The biggest games of college football Week 2 are on the ESPN Saturday tripleheader, previewed earlier by TheSportsNotebook. But beyond the trio of Florida-Miami, South Carolina-Georgia and Notre Dame-Michigan, are ten other games that are worth your attention. Maybe not to watch, but at least to check on when you get the scores…
Texas-BYU (7 PM ET, ESPN2): This is the easily the biggest of the undercard games. I think the Longhorns should be the best team in the Big 12 and have them on the short list of dark horse national championship contenders. But this is a tough road spot against a good defensive team.
BYU lost a crusher last week to Virginia 19-16. The Cougars were killing the clock with less than three minutes left, and for some inexplicable reason decided to pass on 3rd-and-long when UVA was out of timeouts and trailing by four. BYU should have put it in the defense’s hands, especially when the Cavs had to get a touchdown.
Instead, the nightmare scenario unfolded—an interception and return setting up a game-winning touchdown.
The Cougars still showed they can play defense, something that was true throughout last year and this will be a big challenge for Texas quarterback David Ash and what has the potential to be a really good offense. We need to see how they handle a challenge in a touch road environment. And we need to see if UT’s newly healthy defense, with end Jackson Jeffcoat can dominate what’s been a subpar BYU offense.
Toledo-Missouri: Kirk Herbstreit put Toledo on the national radar when he picked them to upset Florida. Herbie didn’t get the upset pick, but Toledo played the Gators tough before losing 24-6. What Toledo could not do was run the ball, and that’s something that needs to change if they’re going to compete with Missouri.
The Tigers are a (-17) favorite, and if they get Henry Josey rolling on the ground, they can pull away from Toledo the same way their SEC brethren did. Ultimately, how well Missouri handles this game will be an early litmus test of their ability to handle the SEC East in their second year in the conference. The Tigers finished 5-7 last year, a disappointment for a perennial bowl program.
Oregon-Virginia (3:30 PM ET, ABC/ESPN2): Was the Cavs’ win over BYU a sign that Mike London has the program back and turned around? If so, can he cause problems for Oregon? This would be more interesting if it was a noon kick, with a team traveling on a three-hour time difference. As it is, I’d be surprised if Virginia can be competitive against a national championship contender.
Wake Forest-Boston College (Friday, 8 PM ET, ESPN2): Both teams have designs on making a bowl game this season, and both had reasons to be concerned about their Week 1 showings. Wake Forest had a ho-hum 31-7 win over Presbyterian. Senior quarterback Tanner Price gets his favorite target, receiver Michael Campanaro back from injury, so we’ll see if that juices up the offense.
Boston College trailed Villanova early on, before getting an uninspiring 24-14 win. The Eagles only won two games last year and the poor showing suggest that maybe the talent base deteriorated under former coach Frank Spaziani even worse than I thought. Friday’s home game will be a better barometer of that. Either way, I can’t imagine too many people in the Boston area are going to watch this game over the Red Sox-Yankees on Friday night.
Washington State-USC: Mike Leach’s Washington State team was competitive at Auburn in a 31-24 loss last week and quarterback Connor Halliday again showed he can throw the ball. But USC is a lot better than Auburn, and the Trojan defense looks really good.
What makes this Pac-12 game interesting is the question of whether USC can find a quarterback. Lane Kiffin still isn’t settled on anyone, and it’s going to be a big waste of talent for receiver Marqise Lee if they can’t get him the football.
Syracuse-Northwestern: I like this Northwestern team quite a bit, but I was disappointed in the way they let Cal throw the ball almost at will last Saturday night, before ultimately winning 44-30. Was this just a case of new Cal coach Sonny Dykes just having his passing game up to speed faster than expected? We’ll find out here, because the Orange offense looked anemic against Penn State.
And speaking of which, this game is a good early barometer of how Northwestern compares to Penn State—it better be substantially better if the Wildcats want to compete for the Big Ten title.
Oklahoma State-UT-San Antonio: No, I don’t actually think the Roadrunners can beat Okie State, who is a (-28) favorite. But UTSA is a pretty good team, coached by Larry Coker. They beat New Mexico 21-13 last week, a program that’s improved under Bob Davie. And San Antonio contained a potent running attack.
Oklahoma State has settled on J.W. Walsh at quarterback, who looked good in the win over Mississippi State. What I’m curious about here is whether the Cowboys will keep their mental focus, which is what ultimately makes this game interesting.
Navy-Indiana: Both teams have, relative to their programs, big aspirations for this season. Indiana dropped 73 points on Indiana State to tune up. It’s Navy’s first game, which will place them at a substantial disadvantage. As solid as Navy is, if IU can’t win at home with a tuneup game under their belt, it won’t speak well to their ability to have a good year.
Duke-Memphis: Don’t laugh and make jokes about how this looks like the regional final in the South bracket of the NCAA Tournament. Even though it does. Seriously though, both teams have bowl aspirations.
Duke made it to postseason play last year, but need to find out if new quarterback Anthony Boone can get the ball down the field. Memphis has made some great strides after being arguably the worst FBS program a couple years ago. It’s their first game, but it’s also at home.
Bowling Green-Kent State: I don’t have any midmajor teams busting the BCS this year, but if I were forced to pick a candidate, I would choose Bowling Green. Already my pick to win the MAC, the Falcons took apart Tulsa in the season opener. Bowling Green might be that rare MAC team that wins with defense, and we’ll see if they can contain the explosive Kent running back Dri Archer. He left his team’s opener with an ankle injury, but is expected to play. Kent did not look good in a 17-10 win over Liberty, but this is a program that made the conference championship game last year.