First Impressions: USC, Notre Dame Shine; ASU's Disgrace
Real college football finally arrived last weekend, a refreshing change from months of discussing NIL, the transfer portal and realignment. In the two most important games, USC thrashed San Jose State, 56-28 and Notre Dame crushed Navy 42-3. The USC game, featuring last year's Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and a team ranked No. 6 nationally, was televised on the Pac-12 network, reaching all of 15 million people. That tells you all you need to know about why the league imploded. Williams looked sharp, completing 18 of 25 for 278 yards and 4 touchdowns. Running back Austin Jones, formerly of Stanford, ran for two touchdowns and looked very happy in a Trojan uniform.
But the real showstopper was freshman wide receiver/kick returner Zachariah Branch, a lightning fast 5-star recruit. All Branch did in his first game was return a kickoff 96 yards for a TD, return a punt 35 yards to set up another score, and take a screen pass 25 yards to the house. His acceleration is jaw-dropping. The Trojans' defense wasn't as impressive. SC led only 21-14 at halftime and San Jose State quarterback Chevan Cordeiro threw for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns; he also ran for 52 yards. They'll have to work out the kinks before meeting Notre Dame on Oct. 14. Speaking of which, watch out for Notre Dame this year. The Irish have finally found a top-flight quarterback in Sam Hartman, a transfer (naturally) from Wake Forest. Hartman threw for 7900 yards and 77 touchdowns over the last two seasons for the Demon Deacons. He is in his sixth year of college football, thanks to a redshirt season and the extra year of COVID eligibility. In his debut against Navy, he completed 19 of 23 passes for 251 yards and 4 TDs. The irish looked good on both side of the ball. They never punted, had only one penalty and held the difficult Navy triple option to 169 yards. This week: Stanford and Cal open their seasons. The Cardinal travels to Hawaii to take on the Rainbow Warriors Friday night while Cal visits North Texas on Saturday. Stanford will have its hands full. Hawaii played Vanderbilt tough in a 35-28 loss in Nashville on Saturday, after being humiliated 63-10 by Vandy last year in Hawaii. Quarterback Brayden Schager completed 27 of 34 for 351 yards and 3 TDs. With one game under their belt and playing at home, the Rainbow lads will be looking to post an upset. Stanford will be making its debut under new coach Troy Taylor, and will have to contend with the long flight, Hawaii humidity, and the run-and-shoot offense installed by second-year coach Tim Chang, himself a former Hawaii QB.
Gutless Move of the Year: Arizona State has self-imposed a one-year post-season ban to hopefully stave off more serious NCAA penalties in the ongoing investigation of recruiting violations under former coach Herm Edwards.
The move comes in the first week of the season. handcuffing the players to ASU for this season and handicapping first year coach Kenny Dillingham.
If president Michael Crow and Athletic Director Ray (how does he still have a job?) Anderson were going to make this move, they should've done it last year after finally dismissing Edwards. At the time of his hiring, we correctly predicted that hiring Edwards was going to be a disaster.
Now the fallout continues, impacting innocent players and a new coach.
Disgraceful. Both Crow and Anderson should be axed by the University's Board of Trustees.
Quotes for the Week: Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, who got his law degree at Stanford, has been pushing hard for the ACC to invite Stanford, Cal and SMU to join. His take on the current status of college sports: "It's a complete disaster. Everybody in the industry has to take responsibility here. I'm not excluding myself from that. I think decision-making has lost its way in terms of the focus on the student-athlete and what's primarily best for them. But we are where we are and we have to try to make it work. You can't have two of the great academic institutions in the world not have a place to play. We're working on it. There's still consideration of the ACC as a home for these schools."
SI's Pat Forde on the death of the Pac-12: "It took incredibly bad leadership, both from the conference office and campus administrators, but they actually pulled it off: They destroyed a long-standing Power Conference. Shamelessly grabbing for cash, making a mockery of academic emphasis, subjecting athletes to ridiculous travel demands and insulting fans is inexcusable. But the cowards in charge did it anyway."
And this week we include a pathetic comment from North Carolina women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance, who frankly, is opposed to admitting Stanford and Cal to the ACC because he's afraid of competing against them for top recruits. (Dorrance used to dominate women's soccer, but his team hasn't won the title since 2012).
"We've built the best women's soccer conference in the country and there's no way I want to share the glory of our conference with two schools that could do a very good job recruiting against us, and so basically I want Cal and Stanford to die on the vine."