After an electric Week 1 that saw Clemson take down Georgia in the marquee game, a whopping eight FCS teams pull off upsets of FBS squads and much more, we’re hungry for more in Week 2. The folks at CollegeFootballNews.com are back to break down the biggest games of the weekend. Check out their predictions below.
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Georgia is good enough to win the BCS championship. Even with a few tweaks needed, a lost starting receiver and a couple of concerns on defense, all the talent is in place to run the table, win the SEC championship, go 12-1, throttle some overhyped Ohio State-like team from another conference, and make everyone finally believe that Aaron Murray and Mark Richt can win the really, really, really, really big one.
Or the Bulldogs could lose to South Carolina and be completely and totally out of the national championship chase by Sept. 8.
The loss to Clemson probably didn’t matter all that much to the BCS title hopes. If Georgia runs the table, it’ll take something special to keep a 12-1 SEC champion out of Pasadena, but there’s still a ton of work to do to even start to believe that’s possible. The first step is getting past the team that provided a 35-7 beatdown last year.
This is South Carolina’s big chance. The national attention has been there all offseason thanks to superstar DE Jadeveon Clowney, but a dominant opening act against North Carolina proved there are other parts to the puzzle, too. Last year’s win over the Bulldogs was the high point at the end of a 6-0 start before losses to LSU and Florida derailed the season. This year’s team might just be Steve Spurrier’s best yet in Columbia, but this begins a brutal stretch of five road dates in the next seven games.
Why South Carolina Might Win: Spurrier has Richt’s number lately. The Gamecocks have won the last three in the series with a blowout last season, a shootout in 2011, and a slugfest early in 2010. This year, USC East has the right makeup and the right type of team to take advantage of a Georgia squad coming off a physical and emotional loss in Death Valley. The Gamecocks might not be Clemson when it comes to offensive pop, but the balance and mix should give Georgia’s defense a nightmare of a time. South Carolina’s offense will be able to play any way it needs to.
Why Georgia Might Win: Will the sense of urgency and desperation matter? This is it for the Bulldogs in terms of must-win situations early on, and while it’s not like they’ll try any harder now, the team might take a few more chances and pull out a few more tricks. Lost in the loss to Clemson was that the game could’ve gone either way, and if it wasn’t for a botched field goal attempt, it might’ve. If this gets into any sort of firefight, the Bulldogs are far better equipped to handle it. North Carolina wasn’t able to get its running backs to the USC linebacking corps and the second level. Georgia will.
What Will Happen: Expect yet another war for Georgia. South Carolina was surprisingly flashy against North Carolina, and it might be again against a leaky Dawg defense that still has to prove itself. Clowney will come up with the game everyone has been waiting for, but Georgia QB Aaron Murray will keep getting up off the mat after getting clocked time and again, and unlike last week, this time he’ll be on the right end of a close, tough battle.
Why You Should Give A Hoot: With each team ranked in the mid-teens, this is statement time. This is Notre Dame’s first real shot at showing that last season wasn’t a fluke, and considering the last five losses came against BCS-bowl teams — let’s just throw 2011 USC into that category — a loss would represent a step back and could be a big, big problem to get back to one of the big money games.
The Irish don’t have a natural bowl tie-in, and while someone would break a contract to take them, after last season anything less than a BCS appearance would be a major disappointment. With Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC, Arizona State and Stanford still to deal with, the margin for error becomes extremely slim with a loss.
A loss to the Irish all but ends the national interest and really will make Michigan more of a regional power, but a win turns on the spotlight with relatively smooth sailing for a while. If all goes according to plan, with Akron, UConn, Minnesota, Penn State and Indiana up next, 7-0 is more than likely before dealing with the road trip to Michigan State, and then it’s Game On with the possibility of being this year’s version of 2012 Notre Dame.
