Alabama Is Already In Championship Form — College Football Week 1
Week 1 of the 2017 college football season is just about finished. Here's what you missed thus far:
Alabama Hurt Florida State’s Title Hopes, And Its QB
It’s a new season, but top-ranked Alabama looks just as good as it did last year. Maybe better. The Crimson Tide’s defense bottled up No. 3 Florida State, whose special teams made several crucial mistakes in a 24-7 loss in the first college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday night.
Even worse for the Seminoles (0-1), they lost starting quarterback Deondre Francois to a left knee injury on a sack late in the fourth quarter. Francois later returned on crutches with a brace on his left leg, but team officials fear it’s a serious injury (UPDATE: It is.). Freshman James Blackman replaced Francois, but couldn’t jump start the offense.
Francois finished a middling 19-for-33 passing for 210 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for Florida State, but it was a blocked field goal attempt, a blocked punt and a muffed kickoff return that spelled doom for the Seminoles.
Damien Harris ran for a touchdown and blocked a punt for Alabama (1-0), which could very well find its way back to the new $1.5 billion stadium for the national championship game in January.
Texas Is Not Back
The debut of new Texas head coach Tom Herman did not go well. The 23rd-ranked Longhorns served up a 50-burger in Herman’s first game replacing Charlie Strong, losing 51-41 to un-ranked Maryland. Tyrrell Pigrome threw for two touchdowns and ran for another before exiting with a knee injury late in the third quarter. Terps freshman Kasim Hill entered the game and led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to secure the win.
Texas (0-1) played poorly on defense and relied on three, non-offensive touchdowns — an interception return, a blocked kick return and a punt return — to stay in the game. The defense gave up 263 yards rushing. That’s not Strong at all. (Or is it?) Maryland (1-0) broke a 17-game losing streak to ranked opponents.
Clemson Is Still Very Good
Who needs Deshaun Watson? Kelly Bryant threw for 236 yards and a touchdown in his debut as Clemson's starting quarterback, and the fifth-ranked Tigers routed Kent State, 56-3, on Saturday afternoon. Defending national champion-Clemson (1-0) wasn’t expected to be tested by the Golden Flashes (0-1), but all eyes were on Bryant, who replaced Watson — the dynamic passer who led the Tigers to the national title last season. Kent State quarterbacks completed one pass in five attempts for 1 yard. Don’t expect to see them in the post-season.
’Flrida’ Didn’t Have Much ‘O’ Against Michigan
Michigan rallied from a 17-13 halftime deficit to beat Florida, 33-17, in Arlington, Texas on Saturday. The 11th-ranked Wolverines scored three times in the early minutes of the second half and kept the 17th-ranked Gators from scoring an offensive touchdown in the game.
Florida (0-1), with several key offensive players suspended for this game, scored its only touchdowns when Duke Dawson and CJ Henderson returned interceptions for scores in the second quarter. Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight recovered from the picks to finish 11-of-23 passing for 181 yards with a touchdown for the Wolverines (1-0). The Gators lost their first season-opener since 1989.
Saquon Barkley & Baker Mayfield Padded Their Heisman Resumes
At least two notable Heisman Trophy candidates — Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield — padded their resumes for the prestigious award. A few other players had eye-popping stats, too.
Barkley carried 14 times for 172 yards and two touchdowns and the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions crushed Akron, 52-0, on Saturday afternoon. Perhaps more importantly, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley was 18 for 25 passing for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Barkley needs some help to keep defenses from keying on him this season.
Mayfield completed 19 of 20 passes for 329 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and the seventh-ranked Sooners clobbered UTEP, 56-7, on Saturday. A Heisman finalist in 2016, Mayfield will get heavy consideration this season, too.
Also having great weeks:
Running back J.K. Dobbins of No. 3 Ohio State ran for 181 yards in the Buckeyes’ season-opening 49-21 rout of Indiana on Thursday night. … Quarterback Drew Lock and running back Damarea Crockett of Missouri helped the un-ranked Tigers pile on Missouri State, 72-43. Lock threw for 521 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception. Crockett ran for 202 yards and two scores. … Oh, and reigning Heisman champ Lamar Jackson of No. 16 Louisville is still pretty good. He threw for 378 yards and two scores in the Cardinals’ 35-28 win over Purdue.
UPDATE: The Sunday night games featured two outstanding quarterback performances: Josh Rosen of UCLA rallied his team from a 34-point (!) second-half deficit to beat Texas A&M 45-44. After a sluggish start, Rosen finished 35 of 59 for 491 yards with four touchdowns, including the game winner with 43 seconds left. ...Elsewhere, Josh Jackson threw for 235 yards, ran for 101 and was responsible for two touchdowns in his first start for 21st-ranked Virginia Tech, which beat No. 22 West Virginia, 31-24.
Having a not so great week:
Quarterback Sam Darnold of USC did not have a great first week. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 289 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, as the fourth-ranked Trojans struggled past Western Michigan, 49-31. USC needed 28 fourth-quarter points to put the game away.
Other Amazing Week 1 College Football Happenings
Howard notched the biggest upset ever.
USC used blind long snapper Jake Olson on a P.A.T.
Clemson’s band was in mid-season form.
Wyoming punter Tim Zaleski had a rough day.