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  • Ten nuggets from college football’s opening night

    Utah Michigan

    You spend months recruiting, training, studying, and planning. You practice for a month straight. You hire a new defensive coordinator. Game day finally arrives and you out-gain your opponent by 50 yards. And then your senior quarterback hits the same defender in the chest twice in his own end zone in a game you lose by four. College football is back, everybody, in all its pain and glory.

    – On the bright side for North Carolina? Gunter Brewer should be proud of this.

    – This is the Internet, and the Internet demands a hot take on everything. But I can’t muster one on Jim Harbaugh’s debut at Michigan. Utah won, 24-17, but the Wolverines slightly out-gained the Utes, slightly outperformed them on third downs, played to a draw in first downs and committed fewer penalties, but were undone by a work-in-progress offensive line and too many mistakes from quarterback Jake Rudock, who threw three interceptions and three touchdowns, two for his team and one for the opponent. This is about what we expected. Michigan will be good and possibly great eventually, but eventually won’t arrive for a while. Still, this team could easily be 5-1 when Michigan State visits Ann Arbor on Oct. 17.

    – Love this quote from Kyle Whittingham:

    – Florida International beat Central Florida. A blocked 47-yard field goal as time expired gave Florida International its first opening night win since 2011 and snapped UCF’s five-game winning streak against Sunshine State foes. The Panthers were just as surprised as you are.

    – Sure, it was Elon. But Wake Forest rushed for 203 yards, more than the Demon Deacons rushed for in the entire months of September and October, and equal to their total in November, and scored 41 points, and more than their output from the entire month of October from last year.

    – It’s going to be a long season for Trevone Boykin. The purple-clad Heisman favorite tossed 42 passes and rushed 18 times in TCU’s 23-17 win over Minnesota. The Frogs opened a 10-0 lead after the first quarter, and were then outscored 17-13 from then on. Boykin had a couple touchdown passes sail over open receivers’ heads. In other words, it was a perfect opener for Gary Patterson. 

    – Utah State beat Southern Utah 12-9. Connecticut beat Villanova 20-15. We won’t see those final scores repeated again in 2015.

    – I thought you needed to see this:

    – Vanderbilt held Western Kentucky scoreless through the first half, out-rushed and out-passed the Hilltoppers, held a 20-11 first downs advantage, and still lost. This was the play the Commodores ran in an attempt to tie the game with 37 seconds remaining.

    – Please excuse me while I shout at a cloud. Settling in on my couch to watch North Carolina-South Carolina, it dawned on me, the feeling of dread like realizing you forgot to buy everything but the one item you actually needed at the grocery store: We’re all in for hundreds of hours staring at the ESPN’s Bottom Line this fall. The early part of Cocks-Heels brought vital information such as European soccer scores, Mel Kiper’s Big Board and start times for college football games whose kickoffs were still 48 hours away. It’s all filler, buying time so the Bottom Line doesn’t run the same five baseball scores on a loop.

    And here’s the thing – nothing on the Bottom Line is essential anymore. Not in a multi-screen world when people watch games with their laptops and/or smartphones in front of them. ESPN tacitly admits this when it drops the Bottom Line from broadcasts it truly cares about – Monday Night Football, the College Football Playoff, the Masters, et cetera. Fox Sports 1 dropped its scroll for Michigan-Utah. But, alas, the Bottom Line brings in ad revenue and has thus deemed itself irreplaceable.

    College football is back, everyone. Looking forward to the rest of a great prelude to what is hopefully an unforgettable season. Even if it means the Bottom Line has to come along for the ride.

  • Video: “It’s Time to Eat”

    Heading into head coach Chris Hatcher’s first season, Samford has crafted a wonderful, terrifying hype video entitled “Time to Eat” that’s long on Bulldog imagery. “If you want to run with the dogs, there’s a price to pay,” our unseen narrator says.

    Check it out.

    The Hatcher era kicks off tonight in Birmingham against Central Arkansas.

  • Video: Neuheisel’s new original song “We Love This Game” pays homage traditions across CFB

    Former college head coach Rick Neuheisel (most recently at UCLA in 2012) has become something of a pop culture icon once a year on The Dan Patrick Show when he busts out a new original song.

    This year’s version, on the day that major college football gets started, is called “We Love This Game” and is (appropriately enough) sang to the tune of “I Love This Bar” by Toby Keith.

    In the song, Neuheisel rhymes and plugs as many college football traditions as humanly possible. It may be some of his best work yet on the guitar.

    Find some time to enjoy this one a few times before kickoff tonight and try to listen without cracking a smile. COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS FINALLY HERE!

  • The Nine Best Coaching Matchups of the Weekend

    Bud Foster

    Back by popular demand, we’re breaking down the biggest coaching matchups of the college football weekend. Thankfully, the football gods have graced us with a number of enticing clashes to open what promises to be a fascinating 2015 season.

    1. Urban Meyer vs. Bud Foster. Confession time: I originally left this matchup out of this column before last year’s Buckeyes-Hokies game. Big mistake. Foster used a five-man front to force J.T. Barrett into 20 incompletions and three interceptions in 29 attempts as Virginia Tech upset Ohio State, 35-21. Ohio State, obviously, grew from there, but Virginia Tech returns a bulk of experience and, most importantly, a creative coordinator with nine months to prepare.

