It’s (almost) the end of the first weekend of college football, so it’s time to make snap judgments and sweeping generalizations about the last three days of the sport we all know and love.
The Pac-12 is overrated.
All right, we don’t actually believe that, but we do believe this was not the best opening week for a conference that’s trying to sell itself as the best in college football.
And it wasn’t just perennial bottom feeders Washington State (lost to Portland State) and Colorado (lost to Hawaii) that sullied the Pac-12’s reputation, but Stanford (Stanford!) that provided the biggest shock of the weekend.
The Cardinal was supposed to not only be a challenger for the Pac-12 title, but also have a possible shot at the College Football Playoff. Rarely does a loss during the first week of the season doom a team’s chances to play for a national championship, but considering the Cardinal’s chances officially doomed.
It doesn’t matter how you want to dress up Northwestern and its gritty and gutty play, this game was one of the biggest shockers in a long time. Stanford was not ready to start the season and that was from the coaches to quarterback Kevin Hogan to pretty much everyone who traveled on the Stanford plane to Illinois.
While Stanford was definitely the conference’s black sheep this weekend, Arizona State’s loss to Texas A&M wasn’t all that graceful; Washington had the most boring loss to Boise State; Arizona struggled with Texas-San Antonio, which included losing star linebacker Scooby Wright to a knee injury; and Oregon State’s six first-half points against Weber State weren’t exactly moments the conference will look upon fondly when it reviews the weekend.
That said, there were some bright spots. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen lived up to the hype and set all sorts of records against what appeared to be an improved Virginia team. Utah spoiled Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan debut with a spirited win in the biggest game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Vernon Adams’ debut as Oregon’s new quarterback was all that many hoped it would be (until he was injured), but the Ducks’ defense left a little to be desired. And Cal — good ol’ Cal — quietly put up 73 points against Grambling, which was the second-highest point total of the weekend.
Second to an SEC team, but we won’t get into comparing conferences just yet.
We don’t mean to beat on the Pac-12; there were definitely conferences with worse performances, but if it really wants to be the best conference in the country, it ha a lot of work to do.
Here's the rest of the winners and losers from Week 1:
Skai Moore, South Carolina: Two interceptions of Marquise Williams, both in the end zone (and the latter coming with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter), were about as crucial as anything to the Gamecocks opening the 2015 campaign with a victory. Throw in a team-leading 10 tackles, and Moore made a clear case as Week 1's top defensive player before the weekend even arrived.
Bobby Swigert, Boston College: A horrific knee injury two years ago, followed by a series of infections, has led to the Eagles wide receiver to endure 11 surgeries on his path back to the field. On Saturday, he caught his first pass (and then touchdown) since the devastating moment in a home game against Notre Dame in 2012 that left him with such a brutal mountain to climb. Before the injury, Swigert made 106 catches for 1,262 yards and 8 touchdowns in 32 games. He finished the day with two catches for 16 yards and a touchdown. Boston College will be better with him back.
Christian Kirk, Texas A&M: While the timeshare between quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray will get a lot of the postgame attention from Texas A&M's 38-17 win over Arizona State, Kirk was the Aggies' breakout player. The true freshman had over 100 yards receiving on six catches, including a fantastic 66-yard catch and run and a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown. A five-star recruit and the No. 3 wide receiver in the class of 2015, Kirk could be the most dangerous offensive weapon the Aggies have. And that's saying something with the likes of Tra Carson, Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones at the skill positions for A&M.
Karl Joseph, West Virginia: Karl Joseph’s final season at West Virginia got off to a great start Saturday night. The senior safety, now in his fourth season as a starter on the Mountaineers defense, intercepted three passes in WVU’s convincing 44-0 win over Georgia Southern. All three of Joseph’s interceptions came in the second half. Joseph, one of the best players in the Big 12, also added eight tackles for the Mountaineers.
Charlotte: Charlotte’s first game as an FBS program was a good one. The 49ers traveled south to Georgia to take on Georgia State and pulled out a 23-20 win at the Georgia Dome. Senior quarterback Matt Johnson threw for 242 yards and a touchdown while Kalif Phillips rushed for 90 yards and Austin Duke hauled in seven passes for 95 yards and a score. The win for the 49ers comes less than a month after the death of offensive line coach Phil Ratliff.
Marquise Williams, North Carolina: If you love selective stats, then hey, Williams completed a higher percentage of his passes than Baylor’s Seth Russell on almost the exact same number of attempts. The problem was the three interceptions, which essentially buried the Tar Heels, who by most measures had a reasonable case to walk away from the season opener against South Carolina with a win, especially with a chance to nab the go-ahead score with 3:48 left in the game. That’s when Williams was intercepted in the end zone (for the second time) on fourth-and-goal by the Gamecocks’ Skai Moore.
Mother Nature: The weather screwed up a lot of games in week 1, including LSU's game against McNeese State. The game was finally called near midnight E.T. Saturday night, nearly five hours after the scheduled start. The game won't be made up, meaning LSU will play 11 regular season games, much like Florida did in 2014 after its game against Idaho was canceled because of weather.
Other games affected by weather included Toledo's game against Stony Brook, which was called at halftime. Illinois' game against Kent State was moved from Friday to Saturday. Georgia's win against Louisiana-Monroe was delayed twice and called with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter and Tennessee's game against Bowling Green was delayed. While storms aren't a surprise in early September, it's still no fun to see the weather alter the college football schedule.
UCF: What the heck, Knights? This isn't how coach George O'Leary's tenure as interim athletic director was supposed to start. Central Florida lost at home to Florida International 15-14 on Thursday night. Yes, a program just two years removed from a Fiesta Bowl win lost at home to a team that has two winning seasons in its history. FIU got the win as Matthew Wright's late field goal attempt was blocked. Next up for UCF is a trip to Stanford, which will be looking to regroup from an embarrassing performance against Northwestern -- 0-2 seems more likely than not.
FBS teams that lost to FCS teams: You already know about Kansas, which cost itself a chance to tie South Dakota State with a fumbled snap. But the Jayhawks weren't the only FBS team to lose to an FCS opponent this weekend. Army lost 37-35 to Fordham on Friday night as a late drive ended on fourth down. On Saturday, Washington State, yes, Mike Leach's Washington State, lost to Portland State and Wyoming lost to North Dakota. With decreasing separation between FBS and FCS talent levels, these upsets are becoming more and more common. But it still can be embarrassing to lose at home to a team in a lower class.
Austin Johnson, Southern Illinois: Southern Illinois had the chance to join the group of FCS teams to knock off FBS opponents in Week 1, but a missed extra point from Salukis kicker Austin Johnson proved costly in a 48-47 loss at Indiana. Johnson’s miss came early in the fourth when the Salukis could have taken a one-point lead after an 80-yard touchdown pass. Instead, the missed extra point meant the score was tied at 38 apiece. That miss later prompted a decision from head coach Dale Lennon. Instead of attempting another extra point and forcing overtime following a touchdown with 18 seconds to go, Lennon opted for a game-winning two-point try – a try that failed, allowing the Hoosiers to escape with a win.
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