Recapping Week 1’s Top Winners and Losers in 2021 College Football

By Dan Vasta in Sports
| September 7, 2021 11:30 am PDT

What an opening weekend it was for the 2021 college football season. Several thrillers came down to the wire and many highly-ranked teams were upset.

There were a few teams that lost to lower-tier squads or even outside the FBS ranks. With so much going down, it’s only right to issue a week one college football recap.

Rather than just summarize everything that went happen, let’s have an eye toward the future.

That brings me the biggest college football winners and losers from week one.

Winner: Georgia

Is there a bigger winner than Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs?

The defense was remarkable all night. Check out the disgusting numbers the Bulldogs dropped in their season opening win

  • 2 rushing yards allowed
  • 7 sacks
  • 1 INT
  • 3 points allowed

This defense is going to be a problem.

The Georgia linebackers are the best in the country. Nearly every single one of them lived in the backfield. Nakobe Dean, Adam Anderson, and Nolan Smith played like future first-round selections. All three shot into the backfield with their hair on fire, and it was surreal that Clemson struggled so much.

Jordan Davis is a house in the interior of the defensive line, and he played, as well. The secondary gave up a few long gainers, but they hung in there on the critical plays.

Clemson was only 5-for-16 on third downs, and Christopher Smith took a 74-yard interception back to the house for a pick-six.

However you slice it, this was one of the best wins in Kirby Smart’s tenure in Athens.

Winning an SEC title over Auburn and beating Oklahoma in the CFP Semifinals was great, but this victory over Clemson could be the start of something special.

Loser: Clemson

Dabo Swinney had not drawn the opener to end the way it did. Brent Venables and Tony Elliott are two of the best coordinators in the country, but they failed to find any answers.

The offensive line had no push against the best defense on the planet. Even though the wide receivers are amongst the better units in the nation, they too struggled. The playmakers had issues getting open quick enough. The Clemson offense ended up being in over their heads all night.

The offense was in obvious passing downs, but they could not execute. People may sugarcoat it, but this was a pretty massive loss.

If they don’t start beating up on the ACC, it will be challenging to get back towards the top of the polls. The schedule is so weak this season that the Tigers could have slim pickings in terms of opportunities to impress the committee.

Clemson has only missed the CFP once thus far in year eight. Clemson could be in serious jeopardy of missing the party if they do not pick it up and start dominating teams like they often have in a tremendous run under Dabo Swinney.

Winner: UCLA

Chip Kelly and UCLA have a challenging season ahead due to their schedule. The season opener against a Top 25 team on paper in LSU was enjoyable, especially since Kelly had never won a game with the Bruins against non-conference foes.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson played spectacularly compared to his first showing against Hawai’i. Kelly could put together an impressive season.

While the Tigers may not be for real, UCLA won the first of many stiff challenges they will get this season. Oregon, Utah, USC, and Washington are all on the Pac-12 slate.

Seriously, they have one of the toughest schedules in college football this year.

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Loser: ACC

I wasn’t overly high on the conference but thought Miami and North Carolina had a chance to shine. They have star quarterbacks who have plenty of experience, and the offensive weapons are more than capable.

They both looked pathetic in Week 1. These two had Top 10-like expectations and looked anything but the part.

The defenses had spurts where they looked completely lost. Clemson struggled to move the ball.

The ACC could miss the CFP entirely with the way they played over the weekend. All three of the top teams have weak slates, making it even more challenging to find success. Beating up on lowly teams has been a recipe for CFP disappointment.

The Pac-12 might even have a stronger case if they were to post an undefeated team. The SEC will have a stronger argument to put two teams over whoever wins the ACC. The season isn’t over, but certainly, it is far from the lock that most experts had envisioned all summer.

Winner: Alabama, Bryce Young

Nick Saban continues to bring in new players and coaches and continues to amaze after every offseason. Bryce Young threw for four touchdowns with over 350 yards passing.

They made the Canes defense look slow, methodical, and unaware of what was going on.

It was a total dismantling on both sides of the football, to be honest.

Young was simply incredible. He has a ton of potential, but this was off the charts.

