Each week we'll look at the national landscape as we await the Big Ten's triumphant return.
Folks, we are officially on announcement watch as the Big Ten brass reconsiders the options for the 2020 season. We usually spend our fall Sundays recapping what went down in the Midwest while looking ahead to the inevitable Bengals/Browns heartbreak. For the time being, we'll instead look at more of the national picture and some of the happenings across the college football world.
It's impossible to predict anything in the midst of this fiasco we've been living in, but we're expecting some news to drop in the next 24-48 hours. Here's to hoping everything goes as planned and the Big Ten can safely return sometime in mid-October so Ryan Day and the Buckeyes can begin another playoff chase.
Miami 31, UAB 14
Tate Martell spent Thursday evening posting Instagram live videos from the bleachers of Hard Rock Stadium. Now a redshirt junior, he was suspended for the Canes' season opener against the Blazers. Martell's career continues to be one of the stranger ones in recent memory, but his team did get off to a decent start.
This one was close for a half before Manny Diaz and Miami pulled away in the third quarter. In his Hurricane debut, Houston graduate transfer D'Eriq King threw for 144 yards and a score while adding another 83 and a touchdown with his legs. Junior tailback Cam'Ron Harris was the star of the show, finishing with 134 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
The Canes should be an upper-tier ACC team, which really means they''re nothing more than average at best. Matchups against Clemson and perhaps North Carolina are the only real challenges on the schedule, but that's pretty typical in ACC land.
No. 18 North Carolina 31, Syracuse 6
Much like every ACC team outside of Clemson, Mack Brown and the Heels are on a mission to find out who will be second-best. It was a slow start, but things turned out okay as North Carolina was up 7-3 at the half but used a 21-point fourth quarter to help cover the spread (-22.5) in Chapel Hill. Does anything in the ACC really matter this year outside of Clemson? Does anything ever matter outside of Clemson? Not really.
Sam Howell's 35 touchdown passes in 2019 set a new FBS record for a true freshman, but he wasn't terribly sharp in his sophomore debut. 25 completions on 34 attempts is solid, but Howell was picked off twice by Dino Babers' defense. He ended the day with 295 yards along with a touchdown and the two interceptions. Running back Javonte Williams scored three touchdowns, but Michael Carter was the Heels' leading rusher with 78 yards on just seven carries.
Remember five-star 2021 cornerback Tony Grimes? The long-time Buckeye target reclassified to 2020 and made his debut for the Heels yesterday. He's not able to play his senior season at Princess Anne High School. May as well play as a true freshman in Chapel Hill.
Arkansas State 35, Kansas State 31
Upset No. 1 for the Big 12 went down in Manhattan and came courtesy of Arkansas State. The Wildcats had no answer for Jonathan Adams Jr. as the defense allowed him to haul in eight passes for 98 yards and three scores; including the game-winner. Speaking of Adams, we're going to go ahead and give him the catch of the year – at least until Garrett Wilson mosses someone – even though this one tragically did not count.
Imagine being one of these KSU fans jam-packed together during a pandemic watching your team lose to the mighty Red Wolves. Those fans got to watch Skylar Thompson throw for 259 yards and two scores, but that was one of the few positives for the home folks. The Wildcats were thrown for a loop by some clever Wolves' trickeration as the defense was downright disastrous.
Louisiana-Lafayette 31, No. 23 Iowa State 14
The 2020 opener was a big ole' yikes for Matt Campbell. I've seen Brock Purdy listed as one of the top quarterbacks for the 2021 NFL Draft, but I don't think the Ragin' Cajuns got the memo on that. Purdy connected on just 16 of 35 passes for 145 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Breece Hall ran for 103 and a score, but that was about it for the Cyclone offense.
Two special teams touchdowns helped Louisiana out in a big way as the offense failed to reach 300 yards. Peter LeBlanc's 78-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter gave the Cajuns their first lead, and the defense did its job holding the Cyclones scoreless in the second half. This one really wasn't all that close. Not a good look for the Campbell resume.
By the way, upset No. 3 came later in the night when Kansas lost to Coastal Carolina for a second-straight year. It was a rough day in the Great Plains going 0-3 against the Sun Belt.
