Winners and Losers from Week 1 of College Football
No. 1 Alabama only had 269 yards of total offense against No. 3 Florida State, but it was the biggest winner of Week 1 of the 2017 college football season thanks to dominant defense and special teams.
That was the game everyone had been waiting for months to watch, but there was plenty of other action on the first full day of the season. The Big Ten dominated early, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson got out to great starts in their Heisman campaigns, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen didn't, and UAB won one more game than Texas and Baylor combined.
But before we dive into Saturday's busy slate of contests, let's open things up with a few highlights (and lowlights) from Thursday and Friday night.
Note: This list does not include the three games on Sunday and Monday.
Winner: Army's Rushing Assault
Six weeks ago, we told you Army would have the best running game in the nation this season, but we still weren't expecting Friday night's rushing onslaught against Fordham.
The Black Knights ran for 513 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 10.9 yards per carry. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw led the way with 177 yards on just nine carries, but a dozen different players had at least one rush go for 10 or more yards.
In terms of total yards, it's something we've seen before from Army. In fact, this triple-option offense has now had at least one game with 513 or more rushing yards in six of the last seven seasons. But it's the first time the Black Knights have averaged at least 10 yards per carry in a game in more than a decade.
What really made this box score stand out, though, was Army's receiving yards—because there weren't any.
Bradshaw was unable to connect with a receiver on either of his two pass attempts, making Army the first team to win a game with zero completions since November 2012. Furthermore, in the 64-6 rout, the Black Knights became the first team since 2002 to score at least 35 points in a game without any completions.
Loser: Colorado State's Encore Performance
During last weekend's soft opening to the 2017 season, Colorado State looked like an unstoppable force of nature. After trailing 17-14 in the second quarter, the Rams outscored Oregon State 44-10 the rest of the way. Nick Stevens threw for 334 yards and three scores without taking a single sack. As a team, they rushed for 191 yards.
Where did that squad go?
Friday night against Colorado, Stevens threw for another 309 yards, but he barely completed 50 percent of his passes and had two interceptions with no touchdowns. In fact, CSU finished the game with as many turnovers as points. The Rams ran for just 88 yards while committing 120 yards' worth of penalties in the 17-3 loss to the Buffaloes.
Colorado's defense is better than Oregon State's, but not that much better. This was simply a poor showing from the Rams offense. They were held to 35 or fewer yards on nine of their first 10 possessions and committed turnovers on the final two.
Next week's game against Abilene Christian should be just what the doctor ordered, but what about the following week's road game against Alabama? That looked like a potentially tricky matchup for the Crimson Tide before Friday night, but things could get ugly in Tuscaloosa if this version of the Rams offense shows up again.
Winner: Jaleel Scott, New Mexico State
If you weren't watching #Pac12AfterDark on the first Thursday of the college football season, we're sorry to say you already missed what should go down as the best catch of the year.
New Mexico State's Jaleel Scott elevated in the corner of the end zone for a contested one-handed grab that didn't seem physically possible. And he was just getting warmed up. Scott—who had 283 receiving yards in the entire 2016 season—finished the night with 149 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions.
To be fair, Arizona State is no stranger to landing on the wrong end of a big receiving game. The Sun Devils have ranked dead last in the nation in passing yards allowed per game in each of the last two seasons. Perhaps the most shocking part of Scott's highlight grab was that an ASU defender was draped all over him.
Scott's effort wasn't quite enough for a come-from-behind upset, but the 37-31 result was one heck of a showing from an Aggies team that has suffered at least nine losses in 10 consecutive seasons. With a weapon such as Scott on offense, they might finally break that streak.
Loser: O-Lines in NMSU vs. ASU
I wasn't expecting to write anything about this game, let alone two slides. However, the combined ineptitude of the offensive lines necessitated mentioning.
Led by Tashon Smallwood and Koron Crump, Arizona State's defense had six sacks and eight tackles for loss. But that was nothing compared to New Mexico State's marks of seven and 14, respectively. Malik Demby had 5.5 tackles for loss by himself, which is something only two players accomplished in a game last season—one of which came against Arizona State.
