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  • With one week of the 2019 college football season down, who has already improved on or worsened their preseason standing?
By Scooby Axson
September 03, 2019

Typically, the first full weekend of college football doesn’t tell us much about the teams at the top as it does teams that had expectations of improving mediocre or dreadful 2018 seasons.

So for the have-nots in the SEC, specifically Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina and Ole Miss­—who all lost—be prepared to float into oblivion for the rest of this season unless something drastic changes over the next month or so.

The ranked SEC teams took care of business, as they actually beat who they were supposed to. The SEC also maintained its dominance of the Pac-12, continuing that tradition when Auburn scraped by Oregon. The left coast teams have dropped 10 straight games to ranked SEC opponents, adding to the possibility that they will be left out in the cold when playoff seedings are announced.

At least we have something to look forward to next weekend, as Clemson plays host to Texas A&M, Texas welcomes LSU and the Pac-12 has its first version of the Hunger Games when unimpressive Stanford takes on equally unimpressive USC.

Now on to the rankings:

1. Clemson (1–0, 1–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Georgia Tech 52–14
Next week: vs. Texas A&M

Travis Etienne ran for a career-high 205 yards on only 12 carries as Clemson bulldozed the new-look Yellow Jackets to the tune of 411 yards on the ground. Trevor Lawrence’s performance was uneven, but wasn’t needed in the rout as he threw for 168 yards and two interceptions. Clemson’s defense had three sacks and forced four turnovers.

2. Alabama (1–0)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat Duke 42–3
Next week: vs. New Mexico State

Tua Tagovailoa had 336 yards passing and four touchdowns in three quarters and the Crimson Tide continued their domination in Atlanta, improving to 6–0 all-time in Chick-fil-A Kickoff games. The Blue Devils were lost all game, managing only 11 first downs and 204 total yards in a matchup that was actually much worse than even the rout would suggest.

3. Oklahoma (1–0)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat Houston 49–31
Next week: vs. South Dakota

Jalen Hurts put on a grand performance in his debut with the Sooners, scoring six touchdowns and totaling 507 yards, a school record for a debut. The defense showed signs of the issues it had last season in the second half, allowing the Cougars to get within 11 late in the game. Oklahoma averaged an absurd 11 yards each time it snapped the ball, and had five plays go for 40+ yards,

4. Ohio State (1–0)

Previous ranking: 4
This week: Beat Florida Atlantic 45–21
Next week: vs. Cincinnati

Heralded transfer Justin Fields had an impressive debut with the Scarlet and Gray. He threw for 229 yards and four touchdowns and had 66 yards rushing with another score as Ohio State sprinted out to a 28–0 lead and coasted from there. It was the Buckeyes’ 20th consecutive season-opening victory, the longest active streak in the FBS.

5. Georgia (1–0, 1–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 5
This week: Beat Vanderbilt 30–6
Next week: vs. Murray State

Any team that thinks it's going to challenge Georgia in the SEC East better provide a stiffer test than Vanderbilt did. The Bulldogs won their 14th straight division game using a strong defensive effort that allowed the Commodores to produce only five plays that went for 10 or more yards. D’Andre Swift ran for 149 yards and the Bulldogs finished with 325 yards on the ground.

6. Michigan (1–0)

Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat Middle Tennessee State 40–21
Next week: vs. Army

It remains to be seen if the new-look spread offense that Michigan has employed will work when it hits the meat of the Big Ten schedule, but it worked against the Blue Raiders—at least when the Wolverines didn’t turn the ball over. Shea Patterson threw for 203 yards and three touchdowns, while freshman running back Zach Charbonnet chipped in with 90 yards.

7. LSU (1–0)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Georgia Southern 55–3
Next week: at Texas

While an offensive identity change was needed in the Bayou, the defense is still the calling card of this team. But Joe Burrow did his part by tying a school record with five passing touchdowns before the marching band had a chance to strut its stuff for the halftime crowd. A true sign of domination: Georgia Southern’s 50 plays gained a grand total of 98 yards.

