We head to week two of the season after an exciting, and somewhat unpredictable, opening slate of games that set the tone for the season to come. Week two has its share of goodies to share with the country, so let’s dig in.
GAME OF THE WEEK: OREGON at MICHIGAN STATE
Like this isn’t the game that the nation, and the playoff committee, hasn’t circled in red ink. Oregon is coming off a testing victory over Eastern Washington that saw starting quarterback Vernon Adams get speared in the helmet late in the game. How will the Ducks respond heading to East Lansing and a sure-to-be capacity crowd at Spartan Stadium?
Despite not having former defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, the Spartans handled a talented Western Michigan offense in Kalamazoo last weekend. The talent on the other side of the ball only gets higher for a team that’s been tantalizingly close to playing for the last two national championships. A “Game With Stakes” in Week Two? Sign me up.
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UPSET SPECIAL: CENTRAL FLORIDA over STANFORD
Talk about two teams with a lot to play for. Stanford laid a thudding egg against Northwestern on Saturday afternoon, and the Knights were upstaged by an upstart Florida International squad, 15-14, on opening night. Both teams received first place votes in their respective conference preseason polls, and yet it all went south right out of the gate.
While the game is in Palo Alto, I think the problems at Stanford are much bigger than just the offensive ineptitude on display in Evanston. The Cardinal never looked like they had a direction on the field. Kevin Hogan’s interception in the end zone in the game’s waning seconds was emblematic of that. On the flip side, I think UCF severely underestimated FIU. Ron Turner’s Panthers improved from one win in 2013 to four in 2014 and looked like a team destined for a bowl game this season.
Both teams will be up for the game, and time zones won’t be an issue. However, don’t expect a crowd of substance in Stanford Stadium to cheer on David Shaw’s squad, and I don’t think those stay-at-home fans will be missing much.
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NERDOUT OF THE WEEK: OKLAHOMA at TENNESSEE
This space is usually reserved for games a bit off the radar, but this matchup is too juicy to let it fall by. Two bluebloods of college football, the first two BCS champions, have been in a downswing the last few years but look primed to turn things around. This one will have the feel of a game in December because the importance won’t be forgotten by anyone involved.
After three losing seasons under Derek Dooley, Butch Jones has turned Tennessee around, and the Vols are a trendy sleeper pick in the SEC East. With Joshua Dobbs under center, Jalen Hurd behind him at tailback, and a talented defense, the Volunteers are ready to rise back up the SEC ladder, and a win over the Sooners is the best way to build momentum.
For Oklahoma, there is a lot of pressure attached to this game and this season. Bob Stoops’ run of success has meant that an 8-5 year in 2014 is cause for concern. His team is stacked, however: five players were preseason All-Big 12, and his ability to win long-term should never be doubted.
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THE UNIMPORTANT GAME OF IMPORTANCE: BUFFALO at PENN STATE
Penn State’s loss at Temple on Saturday was so embarrassing that the team literally buried the game tape under the practice field. That should be motivation enough heading into the Lions’ home opener, but I’m interested to see how the game plays out and how the Lions respond. Big Ten play opens for Penn State next week when the Nittany Lions host Rutgers, so righting the ship is of the utmost importance on Saturday.
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ODDITY OF THE WEEK: OREGON STATE at MICHIGAN
Paired with its opening week opponent, Utah, this marks the first time Michigan has opened the season against two non-conference teams from the same league since 1997. Back then, the Wolverines beat Big 12 foes Colorado and Baylor en route to a perfect season and the school’s last national title.