Top 21 Overreactions from Week 1 of 2021 College Football Season

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 6, 2021

Top 21 Overreactions from Week 1 of 2021 College Football Season

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    Clemson vs. Georgia was quite the physical battle.
    Clemson vs. Georgia was quite the physical battle.Associated Press

    As college football fans, we overreact to just about everything that happens throughout the course of a season.

    However, the post-Week 1 overreactions are the best kind.

    And, also, typically the worst.

    As The Athletic's Stewart Mandel noted on Twitter on Sunday afternoon, there were quite a few talking points following teams' first games in 2020 that turned out to be the furthest thing possible from prophetic.

    Nevertheless, we waited eight long months for our first full weekend of this season, and we are ready to dive headlong into 21 opinionated statements that might look idiotic in as little as six days. (So ready, in fact, that we weren't even willing to wait until after the Monday night clash between Louisville and Ole Miss to share these thoughts with the masses.)

    These 21 overreactions to the start of the '21 season are presented loosely in chronological order of when the games were played. The numbers associated with each of the overreactions are not a ranking. Think of them instead as markers intended to let you know where one take ends and the next begins.

    Let's head back to Thursday night to get this journey started.

1. The Best Chance to Beat Ohio State This Season Already Happened

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    Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud
    Ohio State QB C.J. StroudBruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    The first half of Ohio State's Thursday night opener at Minnesota was...less than promising.

    Miyan Williams broke free for a 71-yard touchdown run on the opening drive, but the Buckeyes—advertised all offseason as one of the most unstoppable offenses in the nation this yearwere otherwise held in check. They only scored three other points in those first 30 minutes and trailed 14-10 at halftime.

    The biggest reason for that struggle was poor play by redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud. He completed just eight of 14 pass attempts for 58 yards with an interception, and it at least seemed like every throw more than three yards beyond the line of scrimmage missed the mark by a country mile. The 19-year-old, making the first pass attempts of his career in a hostile environment, was out of sorts.

    But he recovered and then some with four touchdown passes in the second half, leading Ohio State to a 45-31 victory.

    The defense still has work to do before even approaching its ceiling, but the offense is off and running now after an inauspicious start.

2. UCF at Cincinnati (Oct. 16) Will Be One of the Biggest Games of the Year

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    Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder
    Cincinnati QB Desmond RidderIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Speaking of inauspicious starts, UCF's Thursday night home opener against Boise State featured a nearly three-hour weather delay, and the Knights came out and fell behind 21-0 within the first 18 minutes.

    From that point forward, though, it was all UCF. The Knights held the Broncos to just 112 yards of total offense over the final 42 minutes while Dillon Gabriel, Isaiah Bowser and Co. caught fire to storm back for a 36-31 victory. That sort of dominance via offense is nothing new for the Knights, but the way they clamped down on D was a surprising and impressive development.

    And then on Saturday, Cincinnati predictably made light work of Miami-Ohio. The Bearcats led 42-0 late in the fourth quarter before a flurry of garbage-time touchdowns resulted in a final score of 49-14. Desmond Ridder had four passing touchdowns and a fifth on the ground. And former Alabama transfer Jerome Ford averaged better than 10 yards per carry, jump-starting what should be a big season for him.

    Most of the AAC looked awful in Week 1, but UCF and Cincinnati are probably the two best Group of Five teams in the nation. Their head-to-head clash next month will likely have New Year's Six bowl implications.

3. Virginia Tech Will Win the ACC's Coastal Division

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    Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente
    Virginia Tech head coach Justin FuenteRyan M. Kelly/Getty Images

    From 2017 to 2020, there was not a single case of a team ranked higher than No. 23 in the preseason AP poll suffering a Week 1 loss to an unranked opponent. But in 2021, we didn't even make it all the way to Saturday of Week 1 before the first major upset.

    That would be Virginia Tech's 17-10 win over No. 10 North Carolina on Friday night.

    The Hokies were just OK on offense. At times in the second half, they looked downright incapable of stringing together consecutive positive plays. Against a Tar Heels defense that already wasn't good last year before losing veteran leader Chazz Surratt, let's just say it wasn't a championship level of excellence.

