After a long summer of waiting, the calendar finally hit Week 1 and the college football slate did not disappoint.
It came as no surprise that an Alabama team led by Nick Saban confounded its opponent in the opening week of the season. This year, it was Miami to the tune of 44-13 as Bryce Young proved he was ready to fill the large shoes left for him by the decorated quarterbacks before him.
Georgia and Clemson lived up to the hype — if you’re a fan of defense — and while the Tigers might have lost 10-3, don’t count out coach Dabo Swinney and Clemson from making a run and yet again ending up in the playoff.
Spencer Rattler and Oklahoma got a scare from Tulane despite leading 37-14 at halftime. The Sooners held on for a 40-35 victory and Rattler still looked like a Heisman front-runner, so the fans in Norman can take a deep breath and move on to Week 2.
Ohio State rolled on Thursday in CJ Stroud’s first start, and Texas A&M is still on a quest to prove it deserved the final spot in last year’s College Football Playoff.
Week 1’s highlights have come and gone, but it’s time to see where each team lands in this week’s power rankings ahead of Week 2.
This just in, Alabama is really good and it doesn’t seem to matter which members of last year’s team the Crimson Tide lost, be it on the roster or in the coaching booth. While the postgame focus was understandably on the record-setting debut of quarterback Bryce Young, coach Nick Saban was quick to remind that his defense held Miami QB D’Eriq King to 178 yards and one TD pass and had a pair of INTs. They won’t need any of the above to beat Mercer next weekend, thus the eyes of Alabama are already on the team’s Sept. 18 trip to the Swamp to face Florida, another team that’s having to reload a monster 2020 offense. — Ryan McGee
The Bulldogs still have a long way to go on offense, but their defense against Clemson looked a lot like the unit that led them to an appearance in the CFP national championship in coach Kirby Smart’s second season in 2017. Rotating myriad former five-star defensive linemen and linebackers, the Bulldogs were relentless in pressuring Tigers quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. Georgia sacked him seven times and rattled him from the start. Clemson had only 180 yards of offense, including 2 net yards rushing. Georgia will be the SEC East favorite going forward, but it will probably need more from its offense at some point. — Mark Schlabach
Georgia brings the pressure all game against Clemson as they rack up seven sacks in their 10-3 win over the Tigers.
The Buckeyes’ big-play offense is alive and well in the post-Justin Fields era. Even after a shaky first half, coach Ryan Day told new starting quarterback C.J. Stroud to “keep swinging,” and continued to call aggressive plays. Getting help from a talented collection of receivers and backs, Stroud threw four second-half touchdown passes of 38 yards or longer and averaged 47.2 yards per completion. Stroud predictably has room to grow, but his teammates will give him every chance to shine. — Adam Rittenberg
The Sooners’ 40-35 victory over Tulane showed plenty of room for concern, particularly on defense, where they allowed 5.1 yards per play (Tulane QB Michael Pratt was 27-of-44 for 296 yards and 3 TDs) and allowed Tulane to outscore them 21-3 in the second half. Spencer Rattler, the Heisman favorite, threw two interceptions, including on the second play of the game. Still, a win is a win, and the Sooners improved by leaps and bounds as last season went on. They’ll need that again to live up to this season’s high hopes. — Dave Wilson
The Aggies’ offense started out on shaky ground with freshman quarterback Haynes King throwing two first-half picks and the new-look offensive line allowing a few too many tackles for loss. But the second half was a better story as Texas A&M ran away with the game thanks to a 17-point third quarter. King and the line will need some time to gel, but with a solid defense and a strong running game, the Aggies should be fine with unranked Colorado and New Mexico remaining before SEC play begins. — Alex Scarborough
Cincinnati has been presented with an incredible opportunity this year, starting out in the top 10, returning most of 2020’s stars and prepping for marquee games against Indiana and Notre Dame. The Bearcats cleared the first hurdle, against Miami (Ohio), easily: Desmond Ridder completed 20 of 25 passes for 295 yards and four scores, Jerome Ford gained 121 yards in 12 carries, and they cruised 49-14. Miami averaged 3.8 yards per play and didn’t score until deep into garbage time. — Bill Connelly
