Saturday’s college football season got underway and the opening slate saw so many compelling narratives play out among Top 25 teams.
Week 1 was a straight-up wild and crazy week for some of the best quarterbacks in the country. Let’s try to make sense of the chaos that will crash and burn those preseason polls.
Bryce Young Shines| “We Don’t Rebuild, We Reload”
Alabama’s sophomore sensation Bryce Young exceeded the hype. He’s now 1-0 in his career with about $1 million in NIL deals already under his belt.
The Alabama Crimson Tide looks determined to defend their national title after a 44-13 thrashing of the No.14 Miami Hurricanes on Saturday.
Young set school records for a starting debut with 344 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air, easily winning the highly-touted matchup with Miami QB D’Eriq King.
Young entered Miami as a five-star recruit with hopes of starting as a freshman in 2020, but current New England Patriots starter Mac Jones won the job. Young sat and learned as a true freshman. For the first time in his career, he had to watch as Jones succeeded Tua Tagovailoa in record-setting fashion.
It’s Young’s time to shine now and the Bama offensive didn’t miss a beat, despite the loss of explosive players such as Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith (Philadelphia Eagles), Jaylen Waddle (Miami Dolphins), and workhorse Najee Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers).
Young stepped right in, keeping with the tradition of excellence that Alabama quarterbacks have become known for. New offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien seems to be the perfect replacement for former OC Steve Sarkisian, who left to assume the head coaching job at Texas.
Bama czar Nick Saban once again simply reloaded his dynasty in Tuscaloosa. This is not a rebuilding or bridge year by any means. The Tide are in it to win it again.
D.J. Uigalelei Off To A Slow Start
Maybe Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers weren’t ready for the post-Trevor Lawrence era.
Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei looked so impressive last season filling in for Lawrence last season that everyone assumed the Tigers’ offense would continue to thrive at a Top 10 level.
They didn’t get the win… but I know y’all WOKE to DJ Uiagalelei now 🗣 @DJUiagalelei
29/44 | 439 yards | 3 total TDs | 0 INT
Star in the making.
— Overtime (@overtime) November 8, 2020
That theory was tested on Saturday night at a neutral site in Charlotte against the No. 5-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. Dabo and his guys failed miserably.
Uiagalelei was pressured by the Bulldogs’ elite defense all evening. His pivotal mistake was a 74-yard pick-six, which was the only score of the entire first half, but proved to be insurmountable.
Georgia has sacked D.J. Uiagalelei 6 times through 3 quarters.
That's tied for the most sacks any team has had vs Clemson under Dabo Swinney, and the most since South Carolina in 2012. pic.twitter.com/Gra57HP56l
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 5, 2021
Georgia went on to win 10-3.
Uiagalelei is filling some huge shoes this season that a few spot-starts in 2020 couldn’t have prepared him for. His predecessor Lawrence was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. He entered the school as an anointed superstar and did nothing to dispel that notion, leading the Tigers to a 38-2 record in three seasons, including two national title game appearances and one national title.
All is not lost for the Tigers who play in the respected ACC, so everything Dabp and DJ want to accomplish is still right in front of them. This time around they’ll have to dig themselves out of an early-season hole.
UCLA’s Long-Awaited Return To Glory?
The last time UCLA finished the season ranked among the Top 10 in the AP poll was 2014. HC Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins look to be for real.
After adding a bunch of graduate transfers to his experienced incumbents the Bruins beat a formidable LSU squad (ranked No. 16) led by consensus All-American Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks at cornerback.
UCLA’s inconsistent veteran QB Dorian Thompson- Robinson completed a paltry 50% of his passes against less-heralded Hawaii, so the expectations were low for UCLA entering a game against an SEC opponent.
But the Bruins dominated the line of scrimmage and were able to hit on some explosive plays. Improved offense and a defense that harassed LSU quarterback Max Johnson led to a 38-27 Bruins win at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.
Oklahoma Nearly Choked Away Its C’hip Dreams
The No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners barely escaped against an underdog Tulane squad dealing with the effects of Hurricane Ida.
The Green Wave was forced to leave Louisiana and take shelter elsewhere. Tulane was supposed to host the game but it got moved to Oklahoma’s backyard — Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman. All of these factors were supposed to manifest in an easy win for OU.
Oklahoma escapes 40-35 vs Tulane. Heisman contender Spencer Rattler (30-39) 304 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
— College Pigskin Report (@pigskin_report) September 4, 2021
They escaped with the W, but the shaky start might be a damaging blow to Oklahoma’s playoff hopes and quarterback Spencer Rattler’s Heisman hopes.
Classic ACC Clash
No.10 UNC traveled to Blacksburg and lost 17-10 to the Va Tech Hokies, where the defensive battle was reminiscent of those Frank Beamer and Bud Foster-led showdowns.
No.11 Oregon escaped Fresno St 31-24 but may have lost star edge rusher, Kayvon Thibodeaux, for a significant amount of time. The schedule doesn’t get any easier. The next stop is Columbus to face the No.4 Ohio State Buckeyes next weekend.
Hitting the panic button isn’t necessary after one loss, but it does lessen the margin for error for the rest of the season. That’s a lot of pressure to have to play under, but also what makes college football captivating and unpredictable.