After Further Review: Ohio State, USC ease some concerns with Week 1 performances

There are so many games over the course of a college football weekend that some slip through the cracks and others require further examination the next day. Before we turn the page to Week 2, here’s a closer look at some of the most interesting outcomes of Week 1.

Ohio State 21, Notre Dame 10

Ohio State found a way to win in a style that was problematic for it last fall.

In 2021 losses to Oregon and Michigan, OSU was not tough enough along the lines of scrimmage to keep up over four quarters. The Buckeyes would wear down late and were overpowered by the opposing running games. But in Saturday night’s 21-10 win over Notre Dame, the Buckeyes thrived up front.

The defensive line was consistently able to disrupt the Notre Dame attack. Yes, the Irish are limited at skill positions, particularly on the outside, but they have a stellar offensive line and have excelled in the running game in recent years (2021 not as much). The fact that the Buckeyes limited them to just 76 yards rushing on 30 carries was a tremendous win for Jim Knowles’ defense in his debut as coordinator.

At the same time, what was expected to be an explosive passing offense had some issues — especially once star Jaxon Smith-Njigba exited with an injury. So what did head coach Ryan Day do? He pivoted to the running game and it thrived against a really good Notre Dame front seven.

To put the game away, OSU embarked on a 95-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock. That 14-play march, which featured only four C.J. Stroud pass attempts, culminated with a two-yard Miyan Williams touchdown run that put OSU up 21-10 with 4:51 remaining.

Williams teamed up with TreVeyon Henderson for 175 rushing yards on 29 carries. And only nine of those rush attempts came in the first half as the Buckeyes surprisingly fell behind 10-7 at halftime.

While Ohio State fans may feel a bit underwhelmed by the win on the whole, there’s still plenty to be encouraged about. If OSU can combine strong line play with the elite passing game we all expect to surface, the Buckeyes really have the chance to thrive.

USC 66, Rice 14

Lincoln Riley’s USC tenure got off to a quiet and successful start on Saturday.

Not too many people had the chance to watch USC take down Rice 66-14 as the game was on the Pac-12 Network. And if you didn’t tune into the game, the final score is a fair indication of what happened.

New QB Caleb Williams had just one more incompletion than he did touchdown passes. Williams was 19-of-22 passing for 249 yards and threw two scores while also rushing six times for 68 yards. After USC scored four TDs in the third quarter, Williams was able to give way to backup Miller Moss in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Caleb Williams had a strong debut with USC, leading the Trojans to a blowout win over Rice on Saturday in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)
Quarterback Caleb Williams had a strong debut with USC, leading the Trojans to a blowout win over Rice on Saturday in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Former Pitt receiver Jordan Addison also made a splash. He had five catches for 54 yards and caught both of Williams’ TD passes. The Trojans also rushed for over seven yards a carry as Riley spread the ball around. No player had more than six carries as USC ran 28 times for 208 yards and four TDs.

And while the offense had a very good day, the Trojans’ large margin of victory was powered by defensive touchdowns. USC picked off Rice four different times and three of those picks were returned for touchdowns. Calen Bullock scored on a 93-yard pick-six in the second quarter and Shane Lee and Ralen Goforth had back-to-back pick-sixes in the third quarter. Lee, a former Alabama linebacker, scored on a 40-yard pick-six to open the second half. Three plays later, Goforth returned an interception 31 yards for a TD and a 45-14 lead.

Things somehow got worse for Rice after Goforth’s pick-six. TJ McMahon was picked off by Xamarion Gordon four plays after Goforth’s interception and USC scored shortly after that too.

Rice did have some success moving the ball before the interception flurry in the third quarter, however. The Owls scored on their first drive of the game and had gotten to the USC 12 before Bullock picked off Wiley Green. Rice had 218 yards of offense in the first half before only accruing 52 yards in the second half.

Things get tougher for USC in Week 2 on a much bigger stage. The Trojans head to Stanford in the 7:30 p.m. ET ABC game of the week. USC opens as a 9.5-point favorite over the Cardinal, though it likely won’t have a 31-14 lead at halftime this week if it allows the Cardinal to gain over 200 yards of offense in the first half.

Michigan 51, Colorado State 7

The quarterback competition at Michigan has garnered a lot of attention not only for the players involved but for the way Jim Harbaugh is handling it. Before the season, Harbaugh announced that Cade McNamara would start the opener before J.J. McCarthy gets the nod in Week 2. From there, a starter will apparently rise to the surface for the coaches.

In Week 1, McNamara didn’t do himself a whole lot of favors in the ongoing battle.

McNamara, the incumbent starter who led the Wolverines to a Big Ten title last year, had an up-and-down day on Saturday against Colorado State. He completed just 9-of-18 passes for 136 yards with 61 of those yards coming on a swing pass to Roman Wilson that he took to the house.

