It can’t be this easy, can it? We can’t have the 2016 college football season all figured out after just weekend of games. Sure, it was one long and wild weekend at that, with more dramatic twists than Steven Spielberg himself could concoct.
But it was, after all, just one weekend.
Sure, it seems like LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Ole Miss were overrated, to various degrees.
Sure, it seems like Alabama is invincible and Houston has turned the College Football Playoff chase into a competition for three spots instead of four.
Sure, it seems like the SEC’s status as the preeminent conference is officially dead.
The evidence for all of this is pretty compelling. But when it comes to college football, there’s one thing by now that we should know for certain: Nothing is for certain.
Here’s the obvious:
Alabama is still Alabama, Auburn still has quarterback issues, and Nick Chubb is still, to quote Larry Fedora, “pretty good.”
But we have to look beyond the obvious. In fact, we have to distrust the so-called eyeball test.
Let’s start with Auburn.
Yes, Gus Malzahn’s quarterback shuffle was befuddling and, if for Auburn fans, frustrating. One play in particular left many fans wanting to see Malzahn fired ASAP. That was the fourth-and-1 play where Jeremy Johnson replaced Sean White, who was hot, and tried to run a delayed quarterback keeper up the middle. Johnson was stuffed.
The next night, Texas beat Notre Dame in overtime. The game-winning play for the Longhorns was virtually identical to Auburn’s play. Tyrone Swoops ran a delayed keeper up the middle for the winning touchdown.
In fact, it was basically the same play Johnson ran successfully against Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl and against LSU last season.
Sometimes plays don’t work because the other team just executes better. That doesn’t mean it was the right call. It just means it was not as stupid or haphazard as it looked. If Malzahn didn’t deserve the label of offensive genius, neither does he deserve to be called an idiot.
It’s even OK to play two quarterbacks. Remember Tim Tebow’s freshman season at Florida? He came in for senior Chris Leak in running situations. It worked out OK. Florida won the national championship. No, Johnson is not Tebow. But the Tigers do not need White to run the football. He’s not built for it.
Now, the number of times Auburn switched quarterbacks is a different matter. That’s harder to justify. Still, here’s the bottom line. Auburn just played one of the two best teams on its schedule and had a chance to win down to the very last play. If they can get the same inspired effort every week, they can win every game up until the Iron Bowl. And then, who knows?
Auburn fans need to embrace the team — and that includes the head coach. Worry about the future after the season.
Then there’s Georgia. Have you ever seen a more impressive season opener from the Bulldogs?
Well … yeah. It was just two years ago. The Dogs ran all over Clemson 45-21, albeit before Deshaun Watson took over as the starting quarterback.
Remember what happened next? Despite a week off to come back to Earth, they lost to South Carolina.
That won’t happen this week with Georgia playing Nicholls State. But the point to remember is it’s just one game.
The most noticeable difference between Smart’s first game and those under Mark Richt came outside of live action on the field. Players appeared more under control emotionally. That’s by design and is a direct result of Smart’s imprint on the team.
Tennessee’s sluggish performance against Appalachian State and Ole Miss’ loss to Florida State suddenly makes Georgia’s already favorable schedule look even more manageable.
As for Alabama, what can the Crimson Tide do for an encore? It’s a good thing they are playing Western Kentucky. You know they players are going to be looking ahead to the follow week against Ole Miss. The challenge will be staying focused after the Ole Miss game. Back-to-back road trips to Arkansas and Tennessee could be difficult.
Finally, there’s Georgia Tech’s trip to Ireland. In a sense, it was more than just one game for the Yellow Jackets. Sure, beating Boston College by a field goal was hardly overwhelming. But the Jackets win some games like that. And this was a MUST win, as the schedule will get tougher down the road. They will beat Mercer. If they beat Vanderbilt at home — again, a MUST win if they want to have a successful season — they can boost their national credibility in that Thursday night meeting with Clemson later this month.
It would be hard to match the first weekend for drama and thrills. And this weekend will be one of the weakest of the season. Virginia Tech and Tennessee — at Bristol Motor Speedway — is the closest thing to an interesting matchup. But just wait. The season is about to get fun.
Guerry Clegg: firstname.lastname@example.org, @guerryclegg