While watching the fourth quarter of Georgia-Clemson I was reminded by a fellow patron at Spider Kelly’s that he could never get into college football because the speed and athleticism can’t hold a candle to the NFL. Missing a major point. Rating college football on the speed and athleticism is like judging a steakhouse based on the creamed spinach…an ingredient to a successful evening but far from the main course. College football’s about rivalries like Clemson-Georgia…and upsets like Eastern Washington-Oregon State. It’s about a season-long progression to an eventual title game (no matter how flawed the process might be). It’s about having a ridiculous amount of games at your disposal from noon to midnight. It’s about seeing kids like CJ Brown come back after missing a year with injury… more than making up for lost time. It’s about Death Valley boasting November-like intensity in August. It’s about onetime rivals that don’t play regularly anymore meeting again. College football’s whole is much greater than the sum of its parts…and I’m glad it cuts the pain of the pool closing.

Alma Mater Update–Syracuse stumbled against Penn State in the first game of the Scott Shafer regime…as Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen showed perhaps why he’s an ex-Sooner (16-37 passing, 189 yards). The Orange secondary was a soft spot Saturday…allowing touchdown passes of 51 and 54 yards. And penalties posed a problem (8 for 70 yards). SU’s early season Big Ten tour continues Saturday at #22 Northwestern.

Maryland made the most of its opening day with a 43-10 smackdown of Florida International. In recent years the Terps have staggered to less than impressive wins to kick off the season…and this was far from a split decision as UMd scores an early knockout of the Panthers. Terrapin Triumphs–CJ Brown…whaddya say, CJ? How about 281 yards and 3TD’s passing…105 yards and 2 TD’s rushing. We’ll call that making up for lost time. The WR tandem of Deon Long and Stefon Diggs combine for 14 catches, 208 yards and scores. The defense posted 5 sacks and in 8 first half possessions, forced 7 three and outs. Terrapin Troubles– two first half turnovers set up both FIU scores. Despite rolling up 500+ yards the Terps only converted 4 of 13 third downs. And a rough first day for Brandon Ross (10 carries for 21 yards). Next: Saturday vs. Old Dominion.

Virginia endured a two-hour weather delay before rallying past BYU 19-16. The Cavaliers came back with a pair of second half touchdowns…and gave the drenched faithful at Scott Stadium reason to break out the postgame Chardonnay (I know, I know…UVa openers traditionally merit a Viognier). Cavalier Congrats– Anthony Harris the difference maker– his blocked punt set up one touchdown while his interception sets up the gamewinning score…and he also tallied 11 tackles. David Watford didn’t win the game with his arm, but didn’t come apart in his first game action since 2011. Cavalier Concerns– only 77 total yards after halftime. Watford didn’t exactly stretch the field (6.3 yards per completion) and the running game was held in check. The defense also coughed up 362 yards. Next: Saturday vs. #3 Oregon.

Virginia Tech actually outgained the #1 team in the nation…but lost 35-10 to two-time defending champ Alabama. Hokie fans, cover your eyes. You might not like what you find. Hokie Highlights– freshman Trey Edmunds rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown (a 77-yard scamper, no less). Sophomore AJ Hughes averaged 45 yards a punt (although he had plenty of practice with 13 kicks). The defense held Alabama to under 100 yards rushing and QB AJ McCarron to under 50% completion rate. Hokie Humblings– Logan Thomas suffered a long afternoon: 5-26 with an interception. Seven penalties makes a rough afternoon worse. And what was the deal with Beamer Ball? Bama returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns. Not special at all. Next: Saturday vs. Western Carolina.