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The Top Whatever: The season’s 6 days old, and I’m already tired of Alabama

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It’s time to rank only the exact number of teams you feel like ranking.

NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Kickoff-Alabama vs Florida State Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

1. Alabama. America’s unfunniest program did have one funny moment in an otherwise dismal, anti-climactic, sludge-slow, 24-7 processing of Florida State. At one point during the broadcast, the production switched to the standard in-booth shot of “the Alabama offensive braintrust,” the coaches watching from the booth upstairs. It looked like your standard group of tense men wearing dry-fit golf shirts, chewing stuff, wearing headsets, and looking down at the field like someone they loved was about to die. Standard coaches, really.

The funny part: The next shot was of the adjacent box, stacked full of Alabama’s bank of “analysts,” including Chris Weinke, the former Florida State quarterback and Heisman winner, and Dan Werner, the quarterbacks coach for Miami’s NFL farms of the early 2000s. It looked like an entire other coaching staff, all with heads down, taking notes and watching intently.

At no point did they show Alabama’s actual offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll. He’s down on the sidelines, and maybe hard to find in all the traffic (at a glance, you could spot him by saying “the dude who looks like Hodor’s younger brother”). He might not matter; it’s really hard to tell who does what at Alabama, so it’s hard to blame him for the offense. Daboll might be a paid actor meant to hide Alabama’s real offensive coordinator behind a character called “Brian Daboll.” Nick Saban is a step ahead at all times, so don’t rule it out.

The point is that Alabama’s vast, corporate, overfed, overstaffed, organizationally bloated, overfunded, hopelessly paranoid, and utterly successful football company only gained 269 yards against Florida State, struggled to move the ball for long stretches of the game, and had to rely on special teams to generate field position and points. I’m sure Saban will get it fixed, probably by calling in at least three different consultancies to evaluate weaknesses over the next couple of weeks. The Rand Corporation ain’t cheap, but when you need to figure out why your blocking schemes ain’t working, it takes a village to put together that PowerPoint. (A very expensive village.)

The defense is basically perfect already, so much so that it made me feel bad for Florida State. Do you know, in this day and age, how bad that had to be to make anyone feel bad for Florida State? Deondre Francois didn’t deserve anything that happened to him Saturday night, and the FSU defense played really well, and they still lost by 17 points.

That’s a land speed record. It’s Week 1, and I’m already tired of Alabama.

2. Ohio State. Who knew J.T. Barrett would ever throw for 300 yards against a Power 5 opponent again? Turns out that if you throw short passes to fast people, those fast people run past slower people for touchdowns, as Parris Campbell did against Indiana, a team with a solid defense and enough offense to keep Ohio State engaged for the better part of three quarters.

A 49-21 win over the Hoosiers does sort of leave out that Ohio State got off to a crap start and let Indiana lead. Still: Of all the teams in the first week and a half, Ohio State seems to have come the furthest in terms of what it needed to fix, i.e., an offense that scored exactly zero points against Clemson in the Playoff, looked sluggish all season, and struggled to put players in a position to succeed.

It helps to have a massive war chest of talent, like freshman J.K. Dobbins at running back and an offensive line that looks alive for the first time in a year.

The secondary might be an issue, since Indiana tallied 410 yards through the air, but you’re an adult, and it’s time we told you the truth: Indiana’s offense might be good when it lets Richard Lagow pass 65 times.

There’s another truth here you’re big enough to handle. The Buckeyes aren’t done improving, have at least two game-breaking pieces for Barrett to get the ball to, and finally have an offensive coordinator who knows how to do that. They’re officially scary again and fun to watch, and we could all be forgiven for plotting out just what this team vs. Alabama for the title could look like in January, both because these might be the two best teams in college football already, and because there are really only like eight or 10 teams capable of winning the title anyway.

Oh, and this, which was called back because it was not a fumble, but was breathtaking in more than one sense of the word.

Robert “B.B.” Landers, that glory counts in our hearts, if not on the scoreboard.

3. USC. Beat Western Michigan, 49-31, and didn’t really lock the game up until late.

Ways in which this is good: Western Michigan is the reigning MAC champion, and unlike some teams, USC actually scheduled a real team in Week 1. If you’re gonna throw up a clanker, let it be in Week 1.

Ways in which this is bad: You struggled against Western Michigan and need to work on your rush defense, which allowed 263 yards on the ground to a non-option MAC team.

Ways in which this is about Ronald Jones II being a violent, awesome runner: Ronald Jones II is a violent, awesome runner, somehow underrated despite being a running back at USC.

P.S. Should be below Michigan, were it not for Michigan playing a team with no offense.

