Thoughts, Observations, and Things To Watch Out for in Week 2

Week 2 of the college football season promises to be an exciting one with three matchups between ranked teams on the docket this weekend. Here’s what you need to know about this week’s games:

  • Make no mistake about it: Oregon at Michigan State will be one of the ten best games of the year. Sure, neither squad played a perfect game last weekend. However, teams usually show the most improvement between week one and week two, which means each squad will look much sharper on Saturday.
  • The battle between the Duck running game and the Spartan front seven will be worth the price of admission. It’ll be interesting to see how the UO ground attack – which rolled up 485 yards and 8.51 yards per carry against Eastern Washington – will fare against a solid Michigan State D that limited Western Michigan to 18 yards on 23 carries (0.8 ypc).
  • As effective as the Oregon offense is, it’s the Duck defense that will determine who wins this contest. Although the Gang Green D gave up 466 yards of total offense last year, it propelled the team to victory by keeping the Spartans out of the end zone on their final six drives.
  • On the other hand, it’s worth noting that Michigan State scored touchdowns on 49 of its 68 (72.06%) red zone opportunities last year.
  • Oklahoma at Tennessee is one of the more intriguing games on the schedule this weekend. Yes, the Sooners won handily last season, thrashing the Vols 34-10. However, both teams will start new quarterbacks with very different skill sets than last year’s signal callers, so it’s difficult to predict what might happen.
  • Regardless, the quarterback duel between Baker Mayfield and Joshua Dobbs will be fun to watch.
  • As with all close contests, the team that gets the job done in the red zone will ultimately win the contest. That makes this game too close to call as the Volunteers scored TDs on 92.59% of their red zone possessions, while the Sooners finished 23rd nationally in red zone TD percentage, allowing opponents to cross the goal line only 51.28% of the time.
  • It sounds strange to use the term “must win” in week 2, but that’s what the BYU game is for Boise this week. A win over the Cougars — which upset Nebraska in the season opener — would give the Broncos a much needed boost in the strength of schedule department, which became necessary after the Pac-12’s struggles in non-conference play last weekend.
  • However, don’t count BYU out of the College Football Playoff picture, either. Sure, the Cougars would have to win out in order to qualify. However, if it did run the table, BYU would have victories over Nebraska, Boise State, Michigan, Cincinnati, and Missouri. Unless all of the Power 5 conference champions finish with one loss or fewer, it’d be tough to justify leaving the Cougars out of the field in that scenario.
  • The key matchup in this contest will be the Boise State secondary — which only allowed 4.3 yards per attempt against Washington — versus a stellar BYU passing game that threw for 379 yards against Nebraska.
  • Although LSU is the more experienced team, Mississippi State actually has an advantage over the Tigers because it has a game under its belt. While four quarters of football might not seem like a big deal, it did give the Bulldogs a chance to evaluate some new starters in a game situation. The Bayou Bengals had no such luxury, meaning that their could be some growing pains on defense as they have to break in five new starters and adjust to a new defensive coordinator.
  • Keep an eye on Tiger QB Brandon Harris. Although many people will point to his struggles against Auburn in his first career start, it’s worth noting that he went 6 of 9 for 140 yards and 2 TDs versus State last year. If he can nearly rally the team back from a 34-16 deficit last season, there’s no reason to think that he couldn’t turn in another outstanding performance this year, especially with all of the inexperience on the Bulldog defense.
  • The most underrated game of the week is Houston at Louisville. While both teams are known for their explosive offenses, it’s also important to note that both defenses finished in the Top 20 nationally in total defense last year. It’ll be interesting to see which unit(s) take control of the contest.
  • If I had to guess which side would prevail, I’d pick the offenses. Greg Ward and Lamar Jackson are both extremely accurate and are both capable of turning a simple quarterback scramble into a 30-yard gain.
  • This week’s upset special is Temple over Cincinnati. The Owl defense dominated Penn State last week, recording 10 sacks and limiting the Nittany Lion offense to just 52 yards over the final three and a half quarters. There’s no reason to think that they won’t fare well against the Bearcats, who could only muster 255 yards of total offense against TU last season. Expect an Owl victory, which would put them in the driver’s seat in the AAC East race.

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.