The Rundown: Week 1's Standouts, Defining Moments and Our New Top 10

Which players, teams and moments stood out—whether for better or for worse—in a crazier-than-expected Week 1? Plus, our new Top 10 ranking.
By Ross Dellenger ,

Do you like change? We hope so.

We've expanded our weekly Top 10 from last season to incorporate more goodies for you to gobble up each Sunday. Welcome to The Rundown. While we will continue each week to rank the Top 10 teams in college football, we'll also rank nine more categories from Saturday's slew of games. The categories will vary each week and each category will drop by one count.

Here’s what we mean: Following the Top 10 teams ranking, we might rank the Top 9 Plays from Saturday and then the Top 8 Individual Performances, the Top 7 TD Passes and so on. We'll weave in some non-football stuff related to our road trip that particular weekend, too. But enough about the format. Let's get to that Week 1 of college football, one that included only 10 games pitting Power 5 programs. It was a somewhat lame start to the year, but, hey, you don't complain about a bad slice of pie when you haven't eaten in eight months.

Keep in mind that our Top 10 teams each week are ranked, not by how we’re projecting them to finish the season, but their quality as a team at that point, after that weekend’s games. So don’t be surprised to see dramatic shifts in our rankings from week to week.

Top 10… Teams

1. Clemson
Last game: Beat Georgia Tech, 52–14
Next game: Saturday vs. Texas A&M

We last saw the Tigers bludgeoning Alabama to win it all. Nothing's changed. They hammered Geoff Collins in his debut with the Yellow Jackets, a test run of sorts for next week's big-time clash with the Aggies. 

2. Alabama
Last game: Beat Duke, 42–3
Next game: Saturday vs. New Mexico State

In the Crimson Tide's one Power 5 non-conference game, Nick Saban and Co. looked much better than the last time we saw them, helpless against Clemson in Santa Clara.

3. Georgia
Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 30–6
Next game: Saturday vs. Murray State

D'Andre Swift kicked off his Heisman Trophy campaign in a rare season-opening conference game. Swift raced over the poor 'Dores for 147 yards.

4. Oklahoma
Last game: None
Next game: Sunday vs. Houston

We’ve ranked the Sooners based only on the preseason hype machine, as they host Dana Holgorsen’s Cougars on Sunday night.

5. LSU
Last game: Beat Georgia Southern, 55–3
Next game: Saturday at Texas

The tune-up for the Longhorns provided LSU a chance to spread its new offense's wings and boy did it. The Tigers scored 42 points in the first half, rarely if ever huddled and QB Joe Burrow threw five touchdowns.

6. Ohio State
Last game: Beat FAU, 45–21
Next game: Saturday vs. Cincinnati

Transfer QB Justin Fields and the Buckeyes dazzled with 28 points in the first quarter before slowing. There’s plenty of time for OSU to get right. It doesn't play a team that finished inside of last year's top 25 until Week 7 (Northwestern).

7. Michigan
Last game: Beat MTSU, 40–21
Next game: Saturday vs. Army

The Wolverines new offense under OC Josh Gattis rolled up 453 yards of offense, but this one was a 13-point game at half before Michigan pulled away.

8. Auburn
Last game: Beat Oregon, 27–21
Next game: Saturday vs. Tulane

The Tigers rolled into Jerry World on Saturday night, looked like crud for about three quarters and scored three unanswered touchdowns, on the shoulders of a true freshman QB no less.

9. Notre Dame
Last game: None
Next game: Monday at Louisville

Like Oklahoma, we’ve ranked the Irish on the preseason. They’ll travel to play the Cardinals in a Labor Day night affair.

10. Texas
Last game: Beat Louisiana Tech, 45–14
Next game: Saturday vs. LSU

QB Sam Ehlinger threw for four touchdowns and misfired on just 10 of his 38 attempts. The Longhorns looked rocking and ready for the Tigers in next week’s titanic clash.

Top 9… Ugly Debuts

1. A house on fire

A sailgator’s boat on the Tennessee river caught fire, sending smoke billowing across Knoxville on Saturday morning. A separate fire broke out later in the day, when Georgia State set the Volunteers ablaze with a 38–30 win.

2. UCLoss

The Bruins barely cracked the 200-yard mark in Chip Kelly’s Game 1 of Season 2, a 24–14 loss at Cincinnati. You haven’t heard the worst of it. His quarterback, the heralded Dorian Thompson-Robinson, finished 8-for-26 passing. 

3. Oh, Miss

The long-awaited debut of Ole Miss’ new-look coaching staff went off like a fart in church in a 15–10 loss at Memphis. OC Rich Rodriguez’s unit was 1-for-10 on third downs, and DC Mike MacIntyre’s squad allowed 364 yards. 

