Week One Takeaways From Each Conference

auburn vs washington
The Auburn defensive line showed they are the real deal Saturday against Washington. (Photo: Jake Crandall/The Montgomery Advertiser)

AAC

Houston looked good against Rice and the story of their team was Ed Oliver. The potential number one pick in next years NFL Draft was dominant, racking up 13 total tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. Now they were only playing Rice, who isn’t very good, but Oliver did exactly what he should’ve against a team like Rice. The Cougars also got a really nice performance out of quarterback D’Eriq King. Last season King was limited in the passing game, but at least so far he showed an improvement in the passing game, going 17/24 for 320 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also added 33 yards and a touchdown on the ground. If King is going to be playing like that he’ll be able to take that Houston offense to the next level.

What happened to Temple? The Owls had some expectations coming into this season, but they started their season with a huge thud, losing at home to Villanova. So what went wrong for Temple? Most of what went wrong can be pointed to the offense. Quarterback Frank Nutile threw 2 interceptions and threw for less than 200 yards. That passing game wasn’t good, but what was even worse was the rushing attack. Ryquell Armstead lead the team with 31 yards on 14 carries and as a team they ran for 46 yards on 22 carries. They will need to figure out a way to generate a rushing attack going forward and the fact they couldn’t get any running game going against Villanova is concerning.

Cincinnati was impressive going to LA and beating UCLA in a game that not a lot of people probably predicted them to win. They did this by being very physical. As a team they only threw for 110 yards, but Michael Warren II was good behind a physical offensive line going for 142 yards on 35 carries and finding the endzone three times. Defensively they were also very physical and were able to disrupt a UCLA offense that looked overwhelmed by the physicality that the Bearcats brought.

ACC

I had fairly low expectations for Syracuse coming into the season. However, they went on the road to Western Michigan and put up 55 points and had a 34-7 lead going into half. The story of this game was Eric Dungey, who ran for 200 yards and accounted for three touchdowns in all. I expected Syracuse to put up some points, but doing it on what I view as a solid Western Michigan defense was impressive.

If it weren’t for Ryan Finley, NC State might have lost to James Madison. The Wolfpack really struggled to run the ball and will need to find a way to generate a running game going forward or else too much of the load will be put up Ryan Finley’s shoulders.

Boston College has a good defense and a team that can win, but the one big question was quarterback Anthony Brown. Now take it for what it’s worth because they were playing UMass, but Anthony Brown went 15/21 for 279 yards and four touchdowns. He is a threat on the ground, but if he really has developed to this level or even a level close to it in the passing game, Boston College will become a really dangerous team in the ACC.

The North Carolina offense went on the road and really struggled at Cal, including four interceptions from Nathan Elliott. The bright spot however, was the teams pass rush and front seven. They were able to sack Cal quarterbacks four times and they were able to rack up 10 tackles for loss as a team. If they can continue doing that they will be a threat going forward, especially as they start to get a number of their players back from suspension throughout the season.

I don’t have the highest opinion of Miami quarterback Malik Rosier, but I still thought Miami had enough around him to win, but that wasn’t the case Sunday against LSU. Rosier went only 15/35 for 259 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, including a pick six. A good chunk of that was in garbage time as well. The ‘Canes should have enough on this roster to win a good amount of games, but what they showed me on Sunday was they will struggle to beat the better teams on their schedule with this level of quarterback play.

Bud Foster is amazing. It’s really as simple as that. The Hokies are young on defense but they went into a fired up Doak Campbell Stadium and completely shut down Florida State. They forced five turnovers, sacked Deondre Francois five times and racked up 14 tackles for loss, all while keeping Florida State from reaching the endzone even one time. They held Florida State to 3.4 yards per carry and that’s with an 85 yard run by Cam Akers skewing the stats in a big way, take that run out and the Seminoles ran for just 9 yards. I didn’t think they would win that game with all of their youth playing together for the first time, but they were thoroughly dominant and you can’t help but praise Bud Foster.

On the flip side that was a complete dud of a Florida State debut for Willie Taggart. As I mentioned, they turned the ball over five times, including three interceptions by Deondre Francois and the team only scoring one time in their four trips into the redzone. Taggart’s play-calling was abysmal and very head-scratching at times. The Florida State defense played really well after the very start of the game and played well enough to win the game, but the offense was just horrible. It’ll be interesting to see if the offense gets better going forward, because it’s hard to imagine them getting worse.

