Bleacher Report's Week 1 College Football Awards

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 2, 2018

Bleacher Report's Week 1 College Football Awards

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    In addition to a leather helmet, for some strange reason, Auburn's red-zone defense was the recipient of one of Bleacher Report's awards for Week 1 of the 2018 college football season.

    We also have a head coach who's already on the hot seat, a boneheaded penalty for the ages, a point-a-palooza in the Horseshoe, a "Shoelace" imitation in Syracuse and about a dozen other awards to sum up the opening week that was.

    One award we surprisingly didn't get to give out, though, was the "Colossal Upset of the Week." There were a couple of surprises and plenty of close calls, but there wasn't a single loss by a team that was favored by at least 15 points.

    It's only a matter of time before college football makes up for lost time on that front.

The Kenny Hill Award

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    Rondale Moore
    Rondale MooreJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Back in 2014, Kenny Hill came out of seemingly nowhere with a Thursday night opener for the ages. After attempting just 22 passes in his entire freshman season, he exploded for 511 yards and three touchdowns in a road win over No. 9 South Carolina. Before most of the preseason Heisman candidates had even taken a snap, he was officially in that conversation.

    Since then, we're always on the lookout for the next guy who's going to take the college football world by storm with a Week 1 Thursday night monster.

    Two years ago, Lamar Jackson threw six touchdown passes and rushed for two more scores in a relentless pummeling of Charlotte. It was the first of his many ridiculous box scores en route to the Heisman. And last year, Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins rushed for 181 yards in his debut as a true freshman.

    Without question, this year's recipient of the Kenny Hill Award is Purdue's Rondale Moore.

    On 18 touches11 receptions, five kick returns, two carriesthe true freshman amassed 313 all-purpose yards, setting a Purdue record for all-purpose yards in a single game. By the end of the first quarter, Moore had already scored twice on a 32-yard reception and a 76-yard rush.

    And this wasn't a case of a speedy kid exploiting holes in a rusty defense. Moore flashed some moves that will quickly cement him as one of the most elusive players in the country.

    Moore repeatedly left Northwestern defenders grasping at air, the most absurd of which came in the fourth quarterby which point the Wildcats were clearly focusing all of their energy on containing him. The Athletic's Max Olson tweeted a slow-motion video of the jaw-dropping combination of a high step, head fake and juke that made Northwestern's senior cornerback Montre Hartage look like a deer on ice.

    Unfortunately for Purdue, Moore's heroics weren't quite enough. Northwestern won the Big Ten opener 31-27.

The Opener We Didn't Know We Needed

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    Jonathan Banks
    Jonathan BanksJonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Heading into Thursday night, it seemed like Northwestern at Purdue was going to be the only game with any national appeal. Eight of the 12 games involved an FCS team, and both UCF at Connecticut and New Mexico State at Minnesota were expected to be (and ended up being) blowouts.

    The lone wild card was Wake Forest at Tulane.

    And, buddy, that game had everything.

    It wasn't conventionally beautiful. Far from it, actually. It was more like a baby with a face that only a mother could love. But after almost eight months without games (excluding Week 0), it was the precise slop-fest that college football Twitter needed.

    At halftime, there were more punts (10) than points (seven), thanks in large part to a missed 23-yard field goal. And six of those 10 punts came in plus territory, including three Tulane punts from inside the Wake Forest 40. This one was destined to get weird in the second half.

    Tulane's Terren Encalade had touchdown receptions of 52 and 74 yards in the third quarter. Wake Forest's freshman QB Sam Hartman dazzled after the intermission, finishing with 378 passing yards while rushing for 64 more. The world was introduced to turnover beads. And to put a bow on the madness, the game went to overtime, producing an unsuccessful hook-and-ladder play on a 4th-and-25.

    Welcome back, college football. You were dearly missed.

The Boneheaded Penalty of the Week

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    Jeff Brohm
    Jeff BrohmMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    After allowing Northwestern to score 31 points in the first halfthanks in large part to three backbreaking Elijah Sindelar interceptionsPurdue's defense shut down the Wildcats in the second half. They managed just two first-downs on their first four possessions and didn't score a single point after the intermission.

