- Thoughts on the SEC striking back after a disappointing opening week and Clemson’s continued offensive struggles, plus an early preview of Week 3.
It’s well established in college football that the weeks that look likely to be duds often produce some thrilling results. But as the sun set on Week 2, this didn’t seem to be the case.
Sure, Pittsburgh’s win over Penn State was pretty entertaining and the end to Central Michigan–Oklahoma State was wild, but if you missed those unbelievable 10 seconds in Stillwater, your college football Saturday was sorely lacking as darkness fell.
Enter Bret Bielema and Arkansas.
The Razorbacks’ double-overtime battle with No. 15 TCU was easily the most compelling game of the day and helped ensure we didn’t let a college football Saturday go to waste. Here are the three biggest takeaways from Week 2:
1. The SEC strikes back
Much of the narrative coming out of Week 1 was that the SEC was in free fall. Sure, Alabama was dominant, but the mixture of strength at the top and depth through the middle and bottom that set the SEC apart was challenged by disappointing debuts from LSU, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Arkansas. Never mind that SEC teams still won three nonconference matchups against ranked opponents in the opening weekend, the talk was that the gap between the SEC and the other Power Five conferences was closing.
So how did the SEC respond in Week 2? By winning every single nonconference game it played. Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU and Missouri each shook off Week 1 losses with authoritative victories. Arkansas bounced back from a narrow Week 1 win over Louisiana Tech by scoring the big upset of the week on the road against TCU. And after falling into a 14–0 hole against Virginia Tech in the Battle at Bristol, Tennessee seemed to finally find its groove, pummeling the Hokies on the ground for a 45–24 victory.
It wasn’t all good for the SEC, as Georgia struggled mightily with Nicholls before eking out a 26–24 win, but overall the league put together a convincing counterargument to any rumors that it might be sliding.
2. At what point should we start being concerned about Clemson?
When the Tigers had difficulty putting away Auburn in Week 1, it was relatively easy to conclude that Auburn had made strides on defense that helped it hold Clemson to 5.1 yards per play and 19 points. But when Clemson needs 17 fourth-quarter points to hold off a Troy squad that went 4–8 last season, the questions become a bit more concerning.
The most important thing is that even with a combined margin of victory of just 12 points, the Tigers are 2–0. But despite an offense overflowing with talent, Clemson appeared out of sync in its 30–24 victory over the Trojans. Deshaun Watson completed just over 50% of his passes Saturday and tossed two interceptions while the Tigers’ ground game averaged 3.8 yards per carry.
Clemson has some time to get its issues sorted out, but its run through the ACC Atlantic Division looks anything but easy. Louisville hammered Syracuse on Friday 62–28 behind another sensational performance from Lamar Jackson, while Florida State pounded Charleston Southern on Saturday 52–8. The Cardinals head to Death Valley on Oct. 1, so the Tigers better be firing on all cylinders by then.
3. We’ll know a lot more after next weekend
While we can draw some conclusions from Week 2, ultimately it’s important to not try to read too much into a week that mostly featured ranked teams beating up on overmatched opponents. Luckily, Week 3 offers a much more compelling slate of games that should begin narrowing down the list of contenders for conference titles and College Football Playoff berths.
Florida State’s trip to Louisville is perhaps the most impactful as both look like promising early contenders in the ACC. And of course Alabama, which has looked like easily the most dominant team in the country through two weeks, has to get the monkey off its back when it faces Ole Miss, which beat the Crimson Tide in each of the past two seasons. And Oklahoma faces a do-or-die test for its playoff hopes after its season-opening loss to Houston when the Sooners host Ohio State. The rebuilt Buckeyes have yet to be seriously tested but have beaten Bowling Green and Tulsa by a combined score of 125–13 in their first two games. Other tantalizing matchups include Michigan State-Notre Dame, USC-Stanford and Pittsburgh-Oklahoma State.
So fear not, college football fans—after having to rely on unexpected craziness to make Week 2 interesting, Week 3 features a surplus of high-stakes matchups.