It's astounding there were only two total turnovers in this contest, considering defenders were practically stationed in the opposing backfields. Rushing was a nightmare, though. Jason Huntley broke free for a 50-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter, but aside from that outlier, the teams combined for 180 yards on 69 carries (2.6 YPC).
The funny thing is New Mexico State had one of the worst front sevens in the nation last season. The Aggies ranked 118th in allowing 244.3 rushing yards per game and tied for 124th with just 11 total sacks.
Winner: Oklahoma State's Offense
Jalen McCleskey led Oklahoma State in receptions last year (73) and should be a big part of one of the most high-powered offenses in the nation. His season debut, though, was a great big dud. He had just one catch for a two-yard loss and fumbled a punt return for a Tulsa touchdown.
And yet, the Cowboys had 640 yards of total offense in the 59-24 win.
Mason Rudolph completed 20 of 24 passes, threw for 303 yards and three scores and rushed for a fourth. James Washington was on the receiving end of 145 of those yards and two of the touchdowns. Three different running backs ran for at least 90 yards, led by Justice Hill's 132.
Tulsa is no pushover, either. The Golden Hurricane went 10-3 last season and held all 13 of their opponents to fewer than 535 yards. Oklahoma State had already reached that mark with 7:30 remaining in the third quarter. Had the Cowboys kept their foot on the gas pedal rather than pulling their starters after that drive, they easily could have eclipsed 700 yards.
Get ready to see more of that over the next three months. This offense has more big-play potential than any team in the country and should put a ton of points on the board every week.
Loser: Mike Weber, Ohio State
As a redshirt freshman, Mike Weber led Ohio State in rushing with 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns. Virtually everyone had him penciled in as one of the top running backs in the Big Ten for this season.
However, a hamstring injury kept him out of the season opener against Indiana, leaving him helpless on the sideline while J.K. Dobbins put on a show. The true freshman had 29 carries for 181 yards and added another 24 yards as a receiver.
Early on when Parris Campbell was dropping wide-open touchdowns, J.T. Barrett was missing receivers by a mile and it felt like the Buckeyes might be in danger of losing, Dobbins was the one piece on offense holding this team together long enough for it to eventually run away with a 49-21 victory.
Dobbins had a few plays go for more than 20 yards, but the play-by-play log is littered with instances of his rushing for three to six yards. Though he didn't personally account for any TDs, he was clearly the MVP of the game and one of the breakout sensations of the week.
Thus, even if Weber's hamstring is 100 percent for next week's game against Oklahoma, Dobbins has to feature prominently in the offense until further notice, right?
Maybe it's a 60/40 split in favor of Weber, but that's a significantly lower percentage of the RB touches than was expected for the incumbent.
Winner: Big Ten in Noon Games
There were five Big Ten teams in action in the first slate of Saturday games, and all five emerged with a win.
The biggest beatdown of the bunch was Penn State's 52-0 rout of Akron. Both of the Nittany Lions' Heisman candidates looked strong in the process. Trace McSorley threw for 280 yards, rushed for 48 and had three total touchdowns. Saquon Barkley put on a show of his own with 172 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries while also making three catches for 54 yards. Neither stud played a snap in the fourth quarter.
The most impressive win was Maryland's 51-41 road victory over No. 23 Texas. The Longhorns scored three touchdowns on defense and special teams, but they could not slow down Maryland's offense. Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill combined to complete 80 percent of their pass attempts, and Ty Johnson led a rushing attack that accounted for 263 yards. This team could be a problem in the Big Ten East.
Michigan State opened up what it hopes will be a bounce-back year with a 35-10 win over Bowling Green. Iowa shut down Wyoming in a 24-3 game that ended in under three hours. And in "a win is a win" fashion, Illinois narrowly averted disaster in a 24-21 home win over Ball State.
