The big match ups don’t stop coming as college football rolls into its second week. Week One did not disappoint, with a classic comeback from the UCLA Bruins against Texas A&M, a miraculous victory from Tennessee when they should have been dead-to-rights against Georgia Tech and Florida State-Alabama providing viewers a look at future NFL stars all over the field.
Here we preview the games you should be watching or following in Week 2:
N0.17 Louisville Cardinals (1-0) @ North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1)
Lamar Jackson won the Heisman last year and looks set for another strong conquest for the award received by the best player in college football. His campaign kicked off in impressive fashion last week, showing all his dual-threat skills in a tight Week 1 victory over the Purdue Boilermakers. Week 2 brings an exciting ACC matchup against North Carolina.
The NFL stripped the Tar Heels of their starting trio of receivers, top two running backs and quarterback Mitch Trubisky from last season. But they remain a talented team despite a disappointing loss against the Cal Golden Bears to open the season. QB Brandon Harris has transferred from LSU and was expected to start but split time with freshman Chaz Surratt in that encounter. North Carolina will need strong play from either of them to have a chance of besting the Cardinals.
Look out for cornerback Jaire Alexander, a physical defensive back with ball skills and elite movement skills, for Louisville when North Carolina’s offense have the ball, and CB M.J. Stewart similarly when Lamar Jackson throws the football. Louisville should have little trouble putting North Carolina away as Jackson again tears a team to pieces.
(British Viewers: 5PM BST Sept. 9)
Pittsburgh Panthers (1-0) @ No.4 Penn State Nittany Lions
The Pitt-Penn St rivalry will be decided for the 98th time on Saturday. The Panthers won an entertaining encounter last year 42-39, but have lost key pieces in RB James Conner, QB Nate Peterman and DE Ejuan Price, alongside two key offensive lineman in Dorian Johnson and Adam Bisnowaty. However, all around athlete Quadree Henderson is back and is a threat every time he gets the ball, be it on returns, at receiver or even taking handoffs, and Jester Weah can be a menace as a downfield reciting threat. Max Browne is the new signal caller, transferring to Pitt after losing his starting berth last year at USC to Sam Darnold, and he has a good skill set to lead Pitt’s offense. Arguably the Panthers’ biggest loss from last year was outstanding Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada to LSU – Shawn Watson takes over.
The Nittany Lions have a high-powered offense lead by running back phenom Saquon Barkley, the most talented halfback in the country and a future first rounder barring injury or off-field issues. Equally comfortable as a receiver, Barkley is fast, quick, powerful and possesses an innate ability to make defenders miss. He dances around like Leveon Bell and shows similar ability to squeeze through the smallest of holes. A must-watch player and a true Heisman contender, this game is worth watching to see whether Pitt actually have the defensive talent to limit Barkley: I certainly doubt it. Trace McSorley is a good college quarterback who will spread the ball around, most notably to vertical threat tight end Mike Gesicki.
An outside chance of an upset here, but this game should be high-scoring and entertaining to the last, and worth a watch on Saturday evening for sure even if the Nittany Lions triumph as expected.
(British Viewers: 8.30PM BST Sept. 9, BT Sport 2 9.15pm)
No.13 Auburn Tigers (1-0) @ No.3 Clemson Tigers (1-0)
The Tigers Top-25 tussle is often an entertaining early season matchup, and this year appears to be no different. Auburn began the season with a solid win over Georgia Southern, with new quarterback Jarrett Stidham conducting a high-powered junior rushing duo in Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson. The play of Stidham during his time at Baylor has excited those of an Auburn persuasion, and he is a sleeper who could shoot up draft boards with a strong season, with a good performance against Clemson perhaps kickstarting that rise.
The Clemson Tigers are the defending National Champions but replacing Deshaun Watson is an unenviable task. Kelly Bryant is the man tasked with that role, and Bryant showed his dual threat ability as they eased to victory against Kent State, including an impressive 61-yard TD toss to Deon Cain. Cain, Hunter Renfrow and Ray-Ray McLeod will pioneer a receiving group that is always among the best in the country, but replacing Mike Williams’ size will not be easy, and TE Jordan Leggett and RB Wayne Gallman are gone too. Defensively, the Tigers boast one of the deepest defensive line rotations in college football. Dexter Lawrence was a freshman freak, moving like a man half his size at close to 340 pounds. Clelin Ferrell is now a draft-eligible junior, and is already being touted by the national media as a potential Top-15 prospect, Christian Wilkins has dominated from the interior for a couple of years and Austin Bryant returns on the edge to form a fearsome foursome sure to make Auburn’s offensive line squirm.
