College football is officially back. During Week 1’s loaded slate of games, we got our first look at which teams are for real and which teams aren’t.
It’s easy to make broad assumptions about any program after just the first game of the season. But after a long offseason, you can’t really blame us for having some strong takeaways. In this piece, we’ll try to put together some of the biggest overreactions.
We’ll cover everything from playoff contenders, coaches that could get fired, and which teams could be surprises this season.
New Florida head coach Billy Napier made a statement in his debut against No. 7 Utah, upsetting the Utes 29-26 in front of the largest home opener crowd in school history.
Although this game went back and forth, the Gators stepped up when they needed to. With 17 seconds left, Utah drove down to Florida’s 6-yard line and looked primed to take the lead. But on 2nd-and-goal, linebacker Amari Burney intercepted Cameron Rising’s pass in the end zone to seal the victory.
Final score aside, there were a few things that stood out about just how different this Florida team looks under Napier. The Gators’ offense dominated the line of scrimmage, which paid dividends in the run game.
Florida had 451 total yards of offense, 283 of which came on the ground. Quarterback Anthony Richardson led the Gators with 106 yards and three touchdowns. He added 168 yards in the air.
True freshman Trevor Etienne—the younger brother of former Clemson and current Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr.—was sensational. He finished with 64 yards on five carries, averaging 12.8 yards per carry. Montrell Johnson Jr. also had a 14-yard rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Utah returned six starters from its defense that was a top-20 rush defense last year. If Florida can be this productive on the ground all season, the Gators’ ceiling may get even higher.
The other thing that stood out? There was zero panic on Florida’s sideline throughout a tight game. Napier’s confidence and trust in what he’s implementing in Year 1 appear to be infectious. You could see it as the Gators put together a game-winning drive with less than two minutes left.
The Utah game most likely won’t be the only close game Florida plays this season. But if this offense can keep its composure like this all year, there’s no telling how well Florida can do. We’ll see what the Gators look like next week against No. 20 Kentucky.
The defending national champions had high expectations heading into the new season. Opening against No. 11 Oregon in Atlanta looked like a good measuring stick for how well the Dawgs reloaded for 2022.
Despite returning just three starters from last year’s stifling defense, Georgia shouldn’t miss a beat in 2022. That’s because if the Bulldogs keep scoring this easily, it won’t have to worry too much about its defense.
Georgia beat Oregon 49-3, as the offense put up 571 total yards, including a career-high 368 through the air from quarterback Stetson Bennett.
The Dawgs have a talented receiving corps, featuring the likes of tight end Brock Bowers and receivers Ladd McConkey and Adonai Mitchell. McConkey finished with 73 yards and a touchdown reception and rushing score. Running back Kenny McIntosh led the day with nine receptions for 117 yards.
Oregon’s defensive front couldn’t put any pressure on Bennett, who looked as comfortable as ever behind his offensive line. The Ducks defense didn’t have a single sack on the day.
The biggest concern for Georgia heading into this season was whether or not its offense could make up for its lack of a stifling defense from last season. Not only did Georgia’s defense allow just 4.6 yards per play, the Dawgs offense looks more than capable of putting up points.
It may be an overreaction from just one game, but it would be surprising if Georgia loses a game for the rest of the regular season. Here’s the Dawgs’ remaining schedule:
Based on what we saw on Saturday, only two of those games really stand out. The Florida game might be more competitive than we expected with how much better the Gators looked in Week 1. Still, Georgia should be favored. The game at Kentucky also looks intriguing, but the Dawgs have won seven straight in Lexington and the last 12 overall in the series.
Don’t be surprised if Georgia is undefeated heading into the SEC Championship game come December.
UNC is 2-0, but it looks like it will be a long season for the Tar Heels. They barely escaped on the road against Appalachian State on Saturday, winning 63-61. In Week 0 against FAMU, UNC led by just 11 entering the fourth quarter until the Tar Heels scored 21 unanswered points.
The defense looks to be the most vulnerable unit for the Tar Heels. In the fourth quarter alone, UNC gave up a whopping 40 points and 338 yards to App State.
Last week against FAMU, the Tar Heels allowed 335 yards, including 7.2 yards per pass. Perhaps UNC assistant head coach for defense Gene Chizik, who stepped away from coaching in 2017 before returning to Chapel Hill in 2022, should be reconsidering his decision.
Through two games, the Tar Heels look like they are in danger of finishing below .500 once again in 2022.
Next week, UNC has to go on the road to face Georgia State in Atlanta. Following a bye, the Tar Heels have games against Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, at Miami, and at Duke before another bye.
There’s an Oct. 29 game against Pitt at home followed by back-to-back road trips to Virginia and Wake Forest. The Tar Heels then finish the season out the season with home games against NC State and Georgia Tech.
Don’t be surprised if Mack Brown gets put on the hot seat if UNC has another down season.
