Notre Dame and USC both debuted Saturday, and with it, a couple roster additions who could alter the playoff picture this season. Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman had as many touchdowns as incompletions (four) for the Irish during a 42-3 romp over Navy in Ireland. Trojan true freshman Zachariah Branch made as good of a first impression as there is, amassing 213 all-purpose yards, two touchdowns, and a bevy of highlights in USC’s 56-28 win over San Jose State, including a 96-yard kickoff return.
While USC’s defense struggled at times, reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams was in total control, but it just so happened that viewers and announcers alike couldn’t stop gushing about Branch. The hyperbole reached Reggie Bush levels, and I had half a mind to agree with it because his first TD made you do a double take.
The speed, acceleration, and change of gears jumps off the tape, and that kind of talent is why the potential of Lincoln Riley at USC is boundless. Jordan Addison was a first-round pick for the Vikings, and his replacement at Southern Cal might be just as good as a 19-year-old.
This Trojan offense is going to be devastating. They also have at least one tight end and a bunch of thoroughbred running backs. However, we now know Williams has a game-changer, one who should come in handy against teams like Notre Dame in mid October.
The transfer portal might be the most impactful change of this new era, and this is a prime example of why. While I certainly feel for Demon Deacon fans, Hartman legitimizes this Notre Dame team, and a one-loss Irish would be as deserving of a playoff spot as any SEC or Big Ten team with their schedule.
He finished 19 of 23 for 251 yards, and led the team to touchdowns on every drive but one, and on that outlier, Spencer Shrader missed a 42-yard field goal. Here’s one of those Hartman dimes because football is back.
The Golden Domers’ bruising running game should provide plenty of balance and play-action opportunities. Audric Estime is the workhorse, but they have a deep group of talent up there with USC’s backfield, and a better defense (at least from what I saw against the Midshipmen, and their triple-option attack). While Notre Dame projects to be USC’s first substantial test of the season, the Buckeyes visit South Bend in less than a month.
Notre Dame hosts Ohio State, and USC, and travels to Clemson. Hartman has more yards, starts, and touchdown passes than all three of those teams’ starting quarterbacks combined. Win two of three, and take care of the rest of the schedule, and Marcus Freeman will have the Irish in the College Football Playoff with a QB who might be better than any that Brian Kelly coached during his tenure.
On the same day that Aaron Rodgers made his debut in a New York Jets uniform, Bob Barker died at the age of 99. Those two things are related because Adam Sandler is probably the most famous Jets fan running, and he did the iconic scene with the former Price is Right host in which Sandler’s character, Happy Gilmore, has a meltdown on the golf course, and then gets pummeled, and called a bitch, by his pro-am playing partner, Barker.
And, finally, here’s Aaron Rodgers throwing a touchdown to Garrett Wilson.