Clemson should have enough to edge past Auburn in front of a raucous home crowd.
(British Viewers: 12.00AM BST Sept.10, BT Sport 3)
No.5 Oklahoma Sooners (1-0) @ N0.2 Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0)
Two legitimate National Title contenders meet in Week 2’s game of the week. The Sooners and the Buckeyes duel in the early hours of Sunday morning is a game packed full of talent and packed full of intrigue.
The Sooners’ Baker Mayfield is a wizard through the air and with his legs and the Senior will look to cement his rising draft buzz by impressing against the Buckeyes’ strong defense. Mark Andrews is a dynamic Tight End who will cause matchup issues against whoever Ohio State try to defend him with and the monstrous Orlando Brown Jr. is one of the best blindside protectors in the country. Defensively, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has a name that is as difficult to pronounce as he is to block, athletic, powerful and a developing skill set to cause chaos from the edge, and Jordan Thomas is a natural zone coverage corner back who will look for a strong Senior Year showing.
Mike Weber’s injury last week opened the door for true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins to shine in Week One, and Dobbins took his opportunity with aplomb, particularly considering it was his first game back after missing his entire final season of High School football with injury. Weber’s hamstring is likely not ready to be tested yet, so Dobbins will look to carve open Oklahoma’s sometime porous defense on the ground. J.T. Barrett has been around seemingly forever; finally in his Senior year, Barrett is a tremendous leader for the younger pieces offensively. His arm is not NFL-worthy but his dual-threat skill set has lead coach Urban Meyer’s team to many a victory during his time in Columbus. As ever, the Buckeyes are replacing a lot of talent both on offense and defense but incoming 5 and 4-star recruits supplant these losses as the conveyor belt of talent rolls on. Nick Bosa (brother of NFL star Joey), Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis are an outstanding trio at defensive end and Jerome Baker oozes elite athleticism and coverage at linebacker. Denzel Ward is the latest corner off the production line: undersized, but a shutdown defensive back nonetheless.
I expect the Buckeyes to just prevail at home in a matchup decided by less than a touchdown.
(British Viewers: 12.30 AM BST Sept.10, BT Sport/ESPN)
No. 14 Stanford Cardinal (1-0) @ No. 6 USC Trojans (1-0)
A Californian clash of some NCAA pedigree, USC and Stanford is another big Top-25 matchup. The Cardinal don’t quite have the star power of last year after losing Christian McCaffrey and Solomon Thomas, but Bryce Love is out to prove a more-than capable McCaffrey replacement, impressing in Week One as an explosive backfield athlete with breakaway speed. Keller Chryst is a solid if unspectacular quarterback, and the Stanford defense is well-drilled, well-schemed and versatile.
USC’s Sam Darnold is one of the most highly-touted quarterbacks in the country after a stunning end to his redshirt freshman season, but he disappointed rather in Week 1’s victory over Western Michigan. The losses of the leading three receivers from 2016 is a difficult issue to rectify, with much expected of Deontay Burnett to fill the void created by particularly the loss of JuJu Smith-Schuster. Ronald Jones is a prodigious talent at halfback, with burst and agility to beat defenders in space making him a home-run threat on every play. Linebacker Cameron Smith is experienced and leads the defense well, and ball-hawking Iman ‘Biggie’ Marshall is a balanced cornerback with a diverse skill set who needs to step up to replace Adoree Jackson as the Number 1 corner.
A fierce rivalry in south California, both teams will be desperate to best their neighbours. If Darnold gets hot, USC should pull away from the Cardinal who likely don’t have the offensive ability to keep up.
(British Viewers: 1.30 AM BST Sept.10)
Other games worth following
TCU-Arkansas (8.30PM Sept.9)
Georgia-Notre Dame (12.30AM Sept.10)
The ‘Holy War’ Utah-BYU (3.15 AM Sept.10)
Boise State-Washington State (3.30AM Sept.10)
Enjoy the wild and wonderful world of College Football! Week 2 certainly looks entertaining.