After a fun extended holiday weekend to kick off the college football season from coast to coast, the follow-up is relatively mundane with its offerings this week. However, college football has a way of giving its fans a crazy weekend when you least suspect it. It may still be too early for that kind of madness to run wild on us right now, but there are a handful of notable Week 2 games to pay attention to that could carry some heavy implications on the playoff race down the line.
Will South Carolina provide the first major detour on our way to the College Football Playoff?
Every year in college football, there’s the opportunity for the entire course of a season to take a dramatic turn out of nowhere on any given week. Right here in Week 2, South Carolina has a chance to open things up for an unexpected turn of events as they host the defending SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs for an early SEC East Divison game that could carry some big stakes down the line.
Imagine if you will, a world in which South Carolina pulls a home upset of Georgia in Week 2 and owns a head-to-head tiebreaker against Georgia in the SEC East Divison. If the two tied for the division, South Carolina would block Georgia from playing for another SEC title, which could potentially set up the playoff for the possibility of two SEC teams once again if Georgia goes 11-1 (sound familiar?). More importantly, it opens up the entire SEC East with 10 games still to play. All of a sudden, a team like Florida or even Missouri could move forward knowing they might be able to afford a loss to Georgia so long as they can get by South Carolina. As this game wraps up, Florida and Kentucky will kick off in Gainesville knowing the door could be open for an early jump on Georgia if South Carolina can pull it off.
The question you have to ask is whether or not you trust Will Muschamp’s program to able to win this game. Talent-wise, Georgia holds decisive edges pretty much across the field, but the Gamecocks have players capable of making some game-changing plays. Deebo Samuel needs to be that guy for South Carolina. In 106, Samuel caught four passes for 90 yards against Georgia. He’s a highlight just waiting to happen every time the ball is snapped.
Georgia likely keeps things calm in the SEC East, but who wants to root for that (unless you’re a Georgia fan) when you can be on Team Chaos? It’s never too early to see Team Chaos get a win.
Dabo Swinney vs. Jimbo Fisher, one more time
Jimbo Fisher and Dabo Swinney have coached against each other eight times, and each has won four games between them. After splitting their first two meetings at a time when the two coaches were each just getting started in reshaping their respective ACC programs, Fisher rode a three-game winning streak during the height of Florida State’s ACC dominance that led to a BCS national championship and a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff. The momentum has swung the other way in recent years with Swinney riding a three-game winning streak in this coaching rivalry. Swinney has also claimed a national title and two other trips to the College Football Playoff during that time.
This week, the coaching rivalry continues with Fisher now the head coach at Texas A&M. Fisher may have moved to a new job, but the situation still has some similarities to more recent matchups. Clemson is a team many expect to waltz their way to another ACC title and spot in the playoff. Texas A&M is looking to recharge under Fisher and build a foundation for sustained success.
Clemson arrives to College Station as a sizable road favorite. Despite recent upgrades to the gameday experience at Kyle Field and the sway of the 12th Man, teams have been able to come into the stadium and leave with wins the last few years. And sometimes, the margin of victory has been a bit demoralizing for the Aggies. Will this year be any different? If Clemson goes home with a win, will they have to fight to the end to get it? This feels like a golden statement opportunity situation for Fisher and Texas A&M. Even if the Aggies lose, as they have over the years against their top opponents, forcing Clemson to earn it in the fourth quarter could be something to build on for Fisher and the Aggies.
Or, if you want to hop on board Team Chaos, watch Texas A&M win the whole dang game and throw the ACC’s playoff chances on the edge in Week 2.
Can Stanford get Bryce Love on track vs. USC?
Week 1 was not a particularly good one for the Pac-12. Its top playoff candidate took a loss on the road against Aubur, and its top three Heisman Trophy candidates had some rough moments in their season openers.
Among those players having a less-than-stellar season debut was Stanford running back Bryce Love, the betting favorite for the Heisman Trophy going into the season. Love was held to 29 rushing yards on 18 carries last week by San Diego State, and 14 of those yards came on one play. Love was also held out of the end zone. That’s a line where you can shrug your shoulders and move on, because it’s very unlikely we see that too often, if at all again this season.