Loser: The Josh Allen Hype Machine
Over the past five months of way-too-early 2018 NFL mock drafts, Josh Allen went from a quarterback most college football fans had never heard of to a guy some were buying as a Heisman candidate. The projected top-five pick in next year's draft was heralded as a 6'5" phenom with a rocket for an arm who occasionally makes poor decisions and whose numbers would be a lot better if he were playing with competent receivers.
All aspects of that scouting report were on full display in the 24-3 loss to Iowa.
Allen had more than a couple "How did he do that?" plays, including one third-down situation where he avoided seemingly every Hawkeye defender on the field for the most impressive five-yard sack of all time. He also had several gorgeous passes, some of which Wyoming actually caught. The best pass of the day, though, was a 36-yard strike that C.J. Johnson straight up dropped in the end zone.
After that third-quarter gaffe—which followed a second-quarter whiffed punt by Tim Zaleski that is guaranteed to be used in internet memes for the foreseeable future—Allen started forcing terrible passes, resulting in interceptions in Iowa territory on each of the next (last) two drives.
Allen finished the afternoon with 174 yards, no TDs and two picks on just 23-of-40 passing. He should bounce back nicely against Gardner-Webb before the Sept. 16 showdown against Oregon where he needs to have an impressive showing. Thus far in his college career, he has one touchdown and seven interceptions in games against teams from the Power Five.
Winner: The Baker Mayfield Hype Machine
In 2016, Baker Mayfield had the most efficient season for a quarterback in college football history.
It only took one half of one game to see that he plans on setting that record again this year.
Despite losing primary weapons Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine from last year's team, Mayfield was almost perfect in the opener against UTEP. He completed each of his first 16 pass attempts and finished the day 19-of-20 for 329 yards and three scores.
He did it all in one half, too. Mayfield didn't take the field again after leading the Sooners to a 35-7 lead at the intermission. Kyler Murray and Tanner Schafer took over the rest of the way for the 56-7 victory.
Up next is the massive road game against Ohio State. The Buckeyes secondary was Mayfield's only major challenge during the 2016 season. He completed just 53.1 percent of his passes for 226 yards, two scores and two interceptions. However, that secondary isn't the same after losing three first-round picks to the NFL. Indiana's Richard Lagow threw for 410 yards and three scores Thursday night vs. the Buckeyes, and Mayfield may became the front-runner for the Heisman if he has a similar outing.
Loser: Defenses in Missouri
In a nutshell, here's how nonexistent defense was in the game between Missouri State and Missouri: Mizzou gave up 43 points and still almost covered the 35.5-point spread.
The final score was 72-43, but it was the first half, in particular, that was ridiculous.
Prior to intermission, the Bears and Tigers combined for 83 points and 888 total yards. Both teams scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions and then combined for another five touchdowns in the span of roughly six minutes in the second quarter. It took 20 minutes and one second for Drew Lock to match his previous career high for touchdowns in a game.
By the time all was done, Lock had thrown for 521 yards and seven scores. In the previous three seasons, Baker Mayfield (545 yards, 7 TD) was the only quarterback to eclipse 500 yards with seven touchdowns, putting Lock in elite company. Damarea Crockett also ran for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
But it's because Missouri's defense was so awful that it had to keep those starters in the game to rack up all of the yards. The Tigers allowed an FCS team with seven consecutive losing seasons to gain 492 yards with 21 first downs. They eventually clamped down in the second half, allowing just one scoring drive in eight tries. That first-half effort was a nightmare, though. Defend like that against an SEC team and they'll give up 100 points.
Winner: Clemson's New-Look Offense
No Deshaun Watson. No Mike Williams. No Wayne Gallman.
No problem for Clemson.
Junior Kelly Bryant started at QB and accounted for 236 of Clemson's 312 passing yards. And he did so while locating a plethora of targets. Fifteen different Tigers made at least one reception, highlighted by Deon Cain's early 61-yard TD grab.
