A look at how the top 25 ranked teams in college football performed on opening weekend:
USC 49 – Hawaii 10
Matt Barkey returned to USC for a single reason-win a national title and win a Heisman. The Junior quarterback started his campaign with a 372 yard and four touchdown outing with Silas Reed, a Penn State transfer, scoring a touchdown on his debut for SC while averaging almost six yards a carry. Marqise Lee was a favoured target of Barkey with the Sophomore wide receiver hauling in 10 catches for just under 200 yards. Hawaii’s defence could not pose a threat for the Trojans offence and a week two meeting with Syracuse looks unlikely to provide a greater test.
Alabama 41 – Michigan 14
This matchup of top ten teams was billed as the biggest game of the week but with ‘Bama showing a dominance on offence rarely seen in recent years the National Champions look ready to defend their crown. Allied with a defence that had to replace numerous starters that left for the NFL it could have been expected to see Alabama struggle but instead Michigan never really were able to get anything going. Denard Robinson was picked off twice by ‘Bama with the Heisman candidate starting his season by struggling to find any time in the pocket. The ease with which Michigan were handled is ominous for the rest of the National Title contenders.
LSU 41 – North Texas 14
LSU started their season in familiar style with a comfortable victory but while they, once again, struggled to get production from the QB position a potent ground game put them in position to win. North Texas had some moments that will cause concern for LSU with Mean Green wideout Brelan Chancellor bringing down two touchdown passes and over 110 yards on just four catches. The victory was comfortable but improvement will be needed for Tiger fans to feel confident of their potential for this year.
Oklahoma 24 – UTEP 7
Just like last season the Sooners offensive line offered little protection for Landy Jones with the senior quarterback seemingly pressured on every snap. With little time in the pocket Jones struggled to complete passes but a ground game, led by Damien Williams, saw the Sooners clock up over 200 yards rushing. Their inability to convert on third down, just 5 of 16, will need to be improved upon if Oklahoma are to live up to their billing as a preseason favourite for the National Title.
Oregon 57 – Arkansas State 34
Marcus Mariota showed no signs of nerves in his debut for the Ducks with the 6-4 freshman completing all but four passes on a day when he completed 18 throws for 200 yards and three scores. Backup Bryan Bennet also tossed a score when he saw time on the field. The speed of the Oregon offence was as evident as ever with the Ducks rushing for just under 300 yards with Arkansas State, like so many of Oregon’s foes, unable to slow down their high-tempo, spread system.
Georgia 45 – Buffalo 23
The Buffalo Bulls kept the game competitive in the opening half but when the match progressed Georgia started to show their class with QB Aaron Murray, one of the nation’s top QBs, throwing three touchdown passes. Wide receiver Tavarres King hauled in one of those passes en route to a 117 yard day. Freshman running back Todd Gurley had 100 yards and two scores on just eight carries. Next week’s game against Missouri will be a much better test of the Bulldogs.
Florida State 69 – Murray State 3
Years of top rated recruiting classes have failed to improve the fortunes of Florida State and a dominant victory against FCS Murray State hardly declares the start of a new era of Seminole dominance. Their ground game accounted for seven scores and with another FCS opponent next week it’s unlikely that a true picture of Florida State will emerge until later in the month.
South Carolina 17 – Vanderbilt 13
South Carolina used workhorse back, Marcus Lattimore, throughout the game with the Junior topping 100 yards. The Gamecocks also had a productive outing from quarterback David Shaw even though he threw an interception. His ability to make plays with his legs could prove crucial later in the season against the elite defences of the SEC. Vandy impressed throughout with a dogged defensive performance but offensively they also saw promise with Jordan Rodgers and Jordan Matthews combining for almist 150 yards.
Arkansas 49 – Jacksonville State 24
After a trying offseason it was important for Arkansas to get their season off to a fast start. Tyler Wilson passed for three scores and 367 yards and showed the composure needed to lead a team in the SEC. If he can continue this form the new season should see the Razerbacks able to contend for major honours but a lot remains to be proven about a team that has had coaching turnover since the end of last season. Averaging five yards a carry against this caliber of opponents is clearly something that Arkansas need to improve upon going forward.
West Virginia 69 – Marshall 34
In their first game in the Big 12 West Virginia displayed the same dominant offence that has marked the school in recent years. Geno Smith passed for over 300 yards and had as many touchdown passes (4) as dropped passes. The Heisman contender was ably assisted by Shawne Alston with the Senior back comfortably running for over 120 yards and two scores.
