Winners and Losers: Overreacting to Week 1's biggest games

There’s nothing more fun than overreacting after the first week of a football season. Let’s have some fun.

Some of the teams in our preseason top 25 had games that are ripe for overreactions that will be seen and heard on social media and talk media shows. So we’re going to get out in front of the craziness. Below are some of the overreactions you may come across over the next few days accompanied by a needed dose of reality. After all, there are still 13 weeks to go in the regular season.

No. 23 Nebraska

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Nebraska 35, South Alabama 21

Overreaction: Get rid of the Adrian Martinez for Heisman campaign. Nebraska may not even make a bowl game in 2019 after that offensive showing. If your winning margin against South Alabama — one of the worst teams in the Sun Belt — comes via defensive touchdowns and you can’t gain 300 yards on offense then you’re in trouble against better opponents.

Reality: Things will be just fine in Lincoln, though coach Scott Frost deserves some criticism for letting running back Maurice Washington play in the second half with a pending felony child pornography charge against him. Remember the Nebraska team that lost to Troy in 2018? This isn’t it.

No. 22 Iowa State

Iowa State 29, Northern Iowa 26 (3OT)

Overreaction: If this team needs three overtimes to beat an FCS opponent how is it going to handle the likes of Oklahoma and Texas? You should never bet on a team that has never been a real contender. Without David Montgomery, Iowa State can’t run the ball and QB Brock Purdy isn’t good enough to carry the team without the rushing assistance.

Reality: Lots of teams have bad games to start the season and UNI is one of the best FCS teams around. Matt Campbell isn’t a fluke and will get things figured out quickly and Iowa State still has a good shot against Iowa next week.

No. 21 Missouri

Wyoming 37, Missouri 31

Overreaction: The NCAA is dragging its heels deciding on Missouri’s postseason ban appeal because it knows the Tigers aren’t any good. Kelly Bryant was supplanted as Clemson’s starter for a reason and if Missouri can’t beat Wyoming how can it expect to contend in the SEC?

Reality: Missouri once lost to Indiana and still won the SEC East. Despite committing two turnovers, Bryant might have been the best offensive player on the field in Laramie. Missouri might have been overrated at No. 21 in our preseason poll but the Tigers could still finish third in the SEC East — right where we pegged them. You saw how the rest of the SEC East looked in Week 1, right?

No. 18 Michigan State

Michigan State 28, Tulsa 7

Overreaction: If Michigan State can run for only 108 yards on 40 carries against Tulsa, how is it going to run against Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State? Mark Dantonio should have made wholesale offensive staff changes instead of simply changing his assistants titles and keeping his staff intact.

Reality: Boy, is this defense good. It’s hard to envision Michigan State’s offense being this bad all year — OK, after seeing it last year, maybe it isn’t so hard — but the defense will keep it competitive in the second-best division in college football. Maybe Michigan State isn’t a top 15 team. But it’s certainly a top 25 one for now.

No. 15 Miami

Florida 24, Miami 20 (Week 0)

Overreaction: The Miami offensive line was a sieve and won’t block anyone throughout the 2019 season. Freshman Jarren Williams isn’t that much of an upgrade at quarterback and the same struggles that haunted Miami in 2018 will plague the Hurricanes again this season.

Reality: There are few pass rushes outside of Clemson’s in the ACC that will rival what Miami saw against Florida. And offensive lines usually get better the more they play together. Williams showed enough promise in his first start to make the prospect of switching to Tate Martell not that enticing.

Utah and coach Kyle Whittingham (L) have beaten BYU nine straight times. (AP)
Utah and coach Kyle Whittingham (L) have beaten BYU nine straight times. (AP)

No. 14 Utah

Utah 30, BYU 12

Overreaction: Here’s the Pac-12’s national title contender. The preseason media pick to win the conference was dominant over its in-state rival and should destroy inferior competition on the way to a conference championship and a trip to the College Football Playoff.

Reality: Utah still feels like it has a ways to go before it joins the playoff discussion. But dominating BYU in a ninth straight win over the Cougars is hard to ignore, as is the rushing prowess of running back Zack Moss. The special teams struggles exhibited Thursday night are slightly concerning. Utah rarely has those.

No. 13 Auburn

Auburn 27, Oregon 21

Overreaction: The Tigers have a defense capable of hanging with anyone in the country after shutting down potential No. 1 NFL draft pick Justin Herbert and the Ducks in the second half. Bo Nix is the latest great SEC QB after his play over the final 20 minutes of the game as Auburn scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner with nine seconds left.