Bryant was also one of the leaders in the ground game, rushing for 77 yards and a score. Just about everyone got in on the action there, too. Travis Etienne, Tavien Feaster, C.J. Fuller and Adam Choice each had rushing touchdowns as the Tigers ran for 353 yards and six TDs as a team.
No individual player had more than eight carries or more than three catches, yet the Tigers had 665 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, the defense embarrassed Kent State, holding the Golden Flashes to 120 total yards and five first downs in the 56-3 blowout.
Granted, no one expected this to be a close game. Per OddsShark, Clemson was a 38-point favorite in what was supposed to be a 45-7 game. Still, in advance of next week's big showdown with Auburn, it was reassuring to see the defending national champions putting up points with ease.
Loser: Texas Longhorns
After three consecutive losing seasons, Texas was supposed to turn over a new leaf. The Longhorns fired Charlie Strong and brought in Tom Herman. They have a potential Heisman candidate at quarterback in Shane Buechele, a likely first-round pick at linebacker in Malik Jefferson and a possible No. 1 overall pick at offensive tackle in Connor Williams.
Early returns are that none of that matters, as they lost 51-41 in their home opener against Maryland.
Buechele threw for 375 yards and had three all-purpose TDs, but he got out to a dreadful start and didn't lead a scoring drive until midway through the third quarter. On the rushing front, it's clear the Longhorns haven't figured out life after D'Onta Foreman. They were held to 98 yards on 31 carries—though, some of those "carries" were Buechele's five sacks, as he was under pressure all afternoon.
Worse than the offense was the defensive effort.
Though the Longhorns had a pick-six, a punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal returned for a score, they accomplished next to nothing on Maryland's other 66 snaps. The Terps ran for 263 yards and four touchdowns and had no problem moving the ball even after a leg injury to Tyrrell Pigrome forced true freshman QB Kasim Hill into the game in the third quarter.
Four of Texas' next six games are against ranked teams, so this season could spiral out of control in a hurry if it doesn't figure out how to get opposing offenses off the field.
Winner: No. 1 Jerseys in N.C. State vs. South Carolina
For much of the game between North Carolina State and South Carolina, it felt like the only players doing anything were wearing No. 1.
It started on the opening kickoff when No. 1 for the Gamecocks, Deebo Samuel, had a 97-yard return for a touchdown. It was the only time the Wolfpack special teams gave Samuel a chance to do anything, but the wide receiver had more up his sleeve on offense. He had five receptions for 83 yards and two more scores, including a sensational one-handed grab for a 39-yard score.
Not to be outdone, N.C. State's No. 1, Jaylen Samuels, was everywhere. Despite a hamstring injury that forced him to wear a rubber band contraption on the back of his leg for the second half, he finished the day with 15 receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown. The total yardage isn't that noteworthy, but Ryan Finley's safety blanket was the first and only option on many a third-down play.
All told, Samuel and Samuels had a combined 279 all-purpose yards on 23 touches. But Samuel's three TDs were enough to give the Gamecocks the 35-28 victory.
Loser: Florida's Offense
Suspensions put Florida in a predicament before its showdown with Michigan even began. Last year's leading rusher (Jordan Scarlett) and leading receiver (Antonio Callaway) were among the 10 Gators not allowed to suit up against the Wolverines, resulting in serious concerns about what this team would do on offense.
As it turns out, they weren't equipped to do much.
Even though Michigan had to replace 10 defensive starters from last season, this never looked like a fair fight. The Gators got two first downs and three points on their first drive of the game, but they were held to seven first downs, 146 yards and no points (on offense) the rest of the way.
Rushing was nothing short of a disaster. Mark Thompson led the way with 13 yards. The team had 11 total rushing yards on 27 attempts. But passing wasn't much better, as Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire took a combined six sacks and each coughed up a fumble.
Were it not for back-to-back pick sixes in the second quarter, this one would have gotten all sorts of ugly. Getting Scarlett and Callaway back should be a nice boost, but it will take more than that to fix an offense that often looked like it didn't have enough bodies on the field.
