With eight games on the college football Week 1 schedule Friday night, fans across the nation were treated to a veritable feast of highlights, and lowlights.
Two ranked teams — No. 18 Michigan State and No. 19 Wisconsin — played their first games of the 2019 season. Both of them came away with convincing victories against overmatched Week 1 foes, and Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor got his season off to a smashing start.
We’ll delve into both of those powerhouse’s first action of the season, and more, looking at the top takeaways from Friday night’s college football Week 1 action.
Jonathan Taylor looks like a legit Heisman contender
The moment Wisconsin’s offense stepped onto the field Friday night, it was clear that Taylor would own South Florida’s defense. The Badgers’ offensive line was moving bodies, and Taylor ripped off a sweet 37-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the game.
He continued to dominate, catching a 36-yard touchdown, then another even more spectacular 12-yard score, while ripping off long runs throughout the game.
All told, Taylor totaled 183 yards and four touchdowns, despite being replaced pretty early on as the game got out of hand. He is obviously a legitimate Heisman contender, and if Jack Coan develops as a pocket passer Wisconsin could be very good this year.
Sparty looks dangerous on defense
It’s hard to read too much into Michigan State’s blowout win over Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane was not expected to win, and the game played out as you’d expect from this kind of mismatch. The reason we’re bullish on this year’s Spartans is that the team’s defense has some playmakers that should make a big difference.
The front line, led by Kenny Willekes, is downright scary. He was all over the field and made a huge play in the second quarter after a sack/strip of Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith, recovering it in the end zone for a touchdown.
This came one drive after the Tulsa offense gave up a safety thanks to a very poor snap. Throw in a blocked punt and a run defense that pushed Tulsa’s game backwards all game long (-73 yards on the ground for the Golden Hurricane!) and this unit looks like the real deal.
Maybe there’s hope for Rutgers, after all
Okay, so it really shouldn’t be a huge deal that Rutgers won in a landslide over UMass. After all, the Scarlet Knights were favored to win by 17 points to begin with. Yet the way things started Friday night in Piscataway, it looked like last year’s nightmare was set to continue in 2019.
The Minutemen went up 21-7 in the first quarter, and everyone was ready to heap scorn on Rutgers once more. Then, the Scarlet Knights woke up. Graduate transfer McLane Carter got into a groove executing Chris Ash’s offense. By halftime Rutgers had full command of the game, up 38-21, ultimately winning by the score of 48-21.
We’ll know a heck of a lot more about this team in the next few weeks, with Iowa and Boston College coming up. But at least for just one night, Rutgers gave fans reason to hope this season may be worth watching.
It’s the Kelvin Hopkins Jr. show once more for Army
Last year, the Black Knights went 11-2 thanks to a potent blend of bruising defense and dual-threat quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. On Friday night against Rice, they proved that this season’s formula is pretty much exactly the same.
Hopkins and running back Sandon McCoy utilized a textbook three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust approach, gaining 150 yards on 41 carries between them. Hopkins toted the rock 21 times and scored a rushing touchdown. He threw another that proved to be the game-winner with just under four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
It’s not the prettiest football you ever saw. But it has proven to be darn effective the past year-plus, and Army appears determined to ride Hopkins as far as he’ll take the program.
Jordan Love’s mistakes doom the Aggies
Last season, Utah State quarterback Jordan Love threw just six interceptions all year long. On Friday night on the road against Wake Forest, he got halfway to that total, throwing three picks.
Even worse than the turnovers themselves, Love’s first two interceptions led to 10 points for the Demon Deacons. His third interception took place at the end of the game as he attempted to come back after Wake Forest scored an incredible go-ahead touchdown on fourth down late in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, those mistakes factored huge in a game that was decided by three points.
For Utah State’s sake, we hope Friday night’s turnover fest for Love was just a hiccup, rather than the start of a troubling trend this season.
Purdue’s offense looking like a well-oiled machine
Last year, Elijah Sindelar opened the season as the starting quarterback but lost his job to David Blough after getting banged up early. Now back and healthy, this senior opened his final season at Purdue by throwing darts Friday night against Nevada.
Of course, it helps when you have the incomparable Rondale Moore running open down the field. This sophomore lit up college football defenses last year and picked up right where he left off with a phenomenal performance in Week 1. By halftime, he and Sindelar had connected on eight receptions for 114 yards, and a huge touchdown right before the half.
If Sindelar can stay healthy this year, Purdue’s offense has a chance to put up prolific numbers all season long.