The first full weekend of the 2017 college football season is fully in the books. Georgia Tech and Tennessee completed the 5-day marathon in Atlanta last night with a double-overtime 42-41 win for the Vols in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, Part Deux.
It was a game Georgia Tech should not have lost. They held a pair of 2-TD leads in the second half while running all over the Tennessee defense. By the end of the night, the Yellow Jackets held a nearly 300-yard advantage as they ran 96 plays to UT's 59. However, the Tennessee defense made three huge plays when it mattered most. The Vols forced a fumble at their own 7 when Georgia Tech was about to go up by 2 scores again in the 4th, blocked what would've been the game-winning 36-yard field goal at the end of regulation, and stuffed a 2-point conversion in overtime. The teams traded touchdowns in the two extra stanzas, and the Yellow Jackets would've had the ball first in the 3rd OT. Instead, head coach Paul Johnson opted to go for the win rather than kick the PAT. It was a questionable, but Johnson put the ball in the hands of junior QB Taquan Marshall who had already scored 5 touchdowns in his debut game. Marshall finished with 249 yards rushing and 120 passing. It was a big win for Tennessee head coach Butch Jones who is undoubtedly on the hot seat after his first four seasons produced pedestrian records of 31–21 overall, and just 14–18 in the SEC.
On Sunday night outside Washington, D.C., Virginia Tech and West Virginia renewed a border rivalry for the first time in 12 years. It had been played annually from 1973-2005 and 51 times total with the first meeting dating back to 1912. Quarterback Will Grier was making his first start for the Mountaineers after transferring from Florida where he was suspended in 2015 for the use of a performance enhancing drug. Grier started slowly but began torching the Virginia Tech secondary in the second half. Likewise, redshirt freshman Josh Jackson was making his first start for the Hokies and also warmed up as the game progressed. In the end, two teams known more for their defense racked up 592 (WVU) and 469 (VT) yards of offense. But the VT defense showed up one last time to thwart a drive deep into its own territory in the final seconds of the game to hold on for a 31-24 win. Jackson passed for 235 yards and a TD, and added 101 rushing and another score. Grier threw for 371 and 3 touchdowns with 1 INT.
In the other Sunday night game, Texas A&M clobbered UCLA 44-10, and then fell apart. The Aggies had impressively built a 34-point lead late in the 3rd quarter and when UCLA cut it to 44-17 going into the 4th, it still seemed insurmountable. Alas, a 10-yard TD pass on a fake spike with 43 seconds left in the game completed an epic 45-44 comeback win for UCLA and a terrible collapse for Texas A&M. The game had been referred to all week as The Hot Seat Bowl for head coaches Jim Mora of the Bruins and Kevin Sumlin of the Aggies. You could swear you heard the phone ringing in Mora's office in the 3rd quarter, and Sumlin's office by the end of the game.
Saturday saw a highly anticipated matchup become difficult to watch. Alabama beat Florida State 24-7 in Atlanta in the Saturday night edition of the Chick-fil-A College Kick-off Game, but both teams came up short in some aspects, particularly on special teams. FSU had a punt blocked, a fumble on a kick-off return, a field goal blocked, and poor punting. Alabama missed 3 very make-able field goals an failed to turn great field position into points or this would've been a major blowout.
On the plus side, both defenses were stout and 'Bama would have had a difficult time putting 24 points on the board had they not been the benefactor of FSU mistakes, most notably two interceptions on consecutive drives that were simply the result of poor decisions by sophomore QB Deondre Francois. To add insult to injury, Francois injured his left knee late in the contest and was later seen on crutches and wearing a knee brace. It was announced on Sunday that he is out for the season.
Another takeaway from this game for FSU was how much Dalvin Cook (2nd round NFL draft, Vikings) is missed in the backfield as the 'Noles finished with just 40 yards rushing.
As could be expected on an opening weekend, other top teams struggled early against out-manned opponents but managed to put those oppoenents away with relative ease once they got into a rhythm. Ohio State had that issue with Indiana on Thursday night, and Wisconsin followed suit on Friday.
The Buckeyes trailed Indiana for nearly all of the first 40:04 of the game, and found themselves down 21-20 before outscoring the Hoosiers 29-0 the rest of the way.
The Badgers were locked in a 10-10 tie with Utah State at the half before drubbing the visiting Aggies 49-0 in the second half.
USF has been slow to get out of the gate in both of its games. In the soft opening week, the Bulls fell behind 16-0 at San Jose State and still prevailed 42-22. This week, Charlie Strong's team trailed FCS member Stony Brook 10-7 at the half before charging to an unimpressive 31-17 win.
USC had more than its share of problems with Western Michigan on Saturday. The visiting Broncos led 28-21 entering the 4th quarter and still only trailed 35-31 until 2 interceptions helped the Trojans pull away for a 49-31 win.
LSU scored an impressive 27-0 shutout victory over BYU in a game that was moved from Houston to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Now, a new storm is brewing in the Atlantic and everyone from the gulf to the Atlantic seaboard is keeping an eye on the path of Hurricane Irma.
Michigan used a suffocating defense to shockingly annihilate Florida 33-17. The score is not indicative of the domination by the Wolverines who held the Gators to 3 offensive points as both TD's came on interception returns in the second quarter. Florida saw a string of 27 consecutive opening game wins come to an end.
Notre Dame had a solid 49-16 opening win in South Bend over Temple, while Texas bitterly disappointing some field-littering fans in Austin with a 51-41 home loss to a Maryland program that had lost 17 straight to AP-ranked foes.
UAB had a team on the football field for the first time since briefly abandoning its program at the conclusion of the 2014 season. It was a triumphant return as the Blazers routed Alabama A&M 38-7.
Coastal Carolina was victorious in its first game as a FBS program, staving off visiting UMass 38-28.
98 FBS teams play 1 FCS opponent this year. 46 of those games took place over the Labor Day weekend and the FCS snatched 4 victories.
Liberty got an early start to its move up to the FBS level in 2019, by upending Baylor 48-45 in Waco as a 30.44-point computer underdog.
Meanwhile, Howard scored the biggest upset in FBS history (using the Vegas pointspread as the guide) by defeating 45-point favorite UNLV 43-40.
James Madison drubbed East Carolina 34-14 in Greenville.
Tennessee State bumped off Georgia State 17-10.
The 98-game total for this season is down substantially from the 110 schools that played 113 games vs. FCS schools last year.
BYU's win over Portland State was the only FBS vs. FCS last week in what was dubbed "week zero". BYU unimpressively prevailed, 20-6.
FBS schools are now 43-4 vs. the FCS this season and 1,173-112 (.913) since 2003.
Alabama - Won 37 straight regular season nonconference games (FBS longest). Won 11 straight road games (tied FBS longest). Won 17 straight conference games (FBS record). Won 24-7 vs. Florida State in Atlanta on Saturday.
Oklahoma - Won 11 straight overall (FBS longest). Won 11 straight road games (tied FBS longest). Won 56-7 vs. UTEP on Saturday.
Houston - Won 15 straight home games (tied FBS longest). Game at UTSA on Saturday was postponed due to Hurricane Harvey.
Fresno State - Snapped 10-game losing streak with a 66-0 vs. FCS member Incarnate Word on Saturday. Lost 13 straight FBS games (FBS longest).
Rutgers - Lost 10 straight overall (now FBS longest). Lost 14 straight conference games (FBS longest). Lost 30-14 vs. Washington on Friday.
Kansas - Lost 41 straight road games (FBS longest). Won 38-16 FCS member Southeast Missouri State on Saturday.