All weekend long, my TV screens, computer screens and even the screen on my phone were filled with a nonstop cavalcade of different variations on the same image.
It was the faces of people in agony.
From Neyland Stadium, where the ninth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers were on the ropes in the fourth quarter, there was the guy they showed in the student section who looked as if his underwear were four sizes too small. Then, as the game ended in overtime, there was the woman dressed head-to-toe in Appalachian State gear who fell back into her seat as if she'd been shot with an elephant tranquilizer.
In College Station, there was the guy who was yanking a rally towel down onto his skull so hard I thought he might suffer a compression fracture in his neck. His image was followed by the mouth-open, stressed-out cadet corps member with the "Top Gun" reflective sunglasses that revealed the image of his significant other, face buried in his uniformed shoulder, unable to even look at the field as Texas A&M drove toward overtime.
Being a college football fan is the best worst love affair ever. pic.twitter.com/Iq7iwKZ46V— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) September 3, 2016
The kid at Arkansas with the quivering lip ... the lady with the homemade foam Boomer Sooner hat sobbing uncontrollably ... the Washington State alum mouthing the words "damn it, not again"... the LSU fans who cashed in vacation days and traveled 1,100 miles to Green Bay only to be shown live on ESPN wearing facial expressions seen only in the lobby of a movie theater as a Nicholas Sparks film is letting out ... UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen with a face that all at once owned his mistakes while showing disbelief that those mistakes had happened ... Washington State's Mike Leach looking like a man stuck in an FCS time warp ... We could go on and on.
Are these really the feelings that we all spent winter, spring and summer waiting for? Is this the payoff for buying the T-shirts and the tickets and the preseason magazines and flying the flag of our alma maters from the front of our house?
Yes. Yes, it is.
Deep down, you knew the pain was coming, right? You knew this might happen. You knew your team didn't have a quarterback or that it lost half the offensive line to the NFL draft or that the team you were opening The Greatest Opening Weekend In College Football History against was really good.
But still, you allowed yourself to believe the hype. You sifted through all of those magazines and websites and maneuvered past all of the negatives and found the one line in the one article that said, "However, they do have a lot of talent on special teams." Or you found the one preseason poll that had your school ranked the highest or listened to that one guy on ESPNU who declared in August, "I really think they are going to shock some people" (if that was me, I apologize).
Why do you allow yourself to believe? Why do you keep coming back every Labor Day weekend, knowing there's a 50-50 chance you might get punched directly in the heart?
Because there's also a 50-50 chance that you'll also have that heart filled. There's a 50-50 chance that pleasure will win out over the pain. There's a 50-50 chance that you won't be the person they showed on TV who looked as if they were in the middle stages of a root canal. You might also be the one they show spinning that towel above their heads, or with his girlfriend hugging him so hard it makes those reflective sunglasses fly off, or standing up on their seat instead of slumping back into it.
We come back every fall because of that feeling. The agony is tax that we have to pay to get it. And if we're being honest, the agony isn't so bad, either. When you have your school colors on, the heights and the depths are just different ways of feeling alive. And nothing is more alive than a Saturday in the fall.
Besides, I have good news. The hardest part is over. The Band-Aid has been ripped off. There's going to be a Week 2, starting in just a few days. We still have more than three months of this to go, and if college football has taught us nothing else over the last century it's taught us this -- they'll be plenty of emotion, good and bad, to go around.
Now let's get on with Flipping the Field ...
Owning it. I rankled readers and TV viewers alike one week ago when I suggested that the best running back in Saturday afternoon's Georgia-North Carolina game was going to be wearing blue and his name was Elijah Hood. When Atlanta-based friends and family members started calling and telling me that I might need a police escort the next time I came south down I-85 I realized I'd struck a nerve. I'd based my prediction on two factors. One, I thought that Nick Chubb still had a little ways to go with his recovery from knee surgery. Two, I thought that UNC would have learned from its season-opening mistakes of one year ago and do everything it could to feature its best offensive player. I was wrong on both, as Dawgs supporters have so kindly reminded me via Twitter. Hunker down.
"We're going streaking!" According to the number mashers at ESPN Stats & Information, Washington's 48-13 win over Rutgers marked the Huskies' fourth straight game of 40-plus points. That's an active streak that ranks second only to Western Kentucky (5) and the longest in UW history. Alabama owns the longest current FBS win streak at 15, followed by San Diego State at 11 and Tennessee and Western Kentucky (there's that name again) with seven. Florida's win over UMass marked the 27th consecutive season that the Gators have started the year 1-0.
"Get in the car, Frank ..." LSU's loss to Wisconsin was its first defeat in a season opener since a defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech in 2002. That was also LSU's last regular-season nonconference loss. Southern Miss had lost 13 consecutive times to SEC schools until erasing an 18-point halftime lead to knock off Kentucky. Kansas defeated Rhode Island to snap a 15-game winless streak dating to November 2014.
