Upsets, Heisman Favourites Falter and 'Bama Keep Rolling - Highlights of Week 1
After a few tasters last week, the college football season kicked off in earnest at the weekend. True to form, there were a few shocks, while some erratic performances from two of the preseason Heisman favourites and an injury to another, led to a new contender emerging. Meanwhile, reigning champions Alabama, having lost a number of key players in the offseason, didn't miss a beat in their opener. Here's my highlights of the week...
No.1 Alabama 44-13 No.14 Miami
The defending champions rolled over the Hurricanes in their showpiece opening game in Atlanta. As news emerged that former Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones had won the starting job for the NFL's New England Patriots, his much-hyped successor was ready for college football's main stage. Enter Bryce Young stage left.
Alabama raced to a 27-0 lead mid-way through the 2nd quarter as Young made an impressive debut. He completed 28 of 37 passes for 344 yards and became the first Alabama quarterback to pass for 4 touchdowns on their debut. When you consider Mac Jones and Joe Namath managed three, it bodes well for the new quarterback and for the Crimson Tide's season. He has been installed as the new Heisman favourite. His highlight was a 94 yard scoring pass to Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams, while Cameron Latu hauled in another two touchdown receptions. Miami QB D'Eriq King, a fringe Heisman contender had a miserable day, culminating in a failed goal-line scoring attempt.
No.3 Clemson 3-10 No.5 Georgia
An upset of sorts, and certainly one for the purists. A Week One showdown that potentially has huge ramifications for the end of season playoff was dominated by defense. Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagelelei was swarmed by the Bulldogs' defense, who sacked him seven times. He looked uncomfortable under pressure and his first career interception was returned by Georgia's Christopher Smith, 74 yards, for the winning touchdown. Coach Dabo Swinney has his work cut out for his Clemson team to make the Playoff, but they will have easier games ahead.
Virginia Tech 17-10 No.10 North Carolina
A rocking Lane Stadium was the inspiration as Virginia Tech's defense sacked Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell six times and picked off three interceptions. It was a damaging opening day loss both for North Carolina, and their quarterback who potentially slips down the Heisman trophy and Draft pecking order. Virginia Tech QB Braxton Burmeister ran in for a 4-yard touchdown run and Chamarri Conner made the game-winning play, intercepting Howell with 37 seconds left to take a famous win.
No.16 LSU 28-37 UCLA
Chip Kelly is building something special in L.A. The Bruins sent LSU packing with an upset win that showed they will be a threat in the Pac-12 this year. Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for three touchdowns and 250 yards and running back Zach Charbonnet racked up a second consecutive 100-yard rushing week. The image of the game, though, was the big tight end Greg Dulcich rumbling down the field before showing two body swerves Barry Sanders would have been proud off before jumping into the end zone. He had 117 receiving yards for a UCLA offense the Tigers struggled to stop. LSU QB Max Johnson had 330 passing yards, but little support from the running game as LSU left the Rose Bowl with their tails between their legs.
No.17 Indiana 6-34 No.18 Iowa
Riley Moss was the star of the show in Iowa. The Hawkeyes' cornerback claimed two pick-sixes from Indiana quarterback Michael Penix, Jr, putting Iowa up 14-0 after just over two minutes and set the tone for the rest of the game. They led 31-3 at the half and go into the Cy-Hawk showdown with Iowa State this weekend full of confidence.
No.19 Penn State upset N0.12 Wisconsin at Camp Randall, a game that took some warming up after a scoreless first half. Badgers QB Graham Mertz was picked off on a fourth and goal play late in the fourth quarter.
The biggest upset of the weekend arguably took place at the home of sailgating, where Montana beat No.20 Washington 13-7, their first victory over the Huskies in over a hundred years. Washington will hope to get their season back on track on the road against Michigan this weekend.
No.2 Oklahoma 40-35 Tulane
As last year, Spencer Rattler's season was off to a rocky start, being picked off twice by an opportunist Tulane defense. Inspired perhaps by the awful devastation left by Hurricane Ida, the New Orleans-based team came close to a huge upset in Norman. Michael Pratt was composed at signal-caller for the Green Wave, who ran the Sooners close. Rattler's composure returned, completing fourteen straight passes and running in a touchdown after his first interception and showing why he is talked about as a top draft pick and Heisman contender. He finished with 30 of 39 passes completed for 304 yards and a dazzling 50-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Mims, who had 117 yards receiving. Interesting to see top QB recruit Caleb Williams make a cameo appearance for the Sooners, running in a 1-yard touchdown. We may see more of him this season.
