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Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud led the Buckeyes to victory over Notre Dame (AP Photo/David Dermer)
It’s only Week 1 of the 2022 college football season, but the Pac-12 is unfortunately already in midseason form, quickly playing its way out of the College Football Playoff conversation.
Well, not entirely. AP No. 14 USC did put a 66-14 hurting on Rice with help from not one, not two, but three pick sixes. But No. 11 Oregon got destroyed by No. 3 Georgia, and No. 7 Utah went into the Gainesville swamp and came away with an L against an unranked Florida.
Temporarily unranked, that is.
After knocking off Utah in Billy Napier’s debut as head coach, the Gators are going to skyrocket into the AP poll, possibly all the way into the Top 10. Anthony Richardson was every bit as electric as we remembered from when he was healthy early last season, and they are at least a top 10 team now as far as Bleacher Report’s college football experts—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—are concerned.
While that upset was going down on Saturday night, AP No. 2 Ohio State gradually asserted its will for a 21-10 victory over No. 5 Notre Dame in the opening weekend’s main event.
It was touch and go there for a while with the Fighting Irish gaining 54 yards (69 if you count the 15 yard roughing the passer penalty) on the very first snap of the game, followed by the Buckeyes losing Jaxon Smith-Njigba to a leg injury (fingers crossed that it’s not anything serious) midway through the first quarter. But Ohio State just had too much talent, too much toughness and too much Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson to be denied a marquee victory.
We will update these rankings on Monday night if Clemson struggles or even loses to Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A kickoff, but while we wait for that final game of Week 1, here is what our consensus Top 25 looks like heading into Week 2:
1. Alabama (Previous Rank: 1)
2. Georgia (3)
3. Ohio State (2)
4. Clemson (4)
5. Michigan (8)
6. Texas A&M (7)
7. Florida (NR)
8. Oklahoma (15)
9. USC (11)
10. Notre Dame (5)
11. Arkansas (16)
12. Michigan State (12)
13. Miami (17)
14 (tie). Baylor (14)
14 (tie). BYU (23)
14 (tie). Wisconsin (18)
17. Oklahoma State (9)
18. Utah (6)
19. Tennessee (NR)
20. Pittsburgh (25)
21. Penn State (19t)
22. Kentucky (24)
23. Houston (19t)
24. Texas (22)
25. NC State (10)
Also Receiving Votes: Ole Miss, Wake Forest, Mississippi State
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Georgia’s Stetson Bennett (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
After breaking through and winning the 2019 national championship, LSU had 14 players taken in the NFL draft… and subsequently crashed and burned.
But if you were worried that reigning national champion Georgia might endure a similar fate after having 15 players (including five first-rounders) taken in the 2022 NFL draft, Saturday’s 49-3 annihilation of No. 11 Oregon should have quelled those irrational fears.
The passing attack was darn near flawless. Stetson Bennett did most of the work, but Carson Beck also contributed to the 439 yards and three touchdowns through the air. The Bulldogs averaged nearly 12 yards per pass attempt against what was supposed to be a very good Oregon defense under new head coach (and former UGA DC) Dan Lanning.
Simultaneously, it was Georgia’s defense that ruled the day, picking off Bo Nix twice within the game’s first 20 minutes and limiting the Ducks to just one field goal. Prior to a meaningless lengthy drive in the final 10 minutes, Oregon had a modest 221 yards of total offense.
The Dawgs didn’t get any sacks in this one, so it wasn’t quite the same “Holy cow, how is anyone going to score against this defense?!” type of statement that they made in last year’s season opener against Clemson. Still, it was a dominant performance, at least on par with what they used to do to Nix when he was the quarterback at Auburn for the past three years.
If even Oregon couldn’t remotely challenge this Georgia team, it legitimately might not face a stiff test until the projected SEC championship showdown with Alabama. The Bulldogs only have one other game on the schedule against a ranked opponent, and that game at AP No. 20 Kentucky is two-and-a-half months away.
Get used to seeing these guys at or near the top of the rankings.
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NC State’s Devin Leary (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
The good news is NC State didn’t actually lose its season opener at East Carolina.
The bad news is the No. 10 team in our preseason rankings could not have possibly inspired less confidence in its 21-20 victory over the Pirates.