    Because of that defense, the Boilermakers still had a chance to win in the closing minutes. They just needed one more defensive stop in order to start the potential game-winning drive. And by standing up Jeremy Larkin behind the line of scrimmage on a 3rd-and-11 play, it appeared they had gotten that stop with about two minutes remaining.

    Then the flag came out.

    Caught up in the heat of the moment, junior DT Lorenzo Neal added a little extra after the whistle, pulling Larkin backward five yards and throwing him to the ground. That unnecessary roughness penalty turned what would have been a fourth down into an automatic first down and allowed Northwestern to run out the clock on a 31-27 victory.

    Unless you're a Northwestern fan (or bettor), it was a disappointing way to end a nearly four-hour affair. The immediate response was frustration with the official for not exercising a bit of leniency in that critical situation, but that's a penalty all day, every day and twice on Thursday. There was nothing controversial about the call. It was simply a lack of restraint by Neal.

    Let's be sure to note, however, that this isn't the reason Purdue lost the game. Twice prior to this penalty the Boilermakers had the ball with a chance to take the lead, and they went three-and-out on both possessions. There was also an extremely questionable no-call on what should have been an offensive pass interference call against Northwestern midway through the second quarter. Instead of losing 15 yards on the play, the Wildcats gained 40 and scored two plays later.

    Still, Neal's penalty extinguished Purdue's last chance at victory.

The Heisman Dud of the Week

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    Bryce Love
    Bryce LoveEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    Remember the Madden curse? Elite NFL players would get featured on the cover of the sport's premier video game, and then they often suffered a bad injury or had an uncharacteristically awful season.

    Well, it seems there's something similar going on in college football, in which the preseason favorite to win the Heisman fails to live up to the hypeespecially in Week 1.

    Leonard Fournette rushed for 1,953 yards (162.8 per game) and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2015, landing him atop the list of candidates to win the Heisman in 2016. But in his season debut, he was kept out of the end zone in an upset loss to Wisconsin. He did rush for 138 yards, but he re-aggravated a high-ankle sprain that plagued him for the entire season.

    Sam Darnold didn't suffer any significant injuries as last year's preseason Heisman favorite, but he did almost immediately remove his name from the conversation with a zero-touchdown, two-interception passing performance in the season opener against Western Michigan. Those interceptions became a season-long problem, knocking him completely out of the running for the Heisman.

    And then there's what Bryce Love did Friday night in Stanford's win over San Diego State.

    Last year, Love averaged an absurd 8.1 yards per carry, despite battling through an ankle injury in the second half of the season. In a Week 3 loss to the Aztecs, he rushed for 184 yards on just 13 touches (14.2 YPC). So even though SDSU has a solid rush defense, big things were expected from last year's Heisman runner-up in the opener.

    Instead, he had a paltry 18 carries for 29 yards. The Aztecs drew up run blitz after run blitz to make sure Love didn't beat them. In the process, they kind of forgot about JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who led the Cardinal to victory with six catches for 226 yards and three touchdowns. But, hey, Love wasn't the reason they lost!

    Unless he has a gigantic performance next week against USC, Love can just about kiss that Heisman trophy goodbye.

The Shoelace Special

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    Eric Dungey
    Eric DungeyJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    From 2010 to 2012, Michigan's Denard "Shoelace" Robinson was one of the most entertaining dual-threat quarterbacks in college football history.

    Robinson's accuracy as a passer was suspect, at best. He had a career completion percentage of 57.2, and he threw 39 interceptions against just 49 touchdowns. But, mercy, could he run. Shoelace racked up 4,498 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns in his college career.

    Robinson had five games in his career with at least 180 passing yards and 190 rushing yards. Dating back to 2000, the only other players to hit those marks multiple times were Vince Young (three), Lamar Jackson (two) and Joshua Cribbs (two).

    Well, as of Friday night, Syracuse's Eric Dungey is halfway to joining that club.

    Dungey only completed seven of his 17 pass attempts in the 55-42 win over Western Michigan, but five of them went for more than 20 yardsall five to Jamal Custis. He finished with 184 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

    The big story, though, was the rushing.

