College Football 2013: 5 Big Questions for Week 2
The first week of the college football season is in the books and, while a few questions have been answered, there is still a lot yet to see. Here are five big questions going into Week 2:
Can Notre Dame Build on Last Year’s Success?
After enduring an off-season filled with talk of nothing but Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend, quarterback Everett Golson’s academic suspension and a defensive collapse in the national-title game, nobody was happier than Notre Dame to get back on the field. And they looked solid in a 28-6 win over Temple. The defense held the Owls to just one score, and new quarterback Tommy Rees threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns. This week, however, they take a big step up in competition, facing #17 Michigan. The Wolverines rolled up 59 points in last week’s win over Central Michigan, their highest scoring output in an opener since 1905. They scored six rushing touchdowns, but will now face a defense that was one of the nation’s best last year and gave up just 134 yards on the ground last week. Rees will need to have a big game and avoid the turnover issues that have plagued him throughout his career if the Irish hope to make another title run and come out of the Big House with a win.
Who Will Control the SEC East?
Georgia just lost a heartbreaker on the road to #6 Clemson, and things don’t get any easier this week as they try to end a three-game losing streak to SEC East rival South Carolina. While the Bulldogs’ offensive line did a nice job of run-blocking for Todd Gurley, they struggled against the pass rush. Quarterback Aaron Murray, the school’s all-time career passer, was sacked four times, knocked down many others and held scoreless. This week he’ll face a much tougher defense, one that features Heisman candidate, athletic freak and possible No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney at defensive end. Last year the Bulldogs were still able to make the SEC title game despite an early season loss at South Carolina. But the winner of this game will be squarely in control of the SEC East and on track for a title shot.
The End of an Era?
Despite a 13-year hiatus from 1987 to 2001, Florida vs. Miami has been one of the best rivalries in college football over the last three decades, with the two schools combining for eight national championships in that span. But that all comes to an end this week. With the SEC moving to a nine-game conference schedule next year, the annual Gators-Hurricanes matchup will be a thing of the past. Like last year, Florida appears ready to get it done on defense. The Gators held Toledo to just 205 total yards (50 rushing) in last week’s 24-6 win. However, they should also have a strong rushing game behind running backs Mack Brown (112 yards and two touchdowns last week) and Matt Jones, who missed the season opener with a viral infection. They will also have back five key players who were suspended last week. However, the Hurricanes are ready to respond with a strong running attack of their own after rushing for 303 yards in last week’s win over Florida Atlantic. The thing to watch in this one will be to see how much improvement the Miami defense, which was the worst in school history last season, has made.
What’s Wrong With the Blackshirts?
In 2007, Nebraska fired coach Bill Callahan after the team stumbled to a 5-7 mark thanks to the worst defense in school history. The Huskers brought in defensive specialist Bo Pelini and the early results were positive. But since 2009, the Huskers have steadily declined as a defense. In Week 1, Nebraska escaped with a 37-34 win over Wyoming and gave up 602 yards in the process. In the Cornhuskers’ four losses last season, they gave up an average of 595 yards and 53.5 points per game. For whatever reason, this up-and-down trend of shootout wins followed by blowout losses has been a problem in recent years for Bo Pelini’s teams. While the Blackshirts shouldn’t have much problem this week against Southern Miss (who are in the midst of a 13-game losing streak), without significant improvement, they could be in for a long day in a Week 3 matchup with #16 UCLA, who put up 653 yards against the Huskers last year. Yes, the offense should still be one of the nation’s best with Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah and the Big Ten’s best receiving corps. But these ongoing defensive collapses will prevent the Huskers from challenging for a Big Ten title.
Who Should Be on Upset Alert?
A handful of big-name teams got important wins in Week 1 but had some weaknesses exposed and now face tougher competition in Week 2. Texas seemed to sleepwalk through much of the first half against New Mexico State before finally stepping on the gas. This week, they’ll face a motivated BYU team that features a stout defense and has not had a losing season since 2004. USC played two quarterbacks last week, and neither looked particularly great. Now the Trojans will face an early season conference game against a Washington State squad that nearly pulled off a road upset at Auburn last week. Tennessee could be tested by Bobby Petrino and Western Kentucky, which is coming off a 35-26 win over Kentucky. And Kansas State may be the defending Big 12 champs, but that didn’t stop them from losing to FCS North Dakota State last week. This week, they’ll face an even more talented team in Louisiana-Lafayette that is coming off of back-to-back 9-4 seasons.