Everything you need to know in college football following Week 2
From Clemson's struggles to Jalen Hurts' growth under center, Steve Palazzolo takes you around the country with Week 2's biggest takeaways.
Everything you need to know in college football following Week 2
The slate of games may not have been as epic last week’s opening round, but Week 2 provided plenty of storylines and insight into teams and players across the nation. Let’s have a look:
- Week 2 letdowns
Inevitably every season we see teams with strong Week 1 wins –surprising or expected – who come out in Week 2 with a massive letdown. Whether it’s the inability to bring the same intensity on a week-to-week basis or it’s simply an indicator that last week’s success was not the norm, the Week 2 letdown is here to make us question everything we thought was fact from the small sample size that was Week 1. Among the letdowns this weekend were Georgia, Oklahoma State and Clemson.
After a strong win last week against North Carolina, Georgia was supposed to hand the reins to the future of the program – true freshman QB Jacob Eason – with a confidence-builder against Nicholls in a home rout. Instead, the game went down to the wire for a Georgia 26-24, forcing us to question the validity of last week’s win and the true strength of this Georgia team.
Oklahoma State was a trendy pick to make an undefeated trek through the Big 12 behind a high-powered offense. While that trek is still very much in play, their playoff hopes are dashed by a loss to a MAC team, Central Michigan. Sure, there was a controversial ending on a Hail Mary and lateral that perhaps never should have been, but credit Central Michigan who kept Oklahoma State’s passing offense in check all afternoon.
The other surprising performance from Week 2 came from Clemson, and they deserve a section of their own…
- Cause for concern with Clemson’s offense after two weeks?
Coming into the season, Clemson was supposed to be carried to the College Football Playoff by a high-powered offense with a plethora of playmakers and Heisman hopeful Deshaun Watson at the helm. Instead, we saw them sneak past Auburn 19-13 in Week 1 before struggling to sustain offense this weekend against Troy. They pulled it off, 30-24, but there are important questions to raise about this Clemson offense. Last week’s struggles were chalked up to a strong Auburn defensive front, but it was also an uneven game from Watson as a passer. The inconsistency snuck into the Troy game and Watson’s two-week adjusted completion percentage of 65.1 percent is alarmingly well below last year’s mark of 77.1 percent. Last week, it looked as if Clemson’s offense had sapped some of their creativity by forcing the ball to superstar wide receiver Mike Williams, and while that was highly effective, there’s clearly some work to do for Clemson to spread the ball to their multitude of weapons. It all starts with Watson who has to make better decisions while throwing the ball with better accuracy, but the playmakers are there for Clemson to turn things around.
- The bounce-backs
So we wrote you off in Week 1, spending the seven days writing about your unimpressive win, heart-breaking loss, or general inability to live up to the preseason hype. Oh, you bounced back in Week 2? Hello Tennessee, Oklahoma and Notre Dame. Sure, Tennessee had the only major challenge with a primetime game against Virginia Tech that saw them fall behind 14-0 before outscoring the Hokies 45-10 the rest of the way. While they still face an uphill battle when it comes to establishing an efficient passing attack, a 106-yard effort from QB Joshua Dobbs combined with a 99-yard effort from RB Jalen Hurd is more like the preseason expectations for that running game.
As for Oklahoma and Notre Dame, they took care of business as Oklahoma took care of Louisiana Monroe 59-17 and Notre Dame handled Nevada 39-10. Both teams are talented enough to bounce back from Week 1 disappointments and while neither had a marquee game to show it, a decisive win was a good start to the turnaround.
The point? Every year we write teams off due to Week 1 disappointments, but don’t sleep on Tennessee, Oklahoma and Notre Dame working back toward their lofty preseason expectations (see 2015 Stanford).
- Big 12 takes a hit
The defense-averse league did not enter 2016 with the best reputation and Week 2 was not kind toward the Big 12 reclaiming their piece of the national spotlight. Last week’s Oklahoma loss to Houston stung the conference as a whole and this week the rest of the expected top teams in the conference either lost or stumbled through unimpressive wins. Beyond Oklahoma State losing to Central Michigan, TCU lost a heartbreaker to Arkansas in double overtime while Texas Tech lost their 7-on-7 game against Arizona State 68-55. The other curious performance came out of Baylor who was held to only six first-half points against SMU before pulling away to win 40-13. Baylor’s offense is rarely tamed, so even a six-point half has to bring up concerns for the Bears. The bottom half of the conference did nothing to help matters as Iowa State was thrashed by Iowa 42-3 and Kansas was unable to put a winning streak together as they lost to Ohio 37-21. If you’re scoring at home, that’s MAC 2, Big 12 0.
