1. Auburn is ferocious. The game of the day lived up to the billing. No. 9 Auburn looked like it was going to take No. 6 Washington to the woodshed after opening the game by forcing a three-and-out, marching for an immediate touchdown, intercepting Huskies quarterback Jake Browning and then tacking on a field goal.

But Chris Petersen and company were not daunted by an early 9-0 deficit in a de facto road game. The Huskies hung around and hung around and hung around some more, pulling within 15-13 at the half and into a 16-15 lead a minute into the fourth quarter, but it could have been a lot more. Washington’s first second half possession moved to a 2nd-and-5 from the Auburn 8, but an offensive pass interference flag turned a touchdown into a missed field goal. The Huskies possession after that penetrated all the way to the Auburn 3, but a fumbled Jake Browning pitch ended in a turnover.

Gus Malzahn’s Tigers took advantage of those extra lives, marching 76 yards in 10 plays to take a 21-16 lead with 6:15 remaining. Facing a do-or-die possession, Washington moved from its own 25 to a 1st-and-10 at the Auburn 37 with 3:02 to play. Then this happened:

  • First down: Incomplete pass.
  • Second down: Myles Gaskin rush for minus-3 yards.
  • Third down: Jake Browning sacked by the appropriately named Big Kat Bryant.
  • Fourth down: Jake Browning sacked again by the even-more-awesome-er named Smoke Monday.

This was as close to a must-win game as you’ll see in college football and the atmosphere felt like it, a dynamic that’s unique to college football and college football alone.

On the first Saturday in September, Auburn looked like a team fully capable of returning to Atlanta on the first Saturday in December. Then again…

2. That other team in Alabama is still really good, too. The last time we saw No. 1 Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa led an astonishing comeback to allow the Tide to win yet another national championship.

Nine months later, not much has changed. Sure, much of the staff is different and Nick Saban spent the past nine months trying to convince us he had a quarterback competition on his hands. There was no legitimate quarterback competition. Not when you add this dimension to the Crimson Killing Machine.

Tagovailoa hit 12-of-16 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing five times for 26 yards and another score — all in the first half. True freshman Jaylen Waddle was an instant weapon, hauling in a 49-yard reception to set up Alabama’s third touchdown and adding a 31-yard punt return to set up the Tide’s fourth. (He also had a long touchdown catch called back due to a needless block in the back flag.)

I would say it’s the same old Tide, but it’s not. Tagovailoa gives Alabama a dimension it’s never had before, the ability to make things happen on the rare occasion when that’s necessary.

2a. Nick Saban’s going to make himself miserable if he’s not careful. There’s nothing the media loves more than a quarterback battle, and this season’s going to be so boring there may not be anything else to write about. When asked about Tua’s performance immediately after the game, Saban twisted off on ESPN’s Maria Taylor.

2c. That said, here’s something Saban should be proud of. Alabama’s 51-14 win over Louisville was the program’s 74th consecutive victory over an unranked opponent, setting the record for the AP poll era. Alabama has racked up a number of eye-popping stats over the last decade-plus, but none epitomizes what Saban’s famed Process is all about more than that one.

3. That had to be one of the most gratifying wins of Brian Kelly’s career. Notre Dame lost defensive coordinator Mike Elko to Texas A&M’s maroon brinks trunk, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to the Chicago Bears and two first-round linemen and it didn’t show. The 12th-ranked Irish hosted No. 14 Michigan and jumped out to a 14-0 lead through one quarter, thanks to this catch.

The Irish led 21-3 in the second quarter and 24-10 entering the fourth, but Notre Dame’s offense mustered only three second half points as Michigan’s defense settled in, and Michigan took over at its own 25 with 1:40 to play trailing 24-17. It didn’t matter. Four plays into a would-be game-tying drive, Jerry Tillery sacked Michigan’s Shea Patterson and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Notre Dame’s Te’von Coney to seal a 24-17 win.

