The Complete Guide to College Football, Week Two Edition

Previewing Week Two of the 2022-23 NCAAF season...

Week 0 was a great appetizer for the return of college football. However, it didn’t come anywhere close to the shenanigans that went on during Week 1. Something bizarre happened on the gridiron virtually every day from Thursday to Monday, from blocked XP attempts to coaches getting locked in elevators. Nowhere else in sport can fans be treated to such weird and wacky things with regularity–and I know, because I write about the weird and wacky stuff over at PitcherList!

 

Recapping Week 1

The Good:

  • Ohio State (21-10 win) — For those of us hoping for a Marcus Freeman/Notre Dame upset in Columbus, it was a sorely disappointing result. The Fighting Irish jumped out to a lead in the first 3 minutes of the game on a Blake Grupe field goal and led 10-7 at the half, but couldn’t contain the Buckeyes forever. OSU tacked on touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter, while Notre Dame punted on all four of its possessions in the second half. The Irish offense held the ball for less than 10 minutes total in the half and generated just 72 yards of offense. Props to the Ohio State and Notre Dame defenses for playing so well, but the Notre Dame offense clearly has work to do.
  • Georgia (49-3 win) — Georgie put on an absolute masterclass against #11 Oregon, winning in just about every facet of the game. Georgia QB Stetson Bennett was excellent, completing 25/31 passes for 368 yards and 2 passing TDs and rushing for an additional TD, while the Georgia defense embarrassed QB Bo Nix (21/37, 173 yards and 2 INTs). Even Georgia’s backup QB, Carson Beck, came in to toss 5/6 for 71 yards and a TD. Plus, the Dawgs tacked on 3 more rushing touchdowns from 3 different players. It looks like the Bulldogs haven’t missed a beat since last year’s national championship game; it also looks like Oregon was woefully underqualified for the #11 spot in the country.
  • Cincinnati (31-24 loss) — While the Bearcats didn’t win this one, they should have a ton of reasons to be optimistic, given how well they played in Fayetteville. The Bearcats lost a boatload of talent from last year’s CFP finalist squad, including the all-time school passing TD leader, Desmond Ridder, and one of the best CBs in school history in Sauce Gardner. Oh, and they also lost 7 other players to the NFL, 3 of whom were drafted in the top 100. And yet, Cincinnati was playing down to the wire with the #19-ranked Hogs in an unfriendly environment. It looks like the Bearcats might be here to stay in the Top 25, even if they’re not contending for a CFP appearance this time around.
  • Penn State (35-31 win) — Taking you all the way back to Thursday, September 1 (a lifetime ago!), Penn State held on to win in an unfriendly environment against a team that is known for devil magicking its way into wins against superior competition. And, Penn State, which has earned a reputation as a team that can’t close out bigger games, final closed out a game. The Nittany Lions are ranked 27th in the country right now, but they will be in the Top 25 soon enough.
  • Old Dominion (20-17 win) — The Monarchs took a couple of punches from the Hokies in the third quarter, falling behind by a touchdown. Ultimately, it was Old Dominion that showed superior mettle, scoring a touchdown in the dying seconds of the game to take the lead. ODU even overcame a lengthy delay stemming from Virginia Tech’s coaches getting stuck in an elevator. The Monarchs are now 2-12 against Power Five programs, but both their wins have come against Virginia Tech.

Honorable Mentions

  • Miami (70-13 win) — It’s hard to get too excited over a win against an FCS school, but the Hurricanes dropped 70 (!!) points on Bethune-Cookman. QB Tyler Van Dyke completed 13/16 passes and the ‘Canes ran for over 300 yards.
  • USC (66-14 win) — Similar to Miami, it’s hard to get excited over a win against Rice, one of the worst teams in DI-FBS, but the Trojans did drop 66 points on the poor visiting Owls.
  • Florida (29-26 win) — #7 Utah was technically the favorite heading into this matchup, but did anyone expect the Utes, reigning champs of the Power 5’s most embarrassing conference, to win on Saturday in the Swamp? Kudos to Florida for knocking off a “ranked team,” but a severely overvalued one at that.
  • Western Kentucky (49-17 win) — Don’t look now, but the Hilltoppers have now scored 30+ against consecutive opponents and are 1/3rd of the way to bowl eligibility. I’d be more optimistic, but WKU beat Austin Peay and Hawaii for those two wins. They get a real test next week at Indiana.
  • Alabama (55-0 win) — Utah State got more money than they did points for playing this game.

