After impressive openers, those teams were dealt a generous dose of reality in Week 2. The Longhorns were manhandled by Arkansas, the Seminoles lost to an FCS program for the first time in the worst way imaginable and the Trojans looked uninspired in an ugly loss against Stanford at the Coliseum that led to coach Clay Helton’s dismissal Monday. So, in hindsight, we might have gotten carried away with our Week 1 overreactions.
That’s why we love college football, a sport in which Iowa State is a College Football Playoff threat one week and still the second-best team in its home state the next.
Here are a few more overreactions from Week 2:
Michigan will beat Ohio State
Ohio State hasn’t looked this vulnerable in quite a while, following Oregon‘s stunning 35-28 road win at the Horseshoe on Saturday. Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud and the offense aren’t the problem; he threw for 484 yards with three touchdowns and one pick on 35-for-54 passing. But the defense is a mess under first-time defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, who was hired after Jeff Hafley left to become Boston College‘s head coach in 2020. Coombs has long had the reputation of being a great recruiter and capable defensive backs coach, yet he had never called plays above the high school level. Ohio State’s defense wasn’t very good last season and it looks worse this year.
“I’m responsible,” Coombs told reporters Saturday. “That’s my job, so we have to play better. When we say we have to play better, I’m not blaming the players. The standard of our defense is one of excellence, and I have to do a better job.”
All of the blame doesn’t fall at Coombs’ feet. In the 2017 and 2018 recruiting classes, Ohio State signed 11 defensive players ranked in the top 100 of the ESPN 300. They included Chase Young, Shaun Wade and Jeff Okudah. After Urban Meyer passed over Coombs to hire Alex Grinch as co-defensive coordinator in 2018, Coombs left the program to join the Tennessee Titans staff and, in turn, the Buckeyes’ recruitment on defense slipped dramatically. They signed just one defensive player ranked in the top 100 of the ESPN 300 in the 2019 and 2020 classes (defensive end Zach Harrison, who has yet to develop into a true star). That’s the conundrum facing current head coach Ryan Day: The defensive struggles might be as much about the X’s and the O’s as the Jimmys and the Joes.
Still, let’s not get carried away about Michigan finally beating Ohio State, which hasn’t happened since Nov. 26, 2011. Yes, the Wolverines looked good in Saturday’s 31-10 win against Washington, but they’re going to need more from quarterback Cade McNamara and the passing game to beat a team of OSU’s caliber. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, have more than two months to get better on defense.
Texas isn’t going to survive in the SEC
As we warned you last week, pump the brakes on those “Texas is back” proclamations. After looking so good in a 20-point victory against Louisiana in the opener, the Longhorns lost 40-21 at Arkansas on Saturday. The Hogs piled up 471 yards of offense, including 333 rushing, while averaging a whopping 7.1 yards per carry. Five Arkansas players had at least 40 rushing yards. The Longhorns were held without a sack and had only two quarterback pressures.
“Over time, they kind of wore us out so our defense was out on the field … it kind of wore us out,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Forty-seven rush attempts. We never put any pressure on them to throw the ball. I think part of that [was] we just didn’t get it done offensively to take any pressure off the defense.”
On the other side of the ball, Texas’ offensive line couldn’t stand up against what was considered a below-average SEC defensive line (but might be much better than that). Texas star Bijan Robinson was held to only 69 yards on 19 attempts with one score, and the Longhorns even struggled to run against three-man fronts.
After only two games, it’s too early to say Sarkisian won’t succeed. It’s way too early to say the Longhorns won’t be able to compete whenever they move from the Big 12 to the SEC, whether that’s in 2025 or sooner. Between now and then, Sarkisian and his staff have to upgrade the talent on both lines of scrimmage, dramatically. Since 2008, Texas has had three offensive linemen selected in the NFL draft, none in the first round. During that span, Alabama had 19 offensive linemen drafted, including eight first-rounders. Even worse, Vanderbilt had six such players drafted since 2008, including one first-rounder. And Texas fans wondered why former Longhorns All-American Blake Brockermeyer’s twin sons, James and Tommy, signed with the Tide.
Iowa is going to make the CFP
After blasting Indiana in the opener, the Hawkeyes once again rolled past Iowa State in the Cy-Hawk game, winning 27-17 on the road. Defensively, Iowa is good enough to challenge for a Big Ten title and potentially a spot in the CFP. The Hawkeyes have forced seven turnovers in two games and converted them into 37 points (20 against Iowa State). They haven’t allowed 25 points in 24 consecutive games, the longest streak among Power 5 teams. Iowa had six interceptions in the first two games and an FBS-best 70 since 2017. Punter Tory Taylor is a field-position weapon.
“There’s no secret formula, we play defense the way we play it,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
And there’s no secret to Iowa’s offense. As is typically the case under Ferentz, there’s nothing flashy on that side of the ball. It ran 39 times for 67 yards and averaged 5 yards per pass in its sixth straight victory over its in-state rival. The Hawkeyes will need much, much more from their offense to get through the Big Ten. The good news: They don’t play Ohio State or Michigan in the regular season and they get Penn State at home. An Oct. 30 trip to Wisconsin might be the biggest remaining obstacle.
Arkansas is the second-best team in the SEC West
Alabama is clearly the best team in the SEC West, and no one else is even close. LSU remains a mess and coach Ed Orgeron might be in trouble if things don’t get better in a hurry. The Tigers announced Monday that running back John Emery Jr. won’t play this season, reportedly because of academics. LSU averaged only 3.5 yards per carry in a 34-7 win against FCS foe McNeese State on Saturday (the Division II West Florida Argonauts averaged 4.8 yards in a 42-36 victory against the Cowboys a week earlier).
No. 7 Texas A&M‘s train slowed a bit with Monday’s news that starting quarterback Haynes King will miss an undetermined period of time with a lower leg injury. Sophomore Zach Calzada was a bit shaky in a 10-7 win at Colorado. After a less-than-impressive opener against Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State‘s defense was stout in a 24-10 win versus NC State.
Still, Arkansas’ victory against Texas was the most impressive statement in the SEC West this past weekend. Are the Hogs good enough to finish right behind the Tide in coach Sam Pittman’s second season? Probably not. But what the 59-year-old former offensive line coach has done in such a short time is quite impressive. He waited three decades to become a head coach and already has the Hogs buying into what he’s selling. Remember, he took over a program that had gone 1-23 in SEC games. After going 3-7 last season, taking the Hogs to a bowl game in Year 2 would be a monumental step, and they’re more than capable of doing that.
Georgia has a quarterback controversy
Georgia starting quarterback JT Daniels didn’t play in last week’s 56-7 rout against UAB because of an oblique injury. Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said Daniels was dealing with the injury before the opener against Clemson, but then aggravated it during that game and woke up in pain the next day. On Monday, Smart said Daniels felt better after a couple of additional days of treatment, but his status for Saturday night’s game against South Carolina (7 p.m. ET, ESPN and the ESPN App) is uncertain.
“The approach is rest, recovery and treatment, and we’ve done the best we can with that,” Smart said. “The biggest thing that we’ve been told is you don’t want to aggravate it.”
In Daniels’ absence, former walk-on Stetson Bennett had a record-setting day against the Blazers, throwing five touchdowns in the first half. He is clearly Georgia’s No. 2 quarterback, but Daniels’ injury would probably have to linger, or he would have to struggle mightily in his return, for Bennett to reclaim the starting job. Bennett played well at times last season, but faltered in losses against Alabama and Florida. In his defense, he was dealing with injuries in both games, but the backlash on social media was so bad Bennett ditched his iPhone. He might be the only student on the UGA campus using a flip phone.