College football Week 1 Saturday Takeaways: How good can Travis Hunter, Colorado be?

The Athletic has live coverage of college football week 1 scores, rankings and news.

The first full Saturday of the 2023 college football season started off with a thriller in Fort Worth, as Colorado outlasted TCU in Deion Sanders’ debut. But Sanders’ electric debut was one of many showcases worth spotlighting in Week 1. Follow along below as our writers react to some of today’s top moments from the action around the country.

Travis Hunter and Colorado’s 2023 ceiling

Well hello, Colorado.

Head coach Deion Sanders told everyone who would listen, “We coming.” We should have listened, because the Buffaloes are real and they’re spectacular.

Sanders’ FBS coaching debut, a 45-42 road win over No. 17 TCU, could not have gone better. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders shined, with a record-setting 510-yard performance. Travis Hunter may have kicked off a Heisman Trophy campaign with his brilliant two-way performance. True freshman running back Dylan Edwards ran roughshod over the TCU defense.

And Coach Prime is 1-0.

For all the skepticism about bringing in a roster with more than 70 new players in one offseason, Deion Sanders earned validation on Saturday. Colorado played clean football and the collection of speed was dizzying. Four — four! — players surpassed 100 receiving yards.

Is this a sign of things to come? If so, watch out, Pac-12.

Coming into the year, oddsmakers set Colorado’s over-under win total at 3.5. Uh, they’re probably going to cruise past that if Saturday is any indication. Sanders said he kept receipts. We’ve provided plenty for him.

So how good can Colorado be? With Nebraska and Colorado State visiting Boulder in the next two weeks, the Buffaloes could be halfway to bowl eligibility by time they start Pac-12 play.

Are the Buffaloes conference title contenders? We’ll get a much better answer by the end of September, because they close out the month by visiting No. 15 Oregon and hosting No. 6 USC. But it looks like Colorado will be able to score with anybody. Start hammering the over for Buffs-Trojans on Sept. 30.

Making a bowl seems like a foregone conclusion after what we just saw. How much better they could be and how serious a conference title contender they are we’ll learn in the coming weeks. Before we go too far overboard, I’m reminded of how quickly Week 1 overreactions can turn. Remember Texas A&M beating a top-10 South Carolina team to kick off the 2014 season (the Kenny Trill game)?

Lastly, the biggest impression left by Saturday had to be by Hunter. The former No. 1 overall recruit, who followed Coach Prime to Colorado from Jackson State, played the majority of offensive and defensive snaps and was sensational.

Hunter, who played receiver and cornerback, made one of the most important plays of the game, a diving interception of TCU quarterback Chandler Morris in the red zone to thwart a second-half scoring opportunity. On offense, he caught 11 passes for 119 yards and was running past defenders well into the second half despite all the playing time he logged.

If 100-plus snaps playing at that high a level is a regular occurrence this year, better book him a December trip to New York City.

Milton keeps Tennessee’s offense clicking

Joe Milton wasn’t perfect, but Tennessee’s big-armed quarterback proved he can run this offense just fine as the Vols’ post-Hendon Hooker era began in earnest with a 49-13 win over Virginia. Milton was 21 of 30 passing (a 70 percent completion percentage) for 201 yards and two touchdowns, adding a pair of rushing touchdowns on eight carries. With the redshirt senior running the show, Tennessee went a perfect 6 for 6 in the red zone with 42 points before coach Josh Heupel subbed in true freshman QB Nico Iamaleava for his first collegiate action in the fourth quarter. The Vols had 499 yards of total offense to Virginia’s 201, and Milton showed off his arm strength early with this deep launch — even if his receiver ultimately dropped it.

As SEC play approaches, Milton and the rest of the offense will need to get better on third down; they went just 5 for 13 on Saturday. The Vols will also need to clean up a few avoidable miscues. But the run game looked solid, with Jaylen Wright rushing for 115 yards on 12 carries, and Milton looked comfortable after settling in. Virginia, meanwhile, will need to dramatically improve its offensive line and rush defense if the Cavaliers want to avoid a long season.

Boise State at Washington (3:30 p.m., ABC)

Kalen DeBoer’s first season at Washington couldn’t have gone much better, finishing last year with 11 wins, including a win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl. He brings back a Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who threw for 4,641 yards with a 65.3 completion percentage last season. The Huskies will get their highly anticipated season rolling against a Boise State team that finished last year on an 8-2 run. Broncos quarterback Taylen Green could find himself with a lot more national attention if he can pick apart what should be one of the Pac-12’s best defenses.


Can Boise State prove its best days are still ahead?

Ohio State at Indiana (3:30 p.m., CBS)

Head coach Ryan Day named Kyle McCord Ohio State’s starting quarterback earlier this week but promised that Devin Brown will also see the field. This will be the public’s first real look at both sides of one of the nation’s most intriguing position battles. McCord’s second career start will come against a transfer-laden Indiana team coming off a four-win campaign. We know very little about what the Hoosiers will look like on the field, as evidenced by coach Tom Allen’s refusal to release a depth chart or even announce a starting kicker.



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West Virginia at Penn State (7:30 p.m., NBC)

West Virginia coach Neal Brown enters the season on the hottest seat in college football, and walking into Beaver Stadium as a three-touchdown underdog is probably not his ideal scenario for Week 1. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have sky-high expectations coming off a convincing Rose Bowl win over Utah. Penn State has been a popular dark-horse pick to make the College Football Playoff, and much of that hype stems from the excitement surrounding sophomore quarterback Drew Allar, who backed up Sean Clifford a season ago. It’ll take time for Allar to get used to leading this offense, but he’ll be helped by what should be an elite defense.

North Carolina at South Carolina (7:30 p.m., ABC)

A border rivalry is the ideal season opener. Bragging rights! Real stakes! A rematch of a bowl game involving mayonnaise! And for NFL Draft enthusiasts, the big arm of Tar Heels quarterback and Heisman hopeful Drake Maye, who threw for 4,321 yards and 38 touchdowns a year ago, will be on display in Charlotte. South Carolina enters 2023 with high expectations after closing out the ’22 regular season with a pair of top-10 wins over Tennessee and Clemson, and Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler was once a Heisman hopeful himself as a much-hyped five-star at Oklahoma. On a day when many Power 5 teams face lower-level opponents, this should be one of the most evenly matched games.



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Coastal Carolina’s post-Jamey Chadwell era begins with a trip to the Rose Bowl, but they will still have Grayson McCall at quarterback. He could be a handful for a Bruins defense that will need to prove its consistency this season. Ethan Garbers’ victory in UCLA’s offseason quarterback competition was a bit of a surprise, with five-star true freshman Dante Moore generating most of the buzz. UCLA has had trouble putting some Group of 5 opponents away in recent years, so buckle up for what could be a wildly entertaining game.

(Photo of Travis Hunter: Tim Heitman / USA Today)

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