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The first full weekend of college football lived up to the hype that built up over the offseason. Offenses were quick to capitalize on defensive units that need to jell. And while only one ranked team lost to an unranked opponent, the drama on Friday and Saturday was well worth the wait.
Auburn was able to stave off Washington’s bid to cement itself as a College Football Playoff front-runner, winning 21-16. That win catapults the Tigers’ resume in the event they need an extra quality win. For the Huskies, they’ll need to win out and maybe get a break to finish in the top four.
The other Top 25 matchup between Michigan and Notre Dame was a dominant home win for the Fighting Irish. Their defense suffocated Shea Patterson and Karan Higdon, and head coach Jim Harbaugh’s conservative offense once again looked underprepared.
Michigan State narrowly avoided a home loss against Utah State, and James Madison nearly pulled the upset on NC State. The offensive back-and-forth between Ole Miss and Texas Tech also helped pass the day. These undercard games were worthy appetizers for the key matchups.
Bleacher Report’s panel of experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—voted on the action. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.
*The following rankings will be updated after the Miami vs. LSU and Virginia Tech vs. Florida State games, on Sunday and Monday respectively
Here is our Week 2 poll:
1. Alabama (Last week: 2)
2. Clemson (1)
T-3. Georgia (4)
T-3. Ohio State (3)
5. Oklahoma (7)
6. Auburn (10)
7. Wisconsin (6)
8. Notre Dame (14)
9. Washington (5)
10. Miami (9)
11. West Virginia (15)
12. Stanford (11)
13. Penn State (12)
14. TCU (21)
15. Mississippi State (18)
16. South Carolina (17)
T-17. Michigan State (13)
T-17. UCF (20)
T-19. Boise State (16)
T-19. Michigan (8)
21. Oregon (19)
22. USC (24)
23. Florida State (22)
24. LSU (NR)
T-25. Utah (NR)
T-25. Virginia Tech (NR)
Others receiving votes: Boston College, Iowa, Texas A&M
Who’s hot: Top 25 quarterback play
College football can be entertaining and competitive regardless of how well quarterbacks are playing, but Week 1 had stellar signal-caller performances from the majority of the ranked teams. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Stanford’s K.J. Costello had impressive performances to lock in their starting jobs moving forward.
The offensive monster that Oklahoma built with Baker Mayfield continued with Murray at the helm, putting the rest of the Big 12 on notice.
The field looks wide open this year, so teams that can rely on their signal-caller to bring their best in crunch time will be viewed as favorites.
Established quarterbacks Will Grier, McKenzie Milton and Jarrett Stidham continued their quality play as well. Grier and Milton may be the two best quarterbacks in the country despite their average size because they can sling the ball to all levels of the field with touch and accuracy. They’ll have to continue carrying their respective teams since they’re not part of perennial powerhouses like some of their peers.
Who’s not: Tom Herman and the Texas Longhorns
Maryland was able to replicate its 2017 season-opening win, taking down No. 23 Texas after the teams endured a lengthy rain delay. Terrapins offensive coordinator and interim head coach Matt Canada’s horizontal offense helped overcome the talent difference in the trenches, and the Longhorns never found a consistent rhythm.
Herman’s Longhorns were befuddled for most of the game, with the Terrapins running jet screens and pre-snap motion to isolate defenders in space. Canada’s scheme was nothing out of the ordinary compared to what he’s done elsewhere, and yet the Longhorns defense limited Sam Ehlinger to completing just 54 percent and forced two interceptions.
It’s troubling that Herman’s been unable to build a disciplined team. His tenure is still fresh enough to not hit the panic button, but with no clear answer at quarterback, his offense must build an identity soon. Committing 10 penalties and losing the turnover battle by three every week simply won’t get it done against even average opponents.
Fun fact: Ohio State’s offense is more dangerous than ever
As successful as the Ohio State Buckeyes were with J.T. Barrett at the helm of their offense, there’s a fresh, explosive dynamic that was sorely needed with sophomore Dwayne Haskins now leading them. Haskins showed terrific accuracy against Oregon State, racking up 313 yards and five touchdowns.
