College Football: Winners and Losers from Week 1
The first full slate of college football games kicked off this weekend, and it was packed with action.
On Thursday night, No. 17 Pitt defeated West Virginia 38-31 at home in the Backyard Brawl rivalry.
In the Saturday noon slate of games, Iowa survived an upset at home against South Dakota State, narrowly beating the FCS team 7-3. No. 13 NC State also had a close one against East Carolina, beating the Pirates 21-20 in Greenville. Meanwhile, North Carolina narrowly defeated Appalachian State on the road, defeating the Mountaineers 63-61 in a thriller that came down to the wire.
The biggest game of the 3:30 p.m. slate, No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 11 Oregon, was over pretty quickly. The Dawgs rolled to a 49-3 victory over the Ducks in a game that wasn't really ever close. No. 19 Arkansas defeated No. 23 Cincinnati at home, winning 31-24.
We've got you covered on the biggest winners and losers from Week 1 of the college football season.
Winner: The Backyard Brawl
For the first time in 11 years, the rivalry between West Virginia and Pitt known as the Backyard Brawl was renewed on Thursday night.
While the game had a pretty low-scoring first half, tied at 10, it really opened up in the second half.
CJ Donaldson gave the Mountaineers a 17-10 lead early in the third quarter by blocking a punt and rushing in for a score on consecutive plays, but Pitt's offense scored two touchdowns near the end of the quarter to take a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth. Pitt's defense forced a WVU three-and-out between the Panthers' two scoring possessions.
But this one continued to be back-and-forth through the end of the quarter. West Virginia scored a go-ahead touchdown on JT Daniels' rushing touchdown to make it 31-24 with 10:37 left in the game. Pitt responded late in the quarter with a Kedon Slovis 24-yard touchdown pass to Israel Abanikanda with 3:41 left to tie things up.
West Virginia had plenty of time to respond, but on first down from their own 39-yard line, Pitt's M.J. Devonshire picked off Daniels and returned it 56 yards for an unbelievable pick-six to give Pitt a 38-31 victory.
The win for the Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak to the Mountaineers and gave them their first win in the series since 2008.
This game should be played on the first Thursday night of college football every season based on how exciting this one was.
Loser: App State Scored 40 Points in the 4th Quarter—and Lost
Saturday's game between UNC and App State in Boone, North Carolina, was an absolute barnburner. It looked like the Tar Heels would run away with this one after the third quarter, as Noah Burnette's 44-yard field goal made it 41-21 UNC entering the fourth.
But App State had other plans, making this finish as chaotic as possible. The Mountaineers scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions to open the fourth quarter, capitalizing on a Drake Maye fumble to get the ball back after its first score. UNC kept scoring to try and put the game away, but App State never let the game get out of reach.
The Mountaineers tied the game at 49 with a Camerun Peoples 38-yard touchdown. The last four minutes of the game were when things went off the rails. Maye found his running back D.J. Jones for a 42-yard touchdown pass to make it 56-49 with 2:50 left.
The Mountaineers countered with a 75-yard scoring drive, capped off by a Chase Brice touchdown pass to Dashaun Davis with 31 seconds left. Instead of going for the extra point to tie it up and send it into overtime, App State opted to go for two. Brice overthrew Davis on the two-point conversion attempt, making it 56-55 UNC.
The Mountaineers then attempted an onside kick, but North Carolina's Bryson Nesbit returned it 43 yards for a touchdown.
There were just 19 seconds left on the clock—surely the Tar Heels had put the game away, right? Nope. App State drove right down the field—helped by a defensive holding penalty— to score a touchdown. App State had to go for two to tie things up, but Brice was tackled short of the goal-line, giving the Tar Heels the 63-61 win.
So in total, App State scored 40 points in the fourth quarter, including 338 yards of offense, and still lost. Tough way to lose for the Mountaineers.
Winner: Georgia's Offense Against Oregon
The Georgia Bulldogs didn't miss a beat in Week 1. Opening in Atlanta, Georgia, against the No. 11 Oregon Ducks, the Bulldogs rolled to a 49-3 victory on Saturday.
This one was pretty much over in the first half. It was already 28-3 heading into intermission, with quarterback Stetson Bennett throwing for 254 yards. He also scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter. The quarterback finished with 368 yards in the air on the day.
Bennett's receivers had a productive day, as well. Sophomore Ladd McConkey opened the scoring with a first-quarter rushing touchdown and totaled five receptions for 73 yards and another score. Adonai Mitchell added 65 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown reception.
