 team and win every game, the College Football Playoff (CFP) is guaranteed. It does not matter if wins are by one point or 100, no undefeated Power 5 team has ever been left out of the CFP. Just win, baby, and that is what every contender except Oregon accomplished this weekend.
In the end, it was syllabus week and just a glimpse of what’s to come. We will know a lot more once the first exam rolls around.