On the bright side, Texas put together another strong outing with a 41-7 win against Louisiana Monroe, but that is not enough to salvage a rough day for the Big 12.
- Lamar Jackson continues dominance
If last week was a coming out party for Lamar Jackson, this week was the definitive statement that he belongs. We used the caveat that last week’s gaudy numbers came against Charlotte, and while this week’s opponent – Syracuse – is not one of the nation’s top defenses, Jackson’s production cannot be denied. He’s combined for 13 touchdowns – seven through the air and six on the ground – on only 116 snaps, and Jackson’s ability to keep the ball on Louisville’s zone read has led to 233 yards on 24 carries on designed runs while he’s tacked on 102 on six scrambles. While the running is impressive, it’s the improvement in the passing game that makes Jackson one of the nation’s most dangerous players, and don’t be fooled by the 59.7 percent completion percentage, his adjusted completion percentage of 76.7 percent is a cleaner number due his nine dropped passes and that run/pass efficiency is what makes Jackson a true Heisman contender. Next week against Florida State will be his first big test.
- Jalen Hurts taking over at Alabama
After true freshman QB Jalen Hurts split time with redshirt freshman QB Blake Barnett last week, it appears to be Hurts’ job as he played 72 snaps to Barnett’s 14 against Western Kentucky. Hurts was firing the ball all over the field, making a number of strong throws at the intermediate and deep levels, though two drops on deep passes hurt his numbers. He’s now run the ball 12 times for 52 yards in the designed running game this season, bringing another dimension to an already-explosive Alabama offense. It’s rare to see Nick Saban trust a true freshman signal caller, but Hurts’ talent is evident and he appears to have locked down the starting job after his strong 77.9 overall outing against Western Kentucky.
- Moving in opposite directions in Washington
The offseason was kind to both Washington and Washington State, particularly Washington who made seemingly every sleeper/darkhorse list in America. Washington State may not have received the same hype, but armed with Luke Falk at quarterback and a lot of returning production, they were expected to do damage in the Pac-12 North. So far, only Washington has lived up to the hype after they followed up Week 1’s thrashing of Rutgers with a similarly-dominant effort against Idaho, winning 59-14. It’s always good when the quarterback’s incompletions match his touchdown total and that’s right where Washington QB Jake Browning was in his 23-for-28 effort with five touchdowns, this coming after a strong statistical outing in Week 1 that was aided by two dropped interceptions. Washington is rolling on both sides of the ball.
As for Washington State, a Week 1 loss to Eastern Washington was a rough start and they’re now facing a 0-2 start after falling to Boise State 31-28. While they can still do some damage once the Pac-12 slate opens up, it’s a disappointing start for the Cougars who appeared primed for their top season under head coach Mike Leach.
- Stars players injured
Perhaps it was only precautionary, but LSU RB Leonard Fournette sat out against Jacksonville State while Houston QB Greg Ward, Jr. missed yesterday’s game against Lamar. Both players are Heisman contenders, with Ward, Jr. making a massive statement in Week 1 against Oklahoma on national television. While they missed their respective games, Florida State all-everything safety Derwin James went down to the knee injury in yesterday’s scrimmage against Charleston Southern. He was carted off and his status is unknown for next week’s game against Louisville that is drawing the College GameDay crew. Losing James is a major blow for the Seminoles as he is perhaps the nation’s most versatile defensive player, capable of lining up at free safety, slot cornerback, edge rusher, or almost anywhere in between while not losing any production.
Week 2 Notes
- New era at LSU? After starting QB Brandon Harris struggled to a 54.2 grade on only six snaps, he was replaced by Purdue transfer Danny Etling who was marginally better at 60.5 though the offense moved the ball better under his watch.
- Florida QB Luke Del Rio posted a fine 73.7 overall grade in Florida’s dismantling of Kentucky.
- Michigan’s defense continued to role in their 51-14 win over UCF. DT Ryan Glasgow led the way with an 84.3 grade while LB Jabrill Peppers was right there with him at 81.2.
- We still love Lamp as Western Kentucky LT Forrest Lamp turned away Alabama’s edge rushers on 39 of his 40 pass blocking attempts, surrendering only one QB hit on the day.