Week two in college football has come and gone. With the return of the NFL however, you won’t be without football for long, as many NFL teams are kicking off as I write this. We know what we’re getting in a lot of NFL teams, but college football is an entirely different story. We still don’t know a lot about all of these teams. The season is still young and most of the Top 25 hasn’t faced legitimate competition. I mean, Baylor’s two opponents so far have been SMU and Lamar! So the takeaways from most of these teams will mean basically nothing so far. But if you have a break between pro action, let’s take a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned from this weekend’s college football scene.
#6 Auburn 27, Jacksonville State 20 (OT)
RIP Jeremy Johnson/Cam Newton comparisons (February 2015-September 2015)
This was ugly. Jacksonville State, an FCS squad, went into Jordan-Hare Stadium and nearly beat Auburn, a team that many had pegged to win the SEC and reach the playoffs. Jeremy Johnson, a quarterback who had received tons of Heisman hype and comparisons to former Auburn Tiger Cam Newton, looked dreadful. He threw two terrible picks by staring down receivers and did not look like the transcendent talent that many thought him to be. Through two games, Johnson has thrown 5 picks.
Jacksonville State had a chance to run out the clock when it recovered a fumble late in the game, but decided to punt on a fourth down. This turned out to be a terrible decision, as their punter shanked a 17-yard punt which lead to an Auburn touchdown. The game went to overtime before Auburn scored on a Peyton Barber run to give them the win.
For Auburn, this was a demoralizing victory. For a squad that many had high expectations for, it serves as a reminder that nothing is certain in college football. In this week’s AP Poll, the Tigers dropped from #8 to #16 despite the win. They certainly looked vulnerable and a trip to the playoffs looks anything but certain. Meanwhile, this was a terrific performance from Jacksonville State. It would have been the biggest upset in college football, possibly even bigger than Appalachian State taking down Michigan. It will give them a ton of momentum on the recruiting trail for years to come.
#9 Notre Dame 34, Virginia 27
Things looked grim for Notre Dame. Quarterback Malik Zaire went down with an injury and they were trailing late on the road to Virginia. But then backup quarterback DeShone Kizer came in and did this:
Notre Dame won the game, but they lost the war. Zaire, who had been playing very well through the first two games, went down with an ankle injury that was later confirmed to be an ankle fracture. He’s out for the season, which means Deshone Kizer will be the starting quarterback going forward, with true freshman Brandon Wimbush as backup. This is a huge blow for the Fighting Irish, who saw Everett Golson leave them in the offseason for Florida State. Injuries have ravaged both college and pro football this season and Zaire’s injury was tough to watch. Luckily for Notre Dame fans, Kizer looks to have a big arm and he has a ton of talent around him. Notre Dame has a tough schedule remaining, but there’s still hope for the Fighting Irish.
Toledo 18, #18 Arkansas 12
The first upset of the year! Ex-Alabama quarterback Phillip Ely threw for 237 yards and the Rockets downed #18 Arkansas on the road and they did so without star running back Kareem Hunt. Toledo gave up a safety late to cut its lead to 6, but they held strong on a fourth down to seal the deal.
A lot has been made about teams scheduling weaker competition in order to improve their chances of going undefeated. Baylor certainly has been a victim of this, as their non-conference schedule is equivalent to that of a high school JV squad. But Bret Bielema came out and criticized Ohio State’s non-conference schedule earlier this week. Bad move, Bret.
#19 Oklahoma 31, #23 Tennessee 24
Hours before Oregon and Michigan State squared off, we had another Top 25 matchup between the Sooners and the Vols. For a while, Oklahoma looked bad. Like really bad. Tennessee went up 17-0, but then Baker Mayfield and the offense came alive. He threw touchdown passes to Samaje Perine and Sterling Shepard and the Sooners tied it at 17 to send the game to overtime. Mayfield answered a Jalen Hurd touchdown with a touchdown run of his own and threw another to Shepard in double overtime. On Tennessee’s possession, Zach Sanchez intercepted Joshua Dobbs to seal the deal.
