PFF’s college football Week 1 roundup

Breaking down the best and worst performances, along with the biggest surprise of the weekend.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/George Bridges)

(AP Photo/George Bridges)

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.



| Analyst

Kevin has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, with a particular focus on college football.

  • Cris Collinsworth

    I was in South Bend to see Malik Zaire on Saturday. That is his third straight strong performance, he also played well in a late role during the LSU bowl win and the USC blowout last year. Malik’s release was quick and so was his ability to read defenses. His quickness allowed him to escape pressure on several occasions, once from a free blitzer. He never for a moment looked nervous, and simply could not have looked better.

    Perhaps the story that has not been talked about enough was the play of Notre Dame’s defense. The corners allowed one play all night, pass rush was consistent, linebacker play was excellent, and safeties made big tackles. Tests await, but a very impressive start.

    • Zach

      To be fair Texas is a mess on offense, shutting us down isn’t that much of an accomplishment. But on offense both Zaire and the o-line were very impressive against what I think will be a pretty good Texas defense.