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Winning Box Scores: Week 1

As 4.5-point underdogs, Syracuse opened the season by thoroughly dominating Louisville.

If you want to proclaim No. 3 Georgia's 49-3 destruction of No. 11 Oregon as the most impressive performance to date in the 2022 season, I won't fight you. The Bulldogs scored on their first seven drives. Georgia was a two-and-a-half touchdown favorite that won by six-and-a-half touchdowns. The 46-point margin was Georgia's largest over an AP-ranked opponent, ever.

But it was the most impressive performance on a pound-for-pound basis of the weekend, at least in this little corner of the college football internet.

Last year, we tracked every FBS game across five simple box score metrics -- rushing yards, passing yards, scoring first, leading at halftime, and turnover margin -- to see how often, or not often, they correlated with winning.

In the 93 games involving FBS teams played in Weeks 0 and 1, 19 teams pulled off what we call a quinfecta -- winning all five categories. Last year, 146 teams pulled quinfectas and went 146-0 in those games, winning by an average score of 42-11.

Georgia, however, was not among them. The Bulldogs scored first, led at halftime, won turnovers 2-0, and thoroughly out-passed the Ducks, 439 to 173, but they did not out-rush them. This was largely a technicality. It wasn't as if Georgia couldn't run on Oregon, they just didn't. UGA ran only 25 times compared to 37 passes, which, as Kirby Smart explained after, was largely a recruiting ploy to attract quarterbacks and receivers. Again, if you want to crown Georgia the Week 1 National Champion, I won't fight you.

Of the 19 teams to go 5-0 in our five metrics, 10 did so against FCS opponents. Seven times, a Power 5 team quinfecta'd a Group of 5 teams. That leaves two like v. like games where one team thoroughly dominated the other.

My Week 1 National Champion was Syracuse, who hammered Louisville by a margin greater than the 31-7 final score. 

The Orange opened the game with a 62-yard field goal drive. They led 17-7 at the half. They threw for 241 yards on 26 attempts while limiting Louisville to 197 yards on 23 attempts. They rushed for 208 yards (5.2 per) to Louisville's 137. And they didn't turn the ball over while forcing three.

It may not have been the shock-and-awe of Georgia 49, Oregon 3, but it was cruel, relentless efficiency from a team that tied for last in the ACC Atlantic in 2021. Syracuse opened the game a 4.5-point underdog and won by 24. 

Will Syracuse vastly exceed expectations? Is Louisville really that bad? Or was this simply a really good day for Syracuse and a really bad one for Louisville? Time will tell.

The other like v. like quinfecta: James Madison 44, Middle Tennessee 7.

In their first game as an FBS team, James Madison followed a scoreless first quarter with a 21-0 second, out-passed MTSU 287-107, out-rushed them 261-12, and recovered a fumble while keeping their own sheet clean.

Quite a first impression by the Dukes.

Winning Box Scores, Weeks 0-1

-- Rush for more yards: 73-20 (.785)
-- Pass for more yards: 66-27 (.710)
-- Score first: 62-31 (.667)
-- Lead at halftime: 80-7 (.920)
-- Win turnovers: 53-16 (.768)

Notes:

-- The unlikeliest win of the weekend belonged to FIU. In his first game as the head coach, Mike MacIntyre's team trailed 16-0 until scoring (and failing their 2-point try) with eight seconds left in the first half, were out-passed 349-310 and out-rushed 121-67. The saving grace: a fumble the Panthers forced at their own 1-yard line. That kept Bryant from taking a 23-6 lead and set the stage for FIU's 38-37 overtime comeback.

-- Two games in, Western Kentucky has forced 10 turnovers. The Hilltoppers turned Hawaii over six times in their 49-17 win.

-- Longtime readers of this space will recall our morbid fascination of Arkansas State's (lack of) running game in 2021. The Red Wolves finished dead last in rush defense (261.1 yards per game, 6.42 a carry) and third-to-last in rush offense (82.4 yards per game, 2.83 a carry). In 2022 it's so far, so good for Butch Jones's team. The Red Wolves out-rushed Grambling 339-50 in their 58-3 win. Up next: a trip to... Ohio State.