The most anticipated opening weekend in college football lived up to the hype and delivered a handful of exciting games to kick off the year. The Pre-Season Top 25 polls are already turned upside-down and specific fan bases headed toward panic mode. It’s a long season and for most teams an early Week 1 loss won’t damage their chances if they run the table and win their conference. History has shown us it’s better to lose early than to lose late in the season. If you lose late it’s fresh in our minds, what happens in early September is just a hazy memory. Words can barely describe my excitement now that college football is back. It’s the drug we’ve all been longing for and it seems like forever ago that Alabama beat Clemson in the National Championship game. Seven ranked teams lost this weekend the most on opening weekend ever. But alas college football is back!
If you missed the game between Texas and Notre Dame then you missed an instant classic. It’s hard to even find a place to start. Texas is coming off back to back losing seasons and with the status of their head coach Charlie Strong up in the air (if this season goes poorly) he opted to start a true freshmen quarterback. This is something that hasn’t happened at Texas since the 1940’s. Shane Buechele, son of former major leaguer Steve Buechele, put in a big game with 280 yards and 2 TD. He beat out Senior QB Tyrone Swoopes who happened to play a major role in this game and in fact was the difference maker.
The great thing about college football is the game will dictate changes in philosophy mid-quarter or mid-drive. Texas in certain situations, primarily red zone, opted to go with Swoopes at QB and he delivered with three rushing touchdowns. Swoopes, a spitting image of Vince Young physically, scored both Longhorn touchdowns in overtime including a dive at the goal line on the final play giving Texas the shocking 50-47 victory. The last time Texas defeated Notre Dame was in the 1970 Cotton Bowl.
For Notre Dame it’s a disappointing loss but not one that will knock them out of contention for a National Championship. A double overtime loss on the road in Week 1 isn’t a death sentence for anyone. The Irish rallied from a 31-17 hole behind a stellar performance from QB DeShone Kizer who should be named the permanent quarterback going forward. Kizer completed 15-of-24 passes for 215 yards and 5 touchdowns. Brian Kelly messed around with Malik Zaire for a few plays but he looked inferior compared to Kizer. Offensively I think we know Notre Dame has the weapons and creativity to compete, the question marks are on defense and how can you allow 50 points against a true freshmen led unranked team.
USC couldn’t have started off their season in a more depressing, miserable and disappointing way. I don’t think anyone except for the illogical Trojan fan boys in California thought USC was going to beat Alabama (Line -13) but a lot of us did think it wasn’t going to be this bad. When I say “bad” realize this was the Trojan’s worst defeat since a 51-0 defeat to Notre Dame in 1966. This also marks the first time since 1997 that USC did not score a touchdown. But enough about USC they aren’t even worth discussing at this point and they will surely drop from the Top 25 after this 52-6 laugher. USC’s chances to win the Pac-12 dropped from 24% to 3% and they’re dead to me.
For Alabama everything was business as usual. Their defense was stifling and their offense looked good enough behind freshmen QB Jalen Hurts. Hurts threw for 118 yards and 2 TD (both to ArDarius Steward) while also rushing for 32 yards and two additional scores. Running back Damien Harris who steps in to fill the shoes of Heisman trophy winning Derrick Henry rushed for 138 of Alabama’s 242 yards on the ground. Death, Taxes and Alabama winning games are the only three constants in life right now.
In the subtweet of the year, Alabama offensive coordinator (and former USC coach) Lane Kiffin put up a picture of his family after the game with the caption “Post game w/ the game ball!! #3:14AM-LAX” a middle finger to the way he was fired back in 2013 after losing to Arizona State when he was pulled off the team bus at the airport and fired right there on the spot. Kiffin 1, USC 0.
The internet trolls are going to love bashing Oklahoma for losing yet another big game, while the rest of us are going to use this as an opportunity to prop up Houston who has been an impressive sight the past year plus. The Cougars took it to Bob Stoopes’ side and handed them a 33-23 opening day loss. Should we really be surprised though? Every time there’s a Sooners team that has sky high expectations they fall flat, every time there’s a huge game that Oklahoma needs to win they seem to come up short. Oklahoma had all the hype with Baker Mayfield (323 yards, 2 TD), Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon all returning for this dynamic offense but it was Houston who put on the offensive clinic. But fear not Boomer Sooner fans the computers show Oklahoma to have the best chance to win out of all the ranked teams to lose in Week 1.