Georgia finished with 571 total yards of offense with four rushing touchdowns and averaged 9.2 yards per play on the day.
Oregon's offense couldn't get much going at all under new quarterback Bo Nix, who recorded 173 passing yards and two interceptions. The Ducks, who finished with 313 yards of offense, had a chance to score a touchdown during the last two minutes of the fourth quarter. But Georgia's defense stalled the drive at the 2-yard line as Nix's fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
Georgia returned just three starters on defense from last season. If the Dawgs' offense can play like this all season, they should have no problems making it back to the playoff.
Loser: The Nebraska Cornhuskers
This is not the way Scott Frost wanted his team to rebound after losing to Northwestern in Week Zero. The Cornhuskers were playing their home opener against FCS North Dakota. Let's just say this thing was way closer than it should have been.
The Cornhuskers were 28.5-point favorites at home against the Fighting Hawks, and North Dakota kept this a one-score game throughout most of it. This game was tied at 7 all at halftime, even!
Luckily, Nebraska started pulling away late in the third quarter. The Cornhuskers went up 24-17 off an Anthony Grant 46-yard touchdown run with 2:30 left in the third. The Cornhuskers finally made it a two-score lead with an Ajay Allen touchdown in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Casey Thompson added a five-yard touchdown pass with 2:07 left to give Nebraska a 38-17 win.
Thompson improved a bit from his game last week against Northwestern. He finished with 193 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. If Nebraska wants to have a winning season, his numbers will likely have to improve a bit.
The Arizona Wildcats have struggled quite a bit in recent years. Their last winning season was in 2017, and they've gone 10-31 over the last four seasons.
But the Wildcats, under second-year head coach Jedd Fisch, got a huge road win on Saturday against San Diego State. Arizona went on the road and defeated the Aztecs 38-20. The win marked the first road win for the Wildcats since October 2019, and the first non-conference road win in five seasons.
The Wildcats took command of this game from the get-go. They had a 10-0 lead after the first quarter and led 24-10 at halftime. In the second half, Arizona's defense held San Diego State to just 10 points. The Wildcats scored another 31 points in the second half to win it by three scores comfortably.
Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura had a great day for the Wildcats, throwing for 299 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Wildcats running back D.J. Williams added a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
San Diego State has been a decent program in recent years, too, so this makes this win even more impressive for Arizona. The Aztecs went 12-2 last season, marking the second double-digit win year for SDSU in three seasons.
Congrats to Wildcat fans on this big win. We'll see if Arizona can keep the winning trend going this season.
Loser: Top-Ranked Pac-12 Teams
The Pac-12 didn't have the best day against SEC teams on Saturday.
After the No. 11 Ducks got demolished by the No. 3 Dawgs, the No. 7 Utah Utes fell just short in the waning moments of their game against the unranked Florida Gators.
Utah got the ball back with 1:25 left, trailing 29-26 after a Florida touchdown drive. The Utes managed to drive down to Florida's 6-yard line and looked primed to score in the game's final seconds. But on 2nd-and-goal, Gator linebacker Amari Burney intercepted Utes quarterback Cameron Rising's pass in the end zone to seal Florida's upset victory.
With the loss, the Pac-12 is now 1-8 against SEC teams in its last nine Week 1 games, according to ESPN's broadcast (h/t Chris Vannini of The Athletic).
Oregon losing to Georgia wasn't all that surprising, but there was certainly hope the Ducks would put up more of a fight.
Meanwhile, Utah's loss to Florida severely damages the Utes' playoff hopes. Entering the day, Utah was a legitimate playoff contender. Instead of earning a statement win on the road, the loss makes Utah's path to the playoff a lot harder.
The Utes still have games remaining against USC and Oregon before the regular season is over. One more loss would knock the Utes out of the playoff entirely—if the loss to Florida didn't already.
Winner: New Head Coaching Debuts
There were a lot of head coaches making their debuts on Saturday. Most of them had pretty successful ones, too.
Mario Cristobal's Miami Hurricanes were playing Week 1 at home against Bethune-Cookman. The Canes took care of business at home, winning 70-13. Returning quarterback Tyler Van Dyke finished with 193 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Oklahoma is starting fresh under Brent Venables, who arrives in Norman after spending the last 10 years at Clemson. The No. 9-ranked Sooners defeated UTEP at home 45-13. The Sooners jumped out to a 21-0 lead during the first eight minutes of the game.
