To much fanfare, South Carolina and Vanderbilt opened the college football season last Thursday, and the Gamecocks survived on the road, leaving Nashville with a 17-13 victory. Beside the blatant non-call on a critical pass late in the game, Vanderbilt had little excuse for losing this game. They missed a field goal that would have given them the lead in the first half, and based on the overall level of play, they really should have taken a lead into halftime. The Commodore defense showed its strength, and knocking SC starting quarterback Connor Shaw out of the game proved to be one of their best decisions, as his backups were worse than useless. Shaw didn’t stay out long enough, though, and he proved to be enough of a threat, even with a bum shoulder, to lead his team to narrow victory. For more analysis, read this. Also, did anyone else notice Spurrier wearing a normal ball cap to start the game?
Speaking of 17-13 games, Friday night’s featured game, between Boise State and Michigan State, ended with the same score, although it was the home team, rather than the visitors, that claimed the W. Both teams were featuring brand new quarterbacks, and while Andrew Maxwell struggled for the Spartans, the MSU defense made the offensive production largely irrelevant by thoroughly shutting down a Kellen Moore-less BSU offensive attack. Or, as Boise’s official twitter feed put it:
The showcase game of the weekend was the Cowboys Classic: Alabama and Michigan. Aside from Michigan’s defensive stand on the first series, this was a complete non-game. Alabama nearly shut out the Wolverines in the first half, and they scored 31 of their own points in that time, on their way to a 41-14 rout. As Tommy Tomlinson put it, “Michigan even lost the Kiss Cam.” While Alabama surely is a better team than Michigan will face the rest of the season, I’m not convinced that the Tide exactly overpowered the Maize & Blue. What I saw was the execution of a defensive gameplan to allow Denard Robinson to beat himself by throwing it as much as he wanted. To this casual observer, it felt like he was connecting with guys in crimson as much as he was with the guys in white.
I was a casual observer in part because the Clemson/Auburn game happening at the same time was far more compelling. On their opening drive, I thought Clemson was the best offense I’d seen all weekend. They soon remembered who they were, but they did earn a victory in the fourth quarter, all without their best player, WR Sammy Watkins. I haven’t looked at their schedule, but I imagine this year will go much like last year for those Tigers, in that they’ll start out very strong, maybe opening 5-0, before imploding in heart-breakingly spectacular fashion. Should be fun to watch, especially with Robbie Caldwell now on Dabo Swinney’s staff.
The Clemson/Aubrun game highlighted one of the officiating trends that is sure to drive me nuts all season. Even worse than the excessive celebration penalties (you decide what the adjective “excessive” is modifying) is this helmet rule, pursuant to which players whose helmets come off during a play due to any cause other than an opposing player tearing it off must sit out the subsequent play. Obviously I wasn’t the only one who noticed a larger-than-average number of helmets coming off during play last season. The reason for it is obvious: guys want to wear those lids loose, like Michael Vick. People called the NBA’s dress code racist, and now we have a league full of seven-foot hipster nerds. I can’t wait to see what sort of absurd headgear these kids roll out over the coming weeks and seasons, should this rule with no obvious basis in anything other than some old dude wants to demand that those punk kids strap their helmets on tight persist.