Our picks for the biggest Week 2 games
No. 7 Oregon at No. 5 Michigan State
Connor Cook and the Spartans will look for some payback after losing to the Ducks in Eugene 46-27 last season. Despite nearly matching Oregon in total yardage (466 vs. 491), Michigan State was outmatched metrically across the board. Significant turnover on both rosters will make this a difficult result to predict, but what can be ensured is four quarters of offensive fireworks.
Prediction: The fact that Oregon allowed 42 points and 438 passing yards to the Eastern Washington quarterbacks is worrisome. Michigan State allowed 365 passing yards, but that was facing an FBS team, and much of that offense was produced through the hands of one of the best WRs in the country (Corey Davis). The Ducks’ reliance on a dominant run game will match nicely to the stout run defense of Michigan State. While the game will likely reach a suspenseful conclusion at the hands of several lead changes, the Spartans will come out on top. Michigan State 38, Oregon 35.
No. 9 Notre Dame at Virginia
Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire simply dismantled the usually competent passing defense of Texas to the tune of 19-of-22, 313 passing yards, and three TDs last week. With the struggles to contain true frosh QB Josh Rosen against UCLA, Virginia is not setting up as much of challenge to the high-powered attack of the Fighting Irish.
Prediction: Facing UCLA, Virginia QB Matt Johns’ miniscule 6.89 yards per attempt was highlighted by ending 0-for-2 on 20-plus yard passing targets with an INT. The rushing attack was unable to break any runs greater than 15 yards and these factors will prevent the Cavaliers offense from threatening the solid defense of Notre Dame. Notre Dame 34, Virginia 13.
No. 19 Oklahoma at No. 23 Tennessee
The 1A or 1B to the UO at MSU matchup, this game has all the makings of must-see TV. The Sooners dismantled Akron 41-3 last week and the newly-installed Air-Raid philosophy was on full display with RB Samaje Perine limited with a knee sprain. The Tennessee defense struggled in the first half against Bowling Green and that was the only sign of weakness within both teams Week 1 performances.
Prediction: Oklahoma’s defensive line is an emerging group and the Tennessee secondary is looked, from 2014 analysis, to be shaping as a strength. Considering the Volunteers allowed 557 total yards that included 433 passing last week, OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s passing attack will be the difference in Knoxville. Oklahoma 32, Tennessee 28.
No. 14 LSU at No. 25 Mississippi State
LSU had the rare distinction of having their Week 1 matchup postponed and then cancelled due to nearby lightning. They will face off with Heisman-candidate Dak Prescott, who took a 34-29 victory over the Tigers last season behind 197 rushing yards from RB Josh Robinson, and 105 yards of his own. More importantly for this season, this was the game that signaled the arrival of LSU QB Brandon Harris who nearly led the team to a come-from-behind victory.
Prediction: Robinson has moved on to the NFL and no one has emerged from the Mississippi State roster to combine with Prescott’s abilities. The Southern Mississippi offense exploited the Bulldog defense with 311 passing yards, and that is precisely where Harris will take advantage to bring home a victory for his visiting LSU squad. LSU 28, Mississippi State 27.
Bowling Green at Maryland
While a 50-21 victory by Maryland over Richmond and a Bowling Green’s 59-30 defeat at the hand of Tennessee would seem to provide the essential narrative, all is not as it seems. The Terrapins held a reasonably slim 22-14 margin heading into halftime against the Spiders, while the Falcons had their halftime score versus the impressive Tennessee attack at 28-20 prior to a passing TD with 0.40 seconds remaining. At games end, Maryland allowed more passing yards than Bowling Green (220 vs. 205) and permitted the Richmond’s FCS offense to post three rushing TDs.
Prediction: Bowling Green allowed the most rushing yards for an FBS school in Week 1 (399) and that will play into the strength of Maryland’s two-headed ground game of Brandon Ross and Wes Brown. That said, the Maryland passing offense is far inferior and will allow the Matt Johnson-led Falcons to score the upset in College Park. Bowling Green 33, Maryland 28.