8. Notre Dame (1–0)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Beat Louisville 35–17
Next week: Off; next game Sept. 14 vs. New Mexico

About the only intriguing thing about this game was whether bettors would cash in on the 20-point spread in favor of Notre Dame. While the Irish didn't cover, Louisville played better than expected and could have made it more of a game had it not lost three fumbles. Ian Book was solid with 193 yards passing and 81 yards rushing, adding a surprising dimension to his game. Book's best rushing effort in a game last year was 56 yards.

9. Auburn (1–0)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Beat Oregon 27–21
Next week: vs. Tulane

Freshman quarterback Bo Nix only completed 13 of his 31 pass attempts, but when the stakes were highest, he came through. On the Tigers’ game-winning drive, Nix completed four passes, including the crucial score, a 26-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams with nine seconds left. Auburn is now set up to ride this momentum into a brutal conference schedule…just like last year. And you know how that turned out.

10. Texas (1–0)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat Louisiana Tech 45–14
Next week: vs. LSU

Remember when Terry Bradshaw, a Louisiana Tech alum, said that Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger wasn’t “that good?” Well, if Ehlinger is not good after a 274-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Bulldogs, Texas fans can’t wait to see what happens when he does become good. Of course, a big step up in competition when LSU comes to town will tell a lot about the Longhorns.

11. Washington (1–0)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat Eastern Washington 47–14
Next week: vs. Cal

The Huskies made sure one of FCS’s best teams didn’t hang around, putting the FCS runner-up and No. 3 ranked Eagles, out of their misery early. Jacob Eason had four touchdowns and 349 yards in his first action in two seasons. That mark set a school record for passing yards in a starting debut. The Huskies are 39–0 when they score 31 or more points under Chris Petersen.

12. Texas A&M (1–0)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Beat Texas State 41–12
Next week: at Clemson

Kellen Mond and the Aggies made short work of Texas State with Mond accounting for four touchdowns while throwing for 194 yards After only intercepting seven passes in 2018, the Aggies picked off four Bobcat passes, leading to Jimbo Fisher’s ninth victory in 10 career season openers. The schedule cranks up big time with a game against defending national champion Clemson.

13. Florida (1–0)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Off
Next week: vs. Tennessee-Martin

14. Utah (1–0)

Previous ranking: 14
This week: Beat BYU 30–12
Next week: vs. Northern Illinois

At least for the season opener, Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley (13 of 16, 106 yards) was correct in his assessment that BYU was “poo poo,” as the Holy War went to the Utes for the ninth straight year, tying the record for the longest streak in the series for either team. Zach Moss returned from a season-ending knee injury and galloped for 187 yards, and Utah scored 20 points off of BYU miscues, including two pick-sixes.

15. UCF (1–0)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Beat Florida A&M 62–0
Next week: at Florida Atlantic

It didn’t matter what quarterback UCF threw in to play FAMU—each of the three that saw the field found success. Brandon Wimbush threw two touchdowns and his backup Dillon Gabriel threw three as UCF scored 30 or more points for the 27th straight game, extending its NCAA record. One streak that was broken: UCF did not force a turnover, the first time in the last 32 games that did not happen.

16. Penn State (1–0)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Beat Idaho 79–7
Next week: vs. Buffalo

Beatdowns like these really don’t deserve the sentence this one is getting here.

17. Iowa (1–0)

Previous ranking: 18
This week: Beat Miami (OH) 38–14
Next week: vs. Rutgers

Nate Stanley threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns, finding 10 different receivers as Iowa won its sixth straight opener. The Hawkeyes may have found their go-to back in Mekhi Sargent, who led the team with 91 yards rushing and 65 yards receiving.

