Only two weeks of the 2012 college football season are in the books, but there has been plenty of action so far. After two weeks, Athlon runs down 10 surprises, including Pac-12 teams UCLA, Arizona and Oregon State. There's still plenty of time for our opinion to change on these teams/players/units over the next few weeks, but here are 10 things that caught our attention through two games.
College Football's Top 10 Surprises After Two Weeks
1. UCLA – Talent never seems to be an issue for the Bruins. However, the results haven’t always matched the players on the roster. That isn’t the case in 2012, as UCLA is off to a promising 2-0 start, largely due to the emergence of quarterback Brett Hundley. Behind Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin, the Bruins are averaging 649.5 yards and 42.5 points per game. UCLA’s defense needs some work, but its offense should be able to outscore a lot of teams on the schedule in 2012. With Houston, Oregon State and Colorado up next, the Bruins could be 5-0 going into the first weekend in October.
2. Arizona – Rich Rodriguez was a bad fit at Michigan, but he’s clearly the right man for the job in Tucson. The Wildcats are off to a 2-0 start, which includes a solid win over Toledo in the opener and an upset victory over Oklahoma State in Week 2. Rodriguez has found the perfect triggerman for his spread attack, as senior Matt Scott is tied for second nationally in total offense after two games. The Wildcats still have concerns on defense but should be 3-0 after beating South Carolina State this Saturday. Even though Arizona won’t win the Pac-12 this year, it’s clear Rodriguez has this program on the right track.
3. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon – Considering what he did as a freshman last season, Thomas’ numbers through the first two weeks shouldn’t be a shock. However, the sophomore’s statline is ridiculous. Thomas has scored on three of his 10 rushing attempts and is averaging 16.6 yards per carry. He has also scored on two of his eight receptions. It will be difficult to keep those numbers up the rest of the season, but Thomas is clearly one of the nation’s top playmakers and should make a run at the Heisman Trophy.
4. Iowa State – As long as Paul Rhoads is on the sideline in Ames, the Cyclones will be a threat to pull off a couple of upsets every year. Iowa State was listed as an underdog in the first two games of 2012 but won both contests. The Cyclones knocked off one of the favorites (Tulsa) for the Conference USA title in Week 1 and beat in-state rival in Iowa in Week 2. Considering Iowa State was an underdog in its first two games and seems to be improved off last season’s bowl team, the Cyclones are the Big 12’s top surprise team through the first two weeks.
5. Oregon State – Due to a canceled game against Nicholls State in Week 1, there’s not much data on Oregon State. However, the limited sample size on the Beavers suggests this is an improved team. Oregon State upset Wisconsin last Saturday, and after struggling to stop the run in 2011, the Beavers allowed just 35 yards to the Badgers and forced three sacks. Oregon State has an uphill battle to get bowl eligible in the Pac-12 North, but don’t expect this team to be an easy out in conference play.
6. Alabama’s defense – There was no doubt the Crimson Tide would reload on defense, but most expected it would take a couple of weeks before this unit was back to its usual shutdown ways. Two weeks into the season and it looks like Alabama is ready to match last year’s No. 1 ranking. The defense has allowed only 14 points through two weeks and ranks 14th in total defense (246.5 yards per game). Alabama’s defense won’t be as dominant with all of the new faces stepping in, however, this unit should still finish in the top five nationally in points and yards allowed.
7. Miami Hurricanes’ defense – Even with six new starters, no one could have predicted Miami’s defense would be this bad after two weeks. The Hurricanes have been abysmal so far, allowing an average of 42 points and 517.5 yards per game. This unit has barely generated a pass rush (1 sack) and ranks last in the ACC in total, scoring and pass defense. Miami suffered another setback in Saturday’s game against Kansas State, as linebacker Ramon Buchanan was lost for the season. The Hurricanes should have a much easier time stopping Bethune-Cookman this Saturday, but Georgia Tech, NC State and Notre Dame will test this defense once again.
8. FCS upsets over FBS teams – Games against FCS teams aren’t always guaranteed wins and that’s been showcased through the first two weeks. FCS teams have pulled eight upsets so far – McNeese State over MTSU, Northern Arizona over UNLV, Sacramento State over Colorado, North Dakota State over Colorado State, UT Martin over Memphis, Illinois State over Eastern Michigan, Youngstown State over Pittsburgh and Eastern Washington over Idaho. Although none of those teams were national title contenders, FBS teams – especially those outside of the BCS – can’t take FCS teams lightly.
9. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse – Nassib was expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in the Big East, but he stepped up his play to another level in 2012. Through the first two weeks of this season, Nassib has 804 yards and six touchdowns, while adding 32 yards and a score on the ground. The senior ranks second nationally with an average of 418 total yards per game and is completing 67 percent of his throws. Nassib should easily surpass last season’s totals – 2,685 yards and 22 touchdowns if he continues to play at this level. Considering Syracuse is struggling to keep opposing offenses out of the endzone, the Orange could ask Nassib to win a lot of shootouts in 2012.
10. Boise State’s defense – While Miami’s defense made it on this list for the wrong reasons, the Broncos earn a spot due to their Week 1 performance against Michigan State. Yes, this unit allowed 461 yards, but it forced four turnovers and took one interception back for a score. Boise State has only one game under its belt, but considering its defense had to break in 10 new starters, the early results are positive that this unit will remain one of the best in the nation.
by Steven Lassan
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