Who wouldn’t have doubted this Colorado team. All the hoopla and hype in the world couldn’t erase the utter catastrophe of 2022, when the Buffaloes were 1-11 with seven losses by at least 30 points.
Of course we lectured. Deion Sanders essentially upended every lofty, moral (and, yes, utterly ridiculous) notion of genuine amateurism by effectively cutting two-thirds of his team upon arrival. If Coach Prime had a constant megaphone to tout his new approach to roster building, we could at least use our soapbox to argue against it.
Oh, yes, we learned so much on Saturday, and we came away looking like fools after Colorado beat TCU, last year’s national runner-up, 45-42 in Sanders’ first game as head coach.
For months, the great college football punditry laughed off Prime’s rollicking hype machine, knowing that, once the games began, a hard truth would be revealed. Instead, Colorado pulled back the curtain on an offense that was nothing short of miraculous, a college football reveal that was something akin to Michael Jackson‘s moonwalk, JR getting shot on “Dallas” and UConn making a bowl game all wrapped together.
If aliens had landed at midfield wearing cowboy hats, it wouldn’t have been any more shocking.
Sanders’ son, Shedeur, threw for 510 yards and four touchdowns.
Four different Colorado receivers hauled in 100 yards worth of catches.
Travis Hunter was a superstar playing both receiver and corner and probably drove the team bus, too.
In a time when every new action movie, tech invention or Netflix college football documentary is hyped endlessly only to fizzle out into mediocrity, Deion Sanders and his Buffaloes delivered something truly remarkable on Saturday.
Sure, this wasn’t last year’s TCU. That team was like the guitar solo in “Free Bird,” chaotic, rollicking, lasting far longer than it had any right to, but never truly earning the respect of the cultured class of critics. But those Frogs had a host of NFL-caliber players. This year’s team — well, it’s a little like seeing Skynyrd today. There’s no one from the original band left.
So yes, TCU’s defense was a mess and couldn’t get off the field despite having Colorado backed up repeatedly in the second half. But can that really explain 565 yards of Buffaloes offense?
And it’s true, the Colorado defense had its own issues. TCU rushed for 262 yards in the game, including three touchdowns from the one Sanders — Trey Sanders — who wasn’t playing for Coach Prime, but when the Buffs absolutely needed a stop in the final two minutes of action, they stuffed the Frogs at the line on back-to-back plays, setting up a turnover on downs that effectively sealed the game.
Nitpick all you want. This was a genuinely epic performance by Colorado, one that assures the Buffs bandwagon will be replaced with a 1979 Trans Am with a big, gold Ralphie painted on the hood.
Oh, we could try to tamp down the now outsized expectations, because this was, after all, just one game. But to do that is to miss the point. In a sport that routinely churns out the same great teams year after year, this was a genuine surprise. In a week with relatively few marquee matchups, Colorado and TCU delivered the highest of drama, a game with seven lead changes and constant fireworks. And after an offseason marred by endlessly frustrating intrusions of business and economics into college football, Coach Prime gave us something we so desperately needed: Fun.
So keep doubting if you must. We’re done with all that. We’re buying whatever Deion is selling.
After Saturday’s win, he suggested Colorado has “a couple of Heisman” contenders. Hey, why stop there? Maybe three or four.
There’s film on Colorado now, so the next game should only get tougher. Oh, but Colorado gets Nebraska? Buffs by a million.
The future of college football will be written by Sanders, his sons, Hunter and a host of other sudden superstars who followed their coach out to Boulder?
Bring it on. If every week looks even close to this one, the future can’t come soon enough.
Michigan played its first of three games without head coach Jim Harbaugh, who is serving a self-imposed suspension, and his players let it be known they didn’t agree with it.
Michigan players put up 4 fingers before their play as a tribute to coach Jim Harbaugh, who is suspended and not at the game.
— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 2, 2023
On the first offensive possession of the game, the players lined up in his infamous train formation and held up four fingers — Harbaugh’s jersey number as a player. J.J. McCarthy even donned a “Free Harbaugh” shirt before and after the game (despite the far more emphatic message that would’ve been sent by simply playing the game wearing a pair of Dockers khakis), then told reporters after the win that he was eager to support his coach.
But while Harbaugh was secluded from the action and (we assume) either calling recruits or researching crop circles on YouTube, his team thumped East Carolina 30-3 behind three passing TDs from McCarthy.
