Winners and Losers from Week 1 of College Football
The wait is over. College football is back, and Week 1 action has already reminded fans why fall is the best time of the year.
In just one week the BCS National Championship and Heisman Trophy pictures are already changing.
The first weekend of action has brought it all: upsets, blowouts, enormous performances and as much drama as a Week 12 slate.
A number of highly-touted freshmen have made an immediate impact, and plenty of familiar faces are back in the spotlight as well.
Winners: Ole Miss Freshmen
Ole Miss and Vanderbilt gave college football its first thriller of the season, a wild affair in Nashville that ended up 39-35 in favor of the Rebels.
Running back Jeff Scott broke away for an eye-popping 75-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to steal the victory and set the Rebels off on the right foot.
However, the story of the game was the instant impact from Ole Miss' highly-touted newcomers.
Safety Tony Conner, a 5-star recruit according to 247 Sports' composite rankings, wasted little time making his name known, hauling in an interception on his first collegiate series.
Fellow composite 5-star receiver Laquon Treadwell emerged as the go-to receiver for quarterback Bo Wallace, as he tallied a team-high 82 receiving yards on nine catches.
The most highly anticipated new arrival, No. 1 overall prospect Robert Nkemdiche, had a bit of a hit-and-miss debut.
The defensive end missed a key tackle on the goal line that allowed a Vanderbilt touchdown, but he also showed off his athleticism by running a fake punt 11 yards for a first down.
Nkemdiche's game still needs a bit of polishing, but it is clear he has the ability to be an elite defensive end.
Loser: Jadeveon Clowney
Jadeveon Clowney entered the 2013 season as one of the most hyped defensive players in college football history. His debut for the season was underwhelming.
Clowney told reporters after South Carolina's victory that he was suffering from a stomach virus, which left him drained during the contest.
The defensive end appeared to be gassed for much of the game, which raised questions about his conditioning.
To make his night worse, Clowney very well could've been in danger of suffering a season-ending injury, as a North Carolina offensive lineman hit him low and from behind, at the end of a play. Clowney recorded just three tackles and no sacks in the game.
Winner: Derek Carr
Not to be outdone by the thriller in Nashville, Fresno State and Rutgers put on a remarkable show as well in Fresno on Thursday night.
The game ended when a Rutgers two-point conversion attempt failed in overtime, giving Fresno State a 52-51 victory.
Fresno quarterback Derek Carr posted a ridiculous stat line. He finished 52-of-73 passing for 456 yards and five touchdowns, while three of his receivers tallied 90 yards or more.
He highlighted his big night with a game-tying touchdown strike to Josh Harper with 38 seconds remaining in regulation, followed by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Greg Watson in overtime.
Winner: FCS' Big Weekend
The FCS teams came to play against their BCS foes in Week 1.
Towson sparked the weekend of upsets on Thursday with a decisive 33-18 victory over Connecticut in East Hartford, Conn.
Two-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State carried the torch from there, knocking off defending Big 12 Champion Kansas State 24-21 in Manhattan, Kan.
Then Eastern Washington, McNeese State and Northern Iowa all joined in on the fun Saturday, knocking off Oregon State, South Florida and Iowa State respectively.
As all five of these teams proved, top-tier FCS programs cannot be taken lightly.
McNeese State, Eastern Washington, Northern Iowa and North Dakota State have all either won or played in a FCS championship game since 2002, while Towson reached the second round of the FCS playoffs in 2011.
Winner: Duke Johnson
Miami running back Duke Johnson showed no signs of a sophomore slump Week 1.
The All-American ran 19 times for 186 yards and one touchdown as Miami cruised to a 34-6 victory over Florida Atlantic.
On top of averaging 9.8 yards per carry, Johnson also hauled in a 38-yard reception off a flea flicker.
If Miami can step back into the national spotlight, Johnson may turn his sleeper status into a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidacy.
Keep an eye on the Hurricanes' Nov. 2 date with Florida State.
Winner: Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel did his time, sitting the first half of Texas A&M's win over Rice.
He came in during the second half and was the same quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy last year.
No. 2 was 6-of-8 passing for 94 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for 19 yards.
