College Football 2023: Winners and Losers from Week 1
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AP Photo/LM Otero
If you hoped to ease into the inevitable frenzy of a new college football season with a quiet Week 1, Deion Sanders and Colorado quickly squashed that dream.
Welcome back to nonstop ridiculousness, my friends.
Coach Prime and his overhauled CU roster knocked off No. 17 TCU, the reigning national runner-up behind a spectacular offensive day. Star receiver and cornerback Travis Hunter also demanded a place in the Heisman Trophy conversation with an incredible game.
Meanwhile, two Group of Five programs upset a Power Five opponent, and three hot-seat coaches had a rough opener.
And that was simply the earliest window of Saturday’s action.
Bleacher Report has monitored the entertaining slate and highlighted some of best and worst storylines of Week 1.
Winner: Utah’s Backup QBs, Defense
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AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
No Cam Rising? No problem for Utah.
Led by Bryson Barnes, the 14th-ranked Utes dispatched Florida 24-11. The backup quarterback threw for 159 yards and totaled two touchdowns, while third-stringer Nate Johnson added 45 rushing yards and a score.
Florida simply had no answers for a Utah defense that collected seven tackles for loss, including five sacks.
Playing a nonconference game outside the Sunshine State for the first time in 32 years, the Gators outgained the hosts 346-270 but faltered in key moments. Florida finished 1-of-13 on third down and 2-of-5 on fourth down, and none of those conversions happened until the fourth quarter.
Utah needs Rising healthy to legitimately chase a final Pac-12 crown, but the program’s depth and defense shined against UF.
Loser: Hot-Seat Coaches at Noon
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AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Boston College stumbled to a 3-9 finish last season, putting Jeff Hafley’s three-year record at 15-20. As if that’s not bad enough, they opened the 2023 campaign with an overtime loss to Northern Illinois.
Hafley’s hot seat may as well be scorching now.
No reasonable person expected Arkansas State to shock Oklahoma, but a 73-0 obliteration at the hands of the Sooners is not a great start for ASU coach Butch Jones. He’s just 5-20 with the Red Wolves.
Also, a not-so-special mention for Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. After a joke of a contract amendment that requires the Hawkeyes to average 25 points—which would’ve ranked 85th out of 131 teams last season—for him to keep his job beyond 2023, they managed 24 in a victory over Utah State.
Winner: So Many Colorado Things
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AP Photo/LM Otero
Can you really pick just one?
Deion Sanders landed his first-ever FBS victory as Colorado went on the road and upset TCU 45-42. His son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders, set a program record with 510 passing yards and tossed four touchdowns.
Star two-way player Travis Hunter collected 11 receptions for 119 yards, adding three tackles and a clutch interception. Freshman running back Dylan Edwards totaled four scores, including a game-winning 46-yard touchdown catch on a fourth down late in the final quarter.
Defensively, the Buffs are a work in progress. CU’s special teams didn’t have a great day, either.
But this offense is legit. And Coach Prime is 1-0.
Loser: The Current Big Ten
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AP Photo/AJ Mast
Outside of Michigan’s comfortable 30-3 stroll past East Carolina, the Big Ten didn’t have a banner afternoon.
In the debut for head coach Ryan Walters, Purdue ceded a last-minute touchdown and lost 39-35 to Fresno State. Iowa started with two scoring drives but ultimately meandered to a 24-14 win over Utah State.
Wisconsin trudged to a 14-10 halftime lead—partially due to a devastating drop on a should-be touchdown pass—before a superb rushing game put away Buffalo after the break. Similarly, Ohio State survived a subpar first-half showing from a hugely talented offense to beat Indiana 23-3.
At least Maryland smoked lower-division Towson?
Let’s be clear: It’s only the first game of the season. I’m not suggesting that panic alarms ring in Columbus or Madison in particular. But it’s safe to say a few Big Ten coaching staffs won’t be happy this week.
Winner: The Future Big Ten
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On the other hand, the Big Ten’s future westward contingent ripped up box scores in Saturday’s second window of games.
Yes, a blowout should have happened at Oregon. Still, the 15th-ranked Ducks embarrassed Portland State 81-7 with 729 offensive yards. Bo Nix threw for 287 yards and three scores, while Bucky Irving had 119 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries. Troy Franklin and Gary Bryant Jr. both hit 100 receiving yards and caught two scores.
The marquee result was more lopsided than expected.
Behind a dominant 450-yard, five-touchdown day from Michael Penix Jr., Washington smoked Mountain West favorite Boise State 56-19. Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan each had 95-plus receiving yards and at least one trip to the end zone.
Considering the (totally understandable) rust elsewhere in Week 1, Oregon and UW deserve praise for their tremendous days.
Loser: South Carolina’s Opener
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South Carolina closed the 2022 season with upsets of Tennessee and Clemson, two victories that also prevented both opponents from having a shot at the College Football Playoff.
So, the offseason question was simple: Could the Gamecocks build off those victories in 2023?
Well, not in Week 1.
North Carolina rolled to a 31-17 win behind a balanced team performance. Drake Maye threw 269 yards and two touchdowns, while British Brooks scampered for 103 yards, and Omarion Hampton ran in two scores. South Carolina, meanwhile, had minus-two rushing yards (including sacks).
Knowing how brutal the Gamecocks’ slate may be this season, a lackluster loss in Week 1 is a bit concerning for even reaching a bowl.
Winner: GJ Kinne’s Debut
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How’s that for a coaching debut?
In his first game as Texas State head coach, G.J. Kinne oversaw a stellar 42-31 upset of Big 12 squad Baylor. TJ Finley, formerly of LSU and Auburn, accounted for 316 yards and four touchdowns in the win.
Perhaps it’s only my perspective, yet the absolute part of this moment is the road Kinne has traveled for this moment.
After a year at Texas and four at Tulsa as a quarterback, he made stops in the AFL, CFL, NFL and UFL. He started his coaching career as a grad assistant at SMU in 2017, and he’s since had one-year stops at Arkansas, with the Philadelphia Eagles and at Hawaii, UCF and then as a head coach at Incarnate Word.
For the Bobcats’ sake, hopefully Kinne will be around for several years. But if this victory is a precursor to what’s on the horizon in 2023, he may be headed for another promotion in 2024.
Winner: Drew Allar Hype
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Michigan and Ohio State entered the season as the clear Big Ten favorites, but Penn State wasn’t far behind. To surpass them, though, the Nittany Lions need first-year starter Drew Allar to have a breakout season.
So far, so good.
The sophomore completed 21-of-29 passes for 325 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He connected with top receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith for 123 yards and two scores on just four catches, and Allar hit Harrison Wallace III seven times for 73 yards.
Penn State’s defensive performance should not be overlooked; West Virginia mustered 6.0 yards per pass attempt and 3.7 per carry, and that should be the Nittany Lions’ strength all year.
If the offense can sustain this level behind Allar, though, Penn State will be a national contender.