    Dungey has always been a mobile QB. He rushed for at least 100 yards three times last season, though his career high was 109 yards through his first three seasons. In his senior-year debut, he gashed the Broncos for 200 rushing yards and a touchdown.

    Up next for Dungey is a home game against Wagner, which allowed 362 rushing yards and four touchdowns to Western Michigan last year, as well as 300 rushing yards and four touchdowns to Boston College in 2016. Dungey just might hit 200 rushing yards in back-to-back games.

The "You Shall Not Pass" Red-Zone Defense

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game between No. 6 Washington and No. 9 Auburn went about exactly as expected. Whether you thought the Huskies or Tigers would actually eke out the win in the end, all signs pointed to a low-scoring, physical, defensive affair. And both College Football Playoff contenders delivered.

    However, it was Auburn's ability to dig in its heels in the defensive red zone that resulted in a huge 21-16 win for the SEC.

    Washington got into the red zone on six different possessions, taking a total of 20 snaps from inside the Auburn 15. But that's where it looked like the Huskies were trying to move the ball through quicksand.

    Only one of those 20 snaps resulted in a touchdown, and only because Quinten Pounds made a ridiculous one-handed grab to punctuate a quick-strike drive just before halftime. Also, only one of those 20 snaps came from inside the Auburn 8, and that was the strip-sack on 3rd-and-goal that might haunt the Huskies for the next three months.

    That turnover came one possession after Washington had a touchdown called back for offensive pass interference, which eventually led to a missed 40-yard field-goal attempt. Somehow, the Huskies took five snaps from at or inside the Auburn 8 on those two possessions, and they came away with zero points.

    That's the difference in the game right there. If Washington just throws incomplete passes on both of those third-down plays, Peyton Henry chips in field goals from 25 and 20 yards out and the Huskies maybe win the game. At the very least, there's a good chance they could have forced overtime.

    Instead, Auburn's defense forced critical errors to keep the door open for a win. Were it not for the impending November road games against Georgia and Alabama, the Tigers would probably show up in all of the updated CFP projections. This defense is certainly nasty enough to get there.

The Hot-Seat Humdinger

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    Tom Herman
    Tom HermanTim Warner/Getty Images

    Not two full years ago, Tom Herman was the hottest commodity on the coaching market. He won 18 of his first 19 games as the head coach at Houston, including back-to-back neutral-site victories over top-10 teams—No. 9 Florida State in the 2015 Peach Bowl and No. 3 Oklahoma in the 2016 season opener.

    When Texas fired Charlie Strong and hired Herman, it was hailed as an instant upgrade, destined to turn around a program that had flirted with a .500 record too many times in a row.

    But thanks to a second consecutive season-opening loss to Maryland, Herman is an equally mediocre 7-7 in his tenure with the Longhorns.

    Texas looked just plain undisciplined in this 34-29 loss to Maryland. Ten Longhorn penalties resulted in 102 free yards for the Terrapins. The most egregious of these was top returning linebacker Gary Johnson getting disqualified early in the second quarter for one of the most blatant targeting calls you'll ever see. Worse yet, it was the seventh play of a Maryland drive which included Texas roughing the passer on the first play and committing pass interference on the fourth.

    The Longhorns turned things around, erasing a 24-7 deficit with 22 unanswered points. However, they fell to pieces in the fourth quarter. Their last three possessions all ended in turnovers. Blame the field conditions if you so choose, but keep in mind Maryland put together a 90-yard scoring drive and didn't commit any turnovers on the same soupy turf.

    And let me tell you, the immediate future isn't bright for Herman and Co. After what should be an easy win over Tulsa next week, Texas plays four straight against USC, TCU, Kansas State (on the road) and Oklahoma. One needn't squint that hard to envision a 1-5 record at the end of that gauntlet.

    If Herman isn't already on the hot seat, he certainly would be at that point.

The Most Efficient Beatdown

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    Kyler Murray
    Kyler MurraySue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    No Baker Mayfield?