Why Notre Dame Might Win: The defensive line. It’s going to be the key to the entire season for the Irish, allowing just 134 yards against Temple and keeping the Owl running backs from getting going. Temple quarterback Connor Reilly was the only one able to get anything moving, and this week the Irish would be more than happy if Devin Gardner became the primary rushing weapon. Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt didn’t exactly destroy Temple last week, even though Tuitt came up with a sack, but they were active and held their own. They should be able to take away the Michigan backs early on while generating just enough pressure on Gardner to get by. However …
Why Michigan Might Win: Temple actually moved the ball a bit. The Irish defense will be dominant at times this year, but does it have the same fight and toughness it showed throughout last season? It did in Week One, but the overall production wasn’t quite up to 2012 snuff. Meanwhile, offensively, can the Irish keep up in a shootout? Tommy Rees was fantastic, and the running game worked well with Amir Carlisle and Cam McDaniel cranking out yards in chunks, but it was still a bit of a fight to put points on the board. After Rees found DaVaris Daniels for two 32-yard touchdown passes in the first quarter, it took a late first half big play to Troy Niklas to take control. As long as the Wolverines don’t give up the bomb, they should be fine.
What Will Happen: It’s not going to be a shootout, but it’ll get interesting in the fourth quarter. Both defenses will control the action in the first half, and a bad interception thrown by Rees will give the Wolverines the lead, but the Irish senior will make amends. The Notre Dame defense will turn the intensity up a notch in the second half, and Rees will come up with a great fourth quarter to give the Fighting Irish — and the Figthing Irish — a terrific win.
Why You Should Give A Hoot: It got lost in the shuffle, but last season’s 50-49 Oklahoma win over West Virginia was one of the year’s best games.
This year, West Virginia is in a major rebuilding mode, and it showed in a sluggish and sloppy 24-17 win over William & Mary. Even so, considering Kansas State and Iowa State lost their FCS matchups, the Mountaineers got out alive, and with an upset win over the Sooners, the entire tone of the Big 12 could quickly change.
Oklahoma is also rebuilding a bit, but it had no problem whatsoever against a dangerous ULM team that was last year’s early-season upset darling. The defense was phenomenal, keeping Kolton Browning under wraps and allowing just 166 total yards, and while the offense might have been a bit rocking throwing the ball, the ground game made up for it.
This is when the Sooner D has to show just how far it’s come since late last year. There might not be an Austin, or a Geno Smith, or a Stedman Bailey around anymore running the WVU attack, but the playbook is about to be opened up and the offense might start to explode — at least that’s the expectation. With Tulsa next week and Notre Dame to follow, OU will have a fun rest of the month, but first, it’s time to start defending its Big 12 crown. The Mountaineers want to even the all-time series at three apiece.
Why West Virginia Might Win: Make the new guy throw. Trevor Knight had an interesting debut for the Sooners, throwing three touchdown passes and running for a team-leading 103 yards, but he struggled with his accuracy and consistency. The scores and key plays came off of his scrambling and mobility, and the Mountaineer defensive front has to be ready. William & Mary might not be the right indicator, but WVU did a nice job of keeping the quick Tribe runners from doing much outside. Nick Kwiatkoski and Darwin Cook came up with excellent support, while nose tackle Shaq Rowell gummed up the works on the inside. The secondary got dinked on, but it only broke down a few times. Against Knight, the D will take its chances deep.
Why Oklahoma Might Win: The Sooner defense will keep everything in front of it. ULM didn’t generate anything whatsoever down the field, with its longest play just 14 yards. The pop and explosion might not be there like West Virginia could potentially show, but the defense still did its job of wrapping up and not getting beaten deep. The Mountaineers came up with a 69-yard pass play to Ronald Carswell last week, but beyond that it was a lot of midrange passes that didn’t go anywhere until the second half. The Mountaineers went 2-for-10 on third downs, and they’ll be in several third-and-long situations this week.
What Will Happen: The shootout of last year is going to be a distant memory. The Sooner defense will focus on stopping RB Charles Sims and make QB Paul Millard try to win the game — he won’t be able to do it. Knight will come up with another nice game on the ground, and another mediocre day through the air, but in the end, OU won’t have a problem.
While Florida and Miami are playing for the 55th time, it’s also their first meeting in five years. The renewal of the rivalry will be especially meaningful for the Hurricanes, which could use the marquee game as a springboard back to prominence. No, a bridge to the old days hasn’t been fully erected by head coach Al Golden, but Miami is inching its way back, with an eye on winning the ACC Coastal Division. It began the 2013 season with a matter-of-fact disposal of Florida Atlantic, 34-6.
So far, the 2013 version of the Gators looks an awful lot like the 2012 one. The nasty defense is crafted in the image of head coach Will Muschamp. But a methodical, inefficient offense is capable of capping Florida’s ultimate potential. The Gators would love to not only maintain their top 10 standing, but to also provide a detour for the hated Hurricanes.
Why Florida Might Win: Just because only four starters return from 2012 doesn’t mean the Gators won’t again rank among the nation’s top defensive units. Oh, and a week after silencing a very good Toledo offense, Florida returns LB Antonio Morrison and CB Loucheiz Purifoy from suspension. It’s especially tough to run on a stout front seven boasting DT Dominique Easley, ‘Buck’ Dante Fowler and LB Ronald Powell. The return of Powell, who missed last year to an ACL tear, provided an emotional and physical lift to the pass rush.
Why Miami Might Win: While Florida continues to have problems scoring points and sustaining drives, Miami is in great hands with QB Stephen Morris and RB Duke Johnson. Morris is the even-keeled, next-level distributor needed to win this type of game. He’ll use the speed of receivers Phillip Dorsett and Allen Hurns to stretch the field. Morris also enjoys the luxury of playing behind a veteran line that returns all five of last year’s starters. In Johnson, the Canes will have the most dynamic playmaker inside Sun Life Stadium, a multi-dimensional threat who started 2013 with 186 yards and a score on just 19 carries.
What Will Happen: Miami is moving in the right direction, but it’s not quite ready for a win of this magnitude. The Canes have Morris and Johnson, which could be enough to capture the Coastal, but their defense remains a concern. Florida, on the other hand, is littered with budding stars on that side of the ball. The Gators will win with their physicality, both on D and when running the ball with Jones and Brown. Until Miami can bluntly stop an assertive ground game, it won’t win games against top-tier opponents.
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Neither Wazzu nor USC will waste much time getting the Pac-12 portion of the schedule off and running. Both schools began the 2013 campaign with non-conference road trips, the Cougars earning a moral victory in a loss to Auburn, and the Trojans picking up an uninspired win at Hawaii, 30-13.
Troy failed to impress, with the main storyline being that neither quarterback, Max Wittek or Cody Kessler, played as if he deserved the starting gig. Head coach Lane Kiffin needs to get his offense humming, or else it’s going to be another unfulfilled year in Los Angeles. While Washington State played well enough to give second-year coach Mike Leach a signature win on the Plains, it was done in by two Tigers scoring plays of at least 75 yards.
Why Washington State Might Win: Yeah, Auburn is down, but the Cougars have been way down for many years. And yet, they outgained an SEC team on the road, 464-396. While QB Connor Halliday must cut down on his mistakes, he did throw for 344 yards. The Deone Bucannon-led defense is capable of keeping USC reeling on offense if it can eliminate the big plays. Washington State was especially salty in pass defense in Week 1.
Why USC Might Win: So far, so good with new coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s defense. OK, the opponent was Hawaii, but the Trojans were noticeably more active and aggressive than in recent seasons, notching seven sacks and four interceptions. The Cougars are one-dimensional under Leach, which is going to allow Pendergast to slough his defenders back to cut off intermediate passing lanes. Wazzu will pile up passing yards, but at the expense of turnovers that give USC a short field with which to work.
What Will Happen: It’s going to take time for USC to be in sync on offense. Until that happens, the defense will lead the charge. Balance will be needed to exploit this year’s Trojans, but that’ll be a problem for pass-happy Wazzu. Halliday will air it out, naturally, putting Troy in a position to halt drives with takeaways. Look for more consistency from the USC quarterbacks to go along with a touchdown apiece from Tre Madden and Justin Davis on the ground.