2023 NCAAF: Week 2 Preview

September 8, 2023

Have you caught your breath from Week 1 yet?

College football’s true opening weekend was a whirlwind, with enough action during the early part of the slate to make keeping up with multiple streams difficult and enough surprises on the back end to remind everyone that things are as unpredictable as ever.

If you’re a junkie, you might be catching up with all of the portal activity that has sent some of the game’s best to new locations. If you’re not there yet, don’t worry – it’s a lot to take in.

As exciting as Week 1 was, the anticipation of the return of meaningful football seemingly pushed things over the edge. Week 2 brings a couple more big hitters and plenty of solid candidates to fill in the gaps for your entire Saturday.

Before we take a look at the best games to watch this weekend, let’s quickly rewind Week 1.

3 Things We Learned in Week 1

We owe Prime an apology

Well, most of us (Around The Corn included). The majority of the national media was skeptical to say the least about Deion Sanders and the Colorado Buffalo, which had collectively made about as much noise as we’ve seen from a college football program during an offseason.

In classic Primetime fashion, the talk was backed up by the walk. It doesn’t even matter that we know very little about TCU and that the Horned Frogs may not be that good – the Buffaloes were a one-win football team in 2022 and brought a completely new look roster into Fort Worth. But even if you don’t want to apologize to Dad, give son Shedeur some love. Colorado’s quarterback can ball at the FBS level.

The Pac-12 isn’t going to go away without a fight

Raise your hand if your college football Bingo card had the Pac-12 going undefeated through the end of Week 1. While it wasn’t overly impressive (the only upset of note was Colorado over TCU), it’s a very early testament to the notion that the conference’s Swan song may be heard on the national level.

There’s still a lot of season left to go, and a pretty decent chance that the streak ends early in Week 2, but one thing seems likely: the only thing taking the Pac-12 out of the national title conversation is itself (again).

College football is better when Florida State is relevant

You can’t win a championship in one week, but the Seminoles certainly made the biggest statement last Saturday by trouncing the No. 5 Tigers in Orlando. Mike Norvell’s team was dominant in the second half, outscoring LSU 31-7 and pulling away behind the arm of Jordan Travis and the hands of Michigan State transfer Keon Coleman, who both looked excellent.

It has been some time since the country has had to take Florida State seriously, but the college game is better when it does. Time will tell whether a victory over LSU truly carries any weight, but with Clemson figuring out its own issues, the Seminoles appear to be the class of the ACC.

5 Games You Need to Watch This Weekend

#10 Notre Dame at North Carolina State (Saturday, 12 PM ET – ABC)

It has been six years since these two programs have faced off, but seven years ago Dave Doeren and the Wolfpack defeated Notre Dame the last time the Fighting Irish visited Raleigh. Expect a much higher scoring game than that 10-3 thriller, as the Notre Dame offense has shown itself to be very capable of moving the football and scoring points with Sam Hartman behind center.

While the Wolfpack are tough at home, the Fighting Irish appear to have earned a top 10 ranking at this point in the season and will be focused on taking care of business ahead of its battle with Ohio State in two weeks.

My Pick: 31-20 Notre Dame (covers -6.5 spread)

#20 Mississippi at #24 Tulane (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – ESPN2)

On most other non-conference weekends, this would be the top game on the national slate. Fortunately for the Rebels and Green Wave, people should be tuning in while gearing up for the other matchup between two ranked teams this coming weekend.

The Green Wave looked very comfortable in the passing game Week 1, with Michael Pratt only needing 14 completions to net 4 touchdowns and 294 yards through the air. Mississippi arguably one-upped that, posting a national best 524 yards through the air, albeit against Mercer. Some defense will undoubtedly slow both teams down, but not by much. Expect a lot of points in this one.

My Pick: 37-34 Mississippi (does not cover -3.5 spread)

Appalachian State at #17 North Carolina (Saturday, 5:15 PM ET – ACC Network)

If the 2023 edition of this matchup is anyway close to the 2022 version, we’re in for a treat. Recall that last year’s battle produced 62 fourth quarter points, including three touchdowns in the final 31 seconds of play.

Returning to the fold is North Carolina’s Drake Maye, who looked uncharacteristically average against South Carolina last weekend but carved up the Mountaineers in just his second collegiate game last season. Assuming he is sharper this weekend, the Tar Heels are primed to put up a lot of points. The additional advantage of playing in the friendly confines Kenan Memorial Stadium favors a North Carolina team that has already cleared one true hurdle in 2023.

My Pick: 38-24 North Carolina (does not cover -14.5 spread)

#11 Texas at #3 Alabama (Saturday, 7 PM ET – ESPN)

Given that ole’ K. Becks was at a wedding and unable to watch Round 1 of this heavyweight fight in 2022, it’s hard to contain the excitement of being able to watch the rematch in 2023. For the first time in awhile, Texas feels like a team capable of going into a place like Tuscaloosa and having real success. Had Quinn Ewers not gotten hurt in last year’s game, there’s a pretty good chance we’d be asking whether Alabama has what it takes to exact revenge on the Longhorns.

Questions about Alabama’s quarterback situation, brought upon partly by Nick Saban’s unwillingness to name a starter ahead of the season, were not answered in Week 1. The defense will be relied upon heavily to beat Steve Sarkisian’s squad, which seemingly showed very little of its hand against Rice last weekend. If Alabama is to win this game, it’ll need to hold Texas to under 30 points.

My Pick: 31-23 Alabama (does not cover -8.5 spread)

#18 Oregon at Texas Tech (Saturday, 7 PM ET – FOX)

It’s too early to write off any team, but Texas Tech certainly didn’t do itself any favors in terms of meeting the lofty expectations that some pundits have bestowed upon it for this season. A fourth down conversion and subsequent two-point connection in overtime sent the Red Raiders packing with a loss to host Wyoming, and quarterback Tyler Shough looked competent, so it could have been much worse.

There is no rest for the weary, though, as Oregon and its own high-powered offense will look to keep its own high expectations intact in Lubbock. Already reeling from Week 1, this game feels like one that could severely impact Texas Tech’s psyche if it isn’t competitive. Fortunately, it should be, but the Ducks will still get the ‘W’.

My Pick: 38-33 Oregon (does not cover -7.5 spread)

5 Games to Keep an Eye On This Weekend

Illinois at Kansas (Friday, 7:30 PM ET – ESPN2)

The Illini won with its defense last season, but some major holes appear to have been left in the secondary with the departure of NFL talent. Without much competition on the day, this could be a national reintroduction of the Kansas offense and the electric Jalon Daniels, who was out Week 1 and is questionable for Friday evening.

Nebraska at #22 Colorado (Saturday, 12 PM ET – FOX)

FOX would have you believe this is the game of the week, but it’s not. Nebraska looks poised to make every game close yet again, though, so don’t expect Colorado to run away with this one.

#23 Texas A&M at Miami (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – ABC)

The Aggies travel to Coral Gables, but this one seems like a winnable game for Jimbo Fisher’s squad. This one will be tougher than the Miami(s) Bowl that occurred last week.

#19 Wisconsin at Washington State (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET – ABC)

The offense was humming for the Badgers in Week 1, but it wasn’t a deviation from the past – Wisconsin gained over 300 yards on the ground. The Cougars only allowed 37 rushing yards against Colorado State.

Oklahoma State at Arizona State (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET – FS1)

Pac-12 After Dark returns with an interesting matchup between two teams that came away victorious over FCS teams in Week 1, but didn’t look all that sexy doing it.

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