With Manziel playing well and keeping his focus on the field, the Aggies are one of college football's most dangerous teams.
Johnny Football took center stage all offseason, and it doesn't look like the spotlight will move away from him anytime soon.
Winners: A&M's Offensive Weapons
Amid the hoopla of Johnny Manziel's return, Texas A&M showed that it has one of the best collections of skill players in the country.
Running back Ben Malena notched 100 total yards and two touchdowns—one receiving and one rushing. Joining Malena on the ground was Tra Carson with 76 yards and two scores.
Among receivers, redshirt sophomore Mike Evans and true freshman Ricky Seals-Jones each tallied 84 receiving yards and combined for three touchdowns.
SEC defenses will have plenty to contend with when taking on the Aggies this year.
Loser: Overzealous Illini
Illinois notched a 42-34 win over Southern Illinois of the FCS Missouri Valley Conference.
After the one-possession victory, the Illinois football Twitter feed was a little overzealous in celebration of a result that would disappoint many FBS programs.
The tweet declared, "Our State. Our Team," with a picture of quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and the underwhelming final score.
Winner: Christian Hackenberg
It wasn't all smooth sailing for former composite 5-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg in his first career start at Penn State.
The freshman signal-caller threw two interceptions on the day but made up for it with two second-half touchdown passes in a 23-17 victory over Syracuse.
In the win, he made it clear that he will be the leader of the Nittany Lions for the foreseeable future.
Hackenberg also made it clear which PSU receiver is his favorite target. Junior Allen Robinson led all receivers with seven receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown.
(Almost) Loser: West Virginia
Expectations were moderate at best for West Virginia heading into Week 1. However, a number of new additions for the Mountaineers did inject some optimism for the coming season.
The new-look WVU squad needed a second-half rally and fourth-quarter touchdown from freshman running back Wendell Smallwood to survive a scare from FCS William & Mary in a 24-17 final.
The WVU defense showed some signs of improvement, and Charles Sims, Dreamius Smith and the rest of the running backs looked strong. Meanwhile, it appears junior quarterback Paul Millard will take the reins of the offense.
However, after a rough first outing, it is clear that the Mountaineers have a long way to go and little time to make progress—next week WVU will head to Norman to face Oklahoma.
Winner: Oklahoma State Defense
Oklahoma State is a Big 12 title favorite and a dark-horse national title contender, mostly because of its offense.
However, in one of the weekend's most highly-anticipated games, OSU showed excellence on the other side of the ball as well.
The Cowboys held Mississippi State to just a field goal in a decisive 21-3 victory, as Justin Gilbert and Zack Craig each pulled in an interception for the No. 13 Cowboys.
The big defensive effort was much needed for OSU considering the relatively slow day from its offense, which amassed just 146 yards through the air.
Winner: Tommy Rees
Tommy Rees did a great job of helping Notre Dame fans forget about the loss of quarterback Everett Golson in Week 1.
Rees was efficient and effective, as he finished 16-of-23 passing for 346 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
He spread the ball to seven different receivers as the Irish cruised to a 28-6 victory over Temple.
Losers: The Ejected
The new NCAA rule that stipulates a mandatory ejection when a player is flagged for targeting was a major talking point of the offseason.
Already in Week 1, a number of players have been tossed for violating the new rule.
Tulane cornerback Lorenzo Doss was the first to be called and ejected for targeting on opening night Thursday. As Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel reported, Indiana State defensive back Carlos Alives was ejected later that night for a hit on Indiana returner Shane Wynn.
Saturday brought another round of ejections, including one for Oregon defensive back Terrance Mitchell; he launched himself at Nicholls State quarterback Beaux Hebert, who was sliding at the end of a play. Nick Schwartz of USA Today has a GIF and information on the hit.
Mike Pereira of Fox Sports has a full breakdown of that call, as well as the ejections of Texas A&M's Deshazor Everett and a no-call on North Carolina's Brandon Ellerbe from Thursday.
Winners: The Ducks
It was a good day to be an Oregon Duck.
