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Zach Pekale | | September 3, 2019

College football takeaways: Top results from Week 1 and what they mean for the playoff race

Relive some of the best college football moments of Week 1

Following a packed slate of games, college football has returned in full. The opening weekend of 2019 was filled with show-stopping moments, late-game drama and even a triple-overtime thriller.

Here's what you may have missed from Week 1 of the FBS and FCS seasons, now that Week 1 is officially closed out with Notre Dame's 18-point victory over Louisville Monday night.


A new Heisman favorite at Clemson?

Clemson’s season-opening win against Georgia Tech —a 52-14 romp on Thursday — went as many might've expected, other than the performance of Trevor Lawrence. The sophomore had one of his shakier appearances at Clemson, throwing two interceptions in addition to making some other uncharacteristic mistakes.

Much of the attention surrounding the defending champs coming into 2019 revolved around Lawrence. Understandably so. As a true freshman, he picked apart an intricate Alabama defense to lead Clemson to its second national championship in three years.

Often overlooked is Travis Etienne. The junior averaged more than eight yards per carry in 2018, and well exceeded that mark against the Yellow Jackets. Etienne erupted for 205 yards and three touchdowns, needing only 12 carries to do so. His longest carry of the night came on a 90-yard touchdown burst.

BO KNOWS: Auburn rallies from 15 down, beats Oregon late on Nix TD

While Lawrence may be in the spotlight, Etienne will have a chance to shine and could be in the Heisman conversation later this season for a Tigers team seeking their fifth straight College Football Playoff appearance.

Alabama, Tua roll Duke in Atlanta

Alabama made the first of potentially three trips to Atlanta this season, beating Duke 42-3.

After a scoreless first quarter, Tua Tagovailoa and the offense settled in to score touchdowns on six of their final nine drives, outgaining the Blue Devils 512-204 for the game.

Tagovailoa didn’t appear to show any lingering symptoms from an ankle injury that plagued him toward the end of last year. The junior nearly had the same number of touchdowns (four) as he did incompletions (five).

Including Clemson and Alabama, the top 10 teams in the preseason Associated Press poll won their openers by an average margin of victory of 26.7 points.

Overall, only one ranked team lost in the opening week — No. 11 Oregon. 

Irish pull away from Louisville in second half

Louisville and No. 9 Notre Dame remained tied for much of the first half before Ian Book's 11-yard scamper put the Fighting Irish ahead going into halftime. That lead was never relinquished as the Notre Dame defense locked down out of the break, limiting the Cardinals to 143 net yards in the second half of a 35-17 win.

Of those yards, 59 came on two chunk plays. 

Book threw for 193 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another score and Tony Jones Jr. paced the Irish rushing attack with 110 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

The Cardinals showed signs of improvement under new head coach Scott Satterfield, but continued to be hindered by turnovers. Offensively, Louisville struggled to take care of the ball in 2018 with a -12 turnover margin. Against Notre Dame on Monday, its three giveaways resulted in a -2 margin.

Returning to the College Football Playoff for a second straight year will be difficult as an independent team, though the Irish started off on the right foot in 2019. Impending trips to Georgia on Sept. 21 and Michigan on Oct. 26 won't make the road any easier.

How does the Pac-12 fit into the College Football Playoff equation?

Oregon, the Pac-12’s highest-ranked preseason team, led No. 16 Auburn 21-6 with 9:34 to go in the third quarter. The Tigers then scored 21 unanswered points — the last touchdown coming on an 18-yard dart from true freshman Bo Nix to Seth Williams with nine seconds remaining to secure a 27-21 win.

Before the season, Oregon was projected to win the Pac-12 North Division in the conference’s preseason media poll. After the Ducks' 0-1 start, where does the conference stand in the CFP picture? 

With the league producing two CFP participants since the introduction of the format in 2014, two teams with good position to compete are Washington and Utah. 

The Huskies were the last Pac-12 team to make the four-team Playoff in 2016 while Utah was chosen as the conference champion in the Pac-12 preseason media poll. The Ducks could still make noise despite the loss, though their margin for error has been minimized.

As for Auburn, the Tigers add a quality non-conference win to their schedule prior to a daunting SEC slate. Their schedule calls for road trips to Texas A&M, Florida and LSU as well as home meetings with Georgia and Alabama.

Jalen Hurts shines in Sooners debut

After gaining 508 scrimmage yards and piling up six total touchdowns, Jalen Hurts' first game at Oklahoma could not have gone much better as the Sooners won 49-31 over Houston.

It was a performance worthy of inclusion in a Heisman Trophy conversation. The senior's arrival in Norman prompted early theories of the Sooners producing a third-straight Heisman winner, following Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

While there is still a lot of football to be played, Hurts has already associated himself with one of his predecessors. His yardage total is the fifth-best in Oklahoma history with only Mayfield and Landry Jones producing more yards in a game for the Sooners.