    No problem for the Oklahoma Sooners.

    After an entire offseason of being strangely absent from most of the way-too-early College Football Playoff chatter, Lincoln Riley's bunch made quite the statement in its annihilation of Florida Atlantic. The Owls did eventually put two touchdowns on the board, but this was a 28-0 blowout before the end of the first quarter and a 56-0 embarrassment in the third quarter.

    As was the case when the Sooners had Mayfield running the show in recent years, the offense scored at will.

    Their magic number was 65. Kyler Murray hit Lee Morris for a 65-yard touchdown. Rodney Anderson rushed one in from 65 yards out. And then Murray connected with Marquise "Hollywood" Brown on another 65-yard pass to pay dirt. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that's a new record for 65-yard touchdowns in a single game.

    Seven different Sooners had at least one rush for 12 or more yardsincluding a 15-yard scramble by Murray so absurd that Fox's announcing crew had to name-drop both Lamar Jackson and Johnny Manziel while watching the replay. Murray also did most of Oklahoma's passing damage, but the three QBs had a combined line of 19-of-23, 334 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

    The Sooners wrapped up the 63-14 beatdown with 650 yards from scrimmage at a rate of 10.5 yards per play. Buckle up for another year of this team running rampant through Big 12 defenses.

The Point-a-Palooza

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    Mike Weber
    Mike WeberJay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Oklahoma's offense was considerably more efficient, but we would be remiss if we didn't point out the can of you-know-what that Ohio State opened on Oregon State.

    En route to a 77-31 victory, the Buckeyes racked up 721 yards of total offense with 35 first downs.

    They only had two plays that went for more than 33 yards. The first was a 49-yard rush by Mike Weber. The second was a 75-yard reception by Terry McLaurinthough he did almost all of the work after the catch on a pass that was thrown maybe seven yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

    But the Buckeyes didn't need chunk gains in this one, as they just marched down the field against the Beavers time and again.

    Their first five possessions were touchdown drives of 57, 65, 75, 75 and 59 yards, respectively. Excluding the one-play drive at the end of the first half, Ohio State scored touchdowns on 10 of 12 possessions, adding an 11th TD on defense courtesy of possible No. 1 overall draft pick Nick Bosa.

    As far as the other individuals are concerned, Dwayne Haskins threw for 313 yards and five touchdowns in the first start of his career, giving legitimacy to the preseason Heisman hype. Last year's Week 1 hero, J.K. Dobbins, only rushed for 74 yards, but Weber picked up the slack and then some. The junior in this dynamic backfield duo rushed for 186 yards and three TDs. He also had a three-yard reception that went for a fourth touchdown.

    Let's also throw an honorable mention to a pair of Mountain West teams that put up a ton of points. Nevada rallied from an early 9-0 deficit to destroy Portland State 72-19. And Fresno State took the Week 1 scoring title with seven rushing touchdowns in a 79-13 blowout of Idaho.

The Season-Saving Drive of the Week

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    Trace McSorley
    Trace McSorleyJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Exactly 11 years after Appalachian State waltzed into Michigan's Big House and emerged with one of the most stunning upsets in the history of any sport, the Mountaineers damn near ended Penn State's season before it even had a chance to begin.

    After a slow start, it appeared the Nittany Lions finally found their footing and were going to cruise to victory. A long scoring drive to tie the game right before halftime was followed by back-to-back touchdowns in the third quarter. Up 14 points at home against a Sun Belt team, ESPN's win probability chart gave Penn State a 97.5 percent chance of victory at that time.

    But after the Mountaineers scored four fourth-quarter touchdowns to take the lead with less than two minutes remaining, it was up to Trace McSorley to keep the dream alive for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

    Penn State's preseason Heisman candidate completed 5-of-6 pass attempts for 47 yards, including an all-of-the-pressure 10-yard toss on 4th-and-2. KJ Hamler started the game-tying drive with a 52-yard kickoff return, and he ended it with a 15-yard touchdown reception.

    After Appalachian State missed a 56-yard field goal, it was the Miles Sanders show in overtime. He rushed four times for 25 yards, carrying Penn State to a terrifying 45-38 victory.

