Despite all the confusion and concern surrounding college football this season, week one took place (not really) as planned. Spanning from Thursday to Monday, nine games took place, and fans got their first exposure to some long-awaited Division I football. There were no Power-Five teams on the field this weekend, but Group of Five teams such as Memphis, Southern Methodist University (SMU), and Brigham Young University (BYU) played.
A few teams dominated, and a few teams struggled. Some draft-eligible prospects showed potential with a solid season opener, while others underperformed based on their current draft outlook. Many of the games were blowouts, which are not as fun to watch, but college football is college football. Every Tuesday morning, I will be posting an overview of the week of college football. So, without further ado, here are five notes I took away from week one performances.
Marshall’s Freshman QB Impresses in Debut
In the first game on Saturday, Grant Wells caught the eyes of college football fans across the nation with an incredible debut performance. The true freshman completed sixteen of 23 pass attempts for 307 yards and four touchdowns. Right from the start, Wells was firing on all cylinders, hitting everything from posts in the flat to deep balls down the sideline.
Although Eastern Kentucky was a pretty lackluster opponent, Wells deserves credit for a fantastic week one performance. With ESPN coverage, Wells may very well have cemented his name into the minds of analysts and scouts. The true freshman will encounter a significant challenge in Appalachian State in week three but looks well up to the task.
SMU Underwhelms on the Road vs. Texas State
The Mustangs were a 24-point favorite heading into Saturday’s contest against Texas State. Anyone who took the favorite must have been scratching their heads from the get-go, as SMU came out slow and inefficient. Sure, they picked it up in the second and third quarters, but this should not have been a close game. SMU was seventeen points from covering the spread, which is somewhat concerning considering their opponent.
Shane Buechele threw for 367 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. TJ McDaniel ran well, logging 130 rushing yards and Rashee Rice and Reggie Roberson Jr. combined for 200 total receiving yards. Still, SMU’s offense was nowhere near perfect, and the defense struggled. The Bobcats accumulated more rushing yards than the Mustangs and were more efficient on fourth down, converting two of three attempts. SMU has some work to do before squaring off with their AAC rivals in the coming weeks.
Memphis Offense will be Fine Without Gainwell
Kenneth Gainwell’s decision to opt-out of the 2020 college football season garnered mixed feelings. With no established running back, Memphis’ 2020 offensive success had more questions than answers. However, the Tigers poured on 37 points in their victory over Arkansas State on Saturday. Quarterback Brady White threw for 275 yards and four touchdowns. Receivers Damonte Coxie and Sean Dykes accounted for three of those touchdowns and 227 of those yards.
More importantly, Memphis logged 227 total rushing yards. Sophomore Rodrigues Clark was given the starting role and played great. He carried the ball 20 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Backup Kylan Watkins took fourteen carries for 52 yards and caught two passes for thirteen yards. The Tigers backfield was as efficient as ever, even without future pro, Kenneth Gainwell. Expect the success in the run game to continue and expect Memphis to be a top team in the AAC yet again this season.
Jaelon Darden has Potential as a Slot Receiver in the NFL
North Texas senior wide receiver Jaelon Darden was a player I had my eyes on during my summer scouting sessions. He only measures in at 5’9″ 175 pounds but has the talent and intangibles to make an NFL roster next season. Darden took advantage of some national attention in week one, exploding for three touchdowns on five total receptions and 71 yards. He was effective from the slot and found it easy getting threw the defense for some easy touchdowns in the Mean Green’s 57-31 victory over Houston Baptist. Darden will have an excellent opportunity to give scouts another show in week three against SMU, as their defensive backs struggled this weekend.
BYU has Some Monsters in the Trenches
The Cougars dominated the Navy Midshipmen on Monday night, specifically in the trenches. All night, the BYU offensive line knocked the Navy defense on their backs, and the BYU defensive line made Navy’s run game virtually non-existent. BYU defensive-tackle Khyiris Tonga showed up in my 2021 NFL Draft Defensive Tackle Rankings and had a good game, logging four tackles. Still, a few other BYU lineman had incredible performances that warranted media attention in their blowout victory over Navy. Defensive tackles Bracken El-Bakri and Seleti Fevaleaki each added a sack, while linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi had two. The Cougars front seven held the Midshipmen to just 119 rushing yards on 38 attempts and only seven first downs.
On the offensive side of the ball, BYU exploded for 580 total yards. Quarterback Zach Wilson threw for 232 of BYU’s 279 passing yards. However, what was more impressive was their 301 yards on the ground. Running back Tyler Allgeier had fourteen carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns while his co-starter Lopini Katoa had ten carries for 80 yards and another two touchdowns. A lot of their success could is due in part to center James Empty and tackles Brady Christensen and Chandon Herring, to name a few. The BYU offensive line had the Navy defense on their heels all night. The Cougars have the makings to be one of the best collective offensive lines in the nation, so keep an eye out for the names above.