My biggest takeaways from Week 1 of the college football season? Three national title contenders suffered major injuries, and the Big Ten is not very good.
Let's start with the injuries. Notre Dame's leading returning rusher, Tarean Folston, was lost for the season with a knee injury in what was otherwise a thoroughly impressive 38-3 win over Texas on Saturday (may want to update your resume, Charlie Strong). Last year, Folston rushed for 889 yards and six touchdowns. The team was already thin at the position after losing reserve tailback Greg Bryant this summer because of academics.
Clemson receiver Mike Williams also is likely to miss the season. He suffered a scary-looking neck fracture after running into the goalpost following a touchdown reception early in the first quarter against Wofford on Saturday. The good news is that he won't need surgery and didn't suffer any major damage. It's not impossible he plays again this season but unlikely. He won't be re-evaluated for six weeks. Williams caught 57 passes for 1,030 yards in 2014.
Finally, UCLA top defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes also will miss the season after tearing his ACL in the Bruins' win over Virginia. Last year, Vanderdoes was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention after recording 50 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss, and two sacks. He led UCLA on Saturday with eight tackles, including two for a loss.
As for the Big Ten, it's really going to be a long week for the commissioner Jim Delaney if Ohio State is upset at Virginia Tech on Monday. Sure, Minnesota nearly upset TCU and Northwestern knocked off No. 21 Stanford over the weekend, but Michigan lost at Utah, Nebraska fell on a Hail Mary at home to BYU, Wisconsin was no match for No. 3 Alabama and, worst of all, Penn State was clobbered by Temple. It was the Owls' first win over the Nittany Lions in 74 years.
Here are a few games that caught my eye this week. No totals as of this writing. Not very many good matchups -- it's probably the worst week of the season in that regard other than the big one in East Lansing.
Utah State at Utah (-13): This screams trap game (it's on Friday) in my mind for Utah even though it's a rivalry game. Did you see how the Utes celebrated that win over Michigan? Clearly they were tired of hearing Jim Harbaugh's name all week. I think they come out flat here. Utah State didn't look good in its opening 12-9 win over Southern Utah, but I simply think the Aggies were looking ahead to this one. They also have the better quarterback in Chuckie Keeton, who I think has been playing college football since the 1980s. The pick: USU.
Oregon at Michigan State (-3.5): Clearly the nonconference game of the season with Oregon at No. 7 in the preseason AP poll and Michigan State No. 5 -- new polls aren't released as usual yet because of the Labor Day game. Doubt either team moves, although neither covered in Week 1. I took Western Michigan and the points against the Spartans and WMU only lost by 13. Although the Broncos only covered because of garbage-time scores, but hey I'll take it. The Spartans set a school record by scoring 30-plus points for the ninth straight game. That broke the mark set in the 1978 and 1979 seasons. Oregon allowed 42 points to FCS school Eastern Washington in a 19-point victory. That has to be concerning. Ducks QB Vernon Adams, formerly of Eastern Washington, made his FBS debut and threw for 246 yards and two scores but had to leave in the fourth quarter after a big hit. He says he's fine and will play against Michigan State. The Ducks beat the visiting Spartans 46-27 last season in Week 2. MSU actually led 27-18 in the third quarter. With how lousy the Big Ten looks, I don't think MSU can afford a loss and get to the College Football Playoff, assuming the Spartans also lose at Ohio State in November. The pick: Michigan State.
Oklahoma at Tennessee (pick'em): This is your only other matchup of ranked teams on Saturday. The Sooners opened with a 41-3 home win over Akron. Baker Mayfield threw for 388 yards, a school record in a season opener, and three touchdowns in his first start at OU. The walk-on transfer from Texas Tech won the starting job in a preseason battle with last year's starter, Trevor Knight, after sitting out in 2014. OU put up 539 yards as it transitions to an up-tempo attack under new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. The Vols beat Bowling Green 59-30 on Saturday. It was UT's first game as a ranked team since the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2008. But the Vols also gave up 557 yards to a MAC team. Starting Tennessee receiver Pig Howard was suspended for the game and will return here. The pick: Tennessee.
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