The college football season is finally here! In the second week, we saw a lot of overreactions from fans and media alike. Here’s a reality check on Week 2’s overreactions.
Texas is not coming back. Neither Florida State nor USC are in the running.
After strong starts, those clubs were hit with a dose of reality in Week 2. The Longhorns were thrashed by Arkansas, the Seminoles were humiliated by Stanford in the Coliseum, and the Trojans looked uninspired in an ugly defeat to Stanford that led to coach Clay Helton’s resignation on Monday. So, in retrospect, our Week 1 overreactions may have been exaggerated.
That’s why we like college football, a sport in which Iowa State can be a College Football Playoff contender one week and the second-best team in the state the next.
Here are a couple more Week 2 overreactions:
Ohio State will be defeated by Michigan.
Following Oregon’s shocking 35-28 road victory at the Horseshoe on Saturday, Ohio State hasn’t looked this vulnerable in a long time. C.J. Stroud and the Ohio State offense aren’t the issue; he passed for 484 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception on 35-for-54 throwing. However, under first-year defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, who was hired when Jeff Hafley departed to become the head coach at Boston College in 2020, the defense is a disaster. Coombs had a lengthy history as a strong recruiter and defensive backs coach, but he has never called a play beyond the high school level. Last season, Ohio State’s defense was not very good, and it seems to be much worse this year.
“I’m in charge,” Coombs said to reporters on Saturday. “That is my responsibility, therefore we must improve our performance. I’m not criticizing the players when we say we need to perform better. Our defense is held to a high level, and I need to improve my performance.”
Coombs does not bear sole responsibility. Ohio State signed 11 defensive players rated in the top 100 of the ESPN 300 in the 2017 and 2018 recruiting classes. Chase Young, Shaun Wade, and Jeff Okudah were among them. After Urban Meyer hired Alex Grinch as co-defensive coordinator instead of Coombs in 2018, Coombs departed the school to join the Tennessee Titans’ staff, and the Buckeyes’ defense recruiting slowed significantly. In the 2019 and 2020 classes, they only signed one defensive player rated in the top 100 of the ESPN 300. (defensive end Zach Harrison, who has yet to develop into a true star). That’s the dilemma that current head coach Ryan Day is dealing with: the defensive woes may be as much about the X’s and O’s as they are about the Jimmys and Joes.
Still, let’s not get too excited about Michigan defeating Ohio State for the first time since November 26, 2011. Yes, the Wolverines looked excellent in their 31-10 victory against Washington on Saturday, but they’ll need more from quarterback Cade McNamara and the passing game to defeat OSU. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes have more than two months to improve their defense.
Texas will not be able to compete in the SEC.
The Longhorns’ schedule doesn’t get any easier for coach Steve Sarkisian and his team over the next month, with games against Rice, Texas Tech, TCU, and Oklahoma. Getty Images/Wesley Hitt
Pump the brakes on those “Texas is back” declarations, as we told you last week. The Longhorns fell 40-21 against Arkansas on Saturday after appearing so terrific in a 20-point win over Louisiana in the opener. The Hogs racked up 471 yards of offense, including 333 yards on the ground, for an average of 7.1 yards per run. Five Arkansas players rushed for at least 40 yards. Only two quarterback pressures were recorded by the Longhorns, who were held without a sack.
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian stated, “They sort of wore us out over time, so our defense was out on the field… it kind of tired us out.” “There were 47 rush attempts. We never made them feel obligated to toss the ball. Part of it, I believe, was because we didn’t get it done offensively to relieve the defense of any pressure.”
On the opposite side of the ball, Texas’ offensive line couldn’t hold up against an SEC defensive line that was rated below average (but might be much better than that). Bijan Robinson of Texas was limited to just 69 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown, as the Longhorns struggled to run against three-man fronts.
It’s too early to claim Sarkisian won’t succeed after just two games. It’s much too early to suggest the Longhorns won’t be able to compete if they transfer from the Big 12 to the SEC, which may happen as early as 2025. Between now and then, Sarkisian and his staff must drastically improve the skill on both offensive and defensive lines. Texas has had three offensive linemen drafted in the NFL draft since 2008, but none in the first round. Alabama had 19 offensive linemen selected over that time period, including eight first-round picks. Even worse, since 2008, Vanderbilt has had six such players selected, including one first-round pick. Texas supporters were perplexed as to why James and Tommy Brockermeyer, the twin sons of former Longhorns All-American Blake Brockermeyer, chose Alabama.