When McNamara was in the game, the Michigan offense routinely stalled in the red zone. The Wolverines settled for field goals from inside the CSU 20-yard line three different times in the first half. McNamara was inaccurate and sometimes looked jittery in the pocket.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, right, might have a tough decision to make at quarterback after Cade McNamara's up-and-down performance on Saturday. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, right, might have a tough decision to make at quarterback after Cade McNamara's up-and-down performance on Saturday. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

McCarthy was worked into games mainly as a runner last season, and he put those legs to work again on Saturday. He checked into the game midway through the third and reeled off an impressive 20-yard touchdown run.

He had another nice run later in the third and would end up going 4-for-4 for 30 yards in the passing game, including a crisp third-down throw from the far hash for a first-down conversion.

McNamara has more experience, but McCarthy’s upside and dynamism is clear. Don’t be surprised if he grabs hold of the starting job next weekend vs. Hawaii and does not relinquish it.

Texas 52, Louisiana-Monroe 10

Texas did exactly what it needed to do ahead of the biggest Week 2 game in college football.

The Longhorns beat Louisiana-Monroe 52-10 to open the season as Quinn Ewers threw his first two TD passes as a Longhorn. The former Texas high school football star was an efficient 16-of-24 passing for 225 yards and two TDs, while Heisman contender running back Bijan Robinson had 10 carries for 71 yards and a score.

Texas was up 24-3 at halftime over the Warhawks and put the game away in the third quarter. The easy win meant coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t have to show too much of his playbook ahead of his old employer’s visit to Austin.

The defense was pretty good, too. Texas held ULM to just two yards per carry and the Warhawks didn’t score a touchdown until the game was out of reach in the fourth quarter. ULM’s longest drive of the game through the first three quarters was a 10-play, 34-yard drive that resulted in a field goal in the first quarter.

It feels safe to say that Texas won’t be able to hold the Alabama offense in check like that as pregame shows descend upon Austin. Both ESPN’s “College GameDay” and Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” will be on-site ahead of the Noon ET game on Fox. Alabama enters the game off a 55-0 win over Utah State to open the season as reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young threw for five TDs and had the first 100-yard rushing game of his career.

If Ewers can build on his Week 1 performance and go toe-to-toe with Young, his Heisman candidacy will start to take off. Thanks to his status as Texas’ starting QB, Ewers opened the season as one of the top five favorites for the award at BetMGM. While Ewers’ preseason odds might have been a tad inflated, they could get even shorter with a great game against the defending SEC champions.

Arizona 38, San Diego State 20

Arizona won one game combined in 2020 and 2021, so its season-opening win over San Diego State had to feel good. SDSU is a perennial contender in the Mountain West, but the Wildcats spoiled the grand opening of SDSU’s new stadium.

It was a really impressive performance, too. Jedd Fisch, now in his second season as head coach, made good use of his transfers on offense. Jayden de Laura, the ex-Washington State quarterback, got most of the headlines in Tucson this offseason but Jacob Cowing was the star of the day.

Cowing, a transfer receiver from UTEP, caught eight passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns. He made the SDSU defense, normally one of the nation’s best, look silly all afternoon.

The Wildcats showed some spunk down the stretch last season but were super limited at quarterback. With de Laura in the fold, don’t be surprised if the Wildcats are one of the most-improved teams in the country this season.

Extra points

  • Mississippi State 49, Memphis 23: Mike Leach didn’t forget about MSU’s controversial loss to Memphis last year. Even after a lengthy lightning delay, the Bulldogs had the pedal to the metal all the way to the finish. Will Rogers threw for 450 yards and five touchdowns in the win, including a 23-yarder with just 2:05 left in regulation. The Bulldogs are a veteran team and Rogers is in his third year in Leach’s system. They’re flying under the radar, but MSU can make some noise in the SEC this year.

  • Syracuse 31, Louisville 7: This was a flat out ugly performance from Scott Satterfield and Louisville, but it was a positive development for Syracuse’s Dino Babers. Babers’ hire of Robert Anae from Virginia went under the radar nationally, but it could prove to be one of the best assistant hires of the season. Anae put QB Garrett Shrader in position to succeed in the passing game, not just as a battering ram in the running game. Shrader threw for 236 yards, rushed for 94 yards and had three total TDs in the win. Meanwhile, star RB Sean Tucker rushed for 100 yards and a score to go with 84 yards and a TD as a receiver.

  • Oregon State 34, Boise State 17: Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier has been the Broncos’ starter for the past four seasons. To open his senior season, however, he was benched after throwing two ugly interceptions and losing a fumble. By that point, Oregon State was up 17-0 and redshirt freshman Taylen Green ended up playing the rest of the game. It’s a situation to monitor in the Mountain West. The Broncos have been the conference’s top program for years, but the Andy Avalos era is off to a rocky start — seven wins, six losses.

  • Delaware 14, Navy 7: If you’re beginning to wonder what’s going on at Navy, you’re not the only one. The Midshipmen went a combined 7-15 in 2020 and 2021 and then opened the 2022 season by losing 14-7 to Delaware, an FCS program. Could this be the beginning of the end of the Ken Niumatalolo era?