Ten things from American college football this week

Gordon P Smith Roar Guru

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    Ohio State is this week's number one game to watch. (Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

    Welcome to this weekly review of the world of NCAA Division I American college football! Here are ten quick stories from the ‘Following Football’ news desk that you might find interesting.

    1) Houston at Texas-San Antonio and Prairie View at Texas Southern were both postponed because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey on the southeastern coast of Texas, in the greater Houston area and beyond. More important than any action on the field, our prayers are with the millions of people affected by the flooding.

    2) Then there was comparatively minor devastation of Texas’ football teams: Texas A and M gave up a 44-10 lead late in the third quarter to lose to UCLA, 45-44 with a fake spike of the ball followed by a pass to the end zone with less than a minute left. That followed the upset defeat of the state’s flagship program, the University of Texas’ 51-41 loss to Maryland in the debut of new head coach Tom Hermann. Leave a yellow rose for Texas, indeed.

    3) Fellow Texas school Baylor lost in much more embarrassing fashion, receiving one of those occasional upsets from the lower division school paid to come be a punching bag for a major program. Liberty University won 48-45 while stepping up a weight class and leaving new coach Matt Ruhle red-faced…though not as much as Nevada-Las Vegas must have felt, losing to 45-point underdog Howard University, 43-40.

    Howard is at the lowest echelons of the next lower division, in what we euphemistically call a conference of “historically black colleges”. The point spread set a college football record.

    4) The “biggest opener in history” had no such upset – national favourite Alabama defeated #3 Florida State, 24-7, but at a high cost for both teams. Alabama announced Monday that two starting linebackers (mid-level defencemen) both injured knees and are out for the entire season. The same is true for FSU’s starting quarterback, their leader Deandre Francois.

    Similar injuries happened all over the country, and will undoubtedly continue as long as the brutality of the sport operates under the same rules.

    5) Earlier we saw what lower division “body bag” opponents can sometimes do to the host paying them to come play, and many of those opponents dutifully lost. (Syracuse beat Central Connecticut 50-7; Wisconsin over Utah State 59-10, etc.) But little Rhode Island, 2-9 last season, whose venture into the big time in 2016 was a 55-6 loss to a team who finished last in its conference, gave Central Michigan all it could handle, losing in three overtimes 30-27.

    What made it even more remarkable was that URI had a chance to win it with a short field goal in the second OT – and missed.

    Sydney Cup college football NFL

    (Photo: Jack Prichard)

    6) Kicking is often the difference in close games. Consider Portland State’s 35-32 loss at Oregon State: though both teams scored five touchdowns, the upset was foiled by PSU’s failure on three extra points. Or New Hampshire’s 24-23 victory over Maine, where Maine missed its last extra point that would have tied the game in the last few minutes.

    Or Wofford’s 24-23 win over Furman, won because Furman went for a two-point conversion after their last-minute touchdown, determined to win or lose the game before overtime against the favoured Wofford team. (They failed, and lost.) Finally, consider Louisiana-Lafayette holding on against Southeast Louisiana, 51-48, when the “Ragin’ Cajuns” blocked the SE Louisiana kick that would have tied the game and ran it back all the way for two points of their own in what had been a 49-48 game.

    7) Special teams are more than just kicking extra points, though. Marshall defeated Miami of Ohio 31-26 despite being out-played on offense and defence (Miami gained 200 more yards and had 25 first downs to Marshall’s 15), because they ran two kickoffs back for touchdowns in the first half (one was the opening play of the game!), and also ran an interception back to the end zone for a “pick-six” touchdown.

    8) My last kicking game note is a beauty: in its game against Western Michigan, Southern Cal (which won 49-31) put in young Jake Olsen to snap the ball on one of its extra points after a touchdown. Why is that significant? Jake has been blind since birth. Well done, USC…

    9) LSU (Louisiana State) didn’t just defeat BYU (Brigham Young University), they dominated them from start to finish. BYU not only didn’t score in the 27-0 loss, they never crossed the middle of the field.

    Not a single play BYU ran started or ended in LSU’s half of the field – the closest they got was their own 47-yardline. Conversely, LSU finished all but two of their drives in BYU’s territory (and obviously several in the end zone!). One of the exceptions was the last “drive” of the first half, where they got the ball back at their own ten and ran one play before the half ran out. Complete and utter devastation from start to finish.

    10) Finally, an interesting note from Georgia State University, which opened its brand new stadium Thursday night. After borrowing the home of the professional Atlanta Falcons for many years, they converted the former baseball stadium of the Atlanta Braves, Turner Field – host of many playoff collapses of the Braves when they were in “World Series” contention yet lost in upsets throughout the 1990s.

    Needless to say, in honor of that legacy, Georgia State lost its grand opening game to lower division Tennessee State 17-10.

    Looking ahead to Week 2 of the American college football season, here are some of the more interesting games and our ELO-Following Football point-spread predictions – check your favourite tipster for the ‘professional’ odds.

    Friday night, Ohio at Purdue looks like an upset for Ohio by one point.

    On Saturday, there’s Oklahoma at Ohio State (we like Ohio St by 6);

    Auburn at Clemson (Clemson by 7 in this battle of Tigers);

    Nebraska at Oregon (home team again, by 8 points);

    Pitt at Penn State (Pitt loses by 17);

    Wake Forest at Boston College (we have this an overtime game!);

    Northwestern at Duke (we like NW in the battle of the academic giants);

    Louisville at North Carolina (Louisville by 4);

    TCU at Arkansas (we’ll take Arkansas by 2);

    We also have Georgia at Notre Dame going into overtime;

    BYU at Utah (the “pagans” win over the Mormons by three at home in the “Holy War”);

    Stanford at USC (perhaps the Cardinals’ only loss: USC by five);

    Western Kentucky at Illinois (we like the underdog road team by one);

    Western Michigan at Michigan State (WMU has a shot, though we favour MSU by 7);

    Boise State at Washington State (we see Wazzu winning by nine);

    And finally, we like New Mexico over New Mexico State at home by ten.

    Here’s our prayers for you to have a successful weekend, one that allows you to take in some gridiron gladitorial glee!