Five things we learned on the first Saturday of the 2017 season:
1--Get used to Alabama being No. 1. The Tide is going to stay there a while: Alabama likes to make you play ugly and that is exactly what it did to No. 3 Florida State Saturday night in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide blocked a punt, recovered a fumble on a kickoff return, blocked a field goal attempt right before the half and threw a long touchdown pass to win 24-7. Despite all the losses on the defensive front seven from a year ago, Nick Saban just plugged in some new guys and the Tide kept rolling. Just looking at the schedule, there is not (IMO) a serious threat until an Oct. 7 trip to Texas A&M. Alabama has both No. 13 LSU and No. 12 Auburn at home in November.
Alabama came within one second of being a wire-to-wire No. 1 last season.
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2--It was a nice debut for Clemson’s Kelly Bryant. Now here comes Auburn: If Bryant had any qualms about his debut as Deshaun Watson’s replacement at quarterback, it didn’t show in Saturday’s opener with Kent State. Bryant directed the Tigers on three consecutive touchdown drives to open the season, something a Clemson quarterback had not done since Woody Dantzler in 2000. Bryant also threw a beautiful 61-yard touchdown pass in what would become a 49-7 rout at Death Valley.
But now Clemson must host an Auburn defense that in 2016 held Watson and company to 19 points, its lowest total in a national championship season. On Saturday Auburn held Georgia Southern to only 78 yards with 12 tackles for loss in a 41-7 win.
3--South Carolina at Missouri could be the mother of all shootouts: Missouri quarterback Drew Lock threw for 521 yards and the Tigers rolled up 809 yards (that’s right, 809) in a 72-43 win over Missouri State.
Meanwhile, South Carolina showed a wide array of offensive weapons behind quarterback Jake Bentley but gave up 467 yards in a 35-28 upset of N.C. State. The Wolfpack ran 99 plays against South Carolina but the Gamecocks found a way to win.
The point: Both teams can really score and both teams are really struggling on defense. It should be pretty wild at Faurot Field.
4--Florida’s offense is in big, big trouble—again: The stat of the day came from my friend Mike Huguenin of Gridiron Now. It points out how long and to what extent Florida’s offense has been bad:
Saturday’s 33-17 loss to Michigan—where the Gators were held only 154 total yards and no touchdowns—marked the 93rd game played by Florida in this decade. In 40 of those games the Gators have been held to 300 yards of offense or less. Saturday was the seventh time Florida has been held under 200 yards.
Yes, Florida’s best wide receiver (Antonio Callaway) and best running back (Jordan Scarlett) and eight other players stayed home due to suspension. All I can say is that something needs to get fixed against non-conference Northern Colorado this week because Tennessee comes to Gainesville on Sept. 16.
5--The Jake Fromm era has begun at Georgia. Now what?
Fromm, a freshman from Warner Robins, was simply born to play quarterback for the University of Georgia. At Houston County High School he threw for 12,817 yards, just 260 yards shy of the state record set by future Clemson star Deshaun Watson of Gainesville High. Fromm originally committed to Alabama but flipped to Georgia when Kirby Smart was named head coach. Everybody I talked to in the program says this guy has one of the highest football IQs they’ve ever seen. So it came to no surprise to anybody that when he was called on to replace the injured Jacob Eason just eight minutes into the game with Appalachian State, he didn’t just survive….he thrived.
Fromm completed 10 of 15 passes for 143 yards with a 34-yard touchdown pass. A game that looked difficult at first turned into a 31-10 romp.
As of Sunday we didn’t know the status of Eason for Saturday’s trip to Notre Dame. And Kirby Smart doesn’t usually let his freshmen talk to the media. So the storybook life that is Jake Fromm may continue on Saturday in South Bend, Ind.