Winners and Losers from Week 1 of College Football
Though the first full slate of college football in 2019 was short on ranked showdowns, Week 1 featured a ton of exciting finishes and interesting storylines.
Just one Associated Press Top 25 program lost. In fairness, it happened in the thriller between No. 11 Oregon and No. 16 Auburn, which featured a memorable, clutch performance from a true freshman quarterback.
Still, there was plenty of drama. A couple of upsets happened outside the Top 25, and several teams played far below expectations. Michigan State and Nebraska, for example, recorded wins of at least 14 points but didn't look convincing.
We've highlighted the winners and losers from Week 1's action. This piece will be updated through Saturday evening.
Winner: Top Heisman-Contending Running Backs
Travis Etienne and Jonathan Taylor entered Week 1 as the running backs most likely to contend for the Heisman Trophy.
So far, no change.
Etienne kicked off the campaign with a 205-yard, three-touchdown explosion in a 52-14 romp of Georgia Tech. His 90-yard scamper evened a Clemson record, and the 205 yards marked a career high.
Then on Friday, Taylor rumbled for 135 yards and two scores and provided a rare impact as a receiver. The junior caught the first two touchdowns of his career, led the Badgers with 48 receiving yards and guided Wisconsin to a 49-0 thrashing at USF.
Running backs don't often win the Heisman these days, but Etienne and Taylor could make formidable charges in 2019.
Loser: Michigan State's 'New' Offense
The good news for Michigan State is the scoreboard still showed a victory. The Spartans dispatched Tulsa 28-7 in their opener.
But the offense looked awfully familiar—and not in a good way.
Mark Dantonio retooled his staff in the offseason, shuffling offensive assistants and promising a revamped attack. The result was an uninspiring night that featured inefficient running and little explosiveness through the air. MSU averaged 2.7 yards on 40 carries and just 5.1 yards per pass attempt.
New year, same story. And that story doesn't end well.
Winner: Justin Fields in Ohio State Debut
The Justin Fields hype train was already moving fast. After Saturday, it's certainly not slowing down.
Ohio State earned a 45-21 win behind a five-touchdown showing from Fields, who completed 18 of 25 passes for 234 yards and scampered for 61 more. He led touchdown drives on the Buckeyes' first four possessions, helping them build a 28-point cushion in the first quarter.
Granted, the offense wasn't quite as effective down the stretch. Florida Atlantic actually outscored OSU 21-17 after that brilliant start.
But that doesn't mean we're concerned. Fields showed his potential. And with a quarterback of his caliber, the Buckeyes look like every bit the championship contender the nation is used to seeing.
Loser: Early Nebraska Hype
Compared to preseason expectations, Nebraska put forth a backward performance in its opener.
Last season, dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez carried the Cornhuskers while their defense consistently stumbled. And since the defense lost several key contributors, that trend figured to continue in 2019. At least Saturday, that wasn't the case.
Nebraska gained just 276 yards, committed three turnovers and only defeated South Alabama thanks to two touchdowns by the defense and one by the special teams.
"That's as anemic of an offensive performance that I've been a part of in a long time," head coach Scott Frost said, according to Robin Washut of HuskerOnline.
Perhaps it was just one disappointing game. But the bandwagon surely isn't as full heading into Week 2.
Winner: Boise State Finding Its QB, Stunning FSU
It's almost unfair how quickly Boise State settles the quarterback position. Some programs go decades without a star, yet the Broncos seem to replace one with another.
After losing a four-year starter in Brett Rypien, the Mountain West power turned to true freshman Hank Bachmeier. All he did was scorch Florida State for 407 yards and lead an 18-point comeback as the Broncos stunned the Seminoles 36-31 in front of the latter's home crowd.
No big deal, right?
Without question, it was a team triumph. Bachmeier committed two turnovers, but the defense notched 11 tackles for loss and forced a pair of critical takeaways that the Broncos turned into touchdowns. Robert Mahone ran for 142 yards and two scores, too.
In the process, Bachmeier and Co. turned up the heat on the steadily warming seat of second-year FSU coach Willie Taggart.
Loser: Tennessee's Breakout Season
Tennessee's expectations were rising this offseason. But the second year of Jeremy Pruitt's tenure is off to a horrible, no good, very bad start.
Georgia State went into Knoxville and stole a victory.
