Football Returns; Big 12 Tanks; 49ers Fade; Wilson Shines
The college football season, such as it is, began last weekend without the Big Ten and Pac-12. The SEC, Big 12, and ACC forged ahead, although Virginia vs. Virginia Tech and Baylor vs. Houston Baptist were cancelled due to COVID.
And next week's BYU vs. Army game has already been scratched.
There will be many more to come.
Some early impressions:
Big 12 Embarrassed: The Big 12 probably wished they'd joined the Pac-12 and Big Ten in opting out. Three of the conference's teams were upset by opponents from the "lowly" Sun Belt Conference. Louisiana Lafayette upset No. 23 ranked Iowa State, 31-14, Arkansas State beat Kansas State, 35-31, and Coastal Carolina trounced Kansas, 38-23.
It was a bad day in the state of Kansas.
And it could've been worse for the Big 12. Texas Tech barely hung on to beat the Southland Conference's Houston Baptist, 35-33.
Big Ten Revisits Fall: Elsewhere, Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska continue to pressure the Big Ten to re-consider its decision to postpone the fall football season. The dissidents are hoping the conference can start the season in mid or late October, and a vote of school presidents is expected perhaps as early as this week.
Little Declares: Stanford offensive tackle Walker Little, one of the most highly recruited players in the country four years ago, announced that he will skip his senior season (if there is one) to prepare for the NFL draft, where he is projected as a probable first rounder.
Little's Stanford career, pardon the pun, was a little disappointing. He only played two seasons for the Cardinal. He broke into the starting lineup in the fourth game of his freshman year and then had an excellent sophomore season, earning All Pac-12 honors while protecting the blind side of quarterback KJ Costello. But he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of his junior year and now has opted out of his senior campaign.
KJ Update: Speaking of Costello, he's expected to be the starter at Mississippi State, where he re-surfaced as a graduate transfer. If so, he'll likely flourish in Mike Leach's Air Raid offense, unless his presumably grueling graduate studies interfere with football.
Meanwhile, in the NFL…
In first weekend of pro football action, a few things became very obvious:
The Chiefs are for real. They could easily repeat this year.
Tom Brady is not going to take Tampa Bay to the Super bowl.
Jaguars’ QB Gardner Minshew (out of Washington State) is for real.
49ers Lose Late Again: Closer to home, the 49ers lost a game they should've won, blowing a 10-point lead against Arizona, and most of the blame falls on QB Jimmy Garoppolo, with a little help from coach Kyle Shanahan.
Shanahan's clock management in the final, potentially game-winning drive was questionable. The 49ers had only 25 seconds left on the clock on fourth and five from the Cardinals’ 25…with three time outs in their pocket.
With the outcome on the line in the final minute, Garoppolo missed badly on the two biggest plays of the game. First, he was very late on a pass to a wide-open Kendrick Bourne in the end zone, delivering a wobbling duck that hit the defensive back Patrick Peterson's helmet and fell away. Then on fourth and five, he threw late and behind Trent Taylor, allowing the Cardinals to break up the pass.
I've been a Garoppolo defender, but watching his happy feet in the pocket, overthrown passes, and two misses with the game on the line—along with his going AWOL in the final eight minutes of the Super Bowl—have led me to conclude that he's a decent, but not an elite, player.
Wilson Shines: Speaking of elite players, for my money, the best quarterback in the NFL not named Patrick Mahomes is Russell Wilson. With all due respect to Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, Wilson has carried his team for years, is an extremely accurate passer, throws the best deep ball in the game, comes up big in the clutch, extends plays, and can run for big yardage when necessary.
In Sunday's 38-25 win over Atlanta, all Wilson did was complete 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns. He also led the Seahawks in rushing with 29 yards on three carries.
Last year he threw for 4110 yards and 31 touchdowns, with only 5 Interceptions. In fact, during his eight-year career Wilson has thrown for 227 touchdowns and 68 ints. He's also run for 3993 yards and another 19 scores.
Mea Culpa: Yesterday’s doubleheader loss to a very good San Diego Padre team notwithstanding, it looks like I was wrong about the San Francisco Giants. Their no-name collection of minor leaguers and journeymen is doing quite well, thank you.
This year's Giants have rediscovered the home run and are closing in on a playoff berth. The main ringleaders: Donovan "Donnie Barrels" Solano, a guy who played a grand total of 64 games in the major leagues in the last five years and is now one of the top hitters in baseball; Mike Yastrzemski, who floundered in the Baltimore Orioles organization for seven years before finally making it to the bigs and is now the Giants' best player; Alex Dickerson, who’s always been rated a promising prospect, but until this year spent most of his time on the injured list; and Darin Ruf, who bounced between the Phillies and their minor league affiliates for four seasons, then spent three years in Korea before becoming a power-hitting threat for the Giants.
Throw in prized rookie Joey Bart and revitalized veterans Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, and suddenly you have the makings of a solid team.