Terry’s Takes Heading Into Week 2

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for me to provide some thoughts, tidbits, and statistics for week two. Here’s what I’m looking at this week…

  • I said it last week, but it bears repeating, it’s time to beef up the non-conference schedule. While it’s a slight improvement over opening weekend, there are still too many matchups with FCS teams.

  • In the first matchup of top 10 teams this year, Michigan State travels west to play Oregon. This game might be the most interest contrast in styles all year, as it pits one of the nation’s toughest defenses against one of the most electrifying offenses in college football.

  • How awesomely have these two units performed over the last three years? The Ducks’ offense has finished fifth or higher in total offense every season during that interval. In the same time span, the Spartan D has finished sixth or higher in total defense every year.

  • Also worth noting: since 2011, Oregon averages 467.5 yards of total offense in 10 games against ranked opponents. Michigan State has held its opponents to just 324.3 yards in 14 meetings with teams in the top 25.

  • Ironically, it’s the matchup on the other side of the ball that could decide this contest. It’ll be interesting to see how Connor Cook – who has thrown for over 300 yards in each of his last two starts against top 10 opponents – will fare against an Oregon defense that hasn’t allowed a non-conference foe from a power league to throw for 300 yards since 2009 (Arkansas State threw for 304 in 2012).

  • The most underrated game on the docket is USC at Stanford. Although the matchup above involves higher ranked teams, this contest also has national championship implications.

  • While it’s usually not a good idea to form an opinion based on the results of a single game, Saturday’s action should show exactly how good the Trojans’ new offense really is. Can USC’s up-tempo scheme – which wore out Fresno State by running 105 plays for 701 yards – have the same type of against a Cardinal D that excels on third down (only 31.8 percent allowed, including last week’s action)?

  • Here’s a stat that could easily apply to this contest: Stanford is 5-1 over the last two years when being outgained by its opponent.

  • On the other hand, USC is 6-1 against Stanford since 1997 when it wins the turnover battle, including last year’s upset when it went plus-2 in takeaways.

  • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that Michigan – Notre Dame is just another game. With the schools not scheduled to meet for a while, it’s safe to assume that we’ll see a very spirited contest. This is especially true for the Irish, which will need as many marquee victories as possible in order to play in the College Football Playoff or end up in a major bowl.

  • The matchup between the Wolverine offense and the Fighting Irish defense is the most intriguing one of the weekend. It’ll be interesting to see what Devin Gardner (13-for-14, 173 yards, 3 TD against Appalachian State) can do against Notre Dame’s new 4-3 look, which turned in a solid – but not spectacular – performance against Rice last week.

  • Also worth watching is Everett Golson (14-22, 295, 2 TD last weekend) against a UM defense that allowed just 3.8 yards per attempt against Appalachian State.

  • Is Ohio State really a national championship contender? Saturday night’s contest against Virginia Tech will answer that question. The Buckeye offense will find out what it’s made of against a stingy Hokie D that ranked seventh in yards per carry (3.21) in 2013.

  • If Frank Beamer’s squad is going to pull the upset, it must run the ball effectively. Since 2005, Virginia Tech is 51-6 when it runs for at least four yards per carry.

  • Of course, that doesn’t guarantee success. Under Urban Meyer, Ohio State is 9-2 when allowing more than four yards per carry.

  • I’m eager to see how Texas will defend Taysom Hill and the BYU offense. Remember, the Cougars dropped 679 yards – including 550 on the ground – against the Longhorns in Provo last year.

  • Who will prevail? That’s tough to say. Hill hit the century mark in rushing in six contests last year, including games against Notre Dame (101), Washington (133), and Texas (259). However, the Longhorns’ defense has given up just 94 yards, limiting North Texas to just 3 of 16 on third down conversions.

  • Looking for an upset? While it’s not a lock, keep an eye on Missouri at Toledo. The Rockets have pulled their share of upsets over ranked opponents in the Glass Bowl, taking down No. 9 Pittsburgh (2003), No. 18 Marshall (2001), and No. 18 Cincinnati (2012).

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.