The first full weekend of the 2019 season is in the books, and five straight days of college football confirmed many of our preseason beliefs, while dousing the summerlong hopes and dreams of some fan bases around the country.
Six teams — Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State and LSU — seem to be the cream of the crop, at least after one week.
Auburn, Boise State and Wisconsin were among the big surprises.
Florida State, Missouri, Tennessee and UCLA were among the disappointments.
Here are the ESPN Power Rankings after Week 1:
Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence struggled a bit during defending national champion Clemson’s opener, throwing two interceptions in a 52-14 rout of Georgia Tech. But reigning ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne picked up where he left off, running 12 times for 205 yards with three touchdowns. Remarkably, the Tigers have averaged more yards on Etienne’s runs (8.6) than Lawrence’s passes (8.2) during the past two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Up next: vs. Texas A&M (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC)
Travis Etienne rushed 12 times for 205 yards and three touchdowns in Clemson’s season-opening win. Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire
Even without linebacker Dylan Moses, who is sidelined for the season with a knee injury, the Crimson Tide’s defense looked as dominant as ever in a 42-3 victory over Duke in Atlanta. The Blue Devils had only 204 yards of offense with 11 first downs and turned the ball over three times. Freshman linebackers Christian Harris and Shane Lee each had six tackles in their first career starts.
Up next: vs. New Mexico State (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, SECN)
The Bulldogs lost their top six pass-catchers from 2018, and quarterback Jake Fromm did a good job of spreading the ball around in a 30-6 win at Vanderbilt. Six players caught two passes in Georgia’s 14th straight win over an SEC East opponent, and Demetris Robertson and Matt Landers emerged as big-play threats. New offensive coordinator James Coley used the same recipe, however, as the Bulldogs ran 40 times for 323 yards with two touchdowns.
Up next: vs. Murray State (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
At least one myth was buried this past weekend: that Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts doesn’t throw the ball well enough to flourish in Lincoln Riley’s system. Hurts completed 20 of 23 passes for 332 yards with three touchdowns — while running 16 times for 176 yards with three more scores — in a 49-31 victory over Houston. His 508 yards of total offense were the fifth-highest total in OU history. Even more impressive: OU’s defense, which ranked dead last in the FBS in pass defense in 2018, held Houston’s D’Eriq King to 167 passing yards in new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s debut.
Up next: vs. South Dakota (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)
Georgia transfer Justin Fields‘ first game at Ohio State went as well as could be expected, as he passed for four touchdowns and ran for another in a 45-21 victory over Florida Atlantic. Fields completed 18 of 25 passes for 234 yards and led the Buckeyes to touchdowns on the first four possessions, before the OSU offense sputtered in the second half. Fields was extremely efficient when he had time in the pocket, completing 15 of 16 passes when he wasn’t pressured. He figures to get a much stiffer test from Cincinnati’s defense this week.
Up next: vs. Cincinnati (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ABC)
6. LSU (1-0)
The Tigers’ new hurry-up, no-huddle spread offense was a welcome sight for long-suffering LSU fans in a 55-3 rout of Georgia Southern. Quarterback Joe Burrow completed 23 of 27 passes for 278 yards and five touchdowns with nearly all of his production coming in the first half. The Tigers scored 21 points in the first and second quarters each — after failing to score three touchdowns in any quarter in 2018. The Tigers averaged only 3.7 yards per carry, but new passing game coordinator Joe Brady saved a few wrinkles for next week’s trip to Texas.
Up next: at Texas (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Longhorns had to replace eight defensive starters from last season’s 10-4 team, and the early results for coordinator Todd Orlando were encouraging in a 45-14 victory over Louisiana Tech. The Longhorns pitched a shutout for the first three quarters, forced three turnovers (a roughing-the-passer penalty negated a fourth turnover, a pick-six) and allowed only 73 rushing yards. It was a good start with LSU’s high-powered offense coming to Austin next week for what might be the biggest nonconference game since No. 1 Ohio State played there in 2006.
Up next: vs. LSU (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Wolverines’ new-look spread offense under former Alabama assistant Josh Gattis was a mixed bag in a 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee. Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson completed 17 of 29 passes for 203 yards with three touchdowns, but he fumbled twice. The Wolverines had 453 yards of offense, but they scored only 13 points in the second half, when penalties and other miscues thwarted drives. Still, it was a good first step toward modernizing the offense.
Up next: vs. Army (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, FOX)
Shea Patterson throws three touchdowns as Michigan beats Middle Tennessee 40-21.