Florida head coach Billy Napier's debut in Gainesville couldn't have gone any better. He led his team to an upset 29-26 victory over Utah, and the win extended Florida's 33-game win streak in home openers.
The program with arguably the most offseason hype surrounding it was USC after the Trojans hired Lincoln Riley. USC was tied 7-7 at the end of the first quarter against Rice at home, but it eventually pulled away, winning 66-14. Caleb Williams, who followed Riley to USC, finished with 249 yards and two touchdowns.
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman didn't quite have the same night as some of his other fellow head coaches. The Fighting Irish went on the road to face the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes. Although the Irish got out to a 10-7 lead at halftime, ND's defense couldn't hold up in the second half. The Buckeyes added two touchdowns in the half to win 21-10.
Notre Dame still has to play BYU, Clemson and USC this season, so the Irish can't afford another loss if it wants to make the playoff.
Winner: Anthony Richardson
Could there be hope for another Florida quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy? Given how Anthony Richardson played for the Gators on Saturday night, there will definitely be some talk about the possibility.
In Florida's 29-26 victory over Utah, Richardson finished with 106 rushing yards with three touchdowns on 11 carries. One of those was a 45-yard score in the second quarter. In the air, he went 17-for-24 with 168 yards.
He had his most impressive play of the night in the fourth quarter. Following Montrell Johnson Jr.'s 14-yard touchdown run to give the Gators a one-point lead with 12:48 left in the game, Florida opted for a two-point conversion.
Richardson rolled out to his right and threw a pump fake while evading defenders. Still keeping his eyes downfield, he found Ja'Quavion Fraziars wide open in the end zone to give his team a field-goal advantage.
Richardson, who completed just 38 passes last season for Florida, looked quite composed running Napier's offense. Florida has another big opponent coming to town next week, as No. 20 Kentucky comes to Gainesville.
We'll see if Richardson's magic can continue in Week 2.
Loser: Iowa's Offense and Touchdowns
Iowa got a shockingly close victory on Saturday against FCS South Dakota State, winning by a final score of 7-3. You're probably thinking—"Oh, at least Iowa scored a touchdown, right?" No, friends, let me introduce you to a new point-scoring phenomenon called the Iowa touchdown.
An Iowa touchdown is scoring seven points by doing the following: kicking a field goal, getting a safety and getting yet another safety. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Iowa is the only team to score exactly seven points without recording a touchdown since at least 2000.
Iowa's offense was absolutely putrid on Saturday. The Hawkeyes finished with 166 total yards of offense, had two turnovers and finished with just 57 yards rushing. Both of these teams also had more punts combined (21) than there were first downs (16).
The hero of Saturday's game was definitely Iowa punter Tory Taylor, who punted 10 times and averaged 47.9 yards per punt. Seven of his punts were downed inside South Dakota State's 20-yard line, too.
Can't wait to see how many Iowa touchdowns we get to see this season with the Hawkeyes. I hope we get at least one more.
(h/t to Jason Kirk for coining the term "Iowa Touchdown" on the Shutdown Fullcast After Dark Twitter Space)
Winner: CJ Stroud and Ohio State's Playoff Resume
The Buckeyes are one step closer to the College Football Playoff with their big win over No. 5 Notre Dame Saturday. Although the Buckeyes trailed 10-7 at halftime, Ohio State's offense came alive in the second half.
In the final seconds of the third quarter, Buckeye quarterback CJ Stroud found Xavier Johnson for a 24-yard touchdown to give OSU a 14-10 lead.
Ohio State forced a Notre Dame punt on its ensuing drive, and the Buckeyes offense asserted its dominance over the Fighting Irish defense on its next drive. Stroud and the Buckeyes put together a 14-play scoring drive that ate over seven minutes of game clock. It was capped with a Miyan Williams two-yard rushing touchdown to give Ohio State a 21-10 lead.
It was a bit surprising to see this Ohio State offense start out so slowly against Notre Dame, but the credit goes to Freeman and his defense in the first half. On the night, Stroud finished with 223 yards and two touchdowns.
One possible reason for Ohio State's offense looking sluggish could be the loss of receiver Jaxson Smith-Njigba. Early in the game, he took a big hit and played sparingly the rest of the night. He finished with just two catches for three yards.
Saturday's outing from Ohio State's offense lacked the explosiveness we were hoping to see. But the Buckeyes scored when they needed to to get a big win. That means OSU is still on-track to make it into the playoff come December.