Are we having fun yet? Week 1 isn’t over, with a couple of big games still ahead on Sunday and Monday, but this first full Saturday slate of the college football season delivered many strong performances and quite a few surprises. Here’s a closer look at the best players, plays and moments of the day.
Game of the Week: Colorado 45, No. 17 TCU 42. Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” couldn’t have been any bigger. The Buffaloes were 21-point underdogs, and the world was expecting a beatdown, because there’s no way this totally rebuilt team would have enough talent – let alone enough depth – to hang with TCU for four quarters.
That’s what made this game so jarring to watch. If you expected a Colorado team that was thin, sloppy and fragile, well … they were pretty much the complete opposite. Deion Sanders and his staff ensured the Buffaloes were well-coached. They were resilient. They were totally ready to win this game. They clearly had some of the best players on the field, and those best players were so much better than anyone anticipated.
TCU might end up being more of a seven-win team than a Top 25 one, but that shouldn’t diminish the achievement at all. These new-look Buffs went on the road to Fort Worth, took on a team full of guys who’ve played for a national title and bested them. They’re exactly what Fox hoped they might be: must-watch TV. The hype is real.
Mandel: Deion Sanders has the receipts. He is That Guy. And I believe
Offensive Player of the Week: Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders. Who else could it be? There was a fair amount of mystery around just how good Sanders could be after two seasons of FCS ball, but he made an undeniable statement on Saturday: You’d be wrong to doubt him.
Expectations were high, and he far exceeded them with a school-record 510 passing yards and four TDs on 38-of-47 passing. Quality play calling throughout from offensive coordinator Sean Lewis deserves credit, as do the playmakers around Sanders – Travis Hunter, Dylan Edwards, Jimmy Horn Jr. and Xavier Weaver – who all came through in a big way. The protection was generally good enough, too, resulting in four sacks but no turnovers.
Most of all, though, the junior quarterback deserves the praise for his poise and consistency. NFL scouts had to love seeing that (LINK). This moment wasn’t too much for him whatsoever.
Shedeur Sanders put on a show for @CUBuffsFootball fans vs TCU 🦬🔥
38/47 | 510 Pass Yards | 4 TDs pic.twitter.com/wejyGD4s4j
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 2, 2023
Two-Way Player of the Week: Colorado CB/WR/HIM Travis Hunter. It’s hard to put into words just how unbelievable his performance was against TCU. Even though we knew going in that the former No. 1 overall recruit would play on offense and defense, it was amazing to actually see him doing it for an entire game – and do it at an extremely high level.
Playing 129 snaps in one game is a legitimately unreal feat. To put that in perspective, Hunter averaged 79 snaps per game over his final seven games at Jackson State, according to PFF. He had surpassed 100 just once before. Having the stamina to go 129 in the Texas heat, knowing his team needed everything he could give to survive that thriller? And delivering 11 catches for 119 yards plus a touchdown-stopping interception? That’s an effort that nobody else in college football can match.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 2, 2023
“I don’t know how many snaps he played,” Deion Sanders said, “but we’re gonna put a hot tub on the plane for him to make sure he’s straight.”
Best finish: Wyoming 35, Texas Tech 33 (2OT). Texas Tech rolled to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. Wyoming, a 13-point home underdog, fought back with a 20-point rally. Three missed field goals were costly for the Red Raiders, but they got a 27-yarder in the final minute to force overtime. After both teams scored in the first overtime, Texas Tech got an impressive 15-yard touchdown from receiver Jerand Bradley but couldn’t come up with the mandatory two-point conversion. Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley, playing “hurt, not injured” in his words, then faced a fourth-and-7 with the game on the line. He stared down an unblocked blitzer and floated an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Michael Gyllenborg.
HE HUNG IN THERE AGAINST THE BLITZ. pic.twitter.com/vFuE2TkAc0
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 3, 2023
Sam Scott punched in a 3-yard run for the win, and the party was on in Laramie. “Take ‘em to the deep end of the pool and they’re gonna fold,” Peasley said. “That’s exactly what we did.” That’s a massive victory for Craig Bohl and his program against a team that’s received a lot of Big 12 title contender hype. After opening with a rough road trip, Texas Tech now needs to rally. No. 15 Oregon is coming to Lubbock next Saturday.