The Fighting Irish overcame a slow start at Louisville before pulling away for a 35-17 victory on Monday night. Notre Dame’s rebuilt defense, which had to replace top linebackers Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill from 2018, showed some early growing pains, as the Cardinals ran for more than 200 yards. But the Irish took advantage of three turnovers to open up a 14-point lead in the third quarter, and Louisville’s defense had no answer for their stout running game. The Irish will have an extra week to correct their mistakes before facing New Mexico at home on Sept. 14, which is followed by a showdown at Georgia the next week.
Up next: vs. New Mexico (Sept. 14, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Bo knows comebacks. Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix ran for a late first down and then fired the winning 26-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams with nine seconds left in a 27-21 victory over Oregon in Arlington, Texas. Nix, whose father, Patrick, played quarterback for the Tigers from 1992 to ’95, completed 13 of 31 passes for 177 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Nix still has a long way to go, but Auburn’s defense is good enough to keep the Tigers in games while he gets more comfortable and develops as a passer.
Up next: vs. Tulane (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Texas A&M’s defense looked much better in the opener of Jimbo Fisher’s second season, holding overmatched Texas State to 8 rushing yards on 15 attempts in a 41-7 win. After intercepting only seven passes in 13 games last season, the Aggies picked off four in their first game of 2019. It was Texas A&M’s highest single-game interception total since 2006. The Aggies figure to get a much more demanding test at No. 1 Clemson next week. Texas A&M nearly stunned the Tigers before falling 28-26 in College Station last season.
Up next: at Clemson (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
12. Utah (1-0)
Utah’s offense was pretty inconsistent in the opener at BYU, but its defense more than held its own in a 30-12 victory, its ninth straight victory in the Holy War rivalry. Francis Bernard returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown, and Julian Blackmon had another pick-six for the Utes, who forced three turnovers and held the Cougars to only 92 rushing yards. Zack Moss, who missed the final five games of 2018 with a knee injury, ran for 187 yards with one score for the Utes.
Up next: vs. Northern Illinois (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
The long wait for Georgia transfer Jacob Eason is over, and he made the most of his opportunity in a 47-14 win over FCS foe Eastern Washington. Eason, who hadn’t played since the 2017 opener at Georgia, when he was injured and lost the starting job to Jake Fromm, completed 27 of 36 passes for 349 yards with four touchdowns. One concern for the Huskies: All-America center Nick Harris injured his left knee in the first quarter and tackle Henry Bainivalu is suspended for the first three games, according to coach Chris Petersen.
Up next: vs. California (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
After holding on to beat Miami 24-20 two weeks ago, the Gators had an open date this past weekend. They’ll play UT Martin of the FCS on Saturday, before playing back-to-back games at Kentucky on Sept. 14 and against Tennessee at home the next week, which might go a long way in deciding whether they’re the team that will challenge Georgia in the SEC East. The Gators figure to pad their defensive stats this week after totaling a whopping 10 sacks against the Hurricanes.
Up next: vs. UT Martin (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
It wouldn’t be wise to read too much into Penn State’s 79-7 rout of Idaho, but the Nittany Lions showed they might be fast enough and athletic enough on defense to challenge Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten East. The Nittany Lions limited the Vandals to only five first downs, four rushing yards on 28 attempts and 145 yards of total offense. Junior defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos had 2½ sacks and three tackles.
Up next: vs. Buffalo (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
The Badgers rolled over USF, which was supposed to be better in 2019, with a dominant defensive effort. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor ran for 135 yards with two touchdowns and caught two passes for 48 yards with two scores, outgaining the Bulls by himself, 183-157, in total yards. The Bulls managed only nine first downs and 26 rushing yards on 23 attempts, as Wisconsin looked like the early Big Ten West favorite.
Up next: vs. Central Michigan (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)
Jonathan Taylor catches two touchdowns and runs for two more as Wisconsin rolls past South Florida.
17. UCF (1-0)
The Knights don’t seem to have quarterback worries after losing two-time American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year McKenzie Milton to a serious knee injury. In fact, UCF coach Josh Heupel might have at least two options: Notre Dame graduate transfer Brandon Wimbush and freshman Dillion Gabriel, who attended the same high school as Milton in Hawaii. The quarterbacks were more than efficient in a 62-0 shutout of FCS foe Florida A&M. Wimbush completed 12 of 23 passes for 168 yards with two touchdowns; Gabriel was 9-for-13 for 127 yards with three scores.