The FCS competition is on the slate for Week 2, but Alabama lost some of their best players last year. They played like there was little to no drop-off.

Jameson Williams looked like the next bright star at wide receiver, but John Metchie lived up to the billing. He played a ton last season despite Devonta Smith garnering most of the attention as the Heisman winner.

The run game was steady, but Young played Heisman-like, and this game was never close.

Loser: Wisconsin, LSU

The Badgers came into the season with lofty expectations, and they had their chances against Penn State.

Red zone woes made it hard to watch. A missed field goal and a few turnovers were tough to endure if you were a Badger backer. Graham Mertz did not have his best game, and that was a problem last season too. In all the Wisconsin losses, the offense couldn’t get out of their way.

Jake Ferguson, Danny Davis, and Chez Mellusi all made enough plays. Mertz and the inability to come away with more than one touchdown was costly. Penn State struggled to control the clock in terms of the time of possession.

Yet, they somehow still won this game due to turnovers and missed opportunities by Wisconsin.

The simple tasks added up in this one and bit the Badgers in the back. To have a prayer of getting a chance to win the Big Ten West or be a dark horse for the CFP, this team will need to run the table and look impressive in the process.

LSU had another disappointing loss in their season opener. They made the Mississippi State Bulldogs offense look like the 1999 St. Louis Rams last season, and now they made the UCLA Bruins look unstoppable.

If the Bayou Bengals don’t turn things around on the defensive end, they could lose four or five and finish fourth in the SEC West behind Alabama, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Auburn or Arkansas at this rate.

Winner: Virginia Tech

The Hokies needed a win over an AP Top 10 team. They haven’t beaten one since 2014 against Ohio State. The Buckeyes ended up winning it all that season. Unfortunately for North Carolina, this team doesn’t look as dominant.

Still, the Hokies and Justin Fuente were under the hot seat and needed good vibrations.

They dominated the first few possessions of the game at the line of scrimmage. That set the tempo for the entire game, and they were able to turn over Sam Howell three times. The Hokies may not be back all the way, but they will have more opportunities to become a Top 25 squad if they protect Lane Stadium.

Loser: Washington, Oregon

The Pac-12 needed to avoid the spotlight in the opening weekend. The conference had zero primetime games against premier squads.

Yet, they continue to make headlines in all the worst ways, and nothing went as planned.

Washington was stunned at home to Montana after forgetting how to play offense in all facets of the game.

Then, Oregon nearly lost to Fresno State and may have lost their superstar defender, Kayvon Thibodeaux.

If he isn’t healthy in time for next week against the Buckeyes, that could be another loss the team suffers on the national landscape.

The conference needs to wake up soon because Washington plays at Michigan on top of the Ducks heading to Columbus. The Pac-12 has appeared in the playoff only twice in its eighth year of existence. The ACC could be down for the count, but the Pac-12 continues to stub their toes. They all need to wake up and perform a bit better.

Winner: FCS

The FBS had six of their teams lose on the opening weekend of college football. It truly is unreal, but a handful of these teams are bad football teams. UNLV lost to Eastern Washington 35-33 in double overtime.

Colorado State lost to South Dakota State 42-23, and Vanderbilt was embarrassed by East Tennessee State, 23-3. Tulsa was upset by Dan Hawkins and UC-Davis 19-17. Holy Cross knocked off Connecticut, 38-28.

These games aren’t earth-shattering, but Montana upsetting Washington as three-plus touchdown favorites across all major sportsbooks could be the biggest upset we see all season.

FBS squads that are ranked are now 358-5 against the FCS since 1978.

The FCS has several impressive teams, but the FBS has a few bottom feeders that quite frankly have been an eyesore to watch for years.

Looking to Week 2 in 2021-22 College Football

There were so many week one college football winners and losers that the season ahead surely will be entertaining.

It’s never ideal when you have a huge injury or a humbling loss in the first week of the season. No title was ever won after one big victory in week one, either.

The unexpected will continue to happen, and the games will get better by the week. Cheers to an even more exciting second week of the year.




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