2017 Week 2 NCAAF Weekend Preview

September 8, 2017
By K. Becks

I believe I heard from an ESPN personality last weekend something to the extent of  “this was the best opening weekend of college football ever”.

I know that you’re keen on making similar blanket statements for effect, ESPN, but let’s pump the brakes a little.

Best weekend ever? Let’s take a look at the top five matchups from the Week 1 preview and give them grades:

Maryland at Texas – B+. Game was exciting and Maryland was impressive, but Texas’s offense was nonexistent in the first half.

N.C. State vs. South Carolina – A. Last minute drive was unsuccessful on the Wolfpack’s end, but this game lived up to the hype.

Florida vs. Michigan – B-. Don’t be fooled – Michigan wasn’t great, Florida was just unimpressive.

Alabama vs. Florida State – B. Was Alabama’s offense really that good? Only time will tell. Florida State, however, had issues offensively before the Francois injury.

West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech – B+. Even matchup resulted in close game, but did anyone really care by the fourth quarter? This one lacked excitement.

Yes, this is a completely biased synopsis and it leaves out key games like the USC/Western Michigan shootout and the double-overtime thriller in Atlanta on Monday night. But those two still wouldn’t propel this past weekend to the top of the heap as far as opening weekends are concerned.

But, I digress. Week 2 is full of high-profile matchups as well. The chance for greatness is upon us once again. And, I’m already up in the head-to-head prediction game.

K. Becks – 3-2

Guests – 2-3

This week, my buddy Matt (one of at least a couple that will likely predict games on Around The Corn this season) will try to do what Keegan could not. For ease of reference, I’ll refer to this Matt as “The Cheek Clapper”.

Let’s take a look at the games you should be watching this weekend.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

Nebraska at Oregon (Saturday, 4:30 PM ET)

The Big Ten opened up with an 11-3 record in Week 1, a very early suggestion that the conference may be back to its competitive ways after suffering what was somewhat of a down year in 2016. Much of that notion will be put to the test this weekend when Nebraska travels to the Autzen Zoo to take on the Ducks. Oregon was up to its old offensive ways last weekend, posting a hoops worthy points total on FCS opponent Southern Utah. This weekend we’ll find out whether the Ducks should truly be taken seriously.

Neither team was shy with its offensive playbook last weekend, with Oregon putting up 77 and Nebraska 43 over its opponent in Week 1. That being said, this game is definitely leaning more towards being an offensive shootout. But the separation between these two squads may be in the defensive secondary. Both are experienced, but each struggled last season and so it remains to be seen what real improvements have been made. The Cornhuskers gave up over 400 yards through the air last weekend to Arkansas State, but the Red Wolves are a pass first offense through and through.

The Cornhuskers aren’t going to have an easy time in Eugene, given the crowd at Autzen Stadium and what appears to be a powerful offense in green and yellow. If this game were in Lincoln, Nebraska, it may be a different story. But I see the Ducks winning a back and forth game that will tally well over 60 points in total.

My Pick: 45-37 Oregon

The Cheek Clapper’s Take: Nebraska 20 Oregon 28. Don’t know much about these teams other than the fact it’s no longer the 1990′s and Marcus Mariota is no longer a Duck. So basically, both programs have seen better days.

#13 Auburn at #3 Clemson (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

This Tigers vs. Tigers matchup is the second chance this season that we get to evaluate the self-proclaimed “country’s best football conference” against the conference formerly known as such. It didn’t go so well for the current belt holder last weekend, but the Clemson Tigers didn’t appear to miss a beat last weekend following its national title campaign. Auburn will have its hands full on the road this Saturday evening defending the good name of the SEC.

Junior Kelly Bryant patiently waited for two seasons behind Deshaun Watson, but last Saturday Clemson’s new starting quarterback started the game against Kent State like an experienced college quarterback. Bryant finished the game with fairly modest stats, but it was clear that the Tigers are in capable hands offensively. That opinion will be put to the test this weekend against Auburn’s stifling defense, however. Gus Malzahn’s squad faced a squad geared to the run in Georgia Southern last weekend, but flexed its muscle regardless, allowing just 70 yards on 47 attempts. The secondary appears to be just as strong and we’ll find out for sure this weekend.

The Auburn Tigers play its toughest road game of the season in the second week, which presents a positive and negative outlook. The positive is that they can rebound from a close loss. The negative, less of a concern due to the experience on both sides of the ball, is that they may be overwhelmed by Death Valley. I don’t think that will happen, but I also have really come to like Dabo Swinney in big games. This one will be close, but the Tigers with a paw on their helmet will emerge from this one victorious.

My Pick: 34-30 Clemson

The Cheek Clapper’s Take: Auburn 28 Clemson 41. I don’t see this being a close one. Clemson is going to do the whip and nae-nae all over the Auburn Tigers, as Dabo Swinney would say.

#5 Oklahoma at #2 Ohio State (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Everyone wants to call this a redemption opportunity for the Sooners, but this is hardly the same team that was blown away by the Buckeyes in Norman last season. For one, the captain of the ship is different (Lincoln Riley replaced Bob Stoops as head coach before this season). Secondly, the defense that struggled so mightily last September looks to have made a huge improvement this season. That being said, this is no easy task for Oklahoma. College Gameday will be in Columbus and playing under the lights on the road in a hostile environment is not the preferred way to exact revenge.

Ohio State was a different team in the second half of last Thursday’s game against Indiana, and that’s the team that will need to show up in this game for the Buckeyes to win. Not only was the offense less than impressive in the first half, but the vaunted defense had a lot of trouble defending the pass. Baker Mayfield is Richard Lagow on steroids, and without the penchant for turning the ball over. If Lagow was able to throw for over 400 yards against the Buckeyes, it’s scary to think what Mayfield may be capable of doing. J.T. Barrett IV will need to be sharper in the first half of this game if Mayfield does, in fact, light up the Ohio State secondary. Sharper yet, if he expects fans to believe he deserves the numerals on his jersey.

