The New Florida Gators Have Arrived

The closing bell sounded at the conclusion of the late-night matchups. And now, we have our stock report for the Week 1 Sunday Stock Exchange. Who among the college football landscape is trending up, who is trending down, and what storylines can we hone in on after the first week of full action?

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Sunday Stock Exchange | Week 1

Stock Up: Saturdays (again)

In Week 0, there were 11 games on Saturday. In Week 1, there were 57 games with FBS opponents on Saturday alone and 81 total from Thursday to Saturday. As of this writing, there’s one more game that still has yet to be played — Florida State vs. LSU on Sunday night.

College football was back in Week 0. But now it’s back. Saturday stock might be maxed out now, but it’s truly reached its highest point. And it’s not coming down for a while.

Stock Neutral: Georgia’s defense

Georgia’s defense left the 2021 season with its stock at its highest point. Then the Bulldogs lost eight defenders to the 2022 NFL Draft — five of which went in Round 1. Some people thought they’d be coming back down. Those people were wrong.

Granted, the Oregon Ducks did nothing to help themselves in a 49-3 drubbing at the hands of the Bulldogs in Week 1. But Georgia’s defense was so dominant that you might’ve thought that a few 2022 draft picks forgot to leave.

The stock is neutral here only because Georgia left 2021 at the pinnacle, and they remain there today. Lose Travon Walker, Jordan Davis, Quay Walker, Devonte Wyatt, Lewis Cine, and players like Jalen Carter, Christopher Smith, Nolan Smith, Kelee Ringo, and five-star freshman Malaki Starks will step up to take their place.

It’s a testament to what Kirby Smart has built, both from a recruiting and a development standpoint. The 2021 Georgia defense was legendary, but it wasn’t an anomaly. Georgia has a system in place to remain an unstoppable force.

Stock Down: Oregon Ducks

Make no mistake — Georgia was on another level in Week 1. But if the Bulldogs were on the 40th floor, cruising up to their private helicopter, then Oregon was in the basement, trying and failing to reset the breakers.

On both sides of the ball, the Ducks looked stranded against a Georgia team that outmatched them in every way. On offense, Oregon was out of sync, outmatched in the trenches, and hamstrung by an ineffective QB. And on defense, a strong aversion for tackling settled in each time a Georgia player found space. Which they often did, with the help of a dominant showing from the offensive line.

Bo Nix does have physical talent. And I never want to pile on a young football player — they’re all human. But at some point, the leash runs out when easy mistakes keep stacking up. Nix has too much starting experience to still be as inoperative as he is under center.

That might be where the first change happens under Dan Lanning. But judging from his incredibly flat debut, it might not be the last. Oregon has soul-searching to do before it can earn back respect in the top 25.

Stock Up: Close games from underdogs

Especially in the early window, we were treated to a number of high-octane matchups between ranked and unranked opponents. North Carolina vs. Appalachian State was one for the ages. Houston vs. UTSA was an absolutely thrilling contest between two Group of Five blue bloods. South Dakota State nearly achieved a stunning upset against Iowa. And even ECU gave NC State a scare, competing all the way to the final seconds.

Unfortunately, while close games are up, the underdogs themselves are down. None of the aforementioned underdogs were able to come away with victories. Appalachian State lost on a failed 2-point attempt. South Dakota State fell at the hands of special-teams demigods Tory Taylor and Terry Roberts. UTSA lost in triple overtime, and ECU’s hopes were dashed on a missed last-second field goal.

College football is a roller coaster. But don’t lose hope, underdogs. Your time will come soon enough.

Stock Up: Florida Gators

The Swamp has claimed another victim. The Gators edged out the No. 7 ranked Utah Utes 29-26, not only defending their turf but also showing they might be primed to make some noise under first-year head coach Billy Napier.

Napier besting a top-10 opponent in his first game as a head coach is impressive. But the way his team did it is even more so. Florida looked more disciplined on both sides of the ball than they looked under Dan Mullen in 2021. The defense was cohesive and played with high energy. The blocking up front was stellar. And most importantly, they remained composed against a talented, well-coached Utah team.

