The Week 1 college football slate was loaded with top-tier matchups to officially kick off the season while ushering fans back into stadiums and onto message boards.
Some games lived up to the hype — No. 5 Notre Dame went toe-to-toe with No. 2 Ohio State for three quarters and 10 minutes in a 21-10 loss — and some did not (see: anything related to the Oregon-Georgia box score).
Alabama and Bryce Young once again looked unstoppable, while Utah fell in the Swamp. In high-profile coaching debuts, USC put up big numbers in Game 1 of the Lincoln Riley era, while Brian Kelly’s LSU squad lost a game unlike any other to Florida State.
Yes, college football is back, and with it comes ESPN’s weekly Power Rankings. Here’s the first round of this season’s rankings.
Maybe Georgia can win a national title with Stetson Bennett as its quarterback. Just kidding. Bennett, a former walk-on, proved that last season, when he led the Bulldogs to their first national title in 41 years. Now, in his third year in offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s system, Bennett is emerging as one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, if not the entire FBS. He completed 25 of 31 passes for a career-high 368 yards with two touchdowns in a 49-3 win against Oregon. He also ran for another score. His mobility has always been underappreciated, and he’s proving that his accuracy and arm strength aren’t bad, either — Mark Schlabach
Up next: vs. Samford (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN App)
Stetson Bennett rushes for a touchdown and throws for two, leading Georgia to the huge 49-3 win over Oregon.
The only unusual thing to come out of the Crimson Tide’s lopsided win over Utah State was quarterback Bryce Young‘s sudden affinity for running the football. Sure, Young threw five first-half touchdowns to kick off his Heisman Trophy defense. That was expected after last season. But his 100 yards rushing — more than doubling his previous career high — were not. — Alex Scarborough
Up next: at Texas (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)
The Buckeyes earned a statement win against the Irish, but their offense, which was No. 1 in the country last year, fell well below the preseason hype. They struggled to find a rhythm for most of the game, and it didn’t help that their leading wide receiver, record-setter Jaxon Smith-Njigba, took a hard hit in the first quarter that eventually sidelined him for good in the second half. Quarterback C.J. Stroud showed why he’s one of the best in the country, though, as he used his speed to get away from pressure and keep enough plays alive to secure a 21-10 win. — Heather Dinich
Up next: vs. Arkansas State (Saturday, noon ET, Big Ten Network)
There might not be a more perfect season opener for a head coach than when your team wins easily but experiences some glitches for you to yell about on Sunday. Brent Venables’ debut as OU coach went exactly like that — his Sooners cruised 45-13 over UTEP, with Dillon Gabriel throwing for 223 yards, Eric Gray rushing for 102 and the defense recording six sacks (2.5 from Reggie Grimes). But the Sooners also fell asleep for much of the second quarter, allowing the Miners to stay close approaching halftime. Still, when you average 8.1 yards per play and your opponent averages 3.8, it was a good day at the office. — Bill Connelly
Up next: vs. Kent State (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Dillon Gabriel tosses two touchdown passes to Brayden Willis in the first half.
The Wolverines are in the middle of a quarterback battle, with last season’s starter, Cade McNamara, and J.J. McCarthy vying for the starting spot. McNamara started the first game of the season and had an uninspiring performance, completing 9 of 18 passes for 136 yards and one touchdown in Michigan’s 51-7 win over Colorado State. McCarthy played in the second half and completed 4 of 4 passes for 30 yards, but also ran for 50 yards on three attempts and scored a touchdown on the ground. The offense put up over 40 points, but it wasn’t a stellar performance. The defense, on the other hand, held Colorado State in check the entire game and was able to create pressure with seven sacks in the game. — Tom VanHaaren
Up next: vs. Hawai’i (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
The Irish’s defense turned in a remarkable performance, but in the fourth quarter, when it mattered the most, Notre Dame was unable to make the stops on a 14-play, 95-yard touchdown drive that ate 7:06 off the clock. The Irish will have to get more out of their running game moving forward to give first-year starting quarterback Tyler Buchner more options. To come into the Shoe, though, and hold a 10-7 halftime lead against a possible playoff team, is evidence the 21-10 loss wasn’t for a lack of preparation under first-year coach Marcus Freeman. — Dinich
Up next: vs. Marshall (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
The Aggies opened a season of big expectations with a 31-0 shutout of Sam Houston, their first in an opener since 1993. It wasn’t always pretty and included a nearly three-hour rain delay, but the biggest story was the offensive output under Haynes King, who was making just his third start after being lost for the season last year after two starts. King had 364 passing yards, the second most in a season opener in Texas A&M history, including two TD passes of more than 60 yards (one of which was Yulkeith Brown‘s first career reception of 66 yards) — the first time an Aggies QB has accomplished that since Ryan Tannehill in 2011. The defense is loaded. If the A&M offense can remain explosive, the season outlook looks much brighter. — Dave Wilson
Up next: vs. Appalachian State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App)
Blake Shapen got his work done, then went to the bench. The new Baylor starting quarterback was 17-for-20 for 214 yards and two scores and threw his last pass late in the first half as the Bears cruised to a 69-10 win over Albany. Monaray Baldwin gained 130 yards and scored twice in just six combined rushes and receptions, and the Bears had the Great Danes overwhelmed from the start. The real challenges start soon enough, but Dave Aranda’s squad made short work of its tuneup opportunity. — Connelly
