1aLABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
A 52–6 win over USC surely pleases even the most demanding Alabama supporters. The Crimson Tide racked up 465 yards at AT&T Stadium, utilizing true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts so well that it appears Alabama has found its quarterback of the future. Redshirt freshman Blake Barnett got the start, but Hurts replaced him after two series. Despite a fumble on his first play, he rebounded to finish 6-of-11 for 118 yards with four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) and one interception. Satisfying all around… except for Nick Saban.
Last week: Beat USC 52–6
Next week: Saturday vs. Western Kentucky
Clemson survived a close call at Jordan-Hare Stadium, bringing only a 10–3 lead into halftime and benefiting from a couple of defensive penalties by Auburn. A steady but unspectacular Deshaun Watson got help in the form of a 30-carry, 123-yard performance from running back Wayne Gallman and a nine-catch, 174-yard outing from wide receiver Mike Williams. Still, following a puzzling call by Tigers coach Dabo Swinney not to kick a field goal on his team’s final drive, Clemson had to sweat out two Hail Mary attempts before securing the victory. It was Good enough for Week 1, but how much longer?
Last week: Beat Auburn 19-13
Next week: Saturday vs. Troy
33FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
On one hand, Florida State’s comeback Monday night against Ole Miss was awe-inspiring. The Seminoles erased a 28–6 late-second-quarter deficit fairly quickly, gaining the lead at 9:17 in the third quarter and proceeding to reel off 33 unanswered points. In the process, they found something incredibly promising in redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois (33 of 52, 419 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions) that should have 'Noles fans very, very excited moving forward.
On the other hand, Florida State needed the incredible comeback (and/or Ole Miss’s nightmarish collapse) in the first place. You can bet Jimbo Fisher will be drilling that point home, especially with a trip to Louisville coming in two weeks.
Last week: Beat Ole Miss 45-34
Next week: Saturday vs. Charleston Southern
Redshirt junior Wilton Speight threw an interception on his first play as Michigan’s starting quarterback, but that was about the only blight on the Wolverines’ opener. With a 512-yard effort, including 306 on the ground, Michigan rolled to an easy 63–3 win. Speight finished with a solid line, despite the early pick: 10-of-13, 145 yards and three touchdowns.
Last week: Beat Hawaii 63-3
Next week: Saturday vs. UCF
55Ohio State Buckeyes
Just like its archrival, Ohio State cruised in an easy season opener. J.T. Barrett tossed six touchdowns and ran for another, while redshirt freshman Mike Weber began his college career in fine form with 19 carries for 136 yards. Bowling Green provided hardly any challenge, and Tulsa likely won’t either on Saturday. Then it gets real for Ohio State: It faces Oklahoma on Sept. 17.
Last week: Beat Bowling Green 77-10
Next week: Saturday vs. Tulsa
The Houston hype train rolls on. With Big 12 expansion talk swirling, the Cougars backed up all the positive press coverage they’ve been receiving with an impressive upset win over Oklahoma at NRG Stadium in Houston. Greg Ward Jr. threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns, good enough to outshine an impressive outing from Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (24-of-33, 323 yards, two touchdowns). Credit Houston’s defense for limiting Oklahoma to two touchdowns and limiting the Sooners’ vaunted rushing attack to 70 yards. The Cougars are for real and very much a College Football Playoff candidate at this point.
Last week: Beat Oklahoma 33–23
Next week: Saturday vs. Lamar
Another preseason darling, Washington got through Week 1 as expected by thrashing Rutgers at home. The Huskies scored three minutes into the game and added a total of 24 unanswered points in the first quarter. By that point, it was already over. Washington travels to Arizona on Sept. 24 to begin Pac-12 play, but its first real challenge shouldn’t come until the following week, when Stanford visits Husky Stadium.
Last week: Beat Rutgers 48-13
Next week: Saturday vs. Idaho
Because Christian McCaffrey managed only 210 all-purpose yards, Stanford’s season-opening win against Kansas State felt fairly lackluster. Just kidding… about the first part. The Cardinal held the Wildcats to just two field goals until 2:20 remained in the fourth quarter, when a Kansas State touchdown cut Stanford’s lead to 19–13. Then McCaffrey busted a 41-yard touchdown run on the following play to put the game away. Still, Stanford will have to perform better against tougher competition—its next three opponents are USC, at UCLA and at Washington.
