The 2nd week of the football season had a bit of everything. Some surprise wins, some great back-and-forth games, some statement games, etc. It was all good for a week that historically is somewhat of a flat week and a week that is a dud after all the glitz of opening week. One thing to note was that the top 10, nobody lost. It was a surprise in that category, but given how some have looked, not too surprising.
So who really looked good and who really fell flat?
TOP 5 WINNERS:
(1) GEORGIA: It was a statement of what they did. 41-17 in Columbia is nothing to scoff at. I don’t think it isn’t because South Carolina is a great team, but the fact Georgia just bullied them especially in the 2nd half. They’re barking for sure in Athens about this will be it. So, it was a huge win and they did plenty of things on both sides of the ball that should scare the top dogs in the nation, and the rest of the SEC.
(2) ARIZONA STATE: I think everybody and their mother laughed at the Herm Edwards hire. I know I was. However, this isn’t the same Arizona State Sun Devils under Todd Graham who would try to have 4 play drives in under 2 minutes to score while the defense you prayed would only give up 35 points on a good night. Those days are gone. Edwards style of play wore out Michigan State in the 2nd half and played strong defense, even better than what the Spartans had been doing. Still too early to say a sleeper in the PAC-12 but they’ve done nothing wrong, especially on defense. You have to applaud him for what he’s done and changed the mentality of football in Tempe (which was a much needed change from Graham).
(3) KENTUCKY: The Wildcats finally ended a 31-game losing streak to their hated rivals in Florida while at the same token ended a 39 year run of not celebrating victorious at the Swamp. The Wildcats really dominated that game and may have been worse than the actual 27-16 win. Now, are they an actual threat to Georgia in the SEC East? Doubtful, but it seems like every time Kentucky has things going their way to start a season, the Florida loss pretty much ends it. Let’s see what the Wildcats have in store in 2018 now.
(4) PENN STATE: After a week of avoiding a major catastrophic loss at home to App State it seemed like the Nittany Lions had more questions than answers. The answers came against Pittsburgh. A sick 51-6 win to the Panthers really showed Penn State’s near nightmare last week was an aberration. Now how they went about scoring those points at the end brings questions again of running the score up (which Penn State did), but it was still a resounding statement win.
(5) STANFORD: The Cardinal defense showed up in a big way against USC. And Bryce Love got it going after an invisible first week. If the Cardinal defense continues to improve, that Washington game will be a monster one for the PAC-12 and for the Playoff.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Duke, Colorado, Kansas, USF, California, Iowa
TOP 5 LOSERS:
(1) USC: The Trojans have more questions to answer after last week’s issues at home to UNLV and then just looking non-competitive and flat against the Cardinal. Some are already thinking Clay Helton is nowhere near the head coach to guide the Trojans back to the promised land. And the quarterback JT Daniels still has a long way to go while the offense really looked inept out there. This may be a very down year for the Trojans if they can’t get things on track and may be Helton’s last.
(2) MICHIGAN STATE: Losing a game on the road far away from East Lansing may not sting the Spartans say on their resume, but like others with 1 loss, Michigan State cannot afford any margin for errors now. While Arizona State played a great game, it was coupled by mistakes of the Spartans with the inability to punch it in on red zone drives, inability to keep plays alive, dropped passes, and zero pass rush on Manny Wilkins. It didn’t resemble a sleeper of the Big Ten East and they didn’t look like they were over-matched, but something is missing with this squad still after two weeks.
(3) FLORIDA: Had a friend of mine before proclaim that Florida would represent the SEC East in 2018 and that they would be 10-2 AT THE VERY WORST while beating Georgia. After last night, it may just be nothing more than a huge pipe dream or he may be playing NCAA Football on his Playstation/Xbox. While Dan Mullen may be a vast improvement from Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain, the pieces he has notably on offense are not his and as we’ve seen with Arizona and Kevin Sumlin, you can’t make these players who do not fit into your system as guys of your system. Feleipe Franks may not have much business being out there as the starting quarterback, but what does Mullen actually have behind him? That may be the biggest concern there. You will just get a lot of messes and nightmares. Worse, the defense Mullen trotted out, once again allowed 200 yards on the ground. Do you honestly believe Georgia is shaking in their cleats to see a Gators defense giving up 200+ yards on the ground weekly? There are major problems at Florida right now. Just because Mullen is there doesn’t mean all ills have been cured. If anything there may be more questions that Mullen has (yes, I was one of the numbskulls that said 9-3 was my pick but not winning the East; could still happen with the Gators in a relatively weak SEC East, but any losses to South Carolina and Vandy may have Florida looking at a 2nd straight year of no bowls-but it is week 2).
(4) SOUTH CAROLINA: They showed they are still well behind Georgia in the SEC East. In every aspect. The turnovers really changed the mood and the atmosphere from the start until the end. And they got embarrassed from beginning to end (save a decent 2nd quarter). That is not going to cut it at Columbia, where people are starting to get tired of seeing Georgia run away with this rivalry. Sadly, for Gamecock fans, better get used to it, especially under Muschamp.
