The first week of college football has come and gone, and the Big 12 conference was filled with winners and losers. With statement wins and head-scratching losses aplenty, here are the winners and losers from week 1 of the college football season!
West Virginia Mountaineers
My pick for statement of the week, West Virginia went into a Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina and took it to the SEC’s Tennessee Volunteers. Led by senior quarterback, Will Grier’s 429 yards, and 5 touchdowns, the Mountaineers obliterated Tennessee 40-14. West Virginia has been part of the Big 12 conference for a few years now but has yet to really challenge for the conference’s championship. That may finally change this season.
West Virginia has never been a slouch offensively but their defense has held them back from ever really threatening the likes of Oklahoma, TCU, and Baylor (the latter being in reference to a couple of years ago). Now, however, the Mountaineer defensive line looks stout, and although the secondary unit is still a bit of a question mark, the combination of pressure up front and possibly the best quarterback in the nation in Grier should provide them with more than enough to scare anyone in the conference. As good as Will Grier is, he’s surrounded by quality talent. David Sills V hauled in 7 receptions for 140 yards and 2 TDs. Alongside him, Gary Jennings added another 6 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Simply put, this passing attack features NFL-quality talent, and that’s something that can never be overlooked.
The #DAWGS came to eat yesterday! 🍴 pic.twitter.com/6w3IilgSmD
— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) September 2, 2018
But before you think this Mountaineer offense is a one-dimensional attack, consider Martell Pettaway and Leddie Brown, who combined for 89 yards on just 17 carries. Together, that’s an average of 5.2 yards a pop. Sure, the number doesn’t explode off of the page, but it doesn’t need to. Simply being able to move the ball on the ground when necessary to suck the defense in will allow Grier the opportunities he needs to put up big points.
If you weren’t on the lookout for West Virginia before, you should be now.
For me, this was a close second for biggest statement win as Oklahoma found itself for the first time in 3 years without the services of Heisman-winning quarterback, Baker Mayfield. Historically, teams who lose a Heisman trophy winning QB go on to win about 8 games the following season. While that is obviously still a possibility, Oklahoma did quite a bit to suggest they intend to challenge for the College Football Playoff once more. Aside from Mayfield, the entire Sooner team looks to be better than last year’s CFP qualifying squad.
Drawing the Conference USA’s Florida Atlantic Owls, this game might not have been so much as a blip on the radar a couple of years ago. However, FAU, coached now by Lane Kiffin, went 11-3 last year, winning their final 10 games to become a trendy pick this year for a New Year’s Day bowl game. And when you consider the fact that the majority of FAU’s starters, including the immensely talented Devin Singletary, whose 32 rushing touchdowns led the nation last year, FAU was a trendy pick to not only cover the 21 point spread but to even upset the 7th ranked Sooners on the road. How strongly did FAU feel about their chances? Well, they put up a countdown clock in their locker room the day after last season ended to not only open the season vs Oklahoma but to, in fact, “Beat Oklahoma.” Bold move, Cotton. Let’s see how it played out.
After a strong opening drive for FAU sputtered and died in Sooner territory, the Oklahoma offense took the field for the first time, led by Kyler Murray. Playing within himself and letting his star running back, Rodney Anderson led the way, OU jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 30-yard burst by Anderson. Then, after a quick 3 and out by FAU, Oklahoma blocked the punt and recovered it in the end zone for another touchdown. The day would only get uglier for the Owls from there.
Kyler Murray finds Lee Morris who takes it 65 YARDS for the TD 😤 pic.twitter.com/OjHS6SpFaJ
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) September 1, 2018
Settled into the game and with a comfortable, two score lead, Murray began to dazzle. The biggest question for Murray coming into the season was his accuracy, and while he only threw 11 passes, he did impress nonetheless. His services wouldn’t be needed long, however, thanks to the Sooners jumping out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter. In fact, by the 5-minute mark of the second quarter, Murray and most of the starters would be done for the day. Overall, Murray would go 9/11 for 209 yards and 2 passing touchdowns, not needing to rely on his legs too much, with only 23 yards on the ground. His star back, Anderson, would see just 5 carries on the day, racking up 100 yards and 2 more scores.
All of that is nice, of course, but the story of the day has to be the Sooner defense. Sooner fans have been calling for Defensive Coordinator, Mike Stoops’ head for several years now -and with just cause- but the recent flood of talent for head coach, Lincoln Riley has definitely provided Stoops with the tools necessary to make even his playcalling look good.
Rodney Anderson out here gaining mileage pic.twitter.com/gDoyidTSKJ
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 1, 2018
The defense was suffocating, holding gap responsibility and smothering preseason Heisman contender, Devin Singletary all day. Singletary would end with just 69 yards on 18 carries for an average of 3.8. He would eventually score a touchdown, but it would be in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter.