4. No, no, no, Noles

The Noles were up 24–6 against Boise State and then they went nine straight possessions without a score, were gashed for more than 200 yards on the ground and lost 36–31 at home in a rough start to Willie Taggart’s second season.

5. Charlie and the Bulls

Under Charlie Strong, the Bulls have gone from 10 wins to seven wins last year to now opening up 2019 with one of the worst performances of the weekend, a 49–0 home loss to Wisconsin in which they gained 157 total yards. 

6. JT and USC

The Trojans won, but did so pretty ugly, escaping with a 31–23 victory over Fresno State by intercepting a potential game-tying touchdown pass in the end zone in the final minute. Much uglier news: They may have lost QB JT Daniels for a while.

7. Kelly Bryant

Remember him, the Clemson quarterback who Dabo Swinney benched for a true freshman and then he transferred mid-season? Bryant fumbled into the end zone and threw an interception as Missouri lost at Wyoming. 

8. It just means…

Meh. The SEC didn’t quite live up to its motto in the opening week of college football Saturday. Tennessee (Georgia State), South Carolina (North Carolina), Ole Miss (Memphis) and Missouri (Wyoming) all lost, and Kentucky (Toledo), Arkansas (Portland State) and Mississippi State (Louisiana) were in bitter fights at times.

9. This camera man

It was a rough start to the season for this poor ESPN camera guy who slipped to the turf while backpedaling in front of Nick Saban and Alabama. Lesson learned: Don’t get in the Tide’s way.

Top 8… Cool Moments

1. Hospital bed Hugh

We might be redefining the word “cool” here, but Liberty coach Hugh Freeze, hospitalized with staph infection earlier this month, coached in a hospital bed from the press box. The Flames lost 24–0 and Freeze even conducted a postgame news conference from the hospital bed broadcast down to the media room.

2. Bo Jackson and his bike

The former Auburn star entered the ESPN GameDay set on a motorcycle. “Bo knows how to make an entrance,” host Reece Davis said as Jackson weaved the bike through the crowd. Decades after his on-field prowess, Bo remains cool.

3. Nevada’s comeback

The Wolf Pack trailed Purdue by 17 points with 19 minutes left in the game on Friday night. And they won, in regulation and on a 56-yard field goal by true freshman kicker Brandon Talton, who after the game received better news: he’s on scholarship.

4. For Rod

Auburn wore a sticker in remembrance of former play-by-play announcer Rob Bramblett, who died earlier this summer from injuries suffered in a car accident.  

5. Touchdown, Defense

The Les Miles era at Kansas opened with a pick-six from a player named Hasan Defense. The PA announcer at David Booth Memorial Stadium boomed over the speakers, "Touchdown, Defense!" That’s cool.

6. Rashod Bateman one-handed

Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman gave us our first real great catch of the 2019 season, snagging a one-handed TD reception in the Gophers’ 28–21 win over South Dakota State. Cool? Yes.

7. Mack Brown dancing

Mack Brown dancing. That is all.

8. Means more

Georgia State coach Shawn Elliot took a not-so-subtle shot at the SEC’s “Just Means More” motto during a locker room celebration after his team’s win at Tennessee. “Today’s game meant more to us!”

Top 7… Outings From Heisman Contenders

1. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB

Taylor played a little over one half of football and ran for 135 yards and two scores. Granted, it was against South Florida, but still…

2. Travis Etienne, Clemson RB

The Tigers have more than just one Heisman contender. Meet their running back, Etienne, who set career highs with a 90-yard touchdown run and 205 yards rushing against Georgia Tech.

3. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB

He missed on five of his 31 attempts, threw for 336 yards and four scores in the Tide’s whipping of Duke.

4. D’Andre Swift, Georgia RB

How’s a 10-yard average a carry sound? Pretty good huh. That’s what Swift did to Vanderbilt in the Bulldogs’ 30–6 victory.

5. Justin Herbert, Oregon QB

Herbert’s team lost, dropping a 27–21 game to Auburn, but he did have a solid line: 28 of 37 for 242 yards.

6. Shea Patterson, Michigan QB

The Wolverines QB tossed three touchdowns on 17 of 29 passing, debuting new OC Gattis’s offense in fine fashion.

7. Rondale Moore, Purdue WR

OK, so the Boilermakers blew a big lead and lost at Nevada, but don’t blame Moore and his 124 yards receiving on 11 catches.

Top 6… Performances by a Transfer

1. Jacob Eason, Washington QB

Eason suited up for the first time since his time at Georgia. He’s back in his home state now, tearing it up with the Huskies. The sophomore posted a 27-for-36 passing mark for 349 yards and four scores. He did, however, play against FCS squad Eastern Washington.

