College football is back! Week 1 delivered some compelling match-ups, surprising results and big individual performances, especially by freshman quarterbacks.
Time to take a look at who covered themselves in gridiron glory and who didn’t with my Week One edition of winners and losers:
Boise State: rallied twice from 18 points down on the road against Florida State on a sweltering afternoon. And they did it with a freshman quarterback in Hank Bachmeier and a stifling defensive effort, holding the Seminoles scoreless in the second half. The Broncos, 36-31 winners in Tallahassee, figure to be a serious force in the Mountain West, yet again.
Auburn: the Tigers staged an epic comeback that finished with freshman quarterback Bo Nix finding Seth Williams for a game-winning touchdown with nine seconds left, winning 27-21 after trailing 21-6 with less than ten minutes remaining in the third. It’s the second season in a row that the Tigers have beaten a highly-touted Pac-12 opponent in a neutral field opener, squeaking past Washington one year ago. Freshman quarterbacks, eh?
Travis Etienne: if there’s a more explosive running back in college football, please tell me who it is. And I’ll raise you one Travis Etienne, who ran through, around and over Georgia Tech on Thursday night, notching 205 yards and three touchdowns as Clemson won big.
Jalen Hurts: the Alabama transfer hasn’t lost a step since his move to Norman, accounting for six Oklahoma touchdowns and more than 500 yards of total offence in the Sooners’ 49-31 win over Houston.
Utah: the Utes went into Provo Friday night and came away with their eighth straight win in the Holy War series against Brigham Young, winning 30-12.
North Carolina: the Tar Heels welcomed Mack Brown back to the sidelines in stunning fashion, beating in-state rivals South Carolina – who are coached by the one-time heir apparent to Brown at Texas, Will Muschamp – 24-20. The Larry Fedora era is almost already a distant memory in Chapel Hill. Brown’s post-game celebrations are well worth a YouTube search, too.
Nevada: down 17 on the road to Purdue and being gashed, it looked like curtains. Except, no one told the Wolf Pack, who rallied, and freshman kicker Brandon Talton nailed a 56-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Boilermakers 34-31. Talton was awarded a scholarship in the locker room after the game. Well deserved, too.
Wyoming: the Mountain West squad led Missouri 34-17 at the start of the fourth quarter and held on for a memorable 34-31 win.
Tennessee: same old, same old for the Vols. Their season-opening 38-30 loss to Georgia State (a team that went 2-10 last year) is made worse by the fact that they paid their opponent nearly $1 million to come and play. It’s going to be another long year in Knoxville following one of the worst losses in recent memory. And when you consider how bad they’ve been for a decade, that’s really saying something.
Ole Miss: lost 15-10 to Memphis and couldn’t muster 100 yards either on the ground or through the air. This on the back of hiring former West Virginia and Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez as offensive coordinator. Hardly an inspiring debut for Rich Rod.
Oregon: up 21-6 on Auburn in the third quarter, the Ducks looked like playoff contenders ready to claim a marquee victory. Then it all slipped away, and Oregon found itself on the wrong end of some freshman quarterback magic and head coach Mario Cristobal exhibited as bad a case of poor game management as anyone this side of Clay Helton. A season-turning meltdown in week one.
Michigan State: Friday’s 28-7 win over Tulsa was supposed to be the debut of a new and improved offense after many off-season changes made by head coach Mark Dantonio. Instead, it was an insipid and uninspired offensive output, averaging a mere 5.1 yards per pass attempt and 2.7 yards per carry on the ground. Despite what looks like a stellar defence, Dantonio’s might be the hottest Big Ten coaching seat.
South Florida: the Bulls lost 49-0 to Wisconsin, their worst loss in program history. The Bulls’ defence had no answers for Jonathan Taylor, who gashed them again and again, scoring four times in the beatdown. Charlie Strong’s seat is starting to get warm.
Justin Fuente: the Virginia Tech head coach will have a long week answering awkward questions about the direction of the Hokies’ program after a 35-28 loss to a not-very-good Boston College squad, turning the football over five times after going in as 5-point favourites. Hard to believe it’s Fuente’s fourth season in Blacksburg. But it is, and he hasn’t accomplished much in that time. An ACC coaching seat getting warmer by the week.
Tulsa: rushed for negative 73 yards (including sack yardage) on 25 attempts en route to a 28-7 loss to Michigan State.
South Carolina: a bad 24-20 loss to North Carolina in a game the Gamecocks really needed, considering their path to a bowl appearance was a difficult one to begin with. Now, with Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and Clemson to come, things are looking grim as far as getting to six wins and the post-season is concerned. Will Muschamp is in for a long season.
Nebraska: the Cornhuskers hype train needs to slow down. They looked horrible against South Alabama, managing only 276 yards and three turnovers. The 35-21 win was helped along by a special teams score and two defensive scores. The offence, led by dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez, was less than stellar. Time will tell if this was just a typical season-opening slog or indicative of the season to come. Huskers fans will be hoping it’s the latter.
Southern California: barely survived Fresno State, lost starting quarterback JT Daniels to a season-ending ACL tear and have Stanford, Washington, Utah, and Notre Dame to come over the next six, daunting weeks. Not looking good for Clay Helton’s chances of seeing out the season. Not good for my stress levels, either.