Opening Weekends are Filled With Surprises

The opening weekend of college football is often filled with surprises. A lot
of very young players are stepping on the field for the first time, and teams
aren’t operating at maximum efficiency. Sometimes it seems like certain things
should happen on paper, but when the game starts, things head in a different
direction. Both Virginia Tech and Boise State were both involved in openers like
that in 2009.

Virginia Tech faced Alabama in a high profile matchup in Atlanta. With
Alabama breaking in a new quarterback and a new offensive line, and Virginia
Tech’s reputation for playing great defense, this game was expected to be low
scoring. Most people expected a 17-14 type of game, and if either team scored 20
points then that team would certainly be the winner.

As it turned out, both teams scored over 20 points. Alabama won that game
34-24 and ran over the Tech defense to the tune of nearly 500 total yards. The
Hokies didn’t light the world on fire offensively, but they managed to score
more points on the eventual National Champions than any other team managed all
season.

Before that game, I don’t think anyone this side of Tuscaloosa would have
predicted that the Tech defense would get beaten that badly, and if you bet the
under on that game then you were out some cash.

We saw a fumbled punt return and a fumbled kickoff return lead to six points
for Alabama, we saw the Hokies run a kickoff back for a touchdown, we saw the
Tide cough up a score by fumbling deep in Tech territory, a missed short field
goal, etc. None of those guys had been on the field since the 2008 season, and
some of them were making their very first appearance. Most games aren’t a thing
of beauty in early September.

If you thought the Alabama-Virginia Tech game was going to be low scoring,
then you probably though Oregon-Boise State would be a shootout. Indeed, the
Broncos had beaten the Ducks 37-32 in the Autzen Zoo the previous September. I
think we all tuned in that night expecting an entertaining, high-scoring
football game.

What we got was sheer boredom. Boise State won the game 19-8, Oregon only
picked up seven first downs and the Broncos averaged less than three yards per
carry. Boise got up 19-0, and then spent the rest of the game pounding their
running backs into the line of scrimmage for a measly 2.8 yards per pop until
time expired. Sounds like a Virginia Tech game, doesn’t it?

The most exciting thing about that Boise State game came afterwards, with the
Punch Heard ‘Round the (College Football) World. The game itself was a total
snoozer.

Other games that opening weekend had surprising outcomes as well. NC State
played South Carolina with Russell Wilson returning as the ACC’s most productive
quarterback. There was probably going to be some points put up, right? Not so
much. South Carolina won the game 7-3, despite the fact that the NC State
defense went on to give up a lot of yards and points in 2009, and Wilson had
another great season.

Let’s head out west, where BYU and Oklahoma faced off in what was sure to be
a high-scoring shootout. Wrong. BYU upset the Sooners 14-13. The Cougars went on
to allow 54 points to Florida State, 28 to San Diego State and 38 to TCU. On
paper, BYU-Oklahoma was a shootout. It turned into a slugfest that the Cougars
won with three minutes remaining.

Not to mention that on last year’s opening weekend Ohio State nearly lost to
Navy, Iowa almost got beat by Northern Iowa, Kansas State just managed to sneak
by UMass, while a pair of ACC teams (Duke and UVA) lost to 1-AA opponents.

On paper, the Tech-Boise State game is going to be high scoring. Boise State
returns the #1 scoring offense in college football, while the Hokies are
breaking in a lot of new defensive players and will have an offense that
features a good offensive line, a talented senior quarterback and a lot of
ability at the skill positions. 34-31? 38-34? Sure, that sounds about right.

I don’t think it will be that high scoring though. I don’t think it will be
like last year’s Boise-Oregon game, but I think both defenses will do better
than the average college fan might expect if he is just looking at the numbers
and starters returning.

Hokie Offense Ready to Break Out

I’m knocking on my wooden desk, but if any offense scores a lot of points in
this game, I think it’s going to be Virginia Tech’s. The Hokies have the right
mix of players to move the football on just about anyone in the country, and
things seem to be going very smoothly

...