Big Board: Week 1 

A look from a bigger picture view. 

Typically a Wednesday Big Board will feature a number of players who received conference player of the week nods and even more statistical standouts who may’ve not made Monday’s stat pack. 

This week, topics on the Big Board include storylines surrounding the biggest angles in college football. 

Here are several notes to keep a tab on in this week’s Big Board. 

Sam Hartman and Caleb Williams 

Two quarterbacks may’ve started their Heisman Trophy campaigns last weekend. 

Hartman welcomed himself to Notre Dame after a decorated career at Wake Forest. He threw four touchdowns, two in each half, and piled on 251 passing yards. 

Williams reasserted himself as the defending Heisman winner, also throwing for four touchdowns and obtaining 278 yards through the air which rank third in the NCAA after Week 0. 

Hartman appeared to have a firm and confident handle on the Notre Dame playbook. Notre Dame remained balanced for much of the first half, compiling over 100 yards passing and rushing. He had an answer for a Navy defense that allowed Hartman to throw for at least four touchdowns for the 10th time in his six-year career. 

Williams continued making highlight-reel plays during his season debut against San Jose State. He stood in the pocket and fired a laser to Arizona transfer receiver Dorian Singer for his first touchdown pass of the season, and later managed a muffed snap and turned it into a 76-yard score through the air to Tahj Washington. 

Williams’ elusiveness wasn’t as on display as much as he may’ve liked, going for –2 yards on eight attempts, and he had one outing last season that went for negative rushing yards. That stands to change as the season continues and as more games are added to Heisman Trophy-worthy resumes. 

Coaching debuts will steal the spotlight 

This week will be the week of head coaching debuts. 

Luke Fickell will debut at Wisconsin, Matt Rhule will take the lead at Nebraska and Deion Sanders will have head coaching duties at Colorado among this offseason’s coaching changes. 

Fickell will be the only one of the trio with the luxury of coaching at home. No. 19 Wisconsin hosts Buffalo of the American Athletic Conference, and the Badgers will trot Tanner Mordecai out at quarterback after he spent the past two seasons at Southern Methodist University. 

Rhule and Sanders will be on the road to begin their tenures as head coaches at their respective schools. Sanders will have the tall task of matching up against last season’s College Football Playoff National Championship runner-up in No. 17 TCU, and Rhule will have his sights on Huntington Bank Stadium in Minnesota for his first game at the college level after being relieved of his duties mid-year with the Carolina Panthers. 

Rhule said Nebraska will have one of its road game customs set to take place when the team travels to Minneapolis before the season opener Thursday. 

“We try to get there early. We’ll go see a movie most road games,” Rhule said. “I always feel bad for the people that are on the floor below us at the hotel because you have all these guys jumping around, but we wake them up and we’ll walk through and we’ll get some work in the middle of day and then show up and play the game.” 

Florida at No. 14 Utah 

Another Thursday game on tap is a rematch between the Gators and the ranked Utes. 

Last season, Florida took victory over a then-No. 7 Utah team that had came off a Rose Bowl appearance. The Gators outslugged the Utes 29-26 at home, and this time have the challenge of playing on the road at Utah to begin the season. 

“We have a ton of respect for Utah, and reality is I think anytime you go play on the road against a team that has consistency, that’s been a contender and really plays quality football, play a really good complementary brand of football, it is no doubt there’s challenges that come with this game,” head coach Billy Napier said. “We’ve always believed in having a formidable opponent early. I think it brings a certain level of urgency to training camp, and this will be a very competitive game.” 

Florida will have Graham Mertz under center at quarterback, solidifying his place on a new team after transferring from Wisconsin. 

After a 6-7 season under Napier a year ago, Florida aims to set out to repeat history against Utah and maintain momentum from a highly anticipated season-opener on Thursday. 

“I feel good about this group of players. I feel good about the work they’ve done. I feel good about the intangibles that we’ve built,” Napier said. “I think this group cares about each other. I think they’re living life the right way for the most part right now, and I think they’re highly motivated.”