On many weekends, Texas A&M’s thrill-ride victory in overtime over UCLA on Saturday would qualify as college football’s weekend highlight.
As the games unfolded, it turned out to be no more than the third most meaningful outcome in Texas.
That’s how good the opening weekend was — around the nation, and particularly in the Lone Star State.
Texas’ 50-47 double-overtime home triumph over Notre Dame on Sunday night, viewed by the largest television audience — 10.9 million — for an opening weekend game in more than a decade, was the Longhorns’ most significant since beating Nebraska for the 2009 Big 12 championship.
The question becomes, does it signal an about-face for a program that has woefully underachieved since that conference title season?
A two-headed quarterback of strong-armed freshman Shane Buechele and powerfully built senior Tyrone Swoopes — the “18-Wheeler” — worked to near-perfection, and if the Longhorns can build on that arrangement they could make a shared position into a strength rarely seen in college football.
Great triumph for Texas, but potentially not as big as Houston’s.
The Cougars’ comeback and runaway victory over third-ranked Oklahoma at NRG Stadium could provide long-term reverberations.
First, the Cougars cleared the biggest obstacle for a perfect season and defeated not only the nation’s third-ranked team but a College Football Playoff semifinalist from last season. No flying under the radar for Houston this season. As long as the Cougars remain undefeated, they’ll be part of every CFP conversation and many projections.
Also, the outcome and the atmosphere could only have boosted Houston’s candidacy for the Big 12, while confirming the fears of league football coaches. A Cougars uniform with a Big 12 logo stitched on the sleeve will add to the recruiting challenges of the rest of the conference in prospect-rich Houston.
So be it. No attractive candidate has been an argument against expansion. Houston provided grand theater and took down the Big 12 favorite in front of commissioner Bob Bowlsby and a Sooners administration that is influential in league matters.
Later Saturday, a second Big 12 hopeful went the high drama route to pull out a neutral-field game when Brigham Young got a 33-yard field goal from a kicker making his debut — freshman Jake Oldroyd — with 4 seconds remaining to beat Arizona in Glendale, Ariz.
All Cougars that want in the Big 12 had a good weekend.
But it wasn’t necessarily a terrible weekend for the Sooners or LSU, which fell to Wisconsin in a wonderful spectacle at Lambeau Field until Tigers’ offensive guard Josh Boutte applied a the cheapest of shots to an unsuspecting Badgers’ defender as Wisconsin celebrated a game-sealing interception. Boutte earned a one-game suspension.
The beauty of college football’s blockbuster opening weekend is it came with little risk and no future reward off the table.
The CFP committee has sent a clear message that ambitious non-conference schedules go to the top of the inbox when evaluating teams. And a group consisting mostly of athletic directors and former coaches understands the difference between a one-loss team that took scheduling risks and a 13-0 team that did not.
Oklahoma didn’t have to schedule Houston and Ohio State — which visits Norman in two weeks — this season. Years ago, this type of scheduling wasn’t uncommon. As schools learned they could add home games, fill their stadiums and not be hurt in rankings by playing lesser competition, they softened up.
The game benefits when its marquee programs face off. We can debate if those games should be played on campus or at neutral sites mostly in NFL stadiums, but populating the schedule with them is the first step.
If the neutral-site trend continues, here’s a request for Arrowhead Stadium to re-enter the action. The Chiefs’ home was site to several such games for a decade starting in 1998. Could Missouri and Nebraska be enticed for a season-opener? Or Kansas State-Iowa? A Chiefs official recently said the team is all in for such a game.
Whatever the matchup, Alabama is not to be invited. No team kills season-opening buzz like the Crimson Tide. On Saturday, they lulled Southern California into a false sense of confidence, posting a scoreless first quarter. Then Alabama scored at will on its way to a 52-6 embarrassment in Arlington, Texas.
The Crimson Tide was weekend’s most dominant winner, but not the only statement maker. That occurred throughout college football on a wonderfully dramatic opening weekend.