    But, hey, at least they scored two touchdowns in Week 1. That's more than ACC Coastal Division preseason co-favorites North Carolina and Miami (lost 44-13 to Alabama) can claim. And the Hokies did an excellent job on defense against Sam Howell, racking up six sacks and three interceptions of the possible No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

    Virginia Tech's next game against an ACC opponent isn't until Oct. 16, and aside from the road game against Miami on Nov. 20, there's not a particularly challenging game left on its conference schedule. One needn't squint much to see this team going 7-1 and facing Clemson in the ACC championship.

4. Michigan State Is Going to Be a Problem

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    Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III
    Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker IIINam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    From 2010 to 2015, Michigan State was a near-constant threat to win the Big Ten.

    From 2018 to 2020, the Spartans were a sub-.500 mess, and pretty much everyone expected them to finish no better than fifth in the Big Ten East this year.

    After a season-opening 38-21 win over Northwestern on Friday night, might the Spartans be closer to the former than the latter?

    Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III was completely dominant on the ground, rushing for 264 yards and four touchdowns against a pretty good Wildcats defense. He had a 75-yard touchdown run on the very first play of the game, setting the tone early for a huge night.

    Most importantly, Michigan State kept mistakes to a minimum. After averaging nearly three turnovers per game in 2020, the only giveaway in this one was a fumble by backup running back Harold Joiner in the final five minutes of regulation.

    After drawing Youngstown State this coming Saturday, the Spartans will get a massive opportunity at Miami in Week 3.

5. Spencer Rattler Isn't Winning the Heisman

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    Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler
    Oklahoma QB Spencer RattlerAlonzo Adams/Associated Press

    It is always an uphill battle for the preseason Heisman favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, because the expectations are so ridiculously high. Case in point, the year after winning the Heisman, Lamar Jackson slightly increased both his passing yards and rushing yards, scored 45 touchdowns and finished in a distant third place.

    If it's going to happen, though, it's kind of important to at least open the season with an impressive performance.

    Spencer Rattler didn't do that.

    Oklahoma's quarterback was just OK in the 40-35 win over Tulane. He threw for 304 yards and had one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown, but he also threw a pair of interceptions and had a third one overturned by a penalty. His play (and Lincoln Riley's conservative play-calling) in the second half left the door open for Tulane to nearly pull off a come-from-behind victory.

    Rattler should pad his stat line nicely over the next two weeks against Western Carolina and Nebraska, but it would take an awful lot for him to bounce back enough from this lackluster start to properly impress Heisman voters.

6. Wisconsin's Offense Is Still Broken

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    Wisconsin RB Chez Mellusi
    Wisconsin RB Chez MellusiMorry Gash/Associated Press

    Most of the reactions to the Week 1 clash between Penn State and Wisconsin are deservedly on the victorious Nittany Lions. But there are two sides of that coin, one of which bears a striking and troubling resemblance to last season.

    Wisconsin averaged fewer than 350 total yards per game in 2020, including a stretch of three consecutive games in which it was held to seven points or fewer. But given this program's long history of dominating via the ground game, most of us chalked that up to inexperience during a pandemic and assumed the Badgers would be better in 2021.

    The 16-10 loss to Penn State on Saturday afternoon suggests Wisconsin is still a long way away from getting back to normal on offense.

    The Badgers defense was more than adequate, and they actually moved the ball pretty well on offense, ending up with 29 first downs. They just could not convert at the end of those long drives, thrice getting the ball inside the Penn State 10 before coming up empty (blocked field goal, fumble, interception).

    The bizarre part of it all was the complete lack of Jalen Berger. He only played in four games last fall as a true freshman, but he was the team's leading rusher. Up until the Week 1 depth chart came out last week, most expected Berger to be the featured back for the Badgers. However, he never saw the field in this one.

    Maybe we'll find out more about his status in the coming days, and maybe this offense will turn things around if and when he plays. Still, that was an ugly start for a team looking for a bounce-back year.

7. Watch Out for Tua's Little Brother

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    Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa
    Maryland QB Taulia TagovailoaGail Burton/Associated Press

    Taulia Tagovailoa's 2020 season was extremely hit-or-miss. He only played in four of Maryland's five games and started out with a royal stinker, throwing for just 94 yards with three interceptions in an ugly loss to Northwestern. But he bounced back with two excellent performances in wins over Minnesota and Penn State before another three-interception game in a loss to Indiana.

