Week 1 of the college football season technically started a week ago, but Saturday marked the first full day of action across the country. With regional rivalries producing some of the best outcomes of the weekend, the full-fledged debut marked a refreshing change from a lengthy offseason full of off-field headlines.
Old Dominion shocked Virginia Tech 20-17 in Brent Pry's debut on Friday night. Then, in a Saturday matchup dubbed as the biggest home game in its history, Appalachian State gave North Carolina everything it could handle before falling 63-61 on a failed 2-point conversion. UTSA's 2-point conversion also failed in a 37-35 triple-overtime loss to No. 24 Houston in front of a packed house, just days after Cougars coach Dana Holgorsen accused the Roadrunners of pumping crowd noise into the Alamodome. Finally, East Carolina missed an extra point and a field goal to lose a 21-20 heartbreaker to No. 13 NC State.
Of course, there was plenty of big-time national action to go around, too. No. 2 Ohio State survived No. 5 Notre Dame 21-10 in a heavyweight prize fight. Florida upset No. 7 Utah 29-26 behind a late touchdown from quarterback Anthony Richardson. And No. 3 Georgia leveled No. 11 Oregon in Atlanta 49-3.
The soaring highs and deathly lows of college football were on full display during an opening weekend that featured the nastiest regional rivalries in the country taking center stage. After another offseason of realignment and playoff chatter in the headlines, Week 1 was a perfect palate cleanser.
Here are the winners, losers and overreactions from Week 1 of the college football season.
Georgia: Rumors of Georgia's demise have been greatly exaggerated, it seems. Despite losing an astonishing 15 players to the NFL Draft, the Bulldogs didn't miss a step in dispatching Oregon. Georgia became just the second team in college football history to score a touchdown on its first seven drives against an AP Top 25 squad. Quarterback Stetson Bennett IV had a career-best 368 passing yards, while 15 different defenders had multiple tackles. The Bulldogs war machine remains fully operational.
Arizona wide receiver Jacob Cowing Maybe the most underrated offensive player in the country last year after posting 1,354 yards receiving and carrying a moribund UTEP program to bowl eligibility, Cowing appears ready to do the same for the Wildcats one year later. The Maricopa, Arizona, native caught eight passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns in his first game as a Wildcat to lead a 38-20 victory over San Diego State. It was the first road victory for Arizona since Oct. 5, 2019, against Colorado.
Florida coach Billy Napier: There aren't many better ways to start a coaching tenure than picking up a victory against a top-10 opponent. The Gators hit all the right notes en route to an upset of No. 7 Utah thanks to a dominant rushing performance from quarterback Anthony Richardson. Suddenly, Florida doesn't look like an afterthought in the SEC East race. The rivalry game with Georgia on Oct. 29 should be circled. Napier became the first coach in Gators history to beat a ranked opponent in his first game with the program.
NC State QB Devin Leary: Expectations were high for Leary as the Wolfpack entered the year with their highest preseason ranking since Lou Holtz led the program in 1975. However, Leary's effort against East Carolina leaves me concerned that a new room of offensive players won't be easy fits in Raleigh. Leary completed barely half of his 33 passes for 211 yards and 6.4 yards per pass attempt. He threw a bad interception that ECU later converted into a touchdown that should have tied the game if not for a missed extra point. If the Wolfpack are to be true ACC contenders, Leary has to be much better to complement an experienced defense.
Texas A&M's offensive line: The Aggies went through growing pains up front on offense last season, but there was hope the unit could find its groove in 2022 as part of a team with playoff aspirations. Despite beating Sam Houston 31-0, however, the Aggies offense posted only 3.4 yards per carry and allowed several pressures. With Appalachian State and No. 16 Miami coming to town in the next couple of weeks, the effort has to get better.
Week 1 Overreactions
Ohio State's offense has cracks: Heading into Week 1, there were three teams with outsized expectations to win the national championship: Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State. The aforementioned Bulldogs put together one of the most impressive victories over a ranked opponent in recent memory, and Alabama played a perfect football game against Utah State.
And then there was Ohio State, which needed a handful of miraculous plays from quarterback C.J. Stroud down the stretch to create any offense against Notre Dame. Granted, the Buckeyes had the toughest matchup of the weekend, but they looked eminently mortal following the injury to star wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Notre Dame's defense dictated the game for much of the night.
There's a chance Ohio State can grow out of these struggles, especially as Jim Knowles' defense gets more comfortable. However, any notion that Ohio State is a flawless title contender in the vein of Alabama or Georgia looks wishful so far.
Pac-12 is cooked: Last season, UCLA picked up a massive helmet-sticker victory over LSU in the Rose Bowl. The Tigers ended up being awful, but it didn't matter; beating LSU launched the Bruins to No. 13 in the national rankings and helped bring credibility to the Pac-12 as a whole.
One year later, Cameron Rising's ill-advised interception in a loss to Florida is poised to do exactly the opposite. The Utes were selected at the top of the Pac-12 preseason polls and considered the favorite from the league to make the College Football Playoff. However, losing to the Gators once again puts a leading Pac-12 team behind the 8-ball when it comes to the playoff picture. One win or loss doesn't make a season, but the benefit of the doubt simply isn't there for the "Conference of Champions."
That loss, mixed with the Ducks' embarrassment in Atlanta, leaves No. 14 USC as the only unblemished Pac-12 playoff contender. Good luck.
Rivalries remain king: There was no better setting to kick off Week 1 than the banks of the Ohio River as the Backyard Brawl emerged from the ashes after an 11-year absence. In every way, No. 17 Pitt's come-from-behind victory over West Virginia was the perfect table-setter for college football's full 2022 debut.
More than 70,000 people attended the game at Acrisure Stadium – still Heinz Field in our hearts – the biggest crowd in Pittsburgh sports history ... and that's quite a sports city. Legendary players like Pitt's Tony Dorsett and West Virginia's Adam "Pacman" Jones graced the sidelines. The dang stadium ran out of beer as bitter enemies of city and country, separated by just 75 miles, converged.
Most importantly, the game ended in the wackiest way possible with Pitt's M.J. Devonshire snatching a ball that bounced off West Virginia's Bryce Ford-Wheaton's hands and returned it 56 yards for a pick six. The moment was as gratifying for the victors as it was horrifying for the losers.