No.23 Louisiana 18-38 No.21 Texas
The Steve Sarkisian era started promisingly in Austin as Texas jumped six places in the AP Top 25 after a comfortable win over the Ragin' Cajuns. Sark selected redshirt freshman Hudson Card as the Longhorns' starter and he had significant help from Bijan Robinson and Jordan Whittington. The Texas running back had 176 total yards offense, 103 rushing and 73 receiving, with touchdowns on the ground and in the air. Whittington had 113 receiving yards and a touchdown. All gas and no brakes yet.
No.4 Ohio State 45-31 Minnesota
Trailing at the half to an inspired Minnesota team, Ohio State could have been the headline of the week before scoring 35 second half points to beat the Golden Gophers. C.J. Stroud, after an interception, settled into the big shoes Justin Fields left behind as Ohio State quarterback, throwing for four touchdowns and 295 yards and an assured second half. Chris Olave cemented his NFL credentials with two touchdown receptions and 118 yards from four catches. Mohamed Ibrahim left the game with a leg injury that we since learned has put him out for the season. Ibrahim's showing to that point had been electric - 163 yards and two touchdowns. Without him, and with an erratic display from QB Tanner Morgan, Minnesota are in for a tough season.
Fresno State 24-31 No.11 Oregon
Oregon's season could well hinge on the health of its star defensive end, Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Ducks' edge rusher left the field with a sprained ankle ahead in the second quarter, after which Fresno State rallied from 14-0 down to take a 24-21 lead into the fourth. Ducks' QB Anthony Brown rushed for a 30-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-2 play leaving coach Mario Cristobal relived and hopeful for a healthy Thibodeaux when Oregon travels to Ohio State for arguably the game of this weekend.
Elsewhere… No.6 Texas A&M eased to a 41-10 home win over Kent State, while No.7 Iowa State looked laboured in their 16-10 win over Northern Iowa. No.8 Cincinnati were impressive in their 49-14 win over Ohio rivals Miami. Bearcats' QB Desmond Ridder passed for four touchdowns and 295 yards.
Michigan will threaten the Top 25 soon if they keep the form they showed in a promising opening day 47-14 win over Western Michigan although they lost WR Ronnie Bell for the season. Rivals Michigan State displayed significant improvement on last season with a 38-21 win over last year's Big Ten finalists Northwestern. Running back Kenneth Walker was one of college football's standouts in Week One with a 264 yard, 4 touchdown performance.
Mississippi State recovered from a 20-point deficit to beat Louisiana Tech 35-34, while neighbours Ole Miss dominated Louisville 43-24. QB Matt Corral outlined his Heisman credentials with 436 yards total offense. Look for him to put up more big numbers this weekend as Mississippi host Austin Peay in Oxford.
Auburn racked up 613 yards on offense in a 60-10 demolition of Akron and No.13 Florida took care of business in a 35-14 win over Florida Atlantic. The Gators rushed for 400 yards.
Look out for:
No.12 Oregon @ No.3 Ohio State - Mario Cristobal's Ducks test themselves against Ryan Day's deeply talented Buckeyes in Columbus
No.10 Iowa takes on No.9 Iowa State in the Cy-Hawk showdown - an absolute must-win for both teams.
No.21 Utah @ BYU - "The Holy War" rivalry continues as Charlie Brewer leads the Utes on the road at Brigham Young in one of college football's oldest grudge matches.
Here’s this week’s AP Top 25: Rank Team Record 1 (1) Alabama 1-0 2 (5) Georgia 1-0 3 (4) Ohio State 1-0 4 (2) Oklahoma 1-0 5 (6) Texas A&M 1-0 6 (3) Clemson 0-1 7 (8) Cincinnati 1-0 8 (9) Notre Dame 1-0 9 (7) Iowa State 1-0 10 (18) Iowa 1-0 11 (19) Penn State 1-0 12 (11) Oregon 1-0 13 (13) Florida 1-0 14 (15) USC 1-0 15 (21) Texas 1-0 16 (42) UCLA 2-0 17 (22) Coastal Carolina 1-0 18 (12) Wisconsin 0-1 19 (-) Virgina Tech 1-0 20 (27) Ole Miss 1-0 21 (24) Utah 1-0 22 (14) Miami 0-1 23 (25) Arizona State 1-0 24 (10) North Carolina 0-1 25 (30) Auburn 1-0