Big-12

Same old same old for Texas Tech. I don’t need to say much more. Against Ole Miss they moved the ball well, even though they only scored 27 points, but their defense is the same. Ole Miss moved the ball at will and in the Big-12 against some of the offenses they’ll have to face, things won’t get much better.

Can we please stop proclaiming Texas as “back” before every season? Sure, they may go on to have a fine season, but they went and lost to a Maryland team that’s been going through a lot of turmoil and it’s a team they have more talent than. What’s very concerning is that they struggled to get a running game going, which is something they struggled with last season. Let’s wait for Texas to actually put together a 10 or 11-win season before we say they’re back again.

Not going to stay on this much, but wow the Oklahoma offense looked amazing again. I know it was against FAU, but FAU isn’t exactly a pushover in most people’s eyes and the Sooners absolutely torched them. Kyler Murray looked dynamic and Rodney Anderson racked up 100 yards on only 5 carries. It looks like the Sooners will be potent once again.

Will Grier is one of the better quarterbacks in the country and he looked like it against an SEC defense on Saturday. I know that Tennessee isn’t a powerhouse, but Grier went for 429 yards and five touchdowns and was putting throws right on the money for his receivers. Grier should have a monstrous season and that was only further cemented in my mind after Saturday.

It could be a tough year for the Kansas schools. The Jayhawks lost to Nicholls at home in overtime and Kansas State struggled to beat South Dakota. The Jayhawks have been bad for years, but seeing Kansas State look that bad was weird and it’ll be interesting to see them going forward as they play Mississippi State this next week.

Yes they were playing Abiline Christian, but Baylor looked improved. Keep in mind they lost to Liberty last season so at least in what should be an easy season-opener this season they took care of business this year if you’re a Baylor fan.

Big Ten

Michigan State really struggled to beat Utah State at home on Friday and that should be a big concern for one of the Big Ten’s best teams. They play on the road against Arizona State this weekend so they need to play a lot better.

Ohio State has of course had a lot of drama around their program lately, but they were able to play an actual game this week and they looked pretty good. Dwayne Haskins threw for 313 yards and five touchdowns. I know it was against a bad Oregon State defense, but if he gives them more of a downfield passing game they should be a much more dangerous offense. On the other side of the ball, their defensive line looked really good. Overall giving up 31 points to Oregon State is not the best of signs for a national title contender, but up front they look as good as advertised. Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones each had two sacks and if this secondary can improve, which I assume it will, this defense should be as good as usual.

Illinois isn’t good. I won’t spend much time talking about them, but A.J. Bush does give them something to try and build around on offense. He threw for 190 yards and ran for 139 yards.

I thought Maryland would lose big against Texas, but I was clearly wrong about that. This team seemed galvanized and they beat Texas in their season-opener for the second straight season. I don’t know what this season will hold for them, but it will be interesting to watch going forward.

I really have no clue what to make of Penn State struggling against Appalachian State and needing to win in overtime. Appalachian State is a good Sun Belt team, but they shouldn’t be able to take Penn State to overtime at Penn State. I’m not going to overreact to this game too much, but it’s concerning if you’re a Penn State fan.

One of the most-hyped games of the weekend was Michigan going to Notre Dame and that ended up being a good game. My biggest takeaway from the game was the Michigan o-line really struggling. They had both of their quarterbacks running for their lives. That is something that will have to get fixed going forward or else the Michigan offense will continue to be what it has been the past few years, which isn’t going to win them anything of any significance and that’ll only up the pressure on Jim Harbaugh.

Conference USA

What happened to FAU? I know they weren’t supposed to win going into Oklahoma, but jeez. That game was over right away and Lane Kiffin has some things to figure out.

One of the other teams that’s supposed to be one of the contenders in this conference is Marshall, who really struggled against Miami (OH). They did ultimately find a way to win, but they will have some things to figure out going forward.

Mason Fine lit things up for North Texas. The SMU defense isn’t very good, but Fine went 40/50 for 444 yards and three touchdowns. If Fine is going to be doing this, North Texas will be a real threat in this conference.

