College Football
Colorado vs. Nebraska, Texas vs. Alabama, more we're watching in Week 2
College Football

Colorado vs. Nebraska, Texas vs. Alabama, more we're watching in Week 2

Published Sep. 7, 2023 11:55 a.m. ET

College football fans will be eager to see if Deion Sanders can keep the Colorado train rolling when his No. 22 Buffaloes play host to Matt Rhule's Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday.

Rhule praised the Buffaloes this week, highlighting the challenge he faced in figuring out how to slow down a team with a high-powered offense and a two-way star in Travis Hunter.

"He's one of the most conditioned athletes I've ever seen, so god bless him," Rhule said of Hunter. "You know his lung speed is unbelievable. His ability to accelerate at 30 yards is something that's hard to simulate in practice but I think the biggest thing about Travis is his ball skills."

While Nebraska-Colorado is a great Week 2 matchup, there are several other crucial games on the slate, with No. 11 Texas at No. 3 Alabama, No. 6 USC hosting Stanford, and more.


FOX Sports college football experts RJ Young, Michael Cohen and Bryan Fischer share what they'll be looking for in the biggest games this week.

Nebraska at No. 22 Colorado (Noon ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app)

RJ Young: Allow me to keep shoveling coal into the Colorado hype train. Now that the sporting world has seen what Colorado and Coach Prime are capable of, there's a question about what it might do for an encore. I expect Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter to continue their fledgling, if dueling, Heisman campaigns.

However, Charles Kelly's defense has to do better than allowing 42 points — even if it was against a top-25 opponent in TCU. And the Buffaloes cannot get rushed on like they did by the Horned Frogs.

The first school ever to beat a Coach Prime-coached team — Alabama State in the spring of 2021 — included a 195-yard rushing effort from Ezra Gray in the Hornets' 35-28 victory against Jackson State. The last school to beat a Coach Prime-coached team — North Carolina Central — rushed for 276 yards in a 41-34 win in the Celebration Bowl last year.

Last week TCU running back Emani Bailey rushed for 164 yards and TCU running back Trey Sanders rushed for three TDs.

If Nebraska plans to spoil Colorado's home opener, it behooves the Huskers to run the ball well. For Colorado to win, it needs to stop Nebraska running.

Week 2 preview: Coach Prime's home debut, Texas vs. Alabama, more!

Michael Cohen: What can Colorado head coach Deion Sanders and his team do for an encore after last week's pulsating 45-42 win over Texas Christian? How can quarterback Shedeur Sanders (510 passing yards, four TDs); running back Dylan Edwards (159 total yards, four TDs) and the indefatigable wide receiver/cornerback Hunter (11 catches for 119 yards, an INT, and somewhere between 138-145 snaps played depending on the source) possibly match or exceed their storybook performances from an unforgettable Game 1 of the Coach Prime era? And just how raucous will things be at Folsom Field on Saturday for the home debut of the empire Sanders is building in Boulder?

The unenviable task of preparing for Colorado's ruthlessly efficient offense and its warp-speed tempo falls to Nebraska defensive coordinator Tony White, 44, who joined head coach Matt Rhule's staff after three seasons in the same role at Syracuse. White's unit did more than enough to give the Cornhuskers a chance in last Thursday's opener at Minnesota by limiting the Gophers to 251 yards of total offense and yielding just 2.2 yards per carry. The defense tallied three sacks, five quarterback hits, one interception and harassed quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis into an NFL passer rating of just 64.2. Yet none of it mattered when Nebraska's feeble offense turned the ball over three times in a 13-10 defeat that spoiled Rhule's debut.

There's no denying the uptick in talent between what Minnesota's offense put forth last week and what Colorado is capable of unleashing this weekend, but White can take solace in knowing his secondary might be the team's most talented position group on that side of the ball. Defensive backs DeShon Singleton, Omar Brown and Quinton Newsome were Nebraska's highest-graded defenders on Pro Football Focus among players who logged at least 35 snaps against the Gophers. They yielded eight completions totaling just 57 yards on 17 combined targets, and Brown snagged the defense's only interception. That's the kind of performance they'll need to have any shot of impeding the Buffaloes this weekend. 