The Cougars MVP is QB Greg Ward Jr. and we already know that this guy is the real deal in college football. He had a tremendous season last year and he’s right back to where he started under coach Tom Herman who is quickly becoming the hottest commodity in the coaching ranks. Houston now has three wins in school history against Top 3 ranked teams, their first since defeating Texas in 1984. For the first time in school history they have won back to back games against AP Top 10 teams. Ward Jr. passed for 321 yards and 2 TD and now the attention turns to what happens if Houston runs the table?
Can a team outside of the Power 5 conferences make the college football playoff if they go undefeated? There’s little margin for error and they’ll have to keep a perfect record intact in order for it to be a possibility. Last season they had a chance to do that exact thing but a loss to UCONN washed it all away. There’s no question Houston is legit, they defeated Florida State in the Peach Bowl last year and they keep on knocking off quality opponents. There’s talks about them headed to the Big 12 and that will surely help their cause but will Herman still be around by the time that goes down or will he have taken a bigger job among the NCAA elite or possibly in the NFL?
All the sweat equity that Les Miles worked to acquire last season to avoid being fired has been flushed down the toilet. Everything seemed to be forgotten in the land of the Bayou that is until they laid an egg up at Lambeau Field and lost to unranked Wisconsin 16-14. All the questions regarding LSU and their vanilla offense from prior years are back. The criticism over LSU’s lack of creative play-calling and recruiting/development of quarterbacks is back in the spotlight. Let’s face the facts the Tigers’ game plan is stale, dated and lacking big play capabilities. This isn’t 2011 anymore, the smash and grab football of LSU vs. Alabama playing to single digit games is long gone. Everyone has changed except Les Miles. This is the first regular season loss to a non-conference (SEC) opponent under Miles, they are now 42-1.
LSU was held without a point in the first half and while Heisman front runner Leonard Fournette did rush for 138 yards on 23 carries he was held in check by Wisconsin but really I blame LSU’s game-plan. Once again their QB play is severely lacking, Brandon Harris was 12-for-21 with 131 yards, TD and 2 INT. Harris has looked good at times and terrible at times and I hang that primarily only Les Miles. It’s the same story we’ve seen year after year. Just think of the underwhelming names to take snaps at LSU: Zach Mettenberger, Matt Flynn, Jordan Jefferson and Ryan Perilloux. Inconsistency like that isn’t going to lead to success especially in the unforgiving SEC.
Week 1 apparently saved the best for last as Florida State made an incredible second half rally to defeat Ole Miss 45-34. The internet buried the Seminoles at halftime when they trailed 28-13 (-22 by the end of 1st quarter) but Florida State showed a ton of resolve and poise to get back into the game and complete the biggest comeback in school history. The Noles are now 7-0 in the last four seasons when trailing at halftime. Yet another freshmen quarterback starred this week and none were more impressive than Deondre Francois who threw for 419 yards on 33-of-52 passing with 2 touchdowns. Freshman kicker Ricky Aguayo (brother of Roberto Aguayo) knocked in a school record six field goals doing the family name proud. Florida State RB Dalvin Cook, who might be the best running back in the nation, rushed for 91 yards and caught 7 passes for 101 yards and looked dynamic.
As for Ole Miss, it’s a story we’ve seen before with Chad Kelly at quarterback. In the novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ the line “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” really describes the two halves for Mississippi. Kelly’s high points were 313 yards passing and 4 touchdowns but his low points were 3 interceptions and a lost fumble. Ole Miss wants to run an uptempo offense and when it’s going it’s going good and when it’s not it’s really not. The Rebels turnovers led to 13 Florida State points and you can’t give away points on the road against a team like that. The turnovers led to a 70% possession rate for Florida State keeping Ole Miss’ defense on the field for 42 minutes.
Sometimes the best strategy is to survive and move on. Clemson prevailed on the road against Auburn 19-13 but another Week 1 upset almost went down. It wasn’t the dominant performance we expected to see from Clemson but it’s a win nonetheless and they’re back on their way to try and dethrone Alabama for the championship crown. QB DeShaun Watson was good but not great passing for 248 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. There were no highlight reel Watson throws or runs like in his 478 yard night against the Tide back in January, this was just business as usual. The Tigers offense was carried by RB Wayne Gallman who rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Auburn can be satisfied with their defensive effort holding Clemson to 19 points but their offense is still a mess. Three different quarterbacks attempted passes on the first six plays of the game. What the hell is that about?