The Tigers undoubtedly missed former quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 pick in April’s NFL draft, but they could have used former running back Travis Etienne even more in their loss to the Bulldogs. Without the threat of a consistent running game, Georgia’s defense teed off on D.J. Uiagalelei and blitzed him early and often. Clemson’s offensive line also played poorly against the Bulldogs’ deep defensive line. The Tigers will be heavy favorites in their next two games against FCS program South Carolina State and Georgia Tech, but the early results of the post-Lawrence era were pretty underwhelming. Coach Dabo Swinney and his staff have plenty of work to do. — Schlabach
Quarterback Anthony Brown’s 30-yard touchdown run with 2:57 left in the game allowed the Ducks to escape with a disappointing 31-24 win against Fresno State. As soon as the game ended, though, primary concern shifted to the health of star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who spent the entire second half in street clothes and a walking boot. Ducks coach Mario Cristobal didn’t seem overly concerned after the game, but his status will be a major point of discussion this week. — Kyle Bonagura
The Irish open their season Sunday night against Florida State with a new starting quarterback in Jack Coan and four new starters on the offensive line. Not only that, the Irish must replace linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and have to overcome a recent injury to projected starting linebacker Marist Liufau, who is out for the game. But the Irish return plenty of players who have the potential to be game-changers Sunday night — including Kyren Williams, Michael Mayer and Kyle Hamilton. How the new starters come together, especially on offense, will be one of the biggest keys to watch. — Andrea Adelson
The debut of Emory Jones as the Gators’ starting quarterback was something of a mixed bag. Sure, Florida beat FAU handily, 35-7 (check). And, yeah, Jones ran for 74 yards on 10 carries, which isn’t bad. But he wasn’t exactly lighting it up throwing the football, completing 17 of 27 passes for 113 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. While the Gators don’t need Jones to be Kyle Trask — the running game is solid and the defense appears to be improved — they do need him to cut down on the turnovers and do better than 4 yards per pass attempt. — Scarborough
Quarterback Anthony Richardson comes on in relief and runs for 160 yards and a TD on just seven carries as the Gators crush FAU, 35-14.
One thing we’ve definitely learned about Matt Campbell‘s Iowa State through the years is that we’re not going to learn anything about the Cyclones against FCS opponents. The Cyclones beat Drake by three in 2018 and Northern Iowa by three in 2019; they proudly go as vanilla as possible, and they did so again in a 16-10 win over UNI on Saturday. Brock Purdy completed 21 of 26 passes but for only 197 yards, and the Cyclones had to punt six times and settle for field goals three times. But they did enough, as they always do in these games. — Connelly
Kedon Slovis and the offense got some help from the defense to put this game away when Greg Johnson intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Slovis threw two touchdowns of his own, and receiver Drake London racked up 137 receiving yards. It was a good win for USC, but there wasn’t much that stood out as spectacular in this game. San Jose State was within six points of USC until the Trojans scored 17 in the fourth quarter to pull away and put the game to bed. — VanHaaren
The Nittany Lions’ defense came up big against Wisconsin, specifically Jaquan Brisker who picked off Graham Mertz on fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter to seal the win for Penn State. There were blocked field goals, a fumble recovery and an interception that helped Penn State keep the Badgers to just 10 points. On the opposite end, the offense needs work under new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. Quarterback Sean Clifford had only 41 yards passing in the first half. He gained some momentum in the second half, finishing with 247 yards, but he didn’t have much help on the ground as the backs finished with only 50 yards rushing. — VanHaaren
The Hawkeyes’ defense under Phil Parker has been very good for a while but doesn’t always get its national due. A dominant opening performance against Indiana could change things. Cornerback Riley Moss recorded two pick-sixes against Michael Penix Jr., who had three total interceptions. Iowa kept Indiana out of the end zone and limited the Hoosiers to 77 rushing yards. The Hawkeyes’ offense didn’t do much other than Tyler Goodson’s 56-yard touchdown run and will need to be sharper this week at Iowa State. — Rittenberg
It appears Chip Kelly’s vision for UCLA is finally here. The Bruins followed a big win over Hawai’i in Week 0 with a 38-27 upset victory over LSU on Saturday at the Rose Bowl in classic Kelly fashion. Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown combined to rush for 213 yards and a touchdown each, while quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Many thought this was a make or break season for Kelly in Los Angeles, and it appears he got the message.