The Bad:

  • LSU (24-23 loss) — LSU’s offense didn’t play too poorly on Sunday, but they didn’t play particularly well as a unit, and the team didn’t look particularly strong in any aspect of the game. QB Jayden Daniels did it all for Tigers, passing for 209 yards and 2 TDs and then also rushing for 114 yards on 16 carries. Meanwhile, the rest of the running game combined for 14 carries and a whopping 25 yards. Daniels brought them back at the very last second, finding Jaray Jenkins in the end zone as time expired to bring the Tigers within 1. The ensuing extra point attempt to tie the game:

  • LSU remains the biggest loser of the week thanks to these comments from Head Coach Brian Kelly:

  • Look, I’m no football coach, but I feel like if you (as a coach) resort to calling out members of the media for timeliness, posture, or appearance, you’ve already lost everyone’s respect. No one should have respect for Brian Kelly at this point anyways, given his past with Notre Dame staffers.

Back to The Bad:

  • Georgia Tech (41-10 loss) — Coach Geoff Collins has been at Georgia Tech for 3 full seasons. The recruits playing the majority of the snaps at Tech are Collins recruits. But, GT is still just as far away from competing in the ACC as they’ve ever been, and it showed in the loss to Clemson on Monday. Tech mustered just 3 points in the first half and entered the second half down 14-3, where they promptly collapsed. Clemson started the perennially-disappointing D.J. Uiagalelei, who completed 19/32 for 210 yards and a TD, and Tech still didn’t come close to challenging the Tigers. The Yellow Jackets haven’t won more than 3 games since 2018, Paul Johnson’s final year as head coach. They haven’t reached the AP Top 25 since 2015. It may be another few years before they sniff the Top 25.
  • Washington State (24-17 win) — Wazzu won this game and it still felt like they lost. The Cougars didn’t score a point until 3:13 remained in the second quarter and had to hold onto their lead for dear life in the final minute of the game. Idaho was within striking distance of the end zone with a minute remaining but the Cougs were able to pick off Idaho’s QB to seal the win.

Honorable Mentions:

  • North Carolina/App State’s Defenses (63-61 UNC win) — 124 total points in this game. App State scored two touchdowns in a matter of minutes to bring the Mountaineers within a 2-point conversion of tying the game, but the Tar Heels somehow held on.
  • Navy (14-7 loss) — The Midshipmen fell to Joe Flacco’s alma mater, Delaware, in an ugly one in Annapolis. The disrespect to our troops is too high…
  • Iowa (7-3 win) — This one’s for the Sickos out there who love some awful college football offense. Iowa didn’t score a touchdown in this one, totaling 7 points through a combination of a field goal and two safeties against FCS South Dakota State.
  • Nebraska (38-17 win in Week 1, 31-28 loss in Week 0) — It’s too easy to pick on Nebraska, but something has to be said about the Cornhuskers not only losing to Northwestern in Dublin but also only beating FCS North Dakota by 21. Does Head Coach Scott Frost think about what he’s going to do when he gets fired, or does he think he still has a chance at saving his job?

 

Projecting the CFP

 

Thankfully, instead of listening to Big Ten fans project 10 years of UCLA and USC suckitude, fans will have the opportunity to watch a real season unfold in just a few weeks. This year’s CFP discussion promises to have all of the usual suspects, including Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and maybe even Texas A&M and Oregon.

 

1. Alabama

Nothing’s changed since last week’s prognostication. ‘Bama is #1 until something goes wrong.

 

2. Ohio State (2a)/Michigan (2b)

Ohio State took care of business against #5 Notre Dame, something that the CFP Committee will give significant weight to because it constitutes a quality win against a Top-10 program, which are incredibly hard to come by unless you play in the SEC.