For Oklahoma, it was a great come from behind win for an offense that looked dreadful at times. But then Baker Mayfield woke up and finished the game strong, with all three of his touchdown passes coming in the fourth quarter or overtime. It was a different story for Tennessee. They were THIS CLOSE to upsetting the Sooners and finally getting that big win under Butch Jones. Unfortunately, Tennessee still looks to be a year or two away from making some serious noise. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering the vast majority of the talent on their roster are freshmen/sophomores. Jalen Hurd, a sophomore, is a beast of a running back and Ethan Wolf, another sophomore, is a very good tight end. The season isn’t over yet, but Volsfans are certainly hurting after this one.
#5 Michigan State 31, #7 Oregon 28
The first Top 10 matchup of the season! This game had a lot of hype leading up to it and it succeeded in being the first big game of the season. Connor Cook and the Spartans looked sharp on their opening drive, going 75 yards in 3 plays to answer the Ducks early score. Sparty would take a 14-7 lead into halftime and two touchdowns by freshman LJ Scott in the second half would eventually lead to a Michigan State victory.
The hardest part for Oregon fans during this game was realizing that Marcus Mariota isn’t walking back through those doors. Vernon Adams was good at times, but also forced some throws and looked scared under the constant pressure of Michigan State’s defensive front. He threw two ugly picks in the game, but also played with an injured finger which had to have affected his performance a bit. The real stars of the game were receivers Bralan Addison and Charles Nelson. Addison, injured throughout 2014, had a great comeback performance, catching 7 balls for 138 yards and housing a punt for a touchdown in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Nelson, a sophomore, looked as explosive and electric as he was hyped up to be and there are certainly big things to come from him.
Connor Cook and the Spartans offense started off fast, scoring on their first drive. Cook looked sharp and accurate but, like Oregon, he wasn’t the real star. Running backs Madre London and LJ Scott combined for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground and it was Scott that provided the spark they needed in the second half. Defensively, Shilique Calhoun was great as always, but it was sophomore Malik McDowell who was the better player in the game. The defensive tackle constantly drove linemen into the backfield and had more of an impact than the stat line shows. McDowell definitely looks the part of a future first round pick.
#14 LSU 21, #25 Mississippi State 25
After their opening game was canceled due to weather, LSU traveled to Starkvegas to take on Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs. In the end, we didn’t really learn anything new about this LSU squad that we didn’t already know. Brandon Harris finished 9/14 for 71 yards and no touchdowns, but we already knew that LSU’s passing game was the worst part of their offense. Leonard Fournette had 159 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground, but we already knew that he was a beast and a probably first round pick in next year’s draft. The bigger factor here is that they didn’t turn over the ball once, which is an improvement. They gave up 335 yards through the air to Dak Prescott, who is the best returning quarterback in the SEC, but limited the Bulldogs to only 43 yards on the ground. All in all, it was a solid win for the Tigers, but not a lot of questions were answered about this team.
Still, when you have a guy like Fournette in the backfield, you just gotta sit back and enjoy the ride.
For the Bulldogs, this loss serves as a reminder that they lost a ton of talent in the offseason and Prescott’s arm alone isn’t going to lead them to much in the SEC. Prescott actually finished with negative rushing yards, but did record a touchdown on the ground. After major losses on both sides of the ball, this certainly looks to be the start of a rebuilding era for Mississippi State.
Elsewhere around the nation, redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard got the start for Texas and led them to a 42-28 victory over Rice. Miami struggled early with Florida Atlantic on Friday night before putting them away 44-20. Jim Harbaugh and Michigan rebounded after losing in week one by defeating Oregon State at home in Harbaugh’s first game back at Michigan Stadium Houston upset Louisville on the road and the Cardinal, a trendy pick in the ACC, start the season off 0-2. Finally, Baylor struggled early on with FCS Lamar and ended up winning 66-31, but still gave up 31(!!!) points to the Cardinals.
Finally, I leave you with this gem. Trailing late to Florida, East Carolina quarterback Blake Kemp fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Alex McAlister. McAlister looked to take the ball back to score… But he was tackled by his own teammate. It was a smart play by his teammate, because going down with the ball would give possession back to the Florida offense who would then run out the clock for the win. If McAlister had scored, then East Carolina would get the ball back and… Well we know things can get weird in college football in those circumstances. Ultimately, a smart play by the linebacker, but still a funy sequence to watch.