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As week one of the 2022 college football season is officially in the books, we can finally let the air out of our lungs that we’ve been holding in. Was it was the 62 combined point fourth quarter points in the North Carolina and Appalachian State game that made you hold your breath? Or maybe you are infatuated with good defense and your heart couldn’t take enough of Iowa outlasting South Dakota State, 7-3 in a game that saw only 286 total yards and not a single touchdown.
Either way, we are all excited that the stadiums were packed and the energy was felt all across the nation with the return of college football. So let’s take a look back at this opening weekend to highlight some huge matchups, as well as key performers.
Backyard Brawl Is Back
Speaking of energy, Thursday night saw the Pitt Panther fanbase bring the noise, creating a hostile environment for the West Virginia Mountaineers, and the return of the Backyard Brawl. After an 11 year hiatus, you could tell that these former Big East rivals couldn’t wait to rekindle competitive flame. This resulted in an absolute thriller and a great way to kickoff the official week one festivities.
In a 38-31 victory, the Panthers’ defensive line lived up to the rumors and could very well be one of the best units in the country. Also, quarterback Kedon Slovis is very streaky, but when he’s locked in he can make some great throws downfield and towards the sideline. However, if that offensive line plays like this all season, such as allowing pressure in waves, they won’t even sniff back to back ACC titles.
On the losing end was the Mountaineers, but this team really could be a surprise in the Big 12 after standing tall against the reigning ACC champions. For them to play at a high-level within the conference, they have to surround quarterback JT Daniels with better protection and stop dropping the ball. He was getting peppered in the pocket on seemingly every throw but was let down by these costly drops. Freshman running back CJ Donaldson was amazing with his 125 yards on seven carries, and could be leaned on to set up the play action passing attack, which will help keep Daniels away from the hits.
Pure Michigan (And State) Performers
Just last week I wrote about how I believed Michigan State linebacker, and former UNLV transfer, Jacoby Windmon was due for a breakout season. Friday night he backed me up with a career high four sack effort, en route to Sparty’s 35-13 win over in state rival Western Michigan. Two other players that caught my attention in this matchup were Michigan State’s wideout Jayden Rei, and Western Michigan’s defensive lineman Andre Carter. Even on limited touches Reid looks like he’s slightly faster than he was last season, and Carter was a problem all night as he constantly pushed and ripped his way into the backfield.
Rolling into Saturday was when “Big Brother” got their season going against the not so stellar Colorado State Rams. Even though Michigan Wolverines head coach, Jim Harbaugh, is allowing an in-season quarterback tryout to start the year, the skill players will be too much for the out of conference schedule of Colorado State, Hawaii and UCONN anyway. Running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, who was also spotted in my breakout players piece, were efficient with nearly identical stat sheets that each boasted a TD.
In only 18 receptions, the wideout room looks to continue to make plays after the catch, just as Roman Wilson did on his 61 yard score. The most relieving observation for the Wolverine faithful is that the defense seems to be on schedule after losing so much talent, including first round picks Aidan Hutchinson and Daxton Hill. Obviously a more challenging attack will affirm their reload, but I don’t think it is on par with Georgia.
Dead Ducks In Atlanta
Speaking of the Georgia Bulldogs, the young pups on their defense are just as nasty as the rowdy bunch that won them a title last year. Bo Nix, the Oregon Ducks’ quarterback, was running for his life and had no real place to throw the ball all afternoon as the Atlanta based Mercedes-Benz Stadium was packed with an overwhelming sea of red. There’s really nothing too analytical to say about this game, but that performance couldn’t go unnoticed from anyone who cares about college football. There’s no question that the Dawgs are up to the challenge of repeating as National Champions after that 49-3 statement against the #11 Ducks.
Luck Runs Out In Columbus
The matchup of the weekend featured a top five showdown between THE Ohio State Buckeyes and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The hype and talk before the game was how the Buckeyes were going to blow the doors off the Irish, and that the 17 point spread was too low. Well, it looked like Notre Dame had a set of ears all around the country, and weren’t too thrilled as they came out swinging.
Irish Quarterback Tyler Buchner looked unfazed in his first start, hitting his first eight passes and running effectively when needed. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they hired a worthy defensive coordinator who was able to make some changes to slow down Notre Dame after they had put 10 points on the board in less than 20 minutes of game time. After an Audric Estime rushing TD with 11:56 to go in the second quarter, the revamped Buckeye defense held the Irish scoreless the rest of the way.
If you would have told Buckeye head coach Ryan Day that his team would only allow 10 points prior to the game, he would believe it would have been a blowout. As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend,” because the Notre Dame defense came prepared to slow down the air attack. By running a two high look, the Irish sat in zone and forced Ohio State to find the holes, which didn’t come easy after All-American slot wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba went down with a leg injury.
The Buckeyes were finally able to break through in the second half by focusing more on the ground game. Running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams averaged over 6.0 yards per carry and were able to overcome the 10-7 halftime deficit. Heisman favorite, quarterback C.J. Stroud, made the throws he had to against the tough defense in order to secure the victory. Just as the Irish heard the noise, the Buckeye offensive line heard all offseason how they were soft and became the key component in icing away the 21-10 victory.
I don’t believe I even have enough words to describe the mayhem that happened in the Florida State vs. LSU game on Sunday night. There was more drama in the last few minutes of this game than there was all weekend long. From a muffed punt and fumble inside the five yard line, to the blocked extra point, there was limitless drama. All I’ll say is I’ve never in my life seen two college football teams try and gift wrap a victory for the other team like I did Sunday night.
Is Clemson Really Top Five?
In the final contest of the Labor Day weekend jam fest, we saw the Clemson Tigers take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. After their 41-10 victory, there’s still a ton of questions about how good this Tiger team actually is. That 31 point margin of victory is very skewed because with under two minutes to go in the third quarter, it was still a 17-10 ball game. Also, Clemson had multiple short fields due to punts that they blocked, which really helped the offense that struggled mightily last season.
None of those questions are on the defensive side of the ball, though. Even with former defensive coordinator Brent Venables at Oklahoma, this defensive front is so strong and loves to attack. There’s likely two, and maybe even three first round draft picks on the defensive line, depending on how well Xavier Thomas plays after he comes back from injury.
Alabama trounced Utah State as expected, and Bryce Young looks ready to defend his Heisman crown. Their defense is still elite as they held Utah State scoreless in a 55-0 rout.
Speaking of Heisman, Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson may be the main threat to Young after week one. That pump fake spin move is a highlight play, and one that is reminiscent of plays that Johnny Manziel made that landed him the Heisman. Head coach Billy Napier helping Richardson find balance in his dual threat ability should scare anybody on their schedule from here on out.
Notre Dame is the only real test on the schedule for the Clemson, and they could figure out their offense by November 5th when they head to South Bend.
North Carolina State may be the most overhyped team this year. I know it’s week one, but a team predicted to be ACC champions has no business getting bailed out by bad kicking to get a win against East Carolina.
Texas A&M didn’t do themselves any favors by struggling against FCS foe Sam Houston State. Now they have Appalachian State who loves to score, and Miami who will play very physical. A loss to one of those teams will be a gut punch for a team expected to be a real threat in the SEC.