    Inconsistency was to be expected for a guy who barely played at Alabama before transferring to Maryland in mid-May 2020. Those gems against Minnesota and Penn State were clear proof of his talent, though, and we were all intrigued to see how he would fare in Year 2 with this offense after a much more normal offseason.

    Early returns were mighty impressive in a 30-24 victory over West Virginia.

    Against a Mountaineers defense that held each of its 10 opponents below 250 passing yards last fall, Tagovailoa threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Two of those scoring plays were on deep balls that went for at least 60 yards.

    Just going to put this one out there now: No Maryland quarterback has ever thrown for 3,500 yards in a single season. If Tagovailoa keeps slinging it like this, it's going to be a rare entertaining year of offense in College Park.

8. It's Going to Be a Long, Long Year for Stanford

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    Stanford QB Tanner McKee
    Stanford QB Tanner McKeeTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Stanford's 2021 schedule is a nightmare. The only two Pac-12 teams the Cardinal don't play (Arizona and Colorado) are almost certainly going to be the two worst teams in the league this year. And then in nonconference play, they scheduled Notre Dame, Kansas State and Vanderbilt.

    Even if Stanford were a reasonably competent, not quite Top 25 but definitely Top 50 team this season, getting to six wins for bowl eligibility was going to be a challenge.

    But given how much trouble the Cardinal had moving the ball in a 24-7 loss to Kansas State, Top 50 is hardly a given here.

    The run game was a disaster, managing just 39 yards on 22 attempts. And with Jack West and Tanner McKee sharing the quarterback duties, Stanford also struggled to establish much of anything through the air until its final, meaningless drive. (If this was the final "audition" for the starting job moving forward, though, McKee probably won it.)

    Stanford's defense was fine outside of a couple of big gains by the electric Deuce Vaughn and Phillip Brooks, which is a fate liable to befall any Kansas State opponent. But no amount of defense can make up for those offensive woes. Best of luck to Stanford next week on the road against USC.

9. Iowa State Really Needs to Stop Scheduling Northern Iowa

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    Iowa State RB Breece Hall
    Iowa State RB Breece HallMatthew Putney/Associated Press

    Northern Iowa upset Iowa State in both 2013 and 2016, and the Panthers took the Cyclones to triple overtime in 2019.

    This year was supposed to be different, though. This was supposed to be the best team in Iowa State history, a legitimate College Football Playoff contender capable of destroying any FCS opponent in its path.

    Instead, with tight end Charlie Kolar out with an ankle injury and 2020 national rushing leader Breece Hall only managing three yards per carry, the Cyclones were practically on the wrong end of what would have been perhaps the biggest upset since Appalachian State over Michigan in 2007.

    Iowa State managed just 335 yards of total offense in a 16-10 victory that left much to be desired.

    At least the defense came to play, though, and at least the Cyclones won the game. That's an improvement upon last year's 31-14 season-opening loss to Louisiana.

10. Well, Indiana, It Was Fun While It Lasted

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    Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr.
    Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Aside from the Sun Belt's Coastal Carolina and Louisiana, Indiana was the surprise success story of 2020. The Hoosiers went 6-1 during the regular season, their lone loss coming in a hard-fought 42-35 road game against an excellent Ohio State team. They finished the year at No. 12 in the AP Top 25, marking the first time they ended a season as a ranked team since 1988.

    Any dreams of carrying that momentum into 2021 were quickly dashed in a 34-6 loss to Iowa.

    This one was over in a heartbeat. Iowa went 67 yards in four plays to score on the game's opening possession, followed less than a minute later by the first of two Riley Moss pick-sixes on the day.

    The Hawkeyes didn't move the ball well outside of that first drive, but their defense was so great that they didn't need much of anything from the offense. In addition to three interceptions of Michael Penix Jr., Iowa forced four three-and-outs and only allowed Indiana to gain more than 25 yards on two possessions.

    It's a shame for Cincinnati that Indiana didn't at least show up for this game. At this point, if the Bearcats beat the Hoosiers in Week 3, it's not going to look as impressive for a team with dreams of crashing the College Football Playoff party.

