SportsPulse: And you thought it was Michigan vs Notre Dame? Nope. This SEC-PAC-12 clash will have major implications on the playoff. Trysta Krick gets George Schroeder and Paul Myerberg to break down how each team can win the game of the week.
The opening weeknight of the college football season saw the defending national champions kickoff off its quest for a repeat with an easy conference win.
That would be Central Florida, which added another notch to its winning streak with a 56-17 victory against Connecticut. Through one game, the Knights are still rolling behind new coach Josh Heupel.
Thursday night’s action also saw the debut of Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M. The Aggies started the Fisher era with an easy win against Northwestern State.
Here are Thursday’s winners and losers as college football makes its full return after a long offseason:
Central Florida. The Knights showed no hangover from last year’s undefeated season and the offseason change from Scott Frost to Heupel in a convincing win against the Huskies. Yeah, UConn is going to occupy one of the lower rungs in the American Athletic Conference. UCF still looked the part. So did its quarterback: McKenzie Milton kicked off his Heisman Trophy push with 346 yards and five touchdowns.
Texas A&M. Things went as expected: A&M took a 35-0 lead into halftime and cruised against an inferior opponent. It’s all good so far for Jimbo Fisher as he looks to build the Aggies into a Southeastern Conference contender. But we’ll know more after next Saturday, when Fisher and A&M play host to one of college football’s elite teams in Clemson.
Northwestern. The Wildcats looked the part of a borderline top-25 team in netting a 31-27 win on the road against Purdue. It took a second to adjust to seeing two foes from the Big Ten Conference meeting in the season opener. The defense had no answer for Purdue’s Rondale Moore, the game’s breakout star, but Northwestern drew a strong performance from running back Jeremy Larkin and saw enough from quarterback Clayton Thorson to ease concerns over how well he’d bounce back from last year’s knee injury.
Wake Forest. A non-conference win against a Group of Five opponent is not always cause for celebration, especially when it takes overtime. But Wake Forest’s 23-17 win came on the road against a solid Tulane team that should end up in bowl play. The victory also came with a true freshman quarterback in the starting lineup. Dave Clawson and the Demon Deacons will take it.
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New Mexico State. Last year’s bowl berth made the Aggies one of the feel-good stories of the 2017 season. It’s too early to write off the team’s odds of making a return trip, but two losses in a row to kick off the year — the latest by 38 points to Minnesota — has NMSU off to a sour start. The Aggies have scored just 17 points across two games.
Purdue. The Boilermakers turned the ball over three times and committed nine penalties for 95 yards in the loss to Northwestern. Oops. The good news is that the Boilermakers were sloppy on offense and ineffective on defense yet only lost by a single possession. In other words, these one stings but there’s likely a bowl game in Purdue’s future should the Boilermakers take care of the details.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg.