1 – Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders (vs. Central Michigan)
Hand up. I’ve bad mouthed Spencer Sanders plenty over the years because the play just hasn’t matched the hype. He’s been inconsistent and at times has cost himself and the Cowboys winnable game. On Thursday night, he opened the season by playing like a bat out of hell against a decent Central Michigan team. Sanders completed 28 of 41 pass attempts for 406 yards and 4 touchdowns, and matched the air performance with another 57 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Sanders looked about as good and comfortable throwing the ball as we’ve seen over the years, and the Cowboys could be a danger this season if he can harness this type of play consistently.
2 – Everything Georgia (vs. every Oregon unit)
Well, so much for Georgia taking a step back. I’m not sure anyone really expected Oregon to compete with the Bulldogs on Saturday night but one would hope the game would be at least close when it came to the betting line of 17 points. Instead, Georgia went to work early and it was never really close. The entire team played great, from a stifling defense that looked identical to last season and put Bo Nix in a blender for sixty minutes, to Stetson Bennett throwing all over the Ducks defense and connecting with a half dozen different outstanding receivers with ease. Georgia didn’t skip a beat against a top 25 team to open the year, and that is certainly scary for many.
3 – Arizona WR Jacob Cowing (vs. San Diego State)
Cowing is the most unheralded receiver in the country. Playing at UTEP last season, he was a huge reason the Miners made it to bowl season after putting up almost 1,400 yards, and opted to transfer to Arizona in the offseason in order to be close to home. Cowing hit the ground running in his first game for the Wildcats, putting up 8 catches, 152 yards and 3 touchdowns against a typically stout Aztec defense. The Wildcats only won one game in 2021 and have plenty to fix, but if the connection between transfers Jayden de Laura and Jacob Cowing can hum like this all season, the Cats could sneak their way to six wins and into bowl season.
4 – Michigan State Linebacker Jacoby Windmon (vs. Western Michigan)
I bet you haven’t heard this before: an incoming Michigan State transfer playing extremely well. A year after Mel Tucker used the transfer portal to patch up the Spartans roster to rousing success, he went back to the portal (albeit, to a lesser extent) and found edge rusher Jacoby Windmon from UNLV. Windmon opened his Spartan tenure with a 7 tackle, 4(!) sack performance against Western Michigan that also included a forced fumble. Time will tell if Windmon can keep getting this kind of pressure against better competition, but he certainly caught the eye of the Draft community after this performance.
5 – USC Defense (vs. the Rice QB Room)
All the hype was on the Trojans offense heading into Lincoln Riley’s debut, and while it lived up the hype, I’m giving the defense some shine. Sure, they gave up nearly 10 yards per rush to a subpar Rice team, but the real highlight is what they did to Rice quarterbacks Wiley Green and TJ McMahon. The Trojans not only picked off the pair 4 times, they returned 3 of them for touchdowns for an accumulated total of 164 yards. By games end, the Trojans defense outscored the Owls 21-14. Who needs Caleb Williams with that kind of efficiency?