The college football season has started, with Montana's exciting 38-35 upset win over 4 time FCS Champion North Dakota St., on a touchdown on 4th and 1 scored with 2 seconds left. The great thing about college football is that while that kind of game in the opener will be hard to match, the reality is there probably will be several games that do so.
Even if Oregon St. doesn't produce one of them (the Beavers have the last couple of years multiple times, thanks in part to the great rivalry with Utah, but more on that when we get closer to Halloween), the degree of anticipation and excitement for the season, which for the Beavers begins Friday afternoon at 5 PM against Weber St., is as about as high as anywhere, including the projected championship contenders.
The reason of course is the beginning of the Gary Andersen era. And that's not terribly unreasonable, given that Andersen is fresh off back to back B1G Ten West titles with Wisconsin, and gets the credit from making perpetually mediocre Utah St. into a consistent winner.
But while expectations are starting off high, and will be higher still in subsequent seasons, its also appropriate to temper them with a couple of facts that came to my attention over the course of the weekend's college football previews.
The first fact of note was actually aimed at Oregon St.'s week 2 opponent, Michigan, and their new head coach Jim Harbaugh, who is more than a little familiar to Beaver Nation from his days at Stanford. But the numbers apply to the Beavers as well, as, like the Wolverines, they are replacing a coach coming off a 5-7 season.
Over the last decade or so, it turns out that no team that has done so has won more than 9 games in the first season after the coaching change. There were also a couple of 8 win campaigns, but also a 6 win season, and you can count on one hand the number of non sub-.500 seasons that have happened recently in this scenario.
The other stat of note applies to Oregon St. as well, at least if Seth Collins emerges from the 1A-1B "Zero Separation" scenario with Marcus McMaryion to become the primary starter for the Beavers.
And it's particularly relevant in the Pac-12, where the talk and expectations in some quarters is that UCLA, who announced they will start freshman Josh Rosen at quarterback, is still a contender for the National Championship, and at a minimum, a New Year's Day bowl.
Rumors that Washington may go straight to freshman Jake Browning as their quarterback also surfaced this weekend, much to the angst of some Husky honks, who, despite general expectations of a near the bottom of the pack finish in the Pac-12 due to almost total turnover of both their offensive and defensive fronts as well as the quarterback situation, are still talking about what that may do to what they believe to be a chance to contend in the Pac-12 North this year.
The reason is simple; no team with a true freshman quarterback at the FBS level has ever won more than 10 games.
No one is going to the FBS National Championship Playoffs with a 10-3 record, which is what would be the high water mark for a Pac-12 team with a true freshman QB absent a season of an all-time record setting performance.
And though over the last decade or so, its about as likely that the National Championship will be won by a team with a new-comer at quarterback, they haven't been true freshmen.
Even a red-shirt freshman is generally in for some rough moments.
The last time Oregon St. tried it, the result was the single worst season since the Pettibone era at the end of the dark ages. And that was with a quarterback that went on to throw for more yards than anyone in the hundred year history of the conference in any of its 5 incarnations.
That's not to say that having expectations of a successful and competitive season are unrealistic, and I fully expect a win over Weber St.. Friday night. Another against San Jose St. better be one of those "locks" the guys touting their odds-making services talk about too.
But I also expect inexperience on both sides of the ball at key positions, and more unknowns due to newness than those encountered over the last half-dozen seasons, to result in some games getting away in one way or another.
And so I'm expecting a non-all-time record breaking fall, and a 5-7 season to be at or above expectations.
What do you think?