With help from a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown, the Wolfpack carried a 21-7 lead into the intermission. But what we thought would be one of the most potent offensive attacks in the nation this season was held without a point from that point forward.
It wasn’t for lack of opportunity. On one drive, the Wolfpack marched 74 yards down the field before fumbling at the ECU 1. And on their subsequent possession, they had 1st and Goal on the ECU 1 before Demie Sumo-Karngbaye got stuffed at the goal line on four consecutive carries.
That was the beginning of a stretch of more than 12 minutes in which the Wolfpack offense ran 10 plays for minus-4 yards with an interception and a turnover on downs.
Meanwhile, ECU got what looked like the game-tying touchdown until Owen Daffer missed the extra point. He got a chance at redemption when an NC State three-and-out left the Pirates with plenty of time to get into field-goal range. Unfortunately, Daffer pushed the would-be game-winning 42-yard attempt wide right, allowing the Wolfpack to escape by the hair on its chinny chin chin.
All due respect to ECU—which did win seven games last season and which has one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country in Holten Ahlers—but this game should not have come down to the wire. Because it did, we’re left to seriously question if NC State is actually a top candidate to dethrone Clemson in the ACC.
The Wolfpack plummet in our rankings from No. 10 to No. 25.
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Cincinnati’s Ben Bryant (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Well, the dream of No. 23 Cincinnati going to back-to-back College Football Playoffs is already dead.
Had the Bearcats won their season opener at No. 19 Arkansas, the “Undefeated Season Watch” would have been officially underway. Road games against SMU and UCF in late October won’t be easy, but they really should win each of their remaining 11 games if they’re even 85 percent as good as they have been over the past few years.
Alas, Cincinnati got out to a painfully slow start in the first half in Fayetteville and couldn’t fully recover, falling to the Hogs by a final score of 31-24.
On Cincinnati’s opening drive of the season, Ben Bryant led the Bearcats down to just outside the red zone before Arkansas DB Dwight McGlothern jumped an out route for an interception and returned 51 yards to flip the field.
Cincinnati had two other long first-half drives that resulted in missed field goals.
But despite digging themselves an early 14-0 hole on the road, they did almost claw all the way back.
On three consecutive possessions in the second half, they got the ball into Arkansas territory, needing a touchdown to tie the game. Instead, they came away with a field goal from a drive that started on the Arkansas 3, a punt on a drive that got as deep as the Arkansas 21 and a back-breaking strip-sack after an impressive Tre Tucker punt return.
Cincinnati didn’t look bad, racking up 438 total yards against an SEC defense. This may well still be the Group of Five’s representative in the New Year’s Six for a third consecutive year. It simply shot itself in the foot a few too many times on this afternoon and suffered its first loss outside of bowl season since the 2019 AAC championship against Memphis.
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Texas’ Steve Sarkisian and Bijan Robinson (Tim Warner/Getty Images)
First and foremost on the Week 2 slate is the Noon ET showdown between AP No. 1 Alabama and unranked Texas. It’s the first time in over a decade that the Crimson Tide have played a true road game against a Power Five nonconference opponent, and it comes against Nick Saban’s former assistant, Steve Sarkisian.
Should be a healthy diet of rat poison over the next seven days.
The lone matchup between teams from the preseason AP poll is the nightcap (10:15 p.m. ET) of No. 25 BYU hosting No. 10 Baylor. The Cougars have beaten at least one ranked opponent in each of the past four seasons, but they lost to the Bears in Waco in last year’s meeting. A little revenge in Provo would get BYU into the way-too-early College Football Playoff conversation.
Tennessee at No. 17 Pittsburgh (3:30 p.m. ET) should also be a battle between ranked teams when the new AP poll comes out in a few days. The Panthers look to build on a chaotic Week 1 win over West Virginia in the reanimated Backyard Brawl while the should-be-ranked Volunteers get ready for a big test after making quick work of Ball State on Thursday.
And then there’s a trio of major conference showdowns, with No. 19 Arkansas hosting South Carolina (Noon ET), No. 20 Kentucky at Florida (7 p.m. ET) and No. 14 USC at Stanford (7:30 p.m. ET).
While there’s nothing quite on the level of Oregon-Georgia or Notre Dame-Ohio State, Week 2 should be every bit as entertaining as Week 1 has been—albeit contained almost entirely to one day rather than spaced out over a 100-hour window.