Up next: at FAU (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, CBSSN)
18. Iowa (1-0)
The Hawkeyes got off to a slow start and trailed Miami (Ohio) in the second quarter before pulling away with four touchdowns in the second half of a 38-14 victory. A bigger concern for Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz: the health of left tackle Alaric Jackson, who left in the first quarter with a right knee injury. He went to the locker room on crutches and didn’t return to the sideline for the second half. He will be out several weeks but won’t need surgery. Jackson and junior Tristan Wirfs were expected to be among the best bookend tackles in the FBS.
Up next: vs. Rutgers (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, FS1)
The Orange led the FBS in forced turnovers with 31 in 2018, which is a big reason they won 10 games in a season for the first time since 2001. Syracuse forced four more turnovers in a 24-0 victory over Liberty, which had minus-4 rushing yards and allowed eight sacks. Now Syracuse needs to eliminate its own mistakes, as new quarterback Tommy DeVito tossed two interceptions. DeVito completed 17 of 35 passes for 176 yards after replacing all-time leading passer Eric Dungey.
Up next: at Maryland (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Cardinal rode their defense to a 17-7 win over Northwestern, after losing star quarterback K.J. Costello late in the first half. Costello took a shot to the head while sliding — the hit somehow didn’t draw a targeting penalty — and didn’t return. Without Costello, Stanford’s offense failed to score in the second half, but its defense limited the Wildcats to only 210 yards, forced four turnovers and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Costello’s status wasn’t immediately known. The Cardinal hit the meat of their schedule with consecutive road games at USC and UCF and home games against Oregon and Washington coming in the next five weeks.
Up next: at USC (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Spartans’ concerns after Week 1 of 2019 mirror those from 2018, when they scored six points in three of their last four games during a 7-6 campaign. MSU’s defense was dominant in a 28-7 win over Tulsa, holding the Golden Hurricane to minus-73 rushing yards with six sacks, one safety and a fumble recovery for a score. But after driving 73 yards for a touchdown on its opening possession, MSU’s offense didn’t score again. The Spartans averaged only 2.7 yards per carry; their running backs (Connor Heyward, La’Darius Jefferson and Elijah Collins) averaged only 2.2 yards per attempt.
Up next: vs. Western Michigan (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, BTN)
The Ducks were on the wrong end of Nix’s late-game heroics for Auburn in Arlington, Texas, and they missed out on a chance to make an early statement for the Pac-12. Quarterback Justin Herbert completed 28 of 37 passes for 242 yards with one touchdown, and Oregon’s offensive line held its own against the Tigers’ vaunted defensive front. But Oregon’s mistakes allowed Auburn to keep the score close. The Ducks dropped a touchdown pass, missed a field goal and Herbert lost a fumbled snap at the Auburn 9. UO coach Mario Cristobal’s game management also wasn’t great; he burned two timeouts after Herbert suffered a minor knee injury.
Up next: vs. Nevada (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, PACN)
The Broncos made an early statement as the best team from a Group of 5 league with a stunning 18-point comeback in a 36-31 victory at Florida State. True freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier was roughed up in the first half by FSU’s defense but threw for 407 yards with one touchdown. He was especially good on third down, completing 8 of 12 passes for 136 yards. Boise State’s defense limited the Seminoles to only 99 rushing yards on 28 carries. After FSU scored its third and final touchdown to take a 31-13 lead late in the second quarter, the Seminoles had 46 yards on 32 plays.
Up next: vs. Marshall (Friday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon threw only five passes as Gardner Minshew’s backup in 2018. You wouldn’t have known it from his performance in his first career start. He completed his first 15 passes and threw for 420 yards with five touchdowns before leaving in the third quarter of a 58-7 rout of New Mexico State. Gordon completed passes to nine receivers in the first half and had 330 yards before halftime. It was the third-highest total in a half for a Washington State quarterback; Connor Halliday had 337 against Cal in 2014 and Luke Falk had 335 at Arizona in 2015.
Up next: vs. Northern Colorado (Saturday, 5 p.m. ET)
Maybe Year 2 under Scott Frost won’t go as smoothly as many believed. The Cornhuskers led South Alabama 14-7 at the half, and they only put the Jaguars away in a 35-21 win because of two defensive touchdowns and another score on special teams. Quarterback Adrian Martinez completed 13 of 22 passes for 178 yards with one interception. Nebraska’s offense was outgained 314-276 in total yards. The Cornhuskers had only 66 yards of offense in the second half and ran 44 times for 98 yards.
Up next: at Colorado (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
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