I expect Oklahoma to come out firing on all cylinders, but Urban Meyer had the benefit of two extra days to prepare for this matchup. It may not seem like a lot, but those two days will go a long way in shoring up some of the issues that the Buckeyes displayed last week. If Meyer’s track record in big games is any suggestion, Ohio State will show up ready to play and the defensive issues will pose less of a problem than they did against Indiana. Baker Mayfield may have to be better than great for the Sooners to win in Columbus.

My Pick: 42-37 Ohio State

The Cheek Clapper’s Take: Oklahoma 31 Ohio State 35. More people are concerned about whether Kyle Becker will show up to Gameday on time than this prediction from me. So Kyle, will you be there or not? Trying to plan ahead here. Okay, actually I am kidding, I think J.T. does well and so does Baker, but he is left in the oven too long and gets cooked late by defense. Buckeyes win on a late turnover on downs somewhere near midfield at the end of the game.

#15 Georgia at #24 Notre Dame (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Notre Dame’s thumping of Temple wasn’t really all that surprising or impressive, but apparently it was enough for the AP poll voters to catapult the Fighting Irish into the Top 25. Brian Kelly’s squad will get a chance to validate that ranking when the Georgia Bulldogs visit South Bend. The kicker, though, is that a loss will hurt the Golden Domers far more than a win will help them in their quest to climb the ladder.

My previous statement, of course, is a direct result of Georgia starting a true freshman quarterback following Jacob Eason’s left knee injury last Saturday. Although Jake Fromm led the Bulldogs on three straight scoring drives in a 31-10 win over Appalachian State, the young gunslinger also showed his youth with the two interceptions he threw. Georgia will more than likely try to shield Fromm from needing to be a hero in this game, but Notre Dame can smell blood already. The verdict is still out on the Fighting Irish defensive line, but defensive coordinator Mike Elko will stack the box and make Fromm prove that he can go over Notre Dame’s head.

If Fromm validates the former five-star ranking that he earned coming out of high school, then the Bulldogs will have the offense to best Notre Dame. But the Fighting Irish are counting on the opposite happening, forcing the freshman quarterback into the mistakes typical of an inexperienced play caller trying to do too much. It won’t be pretty, but Coach Kelly’s team will live to see a number beside its name in the papers for another week.

My Pick: 24-19 Notre Dame

The Cheek Clapper’s Take: Georgia 15 Notre Dame 14. Not much to say here other than I am a bad Catholic. Would skip mass senior year, teacher never found out.

#14 Stanford at #6 Southern California (Saturday, 8:30 PM ET)

Much like the Florida/Michigan game last weekend, I am not sold that either of these teams is as good as its current ranking would suggest. To an extent, the voters agree with me after dropping the Trojans a couple spots after nearly blowing it against a P.J. Fleck-less Western Michigan outfit. Stanford looked good against Rice two weeks ago, but no one is sure yet whether a Stanford squad without Christian McCaffery and Kevin Hogan needs time to rebuild.

In case you missed it, Sam Darnold opened up his Heisman campaign with a two interception, zero touchdown performance against Western Michigan that nearly cost Southern Cal more than their star quarterback’s chance at famous hardware. If Darnold was caught off guard by the Broncos last weekend, he’s in for a treat on Saturday evening. Stanford’s best unit defensively is its secondary and it would love to further damage the draft stock of the Trojans signal-caller. With two weeks to prepare, it isn’t crazy to suggest that the Cardinal will be ready for whatever Southern Cal tries to do offensively. This would create just the type of pace that David Shaw likes – one Stanford dictates.

I’ve thought that Southern Cal was overrated since the preseason and last weekend just furthered that notion. If this game was in Palo Alto, I’d be even more confident in my pick. But given the scare last weekend at home, I think the Trojans will play better this weekend. Still, it won’t be enough to beat the Cardinal, which have made a habit of spoiling the Trojans’ dreams of a national title over the past decade and a half.

My Pick: 38-34 Stanford

The Cheek Clapper’s Take: Stanford 21 USC 17. FOR STANFORD, drunk Matt and his friends yelled as they stole a Christmas tree from a local bar and slammed it on the side of a sign. One of my better college memories. Also jumped in a lake that night and it wasn’t the Thursday before the Michigan game.

5 Games to Flip To

Cincinnati at #8 Michigan (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Luke Fickell’s hatred for Michigan can continue in southwestern Ohio. The Bearcats are less talented, but we’ll see whether they have the heart to hang with the Wolverines in the Big House.

Iowa at Iowa State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Battle for the CyHawk Trophy is almost always competitive, even when one team is clearly the favorite. In this year’s case, there is no clear favorite so it should be another good one.

Pittsburgh at #4 Penn State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

If this game is anywhere near as exciting as last year’s edition of the rivalry, we’re in for a treat. Pitt did Pitt-things in Week 1 by nearly choking up a 21-0 lead over Youngstown State, so really, what’s holding them back from doing it again this week?

#23 TCU at Arkansas (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

I don’t think anyone outside of Fort Worth or Fayetteville knows much about these two teams, but it looks good on paper.

Boise State at #20 Washington State (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

The Cougars avoided a loss to an FCS school last weekend (phew!), so it appears that the sky is the limit. The Broncos only scored 24 points at home last weekend against Troy, but no, the sky didn’t fall in Boise – that’s just the field.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Matt did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, send me a message on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, post a comment under this article or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. Opportunities to become a guest prognosticator will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks everyone.

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