Last week: Beat Kansas State 26-13
Next week: Sept. 17 vs. USC
99Michigan State Spartans
Furman stayed within eight points of Michigan State as late as the 4:55 mark in the fourth quarter, so the Spartans’ climb in the rankings is due purely to attrition. Two turnovers and a 10-penalty effort give Mark Dantonio’s squad plenty to improve upon moving forward. Fortunately, Michigan State doesn’t play again until Sept. 17. Unfortunately, that entails a trip to Notre Dame.
Last week: Beat Furman 28-13
Next week: Sept. 17 at Notre Dame
By losing to Houston, Oklahoma becomes the highest-ranked team to begin the season 0–1. As mentioned above, Mayfield was exceptional (fourth-quarter fumble aside) and getting that running game going with Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine feels much more like a matter of “when” than “if.” That should happen this week, as next up is a Louisiana-Monroe team that allowed Southern’s Lenard Tillery to rush for 161 yards on 26 carries on Saturday. For Oklahoma’s sake, it better happen this week—a primetime date with Ohio State looms later this month.
Last week: Lost to Houston 33–23
Next week: Saturday vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Iowa’s backfield pairing of Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr. was stellar this weekend, carrying 22 times for 204 yards and four touchdowns combined. The Hawkeyes’ defense was the opposite, allowing Miami (Ohio) to outgain them 424–404. Star linebacker Josey Jewell was lost early in the game due to a targeting ejection, but there’s little excuse for allowing the RedHawks (109th last season in total offense) three scoring drives spanning 75, 75 and 74 yards.
Last week: Beat Miami (Ohio) 45–21
Next week: Saturday vs. Iowa State
The first ranked team to move down after a win, Tennessee needed overtime to shake off Appalachian State. Specifically, Tennessee needed Jalen Hurd’s end-zone recovery of a fumble by quarterback Joshua Dobbs to shake off the Mountaineers. That final score gave the Vols their only lead of the game, a startling fact for a program that entered the season with considerable hype after winning its final six games in 2015.
Last week: Beat Appalachian State 20-13
Next week: Saturday vs. Virginia Tech
Lamar Jackson set a school record—and tied the ACC record— with eight touchdowns in Louisville’s 70–14 win vs. Charlotte. He did so within the first half, and while completing 17 of 23 passes for 286 yards and rushing 11 times for 119 yards. Yeah, that’s enough to generate some Heisman buzz.
Last week: Beat Charlotte 70-14
Next week: Friday at Syracuse
Georgia enjoyed a quality win to open the season, reestablishing Nick Chubb (32 carries, 222 yards, two touchdowns) as one of the country’s top running backs, finding an answer at quarterback in true freshman Jacob Eason (8-of-12, 131 yards, one touchdown) and shaking off a North Carolina team that looks like a threat to win the ACC’s Coastal Division. All in all, a solid start to the Kirby Smart era for the Bulldogs.
Last week: Beat North Carolina 33-24
Next week: Saturday vs. Nicholls State
1515oklahoma state cowboys
Not much to see here. Oklahoma State began resting starters in the second quarter after the Cowboys put up 28 in the first en route to a 61–7 win over Southeastern Louisiana. Barry J. Sanders, son of the Hall of Fame running back, totaled 76 all-purpose yards and scored a touchdown in his first game since his graduate transfer from Stanford.
Last week: Beat Southeastern Louisiana 61-7
Next week: Saturday vs. Central Michigan
1616Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss holds steady at No. 16 because while the Rebels’ collapse vs. Florida State in Orlando was “nightmarish” (Hugh Freeze’s word), the fact that they built a 22-point first-half lead on the Seminoles remains impressive. Chad Kelly tossed 215 first-half passing yards, moving Ole Miss up the field at breakneck pace on four scoring drives that each lasted at least six plays and 72 yards.
Whatever’s to blame for the Rebels’ collapse—the erasure of its pass rush, the implosion of its secondary, Kelly’s turnovers—will have to be fixed quickly though. Alabama comes to Oxford in two weeks.
Last week: Lost to Florida State 45-34
Next week: Saturday vs. Wofford
Oregon started off somewhat slow vs. UC Davis, punting on its first two possessions and leading just 8–7 after the first quarter, but saw a promising debut from Dakota Prukop (21-of-30, 271 yards, three touchdowns), the graduate transfer quarterback from Montana State. For whatever it’s worth, the game also snapped the Ducks’ 110-game sellout streak at Autzen Stadium.