Sunday's game marked the 13th time Oklahoma has registered at least 600 yards of total offense under Lincoln Riley.

FCS foe nearly stuns Iowa State at home

After back-to-to back eight-win seasons under Matt Campbell, No. 21 Iowa State was considered by some to be a trendy pick to compete in the Big 12, ranked in the preseason for the first time since 1978.

But trailing late against FCS Northern Iowa, the Cyclones were on the verge of being upset until a late field goal sent the game to overtime. 

The Panthers nearly pulled off the shocker when ISU running back Sheldon Croney Jr. fumbled near the goal line in the third overtime. Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy recovered the ball, enabling Croney to punch in the winning touchdown on the ensuing play. Iowa State survived 29-26 to enter a bye week at 1-0.

TOP 25 SCORES: How every preseason top 25 team fared in Week 1

Quarterback carousel: How top transfers fared in Week 1

Multiple College Football Playoff contenders are starting new signal-callers this season. Here’s how some familiar faces performed this weekend in their new programs' debuts:

Jalen Hurts, Senior — Oklahoma

Hurts brings big-game experience to Norman, having appeared in three CFP national championship games at Alabama. Replacing a Heisman Trophy winner is not easy but the Sooners' new signal caller had a strong debut in a 49-31 win over Houston. Hurts scored six combined touchdowns — three passing and three rushing — and single-handedly outgained the Cougars in total yards, 508-408.

Justin Fields, Sophomore — Ohio State

Fields replaces 2018 first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins at quarterback for the Buckeyes, and showed why the former top recruit had lofty expectations following his initial commitment to Georgia. 

Ohio State cruised to a 45-21 win over coach Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic to ring in the era of new coach Ryan Day. The sophomore tossed four touchdowns, picking up a fifth on the ground while amassing close to 300 total yards. 

Jacob Eason, Junior — Washington

Eason grew up outside of Seattle and returned to Washington after transferring from Georgia. In his homecoming and first game with the Huskies, the junior completed 75 percent of his passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns.

Washington handled FCS foe Eastern Washington 47-14.

Brandon Wimbush, Senior — UCF

After transferring from Notre Dame, Wimbush became the starter in Orlando following injuries to McKenzie Milton and Darriel Mack Jr.

His debut, although brief, gave the Knights a glimpse of what could ultimately become a third straight appearance to a New Year's Six bowl game. Wimbush completed 12 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns in an abbreviated start. The Knights beat Florida A&M 62-0.

Kelly Bryant, Senior — Missouri

Bryant's debut in Columbia was memorable from a statistical standpoint. The Clemson transfer flashed good arm strength and pocket poise as he threw for 423 yards a pair of touchdowns, completing 31 of 48 passes.

However, the Tigers' defense was unable to stop Wyoming, dropping their opener 37-31 to the Cowboys.


Trey Lance guides No. 1 North Dakota State to opening rout

Top-ranked North Dakota State opened its title defense with Butler on Saturday, cruising to a 57-10 win in Minneapolis. The outcome was earmarked by the debut of new starting quarterback Trey Lance.

Lofty expectations loomed large for the redshirt freshman with NFL draft picks Carson Wentz and Easton Stick as his predecessors, but Lance rose to the occasion. He completed 10-of-11 passes for 185 yards and four touchdowns and racked up an additional 112 yards and two scores on the ground.

Southeastern Louisiana shakes up poll with top 10 upset

Jacksonville State was the first top-10 FCS team to fall without playing an FBS opponent as Southeastern Louisiana edged the No. 6 Gamecocks 35-14. Zerrick Cooper threw for 414 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.

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Despite the outcome, Jacksonville State had an edge in total yards, out-gaining the Lions 537-367 and possessing the ball for eight minutes more than Southeastern Louisiana. JSU has won four of the last five Ohio Valley Conference titles and has made six straight FCS playoffs.

Flacco leads Towson's late escape of The Citadel

After leading The Citadel for most of the afternoon, No. 12 Towson found itself trailing with 3:31 to play. But quarterback Tom Flacco orchestrated a six-play drive, capped by Shane Simpson’s four-yard scamper inside of the final 90 seconds to regain the lead.

Simpson accounted for over 100 scrimmage yards and three total touchdowns in the 28-21 win.

FCS vs. FBS close calls

FCS teams went a combined 1-39 against FBS programs in Week 1. No. 25 Central Arkansas picked up the lone win, knocking off Western Kentucky 35-28 on Thursday night.

Six more teams ranked in the FCS Coaches' Poll preseason top 25 came within one possession of knocking off an FBS opponent. Here’s how each fared:

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