Takeaways From Week 2

Thanks to three games between top 25 opponents, a handful of solid “mid-major” matchups, and a couple of mild upsets, week two of the college football season was one of the most exciting in recent memory. Here are some thoughts and items to take away from this weekend’s action:

  • Michigan State is a national championship contender. Sure, the Spartan defense gave up its share of yardage, but it came through when it really mattered, limiting Oregon to just 4 of 13 on third down conversions and 2 of 6 of fourth down conversions. If the MSU defense can come up with that many clutch stops versus the high-octane Duck offense — which finished 8th and 29th respectively in those categories last season — it can do it against anybody… including Ohio State.
  • The same holds true for Notre Dame. Yes, losing Malik Zaire for the season with a broken ankle is a crushing blow. Yet, the offense was every bit as explosive under DeShone Kizer, who went 8-of-12 for 92 yards against Virginia and threw a perfect pass to Will Fuller for the game-winning touchdown. The Irish’s ability to keep on winning despite losing their top talent on offense is very similar to what Ohio State did last season.
  • The SEC took a huge step back on Saturday, losing non-conference home games to Oklahoma and Toledo. While these defeats aren’t exactly an indictment of either Tennessee or Arkansas, they both suggest that the gap between the SEC and the rest of college football isn’t nearly as wide as some pundits believe it is.
  • Insert your favorite joke here about Bret Bielema, the SEC’s strength of schedule, and which team from Ohio he should have been concerned about last week.
  • All kidding aside, Toledo’s defense deserves the credit for the Rockets’ upset win over the Hogs. Every time it looked like Arkansas was going to take the lead, the Toledo D came up with a stop or turnover. There’s absolutely nothing “lucky” about that.
  • By virtue of the magical comeback he lead against Tennessee, Baker Mayfield is a Heisman Trophy candidate. Yes, the entire Twitterverse was ready to give up on him and the Air Raid offense heading into the fourth quarter. However, Mayfield took his game to another level in the final stanza of regulation and overtime, leading the Sooners to touchdowns on their final four possessions, including a clutch quarterback keeper on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line that sent the game into double overtime.
  • On the other hand, don’t give up on the Volunteers just yet. Although this loss certainly stings, last week’s victory over Bowling Green looks a lot more impressive as the Falcons throttled Maryland, 48-27.
  • Make no mistake about it: Bowling Green was clearly the better team in that win over Maryland. The Terp defense had absolutely no answers for Matt Johnson, who threw for 491 yards and 6 TDs.
  • Speaking of stellar quarterback play, how about the late-game heroics of BYU signal caller Tanner Mangum? Faced with another score-or-lose-the-game situation, Mangum again delivered, tossing a 35-yard TD to Mitchell Juergens on fourth-and-seven with under a minute to play. With him under center, the Cougar offense is every bit as dangerous as it was under Taysom Hill.
  • As I mentioned heading into week two’s action, don’t be surprised if Bronco Mendenhall’s squad ends up in a New Year’s Day bowl game if it finishes the season undefeated. By doing so, the Cougars would have victories over Nebraska, Boise State, Michigan, Cincinnati, and Missouri. With a resume that strong, it’s tough to see all of the major bowls passing on an available BYU squad that travels well and has some of the same type of the magic the 1980 and 1984 Cougar teams captured.
  • Another team that could end up in a New Year’s Day bowl is Temple. While the Owls didn’t get very much credit for their decisive victory over Penn State, they certainly gained it by defeating Cincinnati on Saturday. The victory vaulted the Owls into first place in the AAC East, and gives them the equivalent of a two-game lead over the preseason favorites in the standings.
  • Of course, in order to capture the the conference, Temple will have to get through Houston, which won’t be an easy task. The Cougars proved that they’re a force to be reckoned with on Saturday, upsetting a much-better-than-it-looks-on-paper Louisville team, 34-31. They also pulled off the surprise on the road. This victory — in which Houston racked up 462 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers — will carry a lot more weight later on in the season.
  • While we’re on topics that discuss the word “Cougar,” it looks like it might be time to retire the phrase “Cougin’ It.” Sure, it looked like Wazzu was going down after Janarion Grant took a punt return to the house to put Rutgers up 34-30. However, Luke Falk led Washington State on a 10-play, 90-yard drive to take the lead with just 13 seconds to play. With that type of grit and character, we shouldn’t bury Washington State’s bowl hopes just yet. After all, Oregon State went to the postseason in 2013 after dropping its season opener to an FCS opponent.
  • Michigan is also headed to a bowl this year. Instead of sulking over its hard-fought loss to Utah, the Wolverines demolished Oregon State, 35-7. UM was clearly the more physical team in the trenches, running for 225 yards while limiting the Beavers to just 59 yards on 33 attempts. With that type of toughness, it looks like the beginning of a new era in Ann Arbor.
  • Imagine running for 430 yards… and the losing by three touchdowns — at home! That’s what Wyoming did this weekend, capturing the infamous Clunker of the Week Award for the second straight week.
  • I know that many of you expected to see Auburn take home the (dis)honors on that one. However, I’m not going to penalize the Tigers because they rallied to win their game against Jacksonville State. While we can debate whether or not style points matter from now until eternity, the only meaningful metric is “did the team score more points than its opponent?” With a brutal schedule consisting of Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M, the only thing Auburn needed to do was get a “W.” Besides, a Tiger win over the four opponents mentioned above would provide a much better indicator of how good AU is rather than an early season non-conference game. Just ask Ohio State!

About Terry P. Johnson

Terry Johnson is the Associate Editor for The Student Section. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.