Early in the fourth quarter, Tennessee kicked a go-ahead field goal and took a 23-21 edge. However, the Vols collapsed down the stretch. They surrendered 17 points over a three-drive span while faltering with two giveaways and a four-play turnover on downs. Only a late touchdown closed the deficit to the final, 38-30.
Pruitt is a masterful recruiter, and adding that talent is imperative to turning around the program. That was never going to be a one-year fix, but falling to Georgia State—especially at home—is inexcusable.
Winner: Jacob Eason's Introduction to the Pac-12
Throughout the 2018 season, Washington searched for answers on offense. If Week 1 was any indication, though, Jacob Eason will ensure the Huskies put up plenty of points.
Eason, a transfer from Georgia, exploded for 349 yards and four scores in his first start for the Dawgs. He completed 27 of 36 passes and propelled UW to a 47-14 triumph.
"Certainly in the opener you've got a lot of emotions going on," offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said, per Lauren Kirschman of the News Tribune. "I liked how he was in-game. I liked how he was on the sidelines. I thought he took it one drive at a time, and I hope we can build on that."
At worst, Eason showed the offense's upside makes UW worthy of a College Football Playoff chase. Now, the challenge is being consistent—something that evaded recent UW teams.
Loser: South Carolina's Bowl Hopes
Mack Brown's return to North Carolina is off to a tremendous start. The underdog Tar Heels scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to recover from an 11-point deficit and topple South Carolina 24-20. Most of the reaction will focus on Brown's excellent debut.
But the result is a massive issue for Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp.
South Carolina already had a treacherous path to six wins, and "treacherous" accounted for a likely win over UNC. Now, the Gamecocks' margin for error is gone. Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and Clemson will all be favored, and both Missouri and Kentucky should be competitive.
Calling it impossible is unfair, but South Carolina needs a rapid recovery to appear in a bowl.
Winner: Tua Tagovailoa-Jerry Jeudy Connection
Alabama started slowly against Duke, but Tua Tagovailoa and Jerry Jeudy soon took control of the game.
The junior quarterback found his classmate 10 times for 137 yards and a touchdown in the Crimson Tide's 42-3 drubbing of Duke. Most of that production came in the second and third quarters while Alabama turned a 0-0 deadlock into a 35-3 lead.
Tagovailoa finished with a 26-of-31 line for 336 yards and four scores, while Jeudy led Bama in receptions and yards.
There isn't a more potent QB-WR combo in college football, and it was on full display in Atlanta.
Loser: Michigan's 1st Impression
If you're looking at the glass as half full, you observed a more imaginative Michigan offense under coordinator Josh Gattis than in recent years. The unit simply needs a little time to figure out its identity.
From the opposite perspective, the Wolverines' 40-21 victory over Middle Tennessee felt a little bit like the new coordinator was throwing out a bunch of stuff and seeing what stuck.
Sure, to some degree the latter point is fine; a non-power matchup is an ideal opportunity to experiment. At the same time, Michigan rarely sustained an offensive rhythm. Ideally, the Wolverines would've seemed to have control of the game for a lengthier stretch than the second quarter.
It's a long season. Growing pains are to be expected, and a few injuries didn't help, either. But the "speed in space" attack in Ann Arbor has much to prove.
Winner: Joe Burrow, Sam Ehlinger Setting Career Highs Before Showdown in Austin
Did someone give these guys an Easy Button?
Joe Burrow picked apart a helpless Georgia Southern defense, completing 23 of his 27 passes for 278 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. LSU steamrolled the visitors 55-3.
About 430 miles away, Sam Ehlinger put together another efficient performance. The dual-threat quarterback hit 28 of 38 throws for 276 yards and matched a personal-best mark of four scores, adding 34 yards on the ground. Texas cruised past Louisiana Tech, 45-14.
Burrow and Ehlinger hardly could've had better tuneup performances before they square off in Week 2.
Winner: Bo Nix's Prime-Time Arrival
Since 2000, according to Sports Reference, only 18 quarterbacks have posted a sub-42 completion percentage with at least two interceptions on 31-plus attempts yet still won.
Make it 19.
In his college debut, true freshman Bo Nix went 13-of-31 for 177 yards. He tossed a pair of interceptions but also threw two touchdowns, including the game-winning 26-yard strike to Seth Williams with nine seconds left in regulation.
Auburn, which trailed 21-6 early in the third quarter, managed to scrape together enough defense to stick around. Considering how difficult the schedule is, that might be a familiar story in 2019.
But on this night, Nix found the heroics Auburn needed.