    With the option of Barrett, Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller on the field at the same time, expect Urban to pull a few tricks out of his sleeve. Expect the same from Foster, too.

    2. Jim Harbaugh vs. Kyle Whittingham. Welcome to the most hyped season-opener pitting unranked teams in college football history. Michigan is in Phase One of a major retooling. Utah has a steep climb in the Pac-12 South. We may not remember this game come November. All this to say: what happens Thursday night in Salt Lake City isn’t as important as the fact that it’s happening in the first place.

    3. Steve Spurrier vs. Larry Fedora. Both started last season ranked in both polls, and both ended the regular season 6-6. As a response, both head coaches changed defensive coordinators. And before you climb into bed tonight, one of them will be behind the 8-ball for the second year in a row.

    4. Bobby Petrino vs. Will Muschamp. On one sideline you’ve got Bobby Petrino, coaching in the stadium he snuck out of under the cover of night coaching against the team he once discussed grabbing out from under its sitting head coach (Tommy Tuberville, for those who don’t remember.) On the other, Will Muschamp is back in the job he held eight years ago, retooling a defense loaded with talent – at least up front. Can Carl Lawson and true freshman stud Byron Cowart make Louisville’s work-in-progress offensive line and TBD quarterback uncomfortable?

    5. Chris Petersen vs. Bryan Harsin. Normally when a head coach meets his former assistant, you get an end result like Nick Saban thumping Will Muschamp 42-21 or Bob Stoops winning seven out of 10 meetings with Mike Leach. Instead, we’ve got a head coach bringing his Power Five program back to his old mid-major home… as a 12-point underdog.

    6. Lane Kiffin vs. Dave Aranda. The last time you (probably) saw Wisconsin’s defense, the Badgers had half-a-hundred dropped on them by title-bound Ohio State. The last time you (definitely) saw Alabama’s offense, the Tide scored 35 and came up short against those same Buckeyes. The game plan seems simple: the more Derrick Henry gets to rumbling, the less Alabama’s five starting quarterbacks have to do. Can Aranda scheme Kiffin into putting the game in his untested quarterbacks’ hands?

    7. Mike Norvell vs. John Chavis. The up-and-coming offensive coordinator gets a chance to show out against an accomplished defensive coordinator. Can Chavis find ways to turn Myles Garrett loose, and thereby protecting an unproven secondary?

    If Chavis can have the affect Kevin Sumlin hired him to have, we should see it on Saturday. And if Norvell is worthy of the head-coach-in-training moniker he’s worn the past few years, we should that on Saturday, too.

    8. Shawn Watson vs. Brian VanGorder. Had this game been played in January we could have called it the Resistible Forces versus the Movable Objects. Texas closed 2014 by allowing more defensive touchdowns (three) than it scored (two) in season-ending losses to TCU and Arkansas. Notre Dame allowed 31 points or more in its final six regular season games. We’ll know real soon which coordinator put the past nine months to better use.

    9. Penn State’s offensive staff vs. Temple’s defensive staff. Welcome to the “sneaky upset pick that wouldn’t actually be a sneaky upset because too many people called it a sneaky upset pick” game of Week 1. The Nittany Lions are touchdown favorites here, fresh off a 7-6 debut under James Franklin, led by Christian Hackenberg, largely expected to the Big Ten’s highest-drafted quarterback in two decades. Temple hasn’t played in a bowl since 2011. So what’s to like here? Well, there’s the fact that Temple jumped four wins last season behind the most underrated defense in the country, a unit that ranked 11th in yards per play allowed and fourth in scoring a year ago and returns eight starters, facing an offensive line that allowed ranked 124th in sacks allowed and 125th in yards per carry in 2014. If the Owls can control the line of scrimmage in a way the numbers indicate they could, well, you could have something worth keeping an eye on deep into the second half.

  • Video: Watch a college president put on the pads and go out to practice with the team

    The University of La Verne is one of only a small handful of Division III programs in the state. La Verne also recently hosted another rarity; a college president who is willing to put the pads on and join the football team on the practice field.

    Did I mention that the president at La Verne is a female?

    Shortly after practice started, university president Devorah Lieberman strutted out on the field and head coach Chris Krich blew the whistle to bring the team in. He then explained that they would be teaching president Lieberman how to field a punt.

    It started off small, with just a game of catch between Krich and Lieberman, but then expanded to a mini-punt where Lieberman got a few tries to wrangle in a punt.

    Before leaving, Lieberman left the team with some parting wisdom.

    “People who win never, ever, phone it in. They never show up and say ‘I’m just going to be mediocre.’ Winners on the field, winners in the classroom, and winners in life say ‘I’m going to work harder than anyone else, and I’m going to work harder than I’ve ever worked before every single time that I come on the field, or every time I go to class.'”

    “I expect you to be the best. Living our values, doing our best, and doing whatever it takes to be the best. I’m here today because I believe in you, and I believe that you are the best.

    While the performance portion of practice may not have gone exactly how Lieberman would have liked, she succeeded in providing an experience that the team will not soon forget, and left them knowing that they have her full support as an administrator.