It’s very clear that week 1 was merely a warmup. We had a lot of excitement, yes, but nothing really WILD happened outside of one UNC-Appalachian State game with no defense. Week 2 delivered the chaos we know and love. Shocking upsets, surprisingly close games, and more overtime delivered a ton of action. We can now start to piece together what we should expect each team to be this year now that we have a 2-game sample size and not just 1-game flukes. For example, did you really think Ohio State was going to have that much trouble scoring all year? Did you think Georgia would be as elite as they looked through week 1? Ok, you probably did, and you’re right (they are that good). So let’s find out what we learned in my week 2 takeaways!
Alabama Struggles but Survives Against Injured Longhorns
I admittedly only touched on the #1 team in passing last week, but I’m giving the Crimson Tide their own subsection this week. I’m not sure they’ll appreciate it (except maybe Nick Saban because it’s not “rat poison“). It was surprising to see the game tied 10-10 in the second quarter, but then Texas QB Quinn Ewers, who was off to a good start, got knocked out of the game on a hard but clean hit. Hudson Card replaced him and battled admirably, but he too got injured and played most of the second half on a bum leg, preventing him from putting much behind his throws. The Longhorns were forced to settle for 3 too often (missing one FG from 20 yards out), and they lost a safety when intentional grounding was inexplicably not called a Bryce Young throwaway in the end zone. Young rebounded as a runner in the 4th quarter and made some passes against soft zone coverage, but this was a really shaky performance that required a last-minute field goal to win 20-19 over a Texas team without their starting QB.
Upsets Rattle Top 25; Sun Belt Enjoys a Great Day
After the early window of games mostly went according to plan, the second set of games starting at 3:30-4:00 PM went crazy. New Sun Belt member Marshall stunned (8) Notre Dame in South Bend (26-21) with suffocating defense. Appalachian State, another Sun Belt squad that came up short a week ago, knocked out (6) Texas A&M 17-14 in another defensive struggle. Washington State overcame 3 turnovers top top (19) Wisconsin 17-14. The key in all 3 games was defense; the underdogs shut down the offenses of their ranked opponents to keep themselves in the games while their own offenses did just enough to earn victories. With two top-25 upsets in 1 day and the imminent departure of the AAC’s top 3 teams, the Sun Belt is positioning itself as potentially the best Group of 5 conference. Note: I’m not counting the “upset” of (20) Kentucky over (12) Florida because there was no reason to jump the Gators that high from unranked in the first place. Additionally, 4 FCS teams took out FBS opponents, with Weber State obliterating Utah State 35-7, Eastern Kentucky topping Bowling Green (more on that one later), Incarnate Word beating Nevada 55-41, and Holy Cross overcoming Buffalo 37-31. All in all, a wild day!
UTSA, Houston Live for OT; Others Join Them
For the second consecutive week, UTSA and (25) Houston both played in overtime games. This time, however, their fortunes reversed. UTSA, who lost to Houston last week, won 41-38 over Army on a surgical OT drive (2 plays, 2 passes, 1 TD). In contrast, Houston played 2 overtimes at Texas Tech but fell 33-30. But they didn’t get to hog all the OT fun. (24) Tennessee squandered a 4th-quarter lead against (17) Pittsburgh before clamping down in OT and winning 34-27. Outshining them all, however, was the tussle between Eastern Kentucky of the FCS and the MAC’s Bowling Green. This was a 38-38 game going into OT, but each team scored TDs in each of the first two overtimes to enter a 2-point conversion shootout. The game went to 7 OTs with these teams trading blows, eventually ending 59-57 in favor of EKU. I wish we had this kind of game every week. Kansas and West Virginia also went to OT for good measure, with the Jayhawks winning 55-42 by ending the game on a pick-six. Finally, late in the night, (21) BYU went to OT with (9) Baylor after a shank on a 35-yard FG by Cougars kicker Jake Oldroyd; BYU won the game 26-20 after some more awful kicking.
New Coaches Providing Immediate Returns…Mostly
Some teams fire their coaches too early; LSU dumping Ed Orgeron comes to mind. However, sometimes a new voice is really needed for a team to reach its potential. Several of the new coaching hires have their teams at 2-0 already, and their teams have looked good doing so. Mario Cristobal of Miami, Lincoln Riley of USC, Joey McGuire of Texas Tech, Kalen DeBoer of Washington, Jake Dickert of Washington State, Mike Elko of Duke, and Billy Napier of Florida are the Power 5 coaches whose teams have won their opening games. Although some of these wins were against inferior opponents, many were impressive, especially UF’s upset of Utah. Besides, most of these teams were middling or worse in 2021, so any positive momentum is a welcome sight for their fan bases. We’ll learn soon how good these teams really are, but they’re off to great starts. The exception to all of this is Marcus Freeman of Notre Dame. A loss at Ohio State may have been expected, but a home loss to Marshall certainly was not. ND was outplayed in all 3 phases, and the formerly 5th-ranked Irish are now 0-2 and practically eliminated from CFP contention. Maybe Brian Kelly knew something about this program when he bailed for LSU.
Heisman and CFP Watches: Bryce Young Gives up Ground, PAC 12 Hangs by a Thread
I touched on this earlier, but Young did not have a clean game like he did in week 1. His offense struggled to move the ball until the final few minutes, though his case will of course be helped by his game-winning drive. Meanwhile, Bama edge rusher Will Anderson was quite as the Longhorns’ offensive line did a great job neutralizing him with stunts and double teams, though he did manage a sack as usual. Elsewhere, OSU QB CJ Stroud had a much better outing in week 2, with 351 yards and 4 TDs (no turnovers). These 3 players will be jockeying all season long, and we’ll see if any surprise names join them. One of them, Florida’s Anthony Richardson, had a disastrous outing, going 14-35 for 143 yards and 2 INTs (one for a TD). In the CFP race, the PAC 12, which gets shut out almost every year, is down to one hope. With Oregon embarrassed last week and Utah’s upset loss to Florida, the banner for the conference is being carried exclusively by USC. One stumble by the Trojans would likely keep the PAC 12 out of the playoffs yet again, as this is not a conference where a 1-loss champion would be considered. Commissioner George Kliavkoff can’t wait for playoff expansion to arrive.