Reality: Auburn still has No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia and No. 6 LSU on the schedule. And Nix is a true freshman who had 13 completions and 18 incompletions. While the defense is really, really good, it can’t bail out the offense for a whole season. Auburn feels right at home at No. 13.

No. 11 Oregon

Auburn 27, Oregon 21

Overreaction: There goes the Pac-12’s playoff hopes. Auburn was the conference’s biggest and best chance for a signature non-conference win and the Ducks blew it. Oregon’s game management skills are horrendous and Justin Herbert can’t be a top pick in the NFL draft if his team can’t score a point after taking a 21-6 lead.

Reality: Oregon still is a contender in the Pac-12 and Herbert still makes NFL scouts drool. The game management issues are concerning. Oregon could have bled a lot more clock in the second half and Mario Cristobal inexplicably burned two timeouts after Herbert suffered a knock to the knee thinking that he could get his QB back on the field after the injury.

No. 10 Florida

Florida 24, Miami 20 (Week 0)

Overreaction: This win was so ugly that it’s impossible to see the Gators as SEC contenders. The progress Feleipe Franks made at the end of the 2018 season is a fluke and the Gators have no business being mentioned as a top-10 team.

Reality: Ugly wins happen. And Miami’s defense is pretty decent. Dumb penalties at the end of games can get cleaned up with the right coaching and discipline and Florida has recruited well enough to be considered the second-best team in the SEC East. Games against LSU, Georgia and Auburn loom.

Here are this week’s winners and losers.

Winners

Hank Bachmeier, QB, Boise State: It’s hard to imagine a better debut for a true freshman quarterback than the way Hank Bachmeier played against Florida State. Bachmeier, a four-star recruit out of California, went into a tough environment in Tallahassee and led Boise State to a 36-31 comeback victory over the Seminoles. Bachmeier shook off hit after hit to throw for 407 yards, engineering an impressive comeback against an athletic FSU defense. The Seminoles led 31-13 before Boise scored 25 straight points to close out the game.

Brandon Talton, K, Nevada: If you missed Nevada’s comeback win over Purdue on Friday night, you missed a doozy. Nevada trailed the Boilermakers 31-14 midway through the third quarter but came all the way back to tie the game at 31 apiece with just under a minute to play. Purdue responded with an ill-timed interception, setting up a hero’s moment for Talton, a true freshman walk-on in his first college game. And all he did was drill a game-winner from 56 yards out.

To make the night even better, Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell awarded Talton with a scholarship in the postgame locker room. How cool is that?

Mountain West Conference: It has been quite a start to the season for the Mountain West. The league already has wins over the ACC (Boise State over Florida State), Big Ten (Nevada over Purdue), SEC (Wyoming over Missouri) and Pac-12 (Hawaii over Arizona). Is it fair to say the MWC is in close company with the AAC as the top Group of Five conference in the country?

North Carolina: Let’s keep with the comeback theme. North Carolina, in its first game of the second Mack Brown era in Chapel Hill, pulled out a win over South Carolina. The Tar Heels trailed 20-9 entering the fourth quarter, but scored twice in the final frame to pull out a 24-20 victory. UNC went a combined 5-18 over the past two seasons, so Brown was pretty emotional after the final whistle sounded.

And then he was overjoyed during the postgame celebration.

Jacob Eason, QB, Washington: It has been a long time since Jacob Eason has taken the field in a college football game. Eason was the true freshman starter for Georgia back in 2016, but got hurt early in Week 1 of 2017, opening the door for Jake Fromm to take his job. He played in only three games that year and transferred to his home state. After redshirting a year ago, Eason made his debut for Washington on Saturday. It was against an FCS team, Eastern Washington, but it was still impressive. Eason completed 27 of 36 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns, and that had to feel good after not seeing any game action since Oct. 7, 2017.

Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State: Gordon, a fifth-year senior, beat out graduate transfer Gage Gubrud to win the starting quarterback job for Mike Leach. In Week 1, he showed why. In a 58-7 win over New Mexico State, Gordon completed 29-of-35 passes for 420 yards and five touchdowns. Gordon had five career attempts entering Week 1 and managed to complete his first 15 throws of the night. That’s an excellent showing, huh?

Fox analyst Urban Meyer: Say what you want about Urban Meyer and whether or not you believe he is going to stay retired from coaching. But he brings a lot to the table as a television analyst. He was really good on ESPN the first time he retired, and he is doing quite well early on at Fox. This segment, where he detailed the RPO and its history dating back to his time at Bowling Green and Utah, is well worth your time if you’re a football fan.

