The official opening weekend of college football featured a huge upset for the second year in a row, a near disaster for No. 10 Penn State and another crop of College GameDay’s best signs to date. The toast of the nation, though? You better believe it’s the Southeastern Conference.
The SEC as a whole knocked off two Top-10 teams and won 13 of 14 games. The SEC West emerged from this weekend as the only division in college football with every team undefeated, and only one team in the entire conference took a loss (Sorry, Tennessee).
Ahh, doesn’t it feel good to have college football back?
Fast starts and big numbers set the tone for another season, but there were a few players, coaches and teams that deserve our undivided attention for the show they put on Week 1.
There were a ton of studs, and even a few duds, that kicked off the 2018 SEC football season in style.
STUD: Keytaon Thompson, Mississippi State
Regular starting quarterback Nick Fitzgerald served a suspension for the Bulldogs opener, and if he wasn’t one of Mississippi State’s all-time quarterbacks, he’d be sweating his backup Keytaon Thompson.
The sophomore signal caller accounted for 473 total yards of offense — the fourth most in a game in Mississippi State history — and tied the school record with SEVEN touchdowns in one game in head coach Joe Moorhead’s debut.
The two players who Thompson tied for most touchdowns? Nick Fitzgerald and Dak Prescott.
Mississippi State cruised to a 63-6 win over Stephen F. Austin, and just like he did in last season’s TaxSlayer Bowl, Keytaon Thompson put the SEC on notice: The kid can flat-out ball.
DUD: Nick Saban’s Postgame
Alabama Crimson Tide head honcho Nick Saban watched his team hang 51 points on Bobby Petrino’s chatty Louisville team and hold the Cardinals to a measly 27 rushing yards.
After the game, Saban was asked a simple question about his two quarterbacks and their performances by ESPN reporter Maria Taylor, and he suddenly erupted into a tangent about negativity.
The question was fair, didn’t require any negative comment about how well Tua Tagovailoa started or how Jalen Hurts did later in the game, but Saban decided to get red in the face and attack Taylor.
Not a good look for Alabama’s head coach acting like the quarterback situation is a big secret, even though we all figured out that Tua Tagovailoa is his starting quarterback going forward.
STUD: Jaylon Jones, Ole Miss
Ole Miss may still be ineligible for a postseason bowl game in 2018, but their first test against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in NRG Stadium set the tone for a year to remember in Oxford.
Texas Tech had just tied the game 7-7 early in the first quarter. — it was the closest Texas Tech would be the entire game. On the ensuing kickoff, cornerback Jaylon Jones fielded his second kickoff of the season at his own six yard line. 94 yards later, Jones cruised across the goal line to give Ole Miss the lead right back.
The junior had appeared in every game for Ole Miss the last two seasons, and this moment might have been the highest of his career. Unfortunately, the game also featured one of the lowest moments, as well. Jones tore his ACL in the third quarter and will be sidelined for the season.
Head coach Matt Luke‘s Rebels rolled to a 47-27 win on opening weekend, but they’ll be moving forward without their Week 1 stud: Jaylon Jones.
DUD: Jeremy Pruitt’s Defense
New Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt is known for defense. He’s been the defensive coordinator at Florida State, Georgia and Alabama before being hired as the Volunteers’ 26th head coach in school history.
The Volunteers took the field in Charlotte, North Carolina as a 10-point underdog facing the No. 17 West Virginia Mountaineers, but I think they forgot their defensive game plan in Knoxville.
Heisman trophy candidate quarterback Will Grier absolutely torched Pruitt’s defense to the tune of 429 passing yards and five touchdowns. The game ended 40-14, and it was Tennessee’s first loss on opening weekend since 2008.
Pruitt is still putting the pieces together, but this Volunteers’ loss is an ugly, ugly way to start.
STUD: The Auburn Tigers
The game of the week in college football was No. 6 Washington taking on No. 9 Auburn in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a showdown between two teams with College Football Playoff aspirations and two of the top quarterbacks in the nation.
The game was dead even the entire way. Auburn edged out the time of possession battle 31-minutes to Washington’s 29. Auburn out-gained Washington in yardage on the day 420 to 398. Washington clung to a one-point, fourth-quarter lead until Auburn’s 10-play, 76-yard drive capped the win at 21-16.
Two of the greatest names in college football, Auburn’s Big Kat Bryant and Smoke Monday, sacked Jake Browning on back-to-back plays to end Washington’s late-game hopes and sent Auburn home a winner.
The Tigers made a statement, and they’ve got a huge resume booster for their run at a CFP berth this season.
DUD: Georgia’s Gamblers
The Bulldogs ROLLED Austin Peay 45-0 and it’s not a shocker here by any means. Kirby Smart’s team is fresh off a national title game and their first an SEC championship in a decade. What the Bulldogs couldn’t do, though, was cover the spread on opening weekend.
Georgia came into the game as a 46-point favorite to beat the Governors’ football team. It’s a massive margin, but all they needed was one point to push the spread and send Georgia gamblers home without a loss, too. The Bulldogs had a field day with everyone getting involved, but they just couldn’t put the icing on the cake near the end.
NCAA rules determine that a mutual agreement can shorten the fourth quarter to 10 minutes, which happened, and it cost everyone who bet on Georgia to cover the massive spread.
You can bet there’s at least one Austin Peay fan who bet on the Governors and came out of this one a BIG winner. Everyone else? They’ll take the dud and try again next week.