Opening weekend leads to early shakeup in college football rankings
Dubbed the “best opening week ever,” Week 1 of the college football season certainly lived up to the hype. With the new playoff-style postseason, one early-season loss can become significant come January. This has many ranked teams holding their breath, given seven of the top 25 teams lost in Week 1.
The No. 1 ranked Alabama rolled to an easy 52-6 win over the Trojans of the University of Southern California. The Crimson Tide’s preseason quarterback controversy was immediately put down by the shutdown defense’s ability to place the team in position to easily score. Head coach Nick Saban, however, did find their starting QB in true rookie freshman Jalen Hurts, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns. Alabama left no doubt as to why they currently sit atop the ranking polls.
No. 5 Louisiana State University was on early-upset alert, falling 16-14 to Wisconsin, although the close final score is not indicative of the Tigers’ poor play. Leonard Fournette’s 138 rushing yards made no difference by game’s end because quarterback Brandon Harris finished 12 for 21 for 131 yards and two pick. Harris’ deep pass was completely shut down by a Wisconsin defense who played surprisingly well.
With this Week 1 loss, head coach Les Miles is back on the hot seat. Once considered the best in college football, Miles’ repeated postseason snubs are translating into impatience from LSU faithful.
Saturday was especially embarrassing for No. 3 ranked Oklahoma, who lost 33-23 to an inferior No. 15 Houston. A strong start for Oklahoma quickly gave way to mental mistakes that allowed for Houston to crawl back into the game and take the lead shortly after. The Houston defense was especially focused on containing quarterback Baker Mayfield, as they overpowered the offensive line on their way to multiple brutal sacks.
Houston needs to have a smaller margin for error if it wishes to remain in the playoff picture. This Week 1 win, however, certainly gives them postseason merit.
Nick Chubb headlined for No. 18 Georgia as they beat North Carolina 33-24. Chubb, who blew out his knee last season, ran for 222 yards to give Kirby Smart a victory in his first game as the Bulldogs coach. Since Chubb is now healthy, he is a Heisman contender once again and Georgia should be confident about contending this season.
It was a close game for No. 2 Clemson, who squeezed out a 19-13 victory over Auburn. Clemson dominated the stat sheet in the first half with a 233-38 advantage in total yards but led only 10-3, with both scores coming after defensive penalties on third-down plays.Even though it was an ugly game, Heisman-hopeful quarterback Deshaun Watson played well enough to secure a victory.
Unranked Texas also contributed to the upset special when they took down No. 10 Notre Dame 50-47 in a double overtime thriller. The Irish did not look like a top 10 team when they took the field against an inferior Longhorns defense that established their presence early.
The Fighting Irish hampered their chances by fiddling with a two-quarterback system, even as DeShone Kizer has overwhelmingly established himself as a better passer.
It was an easy game for No. 6 Ohio State as they pounced Bowling Green 77-10. J.T Barrett started off by throwing a pick six but quickly undermined that mistake by posting six touchdown passes thereafter. This was essentially a scrimmage game for the Buckeyes, who were able to break in a bunch of inexperienced players against a largely underwhelming opponent.
No. 7 Michigan had similar success against Hawaii, playing well on both sides of the ball en route to a 63-3 win. Michigan was dominant on defense as expected, led by linebacker-safety hybrid Jabrill Peppers.
The Wolverines have a lot to be excited about, as they will likely stay among the top-ranked teams for a while, given a favorable upcoming schedule. They will host Central Florida, Colorado, Penn State and Wisconsin before going on the road for the first time to face Rutgers.
Even though Pittsburgh and Villanova are two unranked teams, the game garnered special attention as running back James Conner made his return after his successful battle with cancer.
Conner helped Pitt shell out a convincing 28-7 victory, scoring two touchdowns providing a tremendous morale boost to his teammates. The offensive captain looks to have a great comeback season that can potentially land him into the Heisman candidate conversation.
The 2016 opening weekend was certainly one for the history books, with fans hoping it will foreshadow the action ahead. With so many of the nation’s top teams starting 0-1, fans can certainly expect high-intensity games from teams looking to fight back into the playoff picture. It will be interesting to see which top teams can right their ships or if some new faces will make their playoff appearances come January.
The ranking committee will certainly have their eyes glued to their television screens when Oklahoma takes on Ohio State on Saturday, September 17, as the game will certainly have dramatic implications on the top ten. Essentially, Oklahoma’s season is on the line from here on out; it is highly unlikely that a two-loss team will remain relevant in the championship race.