Up next: at BYU (Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
New head coach Lincoln Riley couldn’t have drawn it up any better if he tried. After a long offseason that included a roster overhaul of over 40 new players, USC took to the field and scored the most points it had in a game since 2008, picking off Rice‘s quarterbacks not once, not twice, not three times, but four times, including three pick-sixes. The 66-14 final will look good on the brand-new résumé even though Rice is likely the easiest matchup the Trojans will face this season. Still, the fact that Riley and Caleb Williams seemed to pick up right where they left off on offense while the defense, which still has many questions, was able to step up in such a fashion bodes well for USC. It also likely raises expectations for the Trojans even more. — Paolo Uggetti
Up next: at Stanford (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App)
Coach Sam Pittman’s remarkable rebuild proved last year was no fluke, and the Razorbacks now expect to beat top-25 opponents. They withstood every Cincinnati punch and put the game away, getting the ball back with 5:49 left and running out the clock. KJ Jefferson‘s steady guidance produced four touchdowns (23 yards and three TDs passing and three TDs, 62 and another score rushing), and Arkansas handed the Bearcats their first regular-season loss since 2019. — Wilson
Up next: vs. South Carolina (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN/ESPN app)
With quarterback Anthony Richardson behind center, suddenly it feels as if the Gators have a chance to exceed outside expectations – especially after a 29-26 win over Utah. Richardson had three touchdowns and 274 total yards, while his offensive line played a dominant game up front. Though the defense struggled to contain Utah quarterback Cam Rising and their terrific tight ends, Amari Burney made the play that needed to happen with an interception in the end zone to seal the victory. — Adelson
Up next: vs. Kentucky (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
If you were looking for convincing evidence that Clemson fully left its offensive woes in 2021, Week 1 did not provide it. The Tigers pulled away late for a 41-10 victory over Georgia Tech — thanks in part to one score set up by a blocked punt and another led by blue-chip freshman QB Cade Klubnik — but starting QB DJ Uiagalelei still went through long stretches of ugly play, the receivers still struggled to get separation downfield and the O-line failed to create much room for the ground game against a Yellow Jackets defense that, on paper, is one of the easier tests Clemson should expect in 2022. The good news is the Tigers’ defensive front looks as good as advertised, and as long as K.J. Henry, Barrett Carter & Co. continue their dominance, Clemson will be in every game. — David M. Hale
Up next: vs. Furman (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN App)
The start of the Mario Cristobal era couldn’t have gone much better. Miami crushed Bethune-Cookman 70-13, rushing for six touchdowns and forcing three turnovers. It was, of course, a game Miami was supposed to win easily, but the result is nevertheless encouraging. Miami offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said he wants to run more effectively than the Canes were able to in 2021, and Henry Parrish Jr. (108 yards, three TDs) and Thaddius Franklin Jr. (78 yards, two TDs) both moved the ball with ease, despite three of Miami’s expected producers — Jaylan Knighton, Don Chaney Jr. and TreVonte’ Citizen — all sitting out with injuries Saturday. — Hale
Up next: vs. Southern Miss (Saturday, noon ET, ACC Network/ESPN App)
Miami DB Gilbert Frierson comes up with a 32-yard pick-six and celebrates by doing Antonio Brown’s dance.
There wasn’t much that went wrong for Wisconsin in its opener against Illinois State. Quarterback Graham Mertz completed 14 of 16 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown and was able to sit out most of the fourth quarter in the Badgers’ 38-0 win. Running back Braelon Allen picked up where he left off last season and ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The defense was able to hold Illinois State scoreless and under 250 total yards of offense. — VanHaaren
Up next: vs. Washington State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
Junior quarterback Payton Thorne‘s four touchdown passes to four different receivers helped lead Michigan State to a 35-13 victory over in-state rival Western Michigan on Friday. It tied a career high for Thorne and marked the fourth time he has thrown four TDs in a game. The Spartans pulled away from the Broncos late in part thanks to sophomore running back Jalen Berger‘s 120 rushing yards. A 1-yard touchdown run from Berger, a Wisconsin transfer, capped a 91-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Led by four sacks from senior linebacker Jacoby Windmon, a transfer from UNLV, Michigan State’s defense recorded seven sacks. — Blake Baumgartner
Up next: vs. Akron (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
The Utes played the type of game they wanted to against Florida but have to be lamenting the missed opportunities after a 29-26 loss. Utah dominated the Gators up front on the offensive line, rushing for 230 yards on the ground, but failed to score any points on multiple trips inside the Florida 6-yard line. Two other trips inside the Florida 25-yard line ended in field goals. Then with a chance to tie or win, Cam Rising threw an interception in the end zone — an unlikely finish considering how well he played in the game (216 yards passing, 91 yards rushing). — Andrea Adelson
Up next: vs. Southern Utah (Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
