By Andy Staples
September 03, 2014

The first week of actual football provided plenty of questions, but few real answers. That won’t stop me from giving these queries my best shot. Read on for the written portion of #DearAndy, or watch the video above for my answers to the following:

• If you could buy stock in three coaches under 30, who would they be?

• Is Texas in trouble?

• A meat nomenclature question.

From @RunThruTheT: After how many weeks of the season can we make a legitimate judgment on teams?

This depends on the team, because not all schedules are distributed equally. For example, let’s take a look at the early part of South Carolina’s schedule:

date opponent result
Aug. 28 Texas A&M L, 52-28
Sept. 6 East Carolina ?
Sept. 13 Georgia ?
Sept. 20 at Vanderbilt ?
Sept. 27 Missouri ?

The Gamecocks’ first five weeks include four conference matchups and a nonconference clash with a team that won 10 games in 2013. By the end of September, South Carolina will have played two of the major contenders for the SEC East title. We’ll have a pretty good idea of how good the Gamecocks are before the calendar flips. Now, let’s look at the early portion of Baylor’s slate.

date opponent result
Aug. 31 SMU W, 45-0
Sept. 6 Northwestern State ?
Sept. 12 at Buffalo ?
Sept. 27 at Iowa State ?

Will we really know much about the Bears by the end of that stretch? Probably not. The first real answers will likely start rolling in on Oct. 4, when Baylor plays at Texas. Still, we won’t know if the Bears have a chance to repeat as Big 12 champions until they visit Oklahoma on Nov. 8.

Paul’s Twitter handle and avatar reveal that he’s a Tennessee fan, and after the Volunteers pounded Utah State 38-7 while playing 21 true freshmen on Sunday, it’s understandable that he might wonder when he’ll be able to figure out whether the young Vols are for real. Let’s look at their schedule.

date opponent result
Aug. 31 Utah State W, 38-7
Sept. 6 Arkansas State ?
Sept. 13 at Oklahoma ?
Sept. 27 at Georgia ?
Oct. 4 Florida ?

Road games at Oklahoma and Georgia might not necessarily provide an accurate picture, because it’s possible that both of those teams are national title contenders. But throw in that game against Florida, and the Vols should have a basic sense of where they stand in the SEC East pecking order by early October.

From @ajndsu: I understand to a certain degree pollsters not giving big jumps/falls midseason. But after Week 1 there should be a reset. Agreed?

Absolutely, though we might be in the minority here. When I began a five-year sentence voting in the AP Poll in 2009, Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News had just started voting using only the data available from the current season. This caused their ballots to vary wildly during the first few weeks. At first, I thought they were nuts.

Over time, however, I realized they were the ones doing it correctly, and I adjusted my voting policy accordingly. I’m still using this method to project the four-team playoff field in my Punt, Pass & Pork column every Monday. Basically, if you’re only adjusting rankings slightly at the start of a season, it means you’re giving a lot of weight to last year’s results and to preseason hype.

The problem is people are conditioned to see polls adjusted only slightly each week, so some of the nastiest hate mail comes from fans of teams with high preseason rankings and terrible early-season schedules. As other teams jump their squads by notching quality wins, these fans’ blood boils. What’s funny is that as long as the voters are paying attention, the ones who vote like Doug and Jon and the ones who vote the more conventional way will wind up reaching basically the same conclusions come December.

From @Curtis_Spicoli: Which game will be most revealing: USC-Stanford or Michigan State-Oregon? What else is worth watching in Week 2? Michigan-Notre Dame, maybe?

The Spartans’ trip to Eugene will probably provide the most clarity in the national title picture. Oregon’s losses to Stanford the past two seasons and to LSU in 2011 have -- fairly or unfairly -- labeled the Ducks as an offense that buzzsaws inferior defenses and flops against elite ones. Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best defenses since ‘11, so Oregon can earn a lot of respect if it scores repeatedly on the Spartan Dawgs. Conversely, a Michigan State win would earn the Spartans high regard from the playoff selection committee -- provided Oregon winds up being as good as it has been for the past few years -- and would likely bolster the Big Ten’s overall reputation.

