College football gave us a bit of repayment for Georgia winning the national championship last year with one of the best overall weekends you’re ever going to see, let alone the actual opening weekend for college football 2022.
Forget Week 0, but beginning on Thursday with the revitalized Backyard Brawl, and the Penn State/Purdue hilarity, continuing with Friday’s ODU knockoff of Virginia Tech, and then the Saturday and Sunday that was, this weekend was the right way to kick things off.
First, let’s check in on the home front:
AUBURN 42, MERCER 16
The Tigers didn’t really have any trouble with Mercer, and all scoring allowed by the Tiger defense came either on a short field or after the rain delay when this looked more like a scrimmage than anything else.
Big storylines: T.J. Finley throws two picks, Robby Ashford electrifies in his time on the field, Cam Riley leads a reloaded defense with 15 tackles, and Tank Bigsby is improved if that is even possible.
After Finley threw his second interception, it was the Robby Ashford show the rest of the way, and the backup quarterback transfer from Oregon nee Hoover High School ended up showing off the wheels and the arm. We knew that Bryan Harsin wasn’t shy about changing things up if they weren’t working, and Finley got pulled like Bo Nix got pulled a year ago.
Let’s not pretend that Finley was awful, though. He was very sharp literally aside from those two interceptions, which were admittedly terrible decisions for him to make, and bad throws after that. What we heard during fall camp was that he was the most consistent quarterback, but Ashford flashed on Saturday night to pull fan favor his way pretty quickly.
Not to say that they didn’t work well together though...
Robby Ashford just lined up at slot receiver, T.J. Finley handed the ball off to him on a sweep, and then Ashford pitched it to Tank Bigsby for a big gain— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) September 4, 2022
that's some NFL Street play design
That might have been my favorite play of the night until Tank’s final touchdown run, where Ashford came back from the handoff to speed downfield and throw a block, then proceed to talk shit to the guy he pancaked as Tank is running into the end zone.
Thankfully there’s another rent-a-win for us to figure things out with the quarterback situation, but I do feel that either one could get us a certain baseline number of wins. I just feel that Ashford can provide enough of a twist to the offense that we could potentially make noise against someone like Georgia in a few weeks. Or, against Penn State two Saturdays from now.
PENN STATE 35, PURDUE 31
The epitome of “RUN THE DANG BALL” except you can replace Mike Bobo with Jeff Brohm. Purdue had a 31-28 lead after a dizzying pick six, and with a little more than six minutes to go, ran 14 plays that included only a single run play. They surprisingly didn’t melt any clock, and Penn State scored on a last second drive.
With the Nittany Lions coming to town in two weeks, it was good to see Purdue able to really stuff their run game and make Sean Clifford run for his life a good bit. PSU only had 98 yards on 32 carries, and Clifford got banged around a bit, leaving the game for a stretch early on. Auburn can make noise with its defensive front seven, and I have to feel that the gameplan won’t be “let Clifford complete any pass he wants”.
FLORIDA STATE 24, LSU 23
God, the game of the weekend. It wasn’t two great teams slugging it out, but it was two perfectly matched teams just doing weird New Orleans voodoo stuff in the Superdome.
You knew that when Florida state got up by two touchdowns that they wouldn’t be able to hang on easily. And you knew that the way LSU had been playing, that whatever happened to get them close wouldn’t come at a zero blood cost. Whoever allowed them to wangle that last minute drive after the fumble certainly came calling for payment immediately.
Kayshon Boutte caught just a couple of passes, looked supremely disinterested, and the Tigers couldn’t do anything that didn’t involve Jayden Daniels scrambling. Only 25 of LSU’s 348 didn’t come directly from Daniels, and Brian Kelly was seemingly unprepared for the hitherto unexpected master strategy skills of — *checks notes* — Mike Norvell.
After the game, Kelly blamed a player who muffed two punts, which yeah, the kid dropped two punts. However, that’s not going to endear you. This wasn’t a case where FSU outplayed LSU. LSU was just horribly unprepared. With talent from top five recruiting classes more often than not over the past few seasons, you can’t mess around like that.
Plus, LSU lost one defensive lineman in Maason Smith, who tore his ACL celebrating early in the game. They lost anther for the first half next week when Ali Gaye blasted FSU quarterback Jordan Travis on a touchdown throw. It wasn’t the tightest of coaching performances, and the Tigers have a conference schedule that might not afford them an automatic win.
OKLAHOMA STATE 58, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 44
Derek Mason gets an F- on his first assignment. 0 adjustments were made. Any time we took a step forward we took 4 steps back. We are laughably far from being a conference winning team with this defense.— Orange and Black Brigade (@OBBrigade) September 2, 2022
Did we improve via addition by subtraction with both of our coordinator changes?
GEORGIA 49, OREGON 3
Bo Nix 2018 Bo Nix 2022— Damian Mitchell (@rundm6) September 3, 2022
The reason Oregon starts their season 0-1
Did we improve our QB situation via addition by subtraction? This one was a straight-up trade, but damn. Bo Nix and Oregon didn’t belong in the same time zone as Georgia.
TEXAS A&M 31, SAM HOUSTON STATE 0
Jimbo paid all that money and still can’t buy a quarterback. Haynes King threw a pair of interceptions against Sam Houston (the team, not the long-dead Texan), and ended up with one of the worst QBRs out of the starting SEC quarterbacks this weekend.
Like Penn State, A&M couldn’t get the run game going (110 yards on 32 carries), and King could’ve thrown more than just the two picks that were taken in. Defensively, A&M will be great, especially once they age a little bit, but they’ll also score very little once they have to get against the upper crust of the league. Maybe they shouldn’t have run off Zach Calzada...
FLORIDA 29, UTAH 26
While LSU looked at another timeline of its destiny, the one where Billy Napier makes the short trip from Lafayette to Baton Rouge, Florida got to see that timeline take place in reality. Utah had its way with Florida at times, but Napier used his electric quarterback Anthony Richardson like you’re supposed to use your star, and won the game with him.
I don’t think Florida is very good, and I think this win says more about the downward state of the PAC-12 rather than anything going on in Gainesville, but it’s still an upward trajectory for a team who’s previous coach is hanging out in the studio mispronouncing names.
More to come, Week 1 is in the books, and we’ve plenty to look forward to in Week 2!
Auburn vs San Jose State
Alabama @ Texas
Texas A&M vs Appalachian State
Kentucky @ Florida
USC @ Stanford