It's fair to say that week one of the 2014 college football season did not disappoint. There were breakout performances, shocking upsets and a number of high-profile contests that came down to the final few minutes. All in all, it was exactly what we'd been waiting over eight months to see.
For some, the experience was a bit better than it was for others. Teams like Texas A&M, Georgia and LSU turned in impressive (albeit difference) performances. The same cannot be said for South Carolina, Clemson and Wisconsin. But it's certainly a long season - one week does not make an entire campaign.
Still, that's all we have to go on right now - one slate of games. We ran through this past weekend's action and picked out the 10 teams that impressed us the most. Will they all have spectacular seasons? No, but they're off to great starts.
10. Nebraska - defeated Florida Atlantic, 55-7
We have no idea if Nebraska is going to break the curse of losing four games every season (the streak is currently at six) this time around, but we do know that they've got more offensive firepower in their arsenal than they have in years past. With five minutes to play in the first quarter of this past Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic, the Cornhuskers and the Owls were tied, 7-7. Nebraska ripped of the next 48 straight points.
In fact, the Cornhuskers' offense was so potent, racking up 784 yards, that it broke a Big Ten record for yardage. Tommy Armstrong Jr. played fairly well, completing 15-of-29 passes for 271 and two touchdowns, but most of the damage was done on the ground. The Cornhuskers' rushing attack, led by Ameer Abdullah, combined for a whopping 498 yards. Abdullah, a rising star, has 232 of them himself.
No, Nebraska wasn't facing a high level of competition this past Saturday. But the numbers the team put up were still eye-popping.
9. Texas - defeated North Texas, 38-7
The Longhorns actually didn't play very well on offense against North Texas. Quarterback David Ash, who may be out a good portion of the season (or longer) after suffering post-concussion symptoms, didn't exactly light up the scoreboard. The running attack, led by Johnathan Gray, also performed marginally, churning out just a 4.1 yards per carry average on 40 attempts. Why, then, is Texas on this list?
What the Longhorns did on defense this past Saturday was almost unfair. Texas gave up just 94 yards total and picked off the Mean Green four times. North Texas was held to three completions and 15 passing yards on the entire day. The only time the Mean Green scored was on a fumble by Texas in its own end zone.
We're not going to rush to judgment and proclaim Texas the the best team in the Big 12 - that would be foolish. But as far as first games go, Charlie Strong & Co. had about as solid a defensive showing as you can get.
8. Auburn - defeated Arkansas, 45-21
There were many who thought that Auburn would have a tough time being as effective on offense this season as it was last year during its SEC title run, given the personnel losses. Well, through one game, that doesn't seem to be the case. The Tigers threw for 293 yards, rushed for 302 yards and put up over 40 points - yet again. Nick Marshall, who was benched by head coach Gus Malzahn for the first half after his marijuana citation this summer, didn't even have to do most of the dirty work.
Cameron Artis-Payne picked up right where Tre Mason left off, rushing for 177 yards on just 26 carries. The Tigers defense also performed well, as the team shut out Arkansas in the second half. No, the Razorbacks won't be an elite team in 2014, but they're still in the SEC.
It's hard to know whether Auburn will be able to replicate the magic that went along with the 2013 campaign. But it's very obvious that the SEC West will not be decided without the Tigers' say.
7. USC - defeated Fresno State, 52-13
USC did not look like a team going through turmoil. The Trojans fired Lane Kiffin midway through last year's campaign, didn't award the job to interim coach Ed Orgeron after the season and instead brought in Washington's Steve Sarkisian. They've also had to deal with the Josh Shaw fiasco and a player accusing Sarkisian of being racist. They still went out and hung 52 points on Fresno State in their opener.
This was exactly what USC needed - a solid victory to start off the year to change morale on campus. Quarterback Cody Kessler put on a fantastic performance, throwing for 394 yards and four touchdowns. The Trojans, led by Javorius Allen, also rushed for 277 yards. Fresno State had marginal success against USC's defense, finding the end zone twice, but it was nowhere near enough to keep up with the firepower the Trojans displayed.
This upcoming week's opponent will be a bit different, however. USC will travel to Stanford to take on the reigning Pac-12 champs. A Trojans victory there would put them on just about everyone's radar.
6. Tennessee - defeated Utah State, 38-7
Is Tennessee finally back? Well, it might be too early to make such a claim, but the Volunteers did look much improved in their 2014 season opener. In what was expected to be a competitive affair against Utah State, UT ripped off the first 31 points of the game, which included three touchdown passes from quarterback Justin Worley. Tennessee's defense also looked solid, as the Vols gave up just 244 total yards and held Aggies signal-caller Chuckie Keeton in check all night.
