Welcome to the First Five/Last Five. Each week, (hopefully) I'll write a little blurb about 10 teams: those at the top of the AP Top 25 and those at the bottom of the AP Top 25. The first week is a little weird because all the games are spread out, so you'll have to come back for my thoughts on Ohio State, but in a perfect world, this is published Saturday night or super early on Sunday. I'm sacrificing my body for you. So, I hope you appreciate this. E-mail me directly at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter @damienbowman.
No. 1: Ohio State
Ohio State plays Virginia Tech Monday evening in Blacksburg. Check back soonish after the game for my thoughts.
No. 2: TCU
TCU played Minnesota on Thursday night in a surprisingly close match. TCU gets a ton of respect for opening a probable playoff-appearing season with a true road game against the Gophers. The biggest takeaway for the Horned Frogs was the offense just wasn’t very consistent. Even against a Big Ten opponent such as Minnesota, Gary Patterson and gang should have been able to score more than 10 points in the first half. The good thing for TCU, as Seth says, is they won’t face many defenses [if any] as good as Minnesota in the Big 12.
I often wonder if any team plays defense in the Big 12.
Up next: Stephen F. Austin who faced Northern Arizona this week. The only expectations for TCU are a convincing victory, as in it should be a significantly better performance than the game they gave us versus Minnesota.
No. 3: Alabama
That’s Derrick Henry above. If you forgot, he was splitting time in 2014 with someone who no longer matters, but is the feature back of the Alabama offense in 2015. He’s big, fast, and isn’t afraid to go at a defensive line. Alabama’s offensive line – which may have been questionable before Saturday – is solid. The line was able to create holes for Henry, and also gave Jacob Coker enough time in the pocket to probably tie his shoes and toss the ball 20-yards after.
Speaking of Mr. Coker, yeah he hasn’t started a game since his senior year of high school in 2010. The senior transferred from Florida State and sat last year because of transfer rules, but after facing tons of adversity showed the nation last night that he’s the real deal. Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban wasn’t ready to say that Mr. Coker was the starter going forward, but it’s hard to imagine they go any other way.
Up next: Middle Tennessee who beat Jackson State 70-14 in their opener. Assuming Mr. Coker starts again, the goal will be to continue to find rythym for he and the rest of his offensive cohorts. The conference schedule won’t be nearly as easy as the game against Wisconsin ‘appeared’, but if that game was any indication then there’s no reason Alabama shouldn’t be playoff bound in 2015.
No. 4: Baylor
What the actual EFF was that? I didn’t expect SMU to lay down to Baylor, but then again, I didn’t expect Baylor to lay down to SMU. It would be a little ridiculous to assume the Bears won’t get better on offense, but one has to assume the defense will get better at some point. Right? Or is Baylor’s goal to just simply outscore every opponent this season? Have to say, that strategy may work in the regular season, but as Oregon can tell you, defense means a bit more once we get to December and January. The one thing that is super impressive about Baylor is their receivers. Meaning, SMU might be one of the tougher teams they face defensively all season. On top of that, the Bears’ defense committed stupid penalty after stupid penalty. If you held a gun to my head, I’d say Baylor has no chance at making the playoff at this rate.
Up Next: Lamar. Right, I don’t know them either. Baylor HAS to play better in this game than they did against SMU.
No. 5: Michigan State
The bottom line for Michigan State is that their defense needs to continue what it has done the past few years without the luxury of having Pat Narduzzi to guide it. The reality of their game versus Western Michigan is that didn’t happen. The offensive line is good and everyone else is average. Sure, first game jitters and all that, but Sparty was up 24 in the 3rd quarter and won by 13. Spartans running back Madre London ran for two touchdowns, and quarterback Connor Cook showed why (in my opinion) he’s the best quarterback in the Big Ten. After the game, head coach Mark Dantonio said he thought his defense could improve. They have no choice if they expect to contend for the Big Ten title or make the playoff.
Up next: No. 7 Oregon. If the defense and special teams play as they played against the Bronco’s it will not be a good game for Michigan State. I kind of hope they were playing down to Western Michigan, but even that is no excuse. I should also say I have Michigan State winning the Big Ten and making the playoff. Beating Oregon certainly helps my cause.
No. 20: Wisconsin
The Paul Chryst era at Wisconsin started with a loss. No biggie. There was nothing getting through Alabama’s defensive line in Arlington on Saturday evening. At one point, Wisconsin totally abandoned the run game and threw something like 14 of 15 straight plays. Let’s be 100% real about Alabama, other than Ohio State last season, no other team has been better in college football for maybe the past 10 years.
The good for Wisconsin: Mr. Chryst is willing to use all the offensive playmakers without reservation. I’m no Wisconsin expert, but I believe their sole, or almost sole, reliance on the running backs and wide receivers has hurt them the past few years.