Nine UO rushers combined to amass 500 yards on the ground and seven rushing touchdowns. Three rushers—Marcus Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall—each eclipsed 100 yards on the ground.
Three Oregon quarterbacks logged a completion, and eight players recorded a reception.
In all, the Ducks didn't miss a beat without Chip Kelly at the helm in a 66-3 dismantling of Nicholls State.
Losers: The Beavers
Oregon State looked incredible on offense against Eastern Washington, exploding for 527 yards behind an enormous day from quarterback Sean Mannion.
However, as excellent as the Beavers were on O, they were dreadful on defense, which lead to heartbreak for the Pac-12 Conference title hopefuls.
OSU allowed Eastern Washington to march into the end zone six times. The sixth trip for the Eagles came with just 18 seconds left and it was enough to seal a 49-46 upset.
EWU accumulated 625 total yards, including 448 through the air in the upset.
In a shootout where one key defensive stop could have prevented an upset, the Beavers just couldn't keep the Eagles off the board.
Winners: Christion Jones and the Champs
A new campaign has gotten underway, and a new star arose for defending national champion Alabama.
After a solid sophomore season, Christion Jones had a breakout performance to lead the Crimson Tide to a 35-10 victory over Virginia Tech.
Jones had an electric punt return touchdown for 'Bama's first touchdown of the season and later brought a kickoff back 94 yards for another score.
The junior then completed the hat trick by hauling in a 38-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron.
The Tide offensive line wasn’t quite up to par and neither was McCarron, but Alabama is still the team to beat for the national title.
Losers: The Hawkeyes
Iowa has been on a steady decline since its 11-2 season and Orange Bowl berth in 2009 and it doesn’t look like that rut will end in 2013.
The Hawkeyes faced a tough test in Week 1 against defending Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois.
It looked like Iowa was going to pull out the victory, but the Huskies tallied 10 points in a little more than five minutes, including a 36-yard field goal in the waning seconds.
If Northern Illinois can make it through the MAC unscathed, its slate now sets up nicely for a 12-0 regular season and second consecutive BCS berth.
Iowa, meanwhile, now has an uphill battle toward reaching bowl eligibility.
Winner: Bielema Ball
The Bret Bielema era at Arkansas opened up with a tough contest against a UL-Lafayette team fresh off consecutive nine-win seasons.
However, Bielema’s new squad took to his style of play in impressive fashion. The Razorbacks tallied 522 total yards, including 292 on the ground.
Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins logged 151 and 131 rushing yards respectively, while quarterback Brandon Allen put forth a nearly flawless performance. The sophomore registered 230 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions off 15-of-22 passing.
Thanks to the big offensive output and staunch defense, the Hogs dominated ULL, 34-14.
Loser: The AAC
The American Athletic Conference—college football's equivalent of mystery stew—is off to a rough start in Week 1.
The AAC is 3-5 over the opening weekend, including two losses to FCS programs. Connecticut fell to Towson, while South Florida was embarrassed, 53-21, by McNeese State.
Temple and SMU each had more respectable losses to BCS foes Notre Dame and Texas Tech, and Rutgers fell in an overtime heartbreaker to Fresno State.
Carrying the banner so far for the AAC is Cincinnati, Houston and UCF. The Bearcats crushed Purdue 42-7, Houston took care of business against Southern 62-13 and UCF did the same against Akron, 38-7.
Conference favorite Louisville will begin its BCS bowl bid Sunday against Ohio.
Loser: Big 12 Depth
The Big 12 Conference has been heralded as one of the deepest in college football, but it didn't look like it in Week 1.
Three Big 12 programs either lost or nearly lost to FCS opponents.
Kansas State kicked off the ugly Week 1 Friday with a 24-21 loss to North Dakota State.
West Virginia tried its best to follow KSU's lead, but the Mountaineers managed to put together a 17-0 second-half run to beat William & Mary, 24-17.
Iowa State then capped the weekend off with a 28-20 defeat at the hands of in-state FCS rival Northern Iowa.
Aside from WVU's escape, there is another piece of good news for the Big 12.
Kansas had a Week 1 bye, which prevented the Jayhawks' inclusion on this list.