You should feel pretty good about Love’s chances to improve on his rushing production in Week 2. That’s because he’ll be going up against a USC team that has struggled to stop the run. The Trojans ranked 56th in the nation last season against the run, proving to be a rather average at best rushing defense. USC also just gave up 308 rushing yards to UNLV last week, including 136 yards and a touchdown to Lexington Thomas. Give USC the benefit of the fact UNLV ranked 18th in rushing offense last season (Stanford was 30th). But in a spotlight game for Stanford and in conference play, the Cardinal must get Love on track not just so Heisman voters remember how good he is, but because a win in Pac-12 play at home against USC could be a major game in the standings down the line.
The other storyline here has to be USC’s J.T. Daniels going up against Stanford’s defense. Daniels may be a great quarterback during his time at USC, but this is a mighty tough draw for his second career game.
An ugly start for Chip Kelly? Oh, yes, avert your eyes and don’t let the children watch this one
For Chip Kelly, it was a rude welcome back to the world of college football last week with the Bruins taking a loss at home against Cincinnati. If you didn’t believe Kelly was going to have some work to do at UCLA before even coming close to thinking about a possible Pac-12 championship, this was an eye-opening experience. It’s about to get worse too.
This week, Kelly takes UCLA on the road for his first road game as head coach of the Bruins, and it won’t be a fun one. UCLA visits Oklahoma, fresh off a season-opening smashing of FAU that may have let everyone know the Sooners are still pretty darn good even without Baker Mayfield. That’s because they are. Last week’s thrashing of the Owls was no fluke and it proved Lincoln Riley has an offense that is ready to do some serious damage with Kyler Murray at quarterback and Rodney Anderson running the ball. And don’t forget about the defense. This one should serve up plenty of offensive highlights for the Sooners, but the defense is ready to have a big game against a UCLA team that showed absolutely nothing at offensive line last week.
I don’t care how good your quarterback, running backs, and wide receivers are. If you don’t have an offensive line, your offense is going to be crap. Folks, UCLA has no offensive line. Kelly and offensive line issues have become a bit of a trend since his days at Oregon…
All the "watch out Monte Kiffin" tweets are fun but until further notice Chip Kelly has Nick Foles and a crap offensive line.
— Tim Cowlishaw (@TimCowlishaw) January 16, 2013
Chip Kelly brings Alabama's offensive line coach to Philadelphia http://t.co/4zMXIrnB
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 7, 2013
Chip Kelly says Eagles will hold 'open competition' between Vick and Foles to see who the offensive line gets killed first
— Fake SportsCenter (@FakeSportsCentr) February 11, 2013
Chip Kelly says injuries on the offensive line were to blame for Michael Vick's down year in 2012 http://t.co/VIqG7iQvgu
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) April 30, 2013
Takeaway from Chip Kelly's press conference: Offensive line affected everything. No space for run game, too much pressure for passing game
— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) September 29, 2014
— Cousin Sal (@TheCousinSal) March 12, 2015
As somebody who covers CFB, it’s terribly sad neither Andrew Luck or Chip Kelly are able to have a decent offensive line in the NFL.
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) October 4, 2015
The old adage says a team will make the most significant improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, which makes sense. After going through training camps and offseason practices, your first real chance to see what your team is made of is against your season-opening opponent. Cincinnati exposed UCLA’s offensive line in a way that Oklahoma’s defensive linemen should be salivating.
I don’t always say to take a game with a 30-point spread, but you might want to give this one a hard look.
Herm Edwards gets his first big test
When Arizona State hired Herm Edwards, I proceeded with extreme caution. Long-term, I still have doubts about how this all works out for the Sun Devils. And this week’s matchup with Michigan State is one that should throw the first loss at Edwards, which will be our first chance to see Edwards respond to a loss at the college level.
But there’s just something weird about Big Ten teams going west to play a Pac-12 team, and Michigan State should beware of those demons lending a helping hand in some way to the Sun Devils. From the significant heat to an Arizona State team that does have some talent, Michigan State has to be prepared for a lot after a shaky season debut at home against Utah State.
IF you’re staying up to watch this, you may be in for a fun late-night treat. Can Herm Edwards get Arizona State into the top 25 after just two games? I’m prepared to suggest it’s much more likely than I ever envisioned months ago.