The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports

Looking Ahead to College Football: Big Games in Week Two

Looking Ahead to College Football: Big Games in Week Two

BY Kevin Krest

@KevinKrest

Week One isn’t the only weekend where we’ll see some intriguing college football games. We see some early conference action mixed in with several inter-regional affairs that will help shape the rankings and establish some early favorites for the playoffs.

Louisville @ North Carolina: Louisville has their sensational quarterback, Lamar Jackson back and this game is interesting because of the Tar Heels, after losing starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky to the NFL, are looking stay competitive in the ACC Coastal division. Last year, the Cardinals started out on fire and were within a score of upsetting Clemson and potentially taking control of the ACC. I’m curious to see if Louisville can bounce back from three straight losses to end their 2016 campaign where they gave up 106 points.

Auburn @ Clemson: The defending national champs began last year’s title run with a close win at Auburn. This one should tell us something about both these teams: Can Clemson compete nationally without quarterback Deshaun Watson and will Auburn be able get its offense up to their impressive midseason form of a year ago before they dropped three of four to end the season? Other than this game, Auburn’s non-conference schedule is a cake walk so a win is a necessity if they want to impress the playoff committee. Clemson will have to keep from peeking ahead to a big ACC game at Louisville the following week.

Nebraska @ Oregon: Oregon, coming off a four win season that included a 35 – 32 loss at Nebraska, has a new head coach. ‘Husker coach Mike Riley is very familiar with the Ducks’ Outzen Stadium from his days at Oregon State. Nebraska beat the teams it was supposed to a season ago, but stumbled down the stretch, losing four of their last six, including 62 – 3 at Ohio State and 40 – 10 at Iowa. Can they take the next step in the Big Ten, or even nationally? And will new coach Willie Taggart be able to revitalize Oregon?

Oklahoma @ Ohio State: On a day with some pretty impressive match-ups, this one just might be the best of the bunch. The Buckeyes, on their way to the national semifinals, dominated an Oklahoma team in week three, but the only thing the Sooners have lost since is long-time head coach Bob Stoops. He’s replaced by former offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who at 33 is the youngest head man in the FBS. Before Stoops’ retirement, Oklahoma was a clear contender to get to the playoffs after getting left out last season, most likely due to that loss to the Buckeyes. This one has the look of an early elimination game.

Pittsburgh @ Penn State: In the renewal of a long rivalry, Penn State lost at Pittsburgh on its way to a 2 -2 start that had head coach James Franklin on the hot seat. All they did was run off nine victories in a row, including the Big Ten Championship game over Wisconsin. A close loss to USC in the Rose Bowl did nothing to dampen expectations coming into 2017. Pittsburgh also ended the regular season well, winning three in a row, starting with an upset of eventual national champion Clemson in Death Valley. Last year’s game was decided by three points, and this one has the potential to go down to the wire again.

Iowa @ Iowa State: This one really shouldn’t be close, but there is something about playing the Cyclones on their home field, where they generally pull a stunner or two every season. Last year, they shocked Texas Tech 66 – 10, eliminating the Red Raiders from bowl eligibility. Iowa is coming off a tough schedule and this could be a trap game for them. Last year they lost early to North Dakota State, which exposed their lack of offensive firepower when they get behind. Can Ames be the site of another Cyclone shocker over their in-state rivals?

TCU @ Arkansas: After a disappointing finish to the 2016 season, coach Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks need to improve on their 7 – 6 record to keep him off a very hot seat. Arkansas squandered a promising 3 – 0 start, with one of those wins coming at TCU in double overtime. This will be an early indication of whether the Hogs can improve on their 3 – 5 conference record. TCU was equally unimpressive the last half of the season and is looking to get back in the Big 12 mix. Fourteen returning starters should help, as long as they show improvement from a year ago.

Utah @ BYU: This game is usually a gem of a rivalry, especially when both teams are nationally relevant. Given the schedules these two teams face, a win in Provo is especially important. Last season Utah was contending for a potential Pac-12 South title before dropping regular season-ending games to Oregon and Colorado. BYU lost four games to Utah, UCLA, West Virginia and Boise State in 2016 by a total of eight points and recorded wins over Arizona, Michigan State and Mississippi State. They’ll be coming off a big game against LSU as they host the Utes. With their schedule and a little better luck in 2017, we could be talking about the Cougars come playoff selection time.

Georgia @ Notre Dame: After one of the worst seasons in recent years, the Irish need to get off to an encouraging start. The schedule isn’t  brutal, but it does include USC, Miami of FL (also Miami of Ohio) and Stanford, among others. A win over the Bulldogs would go a long way to erase the memory of a four win season that included losses to Navy and Duke. But it won’t be easy against a Georgia team that returns ten defensive starters off a team that went 8 – 5 a year ago. Both teams have a lot to play for and it should be an entertaining contest.

Houston @ Arizona: This game wouldn’t ordinarily be on my radar, but Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has to be on the hot seat after a 3 – 9 campaign that included an eight game losing streak. In Houston, Major Applewhite takes over for Tom Herman, who takes over at Applewhite’s alma mater. A lot of interesting story lines in this one, but the most compelling is that Herman left the cabinet not just full, but probably overflowing with seventeen starters returning from a very good football team. The Cougars should have a field day against a bad Arizona defense and I just don’t see the Wildcats being able to keep up. That’s not such a great thing for Rodriguez and his future in Tuscon.

Stanford @ USC: It’s no mystery why this game is on the list. Stanford will be coming off an opening game against fellow rich school Rice in Australia. USC will be trying to extend a ten game winning streak, provided they get past Western Michigan in week one, which is no guarantee. The Trojans boast Sam Darnold, one of the top quarterbacks in college football while Stanford will have to replace Mr. Everything, Christian McCaffery. Can USC be relevant come playoff selection time? Can Stanford generate enough offense to compete in the Pac-12? I guess we’ll see on September 9.

Boise State @ Washington State: Last season, Washington State left Boise in week two with an 0 – 2 record and their coach, Mike Leach on the hot seat. After eight consecutive wins, the Cougars were in the hunt for a conference title before dropping their last three games. Boise lost to Air Force in the final week when they were in contention to be the Group of Five representative in a major bowl. I just like the regional appeal of this game, given Washington State’s proximity to the state of Idaho. Leach returns fourteen position starters off last year’s team, so expectations are high in Pullman. Boise State, well they lost a lot of talent so this game should be a good measuring stick for Broncos.

 

[Photo: Matt Ryerson / Journal Star]

 

 

For more follow Kevin Krest on Twitter @KevinKrest and don’t forget to check out my new book, “Offsetting Penalties – A PK Frazier Novel” and my first two, “Illegal Procedure – A PK Frazier Novel” and “Roughing the Passer – A PK Frazier Novel”, available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.  Tune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on “Lou in the Morning” with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.

Looking Ahead to College Football: Big Games in Week Two
Copyright GoLong Media & The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports


Looking Ahead to College Football: Big Games in Week Two

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