The Big 12 beat 4 teams today. Those teams combined records last year were:— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) September 13, 2020
0-14 against FBS teams
13-19 against FCS teams
No. 10 Notre Dame 27, Duke 13
It's so weird seeing Notre Dame in a conference. What wasn't weird was seeing Ian Book struggle at quarterback for the Irish. Maybe I'm a hater, but he's just never impressed me all that much. Book completed 19 of 31 passes for 263 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Kyren Wiliams led the charge for Brian Kelly as he totaled 112 yards and two scores on 19 carries. He was also the game's leading receiver with 93 yards on two receptions.
One-time Clemson quarterback Chase Brice is now suiting up for Duke. In his Blue Devil debut, he completed 20 of 37 attempts for 259 yards. Brice did find the end zone with his legs for Duke's lone touchdown on the day. Eli Pancol pitched in with three catches for 78 yards.
Former Ohio State safety Isaiah Pryor is now in South Bend, but I have no idea what his role is going to be for the Irish. Kyle Hamilton is one of the nation's top returning safeties. When the Irish defender suffered an ankle injury, Pryor was still nowhere to be found in the secondary. I do feel bad for the unfortunate human who crossed paths with him on special teams, though.
Georgia Tech 16, Florida State 13
Georgia Tech's top 2020 signees included Ohio State running back target Jahmyr Gibbs and Jacksonville quarterback Jeff Sims. Sims was a Florida State commit for 10 months until the FSU coaching change led to his change of heart. Last night, the true freshman led the Yellow Jackets to an upset win over the Noles in Tallahassee.
I'll never get used to seeing a Georgia Tech quarterback throwing the ball 35 times rather than running the triple option. Sims totaled 341 yards of offense with a touchdown pass and a pair of interceptions. The Tech defense held the Noles under 300 yards and forced a trio of turnovers. It was an impressive start to the season for Geoff Collins and his crew.
How long has it been since Florida State's offense was enjoyable to watch? Cam Akers spent three years wasting away before making the smart choice to head to the NFL. And the Noles didn't look any better yesterday in Mike Norvell's debut. James Blackman completed just over 50 percent of his passes and genuinely looked like he had no idea what he was doing under center. He was responsible for all three FSU turnovers.
The Noles were up 10-0 at one point. Now they find themselves with four-straight season-opening losses. The few bright spots? FSU blocked three kicks and Asante Samuel Jr. had two picks and is a hell of a corner. Not the start Mike Norvell was looking for.
No. 1 Clemson 37, Wake Forest 13
Trevor Lawrence started for Clemson. Trevor Lawrence also announced that he's going pro after his junior season. None of this was a surprise to anyone, and neither was the outcome of this ACC showdown. The Tigers' defense is once again really good and the offense didn't really show any signs of missing stud wideout Justyn Ross.
Lawrence's sophomore season got off to a rocky start. His junior campaign was quite the contrary as he completed 22 of 28 passes for 351 yards and a score. The Heisman frontrunner added two more touchdowns with his legs. Travis Etienne ran for 102 and a touchdown and new go-to guy Amari Rodgers led the aerial attack with five receptions for 90 yards.
Dumb Game of the Week
No. 5 Oklahoma 48, Missouri State 0
Raise your hand if you paid $55 to watch Oklahoma face mighty Missouri State on Pay-Per-View last night. Even I have too much of a life to stoop down to that level (or perhaps I just watched Clemson instead). I checked the score about 15 minutes after kickoff and the Sooners already had a 28-0 lead with three of those scores coming via long touchdown passes. Good to finally see some offense from Lincoln Riley and Co.
The one big change in Norman? Riley finally has a guy he recruited at quarterback rather than a transfer. Spencer Rattler's first start was a tremendous one in what was essentially a scrimmage for Oklahoma. The redshirt freshman hit on 14 of 17 passes for 290 yards and four scores. Four different Sooners hauled in touchdown passes, but Charleston Rambo led the way with four receptions for 80 yards and a pair of scores.
It was 41-0 at halftime and Rattler didn't see any action after that. No one is going to give the Sooner defense too much praise for pitching a shutout against the Bears. But the key to the season – and another possible playoff run – is sure to be Alex Grinch's squad.