The first week or two of college football is like the first week or two of college itself. We don’t really learn a lot, beyond maybe one early test or maybe a quiz. It takes a few weeks for us to really get a grasp of where our world is headed and if we are going to be A level or barely hanging on for our college lives. Week one had a couple of quizzes, a couple of tests, and a lot of just getting through the syllabus. Week two has a few more tests that will be telling.
College Football Preview; Week 2
Pitt (1-0) @ Penn State (1-0); Saturday 3:30pm EST ABC
Forget for a moment that the Big Ten Network thinks the Nittany Lions are playing a major league baseball team.
Pitt has a new offense as Nathan Peterman and James Conner are going to be playing on Sundays now. They have experience in former USC starter Max Browne, but he was pedestrian last week against Youngstown State. He completed 71% of his passes but for a paltry 140 yards and one touchdown in a game that was much closer than it should have been. Running back Qadree Ollison could be limited by an ankle injury he suffered in week one.
As for Penn State, even though they beat up on Akron in week one, we know all of their answers already; quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley. All you need is an adequate defense at that point and the Nittany Lions should pass this test.
Auburn (1-0) @ Clemson (1-0); Saturday 7pm EDT
The class clown would say the Tigers will win. We try not to be clowns here, class or otherwise. Both teams have serviceable quarterbacks. Clemson did not know what it was going to get in the bright lights with Kelly Bryant, but the first-time starter went 16 for 22 for 236 yards with a touchdown and an interception, albeit against Kent State. Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham is not going to light the scoreboard on fire, but the 14 for 24 for 185 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia Southern was certainly more than adequate.
What we should expect here are two swarming, athletic, fast defenses. The Tigers, uh, that would be Clemson, held Kent State to 119 yards rushing, and that includes much of the second team defense late in the game. The Tigers…Auburn…hello, keep up…held Georgia Southern to 78 yards of total offense and 70 of that was rushing, before taking the foot off the gas towards the end of the game. These two did not show any more in week one than they had to, but testing time is here now.
Georgia (1-0) @ Notre Dame (1-0); Saturday 7:30pm EDT NBC
This is only the second time these two marquee programs have ever played and the last one was 1981 when the Bulldogs beat the Irish in the Sugar Bowl for the national title. Both quarterbacks will be getting their first real test. Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush got his first career start last week and went 17 of 30 for 184 yards with two touchdowns and interception, but it was in a blowout win against Temple.
With Jacob Eason out with a sprained knee, Georgia will be pushing true freshman Jake Fromm to the head of the class. Of course, the offset there is that Georgia also brings running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb to South Bend. Notre Dame’s offense did look a little crisper, a little faster, last week than was the case in previous years under Brian Kelly so it just may be they are a little ahead of the learning curve.
Oklahoma (1-0) @ Ohio State (1-0); Saturday 7:30pm ABC
This is a big game, no matter how you grade it because there are two teams that have a viable chance at the college football playoffs; because Oklahoma got lambasted by Ohio State in Norman last year; because there are two high profile quarterbacks going at each other; and because Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley is in his first year and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer felt free to express some thoughts on first year coaches earlier this week. Of course, Riley did not lose in week one, so he can consider himself out of Urban’s cross-hairs at least until kickoff.
The Sooners will go as far as quarterback Baker Mayfield takes them. He was not asked to do a lot in a blowout over UTEP last weekend, but he was nearly perfect in what he did do, going 19 of 20 for 329 yards and three touchdowns.
His counterpart, J.T. Barrett also had quality numbers last week, going 20 of 35 for 304 yards and three touchdowns. The numbers come with a bit of an asterisk in that Barrett has still shown little ability to go downfield. Yes, he had a 75-yard touchdown pass against Indiana last week, but it was a five-yard completion with 70 yards after the catch. Still with three more touchdown passes, Barrett will become the conferences all-time leader in touchdowns, passing Drew Brees. The pass/fail here is going to come at the hands of the Buckeyes defense. Indiana’s Richard Lagow threw for 410 yards and three touchdowns against Ohio State last week and he is not at the same grade level as Mayfield.
Stanford (1-0) @ USC (1-0); Saturday 8:30pm EDT Fox
It’s really a shame to have such a meaningful conference game so early in the season. This may actually be the best game of the day. After this weekend, one team will be well ahead of the other in the grade book. Stanford is coming off a lot of rest following their global journey to play Rice in Sydney, Australia. The Cardinal are learning about life without Christian McCaffrey, but Bryce Love did get some attention with 180 yards in only 13 carries against Rice.
The Trojans struggled mightily last week, even if the score does not reflect it. USC were losing at home to Western Michigan in the third quarter and needed to outscore the Broncos 28-10 to make the game look the blowout that it was not. Quarterback Sam Darnold had an unusual game in that SC scored 49 points but he had no touchdown passes. He did have two interceptions to go with one rushing touchdown and 289 yards passing. It’s an offense versus offense kind of match-up.