With UNLV and Bowling Green on the docket before Harbaugh returns to the sideline, there’s a good chance Michigan would start 3-0 even with a Magic 8 Ball calling plays, but the high profile show of support certainly keeps the suspension — and the long saga with the NCAA that preceded it — front and center.
No Hendon Hooker, no problem for Tennessee.
Joe Milton III opened the 2023 season proving last year’s late-season highlights weren’t a fluke, as Tennessee dominated Virginia 49-13.
The box score says Milton threw for just 201 yards, but we’re going to assume that’s only because he actually threw the ball so far so often that the yardage counter hit its max and circled back to zero at some point early in the third quarter.
Tennessee’s ground game offered ample support, accounting for 287 yards and five touchdowns, too.
Since Hooker went down with a season-ending injury in the Vols’ shocking loss to South Carolina last November, Tennessee’s offense has put up 56, 31 and 49 points.
Thursday was supposed to represent the start of a new, better era at Nebraska. Instead, it was more like a lot like subsequent chapters in the John Wick series — bloody, brutal and essentially just a continuation of the previous films.
Daniel Jackson‘s gorgeous 13-yard touchdown grab erased a late Cornhuskers lead, and Jeff Sims‘ third interception of the game handed Minnesota a short field for a game-winning field goal and, for the 26th time since the start of the 2018 season, Nebraska lost a one-possession game.
For the record, that’s seven more one-possession losses than any other team in the country over the same span.
For the record, Nebraska’s .212 winning percentage in one-possession games since 2018 is also by far the worst in the nation.
For the record, Matt Rhule had one of the worst one-possession records in the NFL during his stint with the Carolina Panthers, so perhaps none of Week 1’s loss should come as a surprise.
But fear not, Nebraska fans. No matter how cursed the team appears to be, we fundamentally believe in the law of averages, that eventually everyone regresses to the mean, and over a long enough timeline, even the Huskers’ close-game luck has to even out.
So, see your glass as, well, 21% full, and know that, buried deep below the 19-38 record Nebraska has posted over the past five-plus seasons, there’s an entirely mediocre program just destined for a date with the Quick Lane Bowl.
Changes in latitudes
For the first time since 1991, Florida left its own state for a non-conference game, and it did not go well.
Utah was without its star QB and a host of other key players, and yet the Utes had no trouble demolishing Florida 24-11 on Thursday.
It was a reminder that Kyle Whittingham is arguably the most under-appreciated head coach in the country.
It was also a reminder that Billy Napier inherited a huge job at Florida.
Over the Gators’ past 30 games, they’re just 12-18. Worse, a quarter of those wins came by just a field goal, two more came vs. FCS teams, and two others came vs. a USF program that is 4-29 over the past three seasons. Indeed, Florida has lost 17 of its last 24 games vs. Power 5 opponents — in line with the production of Missouri, Cal and Syracuse over the same span.
Under-the-radar game of the week
There was a time in the mid-1990s when our country was flush with cultural doppelgängers, from the 1996 Canadian Football League season that featured both the Ottawa and Saskatchewan Rough Riders to the 1997 hit songs by The Verve and The Verve Pipe to 1998’s release of “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” in the same summer.
But if those glory days of hilarious glitches in the matrix are long over, Friday gave us another confusing plot overlap for the ages when Miami (the Ohio one) faced off against Miami (the Florida one).
The matchup came with its share of smack talk, as Miami (Ohio)’s QB, Brett Gabbert, announced the “real Miami” was in Oxford, Ohio — an assertion that must’ve shaken Pitbull to his core.
But it turned out Miami (Florida)’s players weren’t worried about geography lessons, and instead inflict a physical pounding against that other Miami.
Final score: Miami 38, Miami 3.
Miami couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season. Meanwhile, Miami will be left to lick its wounds on the sandy shores of Miami… or maybe amid the leafy trees of another cool, colorful fall in Miami.
Under-the-radar play of the week
There wasn’t much drama in Oklahoma‘s opener, with the Sooners stomping Arkansas State 73-0, but the blowout didn’t mean Jayden Gibson was taking any plays off. The Sooners receiver used the defender to keep the ball alive and hauled in a 21-yard touchdown before tumbling out of bounds.
Jayden Gibson makes an unbelievable catch for an Oklahoma TD
Jayden Gibson somehow comes away an unbelievable touchdown reception to pad the Sooners’ lead.
There are about a half-dozen amazing parts to the play, but our favorite is the reaction from defensive back Leon Jones, who made an exceptional play on the ball, but offered up the most half-hearted wave off after the grab possible. Come on, Jones. You’ve got to sell it to the ref!