In his first game as a coordinator — at any level — Clark Lea stared down a Michigan offense featuring the likes of Pep Hamilton, Jim McElwain and Ed Warinner (not to mention Jim Harbaugh), piloted by a 5-star transfer quarterback, and controlled the game. Notre Dame limited Michigan to one offensive touchdown and 1.8 yards per carry while racking up three sacks and two turnovers.

Afterward, Brian Kelly trotted out more shade than a 50-foot umbrella. “They’ve had to listen to all the experts say how great Michigan was,” he told NBC. “They came out and were the better team tonight.”

3b. Meanwhile in Ann Arbor. 

Michigan visits No. 11 Michigan State and No. 5 Ohio State later this year.

4. The most impressive win of the day may belong to Boise State. It was billed as a possible battle for a New Year’s Six bowl bid. An 11-3 Boise State team crossing the country to visit an 11-2 Troy team. Could the Broncos really go into the sweltering heat of the deep south and pull out a win?

Yes, they could.

No. 22 Boise State scored on four consecutive possessions and returned a fumble for a touchdown to turn a 7-7 tie into a 42-7 rout, then cruised to a 56-20 win. The Broncos didn’t get much accomplished on the ground, but it didn’t matter because Brett Rypien hit 20-of-28 passes for 305 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Boise also had this.

UCF looked darn near perfect in a 56-17 Civil ConFLiCT rout over Connecticut on Thursday, but Boise State is sitting as the Knights’ co-leader through this point of the young season.

5. Texas is BACK… to being exactly what Texas has been this entire decade. A brief rundown of Texas’s recent history in non-conference games.

Saturday’s 34-29 loss at Maryland wasn’t as bad on the scoreboard as its predecessors, but it contained bits and pieces of each of them. A poor start. Inexcusable mistakes at the worst possible time by veteran leadership. Too many penalties. Too many turnovers. Too many ill-timed turnovers. A blown fourth quarter lead.

After Maryland jumped out to a 24-7 lead, Texas climbed back to take a 29-24 lead late in the third quarter. Maryland turned a 3rd-and-19 into a first down, then took the lead on the second play of the fourth quarter — marking the fifth time Texas has blown a fourth quarter lead in 14 games under Tom Herman. After a 90-minute weather delay, Texas punted on its first possession, then allowed Maryland to move 90 yards and consume five and a half minutes to push its lead to 34-29.

Texas had three chances to take the lead over the game’s final 6:45, and all three ended in turnovers (two Sam Ehlinger interceptions and one fumble that was ruled down on the field but ruled a fumble upon review).

A minus-3 turnover margin and 10 penalties for 102 yards won’t get it done on the road, and it didn’t Saturday, either. Same script, different season. The players are different, the coaches are different, the schemes are different, but the results are the same.

Tom Herman will preach positivity and progress in the lead up to next Saturday’s home opener against Tulsa (and, boy, will the fans be fired up to welcome the team home), but he’s going to have a significant challenge to win over his players’ minds. They’re going to hear about this loss from their friends and family, from the media, and on campus. They’re going to hear it from themselves. (Or maybe not. Decide for yourself which is the bigger problem.)

The 2017 opening day loss to Maryland and subsequent close setbacks could be written off to Year 1 growing pains. The 2018 Texas outfit is not a young team. The program is supposed to be fully grown by now. This year was supposed to be different.

Saturday’s loss shows it’s not.

6. The Super 16. With the caveat that ballots aren’t due until Monday night, here’s how it looks to this point.

1. Clemson
2. Georgia
3. Alabama
4. Wisconsin
5. Auburn
6. Oklahoma
7. Ohio State
8. Notre Dame
9. Washington
10. Stanford
11. TCU
12. Miami
13. West Virginia
14. Boise State
15. Central Florida
16. Mississippi State

7. Odds and Ends

a. Purdue lost to Northwestern on Thursday night, but Rondale Moore is going to be a problem in the Big Ten for the next three years. In his first college game, Moore caught a game-high 11 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, returned five kickoffs for 125 yards and broke free for this 76-yard touchdown run.

b. Cincinnati went to Pasadena and ruined Chip Kelly’s UCLA debut, 26-17. Luke Fickell went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2 and converted to put the game away.

c. These tweets don’t age very well when you lose 63-14.

d. What do you call this formation?

