College football’s second week of action features the debut of the two newest members of the SEC and a huge road trip for Nebraska.
10 Biggest Games of Week 2
Georgia (-3.5) at Missouri
Missouri’s journey into the SEC begins Saturday in Columbia, Mo., when the Tigers host Georgia, the defending champs of the East. Both teams won their respective openers with ease, though Georgia couldn’t have been thrilled about allowing 347 total yards (199 on the ground) in its 45–23 win over Buffalo. On a positive note, it doesn’t appear the Bulldogs will miss Isaiah Crowell too much; true freshman Todd Gurley, a 6-1, 218-pound North Carolina native, ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries. Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who underwent major shoulder surgery in the spring, was relatively sharp in the Tigers’ 62–10 win over Southeastern Louisiana. He completed 13-of-21 for 131 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Franklin, one of the top playmakers in the SEC when healthy, will have to be at his best on Saturday.
Georgia 27, Missouri 21
Florida (+2.5) at Texas A&M
The other new SEC member, Texas A&M, also plays its first league game this weekend. It will also be the first game of the season for the Aggies, who had their opener vs. Louisiana Tech in Shreveport postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. Now, quarterback Johnny Manziel will make his first career appearance against an outstanding Florida defense that gave up fewer than 300 yards per game in 2011. Speaking of quarterbacks, Florida’s search for a competent signal-caller continues. Jeff Driskel received the majority of the snaps in the Gators’ tougher-than-expected 27–14 win over Bowling Green. His numbers weren’t bad (10-of-16 for 114 yards and one TD), but Florida only had one pass play that went for longer than 18 yards. This offense must be more balanced if the Gators plan on being a factor in the SEC East.
Texas A&M 17, Florida 14
Miami (Fla.)(+7) at Kansas State
Beating Boston College, even on the road, is no reason to get overly excited, but Miami has to feel good about its offense after a 41–32 win in Chestnut Hill. Junior quarterback Stephen Morris was sharp (28-of-45 for 207 yards), but the big story for the Canes was true freshman tailback Duke Johnson, who ran for 135 yards and two scores on only seven rushes. The Miami defense, however, was not quite as impressive. Boston College, which ranked 112th in the nation in both total offense and scoring offense last season, rolled up 542 total yards — 441 through the air and 101 on the ground. Kansas State struggled early against FCS foe Missouri State before pulling away in the fourth quarter in a 51–9 win. The Wildcats are looking for quarterback Collin Klein to be more of a threat throwing the ball this season. He should have a big game, both with his arm and legs, against the suspect Miami defense.
Kansas State 34, Miami (Fla.) 28
Nebraska (-5) at UCLA
It was no great surprise Nebraska beat Southern Miss with such ease — the final was 49–20. Nor that the Cornhuskers had 632 yards of offense. But what was surprising was the play of quarterback Taylor Martinez. The junior, who is known more for his running exploits, completed 26-of-34 passes for 354 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Nebraska staff would be thrilled to get that type of production from Martinez on a consistent basis. There was some bad news in Lincoln, however. Tailback Rex Burkhead went down with a sprained MCL in his left knee in the first half and isn’t expected to play this weekend. UCLA pounded Rice in Houston in coach Jim L. Mora’s debut with the Bruins. Tailback Johnathan Franklin ran for 214 yards and three scores on 15 carries, and quarterback Brett Hundley, playing in his first career game, threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns. This is one of the most intriguing games of the weekend. Nebraska has the edge in the trenches, so go with the Huskers.
Nebraska 27, UCLA 21
Washington (+23.5) at LSU
Washington is embarking on a stretch that will feature three of its next five against teams currently ranked among the top four in the nation. In addition to this trip to the Bayou, UW travels to Oregon on Oct. 13 and hosts USC on Oct. 20. The Huskies are making strides under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian, but the program isn’t yet in position to seriously threaten any of the three looming superpowers. Washington features some high-quality offensive players — most notably quarterback Keith Price — but its defense will have a tough time against quality competition. LSU will be tested for the first time after disposing of North Texas in predictable fashion (41–14) in Week 1. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, in his first start at LSU, completed 19-of-26 for 192 yards and a touchdown. If he plays well — and gives the Tigers’ offense balance — this team will very difficult to beat.