Winner: Clemson's National Title Hopes
Welcome to the national title conversation, Clemson.
The Tigers were the favorites to win the ACC but had to pass a major test in Week 1 against one of the nation's best teams, Georgia, to truly enter the BCS title picture.
Under the guidance of quarterback Tajh Boyd, Clemson rose to the occasion in a 38-35 triumph.
Boyd amassed more than 300 yards of total offense, as well as five total touchdowns—three passing and two rushing. His favorite target Sammy Watkins caught six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Both now have legitimate Heisman Trophy hopes and they'll have the national spotlight needed to make a run for the award.
Clemson's road is far from over, however.
Florida State and South Carolina still await, as well as the ACC title game, if the Tigers make it that far.
Loser: Georgia's National Title Hopes
Georgia entered the season as a national title hopeful, but those hopes took a major hit in the 38-35 loss to Clemson.
The Bulldogs' BCS title hopes aren't completely wiped out, but their leash is shortened.
Alabama has proved that a one-loss SEC team can still win a national title, but UGA will now have to win out through a tough SEC slate and seal the deal in the conference title game in Atlanta.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will need to become Clemson's biggest fan, as any strength of schedule boost will be welcomed.
To make the situation even more daunting, Georgia has no time to grieve the loss—No. 6 South Carolina will be in Athens next weekend.
Draw: LSU and TCU
Sure, the scoreboard indicated a 37-27 win for LSU, but not much was learned about either team in the process.
LSU looked good but not great on both sides of the ball. While a win over a solid TCU team is an excellent start to the season, the Tigers didn't make a serious statement in the victory.
The jury is still out, deliberating whether or not LSU has what it takes to compete for an SEC title and a verdict might not come until Sept. 28 when the Tigers take on Georgia in Athens.
TCU, on the other hand, showed that it can compete with an upper-echelon team like LSU.
However, this isn't new information and the Horned Frogs left plenty of questions unanswered regarding their offense in the loss.
Winner: Keith Price
Keith Price is back.
The Washington quarterback returned to his 2011 form and led his squad to a 38-6 win over Boise State.
Price had a fantastic sophomore year in 2011, when he threw for more than 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns. 2012 was a rough one for the Compton, Calif. native, who saw his yardage and touchdown numbers decrease and interceptions increase.
After throwing for 324 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1 of his senior campaign, Price looks to be back to where he was in 2011, or perhaps even better.
The outstanding night from running back Bishop Sankey, who tallied 161 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, didn’t hurt either.
Loser: Boise's BCS Hopes
Boise State’s slate set up perfectly for a run back to the BCS.
If the Broncos had picked up a Week 1 win over Washington, they would have been on the fast track back to a BCS bowl without a single BCS conference team on their schedule for the rest of the year.
However, they fell flat and were stomped by the Huskies. Washington gouged the usually staunch Boise defense for 592 total yards.
Without another opportunity to gain a signature victory, the Broncos’ BCS hopes are all but dashed.
Nevada hung tough with UCLA early, only to see the Bruins pull away in decisive fashion.
After leading by just four points at halftime, UCLA trounced Nevada 58-20 behind monster performances from quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Jordon James.
Hundley threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, hitting go-to receiver Shaquelle Evans six times for 81 yards and a score.
Meanwhile, James ran for 155 yards and a touchdown off 21 carries, as UCLA amassed 647 total yards for one of the best offensive performances of Week 1.
The Bruins will need to keep up the strong offensive play, as they face a tough Pac-12 slate that features back-to-back trips to Stanford and Oregon.
Winner: Northwestern's Escape
It wasn't pretty, but Northwestern managed to escape Berkeley with a 44-30 victory over California.
The Wildcats shot themselves in the foot by committing three turnovers on the night, but it was their own fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown that helped seal the deal in favor of NU.
Running back Treyvon Green paced the Wildcats' offense, netting 129 yards on the ground and two touchdowns to outshine teammate Venric Mark, who was held to just 29 yards on 11 carries.
Northwestern will have just over a month now to sharpen up for its Oct. 5 clash with national title hopeful Ohio State.