College News & Analysis

Five takeaways from Week 1 of college football

Gainesville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) points after he scores a touchdown against the Utah Utes during the first quarter at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia is still one of the best teams in the country after beating No. 11 Oregon 49-3.

• Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson showed out in Week 1, beating then-No. 7 Utah and showing why he might have the best tools in the country.

• Both No. 4 Michigan and No. 5 Clemson are embroiled in quarterback controversies. It remains to be seen who emerges as the starter for each team.

Estimated Reading Time: 6 mins

What a week.

Week 1 of college football had everything you could’ve asked for and more: a top-10 team losing by throwing an interception at the goal line, a combined 62 points in the fourth quarter between North Carolina and Appalachian State and Iowa winning while scoring only a field goal and two safeties.

As we move on to Week 2, here are five things we learned from Week 1.

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Georgia is still absolutely loaded with talent

After winning a national championship last season, Georgia saw a record 15 of its players taken in the 2022 NFL Draft. Nine were selected within the first three rounds.

That sort of roster turnover would usually lead to some sort of regression the following season. But after demolishing No. 11 Oregon 49-3, Georgia showed no such signs.

It was Georgia’s front seven that powered one of the best defenses in recent memory last year, but it was the secondary that shined on Saturday. Christopher Smith was the highest-graded FBS safety in Week 1, with a 92.1 grade, while true freshman Malaki Starks finished with an 85.5 mark that ranked seventh-best. Georgia allowed just 173 passing yards as a whole, averaging fewer than five yards per attempt.

Maybe even more impressive was Georgia’s offensive performance against what should be a very good Oregon defense. The Bulldogs scored a touchdown on seven of their nine offensive drives. The other two were in the fourth quarter with backups leading the way. In total, the Bulldogs averaged 0.583 expected points added per play, by far the best of any FBS team in Week 1.

If Georgia is to repeat as national champions, it’ll need to rely on its offense a lot more than last season. If Saturday is any indication, the offense is more than capable of championship-level play.

The quarterback controversy for two top-five teams is heating up

Cade McNamara started at quarterback for Michigan during its run to a Big Ten championship and first College Football Playoff appearance last season, but he might not get the opportunity to repeat that this season. McNamara completed just 50% of his passes and finished with a 48.4 grade in Week 1, fourth-worst among Power Five quarterbacks.

J.J. McCarthy relieved him and completed all four of his passes while also rushing for 50 yards and a touchdown on just three carries. He earned an elite 90.2 grade on his 11 snaps. McCarthy, a five-star recruit in 2021, undoubtedly has more upside than McNamara. The sophomore is expected to start for No. 4 Michigan this Saturday against Hawaii as head coach Jim Harbaugh tries to decide who will be the team’s starting quarterback moving forward. If McCarthy looks that good again, he could lock up the job.

Meanwhile, D.J. Uiagalelei is trying to rebound from his 66.3 grade last season, the lowest mark by a Clemson quarterback since 2015. He posted just a 71.3 overall grade against Georgia Tech but looked better throwing the ball, earning an 84.2 passing grade.

Still, that might not be enough to fend off Cade Klubnik, the top quarterback recruit in the 2022 class. The true freshman earned an impressive 84.5 grade on his 10 snaps, completing four of his six passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.

The Tigers should be able to see plenty of both quarterbacks over the next couple of weeks as they take on Furman and Louisiana Tech. Head coach Dabo Swinney will likely want to know who his starter is after those two contests, since Clemson takes on two top-25 teams in Wake Forest and N.C. State soon after. 

The Anthony Richardson hype train has officially left the station

In our preview of the then-No. 7 UtahFlorida game last week, we said both schools need their quarterbacks to step up in order to make some serious noise in college football.

Anthony Richardson did just that.

Against a stingy Utes defense, he led the Gators to victory and earned a very respectable 79.6 grade. He rushed for 104 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 attempts and showed why he might have the best tools in the country.

He still needs to work on his accuracy, as he finished with just a 64.2 passing grade for the night. If Richardson keeps these kinds of performances up, though, he could hear his name called early on in the 2023 NFL Draft

We knew Ohio State had talent, and now we know they have toughness, too

No. 2 Ohio State entered a heavyweight bout with No. 5 Notre Dame and managed to be the one standing at the end with a 21-10 win.

The Buckeyes were dealt a serious blow when Jaxon Smith-Njigba suffered a hamstring injury that limited him to just 15 snaps. Before the season, he was ranked as PFF’s top wide receiver in college football. Even without his best weapon, C.J. Stroud earned an 83.1 grade — a top-20 mark among Power Five quarterbacks for the week.

Still, Ohio State’s offense scored only 21 points in this game, a far cry from its nation-leading 45.7 average last season. The defense is what ended up winning this game for the Buckeyes. Notre Dame entered the season with the second-best offensive line in the country, per PFF’s rankings, but it struggled against the Buckeyes. Ohio State allowed just 3.6 rushing yards per attempt in Week 1, the 12th-lowest rate in the Power Five.

The offense will carry Ohio State, but the defense will likely decide whether the Buckeyes can win a national championship. Its performance Saturday night should excite fans.

The Brian Kelly era in Baton Rouge got off to a weird start

In one of the stranger college football games you’ll see, LSU lost to Florida State, 24-23, in Brian Kelly’s first game as head coach of the Tigers. 

Down seven with 2:15 left, LSU muffed a punt that gave Florida State the ball at the eight-yard line. The Seminoles then fumbled on the one-yard line, giving the Tigers a chance with 1:20 left. Jayden Daniels led LSU on a 99-yard drive, scoring what seemed to be the game-tying touchdown with no time left. However, the Seminoles blocked the extra point, securing the victory.

The ending was the most unusual part of the game, but second would be Kayshon Boutte’s performance. He’s currently PFF’s top 2023 NFL Draft wide receiver prospect, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell by watching him Sunday night. He hauled in just two catches for 20 yards on six targets with a couple of drops. His 54.6 grade ranked 184th among 221 Power Five wide receivers in Week 1. The Tigers will need him to step up if they’re going to rebound from the loss.

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