Nick Eury, RB, Penn State: The senior walk-on was the fifth Penn State running back to receive a carry in the team’s 79-7 beatdown of Idaho. Eury had just one career carry entering Saturday’s game, so he was going to make Saturday’s attempts count. Eury got the ball six times and gained 44 yards, including this 8-yard score with 2:17 to play. He pinballed his way through an array of defenders to somehow reach the end zone. What an effort.

LOSERS

Tulsa: About a week before Tulsa traveled to East Lansing to face Michigan State in its season opener, Golden Hurricane running back Corey Taylor said, per the Detroit Free Press, that it would be “pretty reasonable” to expect him and teammate Shamari Brooks to put up “100 yards apiece at least” while averaging 5 yards per carry against the Spartans. How did that work out for Tulsa? Not well. In a 28-7 MSU win, Taylor finished with minus-one yard rushing on seven attempts. Brooks went for exactly zero yards on six tries. As a team, Tulsa rushed for minus-73 yards on 25 attempts. Yes, -73.

South Florida: What did USF do all offseason? The Bulls started 2018 7-0 before losing its final six games. That losing streak extended to seven to open the 2019 season in embarrassing fashion. Charlie Strong’s team was blanked 49-0 at home by Wisconsin and got gashed left and right by Heisman contender Jonathan Taylor, who scored four total touchdowns. The game was 28-0 by halftime and the Bulls didn’t show much of a fight once the second half started. USF mustered only 157 yards of offense and committed three turnovers in the loss. If Strong doesn’t fix some things, the heat will be on.

Charlie Strong and USF have lost seven straight games. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Charlie Strong and USF have lost seven straight games. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tennessee: The Vols were upset at home by mighty Georgia State. It was Tennessee’s first loss in a home opener since 1983. The final score was 38-30, but that makes the game seem like it was close. The Vols scored in the final seconds to make things look more respectable, but the Panthers ran them off the field in the second half. There was optimism in Knoxville entering Jeremy Pruitt’s second season. Instead, the season started with a disaster.

South Carolina: It feels like South Carolina is trending in the wrong direction. It’s Year 4 of the Will Muschamp era and the Gamecocks opened their season by losing to North Carolina, a program with a combined five wins over the past two seasons. The Gamecocks led UNC 20-9 entering the fourth quarter on Saturday, but allowed the Tar Heels to score twice in a six-minute span to take the lead. From there, Jake Bentley threw two interceptions to cap off a rough performance for the senior QB and seal his team’s losing fate. Not good.

Will Muschamp has a 22-18 record at South Carolina. (AP)
Will Muschamp has a 22-18 record at South Carolina. (AP)

Virginia Tech: Coming off its first losing season since 1992, Virginia Tech looked primed for a bounceback season. But the Hokies did not exactly start 2019 on a high note.

The Hokies were five-point favorites on the road at Boston College but ended up losing 35-28 with the help of five turnovers. The Hokies defended BC running back A.J. Dillon pretty well, but two fumbles, one by QB Ryan Willis and another on a muffed punt, allowed the Eagles to have touchdown drives of 17 and 28 yards late in the first half. Those scores gave BC a 28-14 lead at the break that proved to be too much to overcome for the Hokies.

Ole Miss: Ole Miss’ first game with Rich Rodriguez as offensive coordinator did not go well at all. In a 15-10 loss to Memphis, the Rebels had only 173 yards of offense. Freshman quarterback Matt Corral was 9-of-19 for 93 yards and an INT. The running game was worse: 33 attempts for 80 yards. Ole Miss lost players like A.J. Brown, D.J. Metcalf and Jordan Ta’amu, but nobody expected the Rebels to struggle to move the ball like this, especially against a Memphis defense that was lackluster in 2018.

Hunter Johnson, QB, Northwestern: Hunter Johnson’s big debut at Northwestern did not go well. Johnson, a heralded Clemson transfer who was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, got the start on the road for the Wildcats against Stanford. He, along with the rest of the offense, struggled mightily. Johnson completed 6 of 17 passes for 55 yards and two interceptions in a 17-7 loss. And to make matters worse, Johnson was sacked and fumbled in the game’s final seconds. The fumble was recovered in the end zone for a Stanford touchdown, a play you will surely see on “Bad Beats” in the coming days.

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