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When the top 10 college football teams in the country all win in the same weekend, there usually isn’t much movement at the top of the AP Top 25 poll. But that’s to be expected early in the season.
Of the top 25 teams in the nation, 24 were victorious in its season opener as the new college football campaign fully got underway this past weekend. They included dominant victories by Clemson, the reigning national champions, and Alabama, which lost in last season’s College Football Playoff national title game.
Before looking back at more highlights from the first full weekend of the college football season, here’s how the AP Top 25 poll should look when it gets released Tuesday.As expected, the best game of the first full weekend of the college football season was the matchup between No. 11 Oregon and No. 16 Auburn on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
This was an exciting opening contest between top teams from different conferences that typically wouldn’t play each other during the regular season, with Oregon in the Pac-12 and Auburn in the SEC.
The game lived up to the hype as Auburn’s Bo Nix threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Seth Williams with nine seconds remaining to help lift the Tigers to a 27-21 victory. It was an incredible debut for Nix, who became the first true freshman quarterback to start a Week 1 game for an SEC school since Brent Schaeffer for Tennessee in 2004.
“He has some savviness to him; there’s no doubt,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said of Nix, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). “When the game is on the line, you’ve got to make plays, and that’s the one thing he showed.”It was a great way for the Tigers to start the season as they have lighter matchups against Tulane and Kent State at home, so they should improve to 3-0 before starting SEC play. The Ducks will look to get back on track with home games against Nevada and Montana the next two weeks, and they should earn victories in both.
At the top, the powerhouse teams took care of business. Clemson defeated Georgia Tech 52-14, while Alabama began the season with a 42-3 victory over Duke.
Of the top teams, one notable performance came from Oklahoma’s 49-31 win over Houston on Sunday night. The Sooners were powered to victory by quarterback Jalen Hurts, who transferred from Alabama.
Hurts accounted for 508 total yards (332 passing, 176 rushing) to break Baker Mayfield’s record for most total yards in a Sooners debut. Hurts also had six total touchdowns (three passing and three rushing).
“I thought he handled the moment good,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said, according to the AP (h/t ESPN.com). “You could tell out there that he’d been in it, certainly. I’m sure he had some nerves, but he did a good job managing them.”
If Hurts build off his debut and continues to play at that high of a level, he could be one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy this season. And that would also bode well for the Sooners’ success as they look to make the College Football Playoff for the third straight year.When the regular season is finished and the proverbial dust settles on conference championship week, the best college football teams usually stand out well above the rest.
Typically, that’s because of a few marquee wins, but it’s also a reflection of avoided upsets.
Unexpected losses can become season-shaping results. And yes, for both fans and analysts, predicting those underdog celebrations weeks and months in advance is helpful for the ol’ ego.
Though we’re certain to underestimate a few teams―college football gets pretty weird sometimes, and we’re only one week into the 2019 campaign―our focus was on results that would be realistic. (For example, suggesting an Arkansas victory over Alabama would be, shall we say, questionable. Sorry, Hogs.)
The list is organized chronologically.The underdog: Syracuse
The stakes: Will anyone challenge Clemson in the ACC?
No set of conditions guarantees an upset, but several factors make one more likely. When looking at Clemson’s conference schedule, the most likely moment is Week 3 because the No. 1 Tigers travel to a potential Top 25 Syracuse team for a prime-time clash.
The impact: Losing to Texas A&M in Week 2 would be troubling yet not a massive issue for Clemson. It could still bounce back and finish the remainder of the season without another loss. But if the Tigers fall to Syracuse, they’d need the Orange to drop two conference outings to even reach the ACC Championship Game.The underdog: Notre Dame
The stakes: College Football Playoff hopes for the Irish.
Notre Dame can’t make its season at Georgia, but the trip to Athens could break it. If the Fighting Irish fail to secure a victory over their top competition, they better start hoping for a bunch of two-loss teams this year. Barring that or an ascent that leaves the selection committee no choice but to deem Notre Dame superior to other College Football Playoff hopefuls with conference titles on their resumes, a one-loss Irish team will fall short of the CFP.
The impact: Georgia will have chances to recover from a loss. Between its regular-season slate and a possible SEC crown, a 12-1 Bulldogs team would be a playoff qualifier. Still, eight games (or, including the SEC title tilt, nine) with a win-or-else ultimatum would be an exhausting way to play the rest of 2019.