There’s a lot to unpack from a busy weekend of college football. Week 2 saw some significant wins so early in the year, and that led to some shaking up in my outlook for the season. The results are a reminder for us that in college football, the whole season can change on any given week.
Ohio State losing in Week 2? We’ve been down this road before, but 2017 isn’t exactly 2014
Before we go any deeper into our roundup of thoughts from the week that was, I should issue a formal reminder that I had previously predicted Ohio State to go undefeated this season and play for the national championship. Naturally, I felt the Buckeyes would defend their home field against Oklahoma on Saturday night and keep that undefeated season going on a good start. Boy, was I wrong.
Did I overestimate Ohio State or not give Oklahoma enough respect? It may be a bit from Column A and a bit from Column B. Baker Mayfield taking advantage of a questionable Ohio State secondary played out as expected, but Ohio State’s defensive line being able to wear down a mighty Oklahoma offensive line never came to fruition. And why Ohio State didn’t thrive with a running game is a bit beyond my understanding given the talent they have.
The win for the Sooners most certainly changes how I see this season potentially playing out now, because I believe the Big 12 now has a legitimate Playoff contender with a signature non-conference victory that eluded them a year ago. Will Oklahoma manage to make the top four this year? We’ll see (you can catch my latest projection down below), but one question we are faced asking now is what this means for Ohio State.
A key non-conference loss at home in the beginning of the season? If you have learned nothing watching college football in the era of the College Football Playoff, then you are probably writing off Ohio State entirely now in the middle of September. That would be unwise, as the Buckeyes have plenty of time to turn their season around and make a push for the Playoff, just as they did three seasons ago in the inaugural run of the College Football Playoff after a home loss to Virginia Tech. I’m willing to bet Oklahoma will finish this season better off than those Hokies did too, but the responsibility falls on the Buckeyes to take care of what needs to be addressed moving forward.
Ohio State still has good opportunities to rebound, but the competition in Big Ten play this season looks more imposing than it did for the Buckeyes three years ago. After losing to Virginia Tech in Columbus in the second week of the 2014 season, Ohio State faced just two ranked opponents the rest of the year before being selected to play in the College Football Playoff. To their credit, Ohio State knocked off No. 7 Michigan State in East Lansing and then demolished No. 11 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.
Odds are pretty good that the 2017 Buckeyes will have a trickier path back to the playoff compared to 2014. As it stands right now, Ohio State has two games in the regular season left to play against teams currently ranked in the top seven (No. 5 Penn State and No. 7 Michigan), and games against Maryland and Iowa may not be gimme wins either. We’ll see about Michigan State later in the year too.
The Buckeyes can most certainly do what is needed to get back in the Playoff hunt, because the truth is they are not that far out of it today. But they will have to work harder to earn that playoff bid this year compared to a few years ago when they won it all.
Which Texas team rebounded the best in Week 2? It wasn’t Baylor or Texas A&M
The Texas Longhorns moved past their embarrassing loss at home to Maryland in Week 1 with a 56-0 thumping of San Jose State. It was encouraging to see, but a far cry from suggesting Texas has cured all of their problems with Sam Ehlinger taking the reins at quarterback this week. We’ll see what they do against USC out west this weekend. Texas A&M and Baylor on the other hand? Yikes.
Texas A&M did manage to get in the win column this week after a meltdown at UCLA in Week 1, but the Aggies were pushed to the edge by Nicholls until the Aggies managed to tack on 10 points in the fourth quarter for a 24-14 victory. And the Aggies had to make some plays rather than focus on running out the clock just to run up the score a bit. Not a good week for Kevin Sumlin on the football field, but I’m still rooting for him in light of the disgusting act of racism he and his family had to deal with this week.
Baylor is off to a 0-2 start this season under head coach Matt Rhule, and it has been about as ugly as anyone could have imagined for the Bears. Baylor may not get much sympathy from most fans out there, for understandable reasons, but anyone who thought this program would be without a win after two home games against Liberty and UTSA is off their rockers. And for Baylor, these were supposed to be the easy games.
Next up for the Bears is a road trip to Duke to play the Blue Devils, who are fresh off a big win over Northwestern. and then Baylor enters Big 12 play against Oklahoma and back-to-back road trips at Kansas State and Oklahoma State before returning home to play West Virginia and Texas. So it could be a while before Baylor picks up Rhule’s first win as head coach in Waco.
Week 1 was great, but Week 2 was true college football
Those big fancy big money games being played in state-of-the-art NFL stadiums may be good for advertising college football in general, and they sure handle it well in Week 1, but Week 2 was what college football is all about with big time games being played in authentic college football stadiums.
More of that, please. Also, more dancing T-Rexes, please.
I've seen it all — dancing T-Rexs??? pic.twitter.com/1cIuXpQUug
— angelique (@chengelis) September 9, 2017
It wasn’t so long ago that Boise State would have won a triple OT game at Wazzu
I stayed up until about 2:45 a.m. Eastern watching college football on Saturday night, because just 13 hours of college football is not nearly enough for me. And good old Boise State was appointment viewing for me just as they have been on many occasions throughout the years.