Danny Ford Scientific Rocket Quote of the Week: Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State. It was a weekend packed with touching moments and tributes, from the pregame remembrance of Bill Dooley in Atlanta that included brother Vince, to the thunderous Autzen Stadium applause that greeted the comeback of Oregon's Pharoah Brown, who nearly had his knee amputated after suffering a horrifying injury against Utah in 2014. But none topped what took place in Lincoln, as Nebraska honored punter Sam Foltz, killed in a car accident over summer, by taking the field in punt formation with 10 men and leaving his spot vacant. The Huskers were flagged for delay of game and Fresno State declined the penalty. After the game, DeRuyter explained that he'd been given a heads-up on the tribute by both the officiating crew and Nebraska head coach Mike Riley and declining the penalty was automatically the right decision. "No hesitation. It is tragic. I was talking to our coaches and I can't imagine losing a son. And if we can't teach our guys to do something classy like that then what it college for?"
We had to take a delay of game, weren't able to get all 11 guys out to punt in time.— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) September 4, 2016
Missing one of them. pic.twitter.com/o3mzXQZqlO
#MACtion, y'all! Speaking of streaks, want to know a streak that one big group of folks want to keep going while another big group wishes it would end so we will all shut up about it? When Western Michigan and its awesome helmets knocked off Northwestern (though the Broncos tried bizarrely to lose it) it marked the 11th consecutive season with a MAC win over a Big Ten opponent. Also, on the first college football Saturday in forever without John Saunders bringing us the scores on ESPN/ABC, it must be noted that our late friend's alma mater was WMU. If it makes Northwestern backers feel any better, a total of four FCS schools knocked off FBS teams Saturday, including three wins over Power 5 schools. OK, that probably won't make them feel better.
Jumpman, Jumpman, Jumpman, them boys up to something ... Yes, Drake, they are and them girls, too. I'm talking about the guys and girls of the Michigan Marching Band, honoring their team's new Nike apparel and the Jumpman himself, Michael Jordan, who was on hand to see the jerseys bearing his likeness roll over Hawaii 63-3.
Jumpman is everywhere pic.twitter.com/3px23jSNuw— angelique (@chengelis) September 3, 2016
From the Ridonculous Stats Dept. For all of the deserved hype surrounding the opening weekend matchups, there were also plenty of traditionally lopsided Week 1 stinkers. Not surprisingly, they produced some insane statistical performances. Start with the game we just mentioned, where Michigan's 60-point win was its largest margin of victory since the value of a touchdown was changed to six points in 1912. Up the road in Columbus, Ohio, quarterback J.T. Barrett accounted for seven TDs vs. Bowling Green, six passing and one rushing. That broke the school record of six, a record held by three men, the last being in in 2014 when it was accomplished by ... J.T. Barrett. Down south in Miami, Mark Richt's first game as head Hurricane produced three 100-yard rushers vs. Florida A&M. That's the first time The U has pulled that hat trick since 1987, when they were THE U.
All of the above. Sunday night's game between Notre Dame and Texas did indeed include almost everything we've already covered in Flipping The Field, even the MACtion part (Brian Kelly used to be head coach at Central Michigan). There was plenty of emotion, both painful and ecstatic, particularly for the home Horns, who have experienced their fair share of anguish in recent years. There were streaks continued, as Texas has now defeated the last three top 12 opponents it has faced (No. 10 Oklahoma and No. 12 Baylor in 2015, No. 10 Notre Dame) as well as streaks ended, as the Longhorns finally earned their first win over Notre Dame since 1970 (0-5) and the Irish suffered their first loss in Austin after wins in 1913, '15, '52 and '96. Texas was led by Shane Buechele, the first true freshman to start at QB for Texas since World War II and in the first overtime game ever played at Royal-Memorial Stadium. There were even ridonculous stats, as Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer threw for five TDs and ran for another and UT's Tyrone Swoopes rushed for three TDs of his own, including the game winner. Oh, and Bevo XV is now undefeated, at a perfect 1-0.
I speak on behalf of all men ... when I say that USC's Jabari Ruffin's decision to spike Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick between his thighs should not be judged only against the rules of football but against the universal Man Code.
Tommy West Coach's News Conference of the Week: Nick Saban, Alabama. When asked about his decision or seeming lack of decision when it came to naming a starting quarterback, Mr. Coke Bottle Stare was already in midseason preachy form, explaining: "I made a decision for this game that whatever we did at quarterback was for now. Did you ever make a 'for now' decision? So we made a decision today for now. And that's the only decision we made. So I'm not speculating on what we're going to do in the future. And everyone here wanted to know who the quarterback was gonna be. Did anyone write that one of Southern Cal's players said 'I wish we knew who was going to play quarterback for them'? And isn't that the object, is to make it hard for the other team? Or to make it good for your guys to write about?" Yeah, we missed you too, coach.
Time for a dance break ... sort of. By this time last year, the crazy dancing coach video was already a thing. This year's Week 1 was a little too intense for any goofy rug cutting, but a recently retired coach -- more accurately, Head Ball Coach, led an old school cheer down at the stadium he made famous and was adding his name over the door. He even added a Usain Bolt chest rip and point for good measure.
