Thoughts, Observations, and Things to Watch Heading Into Week 1

The first full weekend of college football season is finally upon us!! Here are some thoughts, observations, and things to keep in mind for week one.

  • Can Will Muschamp turn things around immediately at Auburn? While some people think it might take time, it’s worth noting that Gus Malzahn transformed the Tiger offense into a juggernaut relatively quickly in his own right after taking over in 2013. Considering that he’s fielded top units at LSU, Auburn, Texas, and Florida, there’s no reason to think Muschamp can’t do something similar with the Tiger defense this fall.
  • Of course, in order to accomplish that feat, Muschamp will have to stop an explosive Louisville offense that boasts the deepest quarterback unit in the country. With Bobby Petrino calling the plays, you can count on the Cardinals being able to move the football.
  • The flip side of that matchup is one of the most intriguing battles of the weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how Auburn’s up-tempo attack — which ranked 17th nationally in total offense last season — fares against a Louisville D which ranked sixth in the country in total defense last year.
  • WisconsinAlabama is a close second. This contest pits strength versus strength as the Badger running game — which finished fourth in the country in rushing — squares off against a Crimson Tide front seven which allowed just 3.16 yards per carry last season.
  • It really doesn’t matter who takes the snaps for Bama this week. If Alabama is going to beat Wisconsin, it must establish the run. In the Badgers’ three losses last fall, they allowed 4.81 yards per carry — roughly 1.67 more than they averaged in their 11 wins.
  • How big a task does John Chavis have ahead of him at Texas A&M? We’ll find out when the Aggie D faces Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici, who averaged 414.33 yards per game in three starts last season.
  • On the other hand, A&M quarterback Kyle Allen played well against ranked opponents last season, completing 45 of 69 passes (60.2 percent) for 517 yards with a respectable 7-2 TD-to-INT ratio. He also averaged 7.5 yards per completion in these games, a full yard higher than what he produced against unranked foes.
  • The difference in the Arizona State – Texas A&M game will be turnovers. This would seem to favor the Sun Devils, who finished sixth nationally in turnover margin.
  • Although Virginia over UCLA is a popular upset pick this week, I don’t see it happening. The Bruins return 18 starters from last year’s squad, which beat the ‘Hoos 28-20. Since this year’s game is played in the Rose Bowl, I don’t think Jim Mora’s team will come out flat as it did last year.
  • Yet, don’t count the ‘Hoos out of this contest. Matt Johns turned in a solid effort in the second half of last year’s meeting, completing 13 of 22 passes for 154 yards and 2 TDs in relief of Greyson Lambert.
  • Something has to give in Saturday’s Texas – Notre Dame matchup. The Longhorns are 102-17-3 all-time in season openers, while the Irish are 105-16-5.
  • The key to a Texas upset is to run the football. After all, Notre Dame simply couldn’t stop the run over the final six games of 2014, allowing no fewer than 188 yards rushing over that span.
  • Speaking of upsets, my “Upset of the Week” is Illinois State over Iowa. The explosive tandem of Tre Roberson and Marshaun Coprich might be the best one-two punch in the FCS this year.
  • Bold Prediction of the Week – J.T. Barrett throws for 300 yards against Virginia Tech. After his less-than-stellar performance against the Hokies last year, he’s had this game circled on the calendar for over a year. I expect him to have an outstanding evening, and to end any discussion of a potential quarterback controversy in Columbus.

About Terry P. Johnson

Terry Johnson is the Associate Editor for The Student Section. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.