The first Saturday of the college football season is in the books, and the slate of games in Week 1 largely lived up to the hype, featuring several big upsets and plenty of other games that went down to the wire.
Here are some of our biggest takeaways from the 2016 season’s opening Saturday:
Houston to the title game! (Maybe)
They may be in the Group of Five, but the Cougars have an inside track to the College Football Playoff. On its face, that statement sounds ridiculous. In reality, it’s hardly an exaggeration. Tom Herman’s team beat an Oklahoma team that most pundits selected to make the playoff. Herman’s team beat a team with Heisman Trophy nominees at multiple positions.
Aided by a kick-six and a near-perfect second half, the Cougars reminded the nation that their Peach Bowl win over Florida State last season was no fluke. In fact, they may actually be one of the best teams in the nation. Greg Ward Jr. overcame a relatively slow start to throw for 321 yards and two touchdowns, and running back Duke Catalon finished with 88 yards rushing and caught a 15-yard touchdown pass. Despite losing a first-round selection in defensive back William Jackson, the defense adjusted after some early struggles to limit an Oklahoma offense boasting Heisman candidates at quarterback and running back (Baker Mayfield and Samaje Perine).
Houston plays Louisville later in the season. If it wins that game, then a playoff berth is a reasonable expectation.
Josh Rosen struggles … and then shines
The UCLA quarterback was on the run from a ferocious Texas A&M defensive line all afternoon, but even though the Bruins entered the fourth quarter down by 15 points, the “chosen” quarterback shined in the final frame. After spending most of the game fleeing Myles Garrett, Daeshon Hall and whomever A&M chose to blitz (there were a lot of them), Rosen uncorked what is sure to be one of the finest throws of the season to put UCLA in position to tie the game at 24. His receivers betrayed him with a series of dropped passes, but Rosen’s touch on deep balls and improvised throws showcased why he may be the best pro-style quarterback in the nation.
Just watch this throw a few times.
LSU’s offense is lifeless
Les Miles’s seat is scalding hot after LSU’s 16–14 loss to unranked Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, and he likely isn’t terribly happy with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Leonard Fournette is a once-in-a-generation running back, yet the program hasn’t been able to find a better quarterback than Brandon Harris, whose questionable decision making cost the Tigers after he threw an interception on their final drive.
Fournette overcame some early struggles and ended up with 133 yards rushing, but it looks like he will face many eight-man fronts and stacked boxes. Harris had virtually no success stretching the Wisconsin defense and struggled to showcase two ultra-talented receivers in Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural. Whether it’s Cameron’s fault or Harris’s limited abilities, the Tigers looked like they have no future on offense this season.
Nick Chubb, not Fournette, is your current SEC running back darling
The Georgia star finished with 222 yards on 32 carries against North Carolina. Sometimes, the numbers really do speak for themselves.
Welcome back to the Bama buzzsaw
Alabama obliterated USC and reminded us how volatile the rises and falls of college football powerhouses are. A 46-point loss in a pro stadium may not be the lowest point that USC has experienced this century, but it can’t be far off.
While the Trojans won’t face a defense like Alabama’s every week, they were flummoxed trying to protect quarterback Max Browne in the first half and his backup Sam Darnold in the second. Despite losing two of its best defenders from last season (A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed), Alabama’s defense, anchored by Tim Williams, looks as frightening as ever.