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Saturday, August 31, 2013
Updated: September 1, 11:33 AM ET
Season ride is just beginning

By Chris Low
ESPN.com

The unpredictability of college football is one of the things that keeps bringing us back.

So before anybody starts anointing teams or players based solely on what we saw this opening weekend, it's probably worth remembering that you can't win a championship in one game, nor can you lose a championship in one game.

Aaron Murray
Georgia QB Aaron Murray came up short on Saturday but has plenty of time to rebound.

That may be a hard sell to Georgia and Aaron Murray right now given the bitter taste of Saturday's 38-35 loss at Clemson, a wonderfully entertaining game between two top-10 teams that will hopefully be the norm rather than exception once the playoff era dawns.

But let's not forget that Georgia was clobbered (as the Head Ball Coach would say) in a 35-7 rout at South Carolina last season in the sixth week and came within a tipped pass in the SEC championship game of playing for the national title.

The translation: It's a long season with all sorts of twists and turns, and taking a snapshot one week in and thinking we've got it all figured out is about as wise as trash-talking and gesturing right in front of the official when you've already been branded as college football's bad boy.

Maybe it's just me, but Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin looked like he was more interested in tackling Johnny Manziel than he was in talking to him when his quarterback came to the sideline after drawing that 15-yard penalty.

Still, over and above Johnny Football's antics, it was a telling opening weekend.

Eastern Washington shocked No. 25 Oregon State 49-46 to become the first FCS team to knock off a nationally ranked team in the season opener since Appalachian State upset Michigan in 2007.

South Carolina's freak-a-zoid defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, looked winded and somewhat mortal in going sackless in the Gamecocks' 27-10 win over North Carolina on Thursday. But, then, Clowney was pretty quiet in the opener against Vanderbilt last season and still finished with 13 sacks.

It wasn't a rousing start for two-time defending national champion Alabama, either. The No. 1 Crimson Tide managed just 206 yards of total offense (their lowest output since the 2008 season), but still won handily over Virginia Tech, 35-10, thanks to three non-offensive touchdowns -- two by Christion Jones.

That's the monster Nick Saban and the Tide have created. They win by 25 points, and everybody's talking about how vulnerable they suddenly are.

And then there's No. 5 Georgia, which couldn't protect Murray and couldn't stop Tajh Boyd and the No. 8 Tigers, who clearly made the most convincing statement of the weekend.

The only other nationally ranked team to beat another ranked team was No. 12 LSU holding off No. 20 TCU 37-27 in Arlington, Texas.

Both sets of Tigers look like the real thing, and both have a great chance to be top-5 clubs heading into key showdowns down the road.

LSU has UAB, Kent State and Auburn all at home over the next three weeks and should be 4-0 heading to Athens on Sept. 28 to face Georgia.

Clemson has a similar path, although given the Tigers' schizophrenic history, it's probably never wise to even think about looking ahead. Dabo Swinney's club will be heavily favored in its next five contests before Florida State comes to Death Valley on Oct. 19.

Right now, Clemson has probably done as much as anybody to warrant that No. 1 spot in the polls. The Tigers became the first non-SEC team ever to knock off top 10 SEC teams in back-to-back games. They ended the season a year ago by rallying past No. 8 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Zach Mettenberger
LSU had plenty to celebrate in beating TCU.

But the same question that has hounded Clemson's program for the better part of the last two decades remains intact: Can the Tigers avoid the big hiccup?

There's no disputing their firepower on offense, and they have one of the fiercest competitors in the college game. Boyd made every play he needed to against Georgia. He passed for three touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns, cementing a spot on those early-season Heisman Trophy lists.

Of course, he'd rather this be December and the Tigers cementing their spot among the national title contenders.

They proved emphatically that they belong with college football's upper crust on Saturday night in the muggy heat of upstate South Carolina.

Now comes the hard part: Proving it over the course of the entire season.

We've all seen how brittle that crust can be the closer we get to those final BCS standings being released.

My advice is to sit back and enjoy the ride because it's just beginning.