Oklahoma, Irma, Georgia & Clemson Ds: What Mattered In Week 2
It was a shakeout weekend, and it was just Week 2. From Oklahoma’s win, to Irma, to big defenses, here’s what mattered.
Week 2 Roundup
– Contact/Follow @PeteFiutak
1. Hurricane Irma
Obviously, a silly game doesn’t matter compared to what the players, coaches, families and schools in Florida have to deal with, but to be so crass as to dive into the football issues going forward after several cancelled games – now what?
The college football world will keep spinning without the Florida – Northern Colorado game, and while Miami certainly could’ve played its road game at Arkansas State, all of those around the program had other things a wee bit more pressing to deal with.
Florida State could’ve used a tune-up for new starting quarterback James Blackman against ULM, Florida Atlantic would’ve liked to come home earlier after losing to Wisconsin, and it would’ve been nice if new FIU head coach got his first win at home instead of Alcorn State, but it’s all fine.
However, it’s not like everything will be back to normal now in the state, as well as for the college football season for the affected schools.
This week’s scheduled showdown between Miami and Florida State is being moved to October 7th, but the Florida-Tennessee game that’s supposed to be played in Gainesville this Saturday is still on – for now.
Illinois is still scheduled to play USF in Tampa on Friday night, Georgia Tech is playing UCF in Orlando Saturday evening, and Bethune-Cookman is supposed to play Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton.
Before you think that these are just football games and they aren’t a big deal, remember, to the schools, home dates are everything to the athletic department budget. Even if they’re played, there are still a slew of logistical issues to deal with – not to mention that attendance might be a tad sparse.
And then there’s the American Athletic Conference. It’s one thing to cancel a non-conference date, but the league race could be messed up with USF vs. UConn and Memphis vs. UCF cancelled.
Again, no one’s losing sight of what’s actually important. But the conferences and athletic departments will have plenty of contractual things to sort out.
2. Oklahoma’s Statement
In 2015, Oklahoma had a massive road game at Tennessee to deal with. It won 31-24, which turned into the street cred moment that did wonders for the resume come College Football Playoff selection time.
That was good, but beating No. 2 Ohio State like the Sooners did on Saturday night was even better.
It wasn’t just that OU outplayed the Buckeyes, it’s that it was able to do it with the confidence and swagger of the Big Game Bob days when former head man Bob Stoops had the program roaring back to form in the early 2000s.
Lincoln Riley, in just his second game as the head coach, took his team into one of the most hostile environments in college football, and he beat Urban Meyer.
Best of all, there’s now a margin for error.
The Sooners should roll through most of their Big 12 slate, but Texas is always a problem, and going Kansas State and Oklahoma State won’t be a breeze. Throw in dangerous games at home against TCU and West Virginia – and if all goes well, a trip to the Big 12 Championship – and there are still a slew of landmines to sidestep.
But now, OU has a little breathing room. It can lose a game, win the Big 12 title, and be 99% certain it’ll get into the CFP.
3. The Clemson and Georgia Defenses
This might be the Year of the NFL Franchise Quarterback in college football, and wild shootouts might have become the norm, but it was the defensive side that took over in two of the biggest early games of the season.
Georgia’s defense gave up just 55 rushing yards to Notre Dame, with pressures and hurries messing up rising star Irish QB Brandon Wimbush in key late spots.
Notre Dame PK Justin Yoon had nailed all four of his field goal attempts, but he never got a shot at a game-winning fifth attempt. Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter and company ended the fun with a forced fumble to but the game away.
Meanwhile, Clemson’s defensive line put on a show in the 14-6 win over Auburn.
The SEC’s Tigers were supposed to be ready to rock and roll this year with Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham at quarterback to go along with RB Kamryn Pettway. Instead, the high-powered attack gained just 117 total yards thanks to Dorian O’Daniel, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, and the rest of the Clemson D.
The ACC Tigers generated 11 sacks – Bryant led the way with four – while holding Auburn to just two field goals.
4. Hot Seats Getting Hotter
It’s only Week 2, so there’s still time for five beleaguered coaches at big-time programs to turn things around.
But it’s only Week 2, and the hot seat the five started the season on just got turned up to flaming.
Bret Bielema at Arkansas, Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M, Rich Rodriguez at Arizona, Todd Graham at Arizona State, and Mike Riley at Nebraska. There are a whole slew of other head coaches in desperate need of a big win, but for those five, it was a particularly tough weekend.
Bielema’s Hogs went nowhere in a physical blowout loss at home to TCU, but they get Sumlin’s Aggies in a few weeks in a showdown that might turn into a job elimination game much like last year’s Les Miles’ LSU vs. Gus Malzahn’s Auburn battle.
How did Texas A&M react to the UCLA meltdown? It needed everything in the bag to get past Nicholls 24-14.
But at least Sumlin won, Bielema lost to a strong Big 12 team, and Riley’s Huskers mounted a terrific comeback on the road at Oregon, only to fall just short.
Rodriguez and the Wildcats lost at home to Houston, and Graham’s Sun Devils were rocked by San Diego State.
The Cougars and Aztecs might be good enough to win the American Athletic Conference and Mountain West, respectively, but Pac-12 schools aren’t supposed to lose at home to Group of Five programs.
5. Quick Hitting Final Thoughts
– While he’s not being mentioned yet with Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and Lamar Jackson, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph might be having the best start to the season of any elite quarterback. He threw for 335 yards and three scores – and ran for a touchdown – in a 44-7 win over South Alabama.
– Speaking of underappreciated star quarterbacks, Alabama’s Jalen Hurts was wonderful against Fresno State, connecting on 14-of-18 passes with a score, and running for a team-high 154 yards and two scores on just ten carries in the 41-10 blowout. Shhhhhhh, just wait a little bit, and watch for him to emerge in the Heisman chase.
– Before getting all excited about Penn State’s 33-14 win over Pitt, the Panthers needed overtime to get by Youngstown State in Week One, and the miserable pass defense of last season doesn’t appear to be that much better. Nittany Lion QB Trace McSorley threw three touchdown passes, but he only hit 15-of-28 passes.
– Welcome to your new statistical superstar. Wisconsin freshman RB Jonathan Taylor looked special against Florida Atlantic, showing off a frightening blend of power and speed on the way to 223 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-14 Badger win.
– You’re not crazy to think that Lamar Jackson might be even better. He saved Louisville against North Carolina, running for 132 yards and three scores, and throwing for 393 yards and three touchdowns – all with his normal pizzazz – in the 47-35 win on the road.
– While Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are getting all the Big 12 headlines, TCU appears to have found its defensive groove again in the 28-7 win over Arkansas. QB Kenny Hill was fine, but it was the power running game in key spots, and a stifling day from the defense, that gave the Horned Frogs the impressive win.
And then there’s Kansas State. The Wildcats continue to take target practice, with QB Jesse Ertz and the offense rolling at will on poor Charlotte in a 55-7 blowout that could’ve been much, much worse.
The Big 12 might be top-heavy, but that top is really, really good.