It appears as if one of Michigan’s quarterbacks, Cade McNamara, is unhappy with his head coach’s decision to play two quarterbacks early in the season. Before the season kicked off on Saturday, Jim Harbaugh announced that last year’s starter, McNamara, would start Week 1 against Colorado State.
But instead of naming McNamara the outright starter, Harbaugh announced that McNamara’s backup, sophomore J.J. McCarthy, would start in the Week 2 game against Hawai’i.
McNamara had a relatively quiet day during Michigan’s 51-7 win over Colorado State. He went 9-of-18 with 136 yards and a touchdown. McCarthy, meanwhile, finished 4-for-4 and 30 yards, including another 50 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
McNamara, who led the Wolverines to a Big Ten Championship and a playoff berth last season, voiced his frustrations with Harbaugh’s quarterback decision after the game.
“I would definitely say it’s pretty unusual,” McNamara said to reporters. “It was kind of a thing that I wasn’t expecting. By the end of camp, I thought I had my best camp and put myself in a good position.”
Meanwhile, Harbaugh seemed unconcerned with McNamara’s apparent discontent. “I don’t think I have to manage anything,” Harbaugh said. “I just need to let them go out there and compete and do what they do.”
It is a bit surprising that Harbaugh is even turning this into a controversy at all. McNamara threw for 2,576 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. If Harbaugh thinks McCarthy is the better quarterback, why not start him ahead of McNamara from the get-go?
We’ll see what happens after Michigan’s game against Hawai’i next week. If indecision continues, McNamara might get even more frustrated, which is the last thing any team wants its quarterback to be.
It’s no secret that UConn has been something of a laughingstock in college football recently. The Huskies have gone 7-41 since 2017. UConn hasn’t eclipsed more than three wins since Bob Diaco’s 6-7 season in 2015.
But through two weeks of Huskies football under new head coach Jim Mora, UConn looks like it could have one of its best seasons in recent years. UConn is 1-1 heading into Week 2, following a Week 0 loss to Utah State and a Week 1 victory over Central Connecticut State.
The Huskies lost 31-20 to Utah State, but it was an impressive outing against an Aggie team that finished 11-3 last season. UConn even led the game 14-0 in the second quarter.
In Week 1 against FCS Central Connecticut State, the Huskies led just 7-3 at halftime before putting this game away in the second half. UConn scored 21 unanswered points to win 28-3, giving Mora his first home win as the Huskies head coach.
We’ll see how the rest of the season plays out for UConn. The one thing that may be standing in the Huskies’ way of improving from a wins and losses standpoint is a relatively tough schedule.
Next week, UConn hosts Syracuse, which just blew out Louisville 31-7 in Week 1. The Huskies then have to face Michigan and NC State on the road, Fresno State, and then FIU and Ball State on the road. UConn has three straight home games against Boston College, UMass and Liberty before closing the season at Army on Nov. 19.
The Mario Cristobal era in Miami wasted no time getting off to a hot start on Saturday. The Canes made it look easy at home in a 70-13 win over Bethune-Cookman.
The Canes offense looks much improved from last season. As expected, returning starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke had an efficient day. The sophomore finished with 193 yards and two touchdowns before his back-up, Jake Garcia, saw playing time.
Ole Miss transfer Henry Parrish Jr. led Miami’s run game, finishing with 108 yards and three touchdowns. His three scores matched the total he had with the Rebels all last season.
Miami’s defense forced three turnovers, allowed Bethune-Cookman to convert on just 5-of-14 third down conversion attempts and kept the Wildcats off the board completely in the fourth quarter.
It’s early in the season, but Miami looks like it might threaten Clemson this year. The Canes have the opportunity to make some statements before they face Clemson on the road on Nov. 19, too. In Week 3, Miami travels to Texas A&M to face the Aggies in College Station. Getting a road win in that one could vault Miami into the playoff conversation.
The Canes look like they could be favored in most of their games before the big one against Clemson. They have a home game against Southern Miss before taking on the Aggies. Following their matchup against Texas A&M, they’ll return home for games against Middle Tennessee and UNC.
That’s followed by a road trip to Virginia Tech and a game against Duke at home before traveling to UVA. The Canes getting Florida State at home on Nov. 5 is huge, and Miami then goes to Georgia Tech on Nov. 12.
Based on how Miami looked in Week 1, Canes could go into that game vs. Clemson either unbeaten or with one loss.
Last season, Cincinnati made history as the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff. The Bearcats also had their best season in school history, going 13-1. Retaining head coach Luke Fickell amidst a wild coaching carousel season looked key for Cincy to remain nationally relevant heading into 2022.