SCHNELL: Behind stable of backs, Oregon offense more than Mariota

USC-Stanford is intriguing for other reasons. First, it’s the beginning of an almost weekly series of heavyweight fights in the Pac-12. Second, USC hasn’t been talked about much as a Pac-12 contender, but a win over Stanford would change that. Considering the Trojans beat a more experienced Cardinal team in Los Angeles last November, this is not a far-fetched notion. USC ran 105 plays in its season-opening 52-13 win over Fresno State. If the Cardinal defense allows the Trojans to run that many on Saturday, we may be talking about a new West Coast threat.

As far as the other games, this could be a fascinating weekend. It starts on Thursday with Arizona visiting UTSA, which throttled Houston 27-7 last week and ruined the Cougars’ first game in their new stadium. With South Carolina on the ropes after getting creamed by Texas A&M, a visit from East Carolina becomes quite intriguing. As mentioned in the question, Notre Dame-Michigan is interesting, too. It is the last meeting between the teams for the foreseeable future. It is the first real challenge for Notre Dame, which may learn the fate of its five suspended players this week. It is also the first real challenge for Michigan, which seems to be at a crossroads in Brady Hoke’s fourth season in Ann Arbor.

And let’s not forget BYU’s trip to Texas, which was interesting enough because it’s a rematch of the game that got former Longhorns defensive coordinator Manny Diaz fired last season. Now, Texas will break in a new quarterback and a new center in the first true test of the Charlie Strong era.

STAPLES: Texas QB David Ash must be strong enough to walk away

From @geoffmitchell: Did Florida State just beat the toughest team on its schedule? What does that say about the Big 12 this season?

Oklahoma State certainly didn’t look like a program in rebuilding mode last Saturday. Some may have watched Florida State’s 37-31 win over the Cowboys and drawn the conclusion that it reflected negatively on the Seminoles. I’m not one of those people. Oklahoma State looked capable of competing with anyone. Junior college transfer Tyreek Hill appeared to be the fastest player on the field, and coach Mike Gundy found lots of ways to get him the ball. In his first game at this level, Hill had 278 all-purpose yards, including 106 yards from scrimmage. He won’t see a defense as fast or as athletic as Florida State’s for the rest of the season, so those numbers should look more impressive as the year wears on.

Meanwhile, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah showed Baylor’s Shawn Oakman, Texas’ Cedric Reed and Oklahoma’s Eric Striker aren’t the only pass rushers to fear in the Big 12. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Ogbah can line up at end or tackle and get to the quarterback. In a league that features a bunch of catch-the-snap-and-throw quarterbacks, a rusher with Ogbah’s length and versatility is critical.

The Cowboys looked talented enough to contend for the Big 12 title. As for whether Oklahoma State was Florida State’s best opponent, we’ll have to wait a while to determine that. Clemson had one bad quarter against Georgia -- and it was an awful quarter -- but the Tigers certainly could improve. Meanwhile, Notre Dame looked sharp in a 48-17 win over Rice. We’ll know more about the Fighting Irish after they face Michigan this week. Louisville looked sloppy at times and impressive at others while beating Miami 31-13 on Monday. Meanwhile, Florida remains a complete mystery. We’ll reserve judgment on the Gators until they at least take an offensive snap.

From @g2fraser: Traveling to Austin for BYU-Texas. Any recommendations on nearby BBQ grub? Franklin might be too crowded. Thanks!

Garrett, you have plenty of great options even if the line at Franklin Barbecue is too long. In same general vicinity as Franklin (just across Interstate 35 from the Texas campus), quality brisket and beef ribs are available at la barbecue and John Mueller Meat Co. If you want the original brisket and beef rib from the family that spawned both those places, make the short drive to Taylor, Texas, and visit Louis Mueller Barbecue. You could have sausage at Southside Market in Elgin, Texas. It’s the oldest barbecue joint in the state, and it’s only about a half-hour from the stadium. Or you could drive to Lockhart, Texas and decide for yourself whether Smitty’s, Black’s or Kreuz Market makes the best brisket and sausage.

Also, since it’s Saturday, you can make the 50-mile drive to Snow’s in Lexington, Texas. It is only open on Saturdays, and it opens at 8 a.m. Get there at 8 and eat brisket and pork ribs for breakfast. Don’t forget to buy enough to bring back to Austin for lunch.

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