Making definitive judgments after the first week of a college football season is always a dangerous proposition. Unlike the NFL, there’s no preseason in college football. Week 1 is the first time teams line up since the conclusion of the previous season.
But Week 1 does give us a chance to see what teams might have been overrated at the beginning of the season. And there were more than a few teams Saturday that left us wondering if 2017 will be more of a struggle than we anticipated.
Leading off the group is Texas, which lost 51-41 at Maryland. We had Texas in our preseason top 25 and thought new coach Tom Herman was going to work similar year one magic with the Longhorns as he he did at Houston. In 2015, Herman’s Cougars went to the Peach Bowl.
While Texas wasn’t supposed to be a serious contender for the Big 12 title, an eight- or nine-win season wasn’t out of the question. Or so we thought.
Texas’ special teams was a primary reason the Longhorns were even competitive. Texas had two return touchdowns and even scored a defensive touchdown on an interception return. But the Longhorn offense averaged just three yards a carry against a Maryland defense that gave up nearly 5 yards an attempt a year ago.
And even factoring in that defensive touchdown, UT’s defense was abysmal. Maryland ran for 263 yards at over six yards a carry and had four rushing touchdowns.
Big 12 offenses are some of the best in the country. If Texas can’t stop Maryland, it’s hard to see how it’ll stop Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, let alone TCU, West Virginia and others. Herman’s rebuilding job may be bigger than we realized.
We’re wondering the same about Baylor, just up the road from Austin on I-35 in Waco, Texas. The Bears lost 48-45 to Liberty, a team making the transition from FCS to college football’s top level. The Flames are coached by former Kansas coach Turner Gill, who won just one Big 12 game in his two seasons with the Jayhawks.
Thanks to the way the school (and some former administrators) handled allegations of sexual assault, the Baylor program has seen a rash of talent departures, including quarterback Jarrett Stidham, now the starter at Auburn. New coach Matt Rhule had to not only piece together a recruiting class in less than a month’s time earlier this year, but he’s also overhauling the offensive system. Like Texas, Baylor should get to a bowl in 2017, but expecting anything more than seven wins may be asking too much.
USC is one of our favorites to make the College Football Playoff. And it still is. But don’t let the final score fool you, the Trojans had trouble with Western Michigan on Saturday. WMU lost a lot of key contributors (and its coach) from last season’s Cotton Bowl team. While the Broncos are favorites in the MAC, they’re not the caliber of Stanford, USC’s Week 2 opponent.
NC State’s sleeper status in the ACC Atlantic might have taken a hit too. While NC State is stuck in the ACC Atlantic with Florida State, Clemson and Louisville, the Wolfpack’s experienced defense figured to make it a good candidate for eight or nine wins. Saturday, NC State lost 35-28 to South Carolina.
Oh, we can’t forget North Carolina too. We had the Tar Heels at the bottom of our preseason top 25 and UNC laid an egg Saturday. North Carolina lost to Cal — picked to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12 — at home as LSU transfer quarterback Brandon Harris didn’t acclimate himself well in his Carolina Blue debut.
Maybe teams like Texas and Baylor will surprise us and post incredible seasons. After all, Washington State was a win away from the Pac-12 North title a year ago after losing to Eastern Washington and Boise State in the first two weekends of the season. Or maybe they won’t. We’re excited to find out. College football is back, and this should be a fun 2017 season.
Here are the rest of Week 1’s winners and losers.
Robert Lee: The ESPN broadcaster became internet outrage famous after he and the company decided it may not be the best idea if he called Virginia’s game vs. William & Mary in the wake of the white supremacy protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The trade Lee made was worth it. Lee moved over to Pitt’s game vs. Youngstown State and the Panthers-Penguins matchup went into overtime. Pitt finally prevailed vs. the fighting Bo Pelinis, but it was good to see the Nebraska coach get excited for his team to go to overtime after Pitt missed a field goal.
UAB: UAB played its first game Saturday since it shuttered its program at the end of the 2014 season and came away with a blowout 38-7 win over FCS Alabama A&M. Behind 259 rushing yards as a team and two touchdown passes from A.J. Erdely, the Blazers didn’t have much trouble with the FCS Bulldogs, but it sure was nice to see the Blazers back on the field. UAB even had a big-guy touchdown in its first game back.
FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN!
— UAB Football (@UAB_FB) September 2, 2017
— Rick Karle (@RickKarle) September 2, 2017
It was a good day in Birmingham.
Jake Olson: USC’s blind long snapper got to snap for the Trojans’ final extra point in a 49-31 win over Western Michigan. It was an awesome moment and will be one of college football’s best this season.
After the game, his guide dog even got to have some fun too. Look at that good dog.
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) September 3, 2017
Tyson Smith: Michigan State defensive back Tyson Smith played in his first game Saturday since suffering a stroke last fall. All he did was return an interception for a touchdown in the Spartans’ win over Bowling Green. How cool is that?
Coastal Carolina: Welcome to college football’s top level, CCU. The Chanticleers beat UMass 38-28 for their first win as a member of FBS. CCU did it without coach Joe Moglia, who is missing the season because of health issues.
