College football is back, and the start of the 2017 season looks very similar to the start of seasons past: many contenders, all of whom seem to be chasing Alabama.
Opening weekend is about finding signs of what a team can become. As we all know, it isn't how you start the season, it's how you finish it, but it looks like we might start with Alabama in Atlanta ... and finish with Alabama in Atlanta.
Yes, there are plenty of weeks remaining, but a No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide team that lost so much on defense won in the most Alabama fashion: by owning the trenches and keeping No. 3 Florida State one-dimensional. The Tide looked like a seasoned, championship squad, while the Seminoles looked lost and overwhelmed for most of the second half of their 24-7 loss. To make matters worse, FSU quarterback Deondre Francois left the game with an injury.
Remember, Alabama is only going to get better, and it has plenty more teams to steam roll in the process.
The most revealing game might have been No. 11 Michigan's 33-17 win over No. 17 Florida. The Wolverines are an inexperienced bunch, but they seemed to get through their defensive growing pains with ease against what looked like an outcoached and overmatched Gators team at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Gators were expected to be better on offense, especially at quarterback. We didn't know what to expect from a Michigan defense that had to replace 10 starters. Michigan embarrassed Florida, which showed no signs of improvement at quarterback, thanks to the Wolverines' constant obliteration of the Gators' offensive line, which Florida coach Jim McElwain assured would be a strength of his team.
Michigan used two quarterbacks by design -- Wilton Speight, who should cement himself as the starter, and John O'Korn -- while Florida's changes came out of necessity. Michigan came away with answers, while Florida is left starting from scratch and looking worse than ever under offensive-minded McElwain heading into Week 2.
USC avoided becoming Saturday's biggest surprise. You can't ignore the talent Western Michigan has -- even without boat-rowing former head coach P.J. Fleck -- but the No. 4 team in the country and Heisman Trophy favorite Sam Darnold shouldn't have had to fight the Broncos off until late in the fourth quarter of a 49-31 win.
Darnold, who said earlier this week that he knew he'd have butterflies in his stomach before the opener, didn't have the look of a Heisman Trophy favorite with his two interceptions, but 28 fourth-quarter points, capped by a Marvell Tell III pick-six, saved the Trojans.
Perhaps the most disappointing performance from Week 1 came from No. 23 Texas. The Longhorns were supposed to be starting over under new coach Tom Herman, but Saturday's 51-41 home loss to Maryland showed that the problems that cost Charlie Strong his job -- bad defense and inconsistent special teams -- are still plaguing the Longhorns.
Strong was fired because of losses such as this, and now Herman, whose name alone is a major reason Texas started the season ranked, is left dealing with questions that might be too tough for him to answer quickly.
Here are your Heisman-like performances from Week 1. This isn't to say that these guys will be true Heisman contenders, but they put up some of the prettiest numbers Saturday.
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: He'll probably be the first running back taken in next year's NFL draft -- and for good reason. He had 172 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries in No. 6 Penn State's 52-0 win over Akron. He also caught three passes for 54 yards.
2. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Hey, remember him? Yeah, he actually won the Heisman last year. All he did to kick off this season was throw for 378 yards and two touchdowns while running for another 107 yards.
3. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: Who? Yeah, Mizzou's quarterback makes it on here after a record-setting day. Forget that it was against Missouri State. Lock threw for a school-record 521 yards and tied the SEC single-game record with seven touchdown passes.
4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: It feels like he has been a Heisman finalist for the past 10 years. With new coach Lincoln Riley taking over, Mayfield celebrated his new head coach's debut with 329 yards and three touchdowns on 19-of-20 passing.
5. Luke Falk, QB, Washington State: Falk completed his first 20 passes and set the school's career touchdown pass record in a win over Montana State. He was 33-for-39 passing for 311 yards and three touchdowns.
What's in a name? Here are five guys you should probably know after Week 1, if you didn't already know about them.
1. Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma: He has been as steady as you could be at tight end, with 14 touchdowns in two years, but on Saturday he notched his first 100-yard outing, catching seven passes for 134 yards and a touchdown.
2. Kelly Bryant, QB, Clemson: Taking over for Deshaun Watson was never going to be easy, but Bryant made it look that way in his starting debut. He accounted for 313 total yards and two touchdowns (one pass, one rush).
4. Jake Bentley, QB, South Carolina: The kid -- and I emphasize kid -- skipped his senior year of high school to join South Carolina's team last year. He became the starter in Game 7 and finished the year 4-3 as the starter. He kicked off the 2017 season with 215 yards and three touchdowns in the Gamecocks' 35-28 win over NC State.
Each week breeds new questions. Here are three that I have going into Week 2:
How do two offenses rebound from losing their starting quarterbacks? Florida State and Georgia watched their starting quarterbacks -- Deondre Francois and Jacob Eason, respectively -- leave their games with what appeared to be serious injuries. Georgia will turn to former top prospect and true freshman Jake Fromm, who threw for 143 yards and a touchdown in a win over Appalachian State, but the picture at FSU is murkier. Redshirt junior J.J. Cosentino and true freshman James Blackman could get the first looks.
Where does Florida's offense go from here? Franks had an up-and-down debut, but he looked more polished as a passer than Zaire. The biggest problem was that Florida's offensive line was as durable as a soup sandwich, and the playcalling was stale. How does Florida regroup? Is there another quarterback battle, or are changes in store with playcalling by offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier?
Is Cal for real? OK, the Golden Bears aren't winning the Pac-12 and won't be a playoff anything, but Justin Wilcox kicked off his tenure in a shocking way, with a 35-30 win at North Carolina. It was the first East Coast day game for Cal since 2012, and in his debut start at quarterback, Ross Bowers threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Where in the world did this come from?