Wazzu won the game, 41-19.

e. Eleven years to the day after knocking off No. 5 Michigan, Appalachian State went to Happy Valley and found itself leading 38-31 inside the final minute. Scott Satterfield’s crew actually led 10-7 after the first quarter, fell behind 24-10 and 31-17 but then ripped off three straight fourth quarter scores to take the late lead. Staring the wrong kind of immortality in the face — though nothing will approach Michigan’s 2007 loss — Penn State converted a 4th-and-2 with 1:06 to play and pulled level three plays later and survived a 56-yard field goal try that would have won it for App State on the final play of regulation. Penn State scored on the top of the first overtime and then secured an interception to seal a 45-38 thriller.

f. Simply put, Saturday night was one of the best nights in North Texas football history. Before a program-record crowd of 29,519, North Texas hosted rival SMU — if you can call a team you’ve beaten five times total a rival — and emphatically earned win No. 6 over the Ponies. Through three quarters, North Texas had 36 points and SMU had 38… yards. North Texas scored the game’s first 36 points and cruised to a 46-23 win. Reigning C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Mason Fine hit 40-of-50 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns, and the defense limited SMU to four rushing yards and notched a pick six. Considering the beating Florida Atlantic took in Norman, North Texas has to be considered the C-USA favorite through one week.

And then afterward, UNT put on a wrestling match starring the Von Erich family.

g. Poor Nebraska. The Huskers waited nine whole months to see Scott Frost take the field only to learn they’ll have to wait one more week as weather forced the cancellation of the Akron game. The Frost era now begins next week versus Colorado.

h. South Dakota State at Iowa State and North Carolina A&T at East Carolina were also called off due to weather.

i. Ole Miss racked up 10.5 yards per attempt on 32 passes and rushed for 210 yards in a 47-27 win over Texas Tech in Houston.

j. No. 17 West Virginia handed the SEC its lone loss, looking like something much more than the No. 17 team in the country during a 40-14 win over Tennessee in Charlotte. Will Grier hit 25-of-34 passes for 429 yards with five touchdowns and no picks… and didn’t even play his A-plus game.

This is the sound of a fan base that’s gone all in on winning a championship this fall.

k. Not a banner night for football in Kansas. K-State had to come from behind to beat South Dakota, and KU lost to Nicholls.

m. Two other FCS over FBS upsets: Northern Arizona over UTEP (30-10) and Villanova over Temple (19-17).

m. In what many (myself included) deemed an upset possibility, Vanderbilt took care of business against Middle Tennessee, winning 35-7.

n. In its first game as an FBS member, Liberty took its neighbor to the woodshed. Liberty 52, Old Dominion 10.

o. In Game 1 of Urban Meyer’s 3-game suspension, Ohio State mauled Oregon State, 77-31. They’ll be talking more about the 31 than the 77 in Columbus.

p. Don’t look now, but Nick Rolovich has an offense at Hawaii. After putting up 43 at Colorado State, Hawaii dropped 59 in an 18-point win over Navy. Colt McDonald was 30-of-41 for 428 yards with six touchdowns and no picks.

q. BYU went to Tucson and spoiled Kevin Sumlin’s Arizona debut, winning 28-23. The Cougars limited Heisman candidate Khalil Tate to 197 passing yards and just 14 yards on the ground.

r. So far, so good for the Herm Edwards Experience at Arizona State. The Sun Devils rocked UTSA, 49-7. Michigan State comes to the desert next week.

s. Fresno State is the highest-scoring FBS team through one week after dropping a 79 spot on poor Idaho. The Petrino brothers lost by a combined score of 130-27 on Saturday.

And finally…

In case you missed it, here’s how Maryland opened its win over Texas.

 

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.