11. Alabama Is Already Every Bit as Good as It Was Last Fall

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    Alabama QB Bryce Young
    Alabama QB Bryce YoungJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    Alabama's Achilles' heel in 2020 was occasionally mediocre or downright awful defense. The 63-48 Ole Miss game is the one that was talked about all fall, but the Crimson Tide also allowed at least 400 yards and 24 points in games against Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida.

    Obviously, it wasn't a fatal flaw, as they went 13-0 and won their two College Football Playoff games by at least a three-score margin. But there was clearly some room for improvement.

    Based on the first 38 minutes of their 44-13 win over AP No. 14 Miami, improve on defense they did.

    Alabama held the Hurricanes to 266 total yards, and nearly half of those yardsand more than 75 percent of Miami's scoringcame after the game was effectively over. Alabama jumped out to a 41-3 lead before mercifully taking its foot off the gas.

    And with Bryce Young running the show, you would never know this offense lost three of the top five vote-getters in last year's Heisman race. The redshirt freshman was just about flawless, racking up 344 yards and four touchdowns. New weapons Jameson Williams and Cameron Latu combined for 169 of those yards and three of the touchdowns.

    Basically, Alabama looked like Alabama usually does, and it shouldn't be much longer before we start talking about the possibility of this team making a run at Miami's 34-game winning streak between 2000 and 2003, which is the longest streak of the past half-century. The Crimson Tide's winning streak is "only" at 15 games at the moment, but this team is clearly good enough to run the table once again.

12. The Pac-12 North Is a Dumpster Fire

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    Washington RB Richard Newton
    Washington RB Richard NewtonAlika Jenner/Getty Images

    We already touched on Stanford's Week 1 shortcomings, but the entire Pac-12 North division got off to a pretty awful start to the year.

    Worst and foremost was No. 20 Washington losing 13-7 to Montana. It was just the fifth time since the FBS/FCS split in 1978 that a ranked FBS team lost to an FCS foe, and it was the first such misstep since North Dakota State upset No. 13 Iowa in 2016. The Huskies scored a touchdown on their opening drive, but it was all downhill from there. They only had one gain of more than 16 yards in the entire game, and quarterback Dylan Morris threw three interceptions. Got to wonder if it'll be much longer before 5-star true freshman Sam Huard takes over.

    Elsewhere in the Evergreen State, Washington State lost 26-23 to a Utah State team that went 1-5 last fall with an average scoring margin of negative-19.7 points. The Cougars led by 12 midway through the fourth quarter, only to allow the Aggies to string together back-to-back touchdown drives of at least 70 yards.

    Washington State wasn't the only Pac-12 North team to lose at home to a Mountain West Conference opponent, either. California also lost 22-17 to Nevada, despite jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The Golden Bears went three-and-out on their next four possessions and nearly 25 minutes between first downs, after which they trailed by eight. Carson Strong threw for 312 yards and two scores for a Wolf Pack squad that might win the MWC.

    Oregon State lost 30-21 at Purdue, though that loss was at least expected. And in the process of becoming the only Pac-12 North team to win a game, Oregon needed a fourth-quarter comeback to survive against Fresno State. Even that win felt a bit like a loss when star defender Kayvon Thibodeaux was forced to leave with an ankle injury, though they are hopeful it's nothing serious.

    All told, that's a 1-5 record with two losses to the MWC and one dreadful loss to the FCS. Couldn't ask for a much worse start.

13. Texas Is Back

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    In one of the most anticipated games of the Week 1 slate, No. 21 Texas had minimal difficulty in a 38-18 victory over No. 23 Louisiana.

    The result probably says more about ULL's offense than it says about the Longhorns, as the Ragin' Cajuns had a lot of trouble establishing the run. Most of their 2020 starters returned, but they are adjusting to life without last year's running back tandem of Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas. They only managed 76 yards on 29 carries.

    All the same, it was an impressive debut for Heisman hopeful Bijan Robinson. The second-year running back had 20 carries for 103 yards, four receptions for 73 yards and two total touchdowns.

