Terry’s Takeaways From Week 2

Because so many teams chose to play a soft non-conference slate, there weren’t as many meaningful games on the schedule this week. However, here are some items to take away from what transpired on the gridiron this weekend:

  • USC’s defense deserves all of the credit for its 13-10 victory over Stanford. Although the Cardinal dominated the stat sheet, the Trojans’ defense came up with big plays when it needed them most, including a crucial goal-line stand that changed the entire complexion of the contest.

  • The Heisman Trophy is Marcus Mariota’s to lose. While his 360 yards of total offense don’t look all that great on paper (compared to some of his other efforts in the past), it’s worth noting that this amount was more than Michigan State allowed in 12 of 14 games last season.

  • Of course, the real reason Mariota should be the favorite to win college football’s most coveted award is because of how well he played in the third quarter. Faced with a third and 10 and trailing by nine, Mariota managed to escape several Spartan blitzers, shoveling the ball to Royce Freeman for 17 yards and a first down. This play swung the momentum in favor of the Ducks, who would go on a 28-0 run the close the contest.

  • As it stands now, the Big Ten champion is not going to make the College Football Playoff. Sure, Michigan State’s loss at Oregon wasn’t exactly terrible, but the league suffered two losses to MAC opponents and needed a last-minute touchdown to avoid a third. In addition, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech thrashed top contenders Michigan and Ohio State, giving the conference two more defeats in a pair of high-profile games.

  • Those losses aren’t going to do anything to help change the perception that the B1G is a weak league. Remember, the Selection Committee doesn’t use actual numbers to formulate strength of schedule; it uses the eyeball test.

  • Defense wins championships, which is why the Virginia Tech Hokies are now the team to beat in the ACC Coastal Division. The Virginia Tech defense was literally in the Ohio State backfield all night long, forcing seven sacks and three interceptions, including a crucial pick-six that put the game out of reach in the final minutes.

  • Through two games, BYU has proved that it’s the best team outside the power five conferences. The Cougar defense turned in another dominant effort against Texas, limiting the Longhorns to just 258 yards. It also did a great job of getting the UT offense off the field, allowing just two drives of longer than 30 yards, and holding the Longhorns to just 3-of-15 on third down conversions.

  • Even though people love a good quarterback controversy, there’s simply not one at Alabama. Yes, head coach Nick Saban maintains that there’s still a competition. However, Blake Sims was clearly the better triggerman on Saturday, completing 11-of-13 for 214 yards and 2 TDs in limited action against Florida Atlantic.

Notable Defensive Performances

Vanderbilt might be terrible, but Ole Miss had to play well enough on defense to make the Commodores look that way. Moreover, after Boise State's offense flourished against Colorado State, Ole Miss's week-one performance looks three hundred times better. Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt might be terrible, but Ole Miss had to play well enough on defense to make the Commodores look that way. Moreover, after Boise State’s offense flourished against Colorado State, Ole Miss’s week-one performance looks three hundred times better. Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports

Here is a list of notable defensive efforts that weren’t mentioned above:

  1. West Virginia – Sure, it was against an FCS opponent, but the Mountaineer defense held Towson to 122 yards of total offense. WVU played well in both facets of the game, allowing Towson to connect on only 8 of its 24 passes, and limiting the Tigers to just 1.4 yards per carry.

  2. Florida – The Gator defense turned in the best defensive effort against an FBS opponent this weekend, forcing five turnovers and holding Eastern Michigan to just 125 yards.

  3. Ole Miss – Vanderbilt had absolutely no answers for the Rebel defense, which dominated the entire contest. In all, Ole Miss gave up just 167 yards, allowing the Commodores to mount only one drive of longer than six plays.

  4. Iowa – The Hawkeye defense gets the game ball for its performance in Saturday’s 17-13 win over Ball State. Iowa’s front seven dominated the contest, giving up just 219 yards in total offense and allowing just one drive of longer than 40 yards (which resulted in a fumble).

  5. North Texas –The Mean Green defense did an amazing job against SMU on Saturday, forcing 5 turnovers and holding the Mustangs to just 1-of-13 on third down conversions.

Notable Offensive Performances

Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports

David Cobb of Minnesota gave the Big Ten a happy — and rare — moment from the past weekend.                Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports

Here are a number of top offensive outings you might have missed:

  1. West Lunt, Illinois – For the second straight week, Lunt sparked the Illini to a come-from-behind victory. The time, he went 35-of-50 for 456 yards and three touchdowns against Western Kentucky.

  2. David Cobb, Minnesota – Middle Tennessee had absolutely no answers for Cobb, who gashed the Blue Raider defense for 220 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns.

  3. KD Cannon, Baylor – The Bear wide receiver put up Tecmo Bowl-type numbers against Northwestern State, catching six passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns.

  4. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech – Despite toting the rock only 12 times, Dixon still managed to rush for 184 yards and two touchdowns against Louisiana-Lafayette.

  5. Keenan Reynolds, Navy – The Midshipmen’s signal caller turned in another fine effort, rushing for 171 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns. He also connected on 4 of his 8 passes for 30 yards. Reynolds was injured during the game, so he didn’t play all 60 minutes. He said he expects to be able to play next week against Texas 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.