Early Snaps: Auburn, your defense. Woof.
• No. 23 Auburn 42, Utah State 38: The last defending national champion to lose its ensuing season opener was Michigan, which fell 36-20 to Notre Dame in the fall of 1998. The Auburn Tigers, despite their best college try, did not repeat that feat in 2011. Auburn paid $950,000 to bring Utah State to the Plains, presumably expecting the home stand to serve as a warm-up of sorts for a conference schedule that includes seven currently ranked teams. But the Tigers got their workout and then some, as Utah State’s Kerwynn Williams (whose hair looks like this) ran right up the middle for a 43-yard touchdown four minutes into the game and true freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton (real name!) threw for 260 yards. (Anybody else have the sneaking suspicion that Auburn’s defense was covertly almost this bad last year?)
After a high-scoring first three quarters that would have belonged in broadcast tandem with last night’s TCU-Baylor shootout, two consecutive touchdowns put the Aggies up 38-28 with four minutes remaining in the game. This, however, was the Utah State defense’s moment to come completely unhinged in turn. Two of the only remaining familiar names on Auburn’s roster, Philip Lutzenkirchen and Michael Dyer, caught one touchdown and rushed for another, separated by the most divinely executed onside kick and recovery we’ll see all season.
Was the loss of nearly every significant starter from the 2010 championship team so close to impossible to overcome, even against a WAC team? Or was Auburn looking ahead to Mississippi State? (And if it was, isn’t it weird to be looking ahead to Mississippi State? Justified, but it still feels unnatural.) The luck the Tigers lived by last year has clearly not deserted them, but they’d better hustle to knock off whatever rust remains. Auburn hosts the 20th-ranked Bulldogs of Starkville in Week 2, and it’s just a hunch, but something tells me Dan Mullen shows up prepared. (RECAP | BOX)
• No. 2 Alabama 48, Kent State 7: Tuscaloosa faithful, you have two feathers to anoint your fitted caps today: First, that the Crimson Tide handled their non-AQ team with far greater finesse than did Auburn; second, that a starting quarterback was in fact named before kickoff. The bad news is that AJ McCarron didn’t perform quite as admirably as could be hoped, and neither did Phillip Sims, when he came in. Each quarterback accounted for two interceptions, but the Tide still racked up 298 yards through the air. If you’re wondering where Trent Richardson fits into this narrative, the answer is right where he belongs — at the goal line, recording touchdown runs of one, one and nine yards. (RECAP | BOX | HIGHLIGHTS)
• No. 18 Ohio State 42, Akron 0: That’s … that’s Todd Boeckman’s music! Uncanny Boeckman impersonator Joe Bauserman, calling to mind the promise of the Greatest Generation, shocked a staid Big Ten to attention Saturday afternoon by running for a 15-yard touchdown in a game situation. Ohio State’s senior signal-caller backed off from such frivolities almost immediately, following up with three scoring passes to Jake Stoneburner over the next two quarters — a development I fully support because it means I get to type “Jake Stoneburner.” Bauserman was put back into cold storage in the fourth quarter for dual-threat true freshman Braxton Miller, who added a 14-yard touchdown pass of his own. There was no real threat from an Akron team not expected to give any resistance, but the Buckeyes up their degree of MAC difficulty next week with a visit from Toledo. (RECAP | BOX | HIGHLIGHTS)
• Northwestern 24, Boston College 17: The PersaStrong Heisman campaign may have to be packed away in mothballs after Dan Persa himself missed Week 1 with the same nagging Achilles injury that knocked him out in 2010. But at least for now, the Wildcats are soldiering on ably without him. Kain Colter is the name of the day in Evanston; Persa’s backup passed for close to 200 yards and ran for 71 more. Meanwhile red-zone anemia and poor quarterback protection dogged the Eagles; BC actually managed 34 more yards of offense than NU (454-420), but Chase Rettig was sacked three times. (RECAP | BOX)
• No. 21 Missouri 17, Miami (Ohio) 6: Perhaps we should have expected a competitive game in Columbia. The RedHawks were the subject of last year’s most jaw-dropping W-L turnaround, after all. But they’re still a team with a first-year head coach trying to outscheme Gary Pinkel. Don Treadwell very nearly succeeded, with a little help from a decidedly lackluster and un-Gabbertly performance from sophomore quarterback James Franklin. Further tuneup reps may be hard to come by with a road trip to Arizona State looming, but the biggest hurdle to come for the Tigers will be a Week 4 road trip to play a little team in Norman, Oklahoma. (RECAP | BOX)
• Purdue 27, Middle Tennessee State 24: As predicted in this space in August, the excellently named Caleb TerBush has taken the sad-sack quarterbacking wheel in West Lafayette. TerBush delivered what would turn out to be the deciding score at 0:57, with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Antavian Edison over the middle. But the Boilermakers wouldn’t have emerged victorious without the help of kicker Carson Wiggs, who connected on field goals of 50 and 48 yards in the first and fourth quarters. (RECAP | BOX)
• No. 13 Virginia Tech 66, Appalachian State 13: If you were wondering whether the Hokies would put down some sort of hammerstroke to erase memories of last season’s home loss to JMU … well, now you’re not wondering anymore, are you? (RECAP | BOX | HIGHLIGHTS)