Potential danger games still lurk for tOSU, with a Halloweekend matchup in Happy Valley against Penn State and the Game against Michigan at the end of the season. But, they have several weeks before they need to worry about those matchups.

For those wondering why Michigan is in this spot, here’s what I said about the Wolverines a few weeks ago:

“Michigan is in this spot because they have the luck of the draw this season. They get 5, maybe 6 tune-up games before entering the meat of their schedule. Michigan’s first 6 games:

  • Colorado State, at home (which they won handily, 51-7)
  • Hawaii, at home
  • UConn, at home
  • Maryland, at home
  • Iowa, away
  • Indiana, away

My model expects Michigan to sail through these games, giving them a 48% chance to win all 6 of them (that’s very good, for those wondering). Michigan then gets a good Penn State team in Ann Arbor, which allows them to avoid the hostile crowd in Happy Valley, and then a rematch with a solid Michigan State squad at home. Barring any miscues or big upsets, Michigan has a very good chance of walking into the Horseshoe with an 11-0 record. If Michigan can pull off the upset — if it is still viewed as an upset by then — they will be 12-0 and steamrolling into the Big Ten championship game, making them a virtual lock for the CFP.

That’s all fine and good, but Michigan has its own share of issues. For one thing, the ultra-soft schedule to start the season means Michigan has little margin for error. They don’t have the opportunity to rack up “quality wins” in the same way that SEC teams like Alabama and Georgia do, as the Big Ten has fewer quality teams overall. A slip up against a weaker Big Ten team could completely derail the Wolverines’ bid for a second straight CFP appearance.”

 

3. Georgia

I was a little concerned, heading into the season, whether Georgia would be back in the Playoff hunt after losing 5 starters in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft and a record 15 starters lost to the NFL overall. What’s more, all 5 of their starters drafted in the first round were on the defensive side, and over half of the 15 starters lost were on the defensive side, making that production nigh-impossible to replace. And yet, the Dawgs just crushed a Top-25 team. I’m not fading them until they lose a game.

Georgia has a pretty good chance to walk into the SEC championship game undefeated, which would almost certainly earn them a spot, regardless of whether they win or lose that championship game.

 

4. Clemson

I’m sorry to all my readers, who were falsely led to believe Oregon would finally make its return to the CFP. It’s not looking likely at the moment, especially after losing to my #3 team.

It has only been one game, so I’m not ready to make sweeping conclusions about any team besides Alabama, who have become conclusion-proof. However, the Tigers haven’t looked like a Playoff team since the 2019-2020 season. The QB play has been poor — which continued into Monday night’s game against Georgia Tech — and Head Coach Dabo Swinney has been firm in his stance on starting D.J. Uiagalelei over former 5-star prospect Cade Klubnik. The Tigers lost defensive mastermind Brett Venables to the Head Coach gig at Oklahoma.

Despite all the handwringing, though, the Tigers had an elite defense last season and have another strong defense this season. Monday’s game was over by halftime. Swinney may have lost some of his best coaches, but the Tigers still roll on, thanks to Swinney’s elite recruiting efforts. I think they’ll continue to roll into the Playoff as the sacrificial lamb/tune-up for Alabama in the first round.

 

Ranking the Top 25 Teams and the Bottom 10

 

Top 25:

Adam’s Top 25 Ranking

This ranking is a blend of my model and real-life results. Some teams grade very favorably on the model that haven’t performed up to standards — Nebraska — and some teams perform well above their model rating. One team that I’ve been very pleased by, which is outperforming its model rating by just a smidge, is Florida State. They took care of business against Duquesne and then beat LSU to improve to 2-0. They get some of the easy parts of the ACC next, with a matchup against Louisville on September 16th and Boston College on September 24th. After Utah lost to “unranked” Florida, I felt like they didn’t need to be in the Top 25 at all, even if the model still views them favorably. The same goes for Oregon.

