A look at some of the highlights from the first full Saturday of the 2017 college football season.
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The biggest winner in Clemson, S.C., might have been the Clemson band, which trolled Ohio State with a brutal halftime march that spelled out “31-0,” the final score of the Tigers’ meeting with the Buckeyes in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.
Nice one, Tiger Band. But about the football: Clemson kicked off its title defense with a 56-3 destruction of overmatched Kent State, a win highlighted by the sort of quarterback play Dabo Swinney and his staff might have found familiar.
It’s only Kent State. Still, the play of Kelly Bryant has to delight Swinney and co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott.
In his first career start, Bryant threw for 236 yards and a touchdown and added 77 rushing yards and a score on the ground, putting a quick hole in the theory that Clemson’s quarterback play would take a steep dive post-Deshaun Watson.
It still might. But if Clemson does get Bryant to play at a high level, the combination of offense, defense and special teams paints the Tigers as again one of the very elite teams in college football.
This was just a warmup game for next week, when the Tigers take on Auburn in one of the defining games of the non-conference season. Auburn should beware: Clemson looks good.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 1 of college football:
Iowa. The Hawkeyes are the Hawkeyes again. You know? Iowa at its best takes a seat on the opponent’s chest and just hangs around, eventually smothering an offense and defense with its physical style. Take Wyoming and its star quarterback, Josh Allen, who completed just 23 of 40 attempts for 174 yards with two interceptions in the Hawkeyes’ 24-3 win. Iowa is Iowa again. They’ll be a threat in the Big Ten West Division.
California. Hopes weren’t high heading into Justin Wilcox’s first season. How many games would the Golden Bears win? The consensus was that four would be a great start. Maybe that undersold Wilcox. A 35-30 win at North Carolina might say a lot about the Tar Heels, but it marked an outstanding and unexpected debut for the new Cal staff.
Brian Kelly. For one week, at least, you won’t find Kelly’s name on those ubiquitous hot-seat lists. Though Temple has taken a step back, Notre Dame should feel huge confidence following its 49-16 win. The running game was terrific. Likewise with the run defense. New quarterback Brandon Wimbush stayed under control in his first career start. Don’t sleep on the Irish standing at 6-0 heading into a matchup with Southern California in October.
Michigan. The real hero from Michigan’s matchup against Florida was former Zenith engineer Eugene Polley, who built the first wireless remote control in 1955. Thank you, Mr. Polley, for giving us the ability to turn the channel. But Michigan should get credit for taking care of business against the woeful Gators, who couldn’t manage anything against the Wolverines’ ferocious defense.
Boise State. The Broncos were not viewed as the overwhelming preseason favorite in the Mountain West Conference. Maybe that will change after a 24-13 win against a very good Troy team. Though fans will continue to find reason after reason to nitpick Bryan Harsin and his staff, the Broncos’ victory will great in early December when the College Football Playoff selection committee convene to decide which teams gets the access-bowl bid to a New Year’s Six bowl.
UAB. In its first game back after a two-year absence, UAB went out rolled past Alabama A&M 38-7. Nice going, Blazers.
Big Ten. The conference went 7-0 in the afternoon games and entered the evening at 8-1 overall this week in non-conference games, with the lone loss coming from Rutgers against Washington. (And the Scarlet Knights played much better than expected.) On the list were victories against the SEC (Florida) and the Big 12 (Texas). In the night games, Nebraska survived — barely though — against defending Sun Belt champ Arkansas State, and Purdue put a real scare into Louisville before Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals pulled it out in the second half. In total, the league (now at 9-2) looked the part of one of the best in the FBS.
Texas. The idea that Texas would hit the ground running under Tom Herman was never rooted in reality. It’s still disappointing to see the Longhorns wilt against Maryland, which scored more points against Todd Orlando’s defense, 51, than the combined total from its final four Big Ten games in 2016. In case you didn’t know: This isn’t an overnight fix.
Oregon State. The Beavers were a trendy bowl pick coming out of a crowded Pac-12 North Division. Not this year. One week after getting bombed by Colorado State — which then managed only a field goal in a loss to rival Colorado — Oregon State barely managed to sneak past Portland State, 35-32, thanks to a late touchdown pass. No one doubts Gary Andersen’s coaching acumen, but the Beavers need to improve, and fast.
North Carolina State. Take a moment to congratulate Will Muschamp, who led South Carolina to a very meaningful season-opening 35-28 win against N.C. State. But the loser here are the Wolfpack, who were considered a dark horse in the Atlantic Coast Conference but failed to capitalize on any momentum to open the year.
South Florida. The Bulls are not holding up their end of the bargain. After stumbling in the early going during last weekend’s win at San Jose State, No. 21 USF could only manage a 31-17 win that belies its sloppy play against Stony Brook of the Football Championship Subdivision. The Bulls may continue to add wins with a laughably easy schedule, but they are not playing well enough to justify a spot in the Amway Coaches Poll.
Florida’s offense. In a word: pathetic. Florida has no quarterback, no offensive line, no idea how to move the football and no real hope of finding out how to do any of the above at any point in the near future.
Southern California.The 49-31 final score of the Trojans’ win against Western Michigan doesn’t illustrate just how USC battled with the reigning Mid-American Conference champs. The Broncos aren’t a pushover. But we all expected more from Clay Helton, Sam Darnold and the gang. The good news? It’s just one game, and no one will remember the 50 minutes of lackluster play come next Saturday. The bad news? The same performance won’t cut it next week, when the Trojans play host to David Shaw and his bullying Stanford team.