Greeson: After first quarter of college season, we believe ...

Greeson: After first quarter of college season, we believe ...

September 20th, 2011 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Can we all agree to not wring our hands and shake our heads at the next college football player who gets suspended for taking extra benefits? Where did they get any possible idea to ignore what is accepted and take the money?

Who could possibly explain it as every other major college athletic program is looking around at every other major conference wondering if the money is greener on the other side? Eight-figure buyouts are peanuts, but don't let a defensive end get a free meal, because then heads will roll.

The land grab that is conference realignment has just started, and with Oklahoma and Texas in talks with the Pac-12 to be 14 to be 16, the reshuffles will last into next week and more than likely into next season.

Where it all ends is anyone's guess, but that's the joy of college sports in general and college football in particular. The unknown keeps us glued to our seat from the noon kickoffs on Saturday through the wrap-up shows.

For those teams that played their third games last weekend, the season's a quarter complete. Hard to believe, huh? Here's what we believe after the first quarter -- and conference alignment be darned:

(1) There is a collision course destined for the first Saturday in November between LSU and Alabama, and barring injuries, it could be the game of the decade. Those two teams are physical, athletic and angry.

Defensively, the Tigers and the Crimson Tide show up at the ball in a very big hurry, in very large numbers and in a very bad mood. It could be an outstanding BCS title game, with a projected showdown between Oklahoma and the LSU/Alabama winner with a very shifty-eyed Boise State and a Stanford team with a relaxed smile waiting in the wings.

(2) Tennessee's Volunteers are not ready for prime time on the road. Not yet, anyway. UT was overwhelmed early -- Florida led 16-0 less than 22 minutes into the game, and it could have been worse -- and struggled against the Gators' speed.

The latter is nothing to hang your head about -- lots of people are going to struggle against Florida's speed -- but the former is disappointing for a team and a coaching staff that seemed to really embrace the challenge of going to the Swamp. Plus, UT can't really say "We're young..." because Florida is possibly as young and even younger on defense. Second, losing receiver Justin Hunter hurt, no doubt, but injuries are part of the game and if your entire team's chances are pegged to a wide receiver, well, that's a whole other kettle of fish. Plus, Hunter was not the one who could not block the Gators' front seven. That said, the Vols will have to spend a good chunk of the bye week figuring out who replaces Hunter, who is out for the year after tearing his ACL on Saturday.

(3) There is no shortage of stud running backs in the SEC. Auburn's Mike Dyer, Florida's Chris Rainey, Alabama's Trent Richardson, Mississippi State's Vick Ballard and LSU's combo of Mike Ford and Spencer Ware are all hosses. And none of them is Marcus Lattimore, who went for 246 yards and all three of South Carolina's TDs in a closer-than-expected 24-21 win over Navy.

(4) Holy shelves of textbooks and backpacks stuffed with homework, but we're watching the revenge of the smart kids. Vanderbilt smacked Ole Miss 30-7 Saturday and Georgia Tech continued its offensive fireworks with a 66-24 win over Kansas.

Tech is back in the Top 25, ranked 25th in the AP poll. Vandy is 3-0 and receiving more votes in both polls than UT and Georgia. More than one so-called expert thought Vandy's run was going to end Saturday against the Rebels, and more than one so-called expert (present company included) missed badly. There's still plenty of room on the James Franklin bandwagon, folks.

(5) Defensively, Auburn is not rebuilding. It's more like a complete new structure that has to be built from the ground up, and it looks like the Tigers don't even have the proper permits. The Tigers had their 17-game winning streak snapped at Clemson with a 38-24 loss that apparently started with Auburn being informed that the new no-tackling-until-the-ball-has-moved-8-yards-beyond-the-line-of-scrimmage-after-the-first-quarter rule was in effect.

OK, I made that rule up, but does that sound any stranger than Texas in the Pac-16 or Pitt meeting Syracuse in the ACC final?

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6273.