The Steve Sarkisian era got off to a successful start with a solid victory over a very good Louisiana team. New starter Hudson Card was efficient (14-of-21 for 224 yards, 2 TDs) as the Longhorns methodically ground away at the Ragin’ Cajuns. Most importantly for Texas fans, Sarkisian showed he’ll get creative to get the ball to Bijan Robinson, who had a career-high 24 touches, with 20 carries for 103 yards and a TD and 4 catches for 73 yards and another score. — Wilson
The Chanticleers picked up where they left off after going 11-1 last season, jumping out to a 38-0 lead on the Citadel during the season-opener before running away to win 52-14. Quarterback Grayson McCall was his usually efficient self, completing 16 of 19 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown. Most impressive, though, was the running game as six ball carries combined for 266 yards and five touchdowns. Up next: Kansas on Friday night. — Scarborough
Fans will have to wait until Monday to see Ole Miss, and they’ll have to watch it without head coach Lane Kiffin. The second-year coach tested positive for COVID-19 this week and will not be able to be with his team when it takes on Louisville on Labor Day. Still, the Rebels have a lot to be excited about heading into the matchup with the Cardinals and quarterback Matt Corrall will be must watch on Monday night in Atlanta.
There was nothing fluky about the Tigers’ 38-27 loss to UCLA. LSU was outplayed in nearly every phase of the game and showed no signs it is ready to bounce back from last year’s disappointing 5-5 season. QB Max Johnson threw for 330 yards but never looked confident, while the LSU defense struggled to contain UCLA running backs Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown (213 combined rushing yards). — Bonagura
There were questions on whether we would see the Graham Mertz we saw in the season opener last year, when he threw for five touchdowns, or the quarterback who struggled later in the season. Mertz finished the game completing 22 of 36 passes for 185 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He had issues with the quarterback-running back exchange, fumbling the ball multiple times. The defense played stout, but the Wisconsin offense couldn’t get much momentum and was able to put up only 10 points in the loss to Penn State. — VanHaaren
The North Carolina offense looked out of rhythm from the start in the season opener at Virginia Tech. Sam Howell, who finished the game with three interceptions, never looked comfortable against the Hokies and their deafening crowd, and it resulted in a 17-10 loss in Blacksburg. The Tar Heels trailed by 14 at half after getting shutout over the first two quarters. Howell tossed a touchdown in the third quarter, but the turnovers were just too much to overcome and a top-10 North Carolina team lost to an unranked ACC opponent early in the season for the second straight year.
Jayden Daniels completed 10 of 12 passes for 132 yards, and the Sun Devils made quick work of Southern Utah in a 41-14 win. They limited the overmatched Thunderbirds to just 224 yards, including 78 on the ground. Considering the gulf in talent, it’s hard to make any worthwhile conclusions about ASU other than it was a promising start to the season. — Bonagura
The Utes played before a record crowd of 51,511 at Rice-Eccles Stadium — their first home game with fans since 2019 — and while the final score, 41-17, indicates a lopsided performance, this was a mostly sloppy showing. Running back Tavion Thomas (12 carries, 107 yards) and quarterback Charlie Brewer (19-of -27, 233 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) had promising debuts, but it took until deep into the third quarter for the Utes to pull away from FCS Weber State. — Bonagura
The first Lane Stadium game back with a capacity crowd did not disappoint as Virginia Tech started hot against No. 10 North Carolina and never looked back Friday. The Hokies’ defense kept Sam Howell and the North Carolina offense off the scoreboard in the first half as Virginia Tech built a 14-point lead. The Tar Heels cut into the lead in the third quarter, but the Virginia Tech defense held strong to close out the game 17-10. In the end, the Hokies picked off Howell three times on their way to a top-10 upset in front of an electric crowd in Blacksburg.
Is it fair to judge the Canes considering the team they faced in Atlanta? Probably not. But that’s the gig, right, coach Manny Diaz? “College football is famous for overreactions after Week 1,” Diaz said. “That’s not what this team is all about. You just don’t get your story written after one game into the season. We’re just not there yet. The guys in the locker room, if anything, what happened today will bring them even closer together.” So will the schedule, with four straight home games — D’Eriq King’s first at Hard Rock Stadium — and it begins with a tough one against Appalachian State. — McGee
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