College football's biggest Week 1 overreactions: Buy Notre Dame as legit Playoff contender

Sporting News
Sporting News tries to make sense of the biggest trends from college football's first full Saturday.
Sporting News tries to make sense of the biggest trends from college football's first full Saturday.

The first full Saturday of the college football season is in the books, and that means the first round of overreactions is on the table.

We're still 13 weeks away from the release of the College Football Playoff pairings, but that won't stop us from sorting out what's fact and fiction from the top trends from the opening weekend.

Here's what's being talked about most now, and whether we're buying or selling.

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MORE: Week 1 highlights

Tua vs. Trevor for the title!

Buy. Tua Tagovailoa took control of the Alabama quarterback battle with an efficient performance in a 51-14 victory against Louisville. He finished 12 of 16 passing with 227 yards and two touchdowns and added another score on the ground. Clemson's Trevor Lawrence finished 9 of 15 for 137 yards and three touchdowns, and the Tigers scored on all five of his drives in a 48-7 victory against Furman. Jalen Hurts and Kelly Bryant will always be in the picture at these respective schools, but when Clemson-Alabama IV takes place in the College Football Playoff — whether it's in the semifinals or championship game — Tagovailoa and Lawrence will decide the outcome.

Fire Harbaugh!

Sell. Michigan lost yet another rivalry game under fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh, and faces an uphill battle to get in the College Football Playoff mix, given its schedule in the Big Ten. You can recite whatever record fits the tweet — 1-6 in rivalry games and 8-8 since the loss to Ohio State in 2016 are the most frequent submissions — but Harbaugh isn't going anywhere. Still, the struggles on the road and in big-time games will need to turn at some point. If not, the expectations at Michigan need to be lowered. We would use Iowa as a reference point, but the Hawkeyes have actually been to a Big Ten championship game.

Chip Kelly is overrated!

Sell. Speaking of former San Francisco 49ers coaches, Kelly's return to college football did not go well. The Bruins, led by former Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight and former Michigan recruit Dorian Thompson-Robinson, lost 26-17 to Cincinnati and former Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell. The Bruins outgained the Bearcats 306-304, but it's a clear indication this overhaul will require patience. It won't get any easier at No. 7 Oklahoma in Week 2.

MORE: Haskins passes every test

Haskins for Heisman!

Buy. Kelly's former assistant Ryan Day enjoyed a fantastic debut as acting coach for Ohio State — with the help of Dwayne Haskins, who finished with 313 passing yards and five touchdowns in a 77-31 blowout against Oregon State. Urban Meyer's three-game suspension was largely forgotten throughout a four-hour game in which the Buckeyes scored touchdowns on Haskins' first five drives. Ohio State racked up 721 yards of total offense.

Fire Herman!

Sell. Not a good week for the second-year Texas coach. Tom Herman was named in the Ohio State investigation as one of the coaches who attended a strip club with Zach Smith, which isn't anywhere near Longhorns' fans minds right now. Texas lost 34-29 at Maryland, the Horns' second loss to the Terps in as many years. Texas was 3 of 15 on third down and had 10 penalties for 102 yards. That's not the building block that was expected in Austin. Patience will be thin if Texas doesn't show progress in Big 12 play.

OU-WVU for the Big 12!

Buy. We're not ruling out TCU, but that Black Friday showdown in Morgantown between the Sooners and Mountaineers could be the first of a two-part battle between the schools. Kyler Murray finished 9 of 11 passing for 209 yards and two touchdowns in a 63-14 beatdown of Lane Kiffin-led Florida Atlantic. Will Grier passed for 429 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-14 victory against Tennessee in Charlotte. Oklahoma-West Virginia will be amazing no matter how many times they play in November, that much is for sure.

MORE: Oklahoma is still the class of the Big 12

The entire Pac-12 is done!

Sell. Washington lost to Auburn 21-16, but it was hardly a neutral-site game. If there's such thing as a quality loss, the Huskies have one. It doesn't wash away the Pac-12's poor postseason record from 2017 when it comes to perception, but Washington could win out and make the Playoff. Stanford, Oregon and USC won their openers and could contend. Teams might get eliminated in Week 1, but conferences don't. In this case, Washington is still alive, even if the path won't be easy.

No Heisman for Bryce Love!

Buy. Love's Heisman Trophy candidacy took a big hit after he struggled to 29 yards on 18 carries in a 31-10 victory against San Diego State. Love will get more opportunities to pad his stats, and Stanford will be in the Pac-12 championship hunt. But the Heisman Trophy is a statistical award that doesn't favor running backs unless they are wearing an Alabama uniform. Can you name the last running back to win the award who didn't play for Alabama and didn't have the award vacated? You have to go all the way back to Wisconsin's Ron Dayne in 1999.

MORE: Best photos of Week 1

UCF is a Playoff team!

Sell — but it's not UCF's fault. The Knights looked like a heavyweight with the way they dispatched of UConn 56-17 on Thursday night. First-year coach Josh Heupel clearly has a good influence on Heisman Trophy dark horse McKenzie Milton, who passed for 346 yards and five touchdowns and added 50 yards rushing. UCF has nonconference games against North Carolina, Pittsburgh and FAU in September. That might not be enough to impress the College Football Playoff committee, but then again the best thing to do is to keep adding to the nation's longest win streak, which stands at 14 games.

Notre Dame to the Playoff!

Buy. That said, we'll sign the same waiver we do at this time every year. The Irish can't lose more than one game and make the four-team Playoff, but they have a strength of schedule that could make an appearance possible. Brandon Wimbush's development is notable, the front seven is better and the schedule is set up for September success leading up to the Sept. 29 matchup with Stanford. If Wimbush is that consistent in true road games, then Notre Dame will have a chance.

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