Some Thoughts from College Football’s First Real Saturday

Marky Billson

* It took 40 years, but after ETSU debuted its new football stadium in the rain Bucs fans finally learned to appreciate the old Mini Dome. Half the crowd left at halftime and the stands were empty by the fourth quarter despite the promise of postgame fireworks.

* With Furman giving Wofford all it could handle before falling 24–23, and ETSU giving up nearly 200 yards rushing and 4.2 yards a carry to Division II Limestone, rejoice if the Buccaneers don’t start the year 1–4.

* Next up for ETSU is James Madison, the FCS national champion and a 34–14 victor against East Carolina. Dale Steele, the receivers coach on ETSU’s last team before football’s demise in 2003, is now the Dukes’ director of football administration and helped build the program at Campbell in the interim.

* Last year the ACC was the best conference in football. Not so sure now after Pitt squeaks by Youngstown State in overtime, Boston College won a nail biter against a MAC school coming off a 5–7 record, North Carolina loses at home to California, Florida State is humiliated by Alabama, Purdue gave Louisville all it could handle, and South Carolina topped N.C. State. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are playing for the reputation of the conference in their season openers today against West Virginia and tomorrow against Tennessee.

* Butch Jones still hasn’t named his starting quarterback against Georgia Tech. Really, Butch? You think you’re really going to be that deceptive? Or are you afraid of losing Quinten Dormady or Jarret Guarantano to transfer? And if you are, that kind of makes a mockery of “Vol For Life,” doesn’t it?

* On a more positive note, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if I was a five star quarterback and could go to any school in the country I would choose . . . DUKE! Not only do I feel the elite academic institutions have a way of producing pros (Luck, Cutler, Fitzpatrick, Siemian), you’d be playing for the master David Cutcliffe. I realize it was against whipping boy North Carolina Central, but the top two Blue Devils’ quarterbacks, both sophomores, combined to complete 25 of 32 passes for 275 yards and no interceptions. Duke wins 60–7. Potential sleeper in the Coastal?

* Tough day for former Unicoi County head football coach Zane Vance, who in his first game as an assistant at Charleston Southern suffered a 49–0 loss to Mississippi State. The Buccaneers only amassed two first downs.

* I have gone on record as saying I think the Georgia Bulldogs are going to go 12–0 this season. They led Appalachian State 31–0 before calling off the dogs against the Mountaineers, who took Tennessee to overtime in the opener last year. This despite starting quarterback Jacob Eason leaving the game early with a sprained knee. Guess what? Even if it winds up being a tear, Jake Fromm can hand the ball to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel just as easily.

* Maryland beating Texas by 10 shows me the Big 10 is far better than the Big 12. Texas losing to Maryland shows me that they have fallen far behind Texas A & M and will never catch up. Forget the fact the Aggies are in the superior conference, one must consider the culture of football and the culture of the campuses in Austin and College Station as well.

* After all, there’s a reason why NYU and San Francisco don’t have football anymore, while Liberty beat Baylor. In five years nobody will think that’s an upset. In 10 years Liberty won’t be the baptist Notre Dame; Notre Dame will be the catholic Liberty.

* Speaking of upsets; Calyin Newton, Cam’s brother, and Howard pulled off the biggest one in history. As a 45 point underdog they beat UNLV. At one time the Rebels had Randall Cunningham at quarterback and John Robinson was their coach. Now they hire football coaches from high schools. Nobody even thinks of UNLV as a basketball power anymore. Has any athletic program fallen farther? I wonder, could Oscar Goodman’s open campaigning to make Las Vegas a pro sports town have had an adverse effect for the Rebels?

* By the way, ETSU won two games last year as four touchdown underdogs. Memo to the degenerates who care about such things, there’s money to be made betting the FCS.

* Drew Locke is the best quarterback in the SEC. Deebo Samuel is the best receiver. Could Missouri and South Carolina be dark horses in the SEC East?

Kentucky won’t, despite Chuck Oliver’s claim they could win the division. 24–17 against pedestrian Southern Miss?

* Malik Rosier had a nice day against Bethune-Cookman, but so what? Without Brad Kaaya I’m still not sold Miami is the team to beat in the ACC Coastal.

* Believe it or not, Vegas had the over/under for both Michigan and Northwestern’s victory total as 8.5 this off season.

* Yes, Western Michigan is a good team. No, Southern California shouldn’t have been tied with them halfway through the fourth quarter.

For that matter, if South Florida wants to convince me they’ll go undefeated and sneak into the college football playoff they’ll have to do better than 31–17 against Stony Brook.

* Welcome back Blazers! Alabama-Birmingham won their first game after restoring football, 38–7, against the Alabama A & M John Stallworths! Now if only UAB alums Meagan and Ashley Bailey would start going to games instead of putting on the Bear Bryant hats and heading to Tuscaloosa every week.

* A thought on how Air Force was able to beat VMI, which hasn’t had a winning record since 1981, 62–0. Maybe the Falcons are nine touchdowns better than the Keydets. But the score likely was so lopsided because all they do is run. I mean, how would Air Force not run up the score with their flexbone offense in that situation? Punt on first down? Throw incomplete passes?

* Come to think of it, Air Force should have a better passing attack.

Come to think of it, the fact VMI hasn’t been better than 4–7 since 1982 has got to make Kevin McClatchy feel a lot better.

Be sure to listen to Marky Billson every weekday at noon ET for Tri-Cities Sports NOW on 1420 NBC Sports Radio Tri-Cities, which can be heard online on IHeart Radio and TuneIn. Monday’s guest will be former Georgia Tech head coach Bill Curry.

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