The first full week of college football is in the books (except for Monday Night’s showdown between Louisville and Notre Dame) and we already have a list of stars and failures to highlight. Way too much happens in one week to recap everything, but here are our top five studs and duds from week one of the 2019 college football season.
Stud: Zack Moss
The Holy War showdown between Utah and BYU wasn’t nearly as exciting as it has been in recent years, thanks in large part to the dominate performance of Utes running back Zack Moss. After an injury-riddled 2018 campaign, Moss opened up 2019 with 194 total yards and a touchdown. The Cougars had no answer for Utah’s powerful rushing attack and lethal defense.
Dud: Dorian Thompson-Robinson
UCLA is coming off a very ugly 2018 season and desperately wants to get off to a better start in 2019, but their opener against Cincinnati didn’t leave a lot of room for optimism. They only lost to Bearcats by ten points, but Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was abysmal all night long. Thompson-Robinson only completed eight of his 26 passes and turned the ball over four times. His two fumbles were both self-inflicted as well.
Stud: Travis Etienne
The Clemson Tigers opened up their potential title defense campaign with a 52-14 blowout of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. 2018 Heisman Trophy nominee Trevor Lawrence struggled in the team’s opening game, but his difficulties were bailed out thanks to a dominant performance by running back Travis Etienne. The star rusher ran for 205 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Dud: The Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue was the one outlier in what was otherwise a strong opening week for the Big Ten. The Boilermakers held a 14-point lead over the Nevada Wolf Pack in the fourth quarter but were unable to close the deal. Nevada would score 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and go on to win thanks to a 56-yard walk-off field goal from freshman kicker Brandon Talton. Things won’t get any easier for Purdue, who have Vanderbilt, TCU, Minnesota, and Penn State on the horizon.
Stud: Jonathon Taylor
Wisconsin’s defense absolutely suffocated USF’s offensive attack, but it was Jonathon Taylor that was the true star of the Badgers’ Week 1 win. The Heisman hopeful ran 135 yards and scored four total touchdowns. He was also the teams leading receiver with 48 yards through the air. The Big Ten West is the most wide-open division in the country and Wisconsin has proved it has the star power to get back to the Big Ten Championship.
Dud: Florida State
I’m a firm believer that the ACC is currently the weakest of college football’s power five conferences and Florida State’s stunning loss to Boise State only strengthens my argument. Quarterback James Blackman and running back Cam Akers both had strong performances to get 31-19 halftime lead, but it was all downhill from there. The Seminoles were shut out in the second half while the Broncos scored 17 unanswered points to win the game. Anything is possible in a weak ACC, but Florida State is off to a rough start.
Stud: Tua Tagovailoa
Alright, Tua Tagovailoa’s performance against Duke may not have been “vintage Tua” but he was still one of the best quarterbacks of Week 1. He completed all but five of his 31 passes and totaled 336 yards with four passing touchdowns. He was very efficient and didn’t turn over the football.
Dud: The Tennessee Volunteers
The most shocking upset from Week 1 of the 2019 season came by the hands of the Georgia State Panthers, who defeated the Tennessee Volunteers by a final score of 38-30. That final score might seem close, but Georgia State was in control for the majority of the second half. Tennessee’s front-seven had a tough time containing the rushing attack as they gave up 213 total yards on the ground. Playing in the SEC isn’t easy, so an ugly loss to a non-power five team might foreshadow a brutal season ahead for the Volunteers.
Stud: Penn State Running Backs
I had a tough time narrowing down who exactly to award for Penn State’s demolition of Idaho (a lot has to go right to win a game 79-7). The front-seven created a nightmare for Idaho’s offense, wide receiver KJ Hamler was borderline unstoppable, and first-time starting quarterback Sean Clifford had a strong first game.
At the end of the day, however, Idaho couldn’t handle Penn State’s rushing attack. Four running backs had at least 38 yards on the ground (with Devyn Ford cracking 107 yards) and the team piled up 331 yards on the ground.
Dud: Hunter Johnson
Northwestern wasn’t able to muster up more than seven points against the Stanford Cardinals due in large part to an abysmal performance by quarterback Hunter Johnson. The highly-touted former five-star recruit had a very disappointing debut, completing only six of his 17 passes for a total of 55 yards and two ugly interceptions. Northwestern was within one score for pretty much all of the fourth quarter but couldn’t find a way to equalize.
Bonus Dud: Oregon’s Offensive Line and Coaching Staff
Oregon and Auburn gave us the game of the week in prime time with a thrilling 27-21 affair that felt like a rerun of 2011’s National Championship. I wasn’t very impressed by Auburn on Saturday night, but they at least made some big plays in the fourth quarter. Oregon, on the other hand, was a major disappointment.
The Ducks’ offensive line has been dubbed as the best in the country by many fans and analysts, but they didn’t look too hot against a mid-tier SEC team. Auburn’s defensive line regularly overwhelmed the Oregon offensive line, especially as the game went on. Justin Herbert was only sacked three times but was running for his life all game long.
Oregon’s coaching staff deserves the blame for the loss however as the team became far too conservative in the second half. After taking a 21-6 lead, the team fell into a shell and became very conservative with its play-calling. The Ducks obviously couldn’t be too aggressive, but their play-calling was far too tame for an offensive lead by arguably the best quarterback in the country (Justin Herbert). It also doesn’t help that the Oregon coaching staff blew two consecutive timeouts on a terribly designed fourth-down run because they didn’t understand basic injury protocol.