The fun, aggressive Oklahoma State offense is back. Against Central Michigan on Thursday night, Spencer Sanders became the second player in Big 12 history (the other one: Patrick Mahomes) to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns and rush for two scores in a single half. He started the second half with a 45-yard bomb, too, as the Cowboys opened up a 51-15 lead. CMU scored a ton of garbage-time points to make this a 58-44 final, but the Pokes put this one away early. — Connelly
Up next: vs. Arizona State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN App)
The renewal of the Backyard Brawl after an 11-year hiatus certainly lived up to the billing, though Pitt did not make it easy in front of the home crowd in a 38-31 victory over West Virginia. Still, the Panthers found a way to score two touchdowns in the final 3:41 of the game to pull out the win. Pitt quarterback Kedon Slovis played inconsistently but led a 92-yard game-tying drive. M.J. Devonshire scored the winner on a 56-yard pick-six on the following West Virginia series. Slovis finished with 308 yards passing in the win, but there is plenty for Pitt to clean up headed into Week 2. — Adelson
Up next: vs. Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App)
After a sluggish start, Kentucky pulled away in the second half for a 37-13 season-opening victory over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday night. The Wildcats were playing without star running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. and finished with just 50 rushing yards. But quarterback Will Levis passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns, and the Wildcats scored one touchdown on special teams (a Barion Brown 100-yard kickoff return) and set up another touchdown thanks to Keidron Smith‘s fumble return to the Miami 8-yard line. — Low
Up next: at Florida (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
The Wolfpack somehow found a way to beat East Carolina 21-20, but it was the type of performance that should slow down the hype train surrounding the program. They struggled at times across the board — especially in the ground game — failing to score four times from the goal line on a series that could have put the game away. Instead, East Carolina hung around and nearly won. A missed extra point and another missed field goal at the end of regulation cost the Pirates the upset. NC State has been on the other side of these types of games, so coach Dave Doeren is never going to take a win for granted. But he also knows that his veteran team did not play up to its full potential in Week 1. — Adelson
Up next: vs. Charleston Southern (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
With so much focus on the Ole Miss quarterback battle, it was the running game that stole the show Saturday in the Rebels’ season-opening 28-10 victory over Troy at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Zach Evans, a transfer from TCU, rushed for 130 yards on 20 carries, and freshman Quinshon Judkins rushed for 87 yards on 14 carries. Between them, they averaged 6.4 yards per carry, as Ole Miss led 28-3 in the early minutes of the third quarter but didn’t do much else on offense the rest of the way. Coach Lane Kiffin said the fans probably got bored in the second half and added, “I would too with our offense.” Jaxson Dart, a transfer from USC, started at quarterback. The plan is to start Luke Altmyer next week against Central Arkansas. — Low
Up next: vs. Central Arkansas (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network+/ESPN+)
Lane Kiffin and the Ole Miss Rebels get three rushing touchdowns and a turnover-happy defense as they take down Troy.
No slow start here. Before the first quarter had even concluded, BYU had its opener against South Florida all sewn up, and went on to score the game’s first 38 points before halftime. QB Jaren Hall had a big, efficient game — completing 25 of 32 passes for 261 yards — but there was no stopping the rushing game in the 50-21 win. The Cougars combined for 314 yards on 37 carries with three scores to set the tone with several big-time opponents coming in the weeks ahead. — Kyle Bonagura
Up next: vs. Baylor (Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
Quinn Ewers‘ Longhorns debut started with an interception on his second pass attempt, but he and his team settled down nicely in their pre-Alabama tuneup. Texas scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams, as both No. 5s — running back Bijan Robinson and cornerback D’Shawn Jamison — had big performances in a 52-10 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Ewers (225 pass yards) executed a mostly safe plan, allowing teammates such as Ja’Tavion Sanders, Jordan Whittington and Robinson to do most of the work. Sophomore end Barryn Sorrell sparked a defense that kept ULM out of the end zone. — Rittenberg
Up next: vs. Alabama (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)
Playing what was ostensibly a road game in New Orleans against LSU, the Seminoles hung tough, particularly quarterback Jordan Travis, who evaded the Tigers’ pass-rush and took a number of shots on the way to an impressive 260 yards and two touchdowns through the air. And the defense and special teams made it an all-around performance, generating four sacks, blocking a pair of kicks and recovering two fumbles in the 24-23 win. While it might have been a little too close for comfort in the end, coach Mike Norvell will take a 1-point win and a 2-0 start to the season. — Scarborough
Up next: at Louisville (Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)
Few teams play as fast or score as fast as Tennessee, and the Vols were true to form Thursday night in their season-opening 59-10 rout of Ball State. Less than a minute into the game, Tennessee was up 7-0 and had Neyland Stadium rocking. Hendon Hooker had two touchdown passes and two touchdown runs in the first half, as the Vols raced out to a 38-0 halftime lead. Going back to the 2021 season, Tennessee has scored 45 or more points in four consecutive games, the first time that has happened since 1993. Tennessee gave up 343 yards on defense but forced three turnovers and held Ball State to 5-of-16 on third and fourth down. — Low
Up next: at Pitt (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App)