Dan Murphy @DanMurphyESPN
Dwayne Haskins’ 300 passing yards and five touchdowns are both the most for an Ohio State QB making his first start.
His ability to hit tight passing windows without hesitation created opportunities for yards after the catch that were even more impressive when compared to what Barrett was able to do.
The rest of the offense feasted as well. Running back (and early Heisman Trophy candidate) J.K. Dobbins fell to the wayside as Mike Weber ran for 186 yards and three scores, showing just how much depth this Buckeyes team has.
Concerns about an offensive line that has seen turnover on the left side were put to rest this game. Haskins had all day to throw, and the running game was terrific. The defense was much less solid, but since the offense is a threat to score 77 against less prominent foes, the Buckeyes won’t have much to worry about until they face the heavy hitters on their schedule.
What to watch for: Early conference and rivalry matchups in Week 2
The Week 2 college football slate has just one battle between ranked teams, with USC traveling to play Stanford. But there are early rivalry and conference games that add spice to the schedule. Just when you think it’ll be a quiet week, a contender could fall to an underdog.
Here are the games to watch.
Mississippi State at Kansas State (noon ET):
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald will return to the team after being suspended for Week 1. The Bulldogs’ task won’t be easy because traveling to Manhattan is one of the more difficult road games in the country. The Kansas State Wildcats will be mentally prepared and can easily punch above their weight. The Bulldogs are on upset alert this week.
Arizona at Houston (noon ET):
Houston Cougars defensive tackle Ed Oliver made headlines when he called out Heisman Trophy candidate Khalil Tate this offseason, and now it’s time to back it up. The junior quarterback is now running Kevin Sumlin’s Air Raid, presumably making him even more of a dynamic threat than he was last year. The Cougars will need to play better defense than their Week 1 win against Rice, because the Wildcats can hang 50 if they’re playing fast-paced.
Georgia at South Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET):
The biggest SEC matchup of the week is a rematch of last season’s 24-10 slugfest in which the Bulldogs came out victorious. Georgia’s more talented from top to bottom than South Carolina, but it’ll be on the road and relying on a young backfield to overcome Will Muschamp‘s feisty Gamecocks defense. If South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley can avoid turnovers and contribute a few chunk plays, this could be another close battle.
Colorado at Nebraska (3:30 ET):
New Nebraska head coach Scott Frost will face his first real challenge when Colorado visits. The Buffaloes steamrolled Colorado State in Week 1, with quarterback Steven Montez picking up where he left off at the end of 2017. Montez and receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. are a dangerous duo that will challenge the young Cornhuskers defense. There’ll be a lot of pressure on freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez to create big plays.
Clemson at Texas A&M (7 p.m. ET):
Both teams are coming off a Week 1 cupcake to fine-tune their strategies for this early showdown. The Tigers got to see freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence throw three touchdowns, but Kelly Bryant is still the safer play at Kyle Field. They’re the prohibitive favorite due to their ability to stifle opposing offenses, but Texas A&M running back Trayveon Williams has the talent to shorten this game if his offensive line can give him a little bit of space.
USC at Stanford (8:30 p.m. ET):
Both USC and Stanford struggled in the first three quarters against inferior competition, but ultimately each pulled away to secure a comfortable margin of victory. The Cardinal’s passing game was significantly more effective than expected , although running back Bryce Love was held in check. USC may struggle to execute at a high level with its youthful offense.
Penn State at Pittsburgh (8 p.m. ET):
Was Penn State’s slow start against Appalachian State a fluke, perhaps exacerbated by looking ahead to Pittsburgh? Or did the Nittany Lions sustained too many personnel losses to be as dominant this year? Either way, their dramatic overtime win was troublesome.
The Panthers have an experienced offense, but quarterback Kenny Pickett will have to be more than a checkdown passer in order to extend drives and play keep-away from Penn State signal-caller Trace McSorley.
If Pittsburgh can’t establish a more effective run game, Penn State will be comfortable in its base defense. That can’t happen if the Panthers want to win.