The first weekend of college football is always an exercise in endurance as it typically begins on Thursday night and the final game doesn’t end until late Monday night. There were plenty of great games to keep us occupied this Labor Day weekend and here is how I saw the top ten teams’ performances:
- Ohio State Buckeyes – Defeated Virginia Tech 42-24 (Monday) – There was a lot of talk about whether or not the Buckeyes would be able to win on the road in the their opener with four key players suspended and the answer was a resounding ‘Yes’. Junior quarterback Cardale Jones was tapped as the starter and was just too big and strong for Virginia Tech’s defense but the star of the show was converted wide receiver Braxton Miller who finished the night with 2 touchdowns.
- TCU Horned Frogs – Defeated Minnesota 23-17 (Thursday) – Expectations are sky high for TCU and they didn’t look bad in Week 1 but they didn’t look great either. Yeah, quarterback Trevone Boykin tossed a touchdown pass and ran in a score but he did throw an interception and complete less than 50% of his passes. Minnesota is no slouch, especially on the road, but the Horned Frogs need to look the part to stay the second ranked team in the country.
- Alabama Crimson Tide – Defeated (20) Wisconsin 35-17 in Arlington, Texas – As predicted, the Crimson Tide went with Jake Coker at quarterback and then didn’t throw the ball more than 25 times. Alabama did what Alabama does best which is play good run defense and run the football. The Tide held Wisconsin to 40 rushing yards while running for 238 yards themselves. It shouldn’t surprise many that Alabama rolled over Wisconsin since they both do pretty much the same thing offensively and Alabama has done it better for the last couple years.
- Baylor Bears – Defeated SMU 56-21 (Sunday) – Everyone one the offensive side of the ball returned in 2015 except for Bryce Petty but once new quarterback Seth Russell shook off some of the early game jitters, it was all over for the Mustangs. Russell finished with 376 yards passing and 6 total touchdowns (5 passing, 1 rushing) and distributed the ball well allowing the Bears to have two 100+ yard receivers. It will be a solid month at least before we see the Bears against anything resembling a defense but until then, let the fireworks continue.
- Michigan State Spartans – Defeated Western Michigan 37-24 (Friday) – Many feel that the Spartans are the only chance a Big Ten team has of beating the bully on the block, Ohio State. I feel that way too but I also know that how they perform against Western Michigan has no bearing on their late November meeting with the Buckeyes. Senior quarterback Conner Cook looked solid throwing for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns and the defense looked pretty good even though they allowed 24 points. This Saturday’s game against Oregon will be a much better barometer.
- Auburn Tigers – Defeated Louisville 31-24 in Atlanta, Georgia – There is a lot of excitement surround this Auburn team and it looked like they were going to roll over Louisville in the Georgia Dome until they were outscored 24-14 in the second half and had to hold on for dear life against the Cardinals. Will Muschamp’s defense is going to have to get better down the stretch and junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson can’t continue to throw bad interceptions like he did on Saturday. We learned a lot about the Tigers on Saturday, let’s just hope Gus Malzahn did too.
- Oregon Ducks – Defeated Eastern Washington 61-42 – The Ducks were the only top ten team playing an FCS opponent and they gave up the most points of anyone in the top ten after taking that teams starting quarterback. That’s not a good look for the Ducks defense. Old Eastern Washington and new Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams threw for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns in his green & yellow debut but was also knocked out of the game on a cheap shot by a former teammate. The Ducks have a lot to get fixed before this Saturday’s showdown in East Lansing.
- USC Tojans – Defeated Arkansas State 55-6 – Winning is the supreme elixir and the Trojans and head coach Steve Sarkisian found that out Saturday night after they drubbed the Red Wolves in Los Angeles. Senior quarterback and Heisman hopeful Cody Kessler threw for only 236 yards but did toss 4 touchdown passes to four different receivers. The Trojans defense also looked good by forcing 4 turnovers but the best thing that happened for the Trojans Saturday night was that the backups got some much-needed playing time.
- Georgia Bulldogs – Defeated UL-Monroe 51-14 – We all know that sophomore running back Nick Chubb is the star of the group but the revolving door of Chubb, Sony Michel & Keith Marshall proved to be way too much for the Warhawks on Saturday as the trio combined for 34 touches, 313 yards and 5 touchdowns. It won’t matter who the quarterback is between the hedges if those three keep producing numbers like that. New Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert did look sharp in the opener going 8-for-12 for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns.
- Florida State Seminoles – Defeated Texas State 59-16 – It’s a whole new world for Seminoles fans with what seems like the whole team is made up of new faces. Transfer quarterback Everett Golson looked sharp throwing for 4 touchdowns and 302 yards but sophomore running back Dalvin Cook went for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns in the opener. Florida State looked good on offense, defense and on every special teams unit except anything to do with punting. Senior punter Cason Beatty had a rough night and the Noles muffed two punt returns in the big win.
Temple Owls – It had been 74 years since the Temple Owls last beat the Nittany Lions but 10 sacks of the potential #1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft is one heck of a way to break the streak and begin the season with a win. The Owls defense held Penn State to 180 total yards of offense and only allowed Penn State 2 3rd down conversions. This week’s AAC Eastern division match up against Cincinnati just got a whole lot better.
BYU Cougars – Before Saturday, the last time Nebraska lost a season opener at home was 1985 when the Florida State Seminoles came in and edged the Cornhuskers 17-13. Saturday the backup quarterback Tanner Mangum who is just 5 months removed from his 2 year long Mormon mission came in for injured quarterback Taysom Hill and threw a 42 yard hail mary for the historic win in Lincoln.
Northwestern Wildcats – This was supposed to be the season that got Stanford back into the Pac-12 title race and national spotlight and it may still be but they will continue the rest of the season with a 16-6 loss to the Northwestern Wildcats who have had a rough year and a half. The Wildcats have gone 6-14 since that home loss to Ohio State in 2013 and got a much-needed big win on Saturday.