Florida, Penn State, Stanford atop Panic Meter after opening weekend
Reading too much into one game is dangerous, but some teams should be worried
Despite a resounding win over Michigan, Nick Saban and Alabama aren't satisfied
Plus: Ohio's rise continues; Coach Fran makes a comeback; my current BCS slate
After opening weekend, Alabama fans are feeling even better about the 2012 campaign than they were all offseason. Oklahoma fans, however, may already be counting down the days until the Thunder return.
It's always dangerous to read too much into season openers, but a number of major programs either stubbed their toes or had unusual difficulty walking in Week 1. In most cases, it's too soon to go into panic mode. In others, however, it may be wise to start bracing for the worst.
With that in mind, here is the Week 1 Panic Meter.
Don't worry, be (somewhat) happy:
Iowa (beat Northern Illinois 18-17): The Hawkeyes didn't overtake the Huskies until 2:15 remained, but the result hardly seems worth sweating. In fact, a blowout would have been more surprising. Sophomore running back Damon Bullock allayed fans' biggest preseason concern with a 30-carry, 150-yard performance. Remember, three years ago the Hawkeyes needed two blocked field goals to survive Northern Iowa in their opener and wound up in the BCS. Who knows whether 2012 will mirror 2009, but this wasn't a terrible start.
Boise State (lost 17-13 to Michigan State): Putting up just 13 points at Michigan State is easier to stomach if we concede that this Broncos team was never going to approach the dominance of Kellen Moore's squads. In fact, it's a testament to Chris Petersen's continued wizardry that Boise was in it until the end despite getting outgained 461 yards to 213. Moore's replacement, Joe Southwick, looked light years removed from his predecessor, but that was predictable. While Mountain West foe Nevada got off to a better start by beating Cal, Petersen's team will improve throughout the year.
Michigan (lost 41-14 to Alabama): Expecting Wolverines fans to stay happy after a nationally televised humiliation is admittedly asking too much, but it's probably for the best if they forget this game ever happened. Alabama's really, really good. No further explanation needed. While it's true Denard Robinson showed no discernible improvement as a passer and a rebuilding defensive line got run over even worse than anticipated, it's not worth getting too depressed unless the same thing happens against Air Force.
(Update: Starting cornerback Blake Countess is out for the year with a torn ACL. On second thought, maybe Michigan fans should start panicking.)
Try not to take up smoking:
Oklahoma (beat UTEP 24-7): The circumstances were admittedly weird. Somehow a preseason top five team wound up playing its opener in El Paso at seemingly 1 a.m. But it's never encouraging when a team dealing with questions on the offensive line and at receiver goes out and scores one touchdown in three quarters against UTEP. On the bright side: Mike Stoops' defense pitched a shutout (the Miners' touchdown came on a blocked punt). "We just weren't in synch," said Landry Jones, a disturbingly familiar refrain from late last season.
Cal (lost 31-24 to Nevada): There was no surer way to ruin all the positive energy from the Bears' debut in their freshly renovated stadium than losing to the Wolf Pack for the second time in three years. Quarterback Zach Maynard's three-series benching for missing a tutoring session may have created some bad mojo, but Maynard wasn't the problem; it was the Bears' defense, which Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo shredded. And so, the Jeff Tedford Job Security Watch begins.
Pittsburgh (lost 31-17 to Youngstown State): Wisconsin's Rose Bowls must suddenly seem so long ago for new Pitt coach Paul Chryst. The ACC-bound Panthers provided some karmic fodder for Big East followers in a lopsided loss to an FCS foe. The best hope is that things will get better as star running back Ray Graham's ACL recovery continues (he was limited to 14 carries) and/or touted freshman Rushel Shell isn't suspended.
Get a Xanax prescription immediately:
Penn State (lost 24-14 to Ohio): While many outsiders anticipated this upset, any notion among Penn Staters that the players' collective unity/anger/hunger would overcome such hindrances as losing the star running back to USC was rendered moot after about the first quarter. Losing to a mid-major at home was not the ideal debut for new coach Bill O'Brien, but an 0-2 start would be even worse, and next week the Nittany Lions travel to Virginia.
Stanford (beat San Jose State 20-17): How much do the Cardinal miss not just Andrew Luck, but All-America offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro? In the span of a year they went from beating the Spartans 56-3 to a largely even four-quarter fight. One of the hallmarks of Luck's teams was their ridiculous success on third down (57.5 percent in 2010, 52.6 last season). On Friday night, Stanford converted 2-of-13 third downs.
Florida (beat Bowling Green 27-14): New year, same ugly offense for Will Muschamp's Gators, who produced three touchdowns and 14 penalties against their MAC foe. Muschamp spent the first half alternating quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel before settling on Driskel in the second half. But it's not all bad. Tim Tebow's Jets kick off next week.
The 2012 season had just seen its first notable upset. A MAC team had just knocked off a traditional Big Ten power at its 100,000-seat stadium. And so of course, ESPN cut to ... Tom Rinaldi interviewing the losing coach.
Certainly, Penn State's first home game post-NCAA sanctions and first home opener in a half-century without Joe Paterno merited some unique and intensive media coverage. But there seemed to be little mention of the Nittany Lions' opponent Saturday, even after Ohio pulled out a 24-14 comeback win.
"Obviously there was huge story behind [the game]," Bobcats coach Frank Solich said Sunday. "That story got portrayed almost on a daily basis. But we also knew those that turned on the game, and those that attended it, weren't going to watch Penn State play themselves. They were going to watch Penn State play Ohio. It was a tremendous opportunity to show what we're all about."
Solich, who's been the head man in Athens since 2005 (now longer than his 1998-2003 Nebraska tenure), hopes the exposure from Saturday's victory marks the next step in his program's continued rise. The Bobcats reached their first MAC championship game in Solich's second season and returned again in 2009 and '11. Last season Ohio won 10 games for the first time since 1968 and notched the first bowl victory (over Utah State in the Idaho Potato Bowl) in school history.
Solich noted Sunday that the Bobcats' rally from a 23-10 deficit in that bowl game to a 24-23 victory very much paralleled Saturday's game in Happy Valley. Penn State, buoyed by the emotion of the day, outgained Ohio 173 yards to 52 in the first quarter, and took a 14-3 lead in the second. But Solich's team dominated the last three periods, notching 447 yards to Penn State's 173. Touted quarterback Tyler Tettleton was particularly poised and accurate, finishing 31-of-41 for 324 yards while rushing for 47 yard on nine carries.
"That's him," said Solich. "He's obviously the catalyst."
That may be, but Solich has been the key to Ohio's consistency. In a league where coaches routinely jump to a major conference at the first hint of success, Solich, 67, isn't going anywhere.
"I enjoy coaching so much it doesn't matter where I'm coaching," Solich said. "Obviously the financial rewards may be greater at one school over another, but I'm at the point in my career where I feel pretty comfortable with what I'm doing."