    Two years ago, the Mountaineers put a similar scare into another top-10 team. In the 2016 season opener, they led No. 9 Tennessee 13-3 late in the third quarter before the Volunteers clawed back, forced overtime and won the game. And Tennessee responded nicely to that nail-biter, winning each of its next four games, including two dramatic victories over ranked opponents.

    Penn State will probably drop a few spots in the rankings, but don't bury this team just yet. Maybe this was just the wake-up call the Nittany Lions needed. Or maybe they aren't that good. Stay tuned!

The Aerial Assault of the Week

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    Will Grier
    Will GrierStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    In 2017, Tennessee had one of the stingiest pass defenses in the country. The Volunteers ranked third in yards allowed per game (161.7) and gave up just 15 passing touchdowns all season. Granted, a lot of that is because they allowed more than 250 rushing yards per game, but this team has typically been solid in the secondary.

    Will Grier wasn't scared.

    West Virginia's quarterback picked Tennessee's defense apart, especially in the second half after a long weather delay. Grier completed 25 of 34 attempts for a career-high 429 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-14 win.

    Per Sports Reference, the only other time dating back to 2000 that a quarterback threw for at least five touchdowns against Tennessee was Kentucky's Andre Woodson in a four-overtime game back in 2007.

    But Grier made the near-impossible look quite easy. He led the Mountaineers on seven scoring drives of at least 60 yards. Thanks to eight completions that went for at least 25 yards, none of those drives required more than nine plays.

    Of course, we expect these types of performances from Grier. He threw for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns in just a little over 10 games last season, and stud receivers Gary Jennings, David Sills V and Marcus Simms are all still on the roster. Let's just say West Virginia's defense is the reason this team wasn't ranked higher than No. 17 in the preseason AP Top 25.

    Still, it was a remarkable showing from one of the top preseason Heisman candidates.

The Most Unnecessarily Hostile Postgame Interview

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    Nick Saban
    Nick SabanJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    No. 1 Alabama opened its title defense with a 51-14 win over Louisville.

    Tua Tagovailoa had a paradigm-shifting performance as the starting quarterback.

    The defense held Louisville to 16 rushing yards on 26 attempts and also scored on a pick-six.

    Josh Jacobs returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

    The Crimson Tide were firing on all cylinders and looked like an early favorite to win the national championship, per usual.

    So, naturally, Nick Saban was mad as hell right after the game.

    ESPN's Maria Taylor opened her postgame interview with a simple question: "What answers did you have about your quarterbacks after watching both of them play tonight?"

    But apparently what Saban heard was: "What did Jalen Hurts do to you and your family to make you hate him so deeply?"

    Saban responded: "Well, I still like both guys. I think both guys are good players. I think both guys can help our team. All right, so why do you continually try to get me to say something that doesn't respect one of them? I'm not going to, so quit asking."

    Dude. Chill. Taylor wasn't the one who switched quarterbacks at halftime of the national championship game, nor was she the one refusing to divulge even a hint of information about the QB depth chart for the past eight months. She just asked the question that everyone in the country was thinking. You'd think that would be OK after a 37-point win against Alabama's toughest non-conference opponent of the season, but evidently not.

The Biggest No-Show of the Week

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    UTEP Miner
    UTEP MinerAndres Leighton/Associated Press

    It's not even a surprise when FCS teams beat FBS opponents anymore. There were at least three such Week 1 results in each of the last six seasons, and there were plenty more this year.

    UC Davis knocked off San Jose State on Thursday night. Villanova upset Temple on Saturday afternoon. Nicholls State beat Kansas in overtime on Saturday night. And there were a bunch of close calls, too, as Rice (in Week 0), Georgia State, Louisiana-Monroe, Ohio and Kansas State each squeaked out wins over FCS teams by a one-possession margin.

    However, there's a fine line between a hard-fought win/narrow loss and an embarrassing blowout, which is what happened to UTEP against Northern Arizona.

    Fresh off an 0-12 season in which only one game was closer than 14 points, no one is expecting much of anything out of UTEP. But one would have hoped they would at least show up against Northern Arizona.

