Duke stuns everyone (and Clemson), plus NFL power rankings

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Good morning! I don’t want to talk about LSU.

While You Were Sleeping: An almost unbelievable upset

The result itself is shocking: Last night, unranked Duke toppled once-fearsome powerhouse Clemson 28-7 in the final game from college football’s Week 1. It’s the first time Duke has beaten a top-10 opponent in 34 years. 

How it happened was even more surprising: 

  • Clemson made it inside the Duke 10-yard line on three straight possessions in the second half. Blocked field goal, fumble, fumble. It was incredible.
  • Duke quarterback Riley Leonard was fine passing the ball, but was a bully on the ground, running for 98 yards. This 44-yard touchdown run felt like the “oh, they might actually do this” moment:

Duke probably already has its win of the year. Clemson, and head coach Dabo Swinney in particular, will face blistering scrutiny this week after the performance. The dynasty might really be over, as Grace Raynor writes. Something to watch going forward.

NFL Back: The big dog returns

For one week, college football dominates the calendar. Everyone’s back tailgating, freaking out about early results, trying to figure out a way to visit NAIA games, etc. It’s glorious. But it’s over. 

NFL football begins this week — the Lions and Chiefs play Thursday — and thus begins a football utopia for the next four months. We already had it good, but now it’s better. Rejoice. 

We have plenty of early prep for everyone, but I want to start simply: fresh power rankings, hot out of the oven this morning. Living through enough football seasons will make you realize the only rankings that matter are the first (to reminisce on after the season) and last (for obvious reasons). Here’s our inaugural top five: 

  1. Chiefs
  2. Eagles
  3. Bengals
  4. Bills
  5. Jaguars

It really must be the Year of the Jag, huh? They had a great season last year, but No. 5? Wild. I can’t argue against it yet, but it feels too good to be true. 

The Bengals and Bills might be our two most interesting teams, though. Two titans who seem destined to clash again in the playoffs. Both have young MVP-favorite quarterbacks, with weapons around both. Paul Dehner Jr. and Tim Graham wondered whom you’d rather be between those two teams, right now. You can cast your vote at that link. The decision is harder than you might think, too. To me, the Bills feel slightly more sustainable, but it’s difficult to go against Joe Burrow in anything.

Some other interesting teams: 

  1. Cowboys
  2. 49ers
  3. Seahawks
  4. Steelers

Dallas finally enters a season with somewhat dampened expectations, despite having a loaded roster once again. Have we been hurt too many times? Maybe. The Niners and Seahawks are going to be great divisional theater, per usual. The winner there might challenge for the NFC crown. 

And then we have the Steelers, who have gotten a few measly ounces of hype. I’m curious to see how Kenny Pickett looks in Year 2 with a solid offensive crew and one of the best-coached defenses in the NFL. If he makes a leap, so will Pittsburgh. Judging by his offseason, he’s ready to be a superstar. 

We’ll have plenty more coverage this week, of course. Read the rest of the power rankings here to brush up.

News to Know

Hey, she’s back
Madison Keys throttled No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula yesterday in straight sets, a landmark win for the No. 17 player in the world. You probably remember Keys finishing runner-up at the U.S. Open in 2017, but she’s faded since. Not this year — and she’s nudging her way into what has become a distinctly American-flavored Open.

Urías arrested
Los Angeles police arrested Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías on suspicion of felony domestic violence, the department confirmed. Urías previously received a 20-game suspension under the league’s domestic violence policy in 2019. Read the full details on the latest incident here.

More news

Unicorns: Can the Shohei of college football keep this up?

GettyImages 1640641874 1

It’s a full three days since Saturday, and I cannot stop thinking about what Colorado’s Travis Hunter did. Sure, ahem, Florida State looked great. So did the rest of the Pac-12. But what Hunter did felt … new. 

David Ubben and Justin Williams published a fantastic, in-depth profile of Hunter today, which is worth your time. Two things from it I want to talk about: 

1. He can’t play both ways all year, right?
Hunter flashed superstar potential at both corner and wideout Saturday, living up to the promised hype. But he played 129 snaps. That feels wholly unsustainable against a Power 5 schedule. Injury? Fatigue? Buffaloes coach Deion Sanders seems unfazed, and for now plans to rest Hunter some each week. Count me skeptical, but I was the one casting doubt on Colorado’s entire season just hours before kickoff. Whoops. 

2. Hunter feels like a new superstar prototype.
Both on the field and off. He plays both ways, just like Shohei Ohtani. And just like Ohtani, we haven’t seen guys star as truly two-way full-timers in decades (Heisman finalist Jabrill Peppers had 170 yards on offense and one interception on defense in 2016 — Hunter had 119 yards and a pick Saturday). Off the field, he’s hitched his career to Sanders, a former fellow ridiculously versatile athlete. He’s also making enough NIL money to buy a house near his old high school, to help his brother attend. The kid is 20. 

Go read the full story to see how Sanders slyly snagged him away from the coach’s alma mater, FSU, and moreover, why Hunter would follow Sanders anywhere.

Meanwhile, Colorado now has real expectations as they head into Week 2. Shedeur Sanders, Deion’s son and a blossoming star at quarterback, caught Dane Brugler’s attention

This weekend, the Buffs play Nebraska, a team no one can quite figure out — in a bad way. Mitch Sherman separated fact from fiction yesterday for the 0-1 Huskers.

Pulse Picks

Speaking of Ohtani: The superstar’s agent held court with reporters last night and dished on the player’s future. It’s most extensive commentary we’ve heard from Ohtani’s side since his injury. Read the full transcript here

Scott Wheeler and Harman Dayal rank the top 20 Calder Trophy candidates for the coming NHL season. The rookie class is loaded with talent. 

Did you see Leo Messi’s guest list in LA? Inter should hire bouncers to travel on the road. As Elias Burke writes, the match between Inter Miami and the LA Galaxy was a true Hollywood occasion.

If you thought taking a chance on Justin Thomas was risky, just read about the bold strategy Team Europe has employed. The Ryder Cup is going to be fun. 

It’s been a year since Tom Seaver died. His legacy lives on through his winery, which he didn’t just slap his name on — he poured the same intensity into it as he did the pitcher’s mound. Don’t miss the lovely read from Tim Britton

The United States and Canada are paying a toll at the FIBA World Cup: the familiarity tax.

(Photo: Lance King/ Getty Images)

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