We’re off and running in September, nearly getting a monumental upset with Appalachian State taking Penn State to overtime in Happy Valley, leading in the final minute of regulation.
Florida State, Miami, Texas and UCLA had rough debuts, Auburn held off Washington in the game with the most national impact and Notre Dame squashed Michigan as Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at his alma mater grew more disappointing.
Alabama, despite losing standouts like Minkah Fitzpatrick and Daron Payne, showed off a fierce defense against Louisville and remain college football’s most impressive force.
Everyone has dipped a toe into the water. Here’s what we’re looking at for this week as each of our top games in the NCAA ranks will kick off on Saturday:
Georgia at South Carolina: Both teams annihilated overwhelmed opponents last week. The Gamecocks showed off new coordinator Bryan McClendon’s faster-paced offense and QB Jake Bentley decisively got everybody lined up and went to work, spreading it around and pushing it downfield.
The Dawgs aren’t Coastal Carolina, but South Carolina can’t cower at home if it is going to pull off an upset of the defending national runner-up here.
USC at Stanford: The Trojans were in a battle with UNLV for a half before the kids warmed up, but they’ve got to prove they can execute on the road against a veteran Cardinal team. Freshman QB JT Daniels and WR Amon-Ra St. Brown have bright futures and sophomore RBs Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepai are talented, but this immense Pac-12 clash may be too early on the schedule for USC to survive. Bryce Love got bottled up by San Diego State but the attention he commanded allowed QB K.J. Costello to shine.
Stanford needs that to be a weekly occurrence to maximize its potential and must protect the Farm since it closes out the month with challenging road trips to Oregon and Notre Dame.
Clemson at Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher’s debut in College Station saw his QB choice, sophomore Kellen Mond, excel against FCS foe Northwestern State. The competition will be a lot stiffer with the Tigers in town, so we’ll truly see if he’s taken a step forward when he gets his first taste of adversity from one of the nation’s top defensive fronts. We’ll see if Dabo Swinney is forced to get serious earlier than he probably wants to in playing true freshman Trevor Lawrence over senior Kelly Bryant since the kid appears to be the better option.
Iowa State at Iowa: The Cyclones saw storms cancel their first test against South Dakota State, which has its positives and negatives. Although Iowa State was eager to open a season where there are more expectations than there have been in years, nobody got nicked up and it didn’t have to put anything on tape for the Hawkeyes to study. Iowa got disappointingly inconsistent play from QB Nate Stanley but still managed to stifle Northern Illinois and is favored at home in Iowa City, having won the CyHawk Trophy seven times over the last decade, including the last three.
Kentucky at Florida: The SEC East looks to be Georgia and everybody else, but South Carolina will be attempting to alter that narrative in Columbia and the winner of this one would be poised to rise up and make their own run. The Gators will be getting a number of players back from suspensions after a host of guys served punishments for offseason transgressions, while the ‘Cats will take their shot at an upset with a QB controversy brewing.
Kentucky is 2-10 in SEC road openers and fell behind 45-0 in its last trip to Gainesville.
Colorado at Nebraska: The Buffs looked fantastic in the Mile High Shootout, crushing rival Colorado State. Junior QB Steven Montez was sharper than that knife you have to make sure the kids can’t get to. Although the Rams defense has opened the season in a cooperative mood, it’s impossible to ignore that Virginia Tech transfer Travon McMillan gives Colorado a powerful backfield option or that sophomore WR Laviska Shenault might emerge as a force in the Pac-12. Nebraska got to run through the tunnel as Scott Frost led the ‘Huskers out for the first time but lightning and torrential rain forced a postponement of its game against Akron.
Michigan State at Arizona State: The Spartans didn’t play to their potential and QB Brian Lewerke looked shaky as Utah State stormed into East Lansing and fared extremely well, hanging around for four quarters as a 24-point underdog.
There’s no way Michigan State expected to be punched in the mouth the way it was. Sparty will have no one but itself to blame if Mark Dantonio doesn’t have everyone ready to play here since what the Sun Devils put on display in Herm Edwards’ debut was eye-opening. QB Manny Wilkins put the ball where it had to be all night against Texas-San Antonio, allowing playmakers N’Keal Harry and Eno Benjamin to shine. This will be a fantastic test for both programs.
Arizona at Houston: Kevin Sumlin lost his debut with the Wildcats in Tucson, falling to BYU. Heisman candidate Khalil Tate was limited him to just 14 rushing yards.
The player I expected to most perform like former Louisville Heisman winner Lamar Jackson was turned into a pocket passer, something that can’t continue if this program is going to have a successful season. Sumlin will return to his old stomping grounds in Houston, running into the potential No. 1 overall pick in DT Ed Oliver.