Best upsets: Two more stunners stand out in this category. Texas State was a 27.5-point road underdog at Baylor in its first game under new head coach G.J. Kinne. But the Bobcats had a veteran quarterback in Auburn/LSU transfer TJ Finley and showed no fear against the Bears in rolling to a 42-31 victory in Waco. Kinne, a rising 34-year-old coach who led Incarnate Word to a 12-win season and the semifinals of the FCS playoffs in 2022, rapidly rebuilt the Bobcats via the transfer portal and got them ready to go four quarters with a Big 12 squad. Finley threw for 298 yards and scored four total touchdowns, and Texas State’s defense held on to the lead with two fourth-quarter takeaways. That’s the first Power 5 win in Texas State history and one heck of a way to start a tenure. It’s also a brutal beginning for a Baylor team trying to improve on a rough 6-7 season in 2022.
How’s this for a start to the G.J. Kinne era at Texas State??
Bobcats march into McLane Stadium and beat Baylor 42-31.
— Jeff Barker (@JeffBarker_) September 3, 2023
Another upset that stood out: Northern Illinois’s 27-24 overtime road win at Boston College. For the second time in three years, the Huskies began their season with a win over an ACC school. “Maybe we should just move to the ACC,” Northern Illinois quarterback Rocky Lombardi joked afterward. Boston College paid a $1.1 million guarantee to NIU for that matchup. The Huskies have a chance to do this again in Week 3 when they travel to Nebraska. They’re getting $1.2 million to play in Lincoln and won there in 2017.
Heisman watch: Hunter and Sanders are going to get lots of love this week, but Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. also made a big statement in the No. 10 Huskies’ 56-19 rout of Boise State. Penix threw for 450 yards on the day with five touchdowns on 29-of-40 passing. The lefty was locked in from the start and showed off his cannon (11 completions of 20-plus yards) against what should be one of the best Group of 5 teams in the country.
Michael Penix Jr. was SHARP in his season debut 🎯 pic.twitter.com/1atJTjKeQp
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) September 3, 2023
By the way, that Caleb Williams dude is still spectacular. Williams put up 361 total yards and five TDs in a 66-14 blowout of Nevada.
— USC Football ✌️ (@uscfb) September 2, 2023
Drive to 325 update: No. 25 Iowa 24, Utah State 14. The Hawkeyes faced a Utah State team that lost its defensive coordinator to the NFL and 18 defenders to the portal, including 10 starters. So … this might’ve been a good week to score more than 24. Iowa now must win six more games and average 25.1 points per game over the rest of the season in order for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz to keep his job.
Best catch: It’s gotta be Joe Dirt. That’s what they call Texas State receiver Joey Hobert, due to his dirty routes and catches. He has played at Washington State and Utah Tech, and now he’s thriving with the Bobcats. Hobert finished with 105 receiving yards against Baylor and had a Catch of the Year nominee with this Odell Beckham-esque grab along the sideline. He did it without gloves, too!
They call him Joe Dirt because he runs dirty routes – and makes dirty catches
— Texas State Football (@TXSTATEFOOTBALL) September 3, 2023
Honorable mention goes to Illinois receiver Casey Washington. Illinois was on upset alert late in its opener against Toledo and facing a fourth-and-4 with the game on the line. Luke Altmyer made an incredible throw under pressure, and Washington saved the day for the Illini with this 33-yard catch that would set up a game-winning field goal and a 30-28 escape.
Illinois convert the fourth down with this 33 yard pass from Luke Altmyer to Casey Washington.
What a throw and catch on the final dive. pic.twitter.com/6D0k8X2dmf
— Illinois Football Focus (@IlliniFB) September 3, 2023
Best run: Cal running back Isaiah Ifanse takes home this honor for this 26-yard touchdown run up the middle in a 58-21 win over North Texas. If this were “Madden 24,” Ifanse would need a big bump in his Break Tackle rating.
BOOM! 👊@IsaiahIfanse rumbles in for the TD.
— Cal Football (@CalFootball) September 2, 2023
Best hurdle of the night goes to Vanderbilt’s Sedrick Alexander for this leap in a 47-13 win over Alabama A&M.
