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College football report: 10 things we learned during opening weekend

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looks to throw against Louisville during the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018.

STEPHEN M. DOWELL/ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS

By MATT MURSCHEL | Orlando Sentinel | Published: September 3, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — Check out the top 10 things we learned during the first full Saturday of the 2018 college football season:

1. Tua Tagovailoa is clearly the best option at quarterback for Alabama. Tagovailoa picked up where he left off last season, directing the Crimson Tide offense on five touchdowns drives during a 51-14 win over Louisville. Naming him the permanent starter would quiet the questions about the positon and prevent future outbursts like the one coach Nick Saban directed at ESPN’s Mara Taylor when she asked about the performance of the signal callers during the season opener. Saban reportedly called Taylor on Sunday to apologize.

2. Michigan once again underwhelms on the big stage. The Wolverines can’t find a way to win big games under Jim Harbaugh. The program lost its third consecutive contest against a ranked foe, falling 24-17 to Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. An ineffective offense continues to plague Harbaugh’s teams.

3. Auburn erases bad memories with a statement win over Washington. The new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta had been a House of Horrors for the Tigers after back-to-back losses in the 2017 SEC Championship Game and Peach Bowl, but this year’s team put that behind them with the help of a solid defensive performance, stifling a loaded Huskies offense during a 21-16 win.

4. Washington’s loss sends the wrong kind of message to start the season. A strong showing by the Huskies against SEC power Auburn could have helped repair the Pac-12’s image after being shut out of last year’s College Football Playoff semifinals. Instead, the loss forces the conference to chase more quality nonconference wins to prove it deserves to have a representative among the four playoff teams.

5. Maryland puts distractions aside to once again topple Texas. The Terrapins have suffered through a lot following the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair and the subsequent suspension of coach DJ Durkin, but for one day at least the Maryland players put that behind them during an impressive win over the Longhorns.

6. It’s deja vu all over again for Texas. Longhorn fans must have thought they were caught in a bad dream as they watched Texas struggle on offense while making key miscues that resulted in another season-opening loss to Maryland on Saturday. Tom Herman was hired to bring the program out of irrelevance and so far, he has fallen short.

7. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State try to move on from messy month. The Buckeyes were playing their first game without coach Urban Meyer, who is currently serving a three-game suspension, but it didn’t see to cause any problems on the football field. Haskins tossed five touchdown passes and the team amassed more than 700 yards during a 77-33 blowout win over Oregon State.

8. Trevor Lawrence may be the future, but Kelly Bryant gives Clemson the best chance to win now. Lawrence was certainly impressive during his collegiate debut, tossing three touchdown passes against Furman, but let’s pump the brakes on penciling him in as the Tigers’ starter. Bryant is 13-2 as Clemson’s starting quarterback and his versatility gives the Tigers a better shot at this point of winning the ACC.

9. Oklahoma is going to be fine without Baker Mayfield. If anyone was worried how the Sooners would perform after losing Mayfield to the NFL, those concerns went out the window after watching Kyler Murray direct the offense during a 63-14 win over FAU. Murray was impressive despite only playing a half during the rout of the Owls.

10. Auspicious starts for Kevin Sumlin and Chip Kelly. Four new coaches made their debuts in the Pac-12 Saturday, but perhaps the two biggest offseason hires were Kevin Sumlin at Arizona and Chip Kelly at UCLA. Both fan bases are expecting big things out of these two programs, the coaches stumbled during their debuts. BYU beat Sumlin’s Arizona team 28-23, while Cincinnati upended the Kelly’s Bruins 26-17.

©2018 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
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