    Redshirt freshman quarterback Hudson Card also played well, leading a Texas offense that did not commit a single turnover. He threw for 224 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns, also making a noteworthy first impression on Heisman voters. His run for a 4th-and-6 conversion midway through the first quarter was the moment when Texas woke up and started to dominate.

    The Longhorns will play at Arkansas in Week 2 for their first opportunity to prove they belong in the SEC.

14. Michigan Is Back, Too?

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    Michigan RB Blake Corum
    Michigan RB Blake CorumTony Ding/Associated Press

    Even in a piece that is explicitly intended to be full of overreactions, I want to make sure to caution against putting too much stock in Michigan's Week 1 performance. After all, the Wolverines began 2020 with an impressive 49-24 road win over Minnesota before the wheels fell all the way off en route to one of the worst seasons in program history.

    Still, Michigan had a very strong showing in this 47-14 victory over Western Michigan.

    Cade McNamara and prized freshman J.J. McCarthy both saw action at quarterback, and both looked good, combining for 216 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and just four incompletions. (McCarthy's 69-yard, across-the-field bomb to Daylen Baldwin on 3rd-and-25 was one of the biggest highlights of the weekend.)

    But that duo was the second act behind a dominant rushing attack.

    Blake Corum led the way with 14 carries for 111 yards. Hassan Haskins ran 13 times for 70 yards. Wide receivers A.J. Henning and Roman Wilson were credited with rushes of 74 yards and 43 yards, respectively. In all, the Wolverines ran for 335 yards and three scores.

    Since hiring Jim Harbaugh before the 2015 season, that is Michigan's third-highest rushing total and its best performance on the ground since racking up 371 yards against Minnesota in November 2017. Considering the Wolverines averaged just 95.3 rushing yards over their final four games last season, that has to be considered a massive step in the right direction.

    If Michigan and Washington play like they did in Week 1, the Wolverines might win their Week 2 matchup by about seven touchdowns.

15. Sans Shane Buechele, SMU Found an Even More Fun Big 12 Transfer QB

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    SMU QB Tanner Mordecai
    SMU QB Tanner MordecaiIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    After losing his starting job at Texas to Sam Ehlinger, Shane Buechele transferred to SMU and thrived over the past two seasons. He averaged better than 300 passing yards per game and had a passer efficiency rating just north of 150 while leading the Mustangs to a 17-6 record and their most potent offense in decades.

    It worked out so well the first time that Sonny Dykes went back to the Big 12 portion of the transfer portal to bring in Tanner Mordecai from Oklahoma. (Dykes also brought in former Oklahoma tight end Grant Calcaterra.)

    And, buddy, that was a fantastic idea.

    Once a promising prospect, Mordecai backed up Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts and Spencer Rattler before finally looking elsewhere for his chance to shine. In his debut with the Mustangs, he finished with more passing touchdowns (seven) than incompletions (six). Mordecai didn't even play in the fourth quarter and still ended up with 317 passing yards and, again, seven touchdowns.

    Sure, sure, it came against an Abilene Christian defense that had allowed at least 45 points in five of its last six games against FBS opponents. But throwing for seven touchdowns in the first start of your career is mighty impressive, and it was an important start for Mordecai, who had to beat out highly touted true freshman Preston Stone for the starting gig.

    Up next for Mordecai is a North Texas defense that allowed 42.8 points per game in 2020, and the AAC hasn't exactly been world-renowned for its defense in recent years. Might be worth at least taking a gander at Mordecai's Heisman odds this week.

16. Uh-Oh: USC Can Run the Ball

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    USC RB Keaontay Ingram
    USC RB Keaontay IngramIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    There were two constants over the past three seasons at USC: Clay Helton on the hot seat and poor rushing attacks.

    But while Texas running back Bijan Robinson was putting on a show against Louisiana, former Texas running back Keaontay Ingram was also starting off with a bang in his new threads against San Jose State. It wasn't a Heisman-caliber performance or anything, but 15 carries for 86 yards is better than the vast majority of games USC was able to get from its starting running backs over the past three years.

    Vavae Malepeai added 14 carries for 65 yards as the Trojans finished the day with 160 yards on the ground.

    Again, not sensational numbers, but good enough to keep defenses honest, which is all they need.