The bad for Wisconsin: the defense isn’t experienced enough. The middle of the defensive line is young and losing a play maker like Micahel Caputo certainly didn’t help matters at all. The good part of this equation is that Wisconsin doesn’t face Michigan State or Ohio State in the regular season and obviously won’t see Minnesota until the end of the season. That means there’s plenty of time for the defensive line to figure it all out.
Up next: Miami of Ohio.
No. 21: Stanford
That’s Seth, and he pretty much runs things around here. ‘Disappointing’ is probably the nicest adjective he could have used, and cleanest. I said this in our double-secret Slack chat, that as much as I’m not in favor of a preseason, games like this show teams should be able to scrimmage FCS teams a few weeks before the season starts. If Stanford were to play Northwestern even three weeks from now, I have no doubts Stanford would win easily. Exactly – so, what?
The story of this game was Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan who was ruffled all day by Northwestern’s defense. Northwestern amassed 255 yards rushing while Stanford ran for a paltry 85 yards, and Stanford’s defense refused to stop the run … or pass … or anything from Northwestern.
I wouldn’t totally be surprised to see Stanford drop from the Top 25 this week only to work their way back in later in the season. Northwestern is a quality team, and Pat Fitzgerald has only lost one of his previous 9 opening games, so we shouldn’t be totally surprised Northwestern won. But, really…who saw that coming? I didn’t.
Up next: Central Florida who lost to Florida International on some kind of weird field goal incident. Luckily for Stanford, almost every other team in the Pac-12 North got their bell rung, so there’s still a shot at respectability. That all goes out the door if they struggle with UCF next weekend.
No. 22: Arizona
The biggest news from this game isn’t that Arizona won, it’s that Scooby Wright was injured. The better news is that appears that as of right now – Saturday evening – that the injury is not season-ending. Arizona did not look spectacular against Texas-San Antonio, but they won. Somehow. Anu Soloman scored three touchdowns – which, thank God for him – because otherwise this season could be in the toilet pretty fast.
UTSA was able to convert on each of its third- or fourth-down attempts, which is not a good indicator of how Arizona’s SWAT defense will perform this year.
Typically I would say Arizona fans should worry, but the long and the short is that it’s too early. If Wright is out for an extended period of time, then worry, otherwise, iterate and improve. Depending on what goals and expectations Rich Rodriguez has set, the Wildcats will be fine.
Up next: Nevada. Again, the Wildcats are fine.
No. 23: Boise State
Boise State will be fine. A near miss against Washington is something to improve upon for sure, but the play calling in the game is something that confused me. I’m not a great X’s and O’s guy, but to not even try and mix in a pass doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me. Two running plays, and short pass that doesn’t convert then a punt won’t keep the attention of many this season.
On the other side of the ball, the Bronco’s have one hell of a defense. As in, maybe top-10 among the teams I saw this weekend that played other Power 5 teams. I don’t believe Washington crossed the 100-yards of total offense mark until the fourth quarter.
Up next: BYU. Unsurprisingly the game versus BYU will be one of five (FIVE) that might be decent the entire weekend. BYU lost quarterback Taysom Hill for 2015, but Tanner Magnum looks like he’s ready to step up. Saturday at 10:15 p.m. EST. Appointment television if you’re awake. Or sober.
No. 24: Missouri
I’ve seen enough of Maty Mauk to know that I’m done with Maty Mauk. I know, hyperbole and I didn’t even believe my own b.s. until I saw TRUE freshman Drew Lock. He’s the real deal, or at least as real as Missouri is going to get right now. I’m not really sure why head coach Gary Pinkel decided to burn that redshirt, but I have to assume it’s because he – like me – believes that Lock is better than Mauk. I think Pinkel will do right by Mauk and let him work his way out of the starting job, but if Pinkel had absolute faith in Mauk, why burn the redshirt?
Right, it makes zero sense to me either. It’s tough to take a lot away from this game since Missouri played Southeast Missouri State, but the defense obviously looks very good, as did the offensive line. Both Mauk and Lock had tons of time to throw. The best down for Mizzou’s offensive line might have been Lock’s cross-body, cross-field 78-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Hunt.
Up next? Yep, It’s true, Missouri will travel TO Arkansas State. Arkansas State opens in California versus Southern Cal. For the sake of next week’s game, I hope that Southern Cal game is great.
No. 25: Tennessee
Bowling Green is no joke. Sure, they got their butts kicked in the Mid-American Conference Championship last season, but they showed up in Nashville to play and play they did. The Volunteers opened the season ranked for the first time since 2012, and I expect they’ll begin week 2 in a higher spot. Is two spots out of the question? Volunteers quarterback Josh Dobbs threw for two touchdowns and ran one in as well. Jalen Hurd had three touchdowns in the first half. Yeah, the first half.
Tennessee’s defense and special teams left a lot to be desired in the first half, but an 80-minute weather delay seemed to help get them in order.
Up next: Oklahoma at Neyland. Oklahoma crushed Akron 41-3 so next week will feel like real football for both teams. 6:00 p.m EST. Yep, appointment television.