The opening weekend in college football was one of the best ever. It featured three top ten teams falling (LSU, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame), a kick six, and some wild endings.
One game that didn’t have a wild ending saw top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide roll over No. 20 USC by the score of 52–6. The game was played at AT&T Stadium outside of Dallas.
Bama got off to a shaky start, as the Trojans took the opening drive down and drove for a Matt Boermeester field goal. After that, the Tide defense dominated, allowing 148 total yards and three points. Though his team won by 46 points, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said, “Our consistency and execution need to be much improved.”
Here are five key takeaways from my experience at the game:
1. Jalen Hurts is a star in the making. – At this time last year, the Alabama freshman quarterback was playing at Channelview High in Texas. Despite fumbling on his first collegiate play, he bounced back to throw two touchdowns and run for another two.
After the game, Hurts received some high praise from his head coach and teammates. Saban said, “I think Jalen, each series that he played, got more and more comfortable. He adds a dimension with his athleticism and ability to run that I think is very effective.” Alabama running back Damien Harris said, “[Hurts] worked really hard to get where he is, and he did a good job tonight.”
2. Adoree’ Jackson was the best athlete on the field. – The USC junior can flat-out do it all. He plays defensive back, wide receiver, and returns kickoffs. Did I mention he also run track for the Trojans? Jackson has won one PAC-12 long jump title and placed fifth at this year's NCAA championships. In Saturday night’s game, he had four tackles. Two of them were touchdown-saving rundowns of Harris.
Jackson’s longest return was 40 yards. “Adoree’ Jackson is a fantastic returner,” said Saban. “He scared us on a couple of those kickoff returns.”
3. AT&T Stadium is Amazing. – The home of the Dallas Cowboys is an engineering marvel. From the 800-foot exterior glass wall to the humongous video screen, it is one of the best venues in football. With five minutes to go in the game, I left the press box to go down to the field. The jumbotron looked even bigger from there!
4. Alabama is pretty good. – The Tide showed off its full array of talent Saturday night. The impressive thing is that this team lost numerous players to the NFL who were instrumental in last year’s national championship team. Alabama’s ability to reload each and every year was on display again Saturday. The Tide featured only 11 total returning starters, but most of the newcomers already looked like they had started dozens of games.
After the game, Saban said, “We’re obviously proud of the team and the way they played in the game. And it was a great win for our team and our program.” But he made it clear that there was work to do. “We need to improve as a team,” he said. “We need to get more guys that can play winning football and create more depth on our team.”
So, despite the impressive performances on all three sides of the ball, this team still has a long way to go to get back to the College Football Playoff.
5. USC will still make some noise this season. – As head coach Clay Helton said, “One game does not make a season.” Those are words to live by for the Trojans. This is a really talented team, and if they hang their heads, they could miss out on some opportunities for big wins. They still have five more games against top 25 opponents. Only two of those are at home — against Oregon and Notre Dame — but both are very winnable games.
“One game does not define us,” Helton said. “[They need to] have a chip on their shoulder. Play mad for the rest of the season, [show] that this is not who we are.”
USC still has one of the most talented teams in the country. Watch out for the Trojans to make a hard push for another berth in the Pac-12 Championship.