Sooners-Buckeyes lead Week 2 gems; while Irish's Wimbush looks like a star
September 05, 2017 3:03 AM
by Tony Mejia
College football started serving up gourmet matchups immediately and apparently has no chill since it’s coming right back with seconds to snack on.
Here are the top six candidates for next week’s top game, looking to follow in the footsteps of UCLA’s epic comeback win over Texas A&M and Alabama’s impressive first showing in a 24-7 vanquishing of Florida State.
Oklahoma at Ohio St.
The Lincoln Riley era in Norman debuted as most expected it would. Even though he admitted it took him a while to realize he had to handle some of the small in-game details like accepting a penalty, the Sooners looked like they did under Bob Stoops, overwhelming overmatched UTEP, 56-7.
Mark Andrews looks like the real deal at receiver and Baker Mayfield dominated as expected, but he’ll quickly find out what he saw defensively from the Miners isn’t in the same universe as what Ohio State will throw at him.
The Buckeyes are loaded on both sides of the ball and will be the top opponent the Sooners will see this season since no one in their conference is as sound on the defensive end or is blessed with quality depth. The nation’s longest winning streak (11) will be on the line in Columbus, where the Buckeyes also have something to prove given how overwhelmed they were by Clemson in last season’s national semifinal.
Win or lose, this will be a measuring stick of J.T. Barrett’s ability to lead Ohio State against elite competition. Is he a game manager or more? The Buckeyes won by 21 in Norman last season as a one-point road favorite and will be looking for their 38th win in 39 tries in a home opener.
Auburn at Clemson
This battle of Tigers might go a long way in determining who ends up in the college football playoff, but it could also mean absolutely nothing. The winner of this game still has to get through conference play against some of the best teams in the country, not to mention a championship game. Emerging victorious does indeed put them in a great position given how both of these teams are currently perceived, especially after winning their openers by a combined score of 97-10.
Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham looked rusty in his debut, so expecting him to rally his troops on the road in Death Valley will be a major challenge. DeSean Watson’s replacement, Kelly Bryant, will have to prove he can beat a physical, fast defense after compiling a school-record 313 all-purpose yards against Kent State. Last year’s meeting, a 19-13 Clemson win on the Plains, was scoreless into the second quarter. Auburn has dropped three straight in this series.
Stanford at USC
One of two conference games on this list, this showdown is going to tell us a lot about the Trojans, who found themselves involved in a tight game against a Western Michigan squad that lost its head coach to a larger program and many of last year’s leaders to graduation. A late pick-six made the final score appear more lopsided than the game actually was. Anyone who watched USC struggle has to be left wondering whether the hype over Sam Darnold and his star-studded supporting cast will ultimately lack substance.
The Cardinal destroyed Rice and unveiled a downfield passing attack behind fifth-year senior Kellen Chryst and a Bryce Love-led rushing offense that isn’t going to miss first-round pick Christian McCaffrey the way most thought they would.
Although the Trojans are favored at home, they have dropped three straight games against Stanford, including the 2015 Pac-12 championship game. USC has won 10 consecutive contests and will be looking for its first win over the Cardinal in the Coliseum since late 2013. Stanford ran for over 300 yards in last season’s 27-10 win.
Georgia at Notre Dame
Brandon Wimbush had a fantastic debut as the Irish’s starting quarterback, running for over 100 yards and displaying speed and elusiveness that should serve him well against a Dawgs defense that looks like the strength of the team with so many returning starters back under the tutelage of Kirby Smart. Georgia will test Notre Dame in a way undermanned Temple couldn’t, which should set this up to be a low-scoring affair where both teams play it close to the vest, waiting out the other’s first mistake.
UGA starting QB Jacob Eason injured his knee against Appalachian State, so true freshman Jake Fromm, one of the country’s most heralded recruits, will make his first start in South Bend. After going 2-3 against ACC competition and 0-4 against other power-five schools last season, this is a statement game for Brian Kelly, who last beat an SEC foe in the 2014 Music City Bowl. These schools have only met once, back in the 1981 Sugar Bowl.
TCU at Arkansas
These former Southwestern Conference rivals renewed acquaintances for the first time since 1991 last season in a fantastic double-OT game the Razorbacks won in Fort Worth, improving to 31-3 over the last 34 meetings. The Horned Frogs are no longer the pushover they used to be and dominated Jackson State 63-0 last week as Kenny “Trill” Hill looks to finish his college career on a high note.
While former Hogs star Brandon Allen failed to stick on the Jaguars’ 53-man roster, younger brother Austin looks for a better fate in his senior season and has last season’s success against TCU to build on since he led the game-winning comeback. With six of last year’s top seven receiving leaders gone from the program, the Hogs are going to need new weapons to step up and can identify some here prior to SEC play.
Louisville at N. Carolina
The Tar Heels stumbled at home against Cal, unable to get stops when they needed to and failing to adequately replace top draft pick Mitch Trubisky under center. Although LSU transfer Brandon Harris and redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt showed promise, and each have great wheels, they’re going to be hard-pressed to match the production of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, whose exploits against Purdue prevented an upset in a game that could’ve gone either way.
These teams haven’t seen each other since 2011, so UNC will be getting its first look at Jackson in what becomes the first ACC meeting between the schools. With Clemson coming to town next week, the Cards have to improve on last week’s showing in Indianapolis that saw them down at the break as they narrowly held on despite being a 25-point favorite.
Others: Nebraska at Oregon, Pittsburgh at Penn State, Utah at BYU, South Carolina at Missouri, Boise State at Washington State, Northwestern at Duke, Iowa at Iowa State, Indiana at Virginia, Houston at Arizona, Cincinnati at Michigan.