The first weekend of college football has come and gone. Apart from Ohio State-Virginia Tech, which will take place tonight, nearly every team in the country has played in an actual football game (sorry LSU fans, sometimes the weather just doesn’t agree with you). Of course, this means that now is the time to make gross predictions from what we’ve witnessed this weekend. But these early season reactions are anything but overreactions, right? Just ask Texas A&M fans, who appointed Kenny “Trill” Hill the early Heisman winner and the second coming of Johnny Football after he dominated South Carolina in 2014, only to see him falter and transfer out after the season ended. Or the national media, when it declared that the Big 10 wouldn’t have a team in the college football playoff after Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech last year.
So now that we’ve established that our reactions from this first weekend can be taken with a grain of salt, let’s dive into some of the more interesting match-ups from this weekend and see what we can take away.
#2 TCU 23, Minnesota 17
TCU had a closer-than-expected win against Minnesota, which was unexpected given all of the hype that the Horned Frogs have been given in the offseason. Trevone Boykin, the early favorite to win the Heisman trophy, completed 61% of his passes for a pedestrian 246 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also added 92 yards on the ground and another score, but it was hardly a performance you’d expect from the Heisman frontrunner. On the other side of the field, Minnesota was surprisingly feisty in this game and was actually driving for the winning touchdown before the clock ran out. For a team that many had written off, this Golden Gophers squad might make some noise in the Big 10 race this year.
#3 Alabama 35, #20 Wisconsin 17
Alabama fans entered this game with some big questions on the offensive side of the ball. Then they remembered that they still had Derrick Henry and they breathed a sigh of relief.
Derrick Henry had himself a game, rushing for 147 yards and 3 touchdowns on 13 carries. The Alabama offensive line, led by future first-round pick Cam Robinson, paved the way and blocked guys into oblivion. The Tide also found their starting quarterback in Jacob Coker, who didn’t have an amazing performance but was solid and didn’t turn the ball over which makes Nick Saban happy. And isn’t that what being a Crimson Tide player is all about, making Saban happy? Saban and Lane Kiffin have also seemed to find the solution for replacing Amari Cooper: throw it to as many guys as possible (9 different players caught passes in the game). The Crimson Tide defense was good (surprise surprise), allowing only 1.9 yards per rush and 5.4 yards per pass.
Wisconsin is another story. Senior quarterback Joel Stave had some good moments, but Corey Clement, widely considered to be the heir to Melvin Gordon’s throne, went down with an injury early on and didn’t come back into the game. One of the biggest headlines from the game was when Wisconsin senior safety and team captain Michael Caputo took a blow to the head on a tackle and promptly lined up on the wrong side of the ball. Thankfully, he was taken off the field and is going through proper concussion tests. You never want to see a player go back in after a hit like that (cough, cough Michigan).
#6 Auburn 31, Louisville 24
The hype for Jeremy Johnson was strong all summer. After sitting behind Nick Marshall for two years, the junior was finally primed to burst into the national spotlight and take the Auburn offense to the next level. After his performance in this game however, we might want to tone that hype down just a notch. Johnson finished hitting 11 of his 21 passes for 137 yards and a single score. Not to mention he threw three interceptions (which could have been more like 4 or 5). Still, Auburn survived a scary test from Louisville, which has a nasty defense and an offense which is still finding its identity.
# 7 Oregon 61, Eastern Washington 42
After losing Marcus Mariota to the NFL Draft, Oregon made one of the biggest moves this past offseason by signing one of the most notable
free agent grad transfer quarterbacks available: Vernon Adams Jr of Eastern Washington. Adams came in with a lot of hype and certainly lived up to his billing, throwing for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns in his debut against his former team. Oregon’s offense didn’t seem to take a step back from losing Mariota, as Royce Freeman returned and ran for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, Eastern Washington players didn’t too kindly of their quarterback leaving them for an FBS team and, late in the game, one player came and hit Adams as he was already sliding.
Adams left the game, but has already confirmed that he is ready to play next week. The bigger story from the game is the fact that Oregon’s defense gave up 42 points to FCS Eastern Washington. Oregon did lose some of its bigger-name players to the NFL, but still has a good amount of talent on the roster. If the Ducks are to make a repeat run at the Pac-12 title, they’ll need much more than their offense to lead the way.