Bryan Fischer: Three areas stick out to me as "Big Noon Kickoff" heads to the beautiful confines of Boulder. First, Heisman Trophy candidate Travis Hunter's snap count and where he's lined up might just be the Stat of the Week from now until he reaches New York. He played every single snap against TCU on defense and nearly three-quarters of the offensive snaps. Is that sustainable, especially as the team returns to altitude after a long day in the heat of Texas last Saturday? I might need to convince some of our bosses to give everybody a Hunter ISO camera feed because he's that interesting, electric, and dynamic to observe. 

Second, I have a sneaky feeling that Rhule will see that the Horned Frogs rushed for more than 7 yards a carry and will try to use those new clock rules to shorten the amount of time his defense sees the field. Between the run game and taking up every second of the play clock, the Huskers should harken fully back to the 1990s, with their commitment to handing the ball off and using Jeff Sims' legs to move the chains.

Finally, I want to know how Colorado is going to handle some of the increased beef Nebraska brings to town in the trenches. Every single one of the Cornhuskers' offensive linemen is at least 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, including right tackle Bryce Benhart's towering 6-foot-9 frame on the outside. Defensively, tackle Nash Hutmacher runs 330 pounds on the interior, and both ends flanking him have uncommon length at 6-foot-6. The Buffs held up well against TCU's front, particularly by utilizing the quick game offensively, so I wonder if that is going to carry over for this historic meeting under the Flat Irons.

Youngstown State at No. 5 Ohio State (Noon ET)

Michael Cohen: A week ago, Ohio State's inability to kick into gear offensively was compounded by Indiana's strategy of shortening the game whenever possible, milking the play clock on nearly every snap. Together, those factors complicated head coach Ryan Day's plan of apportioning legitimate playing time to quarterbacks Kyle McCord (64 snaps) and Devin Brown (six snaps). But a home game against overmatched Youngstown State should afford the Buckeyes plenty of chances to take a longer look at Brown, who completed one pass for minus-2 yards against the Hoosiers, even if the level of competition isn't ideal. Day and his staff need to get the quarterback situation sorted much sooner than later with a high-profile game against No. 10 Notre Dame looming on Sept. 23. Will either player seize control of the job?

Bryan Fischer: It's Youngstown State so nothing revelatory is going to pop out on tape against the Buckeyes, but the number of targets Marvin Harrison Jr. gets from McCord will be top of the list for me. It was downright shocking to see the best wideout in the game have only two catches on the road at Indiana last week, and I half-expect Ryan Day and new OC Brian Hartline to force-feed the connection to big No. 18. 

OSU's offensive line play, after a sketchy opener, also deserves a closer examination when the team returns to the Horseshoe for this one.

RJ Young: While much of the focus will remain on how smoothly the offense operates, I'll be looking to see just how many snaps Brown plays against the Penguins.

Day mentioned feeling the offense had a difficult time establishing a rhythm. Perhaps against an FCS opponent — and not a Big Ten East opponent — he'll allow Brown to go out and win the job.

Should Ohio State be concerned about Kyle McCord?

Iowa at Iowa State (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX)

Michael Cohen: The Hawkeyes opened with a 24-14 win over Utah State that put offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz behind schedule for the incentive in his contract that said Iowa must average 25 points per game this season. Ferentz's group scored touchdowns on its first two possessions before turning the ball over on downs or punting on eight of the next 10 drives. Iowa finished with fewer total yards than the Aggies (284 to 329, respectively) and averaged just 2.4 yards per carry on 36 rushing attempts as a team. The sample size may be small, but the harsh reality is this: The Hawkeyes are ranked outside the top 100 in total offense after one game against an opponent from outside the Power 5 conferences. A second consecutive rough showing would only intensify the pressure on Ferentz's offense.

Bryan Fischer: I agree that Brian Ferentz's drive for 325 remains of paramount focus for any Iowa game given the unique nature it's added to every final score for the Hawkeyes this year, but sustaining drives beyond the opening script will get just as critical an eye for me. The fact that the team scored its first season-opening touchdown via pass since 1991 was an absolutely bonkers stat the first time I read it and seemed to highlight the changes the OC had made for this year when Iowa marched right down a second time against Utah State to score again.

But then things seemed to get stuck in the mud against the Aggies and almost seemed to build additional pressure on the offense to find the end zone, which they felt in some of those turnovers and stalled drives. Will the team be in a little better rhythm for this rivalry game? The head coach's son better hope so — especially against a Cyclones side that is down numerous key players as a result of the ongoing betting scandal that has enveloped both programs involved in this one. 