    Instead, the Miners threw an interception on the third play of the game, gave up a touchdown on the following drive and never got the margin back below seven points. It was 17-0 before UTEP even got on the board in the 30-10 loss.

    The Miners committed three turnovers and 10 penalties while piecing together just 229 yards of total offense. It was ugly, and it made it difficult to imagine this team winning a game anytime soon.

The Gorilla Stat of the Week

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    Jim Harbaugh
    Jim HarbaughGregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Before we dive in here, credit to Matt Norlander of CBS Sports for coming up with this terminology. It's one thing for a coach or program to have a monkey on its back, but a gorilla stat is, in Norlander's words, "A negatively slanted fact, figure, streak or statistic that's referenced so frequentlyto the point of cliche or tritenessthat it clings to a person or team until the proverbial gorilla can be removed with a positive outcome."

    And Michigan's gorilla stat heading into this season was a 17-game losing streak on the road against ranked opponents.

    It's almost unfathomable, but since stomping No. 2 Notre Dame 47-21 in September 2006, it has been nothing but losses for the Wolverines. And that string of futility now stands at 18 games after Saturday night's 24-17 loss at No. 14 Notre Dame.

    The Fighting Irish weren't intimidated by Jim Harbaugh's shiny new toy at quarterback, Shea Patterson. They were relentless on defense, holding the Wolverines without an offensive touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. Michigan averaged just 1.8 yards per carry—a still sub-par 3.0 if we disregard Patterson's three sacks for negative-32 yards—and only had one offensive play that went for 25 or more yards.

    And early on, Notre Dame moved the ball at will against Michigan's supposed elite as D. Brandon Wimbush was astoundingly accurate, guiding the Fighting Irish to three touchdown drives of at least 75 yards in their first four possessions.

    Factor in a few undisciplined penalties by Michigan and three failed fourth-down conversion attempts, and this thing really should have been uglier than it was. An Ambry Thomas 99-yard kickoff return was about the only bright spot in the game for the Wolverines.

    If Michigan expects to contend for a Big Ten crown, it needs to find a way to get rid of that gorilla, because it has road games against Michigan State and Ohio State remaining.

The Divisional Shake-Up of the Week

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    Josh Jackson
    Josh JacksonJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Prior to Sunday night, popular opinion was the ACC Championship Game would be a rematch between Clemson and Miami. Given each team's schedule, it was even conceivable the Tigers and Hurricanes would be undefeated for that showdown.

    Less than 48 hours later, not only does Miami have a loss, but it doesn't even feel like the favorite to win its division anymore.

    The reason for that is twofold, and the first half of that was Miami's disappointing showing against LSU on Sunday.

    The Hurricanes brought back most of the starters from last year's great defense, and the Tigers lost most of the skill-position players from an offense that ranked last in the SEC West in scoring in 2017. And yet it was LSU that surprisingly stormed to a 27-3 lead in a game that was over long before halftime.

    Miami couldn't run the ball worth a darn (2.4 yards per carry), and Malik Rosier completed only 42.9 percent of his passes—one of his 20 misses was a pick-six that padded the Tigers' early lead. LSU is always solid on defense, but the Hurricanes offense did not look like a unit on a team worthy of being in the conversation for a divisional title let alone a national championship.

    The following night, Virginia Tech suffocated Florida State, picking up a huge early conference win and asserting itself as the team to beat in the ACC Coastal Division.

    The Hokies forced five turnovers in a 24-3 road win over the Seminoles, and that doesn't even include the punt they blocked for a touchdown. After a touchdown on the opening drive, their offensive execution wasn't anything special. But the Hokies got so much penetration on defense that it didn't matter.

    It's only one week. Maybe LSU is a lot better than we expected, and maybe Florida State is a lot worse than it should be. (The Seminoles offensive line is most definitely a disaster.) But it's already worth noting Virginia Tech will have home-field advantage when it squares off with Miami in mid-November.

    In the preseason, most would have picked the Hurricanes to win that game. At this point, though, it looks like the Hokies' division to lose.


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