Last week: Beat UC Davis 53-28
Next week: Saturday vs. Virginia
1815tcu horned frogs
Junior transfer Kenny Hill threw for 439 yards and accounted for five touchdowns in his debut for TCU, which would’ve been ranked higher if its defense hadn’t surrendered 41 points and 461 yards to FCS program South Dakota State. Jackrabbits quarterback Taryn Christion went 19-of-30 for 333 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Isaac Wallace added 112 yards and a touchdown on 16 yards per carry. Next up is Arkansas, which struggled to put away Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
Last week: Beat South Dakota State 59-41
Next week: Saturday vs. Arkansas
Wisconsin enjoyed one of the most satisfying wins of the opening weekend, erasing doubts about its viability as a threat in the Big Ten West with a 16–14 upset of perceived playoff contender LSU. Up against former coordinator Dave Aranda and his roster chock full of future NFL talent, Wisconsin’s defense forced Tigers quarterback Brandon Harris into two brutal interceptions and, most impressively, limited star running back Leonard Fournette to 138 yards on 23 carries. The Badgers’ schedule is one of the most challenging in college football this year, but a beginning like this drastically alters the outlook in Madison.
Last week: Beat LSU 16-14
Next week: Saturday vs. Akron
The sheer amount of talent present on LSU’s roster keeps the Tigers only one spot below Wisconsin, but make no mistake—Les Miles’s team has some work to do. Harris’s inconsistency is particularly troubling. A two-point loss to a fringe top-25 team with a home-state advantage in the season opener typically wouldn’t be something to fret over, but after last year’s saga with Miles, this wasn’t the start LSU wanted in 2016.
Last week: Lost to Wisconsin 16-14
Next week: Saturday vs. Jacksonville St.
2115texas a&m aggies
Texas A&M cracks the top 25 after its overtime win vs. UCLA. As our Brian Hamilton wrote afterward, this one got weird. Trevor Knight’s one-yard touchdown run in overtime put the Aggies ahead for good, though they did have to overcome a few achingly close Josh Rosen Hail Mary attempts. UCLA outgained Texas A&M, but didn’t reach the end zone for more than 55 minutes to begin the game. Who knows how this will affect Kevin Sumlin’s long-term job security, but it was the start he needed as the Aggies seek something better than another eight-win campaign.
Last week: Beat UCLA 31-24
Next week: Saturday vs. Prairie View A&M
Yes, it came against Florida A&M, but a 70–3 opener is enough to boost Miami into the top 25 here. Mark Richt’s first game leading the Hurricanes saw Miami boast its first trio of hundred-yard rushers (Mark Walton, Gus Edwards and Joseph Yearby) since 1987, while Brad Kaaya tossed four touchdown passes. We probably won’t get a great sense of Miami’s quality until ACC play—or, perhaps, the Appalachian State trip on Sept. 17—but this was undeniably a solid start for the ‘Canes.
Last week: Beat Florida A&M 70-3
Next week: Saturday vs. Florida Atlantic
2315boise state broncos
A sound defeat of Louisiana Lafayette has Boise State off to a strong start following a nine-win 2015 effort. Next week should be interesting, then, as a frustrated Washington State team—which fell out of the rankings after losing to FCS foe Eastern Washington—comes to town.
Last week: Beat Louisiana Lafayette 45-10
Next week: Saturday vs. Washington State
2415san diego state aztecs
You can’t do much better in a season opener than pitching a shutout, and that’s what San Diego State did vs. New Hampshire. Last year’s 11–3, Mountain West-winning season set expectations high for the Aztecs in 2016, and this 461-to-141-yard, zero-turnover performance is a solid start toward meeting them.
Last week: Beat New Hampshire 31-0
Next week: Saturday vs. California
We don’t quite know just how good Texas is yet, but the Longhorns deserve a spot in the rankings after Sunday night’s classic. Knocking off a Notre Dame team fueled by brilliant quarterback DeShone Kizer is no small feat, especially as Texas was trusting a true freshman (Shane Buechele) at the same position. Buechele was solid, completing 16 of 26 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns with just one bad interception. The frequently maligned former starter, Tyrone Swoopes, rushed for three touchdowns (including the game-winner in double overtime) to give the Longhorns the feel of an offense with a dangerous dual-quarterback approach.
Last week: Beat Notre Dame 50-47 in double OT
Next week: Saturday vs. UTEP
Dropped out: Washington State, North Carolina, UCLA
Next five: UCLA, North Carolina, Washington State, Florida, Baylor