The Broncos looked to be making a bit of a statement on the road against Washington State, similarly to what we had come to expect from Boise State at their highest pedigree. But there was just something about Saturday night that felt different about these Broncos. Sure, they may be very good in the Group of Five pack, but you knew something was different when Boise State couldn’t even manage to hold on to a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter.
Credit Washington State for doing what they needed to do, but the Broncos would have won that game during their highly successful run, only to potentially be upset at home by a program like Air Force or Nevada on a botched field goal. Washington State roared back with a 21-point burst in the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter after not scoring an offensive touchdown all game. And the Cougars won, 47-44. This was the true definition of Pac-12 After Dark.
Group of Five Ranking
With the loss, I removed Boise State from my Group of Five power ranking this week, but there is plenty of time for them to come back and play a role in the Group of Five chase for the New Year’s Six.
Winning a conference championship remains the first goal for any team from the Group of Five to reach the New Year’s Six, but having a nice non-conference victory over a power conference program is nice to have in your pocket. Boise State squandered that one away and will now have to catch up to the competition after we saw San Diego State pick up a road win against a Pac-12 team.
San Diego State tops my Group of Five power ranking this week, and a couple of teams I am high on having games wiped out by Hurricane Irma was not enough reason for me to drop them from the rankings this week. This will all sort itself out in the coming weeks, of course, but the Aztecs, in my mind, are on top right now.
As a reminder, only conference champions are eligible for the New Year’s Six automatic spot. This will come into play later in the year once the conference championship picture comes into view, but for now it’s anybody’s game. Except for UNLV. Also, remember that BYU, Army, and UMass are not eligible for consideration as they are not conference members.
- San Diego State
- Air Force
Overreaction of the Week
James Franklin was totally disrespectful of Pitt after the win on Saturday.
Was he? I’m not so sure about that. Franklin suggesting a win over Pitt meant nothing more than a win over Akron will rub some people the wrong way, especially if they reside in western Pennsylvania, but Franklin stayed true to his overall message of taking each week’s opponent with the same sense of urgency as the next.
As we said on Hyrule Huddle this week, you can’t win the national championship unless you win six games first. And let’s not overlook the recruiting aspect Franklin has in mind too. He knows what he is doing, and it’s all a part of a master plan.
Play of the Week
This was an easy one.
Mississippi State, Louisiana Tech yakety sax. pic.twitter.com/JEakKSE9or
— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) September 10, 2017
I feel sorry for NFL-only football fans
This week the NFL kicked off its 2017 season after we college football fans have already enjoyed 2.5 weeks of college football. Those poor souls. Of course, NFL-only fans get 16-game regular seasons. But the trade-off is having to put up with ridiculous pregame shows.
Add pregame shows to the never-ending list of Things College Football Is Awesome That The NFL Sucks At https://t.co/0qEWIOtQx0
— Brett Hudson (@Brett_Hudson) September 10, 2017
The NFL might want to go back to banning group celebrations pic.twitter.com/tPM1sUwnoh
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 10, 2017
Thank you, College GameDay. Thank you so much.
My Top 4
As I alluded to earlier, I was forced to make some changes with my Playoff outlook this week, and I am still trying to figure out how the rest of the season plays out in my mind. But for right now, with the wins Oklahoma and USC had this past weekend, I can no longer ignore the Sooners and Trojans as Playoff contenders. All four teams in my current “If the Playoffs started today” ranking have wins against ranked opponents, and that is key and why Penn State is left out entirely.
I’ll even argue that Oklahoma’s win was more impressive than Alabama’s over Florida State. That’s why they ascend to the top spot in my “If the playoff started today” ranking this week.
If the College Football Playoff started today…
Of course, the Playoff doesn’t start today. Here is my updated forecast for the College Football Playoff, which has now been adjusted from my preseason prediction. I should say I am not particularly confident in this week’s projection too, and it may take another week for me to get a better read on the outlook.
- Ohio State
Here is how I voted in this week’s Super 16 poll from the FWAA and National Football Foundation.
What’s on Tap?
Hurricane Irma may still impact this week’s schedule, as it looks as though Miami-Florida State is moving back to later in the season. But we still get the reigning national champs visiting the reigning Heisman Trophy winner with Clemson at Louisville. This is a rarity in college football which we should all soak in as much as possible.
Clemson at UofL will be the fourth game in college football history to feature a reigning national champion vs. a reigning Heisman winner. pic.twitter.com/CgUxZDgHEA
— Kelly Dickey (@RealCardGame) September 8, 2017
Texas visiting USC should be interesting to see, especially if the Longhorns did turn a corner this weekend. I wish I could get excited for Tennessee-Florida like I used to, but the juice just is not there right now, even though it still plays a key role in the SEC East as usual. And if BYU had any sort of offense, I’d be more excited for their home game against Wisconsin. But at least the scenry will be amazing in Provo.
Check back next week for another edition of McGuire’s Musings. The column will add more as more games are played. You can also submit your questions on Twitter or in the comment section below to be featured in next week’s column.