Winner: UAB's Return to Football
Thirty-three months ago, UAB football was killed. Finances were the stated cause of a death that was not well-received. Rather than drop down to FCS, the Blazers football program was controversially disbanded altogether.
But the Zombie Dragons are back, and they're already in the win column.
It didn't take long for them to look right at home on the turf, either. On their first drive in nearly three years, the Blazers went 76 yards on 14 plays—including a fourth-down conversion—for a TD.
A.J. Erdely led the way against Alabama A&M with a rushing touchdown and a pair of passing scores in the 38-7 win. The highlight of the day, though, belonged to Anthony Rush. The 340-pound defensive tackle was the recipient of a big-guy touchdown when he returned an interception 27 yards to paydirt.
Sure, the victory came against an FCS team that hasn't had a winning record since 2012, but a win's a win when you're deprived of football for as long as this school had been. We'll see if UAB can score its first FBS win next week against Ball State.
Loser: Baylor Bears
After starting last season 6-0 and climbing to No. 8 in the AP Top 25, Baylor has now lost seven consecutive regular-season games.
The most recent one was, without question, the most embarrassing of the bunch.
Per OddsShark, Baylor was a 34.5-point favorite at home against FCS school Liberty. And then the world was introduced to Stephen "Buckshot" Calvert. Liberty's sophomore QB threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a fourth. He connected with sophomore wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden a baker's dozen times for 192 yards and two scores.
Plain and simple, Liberty was the better team in this 48-45 upset.
The Flames outgained the Bears 585-532, didn't commit any turnovers and possessed the ball for nearly twice as long (38:16) as Baylor did (21:44). Rather than collapsing after unexpectedly entering halftime in a tie ballgame, they came out stronger, scoring on four of their first five drives of the second half—which doesn't even include their pick-six on the third play after the intermission.
It'll be interesting to see where Matt Rhule and the Bears go from here. Was this the wake-up call they needed in what was supposed to be an easy three-week stretch to start the season, or is this the beginning of a long-term effect from recruiting difficulties the past few years?
Winner: Lamar Jackson's Heisman Defense
No. 16 Louisville got more of a scare from Purdue than perhaps anyone was expecting, but don't even think about blaming that close 35-28 win on Lamar Jackson.
Superman struggled late in the 2016 season, winning the Heisman despite the Cardinals' finishing the year on a three-game losing streak. But he was back to his early-season, video game-numbers self in the first contest of his quest to become a two-time Heisman winner. Jackson threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 107 yards.
All three of last year's top targets graduated, but Jackson didn't miss a beat. Jaylen Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick, Seth Dawkins and Traveon Samuel each had at least four receptions and 55 yards as Jackson spread the ball around to carve up Purdue's defense.
He racked up nearly 500 all-purpose yards without any huge strikes, too. His longest rush went for just 15 yards, and he only completed one pass for more than 30 yards—a 39-yard dart to Fitzpatrick for a third-down conversion. Once those big plays start coming, oh my.
Loser: Sam Darnold's Heisman Odds
While the reigning Heisman winner put on a show, the preseason favorite for the award...didn't.
That isn't to say Sam Darnold had a terrible game. He completed 69.7 percent of his pass attempts for 289 yards. However, the zero touchdowns and two interceptions was a bad look against a Western Michigan team that wasn't expected to do much of anything this season. He also took a pair of sacks and coughed up a fumble, though USC was able to recover it.
Darnold had multiple passing TDs in each of his final nine games last season, and it was his five-TD performance in the Rose Bowl that led many to pronounce him the player most likely to win college football's most prestigious award. But that guy did not show up against the Broncos.
At least USC's dynamic rushing duo was there to pick up the slack. Ronald Jones II ran for 159 yards and three scores, and true freshman Stephen Carr added another 69 yards and two touchdowns. Factor in a rushing TD from Darnold, and the Trojans were able to pull out a 49-31 victory behind six rushing touchdowns.
