It’s Labor Day, which only means one thing: FSU Football is back. Tonight the Jameis Winston era officially begins for the Seminoles as they welcome the University of Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Coast Conference under the lights of Heinz Field (8 PM, ESPN). This is a day Nole fans have been waiting patiently for since the team dispatched of Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois back at the Orange Bowl in January, and this game has special meaning as not only is Jimbo Fisher introducing a new quarterback to the college football world, but also several new faces to his coaching staff (Charles Kelly, Jeremy Pruitt, Randy Sanders, Tim Brewster, Sal Sunseri, and Jay Graham). To say it is important to start off on the right foot would be an understatement for these new Noles, and I am excited to see how it all plays out tonight and into this 2013 season.
Tonight’s game, while just the beginning for FSU and Pittsburgh, also marks the end of week one of the NCAA slate on a national level. Early season action in college ball is typically not always the best football, but there were a few stories I want to quickly touch on to summarize this first weekend of football.
1. Johnny Manziel reaching surpassing Marshall Henderson Territory
As I mentioned last week, Manziel was suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game against Rice. No harm, no foul, as Manziel sat out his required 30 minutes and then came in and had a fantastic ballgame (6-8, 94 yards, 3 TDS and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty) in a 52-31 rout. More noteworthy, it was on full display that Manziel acknowledged his penalty as a joke, even air-signing an autograph for a Rice player after the first hit he took in the game. This kid is an arrogant MF’er with the skills to back it up at the college level, but Johnny please just chill.
2. R.I.P. “Beamer Ball”
Ask any casual fan of college football what Virginia Tech is known for, and if they don’t tell you Metallica on Thursday nights in Blacksburg then the answer you’ll probably get is “Beamer Ball” and the fantastic special teams that Frank’s teams have had over the years. This excellence has been a myth for the past few years, but on Saturday night against Alabama the true funeral was televised. Virginia Tech only got beat 35-10 against the best team in the country, but included in that score was a punt return touchdown and a kick return touchdown for the Tide (and also a pick-six). Take away these uncharacteristic miscues and the Virginia Tech defense gives the team a chance to win the game.
3. Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) = Gamer
The best player for the Commodores is wide receiver Jordan Matthews, an all-SEC guy. Matthews gets some space on this page, not only for the 178 yards he picked up on Thursday night, but also for the fact that the kid hurled up his dinner on the field, came back one play later, and the play after that made a huge first down catch to set up a go-ahead touchdown for Vandy. Unfortunately for Matthews the lead didn’t hold up, and even worse he had a ball deflect off his hands and into the arms of an Ole Miss defender for an interception on the Commodore’s final offensive play of the night. Regardless, Matthews is an absolute baller, and the overused “intestinal fortitude” line applies to the kid who left it on the field for his team.
4. Wisconsin beats UMass 45-0
Not a soul is surprised by the outcome of this game as Wisconsin paid second year FBS school Massachusetts $900,000 to be a whipping boy on Saturday in Madison. What is noteworthy about this game is how correct Vegas was, as the betting line for this game had the Badgers as a 44.5 point favorite. Folks, you can’t get any closer than that, and this is just another reminder to be careful when it comes to wagering.
5. Return of the FAMU Marching 100
Yesterday afternoon on ESPN, FAMU’s marching band made their first appearance since the hazing death of Robert Champion in November 2011. This 7 minute performance at the MEAC/SWAC Challenge was about a lot more than just a football halftime show as it marked the resurrection of one of the great traditions in not only HBCU culture but in all of college athletics. We all need to remember and learn from the tragic events that occurred on that bus almost two years ago, but yesterday was a time of resurgence and revival for a band that means so much to so many people.