9/2/2014 10:20 PM
Questions for FSU and Alabama after opening week

By RALPH D. RUSSO


Breaking down the ballots for the first regular-season AP Top 25 and wrapping up college football's opening weekend.

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REMAIN CALM! ALL IS WELL!

Overrated or over reactions?

Maybe it's a bit of the former, but probably far more of the latter after the first weekend of the college football season, which is notorious for setting off way-too-early alarms.

No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Alabama held their spots in the AP Top 25 released on Tuesday, though both looked to be less than juggernauts in close victories against heavy underdogs on Saturday.

Florida State struggled to run the ball behind an offensive line with four returning starters and had a difficult time getting Oklahoma State off the field on third down. Still, Jameis Winston was mostly excellent and the Seminoles outgained the Cowboys 476-364. If anything, the 37-31 victory for Florida State in North Texas might tell us more about how good Oklahoma State is than it does about the Seminoles' weaknesses.

Coach Jimbo Fisher said some inconsistent practices led to an inconsistent performance that he hopes helps to get his players' attention.

"And until you lose a game some time like that and you get that bitter taste and understand, and I hope we learned that lesson now," he said Tuesday.

Alabama got into a back-and-forth game against West Virginia before beating the Mountaineers 33-23 in Atlanta. The problems came mostly on the defensive side for Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, which had problems with pass coverage.

But let's take a step back: Alabama outgained West Virginia 538-393, and allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown. That troublesome Tide defense allowed one offensive touchdown — though dropped passes by WVU aided Alabama's cause.

So, yes, it was definitely not the best efforts by two of the nation's top teams, but clearly no reason to panic. Openers, especially those away from home, can be tricky as players adjust to new roles.

The Crimson Tide and Seminoles should be credited for at least playing teams that have the ability to pose a threat, but the two lost support from AP voters.

Florida State went from 57 first-place vote to 46. Alabama dropped 44 total points.

Ohio State also took on a challenging opener, and had a tough time shaking free from Navy in Baltimore. The Midshipmen's triple-option offense and overall intensity is often vexing, even to the most talented opponent. Breaking in a new quarterback made the opener all the more challenging for the Buckeyes. J.T. Barrett had one terrible interception but went 12 for 15 for 226 yards and helped Ohio State pull away, 34-17.

"It was what I expected," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said about Braxton Miller's replacement. "He's a very cool, collected guy. ... I thought he handled himself very well."

Still, the Buckeyes dropped from fifth to No. 8.

UCLA also slipped after Brett Hundley and company survived a groggy offensive performance in a 28-20 victory at Virginia that kicked off at noon EDT — or 9 a.m. UCLA time. The Bruins dropped four spots to No. 11.

Florida State and Alabama have easy games next to work out the kinks, rest injured players and get the backups some work. The Seminoles face the Citadel, from FCS, and the Crimson Tide hosts Florida Atlantic. We'll need a few weeks to determine if Florida State and Alabama are, indeed, overrated.

UCLA goes home to play Memphis, giving the Bruins a chance to post confidence-building numbers against an opponent that could at least provide some resistance.

Ohio State gets a chance to make a statement and vault back up the rankings with a home game against Virginia Tech.

By Sunday, when the next Top 25 comes out, we'll have a better idea of whether Ohio State's Navy issues were anything more than that.

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GOING UP

Texas A&M's demolition of South Carolina in Columbia was the statement of the weekend. And because it happened on Thursday it gave the college football world the entire long weekend to toss around potential nicknames for the Aggies' new star quarterback.

Kenny Football? Please, no.

Kenny Pigskin? We see what you did there.

Kenny Thrill. Workable, maybe.

First-time starter Kenny Hill broke Johnny Manziel's school single-game passing record with 511 yards in the 52-28 drubbing of the Gamecocks.

The Aggies' reward was a No. 9 ranking, jumping 12 spots, the biggest leap this week.

The Aggies should be able to ride their top-10 status for a few weeks. Up next: Lamar, Rice and SMU.

As for that statement: On the list of most important people to arrive in College Station over the past few years, coach Kevin Sumlin ranks ahead of Johnny Football.

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GOING DOWN

South Carolina provided the equal and opposite reaction to Texas A&M. The two traded spots in the rankings with the Gamecocks falling to No. 21 from No. 9.

It was a disturbing weekend for the Gamecocks on another front: South Carolina's main rival in the SEC East, Georgia, looked tremendous in beating Clemson 45-21 behind star running back Todd Gurley. The Bulldogs moved up six spots to No. 6.

The Gamecocks host Georgia on Sept. 13. South Carolina doesn't have long to fix its problems — and Jadeveon Clowney isn't coming back.

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IN AN OUT

It took Bobby Petrino one week to get Louisville into the rankings. The Cardinals' opening 31-13 victory against Miami on Monday pushed them into the No. 25 slot as Petrino starts his second stint as Louisville coach.

Chris Petersen's debut at Washington coach was victorious but not nearly as impressive. The Huskies slogged through a 17-16 victory at Hawaii with backup quarterback Jeff Lindquist and fell out of the rankings. The suspended Cyler Miles will return, and start, this week for Washington against Eastern Washington.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoap



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(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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