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College Football's Most Underrated Performances from Week 1

John Ross

John Ross

Week 1 of the 2016 college football season produced several big-time performances. Freshmen quarterbacks Deondre Francois (Florida State), Shane Buechele (Texas) and Jalen Hurts (Alabama) lived up to the hype in their first game. But some of college football’s returning stars like Georgia running back Nick Chubb, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Washington State quarterback Luke Falk also delivered huge statistical performances in their opener. Chubb was Athlon Sports' pick for Offensive Player of the Week, while Florida State end DeMarcus Walker took home player of the week honors on defense.

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With 86 games in the books from Week 1, it’s easy to overlook some of the performances outside of the usual stars. To wrap up the first week of action, Athlon Sports takes a look at some underrated performances:

CFB's Most Underrated Performances from Week 1

Micah Abernathy, DB, Tennessee

Abernathy quietly turned in a solid performance for the Volunteers on Thursday night. He ranked second on the team with eight stops and recorded a crucial pass breakup on the final play of the game to preserve a Tennessee win.

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

The Wyoming-Northern Illinois game on Saturday night was one of the weekend’s most entertaining games. Allen completed 19 of 29 throws for 245 yards and two scores, while rushing for 73 yards and the game-winning score in the second overtime.

Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

Allen dominated USC’s offensive line on Saturday night with two sacks and two tackles for a loss.

Related: Post-Week 1 Top 25 Rankings

Chidobe Awuzie, DB, Colorado

Awuzie is one of the nation’s most underrated players and delivered a strong performance (eight tackles, one interception and one pass breakup) in the win over Colorado State.

James Conner, RB, Pitt

Conner’s return to gridiron was one of the best stories in Week 1. He recorded 53 yards and one score on 17 carries and caught three passes for 16 yards and one touchdown.

Marcus Cox, RB, Appalachian State

Appalachian State’s upset bid fell short, but Cox rushed for 115 and caught four passes for 34 yards and one score against a good Tennessee defense.

Justin Crawford, RB, West Virginia

Junior college recruit led the way for West Virginia’s offense on Saturday, recording 101 yards and one score on 21 attempts.

Related: Week 1 College Football Awards

Andy Davidson, FB, Army

Converted linebacker led the way for Army’s ground attack against Temple with 121 yards and two scores on 22 carries.

Dallas Davis, QB, South Alabama

Davis completed 24 of 34 passes for 285 yards and two scores and rushed for 23 yards in South Alabama’s upset win over Mississippi State.

Tai’yon Devers, DE, Minnesota

Devers made an impact in his first game on campus, recording two sacks, two tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles in Minnesota’s win over Oregon State.

D’Cota Dixon, DB, Wisconsin

Dixon clinched Wisconsin’s victory over LSU by grabbing an interception with less than a minute remaining.

Steven Dunbar, WR, Houston

Dunbar was quarterback Greg Ward’s favorite target on Saturday, as he torched Oklahoma’s secondary for 125 yards on seven catches.

Troy Dye, LB, Oregon

Dye – a true freshman – is a promising piece for new coordinator Brady Hoke. He led the Ducks with 11 stops and recorded one sack and 4.5 tackles for a loss in Saturday’s win over UC Davis.

Related: Seven-Step Drop: Truth and Lies About Week 1

Ross Dzuris, DL, Nebraska

Nebraska’s defensive line entered 2016 with major question marks, but it looks like Dzuris is part of the solution. He recorded three tackles for a loss and two sacks against Fresno State.

Amba Etta-Tawo/Ervin Phillips, WR, Syracuse

Dino Babers’ high-powered attack is already starting to take shape. These two receivers combined for 26 catches for 297 yards and two scores against Colgate.

Chris Evans, RB, Michigan

Evans (a true freshman) led Michigan with 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s win over Hawaii.

Justin Evans, DB, Texas A&M

Evans ranked second on the defense with eight stops and recorded two picks off UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.

Related: College Football Post-Week 1 Top 25

Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama

Everett is quietly one of the nation’s best tight ends and grabbed eight passes for 95 yards and the game-winning score to beat Mississippi State.

Elliott Fry, K, South Carolina

Fry had plenty of distance and accuracy on a 55-yard bomb with less than a minute remaining to give South Carolina a 13-10 victory over Vanderbilt on Thursday night.

Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin

Fumagalli was the preferred target for quarterback Bart Houston, catching seven passes for 100 yards in the win over LSU.

James Gilbert, RB, Ball State

Ball State’s ground attack carried new coach Mike Neu to a victory on Friday night, with Gilbert recording 160 yards and two scores on 29 carries.

Teriyon Gipson, RB, New Mexico

Gipson averaged a whopping 22.6 yards per rush and recorded 181 yards and two scores in New Mexico’s 48-21 victory over South Dakota.

Related: Week 1 of the College Football Season Reminded Everyone of Three Things

Chad Hansen, WR, California

Hansen looks like the go-to receiver for quarterback Davis Webb after grabbing 14 receptions for 160 yards and two scores in the opener against Hawaii.

Kenny Hill, QB, TCU

Hill’s first start for TCU was a huge success. He completed 33 of 49 throws for 439 yards and two scores and rushed for 45 yards and three touchdowns.

Zach Hoffpauir, S, Stanford

Hoffpauir returned to Stanford for his senior year after playing baseball in 2015. He led the Cardinal defense with nine tackles against Kansas State.

