NCAA Football Week One Recap: Penn State Continues to Impress
Tom O’Brien should have won the Coach of the Year Award and any other award he was eligible for last year. No coach has had to deal with what he dealt with as coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions a year ago. That program was literally destroyed before he came in and took over. saddles with the most embarrassing scandal in the history of sports and watching his program’s predecessor shamed and stripped of a lifetime of achievement was bad enough. Then pile on four years of probation including no bowls or Big Ten championship eligibility, millions of dollars in fives and lawsuit settlements, and transfers for whoever wanted to leave, plus serious reductions in scholarships, and Penn State was looking at years, if not decades of bottom-dwelling in the Big Ten.
Then throw in two heart-breaking losses to inferior competition in the Ohio Bobcats and Virginia Cavaliers and things looked very bleak in Happy Valley. But since then, look at what Penn State has done. They have won nine of eleven games and landed the number one rated high school quarterback in the nation. This past weekend Christian Hackenberg threw two touchdown passes in his college debut as the Nittany Lions beat a tough Syracuse Orange team in East Rutherford 23-17. What is going on at Penn State is truly remarkable. This week the Lions will take on the Eastern Michigan Eagles in what should be an easy win before the UCF Knights come in on the 14th.
The Knights hammered the Akron Zips 38-7 in the season opener on Thursday. Quarterback Blake Bortles was impressive in his first game of the season with 314 yards and three touchdown passes. It was the first 300 yard passing game for a UCF quarterback since 2009. Storm Johnson had 99 yards rushing for UCF as well for the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl champions. The Knights travel to Miami on Friday to take on the FIU Golden Panthers who were hammered by the Maryland Terrapins 43-10. UCF should win that game and both teams should be 2-0 going into the September 14th game.
Maryland got three touchdown passes and two touchdown runs from C. J. Brown at quarterback as he returned after missing last season with an ACL injury. He was 15-16 in the first half as the Terps, who won only twice a year ago, rolled over the Panthers. With their next three opponents, Old Dominion, UConn and West Virginia, the Terps should be thinking about a 4-0 start. UConn suffered an embarrassing loss to the Towson Tigers, West Virginia barely survived William & Mary and Old Dominion lost to East Carolina 52-38.
The Louisville Cardinals looked very impressive in their opener, a 29-7 romp over Ohio. Teddy Bridgewater did nothing to hurt his draft stock as he went 23 of 28 with five touchdowns. Louisville was hurt though when three of the teams on their schedule suffered embarrassing losses. The Kentucky Wildcats lost to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 35-26, the South Florida Bulls were hammered by McNeese State 53-21 and of course UConn lost to Towson 33-18. Louisville will have a tough time getting to the National Championship Game when their toughest opponents are Cincinnati and UCF. They will be hoping the Knights can go to Penn State and win in two weeks or come back home and shock the South Carolina Gamecocks later in the month.