College football is back, and Monday morning has never seemed brighter. What did we learn in Week 1? Quite a bit actually, as a couple “contenders” didn’t really look the part, and tons of prospects stood out significantly in high-profile matchups. Are we already narrowing down the list of potential college football playoff teams?
Identifying pretenders already
It’s obviously early, but Michigan and Miami both looked a whole lot more like pretenders than contenders in Week 1. The Wolverines’ defense even got off to a rocky start against Notre Dame, and their offense didn’t look any more ready to take the next step than they did the year before. Shea Patterson wasn’t the biggest concern for Michigan, but he was far from the difference maker the team hoped he would be.
As for Miami, as long as Malik Rosier is under center, it’s going to be hard to take them seriously as a playoff team. Ahmmon Richards banged up his knee and barely played, as he continues to struggle through injuries. Tyree St. Louis had issues in his move to left tackle, and the heralded Miami linebacker duo of Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney were late with their reads all night. The Hurricanes schedule is easy, but there is plenty of reason for concern moving forward.
Washington ain’t it
Sorry, but even with a very manageable schedule, I don’t trust Jake Browning to run the table in the Pac-12 without an elite defense and run game. Neither unit looked like world-beaters against Auburn, and although the Huskies defense found their way after a rough start, their heralded secondary was a mixed bag at best.
I think Washington has some legitimate talent on both sides of the ball, but not enough that makes me believe they’ll be able to win out, which is what they’ve got to do to contend for a playoff spot.
Cornerback class still looking suspect
I was troubled by the cornerback class when scouting them this summer, and this week didn’t alleviate my concerns at all. Lavert Hill, Amani Oruwariye and Kris Boyd all had their issues defending vertically, and penalties were a concern as well. Michael Jackson wasn’t awful, but he still opens too early in press, and doesn’t have the fluidity to recover. When he loses at the line of scrimmage, it’s over.
Greedy Williams looked good when he was targeted on Sunday night, but he dealt with cramping all night and was in and out of the lineup. Notre Dame’s Julian Love also impressed, although Michigan’s downfield passing left a lot to be desired. Levonta Taylor plays Monday night for Florida State, so hopefully he can instill some hope in a class that is searching for some stars at the cornerback spot.
Jordan Ta’amu > Shea Patterson
In my preseason quarterback rankings, I made a fatal mistake. While viewing Shea Patterson as a day three prospect at best, I still ranked him over Jordan Ta’amu based on upside, despite the Ole Miss quarterback outperforming him last year.
After watching Saturday’s action, I continue to not really see it with Patterson. He’s not a quick enough processor, he makes some dreadful decisions under pressure and he only really looked comfortable on play-action boots with half-field reads out of the pocket.
Meanwhile Ta’amu was impressive, placing several gorgeous deep balls right where only his receivers could get them. He also struggles to manage the pocket at times, but against Texas Tech Ta’amu was accurate and threw with plenty of zip to the sideline. I’ll be monitoring his growth closely this season, but for now, it appears Ole Miss ended up with the better of the two passers when Patterson left this past offseason.
Two improved interior defensive linemen
I wasn’t high on Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery or Auburn’s Derrick Brown based on their 2017 tape, but both players really stole the show in Week 1. Brown’s hand usage and power consistently made him unreachable as Washington attempted to run outside zone at him, while Tillery tossed Michigan blockers aside all night.
Both players easily have top 100 potential, but consistency, pad level and technique have been major concerns. Tillery has been held back by character issues, but if he has figured things out, his stock might be ready to soar. Brown has already received a ton of hype, and if Saturday is any indication, he’s finally ready to live up to it.
Wide receivers steal the show
From Texas Tech’s T.J. Vasher’s absurd one-handed catch to Ole Miss’ DaMarkus Lodge’s sideline tap dance to Miami’s Jeff Thomas’ deft snag with a single hand on a throw well behind him to Deebo Samuel’s one-armed end zone snag, the college football landscape was lit up with incredible catches this weekend. Among the notable full game performances:
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford: 6-226-3 vs. San Diego State
Emmanuel Hall, Missouri: 4-171-2 vs. UT-Martin
David Sills, WVU: 7-140-2 vs. Tennessee
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State: 6-140-2 vs. UTSA
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma: 6-143-1 vs. Florida Atlantic
Jeff Thomas, Miami: 5-132-o vs. LSU (not draft-eligible yet, sadly)
DaMarkus Lodge, Ole Miss: 6-96-0 vs. Texas Tech
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss: 7-93-1 vs. Texas Tech
D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss: 4-81-1 vs. Texas Tech
Evaluating a lopsided Week 1 in college football
As an analyst scouting with an eye toward the 2019 NFL Draft each week, evaluating the early portions of college football season can be very dangerous. You’ve waited months to see these players in action after scouting and projecting them all summer, and that anticipation can often lead to a hasty process of crowning players based on their performances against vastly inferior competition.
As a college football fan, I’m excited that Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards and Dre’Mont Jones and Nick Bosa and Drew Lock and Justin Herbert all looked really good this week. As an NFL draft analyst, I almost ignore those performances against teams that simply don’t offer any real measuring stick by which to judge those players’ ability to play in the NFL.
Patience is a virtue for a reason. When Ohio State plays Michigan and Wisconsin and Penn State, then I’ll have the measuring stick I need to properly evaluate their guys. In the meantime, as an analyst I try to focus all my energy on the games between much more evenly-matched opponents early in the season, which kept me pretty busy this weekend.