    Over their previous 12 games, the Trojans averaged 3.1 yards per carry, 88.6 rushing yards per game and threw the ball on more than 61 percent of offensive snaps. Opposing defenses had trouble slowing down Kedon Slovis and USC's loaded receiving corps even when they barely needed to worry about the run. More balance will make USC more lethal, and it paid early dividends in this 30-7 victory.

    It wasn't one of Slovis' better passing performances. With wide receivers Gary Bryant Jr. and Kyle Ford both unavailable for this game, he only threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Perhaps that's why the Trojans ran the ball more than usual. But if and when that receiving corps gets back to full strength, this should be one of the top offenses in the nation.

17. Mississippi State Season Openers Are the Gifts That Keep On Giving

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    Mississippi State RB Jo'quavious Marks
    Mississippi State RB Jo'quavious MarksRogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Even before Mike Leach landed in Starkville, Mississippi State's Week 1 games were wildly entertaining more often than not. Kylin Hill rushed for nearly 200 yards in a back-and-forth battle with Louisiana in 2019. The year before that, Keytaon Thompson had a Lamar Jackson-like 364 passing yards, 109 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns in a win over Stephen F. Austin. And in 2016, the Bulldogs lost at the last minute to South Alabama.

    Under Leach, though, they've had one game in which they stunned reigning national champion Louisiana State with 623 passing yards and now a dramatic come-from-behind win over Louisiana Tech.

    Mississippi State jumped out to an early 14-0 lead before committing four turnovers and allowing 34 unanswered points to the Louisiana-based Bulldogs.

    But after about 35 minutes of terrible play, a 70-yard kickoff return by Lideatrick Griffin kick-started a fourth-quarter revival. Mississippi State scored a touchdown three plays later, subsequently forced a three-and-out and then marched right back down the field 77 yards for another Jo'quavious Marks touchdown.

    At that point, they still trailed by six points. However, a shanked punt after another three-and-out set the Bulldogs up at midfield for another touchdown drive. In a span of less than 10 minutes, they turned a 20-point deficit into a one-point lead.

    Louisiana Tech still had plenty of time left on the clock to get into field-goal range and converted on 4th-and-11 to do so. But Jacob Barnes missed the would-be game-winning 46-yard attempt, putting Mississippi State in the win column.

18. Clemson and Georgia Have 2 of the Best Defenses of the Past Decade

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    Georgia RB Nakobe Dean
    Georgia RB Nakobe DeanChris Carlson/Associated Press

    After literally months of hyping up the big showdown between No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Georgia, that prime-time affair felt a lot like the overtime classic between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama in which both the Tigers and Crimson Tide relied upon elite defenses in a 9-6 LSU win.

    At any rate, we need to believe it was a matchup between two of the best defenses in recent history, lest we come to terms with the fact that Georgia's 10-3 victoryin which the only touchdown came on a pick-sixwas tough to watch.

    You certainly wouldn't know from Saturday night that Georgia lost six defensive players to the NFL draft, plus a seventh (Tyrique Stevenson) who transferred to Miami. You also wouldn't know that the Bulldogs were playing without one of the most noteworthy transfers in the country, as former West Virginia defensive back Tykee Smith was out with a foot injury.

    That's because they manhandled Clemson, holding the Tigers to 180 yards of total offensetheir lowest such mark since a 2011 loss to South Carolina in which they gained just 153. D.J. Uiagalelei was sacked seven times and barely completed 50 percent of the passes he was actually able to throw. And because of all those sacks, Clemson ended the night with 23 rushing attempts for two yards.

    Clemson's defense was equally stingy, albeit nowhere near as successful at getting into the backfield. The Tigers only sacked JT Daniels once, but they also only allowed him to complete one pass that went for more than 13 yards. Granted, most of his favorite targets either missed this game or played at less than 100 percent, but Clemson's secondary did a fantastic job of completely eliminating big plays.

19. We Never Even Came Close to Properly Appreciating Travis Etienne

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    Clemson RB Will Shipley
    Clemson RB Will ShipleyGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    As just mentioned, Clemson was held to two rushing yards, which is a far cry from anything we have seen in the Dabo Swinney era. He was the interim head coach in January 2009 when the Tigers were limited to just four rushing yards in a Gator Bowl loss to Nebraska. Since he became the full-time head coach, though, this was the first time Clemson failed to gain at least 30 yards on the ground.

