Believe the hype.
Deion Sanders’ debut as Colorado coach was billed as a big deal, but there was plenty of skepticism about just how good the Buffaloes could be after an unprecedented roster makeover in Boulder.
“We told you we were coming. You thought we were joking. We keep receipts,” Sanders said after Colorado upset No. 17 TCU 45-42 on Saturday in a performance that exceeded even the most lofty expectations.
The team with nearly 90 new players beat the team that played for the national championship last season.
Where to begin?
Sanders’ son, Shedeur, set a school record with 510 yards passing in his first major college football game after transferring with his father from Jackson State.
Receiver/cornerback Travis Hunter played 129 snaps and had 11 catches for 119 yards, but his best and biggest play was an interception with TCU in the red zone.
“No, I’m not tired, I’m ready to go back in,” said Hunter, who wore a T-shirt with an image of his Hall of Fame coach on it during postgame.
Freshman Dylan Edwards, whom Coach Prime lured away from Notre Dame, had 159 yards from scrimmage on 11 touches and scored four touchdowns, including the winner late in the fourth quarter.
Colorado snapped a 27-game losing streak against ranked teams on the road.
And when it was over, Sanders called out the doubters.
He asked one reporter: “Do you believe now? I read through that bull junk you wrote. Do you believe?”
It’s only one game, but it’s hard not to believe that Colorado is going to be fun and relevant and that Sanders did a heck of job not just reconstructing a roster almost from scratch but getting it ready to play Power Five football.
Offensive coordinator Sean Lewis, who left a head coaching job at Kent State to join Sanders’ staff, seems to have been a particularly good hire.
Next week Colorado plays its first home game against Nebraska, another team with a much-hyped new coach, but one coming off a very different debut.
The Cornhuskers lost under Matt Rhule at Minnesota on a walk-off field goal Thursday.
Folsom Field should be in a frenzy for the old Big Eight rivalry renewed.
So what’s the ceiling for the Buffs?
The defense left a lot to be desired against TCU and the offense probably is going to need to run the ball better to take some of the pressure off Shedeur Sanders. But that makes Colorado look like a lot of teams in the Pac-12 this season.
And Hunter playing 120 plays per game seems unsustainable.
But add an explosive CU team to a league that also includes No. 6 USC and Heisman winner Caleb Williams; No. 10 Washington and Michael Penix Jr.; and No. 15 Oregon and Bo Nix — along with No. 14 Utah and No. 18 Oregon State — and the Pac-12 just got even more exciting.
If you’re already growing a little weary of Coach Prime, be prepared: You’re going to see a lot of CU this September.
Fox is giving next week’s home opener the Big Noon treatment again. That’s a 10 a.m. local kickoff.
After facing rival Colorado State the next week, the Buffaloes end September with back-to-back games against Oregon and USC.
You have our attention, Coach Prime.
What might be the final season of Pac-12 football is off to a great start on the field.
With No. 18 Oregon State still to play Sunday at San Jose State, the Pac-12 is the only unbeaten league in the country. Every other conference has at least two losses.
Off the field, there are only two schools left committed to the Pac-12 beyond this school year, Oregon State and Washington State.
The rest will be dispersed to other Power Five conferences, including Colorado as one of four Pac-12 teams heading to the Big 12 next year.
Failures in leadership and poor decision-making by those in charge have put the onetime Conference of Champions on life support. Even if it does survive in some patchwork form, it will never be the same.
It’s sad and made sadder by just how entertaining and competitive the conference has a chance to be.
The opening weekend provided a taste.
It started Thursday night when Utah roughed up Florida of the SEC in Salt Lake City without its starting quarterback.
On Friday, Stanford won at Hawaii in its first game under coach Troy Taylor.
Saturday brought CU’s upset of TCU; Washington overwhelming Boise State; California romping at North Texas; UCLA unveiling five-star freshman quarterback Dante Moore against Coastal Carolina; and Oregon dropping 80 on an FCS opponent.
Meanwhile, Washington State went to Colorado State of the Mountain West — which could be a future conference trip for the Cougars — and put up 50 on the Rams.
No. 3 Ohio State’s quarterback competition might not be over. No. 4 Alabama seemed to gain clarity at the position.
Kyle McCord and the Buckeyes’ offense were uninspiring in a workmanlike victory against Indiana that was also the debut of the Big Ten on CBS.
McCord was 20 for 32 for 239 yards and an interception. Backup Devin Brown, who Ohio State coach Ryan Day insisted was neck and neck with McCord most of the offseason, only got a taste of action.
Brown was 1 for 3 and ran once for a total of minus-5 yards. Day said he didn’t play Brown as much he wanted.
“I didn’t want to run the risk of putting ourselves in a bad spot by continuing to move those guys in and out,” Day told reporters. “But going in, really wanted to play Devin some more, would like to do that moving forward.”
The Buckeyes have home games against Youngstown State and Western Kentucky to get things sorted out before a trip to No. 13 Notre Dame on Sept. 23.
Alabama doesn’t have that luxury with No. 11 Texas coming to Tuscaloosa next week, but Jalen Milroe might have eased some worries for Nick Saban.
The 71-year-old coach wasn’t in the mood to speculate about what’s next for his quarterbacks.
“This is a Coke bottle, not a crystal ball,” Saban said, holding up the ever-present soft drink on his postgame podium.
Milroe, the third-year quarterback who filled in for Bryce Young last season, had three touchdown passes and two TD runs in a rout against Middle Tennessee State.
No. 1 Georgia had the easiest opener among top-five teams against Tennessee-Martin. Carson Beck, Stetson Bennett’s replacement, was 21 for 31 for 294 yards and a touchdown.
The most impressive performance among the new starting quarterbacks for highly ranked teams came in Happy Valley.
Drew Allar looked very much like a former five-star recruit, passing for 325 yards and three touchdowns as No. 7 Penn State cruised past West Virginia.
AROUND THE COUNTRY: Fresno State, Northern Illinois and Texas State pulled off the sweetest upsets against Power Five opponents: ones that come with a big check. Fresno State won at Purdue in coach Ryan Walters’ debut, a trip the Bulldogs were paid $1.35 million to make. Northern Illinois knocked off Boston College in overtime and received $1.1 million for its time. Texas State beat Baylor for its first victory against a Power Five team and got $375,000 for making the 2-hour drive to Waco. Quite a debut for Bobcats coach G.J. Kinne. … The day’s most notable Group of Five over P5 upset came in Wyoming, where the Cowboys knocked off Texas Tech in overtime. … Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz needs the 25th-ranked Hawkeyes to average 25 points per game this season to keep his job. So far, he’s a little behind. Iowa jumped out to 14-0 lead in the first quarter against Utah State before settling into a very Hawkeye-like performance. … No. 19 Wisconsin’s first game with a new Air-Raid-ish offense: 312 yards rushing and four touchdowns in a victory against Buffalo.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com
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