I have to admit that I was rooting for Bowling Green, my father’s alumni, knowing full well they were going to get stomped. And stomped they were. Ohio State hung it on them 77-10 in the Buckeyes debut. In total the Buckeyes scored 10 touchdowns (by 8 different players) and recorded a school record 776 yards of total offense. Quarterback J.T. Barrett was the leading player behind their offensive assault. Barrett accounted for seven touchdowns, six passing and one rushing, breaking an individual school record. He completed 21-of-39 passes for 349 yards in a partial day’s work.
While Ohio State cruised to an easy victory in their debut, inter-conference foes Michigan did the same against Hawaii. The Wolverines rolled to a 63-3 victory despite their QB Wilton Speight throwing an interception on the first play from scrimmage. No damage came from the pick and Speight rebounded to complete 10-of-13 passes for 145 yards and 3 TD. Michigan was effective in their passing game but dominated the game on the ground. Jim Harbaugh’s crew rushed the ball 39 times for 306 yards. Freshman Chris Evans lead the way with 112 yards on 8 attempts scoring two touchdowns. Hawaii’s lone points came on a 55 yard field at the beginning of the 4th quarter.
The Christian McCaffrey show is back and he hasn’t missed a beat from last season. The all purpose running back lead the way for Stanford’s 26-13 victory over Kansas State. McCaffrey rushed for 126 yards on 22 carries resulting in 2 touchdowns. The touchdown runs were from distances of 35 yards and 41 yards each. He also caught 7 passes out of the back field for an additional 40 yards; in total he gained 210 all purpose yards. As electric as McCaffrey was running the ball his biggest play of the game was nullified by a penalty and didn’t count. He broke through Kansas State’s special teams for a 97 yard punt return but an illegal block wiped it all out. The Wildcats couldn’t get anything going against a stingy Stanford defense that recorded eight sacks and forced a safety and two turnovers.
Everyone’s sleeper Tennessee just looked like they were asleep in their season opener against “David-like” Appalachian State. I’m sure you all remember Appalachian State for their upset victory over #5 Michigan back in 2007. A game that many believe to be the greatest upset in the history of college football. So with that said we know this program has pedigree of being a tough opponent but based on all the hype the Vols received this summer this shouldn’t have been a nail biter. Tennessee ended up getting the victory at home 20-13 thanks to a fumble in overtime by their QB Joshua Dobbs that bounced into the end zone recovered by RB Jalen Hurd giving the Vols their first lead of the game.
Tennessee entered this year with their highest ranking since 2006 and they looked nothing like a Top 10 team in my opinion. Nor do they look like the team that ended last year on a six game winning streak. Dobbs, who is as electric with his feet as any QB in the nation, was forced to stay in the pocket (by his own coach’s play calling) and he struggled completing only 16-29 for 192 yards. The biggest play of the game, aside from the fumble, was Dobbs connecting with WR Josh Malone on a 67 year bomb tying the score at 13-13. The Volunteers will have to figure this out quickly as their next opponent is Virginia Tech who they will play at Bristol Motor Speedway. An estimated 150,000 fans will be in attendance which will be the largest live attendance for a college football game in history.
I’m embarrassed by the fact that Rutgers represents the state I live in for college football. Rutgers went to the Pacific Northwest and returned with a giant ‘L’. Washington looked very impressive en route to a 48-13 season opening victory. The Huskies were up 24-0 after the first quarter and the game was over sooner than that. The common theme throughout the game for Washington was “Big Plays”. QB Jake Browning who passed for 287 yards connected on three touchdowns of 43, 38 and 50 yards respectively; and they all came in the first quarter. Twice he hit WR John Ross, a junior who missed last season due to a knee injury, for touchdowns and Ross himself had a spectacular individual effort returning a kick off 92 yards to the house. Later in the third quarter Washington also returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown. As I said “Big Plays”…
Once again the Pre-Season rankings and hype claims another victim this time the UCLA Bruins. The majority of pundits had UCLA as a lock to win the Pac-12 conference and I believe one ESPN college football analyst picked them to finish in the “Final Four”. Well you can kiss the latter good bye. Texas A&M defeated UCLA 31-24 in overtime after blowing a 24-9 lead heading into the final quarter. UCLA rallied for 15 unanswered points in the 4th but lost in overtime when QB Trevor Knight, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma, (239 yards, 3 total TD) ran the ball in from one yard out on 4th and goal.
