Alabama Rolls, Upsets Reign in Week One of College Football
Week One of the college football season is (almost) in the books and it certainly kicked off the season in a big way. Here are some of the things we learned from the first week of action in college football.
Alabama is Still the Team to Beat
Few teams could survive losing a Heisman Trophy winner and the core of a top defense to the NFL draft and still dominate the next season. But No. 1 Alabama is not just any team and they showed it in a 52-6 thrashing of No. 20 USC. The Crimson Tide defense showed it hasn’t missed a beat, holding the Trojans to just 194 total yards. USC was held without a touchdown for the first time since 1997 and to its fewest points since 2001. This marked the Trojans’ biggest point margin in a defeat since a 51-0 loss to Notre Dame in 1966.
On the other side of the ball, Alabama’s quarterback battle may finally be settled. Three different quarterbacks played, but it was freshman Jalen Hurts who grabbed the spotlight with 118 passing yards and two touchdowns to go along with two more scores on the ground.
With Alabama’s dominant performance and struggles throughout the rest of the SEC (more on that in a minute), the Crimson Tide still very much looks like the team to beat in the conference.
It Was a Rough Day in the SEC
Aside from Alabama’s rout, it was a rough week for the Southeastern Conference. On Thursday night, Tennessee needed overtime to get past Appalachian State. Then this weekend, No. 5 LSU fell to Wisconsin, 16-14, while Kentucky lost to Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State fell to South Alabama. Throw in Missouri falling to West Virginia, Auburn losing to Clemson and Arkansas needing a fourth quarter comeback to get past Louisiana Tech and it was not a stellar showing for the conference. All together, the SEC suffered six Week One losses, its most in 21 years.
Yes, No. 18 Georgia looked good in beating No. 22 North Carolina and Texas A&M upset No. 16 UCLA. And No. 11 Ole Miss can still make a statement Monday night against No. 4 Florida State. But, after Alabama, it is clear that the SEC has more holes than we’ve seen in past years.
We May Already Have the Play of the Year
Yes, I know it’s only Week One but I’ll venture a guess that we may already have one of the top plays of the year. With No. 15 Houston trailing Oklahoma, 19-17, midway through the third quarter, the Sooners lined up for a 53-yard field goal. The kick was short and the Cougars’ Brandon Wilson took it from there.
Officially, it goes down as a 100-yard kickoff return. But I’m scoring it as 109.9 yards as his back foot was just inches from the end line, making this pretty close to the longest play possible in college football. While it might not have had the last-minute drama of Auburn’s “kick six” against Alabama three years ago, it was no less impressive.
Did It Just Get Really Dusty in Here?
In late July, Nebraska punter Sam Foltz was killed in a car accident. In the weeks since, the university has come up with a variety of ways to honor his memory, including the creation of a new memorial scholarship in his name, which was announced prior to the Huskers’ game against Fresno State. But the moment everyone will rightfully remember is when Nebraska was forced to punt for the first time and came out in a “missing man” formation with just ten men on the field.
It was a classy move by Nebraska to honor one of their own and kudos to Fresno State for joining in, cheering on with the Nebraska fans and declining the delay of game penalty. It’s a reminder that there are bigger things than football and that, once in a while, even big-time college athletic programs can do the right thing.
It Was a Good Day for the Little Guys
While we had more good games than usual for the first week of the season, most of the Week One action featured FCS or other small schools taking on big-name opponents. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t compete. We had several upsets and other close calls that showed that’s why they play the games.
As already mentioned, South Alabama knocked off Mississippi State. Richmond manhandled Virginia, 37-20, in Bronco Mendenhall’s coaching debut with the Cavaliers. Eastern Washington took down Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars. Northern Iowa beat Iowa State and Western Michigan edged past Northwestern.
And we were almost treated to more upsets as Arkansas and TCU needed late rallies against Louisiana Tech and South Dakota State, respectively. Appalachian State almost nearly off another miracle upset, falling in overtime at No. 9 Tennessee.
And while Texas State knocking off Ohio might not boast name-brand schools, the ending shows these small school games can be very bit as exciting as their big-time counterparts.
IT'S FINALLY OVER!
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 4, 2016
Nick Chubb is Back
Just 10 months after a devastating knee injury that ended a record-setting season, Georgia running back Nick Chubb showed that he is back to 100% and is very much a contender in the Heisman race. New Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the Bulldogs did not plan to ease Chubb back into action and it showed, as the workhorse back ran for 222 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in his first game back against No. 22 North Carolina.
Earlier, I said 2016 could be the year of the running back and, if he can stay healthy, Chubb could play a very big part in that.