#11 Notre Dame 38, Texas 3
Year 2 of the Charlie Strong era at Texas began with the same way Year 1 ended: with a whimper. Notre Dame dominated Texas on both sides of the ball and Malik Zaire was terrific in his season opener as the Fighting Irish’s starting quarterback. Zaire hit 19 of 22 passes (86%) for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns, which was the second best completion-percentage in school history. In fact, Zaire had more yards in the air than Texas’ offense did as a whole (313 as compared to 163 yards). Texas was awful on offense and defense. If Tyrone Swoopes truly is the Longhorns’ best option at quarterback, then they’re in for a long year. They looked lost on both sides of the ball and serious changes have to be made for Texas to return to national prominence. The lone bright spot for Charlie Strong is that 5-star freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson was all over the field and certainly looks to be a playmaker for the future.
Unfortunately for Notre Dame, they lost Tarean Folston, their leading rusher from last year, to a right knee injury and is out for the year.
#13 UCLA 34, Virginia 16
I’ve been all in on the Josh Rosen hype-train and, after this performance, I’m sure most of the country has boarded as well. In his debut for the Bruins, Rosen hit 80% of his passes for 351 yards and 3 touchdowns. Biggest of all, he didn’t turn the ball over once. His passes were literally on the money.
His performance could have been even better as several of his passes were dropped. Rosen looked ready, poised and in control of the offense. The ball came out of his hands with the very good force and velocity and he looked very confident in his decision making. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought he was a fifth-year senior quarterback out there. Things are looking bright for the Bruins and they are a legit playoff contender.
It’s not like Virginia has a bad defense either. It returns two 5-star players in Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown. Offensively is another story but this is an encouraging start as a whole for this Virginia squad.
#14 LSU vs. McNeese State: cancelled due to lightning
Sorry LSU fans, the one opponent you’ll never beat is Mother Nature.
Texas A&M 38, #15 Arizona State 17
Texas A&M beat a ranked opponent in week one and suddenly they have unrealistically high expectations? Where have I seen that before?
Seriously though, Texas A&M did look good against the Sun Devils. Kyle Allen didn’t quite have the “Kenny Trill” performance and was actually replaced at one point for 5-star freshman Kyler Murray. Allen would re-enter the game and lead the Aggies on a couple of late scoring drives to seal the deal however. The real star of the offense was freshman wide receiver Christian Kirk, who caught 6 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown reception was phenomenal, taking a short pass from Kyle Allen 66 yards to the house. Oh yeah, and he also returned a punt for a touchdown. This kid is pretty good.
In the end, it was Allen and Kirk, two kids from Arizona who scorned the hometown team for Texas A&M, that downed the Devils. Texas A&M’s defense, lead by sophomore sensation Myles Garrett, was also key in the victory. Garrett and fellow defensive end Daeshon Hall combined for six sacks on the day, but it was the former 5-star prospect that was the real star. He totaled 2 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. Many are comparing Garrett to Jadeveon Clowney already and don’t be surprised to see him end up as a future Top-10 pick in the draft.
Unfortunately, Arizona State didn’t look like the dark horse playoff contender that many had them pegged as. Mike Bercovici, the Sun Devil’s experienced senior quarterback, hit 60% of his passes for 199 yards and a single score and D.J. Foster’s transition to wide receiver from running back was anything but sensational. With the Pac-12 South looking tougher and tougher by the day, Arizona State needs to figure out its identity before heading into conference play.
Northwestern 16, #21 Stanford 6
It was a terrible day for the Stanford offense. Kevin Hogan looks to have taken a step back in his development after ending last season on a high note. He completed less than 60% of his passes and only averaged 4.4 yards per throw. Not good. Stanford’s offensive line, widely considered to be among the nation’s best, didn’t open holes for the running backs and the Cardinal only averaged 3.1 yards per rush. Stanford also only converted 3/15 third downs and turned the ball over twice. Not the best start for a team that many in the national media had returning to the Pac-12 championship and a possible darkhorse playoff contender.
#22 Arizona 42, UTSA 32
Arizona cruised to victory, but the bigger story coming out of this game was the injury to star linebacker Scooby Wright III. There is no timetable for his return, but hopefully he can be back on the field when the Wildcats play UCLA to open conference play.
BYU 33, Nebraska 28
Things looked grim for BYU. Taysom Hill, their phenomenal senior quarterback, went down with another season-ending injury and they were trailing late to Nebraska on the road. So what do they do to win the game?
That’s right, Tanner Magnum, a true freshman who last played in a game of organized football in 2012, launches a Hail Mary to Mitch Matthews to win the game.
Well that’s what happened in week one. We’ve got Ohio State-Virginia Tech tonight in a rematch of last year’s upset then a couple of days until the next batch of games. Enjoy the time off this week, because once the NFL starts back up on Thursday, we’re gonna have football, football, and more football until early next year.
I’ll leave you with this video, as I think it truly encompasses how we all feel about football finally being back.