(The Week That Was in College Football)
No one wins the Heisman Trophy in the first week of the season.
The problem last season was that Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey couldn't win it at the end of the season, even though he checked off every box that is required of Heisman candidates.
The Heisman has become a made for television voting award, with voters making their minds up, with the urging of Verne and Gary on CBS and Kirk and Chris on ESPN.
Stanford, playing on the West Coast, with more than a few games in the Late Late Show time slot, didn't have the push that Alabama and Clemson had last season, which is a prime reason why Alabama running back Derrick Henry won the Heisman and McCaffrey finished second.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Henry has moved to the NFL, but Clemson QB DeShaun Watson (3rd in the Heisman) is back. So is McCaffrey. Clemson has lots of support to make it back to the national championship game, which should put Watson back near the top of the Heisman leader board.
Most people have slotted Stanford for another Rose Bowl appearance. But if McCaffrey has anything to say, it will be more than that.
In an opening game which was as much as a statement about the past--the Heisman voters made a mistake-McCaffrey carried Stanford to a 26-13 win over a Kansas State team who had built a pre-game defensive plan based on shutting him down.
With an inexperienced offensive line, all McCaffrey did was run for 126 yards on 22 carries, while picking up 210 all purpose yards and rushing for two TDs. He also had a 97 punt return for a touchdown called back because of a penalty.
Said Stanford coach David Shaw, who was ready to chastise his star for catching a punt on his own 3. ""There is a reason why there are no 97 yard punt returns,'' said Shaw, "because you should not catch the ball on the 3-yard line. He knows that. But what he did after he caught it was the best punt return that doesn't count that I've ever seen.''
McCaffrey's two touchdowns were the difference. "When he touches the ball enough, good things happen,'' said Shaw.
The good thing for McCaffrey is that the opener was the prime time show on Friday night to kick off college football's opening weekend, which meant that lots of people saw McCaffrey doing good things.
It shouldn't matter, but with the Big 12 you never know. The 12 schools who still feel they have a chance at becoming members of the Big 12, started their 2016 college football season with mixed results.
UConn fans couldn't have been pleased with the Huskies going to the final seconds to beat Maine by a field goal, while Rice (Rice, really?) began with a 46-14 loss to Western Kentucky, which was not on the Big 12 wanted list. Tulane did nothing to impress anyone with a 7-3 loss to Wake Forest.
In the other direction, Cincinnati, which is regarded as one of the favorites for Big 12 inclusion if it comes, rolled over University of Tennessee-Martin, 28-7.
Speaking of Tennessee. The sound you heard late Thursday night/early Friday morning was of the Volunteer bandwagon crashing after the Vols needed a recovered fumble (by their own player) to beat Appalachian State 20-13. Wonder what Miami, which is to go to App State Sept. 17th thinks about this game. Or more importantly why did they agree to the home and home series.
And then we have Houston. The Cougars' 33-23 upset of Oklahoma, puts the Big 12 in a bind. If they expand to 12 schools, how can they NOT take Houston without looking like utter fools.
LSU losing to Wisconsin sped up the (Coach) Les Miles must go chatter. As usual, Alabama picked up the SEC flag with its romp over USC.
But the most significant long term win was Houston.
What excuse could the Big 12 offer for not taking the Cougars? The only defense is to not expand at all.
The only way to salvage their reputation and not look like a bumbling, stumbling ship of fools, would be to take Houston and BYU--an opening game winner over Arizona--in football only.
The Big 12 could sell that to television and to their fan base as a move which would improve the product.
All of this, of course, is further evidence that the list of 12 candidates the Big 12 says it wants to talk to is a total farce. Interesting meeting. At the Houston-Oklahoma game on Saturday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco shared a box. ""We're old friends,'' said Aresco, whose conference is a prime feeding area for Big 12 expansion.
If you want a very very early sleeper. Louisville, under Bobby Petrino, looks like it is an a ""take no prisoner'' mode after opening with a 70-14 romp over Charlotte.
Some interesting opening weekend statement games besides Louisville: Ohio State 77, Bowling Green 10, Michigan 63, Hawaii. Big Ten schools want to get as high up in the rankings as they can as early as they can...Did they tear down the goal posts in Lawrence, Kansas? The Jayhawks, who were 0-12 a year ago, opened their season against Rhode Island, which was 1-11 last season.
Final score: Kansas 55, URI 6.
Bronco Mendenhall's debut at Virginia didn't go as he had planned. The Cavaliers were beaten by Richmond, 37-20 in an upset which former BC coach Tom O'Brien predicted. I talked to O'Brien earlier in the week and he told me he would be in Charlottesville working for ESPN on that game. ""Richmond is going to win,'' said O'Brien flatly, who spent his last few years of his coaching career working as an assistant coach at UVA....Good win for Army which beat Temple in its opener.
Play it Forward
After a marquee list of opening weekend games, the schedule drops down to the B level this week.
Michigan vs. UCF--Another opportunity for Wolverines to pile up style points.
Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee--Southern college football fan's dream game. College football in a NASCAR setting in Bristol, Ten. Almost heaven for 140,000 fans.
Arkansas-TCU--An old SWC game. Wonder if Arkansas wishes it were in the Big 12?[/membership]