Another season has begun. And it certainly didn't take very long for the SEC to assert its authority.
There weren't a lot of marquee games in college football 2012's Week One, but at very least, there was Alabama-Michigan--the unquestioned "big game" of the day, down in Arlington, in Jerry Jones' somewhat ridiculous palace of football.
This one was going to be Denard Robinson vs. the Alabama defense. It was going to be the maize-and-blue army against the Tide nation. It was going to be, but of course, Big Ten vs. SEC.
And when all was said and done (which is to say, by the time the first quarter ended, with Alabama already up 21-0), we learned that, basically, college football 2012 is going to look an awful lot like college football 2011.
Alabama is still really, really good.
Robinson, for all of his remarkable ability, still can't throw the ball very well.
And the SEC still owns the Big Ten.
Alabama dominated Michigan so completely and so thoroughly that even the most vociferous of Big Ten defenders must have finally realized that their beloved league simply cannot compete with the big boys of the SEC anymore. Alabama was bigger than Michigan, stronger than Michigan, faster than Michigan, and better than Michigan. In just about every way possible.
In the end, the scoreboard read 41-14, but it could have easily been 51-14. Or 61-14. Yes, Alabama was that much better.
The lesson? Simple: Nick Saban's program remains at the forefront of the game. And Brady Hoke's--like every other program in the Big Ten--remains decidedly second-tier.
♦ While the news wasn't all that great for Michigan, one of the Wolverines' top rivals most definitely got their season off to a flying start. It's well established by now that the clock is ticking Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who has yet to live up to expectations in South Bend. And given all the pressure facing the third-year coach, there were many who wondered if a season-opening trip to Ireland to take on pesky Navy was really that good of an idea; playing Navy is always tricky, but flying across the Atlantic and taking them on in unfamiliar territory? Well, that would be all the trickier. All due credit to the Irish, though: They absolutely dominated the Midshipmen in this one, racking up 490 yards on the day en route to a thoroughly convincing 50-10 victory. The 50 points scored was the most the Irish had posted in a season opener since 1983.
♦ I suppose we couldn't wrap this column up without some mention of Penn State. So here goes: Penn State played football on Saturday. They didn't play particularly well. They didn't win. And they didn't do a whole lot right in a 24-14 loss to a better-than-you think Ohio University team. But here's the thing: At least for those three hours or so while the game was being played, there was a sense of, well, normalcy up there in Happy Valley. After an incredibly trying offseason, after all the controversy and contention surrounding the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal, it must have been a great relief for the Penn State players, the fans and coaches and alumni and students, to simply enjoy a football game again. Yes, Bill O'Brien has a lot of work to do. And yes, the next few seasons will be trying ones. But Penn State will be playing football on Saturdays. The Nittany Lions fans will rally around this underdog team. And hopefully, the entire Penn State community, along with its battered and bruised football program, can finally start to move forward.
♦ O'Brien wasn't the only Big Ten coach to make his debut on Saturday. Over in Columbus, former Florida coach Urban Meyer took to the sidelines at Ohio Stadium for the very first time. And yeah, it's safe to say that Buckeye fans are happy with what they saw. Behind the stellar play of quarterback Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes cruised to a 56-10 win over a completely overmatched Miami of Ohio team. Miller threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 161 yards and a score as the Buckeyes amassed 538 yards on the day. They also held Miami to negative-1 yards rushing. Said Meyer afterward: "I just wanted it to be a good day for Ohio State football. And I believe it was."