This could be the only time I talk about this team at all this season, but UTEP lost 30-10 against Northern Arizona. Not exactly the best way to start the season coming off of an 0-12 season, but wow they are still really horrible.

Independent Schools

Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert is probably not a name that you know, but he lit up Old Dominion for 345 yards and four touchdowns. Calvert is a good quarterback and they have a schedule where he should be able to keep putting up numbers and become more of a household name.

I was very impressed with Notre Dame. They still seem limited on offense, but defensively they should have a chance to beat anyone on their schedule because they are that good. The Irish should be looking at a 4-0 record while they try and improve their offense going into their home game against Stanford in late September.

Navy has been a really consistent program and they’ve usually been solid on defense, but they got lit up this weekend against Hawai’i. They lost 59-41, but I don’t even think it was as close as the final score indicates. The thing that makes me not overreact too much to this game was that Navy had to go cross country to play at Hawai’i, but they looked bad. They also play Memphis this week so they will need to turn things around quickly.

MAC

It could be a long year for the Ohio defense. Playing what should have been one of the easier teams on their schedule, Howard, the Bobcats’ secondary got absolutely torched, giving up 439 yards on only 26 completions to Howard quarterback Caylin Newton. This past week does not bode well for the Ohio secondary, which was actually pretty well thought of coming into the season.

If you’re a Miami (OH) fan you’re disappointed about your season-opening loss to Marshall, but realize that Marshall is one of the better group of five teams out there and you narrowly lost to them by a score of 35-28. I think good things are in store for Miami (OH) this season.

Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson is one of the better offensive players in the conference and he showed why on Saturday against Delaware State. Jackson only completed 17 passes, but he found a way to throw for six touchdowns, while not turning the ball over at all. Buffalo has an okay roster, but Jackson doing what he does makes them a much more dangerous team in this conference.

Mountain West

UNLV was predicted by most to be pretty average in the Mountain West, but they were pretty competitive with USC on Saturday. The final score of the game was a USC 43-21 win, but that’s misleading for how competitive the game was. Going into the fourth quarter the score was only 19-14 with USC leading. I’m not sure what this means for UNLV this season, but it’s a promising start even in a loss.

Boise State opened with what I viewed as one of the other top group of five teams on Saturday when they went on the road to play Troy. Boise State not only passed that test, but they passed it with flying colors, winning 56-20. Brett Rypien showed why he is the best quarterback in the conference, throwing for 305 yards and four touchdowns. Boise State is as good as most people thought they were coming into this season.

Not much was expected of Hawai’i this season, and they could still end up not having that good of a season, but wow Nick Rolovich has that offense humming. They are coming off of putting up 59 points on Navy, which featured their quarterback Cole McDonald throwing for six touchdowns. On the season, McDonald has thrown for nine touchdowns while Hawai’i is off to a 2-0 start. They also have a tough trio of receivers to stop in John Ursua, JoJo Ward and Cedric Byrd. This team should continue to put up good offensive numbers.

Pac-12

What was up with Stanford’s offense on Friday? When was the last time they only ran for 50 yards and threw for over 300? It was really strange to watch but if you’re a Stanford fan you should be encouraged because you know Bryce Love is good and the offensive line will improve as the season goes along. What is the bonus is that K.J. Costello put up good numbers and JJ Arcega-Whiteside showed that he can be a go-to target for the Cardinal.

I had pretty low expectations for Colorado this season, but Steven Montez lit up Colorado State. Montez is obviously talented, but if he can play like that, Colorado could be a sneaky team in the conference.

There’s not a lot of positives to take away from a game where you give up 77 points, but for Oregon State they clearly look improved on the offensive side of the ball. They got long touchdown runs of 80 and 78 yards from Artavis Pierce against what is thought to be one of the better defenses in college football. They also got a 100-yard receiving game from Trevon Bradford. It should still be a long season for Oregon State because, wow, that defense is bad, but they at least look improved on offense and seem to have a direction.

Pretty much nothing can be taken away from Oregon’s season-opening win against Bowling Green, but wide receiver Jaylon Redd keeps showing that he can play. The Ducks have questions at receiver, but Redd showed at the end of last season and then in the first game this season as a true sophomore, that he can play.