18. Wisconsin (1–0)

Previous ranking: 19
This week: Beat South Florida 49–0
Next week: vs. Central Michigan

Jonathan Taylor made it a point to get better as a receiver in the offseason, and it paid off against USF. Taylor had two receiving two touchdowns to go along with 135 yards and two scores on the ground. Jack Coan had an efficient game, throwing for 193 yards on 17-for-23 passing, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

19. Oregon (0–1)

Previous ranking: 15
This week: Lost to Auburn 27–21
Next week: vs. Nevada

It’s too early to determine if Oregon’s loss took the Pac-12's playoff chances along with it, but blowing a two-score lead isn’t going to sit well with the committee when it’s judgment day. Of course, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal is being raked over the coals—and deservedly so—for his clock management, or lack thereof. Justin Herbert did extend his streak of consecutive games with a passing TD to 29 straight games.

20. Stanford (1–0)

Previous ranking: 24
This week: Beat Northwestern 17–7
Next week: at USC

This game is probably more about Northwestern than it is about Stanford as both quarterbacks Hunter Johnson and TJ Green struggled, continuing their recent trend of struggling in non-conference games. K.J. Costello threw for 152 yards and one touchdown, and the Cardinal only averaged 3.4 yards a carry in their attempt to reestablish a running game.

21. Michigan State (1–0)

Previous ranking: 23
This week: Beat Tulsa 28–7
Next week: vs. Western Michigan

Sparty’s new-look offense didn’t really get it going, totaling 301 yards, finding no running room and going 6 for 18 on third down. But they were helped out by three Tulsa turnovers and a stout defensive effort—six sacks, 13 tackles for loss and holding Tulsa to 80 yards of offense, including negative-73 yards rushing. Another troubling sign that must be cleaned up quick: Michigan State was penalized 14 times for 122 yards.

22. Nebraska (1–0)

Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat South Alabama 35–21
Next week: at Colorado

The Huskers’ offense struggled all game, gaining 276 yards and only averaging two yards a carry, which included a game-opening 81-yard touchdown drive. But they were helped out by three non-defensive touchdowns, scoring on a punt return, interception return and fumble return. The Blackshirts defense intercepted three passes and sacked South Alabama quarterback Cephus Johnson four times to avoid losing to a Sun Belt Conference opponent for the second straight year.

23. Iowa State (1–0)

Previous ranking: 20
This week: Beat Northern Iowa 29–26 (3OT)
Next week: Off; next game Sept. 14 vs. Iowa

Iowa State was a preseason sleeper pick to upset the norm in the Big 12, but it looked nothing like the contender it was purported to be in Week 1. The Cyclones were a three-touchdown favorite and struggled to run the ball without the departed David Montgomery despite returning all five OL starters from last year. Brock Purdy threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns for the Cyclones.

24. Memphis (1–0)

Previous ranking: N/A
This week: Beat Ole Miss 15–10
Next week: vs. Southern

Brady White passed for 172 yards and rushed for a touchdown, and Patrick Taylor ran for 128 yards as the Tigers slipped by Ole Miss. The Rebels, with new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez, couldn’t do anything, going 1 for 10 on third down and possessing the ball for only 21 minutes. When it comes to Memphis’s Group of Five chances, it doesn’t meet UCF in the regular season and the Tigers’ toughest games come in November.

25. Boise State (1–0)

Previous ranking: N/A
This week: Beat Florida State 36–31
Next week: vs. Marshall

Despite being down by 18 points twice in the first half, Boise State true freshman Hank Bachmeier persevered, throwing for 407 yard to overcome being sacked five times and hurried more than a half-dozen other times. Boise ran 108 plays and rolled up 621 yards, keeping the ball for 40 minutes. The Broncos defense also deserves credit. In the Seminoles’ last nine offensive possessions, they punted seven times, fumbled and turned the ball over on downs.

By Conference: Big Ten (7), SEC (6), Pac-12 (4), Big 12 (3), AAC (2), ACC (1), Mountain West (1), Independent (1)

Dropped Out: Northwestern, Miami (Fla.)

Almost Famous: Army, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Colorado, Boston College, USC, Washington State

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