Thank you, Texas. You, too, Notre Dame. You’ve set the bar ever so high. Takeaways from Week 1 of the college football season.
1. Texas 50, Notre Dame 47 (2OT). A better game won’t be played all season. If one is, it’ll have to be unimaginably good — and don’t anyone dare miss it.
For the Longhorns and coach Charlie Strong, it was the beginning of something different, something so much better, something undeniably big. For the Irish, it was a devastating way to open the season — but not without many positives and a resounding answer to the question everyone asked throughout the long offseason and the run-up to this prime-time Sunday tilt.
DeShone Kizer is Notre Dame’s quarterback, and he quite simply is one of the best in the country. Malik Zaire — who beat out Kizer last summer, only to get hurt — will have to get used to being on standby. Kizer threw for five touchdowns and ran for another in the opener, and was the best player on the field.
He’s Notre Dame’s best QB since … whom? Brady Quinn had many tools and sure looked the part, but Kizer has Quinn beat even in the latter department. He’s 6-4, 240 with running ability, bottomless poise and massive arm talent. The Irish will have a chance in any game because of him.
2. The SEC is off to a nightmarish start. Fifth-ranked LSU was outplayed on both sides of the ball in a loss to Wisconsin that many expected to be a mismatch the other way. Auburn’s offense was useless in home defeat against Clemson. Mississippi State embarrassed at home against South Alabama. If Ole Miss loses Monday night to Florida State, the SEC will head into Week 2 with a miserable record of 7-7.
Even some of the victories were embarrassing. Appalachian State went to Tennessee and took the No. 9 Vols to overtime. Louisiana Tech went to Arkansas and came within a late Hogs touchdown of hitting Bret Bielema with another Toledo.
Realistically, is this league already Alabama-or-bust in terms of the playoff? Yep, I’m already asking.
3. Les Miles, your hotter-than-ever seat is waiting. Also: Just as Miles was outperformed by Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst, LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was outmaneuvered by his Badgers counterpart, Justin Wilcox. Why is that so interesting? Aranda was hired away in the offseason from … Wisconsin.
Miles isn’t the only national title-winning coach on the hot seat. Auburn’s Gus Malzahn is looking decidedly un-genius-like after — ridiculously — going with a doomed three-quarterback rotation in the opener. Auburn fired Gene Chizik and Terry Bowden not long after each coach posted a perfect season. Justin sayin’.
Post game w the game ball!!! #3:14AM-LAX pic.twitter.com/cxQkJ89254— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) September 4, 2016
4. All-time troll Sunday by Lane Kiffin of the school that fired him in 2013. In case you missed it, the Alabama offensive coordinator — presented with the game ball after the Tide’s 52-6 dismantling of USC — tweeted a photo of his son with the ball and added the hashtag “3:14AM-LAX.” That’s the time and Los Angeles airport where Kiffin was famously dumped after an ugly loss by then-athletic director Pat Haden.
5. So: After winning at Northwestern, is Western Michigan a victory over Illinois on Sept. 17 from assuming the mantle of “Chicago’s Big Ten team”?
6. Ohio State 77, Bowling Green 10. Michigan 63, Hawaii 3. Yes, the rest of the Big Ten is duly worried. We all are.
7. Colorado is an atrocious 5-40 in league games since joining the Pac-12 and hasn’t had a winning season since the Gary Barnett years. Buffs fans have been suffering for a decade running, but guess who has a chance to be pretty good this season? Watch the Buffs — who swamped rival Colorado State 41-7 — fight their way to bowl eligibility. A hard Saturday at Michigan Sept. 17 will steel them for the task.
8. Year 5 for Mike Leach at Washington State got off to a heck of a start — a 45-42 yack at home against Eastern Washington. Remember when Leach was too cool for school at Texas Tech? Turns out completely ignoring the defensive side of the ball is a less-than-stellar long-term strategy.
9. Houston in the playoff? After the Cougars beat No. 3 Oklahoma by 10, there’s not a ton left to keep them from running the table. The game at Navy will be a unique challenge. Louisville at home and Memphis on the road in November won’t be easy at all. Still, this thing can happen.
10. Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. is on everyone’s Heisman Trophy radar after his huge passing game against the Sooners. Another guy who’s name you’d better get to know: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson, perhaps the most exciting player in the land. Jackson had eight total touchdowns, six of them through the air — and all of them in the first half — in a 70-14 victory over Charlotte.
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.