CCU, a member of the Sun Belt, is off next week but plays UAB in Week 3.
Mike Dudek: Illinois wide receiver Mike Dudek burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2014 with 76 catches for 1,038 yards before missing both the 2015 and 2016 seasons because of ACL tears. Dudek finally made his long-awaited return to the field on Saturday. In a 24-21 win over Ball State, Dudek had only two catches for 47 yards, but he did catch a 16-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Dudek also had an awesome 52-yard punt return. It was great to see him back on the field making plays.
BONUS WINNER: This catch by Appalachian State’s Ike Lewis (in a blowout loss to Georgia) was insane.
Josh Allen: All offseason we heard about the NFL potential of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. He made a few impressive throws on Saturday on the road at Iowa, but mostly struggled otherwise. In a 24-3 loss to the Hawkeyes, Allen completed just 23-of-40 passes for 174 yards and two interceptions. One of those interceptions was a really bad decision.
This screen pass from Josh Allen. Omg pic.twitter.com/Ejr0Qm37No
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) September 2, 2017
Allen has only started against an FBS team two times during his time at Wyoming with one coming Saturday vs. Iowa. His numbers in those two starts are not impressive.
Josh Allen's two career games vs. P5 teams:
9/10/16 at Nebraska: 16/32, 189 yds, 1 TD, 5 INT
9/2/17 at. Iowa: 23/40, 174 yds, 0 TD, 2 INT
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) September 2, 2017
This isn’t to say Allen doesn’t have potential to be a solid pro. He didn’t bring the offseason hype machine on himself, but it all just seemed a little overblown. Saturday’s performance was in line with that line of thinking.
Missouri defense: If Mizzou wants to contend in the SEC East in 2017, the Tigers defense needs to be better. It was really bad Saturday vs. FCS opponent Missouri State.
The Bears racked up nearly 500 yards and 35 first-half points as Mizzou beat Missouri State 72-43. The game fell one point short of tying the total points record for a non-overtime game involving an SEC team.
The Mizzou defense played better in the second half, but that’s like putting a coat of paint on some rotten wood. Mizzou plays South Carolina next week and if the defense plays anything like it did in the first half, the Tigers are toast.
On a positive note, Mizzou had 815 yards of offense.
South Florida: USF had a really sluggish start before beating San Jose State last week. Things were even worse on Saturday. The 19th-ranked Bulls trailed FCS Stony Brook early and were tied 17-17 into the fourth quarter. Sure, USF eventually pulled away late (a garbage time TD made it a 31-17 final), but Stony Brook hasn’t had a winning season since 2012. The Seawolves are a team USF should run out of town by halftime, not be in a dogfight with.
BYU offense: The LSU defense is really talented, but BYU just looked downright awful on offense on Saturday night. In a 27-0 loss, the Cougars could muster only 97 yards total and never crossed the 50-yard line into LSU territory. That is not a typo. Tanner Mangum finished the game 12-of-24 passing for 102 yards and an interception. If our math is correct, that leaves -5 yards rushing for BYU on 14 carries. Yeah, not good.
This also happened:
This is not how you fake a punt, BYU pic.twitter.com/30L68QcyXi
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) September 3, 2017
UNLV: The Rebels lost 43-40 to FCS foe Howard Saturday night. Howard was 2-9 in 2016 and entered the game as a 45-point underdog. By point spread, it’s the largest upset in college football history. Though betting on games between FCS and FBS opponents hasn’t always been common practice.
$100 money line bet on Howard to beat UNLV would have paid off …
— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) September 3, 2017
The UNLV defense was torn apart by Howard quarterback Caylin Newton, the younger brother of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Caylin had 21 carries for 190 yards rushing and two touchdowns while throwing for 140 yards and another TD.
MIKE LONDON'S HOWARD BISON UPSET UNLV, 43-40 pic.twitter.com/aC7KkUHn0h
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) September 3, 2017
Morgan Hagee: Ball State had a chance to tie the game at the end of the fourth quarter vs. Illinois. All Hagee had to do was make a long field goal. Not only did the field goal get blocked, he got crunched in the process.
It came down to the wire, but @IlliniFootball hung on against Ball State for a 24-21 win.
This blocked field goal sealed it. ✋ pic.twitter.com/KRkKarmyIs
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 2, 2017
East Carolina: So what’s up with the Pirates? Scottie Montgomery’s second season with the program started off in embarrassing fashion. ECU lost 34-7 to James Madison. Granted, James Madison is one of the best programs in college football’s second tier, but no FBS team should be losing by 27 to an FCS program.
ECU was 26-13 from 2012-2014. Since then, the Pirates are 8-16. Montgomery, a former Duke assistant, needs to get the ship righted in a hurry
St. Scholastica: This Division III program seriously lost 98-0.
More college football coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• UAB staffer gets up from wheelchair to deliver game ball
• Florida offense sputtering again after 33-17 loss to Michigan
• Maryland throttles Texas 51-41 in Tom Herman’s first game
• Michigan LB escapes targeting penalty after hit that fits definition of targeting