The Head Ball Coach transforms into Mr. Two Bits as only he could. pic.twitter.com/UNTI4rsbpO— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) September 4, 2016
Comeback of the Week Award, also named for Frank Reich: South Alabama. There were so many, but "I wanna talk about the South Alabama Jaguars, PAAAAWWWWLL!" All day long it felt just another tune-up ho-hum Week 1 affair between an SEC team and a Fun Belt, er, Sun Belt school. Mississippi State led 17-0 at halftime and 20-7 in the fourth quarter before losing 21-20. Much will heaped upon MSU kicker Westin Graves for a doinked 28-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds, but he should have never been in that situation in the first place.
Frank Reich Backup QB Of The Week Award: Malcolm Perry, Navy. Perry nearly broke Twitter during the noon games when the freshman fourth-string quarterback started the day sitting among the Brigade in uniform ... his dress whites. When starter Tago Smith went down in the second quarter and shortened the depth chart, Perry, who'd been sick all week but did start Friday's JV game, was found by a team manager and told to report to the locker room. Meanwhile, an equipment manager hustled back to the football office to retrieve Perry's other uniform, the one with the big No. 5 on it. That would have been cool enough, but then he entered the game in the fourth quarter, rushing for 30 yards on seven carries and leading the Middies on a 90-yard drive that added a field goal to the 52-16 victory over Fordham. In a related note, I am assuming whomever runs Navy's Twitter account wasn't including me and my 2015 overboard season-long man crush on Kennan Reynolds when they posted this ...
More national media tweeting about our fourth string QB (he is on the team folks was sick) than they did about 11 win Navy team last year— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) September 3, 2016
The Guy You Should Know About, But Probably Don't: Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State. The Broncos have taken a backseat to Houston when it comes to the leaders of the Gang of Five BCS/Playoff party crasher hopefuls, so the nation doesn't know Boise stars the way they used to. But McNichols is worth your attention. On Saturday at Louisiana Lafayette, the junior picked up a pair of rushing touchdowns and one receiving. ESPN Stats & Info informs me that last year he led the nation in games both running for and catching a TD, doing it six times. Nice.
The Guy You Used to Know About But Forgot About But You Should Know About Again: Trevor Knight, QB, Texas A&M. Katy Perry's former crush, Duck Dynasty daughter Sadie Robertson's former boyfriend and the former starter at Oklahoma now has the job at A&M after the QB position room was evacuated over the winter. On Saturday vs. UCLA he threw for 239 yards and a TD, and rushed 31 yards with two more scores. He also added his own in-action Jumpman pose as he hurdled a defender during a crucial conversion toward the end of regulation. And his old man won Dad of Week 1 by watching brother Connor Knight play for Oklahoma at Houston and then hauling butt up Highway 6 to College Station to see Trevor.
The Team You Should Know About, But Probably Don't: Texas State. If you are a regular reader of the Bottom 10 (and thanks if you are) then you are a little familiar with the Texas State. It used to live in that neighborhood. Not anymore. On Saturday Texas State won the Bobcat Bowl over Ohio (it's not actually called that, but I'm calling it that because the schools are Bobcats) in the best game none of you watched. Texas State scored in the third overtime on a double pass and two-point conversion to take a 56-48 lead and then still had to sack the Ohio QB to stop a two-point conversion that would have retied the game. New head coach Everett Withers is already a third of the way to matching the team's 2015 win total.
The Game You Should Be Psyched For But Probably Aren't: Cal at San Diego State, Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET. East Coasters will need to put on a pot of coffee to stay up for kickoff but once the game starts there will be plenty of adrenaline to keep us up from there. It took the Bear Raid a little while to get going vs. Hawaii in Australia, but when it did, it did. Meanwhile, without Boise or Air Force on their Mountain West conference schedule, the Aztecs, they of the 11-game winning streak we told you about earlier, have a legit chance to run the regular-season table and be in the Gang of Five big time bowl conversation. But first they'll need to knock off the only Pac-12 opponent on their schedule.
Extra Point: Last week we told you that you needed to keep an eye on Pitt running back James Conner, a former ACC Player of the Year who missed last season simultaneously battling cancer and overcoming a knee injury. He did not disappoint. The Panthers entered the second half with a 14-0 lead over Villanova and Conner had scored both touchdowns, the first coming on a gritty, emotional stiff-arm 3-yard run. He had worked out a deal with his coaches that they would all agree to eat the 15-yard celebration penalty because he planned to spike the football if he scored. But his teammates didn't give him the chance, surrounding him and starting an impromptu mosh pit. He finished the day with 53 yards rushing, 16 yards receiving and the two scores in the 28-7 win. Keep an eye on this Pitt team. The Panthers aren't good enough to win the ACC, but they are certainly good enough to scare the dickens out of the team that does. Win or lose, every opposing player who faces Pitt should line up and shake James Conner's hand.