College football is back! With a week now behind us, the information we have learned about certain teams have been substantial. We have learned that some players do not deserve the hype that they were given coming into the season along with some teams who have shown that they are here to stay and compete with the best of ’em. Throughout this article, I will be heading the three major storylines from week one of the CFB season, dissecting each one to the fullest extent. We will start in South Bend, where a week one matchup between two of the most historic programs in CFB history lived up to the hype and showed an example of true grit in the process.
South Bend, under the lights. Michigan, Notre Dame. Catholics vs Khakis. Could you ask for anything better? When I first saw that these two teams were going to play each other in week 1, I became extremely excited and giddy as if I were a boy in a candy shop. Not only are these two of the most historic programs this sport has seen, but also are two extremely talented teams coming into 2018 who both have a shot of making the CFP come seasons end. As the buzz continued to grow leading up to the matchup, one man’s named stuck out like a sore thumb and began to circulate as the main attraction. The man’s name was Shae Patterson. The Ole Miss QB transfer is the new big man on campus for the Mason Blue and the hype surrounding him is astronomical. People said that he would be a sure lock to be a Heisman finalist, was the next Johnny Football and would be the new face of Michigan football. Well it is safe to say, on Saturday, Notre Dame’s defense had other ideas for the pretty boy from Ohio. Patterson’s debut was a nightmare for the Wolverines as he finished the contest with a measly 227 passing yards to go along with 1 interception as well as being sacked 3 times. One observation that I found with Patterson as I watched him play on Saturday, was that he kept trying to play hero with his feet, rather than getting the ball out of his hands before pressure came. Although Patterson is an extremely athletic QB, he needs to pick and choose his spots and understand that every play is not an opportunity to dazzle, especially when you are facing a defense as good as Notre Dame’s. You have to give credit to ND’s defensive coordinator, Clark Lea who dialed up almost a perfect gameplay against this dangerous Michigan offense as they struggled all night. That being said, I was not impressed with Patterson’s efforts at all and think the hype surrounding him was a little over done. Although one QB seemed to collapsed under the pressure of the big lights, the other shined and put on a showcase against one of the nation’s top defense. Brandon Wimbush balled out on Saturday night and gave Irish fans a show they fill not forget any time in the near future. The redshirt junior QB from Jersey had it going from the jump, moving his offense with great efficiency as well as hurting the Wolverine defense with his feet. What impressed me most with Wimbush’s performance on Saturday night, was his ability to control the tempo and run his style of offense. The moment was not too big for him, and he showed the Irish faithful why he was their guy, finishing the night with 170 yards in the air to go along with a TD pass and 59 yards on the ground. Overall, the score did not do this game justice. It may have ended in a one possession contest with the score being 24-17 in favor of the Irish, but it was clear that Notre Dame was clearly the better team, dominating almost every asset of the game. The Irish now have a huge win under their belt as they look to continue their path to the CFP. As for the Wolverines, this was their 17th straight road loss against a ranked opponent and it makes you wonder, are the Mason Blue just a bunch of pretenders, or does Harbaugh’s bunch just have to hit their stride.
Perhaps the most anticipated game of week 1 was the matchup between the 9th ranked Auburn Tigers and 6th ranked Washington Huskies. To have two teams in the preseason top 10 face off week one is something out of a movie, as this was almost your dream matchup. With this marquee matchup, comes extreme playoff implications as both teams are serious playoff contenders and do not want to start the season with a loss. One team was going to come away from this game with a boat load of momentum as the other was going to start their season with a huge setback. The game was played at the gorgeous Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia which although was considered to be a neutral site game, felt like an Auburn home contest as Georgia is the heart of SEC country. As the game got underway, one storyline became quite clear. The winner of this game was going to be the team that won the field possession game as both defenses looked virtually unstoppable early. Although each team was moving the ball with good efficiency, the defenses were refusing to break, making points very hard to come by. The first points of the day came in the first quarter when Auburn TE Sal Cannella made a sensational grab in the end zone off a gorgeous throw from Tigers superstar QB, Jarett Stidham.
After failing to convert on a two point conversion, Auburn tacked on 3 more points mid way through the first making the score 9-0. As they looked to be moving the ball with some ease, the Huskies could barely breathe on the offensive side of the ball. The Tiger defense was swarming early and often, putting pressure in the pocket and making Huskies QB, Jake Browning’s afternoon a living hell. Washington finally managed to break the surface with a field goal at the end of the first quarter making the score 9-3 in favor of the Tigers. The game than became extremely sloppy, as each team had a tremendously hard time executing, and the game became seemingly a field goal contest. This FG contest was finally broken at the end of the first half when Washington orchestrated a beautiful drive that was capped off by a 13 yard TD pass by Jake Browning that was caught by Huskies WR, Quinten Pounds. Heading into the locker room, the score was 15-13 in favor of the Tigers and it was clear that we had a contest on our hands. The story of the second half, was extreme sloppiness. In the third quarter alone which featured zero points, the teams combined for 2 missed field goals, to go along with one turnover that was a forced fumble by the Tigers defense. It was unclear if this was just a case of first game jitters, or a lack of execution by both teams that we will see by them as the season progresses. After Washington took the lead to start the fourth with a FG, Auburn put the dagger in the heart of the Huskie faithful with a 10 yard TD run by Tiger back Jatarvious Whitlow, making the score 21-16, which was enough for Auburn to come away with the win. As far as the game went, I think it was very competitive and thought both teams put up a good fight, but at the same time, thought it was a very sloppy contest and was expecting more from two teams that are so talented. If you are a fan of defense this was the game for you but if you are a fan of high scoring affairs you left this contest thinking to yourself, what the hell did I just watch.