LSU 30, Washington 17
Purdue (+14.5) at Notre Dame
Notre Dame returns to the mainland after an impressive 50–10 win over Navy in Dublin, Ireland. Redshirt freshman Everett Golson was solid in his first career start, but the Irish got it done with their rushing attack. With starter Cierre Wood back in South Bend while serving a two-game suspension, Notre Dame turned to Theo Riddick (19 carries, 107 yards) and George Atkinson III (nine for 99) to power a ground game that averaged 6.4 yards per attempt. Purdue had no trouble with Eastern Kentucky, the alma mater of Boilermakers coach Danny Hope. Starting quarterback Caleb TerBush was suspended for the opener, leaving Robert Marve and Rob Henry, who have played significantly at Pudue, to handle the snaps. On Monday, Hope announced that TerBush will get the start for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame 28, Purdue 17
Vanderbilt (-3.5) at Northwestern
Vanderbilt struggled to move the ball with consistency in a 17¬–13 loss to South Carolina last Thursday. The Dores picked up 276 total yards, but 28.7 percent of the yards came on one play, a 78-yard touchdown from Jordan Rodgers to Jordan Matthews. This week, they will face a Northwestern defense that gave up 596 yards to Syracuse in a thrilling 42¬–41 win at the Carrier Dome. Rodgers and Matthews figure to test the Wildcats’ shaky secondary with frequency. Northwestern, too, will present some problems on offense for Vanderbilt. The Wildcats are likely to play two quarterback; Kain Colter, the starter (if healthy), is a runner who is developing as a passer, while Trevor Siemian is a polished passer who came off the bench to lead NU’s game-winning drive at Syracuse. This is an important game for two programs who are hoping to find six wins to reach bowl-eligibility.
Vanderbilt 34, Northwestern 24
Iowa State (+4) at Iowa
Iowa State scored a total of 15 points en route to losing three straight to Iowa from 2008-10. Last year, however, the Cyclones erupted for 44 points in a three-point win in Ames. The ’12 season got off to good start offensively for Paul Rhoads’ club. The Clones, a surprising home underdog to Tulsa, rolled up 441 yards in a 38–23 win over the Golden Hurricane. Yards will be tougher to come by in Iowa City this weekend. Iowa gave up only 201 total yards (73 on one play) in an 18–17 win over Northern Illinois in Chicago. Take out that one big play — a run by NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch — and the Iowa defense gave up an average of 2.4 yards per play. Offensively, Iowa had to be thrilled to get a big game from tailback Damon Bullock. A sophomore who rushed for a total of 20 yards last season, Bullock carried the ball 30 times for 150 yards. Now, Iowa just needs to keep him healthy. This rivalry game often doesn’t go as expected. This is just a hunch, but I like the Clones on the road.
Iowa State 21, Iowa 20
Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State
This a huge early season showdown between two teams that will be jockeying for position in the middle of the SEC West. Auburn remains a work in progress on defense under first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder. The Tigers, who gave up an average of 421.1 yards in 10 games vs. AQ conference opponents in 2011, struggled to stop Clemson despite giving up only 26 points. Mississippi State, however, doesn’t have offensive weapons like Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington at Clemson. Mississippi State barely broke a sweat in a win over in-state “rival” Jackson State. The Bulldogs’ offense showed nice balance, with 202 yards rushing and 193 yards passing. They have some playmakers at the wide receiver position; it will be up to quarterback Tyler Russell to get them the ball.
Auburn 24, Mississippi State 21
Pittsburgh (+4) at Cincinnati (Thu)
Paul Chryst appears to be the ideal fit at Pittsburgh, but his tenure as the Panthers’ head coach got off to a miserable start — a 31–17 loss to FCS foe Youngstown State. The most alarming part of the loss? It wasn’t a fluke. The Penguins were the better team. Youngstown State outgained Pitt (381 to 369), converted 11-of-16 on third down and did not commit a turnover. Tino Sunseri, who struggled in Todd Graham’s system, completed 19-of-30 for 239 yards but missed on some key throws. He will need to play better to give this team a chance to be successful. Despite their poor showing, the Panthers are only a four-point underdog on the road to a Cincinnati team that has won or shared three of the past four Big East titles. The Bearcats, however, must replace several significant contributors on both sides of the ball, most notably tailback Isaiah Pead, quarterback Zach Collaros and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. We’ll find out early this season if the 2012 Bearcats are rebuilding or if they have reloaded for another Big East title run.
Cincinnati 24, Pittsburgh 17
Last week: 9–1 overall (7–3 against the spread)