Week 1 is effectively in the rear-view mirror. Louisville and Miami have yet to kick off their seasons, which they will do tonight in the ACC's annual Labor Day game. Further, Idaho and Florida are still in a holding pattern regarding their suspended game from Saturday night, though few are bemoaning the missed opportunity of watching Florida football.
What do we know about the college football landscape after the first week of the 2014 season? The short answer is that we will not know much from one week because one game does not constitute a pattern. Still, I'll offer conjecture here about some storylines that may emerge as the season develops, leveraging, as much as one can, an exciting first week of the college football season.
The Big Ten Did Not Help Itself
Fans of the Big Ten hoping the conference could emerge from the shade cast on it by sportswriters and our friends in the South may be wanting this season. I don't think the Big Ten helped itself in Week 1.
Nick's Sunday recap offers more comprehensive game-by-game breakdowns that I will eschew here. Some quick comments follow.
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa struggled to put away FCS teams. Indiana's 18-point win against Indiana State, perhaps the worst FCS team last year, was the biggest margin of victory among the three.
Minnesota and Maryland were never in doubt against their FCS teams, but neither team could throw the ball against FCS competition.
Michigan and Michigan State looked great, but be mindful of the competition. Michigan State's secondary would have conceded two quick touchdowns against Jacksonville State if it had a competent passing attack. Michigan State, by the way, travels to Oregon this week.
Northwestern's implosion at home to California says more about Northwestern's program than the league as a whole. Wisconsin may have been the bigger disappointment. Wisconsin flexed serious muscle for more than half the game. At the end of the day, no one is going to remember the best team in the B1G West looking great for half an hour against the third or fourth-ranked team from the SEC West.
Fans of the conference will hope for a better second week of the season. The first week was uninspiring at best for the conference as a whole.
The Pac-12 Should be Fun
The SEC has the accolade of "toughest conference" in college football, but the Pac-12 may have more spectator value this year.
Offense defines the league. More than just offense, the league is diverse too. Arizona's spread-and-shred made quick work of UNLV while Stanford's pro-style passing attack dispatched UC Davis with ease. Oregon and Arizona State took care of business too and California scored that nice road win over Northwestern.
The record was obviously not perfect. Washington State lost "at home" to Rutgers and Colorado lost to Colorado State for the second time in three years. UCLA struggled to run the ball against a Virginia team that conceded over 170 rushing yards a game last year and needed three defensive touchdowns to win by eight points.
Washington, the preseason no. 25 team, beat Hawaii by a single point in a game that Washington fans are fortunate no one was awake to see.
Maybe the biggest story from the league was USC. The Trojans tallied 701 yards of offense in a 52-13 win over Fresno State. If Sarkisian can actually put the talent USC recruits to use under his watch, the Trojans should be back in play in the Pac-12.
Is the ACC Anything Other than FSU?
I may be in the minority, but I am inclined to look the other way on Florida State's feeble win over a game Oklahoma State team. Projected to win by double digits in all 12 games this season, FSU only squeaked out a six-point win.
What about the rest of the ACC? I feel vindicated in my assertion that projecting Clemson as a national champion was one of the most idiotic preseason projections I've seen in the past five or ten years.
Beyond Clemson's, well, "Clemsoning", the ACC had several other questionable results. UNC won big but trailed 22-21 in the third quarter. NC State beat a first-year and bowl-ineligible FBS program by one point. Syracuse needed two overtimes to beat Villanova, an FCS program.
The ACC had three teams in the AP preseason poll. Florida State was no. 1 and Clemson was no. 16. UNC was no. 23. I'd drop Clemson almost out the top 25 and keep UNC near where it is.
That would be quite a disparity between the top-ranked ACC team and the next-ranked ACC teams, but it does underscore that few seem capable of challenging Florida State even if Florida State may not be completely ready to defend the throne at the moment.
The SEC is Wide-Open (and Mortal)
Preseason projections about the trajectory of the SEC this year may need some mid-season adjustment.
Alabama and LSU struggled to overwhelm West Virginia and Wisconsin with brand awareness. Both won, but it was not a simple matter of arriving on the field and intimidating the competition with its favorite three letters of the alphabet.
South Carolina, the preseason favorite in the SEC East, was hammered at home by Texas A&M. This might say more about Texas A&M than South Carolina, but it still suggests the SEC East is there for anyone to take.
Well, anyone except Vanderbilt.
On that note, I am of the mentality that Georgia's win over Clemson says a lot more about Clemson than Georgia. Still, there may be more convergence in opinion for the Bulldogs in the next AP poll.
Further, things are looking up for three cellar-dwellers from last year. Arkansas lost to Auburn but looked much improved from last year. Kentucky and Tennessee should fare much better in 2014 than both did in 2013.