So, the first weekend+ of college football gluttony has ended. I find myself somewhere in between happy (for the Huskers) and disgruntled (for the Vols). I'll start with the bad news and work towards a happy note.
I went to the Huskers game against Western Michigan. The Huskers won pretty handily, but they were certainly improved. They were not perfect by any stretch. Here are my impressions of Ye Olde Huskers.
First, the good: The tackling for the Huskers was much improved, as they were doing full tackles and swarming and not the arm tackling garbage of yesteryear. Also, the offensive line did not have a single false start the entire game. That's phenomenal for a first game of the season.
Next, the bad: I was a bit concerned about the lack of a running game, considering Western Michigan's defensive front was not all that great. They supposedly were going to be running more this year with a good running back. Maybe they were just using the opportunity to test the readiness of the passing game, but I still am quite concerned about that.
The ugly: secondary and tertiary defensive coverage was, shall we say, in need of improvement. They were blowing some routes and coverages and had some brain cramps in the 2nd Half; particularly a few pass plays gone wrong were for major yardage. However, it was the first game of the season, they were adapting to a zone defense, and the major difference from last year's hemorrhaging back field was that they were pursuing well after blowing a coverage. That may not seem like much, but actually that is a great improvement over last year when they would blow a coverage and basically stop pursuit and be looking to the sidelines for direction. Now they seem to be understanding the system at least so far as to not let the guy run into the End Zone without a pursuit.
So, overall, I give the Huskers a C+. Solid but not spectacular first start. But a win is a win, and that's important in a first game under a new coach. (Just ask Mike Sherman at Texas A&M if he slept well after his first game loss.)
Now for my disgruntled game. Tennessee ended up losing to Rick Neiheisel of UCLA, which I am convinced in about as bad as losing the Steve Spurrier. For having a far more athletic team, especially on defense, I don't think Tennessee should have lost this game, especially against a team having first game under a new coach. They had the ball on the 5 yard line late in the game to potentially put the game away by going up by two touchdowns and they fumble it away.
I will say the Tennessee secondary looked good, especially in the first half with 4 (yes, 4) interceptions. UCLA made some adjustments at half time and had the defense on their heels most of the 4th Quarter. Tennessee was not picking up the Tight End, and it cost them the game.
I was also disgruntled at the disappearance of the running game in the 2nd half. They have a running back who might very well graduate at the end of the year as the all time leading rusher at Tennessee, and they seemed to forget about him in the second half, deferring to a new QB with little experience. I am not sure what that was about.
But the QB's inexperience was only part of the problem. I was also quite unhappy with what the offensive line was doing. They were hyped as one of the most seasoned O-lines in college football this year, and the new QB was constantly getting harassed and was ending up on the ground way too many times in the 2nd half.
However, the new QB did respond well with a last minute drive down the field for a game tying field goal last in the game, thanks in part to a face mask penalty the kept the drive alive.
I also do not know what the deal was with Tennessee trying for field goals more than once from beyond the 50 yard line (missing both). They got out coached on field position. They let UCLA hang around too long and simply lost control of the game, making the missed FG in overtime moot.
Overall grade for Tennessee: C- (only because the first half defense was great, otherwise a D+).
Now, all that having been said, here are some general observations about the new rules changes that the NCAA has adopted:
I really don't like the new clock rules. They adopted the stupid NFL rule where if you run out of bounds, the ball keeps ticking after the official sets it except for the fine two minutes, where it goes back to normal and the clock stops until the snap. It needs to be uniform one way or the other. 2 minute rule stuff is too artificial. I also don't understand the thinking with the shot clock changes. As far as I can tell, the NCAA was just tinkering for the sake of tinkering, and I hate that.
I don't know what to make of the new face mask rule either. Heretofore, the rule was that there was a graded face mask penalty, 5 yard penalty for "incidental face mask" grabbing and 15 yard personal foul for "flagrant" face mask grabbage. I'm guessing that is a safety measure, which I understand, but penalizing a legitimate accidental contact with personal foul penalties of the face masks seems a little punitive to me. It seems to me that if they were that concerned about safety, they should have been willing to add more of a penalty for flagrant face mask fouls (say automatic ejection) than piddly one-size-fits-all penalties for incidentals.
And one general thought: Was anyone really surprised Clemson got smacked around? I mean, really...Team Blow-the-Big-One does it again. Seeing as I saw that one coming like a nuclear explosion, there is no change to my preseason football standings at this time.
Now, I will end the gridiron pontification with an amusing anecdote. I was sitting in the End Zone section of the Huskers game with what I can only describe as two Football Grannies. They were very nice little, old ladies with metal canes and the permed blue hair special. They appeared to have just fallen off the Old Church Lady van. Neither was over 5 feet tall.
What was amusing about them was their sudden outbursts of well informed football knowledge. Like Statler and Waldorf on the old Muppet Show, they would be chatting about quilting or some such thing, and they would suddenly pipe up after a play with loud outbursts like "You call that off-tackle blocking!!" or "What are you fools doing, running a slot-I post pattern?!?!"
It was quite possibly the most amusing thing at a football game I have ever seen.