“I don’t want to wish the summer away, but I sure do wish football would come back tomorrow,” my father would say to me, without fail, most days in the months before any college football season. Now, I say that to anyone who’ll listen.
From playoff expansion to marquee battles, college football was back over the Labor Day weekend in exactly the way we wanted.
Here are the stories and games we clocked last weekend.
PLAYOFFS EXPANDED (EVENTUALLY)
In the waning hours before Saturday’s official kickoff of the season, the College Football Playoff (a real organization)‘s board of managers (a real job) unanimously voted to expand the playoffs to 12 teams by 2026 – and potentially earlier.
A 12-team playoff bracket involves the top four teams receiving a bye week and the other eight fighting to make it to that “Elite 8” round. For perennial playoff teams, it means one more postseason game. For those who would’ve been playing a meaningless Citrus or Outback bowl, it means everything.
(2) OHIO STATE beats (5) NOTRE DAME, 21-10
The Buckeyes probably needed a game like this to stay humble for the rest of the season. After taking on Notre Dame, Ohio State has only Michigan State and Penn State to worry about in their path to another Big Ten crown and playoff berth. Notre Dame put up more of a fight than what was expected – and looked more like a top 10 team than we gave them credit for. Heisman favorite CJ Stroud struggled but has the rest of the season to rack up style points on his way to the trophy.
(19) ARKANSAS beats (23) CINCINNATI, 31-24
It wasn’t the game we asked for. It was the game we needed. Sam Pittman and the Razorbacks made a statement Saturday that, not only can they hang around in tough games, but they might be more of a problem in the SEC West than we thought.
(3) GEORGIA beats (11) OREGON, 49-3
After the off-season sound and fury questioned if Georgia could recover from losing a record number of players to the NFL draft, it signified nothing in week one. Is Georgia really this good? Was Oregon way overrated? This is why we shouldn’t rank football teams until October.
NORTH CAROLINA beats APPALACHIAN STATE, 63-61
This was the game of the week. There’s no argument. Go watch the replay.
FLORIDA beats (7) UTAH, 29-26
Just kidding. This was the game of the week. The outcome wasn’t a shock – Utah was probably ranked higher than they should’ve been. But seeing first-year coach Billy Napier and quarterback Anthony Richardson lead a Gator squad that absolutely refused to give up is what opening weekend is all about.
AUBURN beats MERCER, 41-16
We’re obligated to include a bit about Auburn. TJ Finley threw two interceptions, which is troubling in a game like this. Tank Bigsby looked good with nearly 150 rushing yards. Along with next week’s contest against San Jose State, this game doesn’t do anything to answer questions about anything. Let’s loop back when Penn State comes to town in two weeks.
ALABAMA beats UTAH STATE, 55-0
What can you say about Alabama’s performance? Bryce Young played only one series in the second half. There were no injuries. Plenty of kids received playing time. You can’t find out how good you are in Week One games like this. You can only find out how bad you are. If this game was any indication, Alabama isn’t bad. But we already knew that.
(Courtesy of 256 Today)