The best game of the weekend came in the most unexpected of ways, as this contests result couldn’t have been predicted in a million years. Appalachian State made their way into Happy Valley on Saturday looking to shock the world. The Mountaineers are no newcomers to the upset game however, as 11 years ago to the day, they pulled off one of the greatest upsets of all time, beating 4th ranked Michigan in the Big House on a day we will now never forget. Penn State came into this contest as the 10th ranked team in the country and had no plans of being the next big upset story. Early on, it looked like this would be just the case. Nittany Lions senior QB, Trace McSorely took his team down the field with extreme efficiency, capping off the Lions drive with a 12 yard TD run of his own, putting the Lions up 7-0. Not going to lie, thought this game had blowout written all over it after the first drive. The Mountaineers bounced back in a big way however, as Darrynton Evans took the ensuing kickoff back to the house, evening the score up at 7-7 a piece. That boost of confidence must have been enough for the Mountaineer defense to get back on track, as they began to shut down Penn State’s resilient offense time and time again. As both teams exchanged FGs, we had an upset brewing on our hands, as the Mountaineers went into the locker room tied with the 10th team in the country by the score of 10-10. Since taking over as the Head Coach of Penn State in 2014, James Franklin has been known to be a second half coach and early on in the second half, that looked like the case here. Penn State began the second half with back to back TD drives, one coming on the likes of a 10 Yd Trace McSorley run and the other on a 27 Yd TD run by true freshman RB, Ricky Slade, making the score 24-10 in favor of the Lions. It had seemed as if the Lions had taken control of this contest and the Penn State faithful could take a sigh of relief. Then, Mountaineer QB Zac Thomas caught fire. Thomas started the fourth quarter with a beautiful pass to his main target, Malik Williams, narrowing the score to just 17-24 and making this baby a one possession game. The Nittany Lions would have the answer however, scoring again, this time on the likes of a 2 Yd run by Penn State RB, Miles Sanders, making the score 31-17. It had seemed as if Penn State’s offense was unstoppable at this point, and this thing was all but over. Appalachian State refused to go down however, as they answered with a TD run of their own, as Thomas connected with Williams again, making the score 31-24. The Mountaineers than successfully converted an onside kick, scored a TD on the following drive and before you knew it, with 6 min to play we had a tie ballgame on our hands. Happy Valley was silent and quite frankly, stunned. After the Mountaineer defense made a huge stop and drove the ball into positive territory, they found themselves knocking on the door of history. With a minute and change, Thomas handed the ball of to his back Jalin Moore who bounced to the outside, made a cut, stayed in bounce, and scored. The Mountaineers had done the unthinkable. They had come all the way back and with 1:47 to play, had taken a 38 to 31 lead.
Penn State refused to lose however, after a good kick return by Lions WR, KJ Hamler put the ball in plus territory, the Lions were left with a fighting chance. Trace McSorley knew he had to come up with a big play to frankly save his teams season as a week one loss’ of this magnitude would seemingly impossible to overcome. On 2nd and 9 at App States 15, McSorley delivered one of the prettier passes you will ever see, connected with KJ Hamler in the end zone, tying the game up at 38 a piece with under a minute to play.
After a missed FG by App State, the game was headed to OT and there was no telling what could happen in OT as this game was about as unpredictable as they come. Penn State received the ball first and executed perfectly, as Miles Sanders pounded the ball in for his second score of the day, giving the Lions a 45-38 lead. It was than App State’s turn with the ball. After converting on a big fourth down, the Mountaineers were threatening to tie up the ball game. On first at 10 at the Penn State 15, Thomas decided to take a shot at the end zone. As he let go of the ball, he had seemed as if the ball was in the air forever and was never going to come down. As the ball reached the back part pf the end zone, Penn State CB, Amani Oruwariye took the ball out of the air, intercepting it and ended the game. Penn State had survived this instant classic and came away with a thrilling 45-38 win.
It wasn’t pretty in any stretch of the word, but a win is a win, and Franklin’s team will look to improve upon things next week as they take on rival Pitt next week on the road. As for the Mountaineers of Appalachian State, the fight they displayed was admirable. It is clear that they are not your average cupcake and are one of the better group 5 teams you will see. That being said, the hurt they are feeling has to be monumental as they were a just a fingertip away from completing a gigantic upset, 11 years to the day, where they shocked the world and made a name for themselves forever.
Pete’s CFB Video of the Week
Does it get any better than this? I don’t think so. PS. Will Grier is really freaking good.