College football: 5 takeaways from 2017’s first Saturday

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

There are still a few more interesting games to be played this weekend, but we have already learned a lot about the 2017 college football season.

Here are five of them:

1. Maybe the bottom the Big Ten won’t be an embarrassment. 

I have not been as bullish on some about the league this year, but it was an encouraging first weekend.

Everyone playing nonconference opponents won except Purdue and Rutgers, both of whom lost to ranked teams.

Purdue got a much-needed shot in the arm from new coach Jeff Brohm, while the Scarlet Knights can’t be worse than they were in year one under Chris Ash.

Iowa quashed some of the preseason love for Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, while Wisconsin and Penn State rolled.

Of course, Indiana acquitted itself well against Ohio State on Thursday night.

2. Maryland may throw a wrench into the Big Ten East race. 

The Terrapins went to Austin and embarrassed Texas in Tom Herman’s debut as head coach of the Longhorns.

It remains to be seen if that says more about the Terrapins or Herman’s team, but it served as a reminder Maryland was actually not a disaster in year one of the D.J. Durkin era.

In case you forgot (I did), Maryland started 4-0 last season and thanks to beating Rutgers in the regular season finale qualified for a bowl.

They have some athletes on defense and a nice quarterback/running back combo on offense, so they might not be an easy out when it’s time to take on the big boys in their division.

3. Michigan will probably be better than last year… 

I am not overreacting to the Wolverines’ beating a suspension-weakened Florida team.

I already thought Jim Harbaugh’s team would be more dangerous because they should be replacing a lot of solid veterans with younger guys who have more upside.

Sometimes that doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to, but Harbaugh has proven he knows how to develop talent and put it in position to succeed.

The defense is almost entirely new, but Ohio State proved last year a good coach who knows how to recruit can rebuild one of those quickly. Clemson has done so also in recent years.

4… but the Wolverines have one big problem. 

The folks in Ann Arbor reportedly are excited about the young receivers, but they aren’t likely to get championship-level play out of their quarterback.

Wilton Speight is just good enough to break your heart, and John O’Korn looked worse in his place.

(Of course, if O’Korn were better than Speight, he’d already have been playing.)

Speight keeping Florida in the game for a half with a pair of pick-sixes was reminiscent of his afternoon at Ohio State last season, where he was actually very good — except on the handful of plays where he crippled his team with major mistakes.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s running game figures to be the best it has been in a while (in reality, not thanks to numbers pumped up by taking advantage of weaklings) because now there are running backs who can succeed with only average blocking.

5. Everyone is going to be chasing Alabama again. 

I saved this one for last in case it drove anyone away in disgust.

The Crimson Tide controlled Florida State and knocked the Seminoles quarterback out of the game, a statement if I have ever seen one.

Most of the night I felt like I was watching two teams very similar teams, except Alabama is a little bit better across the board.

Ohio State has some kinks to work out before the Buckeyes are ready for ‘Bama, and I haven’t seen USC yet. We’ll see if anyone else emerges.

The FSU defense made sustaining anything very difficult, but the Crimson Tide are loaded with dangerous playmakers on offense, starting with intriguing sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, whose numbers weren’t great but showed off his potential (good feet, strong arm) one year after nearly leading a team to the national title as a freshman.

I suspect the Seminoles are going to make everyone they play look pedestrian at best, but who has a stable of running backs like Alabama?

The race for the other three spots in the playoff could get pretty wild, especially with the uncertainty at quarterback in Tallahassee after Deandre Francois was injured last night.

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