(5) NORTHWESTERN: Since putting up 31 points before halftime against Purdue last week, Northwestern has only scored 7 points in six quarters. And while Duke played well, it wasn’t like they were fully healthy or mistaken for Alabama’s defense (or at this point California’s defense-well played Golden Bears by the way). There are woes,with both quarterbacks as Pat Fitzgerald will need to get one guy and stick with it. He doesn’t have Jalen or Tua on his team where he can use both with success. He has Clayton Thorson and TJ Green. Anytime the offense got rolling, the other quarterback came in and the rhythm went completely gone. And it happened in the first week too. This team is too good only to have 7 points in six quarters. Honestly, he needs to stick with Thorson.
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS: Arkansas, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Iowa State, Kansas State, Purdue, Arizona, UCLA
TOP 5 QUESTIONS
(1) YOU DIDN’T HAVE CLEMSON ANYWHERE AS “WINNER” NOR DID YOU HAVE TEXAS A&M ANYWHERE AS “LOSER.” WHAT WAS YOUR TAKE ON IT? Honestly, I thought Texas A&M, given how they played the 2nd half, should have won that game against the Tigers. A very bad fumble call by the refs doomed that. But give credit to Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies, though while it was a loss (and it seems like A&M loses to all top 25 teams at home now), it seems like different times are ahead and a lot of people had that feeling. And Kellen Mond, not really a Jimbo product is thriving because Jimbo is utilizing his talents. As for the Tigers, anywhere when you have to go into a hostile environment like Texas A&M and win is a tough one. However, they squandered a few opportunities in the first half that could have put the game away. But you do have to wonder if the Tigers secondary could be slightly suspect. So there may be a few more questions about Clemson’s defense (not on the line as they played pretty well, though they were gassed by the end) than anything else.
(2) CHIP KELLY, KEVIN SUMLIN, WILLIE TAGGART, CHAD MORRIS, ETC. HAVE GOTTEN OFF TO VERY SLOW STARTS. ARE ANY OF THEM IN DANGER ALREADY? After 2 weeks? Not really. We figured Oklahoma would slice apart UCLA and honestly for a half, Kelly’s Bruins held their own before the Sooners broke out. Morris losing to lowly Colorado State wasn’t helpful and honestly I still don’t think he’s the right fit at Arkansas but they will give him time as the SEC West is dog-eat-dog right now. Sumlin is what I expected Herm Edwards to have, but again like Mullen telling his QB to fit his system, Sumlin is making something that Khalil Tate isn’t. However, I think with that is once Sumlin gets his pieces, Arizona will be fine offensively. But the one guy that is in serious trouble is Taggart. The embarrassing loss at home to Virginia Tech and then crying about how the Hokies faked injuries didn’t do any favors and then until the Pick Six to end it, the Noles were on the ropes with FCS Samford. They have playmakers in Cam Akers, but what does it matter if they can’t get it going? 3 of their next four are away from Tallahassee for the Seminoles (Syracuse, Louisville, Miami). Now those games can be winnable, but if Taggart loses all three of them, I don’t know if he makes it past one season with Florida State. The expectations are always high down there and anything less than 8 wins is unforgivable.
(3) IS PENN STATE’S “RUNNING UP THE SCORE” A PRODUCT OF THE WHOLE BODY OF WORK DEBATE FOR THE PLAYOFF COMMITTEE? It may be. James Franklin isn’t one of the more well-liked coaches (at least that’s what it looks like) among other coaches. And this is one reason why. Simply put Penn State got snubbed in 2016. No arguments there. And that “body of work” bit comes back in. People were up in arms last night with time ticking away that Franklin was still passing at 51-6 and aiming for another TD. But again, it comes back to what the committee sees. Eye test, etc. Let’s say Penn State is 12-1 and trying to get one of those spots, the committee may look at that game and go “yeah, Penn State won 51-6 to a Power 5 school that will be in a bowl game (assuming Pitt is in a bowl game)” and then people tend forget that. We forget that Franklin ran the score up on Sun Belt program Georgia State last year. So if we forget, it may also be similar to the committee. There has to be something to discuss when the first week of December rolls around.
(4) IT LOOKS LIKE TEAMS #1-5 ARE GOING TO BE MAJOR TOUGH OUTS. WHICH TEAM MAY FALL FIRST? I don’t see Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, or Oklahoma losing next week. There may be upset alert with Oklahoma as they see Iowa State but the Cyclones didn’t look impressive against Iowa. And while Ole Miss may put some points up on Alabama, they will give up A LOT of points to the Tide. Ohio State may get a scare from TCU, but I’m not sold the Frogs will win that game. It may be Ohio State with Penn State looming soon. But there’s nothing for me to think the Buckeyes couldn’t win that game either.
(5) WHICH TEAM MAY BE A MAJOR SLEEPER FOR A PLAYOFF PUSH? Mississippi State. Their defensive line is strong and the offense will click especially if Fitzgerald can find accuracy. They have a strong chance to go to LSU 6-0 (which means they would have beaten Auburn, which I think they will). And if they win that, they could be 9-0 heading to Tuscaloosa. And remember, the Bulldogs nearly stunned the Tide last year.
That’s it for this week.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat