Week 2: Oregon as tough as ever, Big Ten’s awful day and Stanford

Week 2 included a little bit of everything – a high-profile athletic director harassing officials, a BYU quarterback hurdling hapless Texas defenders (again) and Clark Griswold of National Lampoon’s "Vacation" fame making his college football debut.

My three biggest takeaways:


In the past, Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich’s Oregon teams generally followed one of two scripts: Either the Ducks’ blur offense blows its opponent off the field, or, on the one or two occasions per year when they lose, a Stanford or LSU physically overpowers them for 60 minutes. Not too much in between. 

On Saturday against Michigan State, Oregon fell behind 27-18 early in the third quarter. Spartans QB Connor Cook was shredding the Ducks’ inexperienced defense. Oregon’s normally prolific rushing attack was looking … well, normal.

But the Ducks’ defense clamped down from there, shutting out the Spartans the rest of the way and holding them to 3.4 yards per rush on the night. Marcus Mariota found his groove, freshman running back Royce Freeman exploded and Oregon turned a nine-point deficit into a 19-point win.

Look around the Pac-12. All of the other expected championship contenders – Stanford, UCLA and Washington – have showed unexpected flaws.

Oregon’s defense did cause some concern Saturday, but for the most part the Ducks looked legit. It’s hard to argue with 46-27 over a Top 10 team. 


It seems like an annual tradition that the Big Ten has a collective implosion one Saturday in September, but this one was unfathomably embarrassing.

It started early with Central Michigan clobbering Purdue and Nebraska barely surviving McNeese State. Northern Illinois took down Northwestern, and Iowa barely edged Ball State. But worst of all for Jim Delany’s conference, it went 0-for-3 in its trio of primetime showcases — Oregon 46, Michigan State 27; Notre Dame 31, Michigan 0; and Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21.

This after Wisconsin blew it against LSU last week. It’s not hyperbole to say the conference may be out of the College Football Playoff race after just two weeks. Even if the Spartans or Buckeyes turn around and run through the league, the committee will have no reason to respect the opponents they’re beating.


Give credit to Steve Sarkisian’s Trojans for pulling out a tough 13-10 road win against the Pac-12’s two-time defending champions. But David Shaw’s Cardinal spent much of the game making uncharacteristic self-inflicted mistakes, from fumbles to costly penalties that took points off the board.

Remarkably, Stanford reached at least the USC 32-yard-line on all nine of its possessions and managed just 10 points. A big part of the problem was a mistake-riddled offensive line that lost four starters from last season. Stanford has been so good at that position for so long that most assumed they’d just reload and carry on.

Instead, the Cardinal are off to an 0-1 start in Pac-12 play and in danger of wasting a high-caliber defense if the other side of the ball doesn’t iron out its kinks.

Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for FOXSports.com. He covered college football and basketball for 15 years at Sports Illustrated. His new book, “The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the College Football Playoff,” is now available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter @slmandel. Send emails and Mailbag questions to Stewart.Mandel@fox.com.