What were some of the positive take-aways from Week 2 of college football? Here’s a few:
Widely considered one of the best, if not the very best, games in college football history, USC and Texas met for the first time since that incredible day in 2006 when the Longhorns upset the number one ranked Trojans. Both quarterbacks on that day were in attendance, with Vince Young and Matt Leinart on the sidelines. There was the potential for this game to disappoint, with Texas making an uncertain start under the new era led by Tom Herman, that included a surprise loss to Maryland to open the season, and faced with a USC team that looked ominously back to their best after thumping Stanford last week.
What a performance though by the Longhorns defense for so much of this contest. They kept the talented and explosive Trojans offense, staring Sam Darnold, Ronald Jones II and Deontay Burnett, scoreless until the final minutes of the first half. Even after the scoreboard started ticking over, they still made plays, with DeShon Elliott intercepting Darnold twice.
The offense, led by true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger, made a number of mistakes, but fought back to take a late lead with 45 seconds to go. USC drove down the field though, tied it with a field goal, then escaped with the 27-24 win in the second period of overtime.
A wild game, full of drama and tension, and was as entertaining as any of the more prominently featured games of the week. This one was far more gripping than the ACC battle between Clemson and Louisville, and was very fitting considering all the reminiscing that made up the pre-game hype and coverage.
The Group of Five
The FBS has a divide, and those in the lesser-regarded half, the Group of Five conferences, love to take advantage of matchups with their Power Five counterparts and claim statement wins to showcase their schools. It’s more than simple pride, there’s something bitter about the fact that it seems near-impossible for a team from those conferences to challenge for a spot in the College Football Playoffs, with an undefeated season being only the minimum requirement to tick off. And that ticks them off.
This weekend saw a number of impressive victories, and not just over the less prestigious Power Five teams. There were solid wins for the likes of South Florida over the Big 10’s Illinois, and Ohio taking down Kansas, but there were some marquee wins as well. Northern Illinois had perhaps one of the biggest surprises by intercepting Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee three times on route to beating the Cornhuskers by 21-17. Plenty thought Memphis could challenge UCLA, who traveled across the country for an early start against the Tigers, and a shootout saw the underdogs outscore Josh Rosen and the Bruins.
Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
He has a few issues in his game that are questionable when it comes to his NFL projection, most notably based around his inconsistent footwork and lower body mechanics in general, but there’s no doubt that senior Cowboys quarterback Rudolph could not be more perfectly suited to excel in this explosive Oklahoma State offensive system. Whatever questions I may have of him for the pros, I can fully acknowledge that he is a very worthy contender, and indeed frontrunner, for the Heisman this year.
It seemed inevitable that he would be relishing taking on a vulnerable Pitt Panthers defense, but the first half performance was ridiculous as he torched Pat Narduzzi’s defense time and again. Rudolph completed 71.9% of his passes (23 of 32) for 497 yards, 5 touchdowns and an interception, and the vast majority of that came in the first two quarters alone, before being pulled midway through the third.
James Washington gets the majority of the attention in terms of his receivers, but that group is loaded with talent, going at least five or six names deep who can all make significant contributions. Rudolph is in with a Heisman shout, and his team can contend for both the Big 12 and the playoffs this year.
Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks (at least in the final few seconds, that is)
Think back to the Michigan loss to open the season for the Gators; the offense struggled significantly, even taking into account the quality of defense playing opposite. Franks started, but after failing to make an impact, Notre Dame transfer Zaire entered in his place. Franks was by no means impressive overall in this SEC opener for Florida against Tennessee, but had some solid moments, and announced his arrival with one of the highlights of the weekend across college football.
In a scrappy game defined more by mistakes than execution and seeming to be headed to overtime, Franks launched the ball deep in the final seconds that hit Tyrie Cleveland in the end zone for a game-winning 63-yard touchdown to claim a 26-20 win. It’s a memorable moment, but the 1-1 Gators still have a lot of work to do if they are to have a chance of returning to the conference title game in 2017. Maybe this Hail Mary play sparks something throughout the team though.
Not a great weekend for everyone; here’s a couple disappointments this week:
Free-flowing Friday football
Sometimes, when a game has a lot of penalties, the refs are just doing their jobs, and turn your ire toward the players, not the guys in the stripes. Sometimes though, the nit-picking and borderlines calls are just not necessary. On Friday night, the game between the Illini and Bulls was rendered excruciating by yellow flags raining down onto the turf seemingly every snap. 26 first half accepted penalties, and thankfully for viewers, “only” 31 by the end.
Most were deserved, but a few felt like flat-out bad calls, to go with the ones that seemed like they could have been let go. The players and coaches do not get a pass though; these teams did not play smart football in the slightest. South Florida especially, have ambitions of going undefeated and to head to a New Year’s Six bowl game, but have failed to impress early in 2017 despite their unbeaten record so far. This did not change anyone’s minds with too many mistakes letting them down.
Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen
Nobody was saying the guy with the 56% completion rate and 15 interceptions in 2016 was a perfect pro prospect, and nor was all the preseason hype his fault, but it’s been a case of opportunity missed for the likely first round quarterback. After struggling last season against Nebraska, admittedly in a game that got out of hand and was one of his early career starts, he’s now had two more disappointing outings against Power Five opposition.
Allen threw no touchdowns and two picks in the season opener against a strong Iowa defense, and it only got uglier versus Oregon this week. No TD throws again, another pick, and only completing 9/24 pass attempts (37.5%), as Wyoming got soundly beaten 49-13 by the Ducks. He doesn’t have the playmakers around him, and his best from last year (Tanner Gentry) is no longer around, but better performances would have greatly helped his draft stock, and regardless of other factors, he’s not stepped up as hoped. The upside is unquestionably there, but there’s plenty to be nervous about when evaluating him.
What were your takeaways from Week 3 of college football? Discuss in the comments below!
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