The hype leading up to week one of the 2016 college football season ended at an all-time high. Marquee matchups were scheduled all weekend. Stars and newcomers alike had standout performances on a Labor Day Weekend to remember.
The University of Texas last won a Big 12 title in 2009 to end the Colt McCoy era. In the years since, other Texas schools like Texas A&M and TCU have put together better seasons. The problem in Austin (and any powerhouse that struggles to gain traction again) pointed to the lack of identity, and quality of players. Schools routinely came into Austin and dominated the Longhorns in every facet of the game. Mack Brown’s resignation allowed for the hiring of the school’s first black coach in Charlie Strong. His strict demeanor did not immediately equate to victories on the field however. In his first two years, certain games displayed the future prowess of the program (OU and Baylor), but most games will be gladly forgotten (Iowa State and Cal). As of September 5th 2016, the struggle seems to be over.
“Texas is back folks!” Joe Tessitore said at the end of a instant classic. 102 thousand fans witnessed the resurgence of a dying brand on a magical night in Austin. From the jumpstart, there were obvious signs of improvement on the offensive line that had not produced an NFL lineman in years. This allowed for Texas to rack up 237 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. The emergence of a run game brought the Notre Dame defense closer opening up the passing game. Following the 2009 title game loss to Alabama, mediocre quarterback play had been at the forefront of Texas’ problems . True freshman Shane Buechele showed the poise of an upperclassmen in his first game. Buechele threw for 280 yards with two touchdowns and one pick. The use of Tyrone Swoopes as a force in the running game and Buechele in the passing game will be task for future defenses. For now, Texas has turned the corner with a defining victory in the “Stronghorn” era.
The University of Houston has been one of the beneficiaries of the decline of football in Austin. Tom Herman’s star is rising as the next big thing in coaching. Houston essentially had homefield advantage in their game against the University of Oklahoma, but were still underdogs going into the game. That notion quickly evaporated as Houston outclassed Oklahoma the entire game winning 33-23. The game served as a potential “play-in” for Houston as they plead their case to be a new member of the Big 12. Houston has the recruiting base, the coach and the players to become a force in college football over the next few years. As for the rest of their schedule, Louisville is their only threat to an undefeated regular season. Houston will be Oklahoma’s biggest fans from here on out as they hope to become the first team outside the group of 5 conferences to make the final four.
Jalen Hurts and Co. completely outclassed USC in the second half of a 52-6 rout. But outside of Alabama establishing their dominance again in Dallas, the SEC took a big hit on a national scale. The conference had a rough weekend. Mississippi State lost in embarrassing fashion to South Alabama 21-20. Arkansas struggled against Louisiana Tech in their victory. Tennessee nearly suffered the defeat of the weekend to Appalachian State and LSU’s offense has regressed back into the 80s in their loss against Wisconsin. There wasn’t much to be excited about down south as the offenses looked ancient and the schemes outdated outside of a few. Alabama will run the table in this once-great conference.
College football is back officially. Heisman candidates laid duds in their opening statements. Freshman exceeded expectations across the country. And Nebraska made a touching tribute to a teammate who passed away recently in their game on Saturday. The expectations of the biggest weekend in college football ever were met with grace as we received an instant classic in Austin, domination in Dallas and good games in Orlando and Atlanta.