Iowa will qualify for the CFP.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes have gone 24 games without allowing more than 25 points, the longest run among Power 5 teams. Matthew Putney/AP Photo
The Hawkeyes cruised over Iowa State in the Cy-Hawk game, winning 27-17 on the road, after thrashing Indiana in the opener. Iowa is strong enough defensively to contend for a Big Ten championship and perhaps a place in the College Football Playoff. In two games, the Hawkeyes have forced seven turnovers and turned them into 37 points (20 against Iowa State). They haven’t let up more than 25 points in 24 straight games, which is the longest run among Power 5 teams. In the first two games, Iowa recorded six interceptions, the most in the FBS since 2017. Tory Taylor, the punter, is a field-position weapon.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz stated, “There’s no secret recipe; we play defense the way we play it.”
And Iowa’s offense isn’t a mystery. On that side of the ball, there’s nothing spectacular, which is usually the case under Ferentz. In its sixth consecutive win against its in-state foe, it ran 39 times for 67 yards and averaged 5 yards per throw. To make it through the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes will need a lot more from their offense. The good news is that they will not face Ohio State or Michigan during the regular season, and they will host Penn State. The greatest remaining stumbling block may be a trip to Wisconsin on Oct. 30.
Arkansas is the SEC West’s second-best squad.
In Arkansas’ Week 2 win against Texas, Trelon Smith ran for 75 yards and a score on 12 attempts. Nelson Chenault is a sports reporter for USA TODAY.
Alabama is without a doubt the top team in the SEC West, with no other club coming close. LSU is still a disaster, and coach Ed Orgeron may be fired if things don’t improve quickly. The Tigers announced on Monday that running back John Emery Jr. would not play this season due to academic reasons. In a 34-7 win against FCS opponent McNeese State on Saturday, LSU averaged just 3.5 yards per run (the Division II West Florida Argonauts averaged 4.8 yards in a 42-36 victory against the Cowboys a week earlier).
7th place With the announcement that starting quarterback Haynes King would miss an unknown amount of time due to a lower leg injury, Texas A&M’s train has slowed a little. In a 10-7 victory against Colorado, sophomore Zach Calzada struggled. Mississippi State’s defense was strong in a 24-10 victory against NC State after a less-than-impressive start against Louisiana Tech.
Despite this, Arkansas’ win against Texas was the most impressive statement made in the SEC West this weekend. In coach Sam Pittman’s second season, are the Hogs good enough to finish second to the Tide? Most likely not. But the 59-year-old former offensive line coach has accomplished a lot in a short period of time. He’s been a head coach for three decades and already has the Hogs buying into what he’s selling. Remember, he took over a team that was 1-23 in SEC games when he arrived. Taking the Hogs to a bowl game in Year 2 would be a huge stride forward after going 3-7 last season, and they’re all than capable of it.
There is a quarterback debate in Georgia.
Stetson Bennett tossed five touchdowns in the first half of Georgia’s 56-7 blowout of UAB in Week 2 with starting quarterback JT Daniels out. Getty Images/Brett Davis
JT Daniels, Georgia’s starting quarterback, missed last week’s 56-7 blowout of UAB due to an oblique injury. Daniels had been struggling with the issue before the season opener against Clemson, but it was exacerbated during that game, and he awoke in agony the following day, according to Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart. After a few more days of therapy, Smart indicated Daniels was feeling better, but his status for Saturday night’s game against South Carolina (7 p.m. ET, ESPN and the ESPN App) remains unknown.
“We’ve done the best we can with the strategy of rest, recuperation, and therapy,” Smart added. “The most important thing we’ve been taught is not to exacerbate it.”
In Daniels’ absence, former walk-on Stetson Bennett established a school record by tossing five touchdowns in the first half against the Blazers. Bennett is obviously Georgia’s No. 2 quarterback, but Daniels’ injury would have to persist for Bennett to regain the starting position, or he would have to struggle terribly in his return. Bennett had some good moments last season, but he struggled in defeats to Alabama and Florida. Bennett, in his defense, was battling with ailments in both games, but the social media reaction was so intense that he abandoned his iPhone. He might be the only student on campus who uses a flip phone.