Oklahoma not only pitched a shutout in the first half but went up 56-0 before finally allowing FAU to find the end zone. The final score was 63-14. You really can’t spell domination any more clearly than that.
The reason this performance, to me, still falls short of West Virginia’s mark, is because I honestly don’t know what to make of FAU at the moment. They have the same staff and most of the same talent that went 11-3 last year and looked primed for another great season. But the way in which Oklahoma dominated made FAU look like a border-line JV club. So is FAU a bad team, or is Oklahoma just that damn good? The jury’s out, for now, so I give the edge, if not the paragraph count, to WVU.
The Texas Longhorns are in year two of the Tom Herman era. Last year, in Herman’s first game at the helm, Texas was upset in Austin by the Maryland Terrapins, 51-41. Not a great start, especially since that Maryland team would go just 4-8 that season, but hey, it was the guy’s first game. We’ll cut him some slack.
2018, now at Maryland, the two teams faced off to finish their home-and-away series. With Maryland blanketed in tragedy and controversy following the death of player Jordan McNair in Spring workouts, the game was sure to be an emotional one for Maryland. That said, the club was also without its head coach and AD. This should have been a fairly easy victory for Texas.
Instead, the Longhorns stumbled out of the gate, busting multiple times on defense and quickly falling behind 24-7. For Texas, the offense at times looked anemic. But, as was the case last year, the defense looked capable -whenever it didn’t bust to allow a man running wide open downfield. The result may not have been pretty, but the Longhorns did show great resolve in battling back. Coming back from a 24-7 deficit, Texas would take control in the 4th quarter. At this point, I assumed the Longhorns would get a stop, get the ball back, and put up some insurance points on the board. The exact opposite happened.
Maryland’s jet-sweep-happy offense would instead march back down the field and recapture the lead, 31-29. From there, Maryland would add a field goal to their advantage for a 34-29 edge. With the ball back and about 6 minutes to play, Texas needed a touchdown to steal the win. Instead, starting quarterback, Sam Ellinger would toss a costly interception at midfield. The Texas defense would rally, getting Ellinger the ball back with a couple minutes remaining, but Ellinger would close the game with another interception, sailing the pass over his receiver’s head and into double coverage. Maryland 34, Texas 29.
.@TwanDoee CALLED GAME ‼️#FearTheTurtle pic.twitter.com/kqHajepIgd
— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) September 1, 2018
It might only be one game but this Texas club doesn’t look to have taken a big step forward from last year or the years prior under Charlie Strong. Herman is certainly not a bad coach but something needs to change in his staff. Year in and year out, Texas recruits phenomenal classes but it’s been nearly a decade since they were last relevant and gotten the most out of their athletes. Until that changes, they will remain in college football purgatory.
Kansas State Wildcats
As big of a loser you can be while still winning your first game of the season, Kansas State stunk it up for most of their 27-24 comeback over South Dakota. Going into the 4th quarter, the Wildcats trailed 24-12 at home to a D-2 program, and it took every bit of a 15-0 in the final frame to stave off a humiliating defeat. The thing is, Kansas State isn’t a bad team. They will be a trendy trap game for the rest of the Big 12 throughout the season, as has often been the case in the past. However, whether they “overlooked” South Dakota or not, it’s hard to see them really challenging within the conference given the talent on display this past Saturday. Not much else to be said.
The momentum changer. Zuber took a punt return to the house to pull the ‘Cats within a TD 🎥⤵️#KStateFB | #SpecialTeamsU pic.twitter.com/tIDKVnlmE1
— K-State Football (@KStateFB) September 2, 2018
KSU 27, SD 24
Real talk; at what point do we take away Kansas’ football program? Yeah, I mean, their basketball program is no doubt legit -often one of the best in the country- but this football program, man. It’s bad. Like, really bad. Kansas opened its season against Nicholls State. Cupcake, right? Should be able to hold serve on your home turf in that matchup! Nope. KU would lose in overtime, 26-23, cementing themselves as the bottom-feeders of the Big 12 conference in football. While they did end Charlie Strong’s tenure with the Texas Longhorns (their last Big 12 win, mind you), the only thing of relevance they did last season was refuse to shake Baker Mayfield’s hand, and then cheapshot him throughout the game, drawing Mayfield’s ire and leading to some obscene sideline behavior from the future Heisman winner. Good job, guys. Good effort.
College football is a fluid sport, with teams at risk of losing -no matter how good- on a week-to-week basis. While WVU and Oklahoma put forth impressive statements this week, they could easily be tripped up next week if they don’t bring their A-game. Such is the beauty and frustration of the sport. Also worth noting is that it’s because of this trend that this article will be worth reading every week. Hopefully.