The star of the night, however, was undoubtedly Anthony Richardson. We’ve seen rare physical talents like Vince Young and Cam Newton will their teams to contention, and Richardson could be the next on the list. While his passing stats weren’t eye-popping, Richardson consistently made game-defining plays. He notched over 100 yards and three scores on the ground and scored a crucial 2-point conversion with a stellar display of escapability and control.

We saw a more mature, more developed Richardson on Saturday night. He’s already 6’4″, 232 pounds, with elite athleticism and a rocket for an arm. If Richardson is putting the pieces together while the Florida program gains new energy around him, look out because the Gators might be here to stay.

Stock Down: Iowa’s scoring (or lack thereof)

Iowa might be the first team to score seven points and have over half of it be attributed to their defense. The Hawkeyes achieved one lone touchdown on the scoreboard, but no touchdowns on the field, in a hollow 7-3 home win against FCS opponent South Dakota State.

The worst part was, you could tell South Dakota State was outmatched, talent-wise. Iowa’s defense was suffocating. But the Hawkeyes’ offense did anything and everything it could to give the Jackrabbits more opportunities. The blocking was subpar, and the quarterback play even more so. Something has to change before Big Ten play hits, or Iowa might manage to score negative points.

On second thought, that sounds exciting. Keep it steady, Iowa.

Nevertheless, as a bonus, we have to give a “Stock Up” mention to Iowa punter Tory Taylor. Taylor punted 10 times for the Hawkeyes, and seven pinned the Jackrabbits inside their 20-yard line. Five — yes, half — of his punts were downed inside the 10. And two of them stopped all the way back at the 2-yard line.

South Dakota State’s offense had its back against the wall consistently because of Taylor, who directly assisted Iowa’s two safeties. Iowa doesn’t win this game without Taylor. This game, while insulting to modern football, was a truly triumphant milestone in the #ForTheBrand movement.

Stock Up: Ohio State’s defense

Ohio State was a spectacle to behold in 2021. With Heisman contender C.J. Stroud and a wide receiver trio of Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the Buckeyes barreled over opposing defenses left and right. Even with their historic production, the Buckeyes didn’t make the CFB Playoffs. Losses against Oregon and Michigan kept them from the postseason.

While those two losses constituted two of Stroud’s lesser games, the Ohio State defense was a visible hindrance at times in 2021. The Buckeyes didn’t hold up well in the trenches, and the linebackers lacked consistency, especially after losing Baron Browning and Pete Werner to the NFL draft the year before.

Ohio State still has playoff aspirations in 2022, but everyone knows if they want to get there, their defense has to take a step up. And luckily for them, that’s exactly what the defense did against Notre Dame.

After entering the half down 10-7, the Buckeyes shut out Notre Dame in the second period. Players like Michael Hall Jr. and Tommy Eichenberg had standout performances, and under new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, the OSU defense was flying around on all three downs. After seeing Stroud refind his rhythm late and seeing the Buckeyes’ defense play like it did, it’s easy to buy into the playoff hype once again for OSU.

Stock Up: James Madison Dukes

Hats off to the James Madison Dukes, who not only rose to the FBS on Saturday but announced their arrival with pride. The Dukes walloped the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders in a 44-7 outing. Quarterback Todd Centeio completed 21 of 33 passes for 287 yards and six touchdowns and picked up 110 yards rushing on the ground.

James Madison isn’t just any FCS-to-FBS convert. There’s a reason they made the move up. Since the turn of the millennium, the Dukes have two FCS Division I titles. From 2016 to 2021, their cumulative record was 70-11, and they appeared in the national championship game as the runner-up in 2017 and 2019.

If any FCS team was going to make the move up, it would be James Madison. But regardless, the Dukes proved they belonged on Saturday with their first FBS win in program history. Playing in the Sun Belt, there could be many more on the horizon.

Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @IC_Draft.

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