Roundtable: Which Week 1 loser can bounce back for successful season?
Week 1 results often lead to overreactions both positive and negative. But as the college football world learned last year, one loss doesn't eliminate a team from contention for the College Football Playoff and certainly doesn't prevent it from having a successful season. Several teams with high preseason expectations fell in their openers over the weekend. Which of those squads is in the best position to shake off the defeat and rebound? SI.com's college football writers weigh in with their picks.
Andy Staples: Nebraska
The Cornhuskers lost on a Hail Mary, so the math says they probably should have beaten BYU. The Cougars are probably about equal to the other contenders in the Big Ten West, so that means Nebraska has every reason to expect to be competitive in its division.
Brian Hamilton: Wisconsin
You can count on exactly zero fingers how many times the Badgers will encounter a defensive front as strong, athletic and ill-tempered as Alabama's the rest of this season. Maybe Corey Clement's total of 16 yards rushing was even worse than anticipated, but in terms of opponents perfectly equipped to smother a ground game, it can't get worse for Wisconsin. The Big Ten assured that: The Badgers don't play Ohio State or Michigan State this year. They shouldn't be a decided underdog on any weekend.
This is a team that could roll into the Big Ten title game with one loss while praying it doesn't simultaneously roll into another nuclear meltdown as it did against the Buckeyes last December.
Lindsay Schnell: Arizona State
I’m still a believer in Arizona State. The Sun Devils have experience with QB Mike Bercovici and WR D.J. Foster, though both had rough outings against Texas A&M. Certainly the offensive line needs immediate work (the Aggies teed off, recording nine sacks), but Arizona State’s defense kept it in the game. Remember, the Sun Devils were within a touchdown with four minutes to play. The Pac-12 South is tough, but I like that they get Oregon and USC at home.
Zac Ellis: Wisconsin
The Badgers might not lose again. They avoid Ohio State and Michigan State on their schedule and could reach the Big Ten title game riding an 11-game winning streak.
Joel Stave looked sharp against Alabama, completing 67% of his throws. If Stave suddenly gives Wisconsin a passing game, watch out.
Colin Becht: Virginia Tech
No other offense the Hokies will face can come close to matching the weapons Ohio State has. Bud Foster’s defense will still be one of the best in the country by season’s end. Think about the number of times Virginia Tech hit Cardale Jones but couldn’t bring him down. Those will be sacks on most other quarterbacks. Ohio State’s offense is so talented that it punishes any mistake a defense makes. The Hokies were pretty tough defensively on most plays, but almost every slipup led to a Buckeyes explosion play (touchdowns of 80, 54 and 53 yards, for example).
Michael Brewer’s broken collarbone definitely hurts the Hokies, but if he can return in the early portion of his 4-8 week range, he’ll only miss mostly winnable games (Furman, Purdue, at East Carolina, Pittsburgh). It’d be nice to have him back for the North Carolina State game because he showed some definite progress against the Buckeyes, averaging 9.8 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Ben Glicksman: Minnesota
Despite losing 23–17 to TCU, the Golden Gophers remain in position to make a run at the Big Ten West title. Jerry Kill’s team proved it can hang with a College Football Playoff frontrunner—Minnesota’s defense held the Horned Frogs’ explosive offense to below 30 points, the first time any team has done that since the 2013 season—and redshirt freshman tailback Rodney Smith impressed in his college debut. Given that Minnesota gets division rivals Nebraska and Wisconsin at home, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team vying for a berth in Indianapolis come November.
Gabriel Baumgaertner: Arizona State
Arizona State appears to be in reasonable shape. The Sun Devils won’t see another ferocious twosome of defensive ends like Texas A&M's Myles Garrett (who looked like he should be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft—he's not eligible for ’16) and Daeshon Hall, who combined for six sacks, three forced fumbles and three quarterback hits. The biggest worry shouldn’t be whether Arizona State can protect quarterback Mike Bercovici; it’s whether the Sun Devils can shore up an awful special teams unit that surrendered a punt return for a touchdown and committed a pivotal roughing the punter penalty in the fourth quarter.
Chris Johnson: Wisconsin
The Badgers may not have challenged Alabama in AT&T Stadium on Saturday, but they won’t face a team that good the rest of the regular season. Wisconsin gets three cupcake games at home to recover—Miami (Ohio), Troy and Hawaii—before beginning a Big Ten schedule that includes only two ostensibly challenging contests: at Nebraska on Oct. 10 and at Minnesota on Nov. 28.