NCAA football returns with a bang
As temperatures begin to drop and trees start to change their colors, university stadiums across the nation are beginning to pack in for Saturday game day—college football is finally back once again. Clemson University is coming off of its second national title and is making a strong case to make back-to-back championship wins. However, without its veteran leadership from last season and increased competition across the Football Bowl Division, this will not be so easy.
Clemson will be facing off against several strong competitors during its title defense. However, most fans are looking forward to the rematch against the University of Alabama. Alabama defeated Clemson in the 2016 National Championship Game. Clemson was able to exact revenge last season after defeating the Crimson Tide to claim its first National Championship since 1981. Alabama is currently ranked the number one overall team in the country, and much of its veteran leadership, including quarterback Jalen Hurts, is returning. Alabama’s rematch could be a sign of things to come in the College Football Playoff.
Week one for NCAA football teams is often a “feeling out” period, as there is no preseason to teach many new, young players new concepts. However, this was not the case this season, as many teams got off to quick starts. Stanford defeated Rice 62-7, Michigan defeated Florida 33-17 and Penn State defeated Akron 52-0. Ohio State defeated Illinois 42-21 after trailing at the half, Wisconsin defeated Utah State 59-10 and Alabama defeated Florida State 24-7. Florida State, ranked third in the AP Standings, lost quarterback Deondre Francois, gravely damaging their playoff chances.
While many of these games were great games, the game of the week was arguably UCLA vs. Texas A&M. UCLA trailed 38-10 at the half, but mounted the second biggest comeback in NCAA football history and won the game 45-44. The runner-up for game of the week was between Tennessee and Georgia Tech, which Tennessee won 42-41 in overtime after denying Georgia Tech a two-point conversion. Finally, the largest point spread upset in CFB history occurred between Howard University, a Division I team, and UNLV. Howard was the underdog by a longshot before coming into the day, but somehow shocked the world by walking away victorious, winning the game 43-40.
After week one, there are already some early Heisman candidates, the biggest being Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. The 2016 Heisman winner put up impressive opening day numbers, rushing for 107 yards and completing 30-46 passes for 378 yards and two TDs.
Another candidate is Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, a running back. In just 14 carries, he racked up 172 rushing yards with two TDs, along with 54 receiving yards on just three catches. Last, but not least, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph had himself quite the opener. Rudolph went 20 of 24 for 303 yards, with three passing TDs and a rushing TD.
If the rest of the season is as exciting as Week 1, we are in store for a great season, a season that could lead into an even greater playoff race. Only four teams can make the CFB playoffs, which does not leave a lot of room for error during the regular season. The beauty of college football is that any team can make or miss the playoff, proving that every game truly matters. The next few months will be a fun ride, hopefully just as fun as Week 1 was.