PFF’s college football Week 1 roundup
Breaking down the best and worst performances, along with the biggest surprise of the weekend.
PFF’s college football Week 1 roundup
Best team performance goes to the Texas A&M Aggies
Much like in 2014, Texas A&M has gotten the season off to a flyer. Last year it was a thumping victory over a favored South Carolina team, this time it’s with a dominant performance against a favored Arizona State team. Aggies fans will be hoping that it’s no false dawn this time around. The Aggies offense was good, not great, with a pair of big plays from true freshman WR Christian Kirk helping them to a healthy score line. However, the key to victory was the defense led by sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett, who looked every bit the player that earned a 96.3 pass-rush grade as a freshman.
No. 21 ranked Stanford falls to a surprising Northwestern ground attack
The Stanford Cardinal travelled to Evanston as the favorite against Northwestern. The Wildcats were a five-win team in 2014 and had struggled to move the ball through the air. This year they started redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson and could only manage 105 passing yards, yet they still won. Stanford simply couldn’t stop the Wildcats’ ground attack, as Thorson and RB Justin Jackson combined for 202 rushing yards on 36 carries. Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise — turnover has been high on the Cardinals defense, leaving an inexperienced front seven that couldn’t shut down the run, even though they knew it was coming. Even so, Stanford could still have emerged victorious had their own offense stepped up, but it didn’t. They were held to 240 total yards and six points.
Notre Dame’s Malik Zaire picks apart the Texas defense
There were a number of notable stat lines from this weekend, but that of Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire stands out because of the opposition. Texas may not be the Texas of old right now, but they had a good defense in 2014, ranking 13th in the nation with 186.3 passing yards allowed per game and conceding just 11 touchdowns through the air. While there are some new faces, the defense was still expected to be the strength of the team, but they couldn’t handle Zaire. Zaire threw for 313 yards, three touchdowns, and completed 86.4 percent of his passes at an average of 14.2 yards per attempt — gaudy numbers. Zaire showed potential in limited duty last season, but this performance suggests he is ready to deliver.
Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson struggles against Louisville
It was far from the only disappointing performance of the opening week, but Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson’s day stands out as it came in a winning effort. Highly touted ahead of the season, Johnson has been compared to former Tigers QB Cam Newton, which is a heavy burden to bear. Too heavy perhaps, as Johnson struggled against Louisville, completing just 52.4 percent of his passes and being picked off three times. We know he can do better — he excelled when filling in for QB Nick Marshall in the 2014 season opener against Arkansas, earning a +1.5 overall grade in just 37 snaps. Luckily for Auburn they could lean on a dominant defense and a strong running game to get through this one, giving Johnsonn time to work out the kinks in his game.
Biggest surprise: Hawaii takes down Colorado
With notable victories for FCS teams over FBS opponents to choose from, it may be strange to opt for Hawaii’s triumph over Colorado as the surprise of the week. Yet with fiscal pressure bearing down on them, the future of the Hawaii football program has been under threat, and the program seemingly heading in the wrong direction. With that backdrop, claiming a victory over a Power-5 team is a significant move. True, Colorado has been going through a barren spell, but several key returning players were expected to take a step forward in this third season under Mike MacIntyre. The key performer for the Rainbow Warriors was defensive end Luke Shawley (+5.4). Shawley grabbed two sacks on his way to a solid 9.8 pass rushing productivity score, and made five stops against the run for a 16.1 run stop percentage.