FSU exhales, but can't exactly relax

• Northwestern has lots of returning starters, opened its season at home against underdog Cal (1-11 a year ago, zero FBS wins) ... and lost. The Wildcats trailed by 24 points in the third quarter before at least making it a game. But anybody who thinks Northwestern doesn't miss seniors Venric Mark (whose stunning decision to transfer leaves a playmaker void) and Christian Jones (the wide receiver suffered a season-ending knee injury several weeks ago), is in denial.

Verdict: Worry.

• Alabama, favored by 25½ over West Virginia, had to sweat out a 33-23 victory over the Mountaineers. Much has been made about the in-game sideline interaction between Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. What, Saban was going to sit on a chaise lounge and read a Daniel Silva espionage novel? Anyway, the Tide eventually remembered how to overpower an opponent (288 rushing yards), got some helpful calls from the refs, and fifth-year senior Blake Sims, making his starting debut, had only a handful of shaky moments. This Kiffin/Saban thing is going to work out fine. Meanwhile, Bama's defense didn't inspire confidence, but I'm buying long on the Tide secondary.

Verdict: Don't Worry.

• UCLA's offense, with Heisman candidate Brett Hundley at quarterback, had a few train-wreck episodes in the eight-point win at Virginia. That's not fatal against UVA and this week against Memphis. But the Sept. 13 game at Texas? Hmmm.

Verdict: Don't Worry.

• There's no nice way to say it: Against Texas A&M, South Carolina was to defense as Karaoke Night is to the Metropolitan Opera.

Verdict: Worry.

• Texas Tech trailed against Central Arkansas in the second quarter and had to hang on for a 42-35 victory. The Red Raiders defense gave up 406 total yards.

Verdict: Worry.

• Ohio State's defense gave up 370 rushing yards to Navy. That's not a misprint. Then again, Navy's triple-option attack does that a lot.

Verdict: Don't worry.

FIRST QUARTER

As he witnessed the carnage of Texas A&M's 52-28 woodshed victory at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier looked like he wanted to do a Josh Shaw and jump off a second-floor balcony. The good news for Gamecocks' fans: Spurrier did win the headset-throwing competition.

South Carolina's defense will get better, mostly because there's no way it could get worse. But if ever a team looked instantly vulnerable, it is the Gamecocks, who began last Thursday evening as 33/1 favorites to win the CFP, but ended the night looking like 300/1 longshots to win the Sun Belt.

Stuff happens, but usually not all at once to a Spurrier-coached team. The Gamecocks were outplayed, outcoached, outsized ... out-everythinged. They'll get a get-well card delivered by East Carolina this Saturday, but then face SEC East favorite Georgia (the Bulldogs get two weeks to prepare) on Sept. 13.

Meanwhile, the Aggies just got in the HOV lane for a 4-0 start (Lamar at home this week, then Rice, then at SMU before facing Arkansas at Kyle Field). Kenny Hill Mania is in full, breathless Brangelina-wedding mode ("Kenny Football" ... "Johnny Who?" ... "Hill For Heisman").

It was one game against a surprisingly befuddled South Carolina defense, but suddenly those Johnny Manziel withdrawal pains for A&M don't seem too bad. And since when did the Aggies corner the market on 6-foot-5, 225-pound wide receivers? It's like there's a Mike Evans clone factory in College Station.

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