College Football has officially taken flight with college fanatics and degenerate gamblers drooling over somewhat meaningless games. I'd argue they aren't meaningless, though. It gives fans a small dose of a football weekend, preparing football fans everywhere for the end of summer and the beginning of fall. It also gives us a glimpse at some teams we otherwise wouldn't be paying attention to. Here's a breakdown of some of the biggest headlines:
Hawaii Stood Tall Against Vanderbilt Despite Losing 35-28
Hawaii comes into this season with a great deal of talent. Head coach Timmy Chang has assembled a group itching for more respect. They came into this game as a heavy underdog and amidst difficult times with the fires in Maui, they were able to show some heart.
Vanderbilt is undoubtedly not satisfied with the effort. Forget about the circumstances (Construction in their stadium and a weather delay). They simply didn't look like an SEC team with their poor line play on both sides. The only way they could generate significant pressure was when they blitzed and only rushing for 39 yards doesn't resemble an SEC offensive line. Head coach Clark Lea called it "not pretty," and that just about sums it up.
Don't get it twisted, though. Hawaii showed that they could have a great season in Chang's second year. Hawaii should be excited. Vanderbilt on the other hand, should have some concerns.
Notre Dame Whooped Navy 42-3 In Dublin
Notre Dame entered this year with heavy expectations despite a down year a season ago. A new quarterback can change everything for a team and the Fighting Irish certainly got a good one in Sam Hartman. Hartman is in his sixth college season and was the top target in the transfer portal. He's never been on a team this talented before, so he showed his poise and ability to operate in a pro-style offense for the first time.
Running back Audric Estime also stole the show with his freakish athleticism and ability to shake off any tackler. Notre Dame has one of the best offensive lines in the country, so he should be destined for a dominant season. As for Navy, this game didn't show much. They still run the triple option heavily regardless of reports that they would throw the ball more. It wasn't super effective, but I wouldn't call it a fair fight either.
Both teams showed great respect for each other in the debut game of the college season. Notre Dame has some serious tests this season with Ohio State, USC, and Clemson on their schedule, so we'll have to wait to see if this success is sustainable.
USC Defeated San Jose State 56-28 In A Shootout
USC comes into this season with mountains of hype as the sixth-ranked team in the nation. Their last year in the Pac-12 (Maybe the last year for anyone in the Pac-12), started the same way it usually does. Eye-popping offensive plays by Heisman quarterback Caleb Williams were complemented by star playmakers showing off. Couple that with a defense that can't stop a nose bleed and USC is in mid-season form already!
This year was supposed to be different for Lincoln Riley's defense. They brought in transfer defensive lineman Bear Alexander from Georgia and other pieces that should make them a better tackling team. It didn't come to fruition in this game. It was obvious that defensive coordinator Alex Grinch wanted to blitz at the wrong times. On a key 3rd and 22 for San Jose State, he sent pressure and quarterback Chevan Cordeiro scrambled for the first down. Whether or not they improve tackling and stopping the big plays will be crucial for them.
USC will be electric offensively and very fun to watch, but if they want to contend with the big boys of college football, they need to find a formidable defensive identity.
UMass Is Back As They Defeated New Mexico State 41-30
For the first time in a long time, UMass has a competitive team. Head coach Don Brown is on a mission to revive a program that failed to win its opener against an FBS opponent in the last 40 years. Transfer quarterback Taisun Phommachanh is electric, and this offense has some real talent.
Phommachanh was recruited by Clemson, and after three seasons there and one at Georgia Tech, coach Brown convinced him to play at UMass. The difference was tremendous. He rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown, showcasing an otherworldly athleticism. The team played with heart and gave their fans something to be excited about. Brown is on track to save this program, and they look well overdue for a bowl appearance.
College football is back in full form this Saturday and the enthralling slate is putting fans on the edge of their seat. Notre Dame and USC will create interesting storylines as they battle for college football playoff consideration and there are loads of other teams like Hawaii and UMass searching for national recognition. What a year it'll be and we're just getting started...
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