Wisconsin 26 – Northern Iowa 21
Montee Ball was as productive as ever and the play of quarterback Danny O’Brien was cooley effective but it took a late defensive stand to hold off Nothern Iowa. The Badgers held a comfortable 26-7 lead by let that slip away when Northern Iowa had consecutive touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. A failure to convert on a fourth down in the last three minutes by Northern Iowa sealed the win for Wisconsin.
Michigan State 17 – Boise State 13
Life after Kellen Moore is clearly going to be different for Boise State. The Broncos struggled for much of the game but with the Spartans turning the ball over often, including three interceptions, an opportunity presented itself for Boise even though Michigan State had more than double the yardage of the Broncos. The Spartans were keyed off by Le’Veon Bell who had 265 total yards but the play of Andrew Maxwell will need to be improved if the Michigan State are going to contend for the Big 10 championship.
Clemson 23 – Auburn 16
Clemson’s defense impressed against Auburn, particularly on third down, and their offence showed signs of being able to allow the Tigers to flourish this year. Solid quarterback play by Tajh Boyd, with DeAndre Hopkins catching 13 passes for 120 yards, was mated with a dominant rushing attack that saw Andre Ellington rush for 231 yards.
Texas 37 – Wyoming 17
David Ash was solid at quarterback after winning the starting job from Casey McCoy but for much of the day the Longhorns QB was tasked with simply handing the ball off to Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron who combined for over 225 yards and three scores.
Nebraska 49 – Southern Miss 20
Junior quarterback Taylor Martinez has shown flashes of being a terrific play maker for Nebraska but his performance on Saturday was one of the most impressive of his career to date. Coach Bo Pelini has spent much of the previous two seasons defending his QB but with Martinez throwing for 354 yards and five touchdowns there was no need for anything other than praise on Saturday. If this production can continue the Cornhuskers might have the offense to match their typical defensive ability. Rex Burkhead had 57 yard touchdown run in the first quarter but left shortly after with a knee injury. His recovery will be crucial for the fortunes of Nebraska in 2012.
Ohio State 56 – Miami (Ohio) 10
Urban Meyer started his Ohio State tenure with a dominant victory against Miami. The spread system was perfectly employed by Braxton Miller with the sophomore QB amassing 370 total years and three touchdowns. Miami got the first score of the game but after that the Buckeyes dominated and round out very comfortable winners. The running game was in superb form for Ohio State with Carlos Hyde averaging 5 yards a carry. Meyer’s blueprint of success at Florida will be replicated in time at Ohio State but for now a very promising beginning is enough for the Buckeye faithful.
Oklahoma State 84 – Savannah State 0
The Cowboys racked up 84 points after shreading Savannah State at will through the air and on the ground. Freshman Wes Lunt was very impressive in his first start and completed all 11 of his passes for 129 yards in his brief appearance. Their dominant victory was of little surprise but amassing over 300 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns showed just how easily Oklahoma State were able to manhandle their outmatched opponents.
Stanford 20 – San Jose State 17
Life after Andrew Luck was always going to be difficult for the Cardinal but the factors that proved so successful for the last four years, a solid ground game, will still be present this year as shown by Stepfan Taylor averaging almost five yards a carry. Stanford will need Josh Nunes to improve as the season progresses but the Junior showed some signs to impress. He completed over 60% of his passes but most of that was short yardage plays. On defence Stanford struggled to slow down San Jose State.
Kansas State 51 – Missouri State 9
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein threw a pair of touchdown passes but this game was won in the trenches with John Hubert topping 140 yards, including a 95 yards scamper for a touchdown. The score line flattered K-State after a tight game heading into the final quarter before the rushing ability of the Big 12 Cougers made the difference.
Florida 27 – Bowling Green 14
Just like last year Florida struggled offensively but the play of Mike Gillislee, 148 rushing yards and two touchdowns, was the lone positive on a day when the Gators showed just how far they are from being a contender in the SEC.
Louisville 32 – Kentucky 14
Louisville opened the season with a 99 yard touchdown drive that set the tone for their day. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed all but two passes against a Kentucky defence that was paper thin against the pass and easily dominated on the ground with the Cardinals rushing for over 200 yards as they won the “Govenor’s Cup.”