4. Michigan. Honestly, the only thing Michigan earns a demerit for after a dominant, 33-17 defeat of Florida is that it played Florida’s offense. The results might be misleading, given the Gators having one of the worst offenses in college football

Handing Florida two pick-sixes was only sportsmanlike, really. Without them, this is a 41-3 game or so, a complete wash, an elimination. Michigan’s chief concerns coming into the year were finding playmakers down the field. Tarik Black and Nick Eubanks did that serviceably enough, particularly so when you consider that Wilton Speight didn’t really have a great game and that the run game took a minute to lock in a stranglehold.

In sum, this Michigan team has great bones, is a handful along the defensive line, has two running backs capable of following a mean offensive line down the field, and has a quarterback who needs help from all that. But really, who doesn’t need a team? And who, among Michgan fans, will ever question the team? The team, the team, the team?

P.S. Should be above USC, but played a team with no offense.

5. LSU. Beat down a punchless BYU, 27-0. BYU’s offense might be Florida bad, but give LSU ample credit for holding it to under 100 yards of offense, being efficient on offense itself, and running the clock so that the audience had to watch as little of BYU’s offense as possible. Coach O is a giver like that.

Ooh! Bonus points for this completely unnecessary dickery on the part of offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

That’s exactly what we like offenses to do: Aggravate and confuse for no reason whatsoever, then run the hell out of the ball until you cry.

6. Clemson. Taking down Kent State, 56-3, doesn’t mean much, but the Tigers did it as emphatically as possible, and that’s all you can do when you have Kent State on the schedule. See “next week against Auburn” for better data, particularly on new starter Kelly Bryant at quarterback.

Fun fact! You had exactly one less passing yard than Kent State did on Saturday, even if you didn’t play a down of football.

7. Wisconsin. Struggled early against Utah State in a 59-10 win, but Wisconsin is the fat man of college football, and talented fat men don’t wake up quickly. When they do, it’s over, because they are hungry and prone to rampages.

It’s so reassuring to watch this Badgers team. They will start slow. They will, when cornered, begin headbutting out of anger. They will, at the end of all that headbutting, do something like score 59 unanswered points and go destroy three plates of food afterward before settling in for a 16-hour nap.

8. Oklahoma State. Tulsa’s no joke, so putting them away in a 59-24 blowout is solid, if not particularly revealing. Cowboys QB Mason Rudolph had a nearly perfect day, throwing for 303 yards, completing 20 of 24 passes, and accounting for three TDs through the air.

Rudolph had the advantage in almost every way over Tulsa’s QB, save one: His name is not “Chad President.”

nothing but respect for my chad president
Screencap from University of Tulsa Athletics

9. Oklahoma. It’s no insult to UTEP to say that a 56-7 win by Oklahoma felt like a scrimmage. Baker Mayfield went 19 of 20 and appeared to be throwing against air, and the Sooners had 35 first downs, and yeah, this was a glorified scrimmage. Still: Blowout scheduled, blowout delivered, and all in time to face Ohio State this coming week in Columbus.

10. Penn State. 52-0 over Akron. See category of “blowout scheduled, blowout delivered.” Saquon Barkley had 172 yards and two TDs on just 14 carries. This is a bold statement, but it has to be said, if Barkley continues to average over 10 yards a carry, that might be a problem for opposing defenses. This is expert analysis, provided for free.

11. Auburn. See “Clemson, but with a different team to blow out as effectively as possible.” In a 41-7 win over Georgia Southern, the Tigers only allowed 78 yards and handed Georgia Southern its only points via a fumble returned for a TD. Bad opponent or not, something good is happening when the only chance the opponent has is the one you literally hand them.

12. Stanford. Didn’t even play this week, which is good, because they’re all still probably sleeping off a 14-hour plane flight to Australia in Week 0. Burly, smart, and popped out of the gate ready to fight, even if they’ve only beat Rice so far.

ALSO RECEIVING CONSIDERATION, BUT WITH SOME TERRIFYING WARNINGS ATTACHED

  • Washington. Pro: Won 30-14 over Rutgers. Con: Could not block Rutgers, which is a horrifying thing.
  • Georgia. Lost longhaired QB Jacob Eason in a 31-10 win over Appalachian State and replaced him with a shorthaired guy named Jake Fromm. We don’t know if this win has any analytical value other than giving us an opportunity to float the conspiracy theory that Georgia is trying to mess with opposing defenses by sending in its old quarterback with a fake name and a new haircut.
  • Louisville. Purdue might be a lot better, but when Purdue takes the Cardinals to the wire in a 35-28 nailbiter, Louisville fans have to have some concerns about the defense and life as a whole.
  • Virginia Tech. Who knows what beating West Virginia 31-24 is, considering no one’s exactly sure what’s up with the Mountaineers. Hokies QB Josh Jackson is going to be a PROBLEM for the rest of the ACC, though.
  • Maryland. Just kidding ahahahaa they only beat Texas.
  • Trash can. Very iffy on Tennessee. Very bullish on the Trash Can, though.