One area of concern? You could look at Tennessee's running game, which only produced 110 yards on 39 carries - a measly 2.8 average. To be able to compete with some of the better SEC squads, the Vols are going to have to improve their ground game.
I'm not sure that we're sold on the new "Third Down For What" chant that was introduced at Neyland Stadium this past Sunday night, but the team's play made up for it.
5. Notre Dame - defeated Rice, 48-17
Quarterback Everett Golson returns, Notre Dame wins. While it may not be that simple, the majority of the fan base is happy to have No. 5 back under center. Golson, playing in his first game for the Irish since the BCS National Championship Game after the 2012 season, put up 295 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He also accounted for three more scores on the ground.
Rice, behind quarterback Driphus Jackson, kept it close until the end of the second quarter. But Notre Dame's 576 yards of offense proved to be too much to overcome.
We won't truly know how much Golson has improved as a player until he plays against some better competition - like Michigan this upcoming Saturday. We also don't know if Notre Dame's defense, which was the main reason for its run in 2012, will be able to dominate like it did that season. But for at least one week, all is good in South Bend.
4. LSU - defeated Wisconsin, 28-24
Of all the teams on this list, you could make the argument that LSU played the worst. But guess what? They still won - and it was against an opponent that you know will win at least nine games this season. The Tigers won despite starting quarterback Anthony Jennings completing just nine pass attempts and the team rushing for 2.7 yards per carry on 47 tries. How? Big plays.
Jennings hit Travin Dural for an 80-yard touchdown in the first quarter. In the fourth, he found John Diarse for a 36-yard touchdown that featured multiple broken tackles. The eventual game-winning score was a 28-yard run by Kenny Hilliard. Oh, and there was that huge fake punt that started the rally.
Sure, LSU was aided by whatever was going on with Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen and his star running back Melvin Gordon - the two were clearly not on the same page in the second half of the contest. But it's always a good sign when a team plays poorly and still finds a way to win. Nice work, Les Miles.
3. Oklahoma - defeated Louisana Tech, 48-16
Oklahoma is expected to compete for a national championship this season, and in its first game, the team did not disappoint. The Sooners scored the contest's first 31 points and held a 41-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter before easing on the gas. They also held Louisiana Tech to just 54 yards rushing on 29 carries - less than two yards per. It was a complete performance from the Big 12 favorite.
Quarterback Trevor Knight, who many believe is one of the best in the nation, played well enough, completing 19-of-34 passes for 253 yards, one touchdown and one interception. It wasn't a dominating performance, but honestly, it didn't need to be. OU was able to move the ball on the ground too - scoring five touchdowns.
Oklahoma will now get Tulsa - another non-power five team, before taking on another team on our list, Tennessee, in two weeks. There's no reason that the Sooners shouldn't be 2-0 heading into that contest.
2. Texas A&M - defeated South Carolina, 52-28
"Kenny Trill", as the kids are calling him these days, put on one heck of a performance against South Carolina this past Thursday. It made Aggies fans, who had to be at least a little worried about how the team would fare in the post-Manziel era, confident in the direction of the program. Hill, for those who missed it, threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns as the team whooped South Carolina, 52-28.
As is always the case with A&M, however, there is some cause for concern. The Aggies gave up 433 yards of offense to the Gamecocks, and SC quarterback Dylan Thompson threw for 366 yards and four touchdowns. That being said, if Texas A&M is able to score at will this season, it may not matter how many points they give up.
The real test will come when the Aggies take on the likes of Alabama and LSU - teams with in-your-face defenses that like to control the line of scrimmage. Could the SEC West be any more loaded this year?
1. Georgia - defeated Clemson, 45-21
Georgia knocked off Clemson this past Saturday in a way that has to terrify the rest of the nation. The Bulldogs, who were tied with the Tigers at halftime and really didn't take control of the game until the fourth quarter, ran the ball right down the throats of their opponent until they just seemingly couldn't tackle anymore. Heisman favorite Todd Gurley raced for 198 yards on just 15 carries, scoring three touchdowns in the process. Nick Chubb, another UGA bruiser, ripped off a 47-yard touchdown run in the final period. All in all, the Dawgs rushed for 328 yards and five touchdowns on Clemson.
Hutson Mason, who is taking over for former stud Aaron Murray, played decently, but relied much on the team's ground game to get by. His numbers were marginal - 18-of-26 for 131 yards - but it was enough to get the victory. He'll need to play better in the coming weeks if his team is going to stay in the College Football Playoff hunt.
Georgia can have a special season, so long as the injuries don't mount up. If the majority of the Bulldogs' backfield can stay healthy, look out.