Nate Holley, S, Kent State

Holley is one of the MAC’s top defenders and was everywhere in Kent State’s game against Penn State. Holley led the defense with 17 tackles (one for a loss).

Demetrius Jackson, DL, Miami

Jackson recorded five tackles (three for a loss) and two sacks in the win over Florida A&M.

Julian Jackson, DE, Wake Forest

Jackson recorded five tackles (two for a loss), two sacks and one forced fumble against Tulane.

Related: Post-Week 1 College Football Awards

A.J. Jefferson, DL, Mississippi State

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Jefferson dominated the line of scrimmage on Saturday, recording seven tackles (four for a loss) and two sacks against South Alabama.

Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP

Jones gashed New Mexico State’s defense for 249 yards and two touchdowns on 31 attempts.

Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

David Cutcliffe’s next star quarterback? Jones was impressive in his first start for the Blue Devils, throwing for 189 yards and two touchdowns in an easy win over North Carolina Central.

Tyler Jones, QB, Texas State

Jones guided Texas State to a road upset win over Ohio after throwing for 418 yards and four scores.

Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia

Kiser was one of the bright spots in Virginia’s loss to Richmond. He recorded 14 stops, one sack and two forced fumbles.

Justin Lawler, DL, SMU

Lawler recorded eight tackles (four for a loss) and 3.5 sacks in SMU's win over North Texas.

Ira Lewis, DL, Baylor

Lewis looks like a key cog for coordinator Phil Bennett on a rebuilt defensive line. He recorded three tackles for a loss in Friday’s win over Northwestern State.

Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado

Liufau was sharp in Colorado’s impressive win over Colorado State. He completed 23 of 33 throws for 318 yards and one score, while ranking second on the team with 66 rush yards.

Related: College Football's Twitter Guide for the 2016 Season

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

Mahomes torched Stephen F. Austin for 483 passing yards and four scores and also led the Red Raiders with 57 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Devante Mays, RB, Utah State

Mays rumbled through Weber State’s defense for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.

Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M

Redshirt freshman anchored the line for Texas A&M in Saturday’s win over UCLA.

Nick Mullens, QB, Southern Miss

Mullens helped Southern Miss engineer a huge comeback against Kentucky, as he threw for 258 yards and two scores and added two more touchdowns on the ground.

Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa

Nelson was impressive in his first game for the Hawkeyes. He led all Iowa defenders with 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss, while recording two forced fumbles against Miami (Ohio).

Philip Nelson, QB, East Carolina

In his first appearance in a FBS game since 2013, Nelson threw for 398 yards and five scores and rushed for one touchdown.

Jake Oldroyd, K, BYU

Oldroyd nailed a 33-yard kick on his first career attempt to give BYU an 18-16 win over Arizona.

Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska

Nebraska pounded the rock (51 attempts) against Fresno State, with Ozigbo leading the team with 103 yards and two scores on 17 carries.

Related: Seven-Step Drop: Truth and Lies About Week 1

Marcus Ripley, K, Texas State

In his first collegiate appearance, Ripley connected on both of his field goal attempts, including a 27-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.

Isaac Rochell, DL, Notre Dame

Rochell had a strong performance against Texas. He recorded nine stops (2.5 for a loss).

John Ross, WR, Washington

Ross showed no rust from a season-ending knee injury suffered last year. He recorded five catches for 90 yards and two scores and added a 92-yard kickoff return against Rutgers.

Curtis Samuel, H-Back, Ohio State

Samuel accumulated 261 total yards and three touchdowns in Ohio State’s 77-10 rout over Bowling Green.

Tanzel Smart, DL, Tulane

Smart is a force on the interior for coach Willie Fritz and helped the Green Wave limit Wake Forest to 3.2 yards per play.

Maurice Smith, DB, Georgia

Smith’s decision to transfer to Georgia paid big dividends for Kirby Smart’s defense in Week 1. He broke up two passes and recorded five tackles against the Tar Heels.

Greg Stroman, DB, Virginia Tech

Stroman picked off two passes in Virginia Tech’s win over Liberty on Saturday.

Tyrone Swoopes, QB, Texas

Texas successfully used the 18-wheeler package to perfection in the win over Notre Dame. Swoopes rushed for 53 yards and three scores on 13 attempts.

Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State

Thomas was ineligible to play last season but delivered a standout performance in his first game back with the Seminoles. He recorded seven tackles (one for a loss) against Ole Miss.

Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech

Thomas connected on two crucial passes for 48 yards on Georgia Tech’s game-winning drive to beat Boston College in Ireland

Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU

In his first action with BYU since Nov. 1, 2014, Williams recorded 162 yards on 29 attempts.

Rawleigh Williams, RB, Arkansas

Williams missed the final six games of 2015 due to a neck injury but showed no ill-effects in the opener against Louisiana Tech. He rushed for 96 yards and one score on 24 attempts.

Troy Williams, QB, Utah

Former Washington quarterback was sharp in his debut for the Utes. Williams completed 20 of 35 throws for 272 yards and two scores.

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Williams announced his return from a neck injury in a big way. He caught nine passes for 174 yards against Auburn.

Eric Wilson, LB, Cincinnati

Wilson recorded 15 stops (three for a loss) and two sacks as Cincinnati limited Tennessee-Martin to seven points on Thursday night.

A.J. Wolf, DL, Duke

Wolf dominated the line of scrimmage against North Carolina Central and recorded three sacks and four tackles.

Thomas Woodson, QB, Akron

Woodson threw for 407 yards and six scores in a 47-24 win over VMI.