No crazy upsets went down in Week 1, at least among ranked teams, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the latest set of college football rankings. The Top 10 went through a shuffle, and while it’s too early to make bold proclamations, the movement may affect how we view these teams the rest of the season.
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We’ll start with Clemson, which throttled Kent State by 53 on Saturday and rose to No. 3. Kelly Bryant was so good he made us ask, “Deshaun wh ...?” (Yeah, that sentence was so preposterous we’re not even going finish it.) That said, Bryant was really good on Saturday. We won't dub him The Next Big Thing just yet. It was Kent State, after all. But playing very well against Kent State is better than playing poorly against Kent State. Bryant averaged a healthy 10.7 yards per pass attempt and notched over 10 yards per carry.
Outside of quarterback, there are no questions about Clemson. If Bryant is a solid starter, the Tigers are a legitimate national championship contender.
Clemson knocked an ACC rival out of the No. 3 spot. That's Florida State, which had one of the roughest opening weeks of any college football power in recent memory. In a brutal loss to Alabama, Florida State’s offense was anemic (though its defense looked as stout as expected).
The loss of quarterback Deondre Francois was especially crushing. That probably has more to do with Florida State slipping all the way to No. 10 than the loss to Alabama. Francois was a sophomore leader for the Seminoles. He was poised to have a big year. Their playoff hopes weren’t doomed with a season-opening loss, especially to a team of Alabama's caliber. But the combination of an 0-1 start and losing your star quarterback? That's going to be tough to bounce back from. True freshman James Blackman will get the nod under center now. By all accounts, he’s a talented player. Again, though, he’s a true freshman. Florida State could still have an excellent season, but it’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
Another team that fell in the rankings: USC, which tumbled from fourth to sixth. The Trojans struggled against Western Michigan for three quarters before pulling away in the fourth. The Broncos gashed USC on the ground to the tune of 263 yards.
The good news for USC: It still has Sam Darnold, it still has Ronald Jones II (perhaps the most underrated running back in America) and the defensive ability is there, even if we didn’t see it on Saturday. The bad news: If the Trojans are as bad against the run against Stanford as they were against Western Michigan, they’re in for a rude awakening in Week 2. The Cardinal ran for about three miles in their season opener against Rice (OK, 287 yards). Stanford’s biggest strength is USC’s biggest weakness.
A quick aside: It’s interesting to see how USC struggled to beat Western Michigan, which won 13 games and made a Cotton Bowl appearance in 2016, and dropped two spots. Louisville, meanwhile, had similar troubles against Purdue, ultimately pulling out a seven-point victory due almost entirely to Lamar Jackson’s brilliance, and fell only one spot. The Boilermakers have won nine games in the past four seasons combined.
Perhaps there’s a distinct divide between schools in the Top 10 and schools in the 11-20 range. There just isn’t much room for error if you’re contending for a playoff spot. Plenty of worthy candidates lurk in the shadows.
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Two new schools joined the fray this week: TCU and Notre Dame. The No. 23 Horned Frogs notched a 63-0 win against Jackson State. The No. 24 Fighting Irish smoked Temple, which won the AAC last year, by 33 points.
Yes, the Owls lost head coach Matt Rhule, along with many of their best players. But this was a big win for Notre Dame, a program that, simply put, just needed some good vibes after last year’s 4-8 stinker. Brandon Wimbush was steady under center. Tailback Josh Adams was better than steady, running for 161 yards and two scores on 19 totes. Dexter Williams was better than steady and good, picking up 124 rushing yards on just six attempts.
Too often in the past, Notre Dame has fallen in love with the passing game. But with such an impressive offensive line and stable of running backs, the Fighting Irish don’t need to get cute. Trust the talent, and they’ll win plenty of games. A big Week 2 showdown with No. 15 Georgia awaits.
Week 1 was loads of fun. There was the UCLA comeback over Texas A&M. There was Tennessee’s massive win over Georgia Tech.
And yet, it feels like the best is yet to come. Buckle up, college football fans.