RJ Young: Iowa walks into this game feeling decent about its offense for the first time in two years. Watching Cade McNamara operate as a Hawkeye against a defense that is designed to frustrate intermediate passers will be telling. McNamara's trademark patience and reluctance to force throws might be the difference for Iowa against an Iowa State team with nothing to lose.

UNLV at No. 2 Michigan (3:30 p.m. ET) 

Michael Cohen: For weeks, head coach Jim Harbaugh assured local media members that his team's offense would be more balanced after running the ball 600 times and only passing it 370 times last season. Most of the reporters smiled and nodded each time they heard Harbaugh's 50-50 decree, though in reality, they may have wanted to roll their eyes. After all, Harbaugh has said those kinds of things before. But Michigan finally achieved the optimum balance in its 30-3 win over East Carolina last weekend and ended the game with exactly as many runs (31) as passes (31). It will be interesting to see whether that trend continues with the return of offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore, who was suspended for the opener and doubles as the team's offensive line coach. Do the Wolverines really plan to unleash quarterback J.J. McCarthy (280 yards, three TDs) the way they did last week? Or was the shift toward an aerial attack merely the product of having quarterbacks coach Kirk Campbell calling plays in Moore's absence? 

RJ Young: Jesse Minter will get a chance to see how his defense holds up against an unorthodox offense from UNLV offensive coordinator Brennan Marion.

The 35-year-old coached Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison's at Pitt. He'll no doubt have something dialed up for the marquee opponent on their schedule. The Rebels put up 283 rushing yards and 44 points in their season opener.

Bryan Fischer: I'd put new UNLV head coach Barry Odom up there as one of the best defensive minds in college football of the past few years, so seeing if the Rebels have something unique and unexpected for Michigan might make it worth tuning in for this one. The personnel for the Mountain West side won't cause fits for four quarters, but seeing how McCarthy can handle a curveball or two in this contest is something worth filling away for later in the season.

Breaking down Week 1 wins for Michigan, Ohio State

No. 11 Texas at No. 3 Alabama (7 p.m. ET)

Michael Cohen: At the point in time when Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers suffered a sprained clavicle that knocked him out of last year's game against Alabama, the Longhorns were going toe to toe with the top-ranked Crimson Tide. They trailed on the scoreboard, 10-3, but had marched to the Alabama 1-yard line and would score two plays later — without Ewers, who exited after completing 9 of 12 passes for 134 yards in what was arguably the best showing of his career, considering the caliber of opponent. On Saturday, Ewers and the Longhorns get their rematch against an Alabama team trying to fill the void left by the Nos. 1 and 3 overall picks from the 2023 NFL Draft in quarterback Bryce Young and edge rusher Will Anderson, respectively. If Texas can escape Tuscaloosa with a win on Saturday night, the Longhorns might actually … really … truly be back. 

Bryan Fischer: The quarterbacks in this one are going to get all the attention, and rightfully so. Ewers, who played so well early on against the Tide back in Austin, has a chance to have a Heisman moment. He didn't seem to be super sharp in the opener against Rice, missing several key deep throws that he'll have to make at Bryant Denny if he wants the Longhorns to pull off the upset. It's not often that the visitors have a better offensive supporting cast than the home side in a game like this, but it feels true coming in — putting added pressure on Ewers to get the job done. 

Likewise, opposite number Jalen Milroe has the potential for this to be a national coming-out party and establish himself as one of the best signal-callers in the SEC with a big game. He showed flashes in the win over MTSU with five touchdowns, but the offense felt pretty vanilla as OC Tommy Rees was no doubt saving plenty for Texas. There's going to be a key third down the QB is going to have to pick up with his legs or his arm and how well he does so is going to have even bigger ramifications than the ultimate outcome in this game.

One other thing that sticks out is Dallas Turner's comment at SEC Media Days saying Alabama wanted to get back to playing "Joyless Murderball" on the field defensively. Well, here's the first litmus test as to if that's going to be the case.

RJ Young: Somebody call Robert J. Oppenheimer because these Texas boys are a problem: DT T'Vondre Sweat, CB Malik Muhammad, David Gbenda, Jalen Catalon, Anthony Hill — and Jaylan Ford already has a pick at the MIKE.