The Bearcats’ impressive season in 2021 won’t be forgotten. But any hopes of having another magical season in 2022 were squashed by the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday. Arkansas went to Cincinnati and defeated the Bearcats 31-24. Cincy scored a touchdown to make it a one-score game with 5:49 left, but Arkansas ran the clock down on its last possession, sealing the Razorbacks’ victory.
With Cincy’s loss, it looks like the 2022 College Football Playoff won’t include a Group of Five team. The other possible team that could take Cincy’s spot in the playoff was Houston, but the Cougars needed triple overtime to get past UTSA on Saturday.
There’s obviously no shame in getting a close victory on the road. However, the Cougars have to go on the road to face Texas Tech next week, which will be a challenge coming off of such an emotional victory.
Outside of Kansas, the rest of Houston’s schedule doesn’t include a Power Five school, so even if the Cougars go undefeated, it’s unlikely the committee will deem its schedule worthy of a playoff spot.
The good news for teams like Houston and Cincinnati is that the playoff won’t be at just four teams forever. Last week, it was announced that the current four-team model would be expanding to 12 teams in 2026 by the very latest.
Saturday wasn’t a great day for the Pac-12, a conference that hasn’t made the CFP since 2017. The team’s best chance to make it into the playoff was Utah. The Utes had the opportunity to go on the road and get a statement victory against a Power Five program. Instead, Utah lost 29-26 to Florida, and the Utes are now 3-10 against current SEC teams.
Even if the Utes win out, it seems unlikely they can make it into the playoff. The biggest games remaining on Utah’s schedule include USC at home and at Oregon on Nov. 19. Neither of those games moves the needle much, so Utah appears out of the playoff.
Speaking of Oregon, the Ducks presumably had the second-best shot to make the playoff. Oregon had former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning as its new head coach and Auburn transfer quarterback Bo Nix. However, the Ducks showed no life against Georgia on Saturday, losing 49-3.
With both losses, the Pac-12 is now 1-8 against SEC teams in its last nine Week 1 games, per ESPN’s announcing crew of Utah-Florida (h/t Chris Vannini of The Athletic). It looks like the Pac-12 will be out of the playoff for the sixth season in a row in 2022.
Nebraska didn’t exactly put the concerns following the Week 0 loss to Northwestern at rest on Saturday. Against FCS North Dakota, Nebraska was tied 7-7 against the Fighting Hawks at halftime.
It was still just a one-score game at the end of the third quarter, with Nebraska having a 24-17 lead heading into the fourth. Fortunately, the Cornhuskers scored two unanswered touchdowns to put the game away in the fourth quarter.
It’s obvious that there has been little to no improvement from this Nebraska program, one that’s still searching for a winning season under fifth-year coach Scott Frost. Not to mention Frost overhauled a good chunk of his staff after last season, including hiring Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.
Through two games, Nebraska’s offense ranks 65th in scoring offense, averaging 33 points per game. The Cornhuskers averaged less than 30 points in three out of Frost’s four seasons at the helm, so there has been at least some improvement in that aspect thus far. Still, Northwestern and North Dakota don’t exactly have stout defenses.
The bad news for Nebraska is that its schedule doesn’t exactly have opportunities for easy wins over the next couple of weeks. Next week, Nebraska plays Georgia Southern at home. The Eagles are a much stronger program than North Dakota, and Georgia Southern has former USC head coach Clay Helton leading its program. Nebraska is just 2-1 against current Sun Belt teams since 2017.
Surely the week after might provide some relief for Nebraska, right? No, definitely not. The Cornhuskers get Oklahoma at home in Week 3. Yes, the same Sooners team that just put up 45 points at home against UTEP in its opener.
The Oklahoma game will likely get out of hand fast. That, paired with how the Georgia Southern game goes, might be enough to pull the plug on Frost’s career at Nebraska. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it happen by the Oklahoma game, perhaps even sooner.
Hey—these are called Week 1 overreactions for a reason.
Syracuse had one heck of a season opener on Saturday, throttling Louisville at home 31-7. The Orange had lost the last three previous matchups by an average of 30 points per game.
Syracuse’s offense looked new and improved under new offensive coordinator Robert Anae. Quarterback Garrett Shrader threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns and added another 95 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Running back Sean Tucker recorded 98 yards and a touchdown.
The Orange has a road game vs. UConn this week and will likely be favored. The rest of Syracuse’s schedule shapes up nicely before traveling to Clemson on Oct. 22. Syracuse faces Purdue at home on Sept. 17, followed by two straight home games against Virginia and Wagner.
Syracuse gets a bye before facing NC State at home before the game against Clemson. It’s hard to see Syracuse losing any of those games if the offense looks the way it did against Louisville.
It obviously benefits Clemson big-time to get this game at home. But if the offense shows that its Week 1 performance wasn’t a fluke, there’s no question it could give Clemson a fight. We have yet to see how Clemson looks this season, as the Tigers open the season Monday night against Georgia Tech.
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