As for the Bruins their QB Josh Rosen looks over-rated and under-prepared. We saw some big things from Rosen last year in his freshman year but in this game he looked like he a true freshman all over again. Rosen tossed three interceptions and recorded a 19.4 QBR. He completed 56% of his passes (26-46) while facing a lot of pressure from the Texas A&M defense who sacked him five times. The UCLA offensive line and Rosen himself are going to have to play much better if they want to live up to the expectations of being Pac-12 favorites.
It’s great to see a kid return from injury and look as good as he was before he left. Nick Chubb returned and left no doubt in anyone’s mind he’s still capable of being one of the best rushers in the nation. Georgia defeated North Carolina 33-24 led by Chubb who ran for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He carried the ball 32 times, quite the extensive load for someone’s first game back from a knee injury, and capped off his game with a 55 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter extending their lead to nine points. As great as Chubb looked the more interesting story line was Georgia’s decision to play freshmen QB Jacob Eason (8-12, 131 yards, TD) over senior QB Grayson Lambert (5-8, 54 yards). Eason is a five star recruit and Lambert is mediocre at best, if Eason does turn out to be the starter he’ll be the first freshmen since Matthew Stafford in 2006 to start at Georgia.
You can’t start the season much better than Louisville did routing Charlotte 70-14 behind a record breaking performance from their quarterback. QB Lamar Jackson accounted for a school record 8 touchdowns (6 passing, 2 rushing) and 405 yards of total offense, oh by the way that was all done by halftime when the score was 56-0 Louisville. His final stat lines for the game read: 17-of-23 passing for 286 yards, 6 TD and 0 INT, a ho-hum 98.4 QBR. On the ground he rushed 11 times for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns. A pretty good encore considering the last time we saw Jackson he had 453 yards and 3 TD over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl. Sixteen different players caught passes for Louisville who outgained Charlotte 663 to 208 in total yardage.
Baylor’s nightmare off-season is behind them (kind of) and now the focus can return to football on the field in Waco, Texas. The Bears predictably routed FCS school Northwestern State 55-7 in a cupcake tune up game before their real seasons starts in a few weeks against Oklahoma State. Even with a new head coach in charge Baylor’s offense looked very familiar; keep it fast paced and score a ton of points. Senior quarterback Seth Russell tossed 4 touchdowns and the Baylor’s rushing attacked accumulated 275 yards behind 98 yards from Shock Linwood and 72 yards from Terrence Williams. Baylor’s defense held NW State to 78 total yards of offense.
It’s not an upset on the level of Notre Dame, UCLA, Oklahoma or LSU but Mississippi State losing to FCS school South Alabama is a head turner. The final score was 21-20 in favor of the Jaguars who kicked off the year with the first major upset before any of those ranked teams fell this weekend. What makes this game even more surprising is the fact that Mississippi State lead 17-0 at halftime and then completely wet the bed. Prior to this game South Alabama was 0-4 against SEC opposition and were crushed by the Bulldogs twice back in 2012 and 2014. Not the way Miss. State wants to ring in the post Dak Prescott era. The Football Power Index only gave South Alabama 2.3% chance to win this game, the largest upset based on FPI statistics in the last five seasons.
It’s a rarity when inter-state rivals square off in the first week of the season but Colorado and Colorado State did just that. The game is known as “The Rocky Mountain Showdown” but this was no showdown just a one-sided contest won by the Buffaloes 44-7. Colorado QB Sefo Liufau threw for 318 yards and a touchdown while becoming the all-time leading passer in Buffaloes history surpassing Cody Hawkins record of 7,409 yards set in 2010. This is the exact start Colorado and head coach Mike MacIntyre needed who has just a 11-27 record in four seasons at the helm in Boulder. Colorado outgained ‘State 578 yards to 225 yards and 4 Rams turnovers didn’t help their cause.
Elite Player of the Week
Deondre Francois (QB) – Florida State: 33-52, 419 yards, 2 TD, 143.8 QBR. Win over #11 Ole Miss
Legendary Performance of the Week
Lamar Jackson (QB) – Louisville: 17-23, 286 yards, 6 TD, 98.4 QBR. 11 rushes, 119 yards, 2 TD