Also Considered:

  • Oregon
  • UCLA
  • Utah
  • USC
  • Minnesota
  • North Carolina

I don’t really know what to make of Pittsburgh and Iowa at this point. Iowa QB Spencer Petras hasn’t been good dating back to last year, and his poor performance Week 1 against FCS South Dakota State indicates just how wacky Iowa is. I hate to penalize them too harshly, because Iowa is absolutely built for Big Ten football: they slow the game down, they play physically, and they’re incapable of scoring quickly on offense. The Hawkeyes are going to win plenty of games this season, lose a couple of puzzlers, and swindle everyone into thinking they could beat a non-Big Ten opponent now and then.

I’m low on Pittsburgh for a few reasons. Firstly, the Panthers lost starting QB and mainstay Kenny Pickett to the NFL Draft and star WR Jordan Addison to the “Dream Team” in South Central. I don’t think Head Coach Pat Narduzzi and the Panthers recruit well enough to maintain the level they played at last year, and it showed against West Virginia. WVU is a middle of the pack Big 12 team and a middle of the pack Power 5 team, and it took a last-minute miracle pick-six for Pitt to win this one. I don’t think the Panthers will be bad, but there’s no way they’re a Top-25 team right now.

 

Bottom 10:

Adam’s Bottom 10 Ranking

Hawaii is 10th, meaning the worst in FBS. And they really deserve it, given their embarrassing defeats at the hands of Vanderbilt and WKU. The Rainbow Warriors haven’t even put up a fight against either of them.

Meanwhile, Charlotte has now lost to an FBS team and an FCS team. And, not only did the 49ers lose to Florida Atlantic (FBS) convincingly, they also lost to William and Mary (FCS) convincingly, falling 41-24! For shame, Charlotte. For shame.

Akron and FIU squeaked their way into wins against FCS teams, with FIU barely surviving Bryant in OT and Akron inching their way past St. Francis (PA). Those wins did nothing except make me more concerned about the Zips and the Panthers this season. They may not win another game.

 

Games to Watch This Week

 

Baylor at BYU — The closest matchup of the week sees the #10 Baylor Bears travel to Provo to take on the Cougars. Baylor surprised just about everyone last season, riding some magic all the way to the Big 12 title. Meanwhile, BYU is coming off a 10-2 season that saw them beat rival Utah and then-21st-ranked Arizona State in back to back weeks. The Cougars ended the season on a bit of a sour note, falling to UAB by 3 points in the Independence Bowl, but should be right back at it again this year. They’ll face a strong test just two weeks into the season.

[SICKOS MATCHUP] Florida International at Texas State — If you like bad football, this one’s for you! Florida International and Texas State grade out as two of the 10 worst teams in college football, which means we’re going to see plenty of turnovers, rookie mistakes, and coaches getting very frustrated. Thankfully, this one’s on Friday night, meaning that you can still watch this game and many others on Saturday to get your fill of awful football.

Alabama at Texas — If you’re curious how Texas will fare in the new SEC come 2024, this matchup’s for you. The Crimson Tide make their one trip outside Bryant-Denny Stadium for the year and play a non-cupcake game against the Longhorns, although most betting markets don’t think this one will be much of a challenge for the Tide. ‘Bama is a cool 20-point favorite and -1400 on the money line in a game away from Tuscaloosa. On the bright side, if you like sad, sunburnt fans in burnt orange, this is the game for you.

Tennessee at Pitt — This game should be quite fun. Tennessee, which absolutely smoked Ball State (59-10) in its opener, gets to show the college football world why it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Texas A&M and Florida as almost-contenders in the SEC. This is also the perfect game for a Pitt truther like myself, as Tennessee grades out as a far better team according to my model and everyone else’s as a far better opponent than West Virginia.

Oregon State at Fresno State — Fresno State has been one tough out for Power 5 teams over the past few years. Just ask last year’s UCLA squad, who hit Fresno State QB Jake Haener 1,000 times in the backfield and still watched Haener toss a last-minute TD pass to give the Bulldogs the win. Meanwhile, Oregon State just survived a nice matchup against Boise State in Corvallis. The Beavs held the lead the entire time and answered the bell every time Boise State answered. It’s a nice indication of how much Oregon State has grown as a program, but they’ll face another stiff challenge in Fresno.

 

Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)

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