The NFL has preseason games, so you have time to vet what players can do when the lights turn on.
College football does not have preseason games. This sport throws teams right into the fire, sometimes with the biggest game of the season right at the start. To prepare, teams have in-house scrimmages, and that’s it.
So it’s important to understand that our teams in Week 1 are nowhere close to the final products.
But because Week 1 is the first action we see of our teams (and because it’s such a big percentage of a team’s full season of games), overreaction is a natural part of the cycle. It’s the only data point we have about a team, so it has to be the most important, right? It leads to some frequent, epic overreactions to Week 1 games.
Here’s how to disregard everything you knew 24 hours earlier and spin whatever your team just did into an entirely new worldview.
Typically, the best move is to overreact.
One side of the ball fell way short of your expectations?
Do not acknowledge the fact this is not what your team is going to look like come October 1. Do not acknowledge that defense often looks better than offense in Week 1, due to the lack of precision and timing needed to play D, relative to O. Do not acknowledge that your head coach probably made adjustments late in the game to get things going. Do fire your OC.
A dormant blue-blood won a game?
Immediately declare the program BACK. This is the proof of concept you needed.
Your team unveiled some sort of sideline prop or gimmick?
It’s going to be great for team morale and bonding ...
... or not.
ESPN got a new graphic for TV?
You definitely won’t get used to it within three weeks.
Your conference had a good record in non-conference play?
If you’re an SEC fan, pound that chest about the way your conference (read: Alabama) performed against other leagues. Ignore the fact that most of the league played regional FCS teams.
If you’re a Pac-12 or Big 12 fan though, Week 1 is a harbinger of the end of days and your league might miss out on the Playoff in yet again.
Some overreactions are also accurate.
Your team’s TV ratings are way down?
If you’re going to worry about everything, then that includes these things. Global television viewing is declining, but ignore that entirely. If you hate ESPN particularly, this means a liberal conspiracy in Bristol is driving viewers away from your team.
Your team moved a lot in the post-Week 1 AP Poll?
Even though the preseason poll appears to hold no sway with the CFP, freak out.
A new player had a transcendent first game?
It’s definitely the start of something big.
Like the idea of "Kenny Trill" but I think @coachsumlin would agree one good game alone doesn't make you trill. He's on his way though!— Bun B (@BunBTrillOG) September 2, 2014
Your coach has a big contract?
If your team won, rally the troops for an extension.
If your team lost ... what’s that buyout number, again?
Of course, you could also under-react. This is how to explain away things you want to tamp down.
The only time to say these things is when a rival fan is making fun of your team. Otherwise, you should complain about your team.
There’s a position battle that still hasn’t been resolved?
Heading into the opener, your team had a ton of ORs on the depth chart. And then nobody separated themselves during Week 1. It’s probably not a big deal, especially if it’s at quarterback. Certainly, like two or three more days of practice will wrap this battle up.
Your team got destroyed?
Coaches will tell you that they see the most growth in their team between Week 1 and Week 2, because they actually know what to work on in terms of an opponent. The fact that college football coaches — maybe the most detail-oriented people on the planet — regard a moment they’ve planned for and ramped up toward for nine months as something akin to a crapshoot is good enough for you.
Your team lost, but didn’t get destroyed?
Close-game luck. What can you do? It’ll even out by season’s end.
A player wasn’t in good enough shape and took some snaps off?
Even the good Lord rested after six, so why can’t my defensive tackle do so after five?
Attendance was terrible?
It was hot, the opponent was bad, or there was another competitive game on in the timeslot. Whichever reason you pick, remember that empty seats are always explainable. After all, your team gets most of its money from TV revenue anyway, and you go for the big games so your home-field advantage shows up when it counts.
A new uniform looked really weird?
Recruits like them. Never mind whether you’ve actually seen any positive comments by recruits.
Your offense committed multiple turnovers?
It’s probably not an example of things to come. It’s just how the ball bounces because turnovers are pretty random occurrences.
A player who was supposed to be good didn’t even start?
Coach just wants to give some of the younger players some run, and he’s taking full advantage of the redshirt rule allowing players to appear in four games while retaining his redshirt. There is definitely not a failed drug test or “violation of team rules” here.
Alabama kicked your team’s teeth in at a neutral site?
They do this all the time, whether they’re title bound or not. Bama won a Week 1 neutral-site game by double digits every season from 2008 to 2018, and despite some changes to scheduling in years after those, the same general principle applies.
Meanwhile, anything can be ammo to talk shit to opposing fans.
Break every single one of these rules in order to win an argument with a rival fan, if need be, because this is college football.