Xavier Worthy got it like Brandin Cooks had it. Quinn Ewers has a laser sight on that cannon. JT Sanders, Jordan Whittington and AD Mitchell completed that quartet of fighter jets — dagger attack. And that's Steve Sarkisian dressing up the look, whipping a Windsor on that tie, button-down the jacket only to launch into a good old-fashioned iso, counter, sweep and then dialing up four verts on the boat saying send 'em.

Kelvin Banks anchors the carrier, and Jonathon Brooks, Keilan Robinson, Jayson Blue and CJ Baxter are right there on alert five. I like Texas in this game.

No. 13 Oregon at Texas Tech (7 p.m. ET on FOX)

Michael Cohen: A trendy pick to make some noise in this year's Big 12, the Texas Tech hype train quickly derailed with a stunning 35-33 road loss to Wyoming in double-overtime. That the Red Raiders had led 17-0 after one quarter only added to the surprise and frustration. But Saturday's date with Oregon, a dark-horse College Football Playoff contender, affords Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire and his team a golden opportunity to course correct before entering the friendliest portion of their schedule with games against Tarleton State, West Virginia, Houston and Baylor — none of whom are ranked. A victory over the Ducks would set the stage for what could be a lengthy winning streak between now and the Oct. 14 showdown with No. 15 Kansas State in Lubbock.

Bryan Fischer: Is it too much to wonder about Tech's kicking game coming into this one given the number of struggles they had making even short field goals in that overtime upset in Laramie. Head coach Joey McGuire was the most aggressive coach in the nation last year, and if he doesn't have a reliable way to put three points on the board, I wonder if he'll double down for one of the more anticipated non-conference games in Lubbock.  

The flip side is also what Dan Lanning does in return, as the Ducks coach got himself into trouble a few times last season by going for a few fourth downs he really shouldn't have. Will that end up being the case in a tough environment like this? Something to keep an eye on as many still believe the Red Raiders to be a dangerous one despite slipping up at Wyoming.

RJ Young: 81 points, 729 yards of offense — that's what Oregon did against Portland State.

Bo Nix operated Will Stein’s offense like he's been in it since the Obama Administration — he'll make his 49th career start this weekend against Texas Tech.

Bucky Irving Irving averaged 29.8 yards per carry.

Troy Franklin is being used like he's actually UO’s best skill player, because he is. Tight end Patrick Herbert — Justin’s little brother — is gonna find himself buck nekkid open a lot this year.

And oh yeah they added ex-USC WR Gary Bryant.

Cash in that IRA. 

Siphon that 401K.

Buy back the family farm.

Tech defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter has his hands full. 

Stanford at No. 6 USC (10:30 p.m. ET on FOX)

Michael Cohen: With each passing week, it becomes increasingly clear that watching USC quarterback Caleb Williams should be appointment viewing for college football fans across the country. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has thrown for 597 yards, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Trojans' first two games, and each performance seems to produce more jaw-dropping moments than the last. No player has won back-to-back Heisman Trophies since former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin accomplished that feat in 1974-75, and for now, he remains the only two-time winner in the award's illustrious history. But Williams, who is likely to be selected No. 1 overall in next year's NFL Draft, seems to have taken his game to another level after throwing for 4,537 yards and 42 touchdowns in 2022. He'd be the talk of the town were it not for the incredible performances by Colorado stars Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter last weekend. 

Bryan Fischer: Caleb Williams doing Caleb Williams things is the natural answer in this one, but I find myself drawn to the chess match of Stanford head coach Troy Taylor scheming a few plays against embattled USC DC Alex Grinch. The Trojans defense played much better against Nevada last week and seemed to simplify things in the front seven a bit more in order to cause some havoc.

Things will step up even more with Taylor dialing things up for Ashton Daniels after the young QB impressed in the opener against Hawaii (69% passing, 249 yards, two TDs) and the signal-caller can scramble pretty effectively. Throw in the sadness over these two Pac-12 rivals meeting for the last time and there will be no shortage of things to keep us up late at night.

RJ Young: Can USC hold Stanford to 21 points? As much fun as it is to watch Williams work in that backfield, I'm interested in seeing a CFP defense emerge in South Central. Against a program in rebuilding mode, keeping a lid on the end zone should be the Trojans’ priority.

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RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The Number One College Football Show." Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube.

Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.

Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets such as NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.


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