Houston at Louisville
Sheldon Rankins and Josh Harvey-Clemons’ Louisville defense dampened the starting debut of Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson. While the defense was able to keep the team within a TD, the offensive reigns were handed, mid-game, to true freshman QB Lamar Jackson. He put on a stellar display on the ground (106 yards, TD), but failed to provide a passing complement (9-for-20, INT).
As for the Cougars, Tom Herman’s offense is led by one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country in Greg Ward Jr. After posting a 76.0 accuracy percentage (FBS’ 11th-highest) and 54.5 percent at a depth of 20-plus yards (4th-best) in 2014, Ward continued that assault facing Tennessee Tech in Week 1 (21-of-27, 3 total TDs, 275 passing, and 101 rushing yards).
Prediction: The lack of a passing threat from Louisville plays perfectly into the strengths of Houston, who, while allowing 312 passing yards last week, only permitted 29 rushing yards on 33 attempts. This will be the deciding factor, as Houston will take the upset. Houston 34, Louisville 20.
Minnesota at Colorado State
Minnesota’s passing defense is one that will demand healthy respect by seasons end and that was exactly what almost led to an upset over second-ranked TCU in Week 1. The Golden Gophers limited TCU QB Trevone Boykin to a 5.6 yards/attempt average (long of 26 yards) and a single TD. In addition, they uncovered their David Cobb-replacement at RB with Rodney Smith, presenting the Rams with a difficult task.
Colorado State got off to a great start to 2015 during the debut of HC Mike Bobo and QB Nick Stevens, handing Savannah State with a decisive 65-13 victory. Stevens passed for five TDs, one to superstar WR Rashard Higgins, and the defense stymied Tigers QB Tino Smith (6-for-14, 50 yards, INT). The concerning detail in the victory for Colorado State was allowing the opposing RB to rush for 73 yards on 13 carries and a TD.
Prediction: The Rams are hoping both Higgins (sprain) and RB Treyous Jarrells (knee surgery) will play in the game, but Minnesota will have the decided advantage on defense, and in the rushing departments. Minnesota 30, Colorado State 17.
Washington State at Rutgers
This is an interesting matchup of extremely contrasting styles-of-play. Washington State is a pass-heavy, Air-Raid offense with a defense that was decent against the run last season, and extremely vulnerable to the pass. Rutgers is a rushing-based, pro-style offense that generated a solid pass rush, and was deplorable to the run in 2014.
Prediction: Rutgers crushed Norfolk State 63-13 last week and Washington State lost in a stunning defeat at the hands of Portland State of the FCS 24-17. Scoring all of their points in the second half, Portland State was able to rack up 233 rushing yards on the Cougars. Rutgers also turned it on in the second half with only a 21-13 halftime lead. This game will become a definite shootout, with the Washington State offense finding its rhythm. Washington State 42, Rutgers 35.
Tulsa at New Mexico
While Tulsa allowed the fourth-most rushing yards among FBS teams (300.0, 4.92 YPA, 3 TDs) in Week 1, they were also responsible for producing the fifth-highest passing yardage (424). New Mexico was not provided with any sort of a resistance by Mississippi Valley State in Week 1, but the Delta Devils finished 2-9 in the SWAC in 2014. New Mexico was surprisingly decent at defending the pass last season, but that was the result of the run defense finishing in the bottom-five, and Tulsa’s Zach Langer will be a deciding force for the Golden Hurricanes.
Prediction: The score will likely reach into the stratosphere in Albuquerque and Tulsa will be playing in a second game within high-80s temperature and 40.0-plus percent humidity. Look for both defenses to lose players in abundance due to the weather and the Tulsa HC Phil Montgomery-led passing attack to provide more of WRs Keevan Lucas and Keyarris Garrett than the Lobos can handle. Tulsa 45, New Mexico 30.