I did it again. I doubted Alabama. Well, sorta.
To be clear, I didn’t bet Miami. Even with 19.5 points, I had to see it first. At least I knew not to do that. Instead I grinded out an under that looked very much dead early in the third quarter. It did, in fact, survive.
But I did wonder openly just how good Alabama would be after losing so many players. A Heisman winner, a superstar QB, another superstar wide receiver, a workhorse back, fixtures of the offensive line, a shutdown corner and more. All gone.
I said it here and, on the radio, and on pretty much every piece of preview content I could be involved in that Alabama would regress. They had to, right?
Well, they responded by demolishing the Hurricanes.
It was a glorious obliteration that looked far too routine. The defense was disruptive. The offense, with so many new pieces, headlined by QB Bryce Young, looked just as explosive. (Young is now the favorite to win the Heisman after his first start.)
This was a clinic, only it shouldn’t have been a clinic. No team, not even Alabama, should be able to withstand those kinds of personnel losses and still be that dominant. And yet, they were the favorites to win the SEC and the national title before the season began.
I questioned that. In fact, I bet Georgia to win both, which I have written about at length on this very website. The Bulldogs looked plenty capable against Clemson, and a heavyweight fight between two SEC powers could once again loom.
Regardless, Alabama is now + 210 to win the national title. More importantly, the Crimson Tide have once again appeared to overhaul a deeply talented roster in six months. They have made the unthinkable look normal.
Those who had faith -- not me, of course -- could profit as a result. We have a long way to go, but what a start it was.
The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations
1. Speaking of Georgia, the Bulldogs’ front seven was perhaps the most impressive takeaway of the weekend. Kirby Smart’s team covered the 2.5 and won a meat grinder of a football game 10-3 against Clemson. And while the offense might be a slight concern, the defense showed it is capable of creating chaos. This pass rush looks terrifying.
2. I love watching Deuce Vaughn run the football. The K-State running back, who measures in at 5-foot-5, ran for 124 yards and a touchdown in the Wildcats’ 24-7 victory over Stanford. He is essentially a bowling ball with feet. Kansas State easily covered as a 3-point favorite on Saturday, and Vaughn was a big reason why. I’m curious to see his work over a full year.
3. It could be a long year for Ed Orgeron. LSU lost at UCLA 38-27 as a 2.5-point favorite, and it doesn’t really get easier. The next month should be fine, although the Tigers will still play Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M. There are some easy wins for a bit, but then the message boards could get busy.
4. UConn. Goodness. It is hard to capture just how bad this football team is at the moment, but let’s try: Against Holy Cross, the Huskies lost by 10 as three-point favorites. HOLY CROSS. They finished with only 262 yards and frankly are as abysmal as any team I have seen in recent memory. They play Purdue at home in Week 2, and they are nearly a five-touchdown underdog.
5. McKenzie Milton. That is all. To see one of the biggest stars in college football come back after a devastating knee injury against Notre Dame was a moment I will never forget. It’ll be fascinating to see how Milton factors for an FSU team that appears much improved, but we will always have that moment. (Also, I appreciate the cover, Milton.)
6. Injuries suck. It’ll be a theme most weekends, although the loss of Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim for the year is a major blow. He was the engine of that offense, and they will feel it.
The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend
It’s not the greatest slate of games in the world, although there is plenty of potential. (As a note, all point spreads are current as of Monday afternoon.)
1. Ohio State (-14, 63.5) vs. Oregon
Neither team had jaw-dropping openers, although Oregon enters with far more questions than answers. The Ducks edged out Fresno State as a 19.5-point favorite, and the injuries to Kayvon Thibodeaux and Dru Mathis are worth monitoring. Mathis’ injury sounds more concerning, although Thibodeaux is perhaps the best player in the sport. If he is less than 100% or absent from this game, the impact could loom large. Ohio State, depending on what line you locked in, won, lost or pushed against Minnesota. The Buckeyes we saw in the second half looked familiar, flashing offense and big-play potential. If we see the team we saw in the second half against the Gophers, the Ducks likely won’t be able to keep up.
2. Iowa State (-4.5, 45) vs. Iowa
Last season, the outcome of this game was decided on a muffed punt. That is a perfect encapsulation of a series that is often weird, unpredictable and mistake-heavy. This particular installment is also hugely important, and the two rivals delivered vastly different performances in Week 1. Iowa leveled Indiana at home as a small favorite, while Iowa State edged Northern Iowa 16-10 despite closing as 28.5-point favorite. That is not necessarily a shock, as we have seen Iowa State start slow. It also doesn’t mean that will be the case all year. To me, the quarterbacks are worth watching. Spencer Petras has been up and down for the Hawkeyes and Brock Purdy, who flashes brilliance, also can be wildly inconsistent. One thing is for certain: The game will likely stay on brand and be very weird.
3. Michigan (-6, 51) vs. Washington
Yikes. That is the only place to begin with Washington after losing to Montana -- yes, Montana -- outright to start the year. The Huskies lost despite closing as a 23.5-point favorite, and they only mustered seven total points to a team that played exactly two games last season. Michigan, which historically has had its own Week 1 issues, played a clean, uneventful opener against Western Michigan. Uneventful is actually good, by the way. Cade McNamara looked sharp at QB, and the Wolverines averaged nearly eight yards per carry. The loss of wideout Ronnie Bell to a knee injury, however, is an enormous blow. We don’t want to overreact to a Week 1 loss, but it’s hard not to given what we just witnessed from Washington.
4. Utah (-7, 47) at BYU
I loved Arizona last week against BYU. While there were moments when it looked like that love would go sideways, the Wildcats ultimately covered a spread that ballooned up to 13.5. Bigger yet, BYU looked like a team that lost an incredible quarterback along with key pieces of its offensive line. The point spread against Utah certainly speaks to that. The Utes came out a little flat against Weber State, although they ultimately won comfortably (even if they didn’t cover). Let me also say plainly I love this rivalry despite it being relatively one-sided. The Holy War didn’t take place in 2020 due to COVID, and BYU has not won this game since 2009. It’s worth noting, however, that only two of the games since then have been decided by more than a touchdown. It could be that kind of game again.
5. Texas (-6.5, 57) at Arkansas
For at least one Saturday, Texas looked like Texas. Yes, beating Louisiana might not move the needle like beating Oklahoma. But the Ragin’ Cajuns are a really good team, and the Longhorns thoroughly dominated the game -- covering the 8-point spread with ease thanks largely to an explosive second half. Arkansas did the same with Rice, and it will now take a sizable step up in competition. If it’s going to beat or even cover against Texas, it will need to stop running back Bijan Robinson. Robinson, whose hype has been building since the end of last season, finished Week 1 with 173 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. The Razorbacks have improved drastically over the past two years, and they’ll likely need a game performance to pull a mild upset.
Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note
Pittsburgh (-3, 54) at Tennessee: This just feels like a football game that will aggravate both fan bases regardless of outcome. I am curious to see if and when the Tennessee offense gets going.
Miami (-8, 54.5) vs. Appalachian State: After getting clobbered by Alabama, things don’t exactly get easy. App State is very capable and will likely benefit from the fact that the Hurricanes were just physically overwhelmed.
Texas A&M (-17, 52) at Colorado: I’m not sure how close it will be, but I am curious to see how A&M takes to its first road test of the year. I could see this being ugly and low scoring -- so give the under a look. Aggies 31, Buffaloes 14.