2. James Gilbert, Kansas State RB

The one non-quarterback on our list belongs to this former Ball State tailback. Gilbert ran for 115 yards on 18 carries to help the Wildcats win the first game of the post-Bill Syder era. 

3. Josh Jackson, Maryland QB

The former Virginia Tech QB helped Maryland score 79—79!—points against poor Howard. Jackson finished with 245 yards and four scores. The Mike Locksley era really starts next week with a home game against top-25 Syracuse.

4. Justin Fields, Ohio State QB

Last time we saw Fields, the Alabama defense thwarted a confounding fake punt in the SEC championship game. The first four minutes of his Ohio State career included a 51-yard TD run and a 25-yard TD pass. So a lot better than the fake punt. 

5. Austin Kendall, West Virginia QB

Without the Oklahoma transfer, the Mountaineers might not have survived against FCS powerhouse James Madison. He was 27-for-42 for 260 in the 20–13 win.

6. Tommy Stevens, Mississippi State QB

The Penn State graduate transfer hit two TD passes and rolled up 236 yards in the Bulldogs’ win over Louisiana in New Orleans.

Top 5… Oldies but Goodies

1. Mack Brown and North Carolina

Is Mack back? Yes, he is. The Tarheels and their 68-year-old coach stormed back against South Carolina for a 24–20 win. True freshman QB Sam Howell tossed two TDs, and UNC’s defense forced a late-game turnover.

2. Mad Hatter

Les Miles’s return to college football included typical Les Miles things: a tighter-than-expected contest, a late-game trick play and… a victory. The Jayhawks beat Indiana State 24–17 and converted a two-point conversion with some trickeration.

3. Tide tight end

Who had Miller Forristal scoring the first TD of Alabama’s season? The Tide tight end, a redshirt junior, caught a TD pass to start the scoring. Funny story about Forristal: he moved to TE in high school after losing the starting QB job to… Trevor Lawrence.

4. Burreaux

Legal beer wasn’t the only thing lighting up Tiger Stadium on Saturday night. Burrow, a senior who transferred from Ohio State last year, carved up the place for 278 yards and five touchdowns. 

5. Gordon’s got it

Anthony Gordon, the senior who won the Washington State starting QB job, completed 29 of 35 passes for 420 yards and five touchdowns in a rout of New Mexico State.

Top 4… Turnover Prizes

1. Miami’s 3-0-5

The trend setters, the Hurricanes broke out the 2019 version of the turnover chain, recognizing the south Florida area code “305.” Well done, Canes.

2. Mississippi State’s dog collar

Ruff ruff. The Bulldogs broke out their version of a turnover chain: a leather, gold-studded dog collar that’s supporting a large “Starkvegas” sign. The Dawgs had a whopping five turnovers in a 10-point win over Louisiana.

3. Georgia Tech’s whiteboard

The academics out of Atlanta would of course have this as their turnover award: a whiteboard on which players get to scribble their Twitter handle. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough scribbles to beat Clemson or keep it within 35 points.

4. Kansas State’s mallet

The Wildcats added more than just a new head coach this season. In their 49–14 win over Nicholls, they broke out the turnover mallet.

Top 3… True Freshman QBs to Lead Comeback Victories

1. Bo Nix, Auburn

Nix fought through some adversity (threw two picks and started 6 for 18) to lead the Tigers to three unanswered touchdowns in a 27–21 win over Oregon. In his very first college game, the guy threw a dart to Seth Williams for a 26-yard game-winner.

2. Hank Bachmeier, Boise State

Another true freshman, another comeback victory away from home. Bachmeier went 30-for-51 for 407 yards, leading the Broncos back from an 18-point deficit against Florida State.

3. Sam Howell, North Carolina

Trailing 20–9 entering the fourth quarter, the Tarheels and Howell stormed back to beat South Carolina in Charlotte. Howell threw fourth-quarter TD passes of 22 and 17 yards.

Top 2… Travel Impediments

1. Dallas thunderstorms

The Oklahoma City tarmac is quite nice. We know because we sat there for three hours Friday. Thunderstorms over the Big D hampered travel for fans, media and even Auburn (Tigers got in at 10 p.m. Friday). Poor Brandon Marcello of the AU beat had the worst of it.

2. Atlanta traffic

It took us three-and-a-half hours to trek the 120 miles from Atlanta to Clemson on Thursday. Lesson learned for this Clemson rookie. “Stay in Greenville next time,” CU AD Dan Radakovich told us, as we arrived in the press box just in time for kickoff. 

Top 1… Quote

1. Nick Saban on debate teams

It didn’t take a game to get Alabama’s coach on The Rundown. During his weekly radio show Thursday, Saban said, “If you want to talk s--- to the other team, join the g------ debate team.” No debating this: Bama whipped Duke, 42–3.

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