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) September 3, 2023
Best pick six: In the Big Man category of this award, Bethune-Cookman’s Amarie Jones pulled off a seriously impressive 70-yard pick six off a pass he batted against Memphis. That’s a 6-foot-2, 244-pound lineman on the run, and he couldn’t be caught. Memphis would win 56-14.
BIG MAN PICK-SIX TO THE 🏠‼️ pic.twitter.com/pHdPqntmxr
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 3, 2023
Best block: Do not mess with Tennessee left tackle John Campbell Jr. Don’t know which Virginia linebacker he did this to during the Vols’ 49-13 victory, but they have my sympathy.
MY GOD John Campbell escorting a Cavalier to the stands🤯
I mean the UT kids are celebrating & he’s rolling this dude 8 yards out of the end zone!! pic.twitter.com/aeOS0MAltV
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) September 2, 2023
Craziest conversion: Boston College QB Thomas Castellanos’ fourth-and-5 against Northern Illinois was straight out of a video game.
BOSTON COLLEGE’S CASTELLANOS WAS PLAYING MADDEN TO PICK UP THE 4TH AND 5!! pic.twitter.com/yMP88G5bfQ
— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) September 2, 2023
Best quote: After taking a 14-6 lead against Coastal Carolina into halftime, UCLA coach Chip Kelly was feeling a little salty about the new clock rules and the fact his Bruins only had time for four drives and a total of 30 plays in the first half.
Chip Kelly to ESPN at halftime: “These new rules are crazy. We had four drives in the first half. Hope you guys are selling a lot of commercials.”
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) September 3, 2023
Bad beats: Penn State was a 21-point favorite against West Virginia. It was a 31-15 game in the final minutes, and James Franklin had sent in the backups. The game was basically over. West Virginia was out of timeouts and got a stop on third-and-7 with less than 2 minutes left. Franklin passed on taking a knee or taking a field goal and let Beau Pribula throw on fourth-and-2 for the conversion. Two plays later, Pribula ran for a 5-yard touchdown. The Nittany Lions covered and hit the over. That’s brutal.
PENN STATE RUNS A QB DRAW WITH 13 SECONDS LEFT TO HIT THE OVER (48.5) AND COVER (-21)! 😱
— NBC Sports Bet (@NBCSportsBet) September 3, 2023
Kentucky also scored on a 30-yard rushing touchdown by Ray Davis with 6 seconds left to win 44-14 and cover. The Wildcats were a 25-point favorite.
Kentucky Scores with 6 seconds left to cover pic.twitter.com/id0SpiBX8c
— Pardon My Take (@PardonMyTake) September 2, 2023
Most upsetting blowout: Oklahoma 73, Arkansas State 0. Butch Jones appeared to be on the verge of tears on the sideline late in this game.
Justin Parks consoling his head coach Butch Jones during a tough afternoon ❤️ pic.twitter.com/88TZvgmywl
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 2, 2023
Best upper-body workout: The Oregon Duck is probably reconsidering his commitment to pushups for points after what his team put him through during an 81-7 victory over Portland State on Saturday.
Shoutout to the Oregon Duck today
546 pushups pic.twitter.com/eVuhUipsZU
— Pickswise (@Pickswise) September 2, 2023
Best new uniform: With all due respect to all the deserving candidates for this award, it’s Houston and it’s not close. The Oilers-inspired uni looked fantastic during the Cougars’ tough 17-14 win over UTSA.
— Houston Football (@UHCougarFB) September 3, 2023
Best accessory: New Mexico offensive lineman Taurrian Stafford wearing a feather in his cap against Texas A&M. On the ESPN broadcast, Mark Jones said Stafford told them he wears it because he loves nature. That’s a good enough reason for me.
Shoutout to New Mexico OL Teedo Stafford for literally wearing a feather in his cap pic.twitter.com/fyeD2jisRB
— Max Olson (@max_olson) September 2, 2023
Best dog: Juice Kiffin. He’s really developing into a difference-maker for Ole Miss.
🚨 PLAY OF THE GAME 🚨
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) September 2, 2023
Best intruder: More animals! The Penn State squirrel made the most of his primetime moment.
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) September 3, 2023
Best ride: This is the future of transportation.
What’s going on in Bozeman? 😂 pic.twitter.com/8Ut0jiAyjY
— Big Sky Conference (@BigSkyConf) September 3, 2023
(Photo: John Rivera / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)