They're going to need much more out of Darnold next week against Stanford, though. Otherwise, they might be kissing both the Heisman and the College Football Playoff goodbye.
Winner: Alabama's Defense and Special Teams
After all the time we spent talking about the quarterbacks, running backs, defensive lines and secondaries in the buildup to one of the greatest Week 1 games of all time, it was the special teams that proved to be the difference in No. 1 Alabama's 24-7 win over No. 3 Florida State.
Alabama's special teams weren't always special, though. Andy Pappanastos missed a pair of field-goal attempts, and JK Scott shanked a nine-yard punt. Outside of those miscues, though, the Crimson Tide destroyed the Seminoles in that area of the game. In the span of a little more than one quarter, they blocked two punts and one field goal while also forcing a fumble on a kick return.
After that, the defense really took over. Alabama's defense was good all night, but things turned ugly once the Seminoles were down by two scores and in full-blown desperation mode. On Florida State's final five possessions, it ran 12 plays for 20 yards with two interceptions and a sack that left Deondre Francois in a heavy-duty leg brace at the end of the night.
Business as usual for Alabama, though, right?
The only strange thing is the Crimson Tide didn't actually score any touchdowns on defense or special teams. But they were clearly the better squad, despite a grand total of three receptions for 14 yards from players not named Calvin Ridley and despite and underwhelming season debut from Bo Scarbrough (15 carries for 40 yards).
Loser: Kickers on Title Contenders
Kicking is kind of a big deal in football, and early returns are that most of the title contenders do not have a rock-solid kicker.
Ohio State, Wisconsin and Washington all fared well in the kicking department Thursday and Friday night, but the highly ranked teams in action Saturday had a whale of a time putting the ball through the uprights.
No. 1 Alabama had two missed kicks by Andy Pappanastos from 42 and 41 yards. Meanwhile, No. 3 Florida State only attempted one field goal, and Ricky Aguayo's 37-yarder got blocked.
No. 6 Penn State won 52-0, but it would have been 55-0 if Tyler Davis hadn't missed a 39-yard attempt. No. 11 Michigan and No. 12 Auburn each had two missed field goals, and No. 13 LSU had Jack Gonsoulin miss a 34-yard attempt.
On the bright side, no ranked teams missed an extra-point attempt. But the highest-ranked team that played on Saturday and attempted at least one field goal without missing any was No. 15 Georgia. Hard not to wonder how many more days it will be until a missed field goal proves to be the difference in a major upset.
Winner: The Biggest Upset Ever
If you were expecting a major AP poll shocker on par with unranked Wisconsin's knocking off No. 5 LSU in last year's opening week, you were sorely disappointed. No. 23 Texas' loss to Maryland was as big as it got, and that result was immediately met by a ton of pundits who questioned why the Longhorns were ranked in the first place.
But if you ignored the rankings and just looked at the spreads in Vegas, it was one of the wildest weeks ever. In addition to Liberty's aforementioned outright win as a five-TD dog, Howard defeated UNLV in what Pregame CEO RJ Bell declared the biggest upset in college football history.
UNLV hasn't been stellar lately, posting an overall record of 22-66 dating back to 2010. But Howard has been even worse, going 3-19 as an FCS team over the last two years. The spread may seem a bit excessive given UNLV's struggles, but all signs pointed to this being a UNLV blowout.
OddsShark had Howard as a 45.5-point underdog, but Cam Newton's little brother didn't care one bit. Caylin Newton had 330 combined passing and rushing yards and accounted for three touchdowns in leading the Bison to a 43-40 win.
Bell tweeted a graphic earlier in the evening showing Stanford (+39 against USC in 2007) as the biggest upset winner since 1980. This game beat that record by almost an entire touchdown. Remember that when someone tries to complain that it was a boring, predictable start to the season.
Those two words can never be used to describe this contest.
Kerry Miller covers college football and college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.