Washington has a championship defense. They also have a good offensive line, even though Trey Adams is out, they have talented receivers and two good running backs, but the reason this team can’t win a national title is really simple, it’s Jake Browning. In 2016 Browning had a monster season when he was surrounded by proven guys that ended up in the NFL, but on Saturday against a top defense he once again showed his limitations. To put it frank, Browning is limiting what is a very good roster and I think once he leaves after this season they could be more of a title contender. Keep in mind that Georgia transfer Jacob Eason transferred to Washington and he’s sitting out this season.

I had Washington State losing to Wyoming, but the Cougars used a big fourth quarter to pull away and win 41-19. I still don’t think the Cougars will contend for the Pac-12 North, but Mike Leach showed he can still coach and he can especially still coach quarterbacks and a Washington State defense that had to replace some important players, played really well on the road.

I’d be concerned if I were a USC fan. They struggled to pull away from UNLV and now things get real right away with them playing Stanford this weekend. JT Daniels looked fine in his college debut and Amon-Ra St. Brown looked the part in his college debut, but something just doesn’t seem right here and USC is constantly a team that leaves you wanting more and that doesn’t appear to be any different this season.

The build at UCLA for Chip Kelly may be longer than people think. The defense looked fine against Cincinnati, but now they will really get tested by going to Oklahoma. The offense however looked horrible. Wilton Speight got injured and had to leave the game, but frankly he’s not that good. True freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson didn’t look ready to play at all and I’m not sure how much this offense will improve throughout this season.

I still don’t think the Herm Edwards hire will be a good one in Tempe, but the Sun Devils looked really good against UTSA and the story of the game was the ASU front seven racking up 10 sacks. The Sun Devils definitely have talent and they showed that on Saturday and it’ll be interesting to see how they play against Michigan State.

I thought the Arizona play-calling was terrible in Kevin Sumlin’s debut. Khalil Tate is one of the best athletes in college football and I get wanting to develop him as a passer, but for Tate to only have 8 carries is a joke. Overall Tate went 17/34 passing for 197 yards and some of those pass attempts need to be converted to rushing attempts. When Tate came on to the national scene last season it was mostly for his running ability and if Arizona doesn’t get back to doing that, the offense will probably continue to be sporadic.

SEC

If there’s one thing that Ole Miss has it’s receivers, and they showed that on Saturday. The trio of DaMarkus Lodge, A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf is deadly. I really think if they all stay healthy Ole Miss can pull off some upsets this season because those three are so tough to defend.

Speaking of playing as advertised, the Auburn defensive line. They did a good job of living in the Washington backfield and Washington has at least a solid offensive line. Auburn can truly beat anyone with this defensive front.

Will Terry Wilson be the Kentucky quarterback going forward? It’s hard to tell because he really struggled in his Kentucky debut, going 11/18 for only 78 yards and two interceptions against Central Michigan. Kentucky has a solid team, but if they are going to do anything they will need much better quarterback play.

This Tennessee rebuild could take some time. I thought they would hang a little better with West Virginia, but they were dismantled and didn’t really look any better than they did last season. This rebuild could take a while.

It doesn’t really tell you too much for how the season can go for the Florida secondary, but I felt it worthy to note that they gave up a grand total of 3, yes 3, passing yards to Charleston Southern. Who knows what this means going forward, but that’s pretty crazy.

Alabama is Alabama.

One of the teams I was most impressed with this weekend was LSU. Joe Burrow at least looked competent for the Tigers, which is something that couldn’t always be said about LSU quarterback play. What I was really impressed with though besides the defense, which looked fast and physical, was the offensive line. The offensive line was blowing the Miami defense off the ball and I was really impressed to see that. If that line continues to play like that and Joe Burrow gets more comfortable in the offense, they will actually be able to win some big games this season because they might actually have an offense.

Sun Belt

Appalachian State is probably the best team in the conference, but them going into Penn State and getting the game to overtime is really impressive. The Mountaineers are a fairly young team and I think the experience of going into Happy Valley and almost winning will pay dividends this season.

The other team that’s supposed to be one of the best in the conference is Troy and wow they got beat up. I know Boise State is probably a higher quality team and should beat Troy, but not by 36 on Troy’s home field. They couldn’t get much going on offense and they couldn’t stop Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien one bit. Neal Brown and company have some things to work out.

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