    The many sacks of D.J. Uiagalelei had a lot to do with that, but the beginning of the post-Travis Etienne era did not go well at all.

    Kobe Pace had four carries for seven yards. So did Will Shipley. Neither one had a gain of greater than three yards. And for some inexplicable reason, Lyn-J Dixonwho averaged 6.6 yards per carry over the past three seasonswas only given one touch, gaining 10 yards on a sweep in the fourth quarter.

    All told, that's nine carries for 24 yards. Even if you factor in the 11-yard reception by Shipley and Pace's six-yard catch, that's still only 41 total yards from scrimmage out of a backfield that had a single player gain 6,107 yards over the last four years.

    Things will almost certainly start looking up once they aren't getting relentlessly bull-rushed by the Bulldogs. But if they still have aspirations of winning the College Football Playoff, they're going to need to beat at least one, probably two great defenses at the end of the year. Hard to do that when you can't even remotely establish the run.

20. After Years of Waiting, the Chip Kelly Era at UCLA Is Finally Underway

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    UCLA RB Zach Charbonnet
    UCLA RB Zach CharbonnetMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    When Chip Kelly first took the Bruins job, things got worse before they got better. UCLA went 3-9 and averaged a meager 24.6 points per game. The following year, the Bruins went 4-8 with slight improvements in scoring (26.7) and total offense (405.7 yards per game), but they were still a very far cry from the offensive juggernaut that Oregon was the last time Kelly coached college football.

    Thus far in 2021, though, it appears that high-octane offense has finally arrived in Los Angeles.

    Building on a 44-10 Week Zero win over Hawaii, the Bruins had nearly 500 yards of total offense in the process of upsetting No. 16 LSU by a score of 38-27.

    Dorian Thompson-Robinson only completed nine passes, but they went for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Zach Charbonnet averaged better than 10 yards per carry in finishing the night with 117 yards and a touchdown. Brittain Brown wasn't far behind him with 96 yards and a score.

    UCLA had 17 gains of at least 10 yards, five of which went for 35 or more.

    It's possible this was just the beginning of yet another pathetic year of defense from LSU, but UCLA had a few games like this last fall, too. In fact, it's the third time in their last nine games that the Bruins gained exactly 483 yards of total offense. But this team already seems more explosive than it was last year.

21. Jack Coan Storms into Heisman Mix with Sunday Night Gem

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    Notre Dame QB Jack Coan
    Notre Dame QB Jack CoanIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Hands down, the biggest story of Notre Dame's 41-38 overtime victory over Florida State on Sunday night was the return of McKenzie Milton.

    While with UCF in 2018, Milton suffered a devastating, life-threatening leg injury. Whether he would even walk again was anything but a given. But after more than 1,000 days of rehabilitation, he stepped onto the field for the Seminoles for the first time midway through the fourth quarter, orchestrating back-to-back scoring drives to force overtime.

    If Florida State had won the game on a Milton rushing touchdown, there would have been a Disney movie about his unfathomable comeback pretty much overnight.

    However, it was a different transfer quarterback who led his team to victory and skyrocketed into the Heisman conversation.

    Long labeled by many (including yours truly) as a game manager, Jack Coan was a game-changer for the Fighting Irish, coming through in the clutch repeatedly on third-down and fourth-down situations throughout the first three quarters as they built up a 38-20 lead.

    Coan finished the night with 366 passing yards and four touchdowns, setting career-high marks in both categories. He did throw an interception on the final play of regulation, though there should be multiple asterisks that come with it. His Hail Mary attempt that got picked off only happened because of Milton's comeback and because sure-handed tight end Michael Mayer dropped a pass that would have gotten Notre Dame into field-goal range on the previous play.

    According to DraftKings odds posted earlier in the day, Coan entered the night with +8000 odds to win the Heisman, putting him in a nine-way tie for 36th placealong with back-up quarterbacks Jack Miller III, Zach Calzada and Casey Thompson. Get ready for him to vault much higher on that list after a stellar performance that everyone was watching.

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