When the clock struck zero at the end of Clemson’s 41-10 win over Georgia Tech Monday night in Atlanta, the first full week of the 2022 college football season officially came to an end.
It lasted five days in total and did not disappoint, with rivalry games renewed — Hello, Backyard Brawl — ridiculously dominant showings, and some absurd thrillers along the way.
In other words, college football is really back, at long last.
Here are six takeaways from the latest weekend of college football.
How good is Utah? Florida? No one really knows yet
Utah and Florida played arguably the best game of the entire weekend Saturday night, a competitive back-and-forth thriller that came down to the last six seconds.
Days later, the game was still trending on social media and if not for the absurdity that was Florida State-LSU Sunday night, national discourse about the Utes and Gators might have carried into this week.
Utah, of course, suffered a disappointing defeat against a then-unranked opponent, but at this point in the season no one really knows how good anyone is.
Preseason rankings are fun and all, but what kind of teams Utah and Florida end up being won’t be determined at least until October, if not later in the year.
And nothing is ruined for Utah, even with the loss. Future College Football Playoff participants have lost plenty of early season games over the years — Ohio State to an unranked Virginia Tech and Clemson to unranked Syracuse come to mind — and then rebounded to not only make the playoff but win national championships.
Plus, a repeat Pac-12 title remains a very real possibility for the Utes, especially after Oregon was exposed by Georgia.
Could the loss to Florida end up hurting Utah? It could, given Florida’s schedule and lack of depth after a rash of transfers in the offseason. The Gators could also aid the Utes’ cause by surprising the country and having a bounce back season.
BYU did what it was supposed to do
At this point the Kalani Sitake era has to be considered a pretty rousing success for BYU, given the back-to-back 10-plus win seasons, plus an invite to the Big 12.
One thing the Cougars have struggled with during their recent run of success, though, has been handling inferior opponents with ease.
Look no further than BYU’s game against USF a season ago, when the Bulls were one of the worst teams in the country and the Cougars let them hang around and even threaten to pull off the upset.
There has been context behind those struggles, be it injuries or BYU attempting to build depth, but nonetheless, the Cougars haven’t always handled their business the way great teams are expected to.
BYU did just that Saturday, though, pummeling USF from beginning to end.
In a lot of ways, the Cougars simply out-talented and out-athleted the Bulls — another good sign — and by all accounts look like they should be competitive with just about every team they will face this season.
Will it be another 10-win season for the Cougars? Obviously that is a wait and see thing, but with the win over USF, BYU looks the part.
Utah State doesn’t actually need access to MIB’s neuralyzer
A simple glance at the score of Utah State’s game at No. 1 Alabama is sure to be nightmare-inducing for Aggie fans. Fifty-five to zero isn’t something to be proud of.
The reality is, though, that the Crimson Tide were simply on another level and it was easy to see.
Alabama had better athletes, at nearly every position, and even when Utah State ran its schemes to perfection, the Crimson Tide usually got the better of the Aggies.
If you looked hard enough, there were good things to be found in Utah State’s showing. The Aggies’ offensive line didn’t surrender a single sack against Alabama’s vaunted defensive front, for one.
Most would suggest Utah State move on and simply forget the loss to Alabama — dismal as it was — and they surely will, but Utah State left Tuscaloosa without any significant injuries, nearly emptied its bench, getting valuable experience along the way, and is now $1.92 million richer.
Given Utah State athletics’ need for games such as the one played against Alabama — for some added context, fellow Group of Five program Kent State is playing three “money games” this year, against Washington, Oklahoma and Georgia — it could have gone much, much worse.
Alabama, Georgia and then everyone else
Speaking of Alabama, the Crimson Tide sure looked the part of top-ranked team in the country.
Alabama — quarterback Bryce Young especially — toyed with Utah State at times, and 55-0 is extremely impressive, even with the talent gap that exists between Alabama and Utah State.
Georgia, too, was overly impressive over the weekend, arguably more so than Alabama, given its 49-3 beatdown of now No. 24 Oregon.
It wasn’t actually a neutral site game — even though the game wasn’t played on Georgia’s campus — but nonetheless the Bulldogs appear to have not missed a beat from last year, despite losing 15 NFL draft picks from the 2021 title winning team.
Right now, and it obviously is quite early in the season, Alabama and Georgia appear to be in a league of their own, with teams like Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan and Texas A&M occupying positions in a lower tier.
That can, and likely will change, as the season continues, but right now it is Alabama and Georgia’s world.
Good and bad for the Pac-12
Week 1 wasn’t a great one for the Pac-12, given Oregon’s loss to Georgia and Utah’s setback against Florida.
With those two games, the Pac-12 took a step back in the race for a spot in the College Football Playoff, and the conference needs to find a way to break into the CFP, given it has been five years since Washington was in the final four in 2017.
It wouldn’t hurt if the Pac-12 team that broke through wasn’t USC or UCLA either, though the Trojans now represent the conference’s best hope.
It wasn’t all bad, though.
Arizona surprised with a convincing win over Mountain West power San Diego State, while Oregon State did something similar to Boise State.
In recent years those would have been MW victories, rather than Pac-12.
In all, the Pac-12 went 8-3 in Week 1, not the best mark by a conference, but not bad either.
Please let there be a LSU-FSU-esque game every weekend
Perhaps the most entertaining game of Week 1, in terms of sheer excitement, was the Sunday night matchup between LSU and Florida State.
Neither team is expected to be great this season — LSU is in its first year under Brian Kelly while FSU is in the middle of a continuing rebuild under Mike Norvell — but that didn’t prevent them from putting on a highly entertaining prime time game.
LSU ultimately lost on a blocked extra point with no time remaining on the clock, after somehow driving the ball 99 yards down the field in less than a minute and a half.
It was, in a word, enthralling, even if the quality of football being played left something to be desired.
There is an expectation that under Kelly LSU will once again contend for national championships, but the Tigers looked little like a contender Sunday night.
FSU, meanwhile, is now 2-0 and perhaps finally making positive strides under Norvell.
Is college football better when LSU and FSU are good? That is debatable, but the Tigers and Seminoles were captivating this week.