College Football Pick’em
Buy Low, Sell High
Talking the business of sports
Texas A&M entered the 2021 season ranked No. 6 in the nation, but it went on to finish 8-4 and fall out of the AP Top 25 at the end of the year. One year later, the Aggies again inexplicably started the year right at No. 6. Unfortunately, giant coaching contracts and shiny recruiting classes do not guarantee immediate success on the field.
The Aggies put together one of their worst offensive performances of the SEC era in a 17-14 loss to Sun Belt foe Appalachian State on Saturday. Texas A&M ran just two offensive plays in App State territory until its final drive of the game. Suddenly, the Aggies go from a dark horse playoff contender to an afterthought with nine losable games left. That’s how quickly fortunes can change in college football. And in a jam-packed Week 2, the Aggies are hardly the only ones.
No. 8 Notre Dame also lost a Sun Belt game to Marshall on a shocking pick six off quarterback Tyler Buchner. No. 25 Houston fell in double-overtime against rival Texas Tech thanks to a monster game from Red Raiders quarterback Donovan Smith. No. 24 Tennessee and No. 20 Kentucky also pulled off upsets over No. 17 Pittsburgh and No. 12 Florida, respectively.
Down the slate, reigning Mountain West champ Utah State lost an embarrassing 35-7 decision against FCS Weber State. UIW also topped Nevada 55-41, and Holy Cross shocked Buffalo 37-31 on a last-second Hail Mary for three FCS upsets in one week.
Here are more winners, losers and overreactions from a chaotic Week 2 of the college football season.
Kansas: Don’t look now, but the Jayhawks are on a winning streak after beating West Virginia 55-42 on the road. Kansas is 2-0 for the first time since 2011, and it won a Big 12 opener for the first time since 2009. The 55-point output is the most since … well, the last Big 12 victory for Kansas over Texas. Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels was unbelievable with 215 yards passing and 82 yards rushing in the win. This is a serious Power Five team at last, and coach Lance Leipold is a star.
USC‘s offense: Putting up 66 points against Rice was a good appetizer, but all the fireworks came out for the Pac-12 opener against Stanford. The Trojans scored 35 first-half points with shocking ease, scoring on the first five drives of the first half before cruising to a 41-28 victory skewed by 14 unanswered garbage time scores from Stanford. If you thought Jordan Addison was good before, playing on one of the most stacked receiver rooms in college football sure helps. He had 172 yards receiving and two touchdowns on his own. The offense is already national caliber. Next week against Fresno State is a marquee matchup, and an even better test for the defense.
Notre Dame: Struggling to move the ball against Ohio State in The Horseshoe is one thing. Running into massive offensive issues at home against Marshall? That’s something completely different. The Fighting Irish threw three interceptions and averaged just 3.5 yards per carry against the Sun Belt squad. Marcus Freeman became the first Notre Dame coach since Lou Holtz to start 0-2, and the first Fighting Irish coach ever to start a career 0-3.
Nebraska: We’ve had enough. Put this program out of its misery. On the same day that Adrian Martinez dropped 40 points for Kansas State against Missouri, Nebraska lost 45-42 against Georgia Southern, a team picked No. 5 in its own Sun Belt division. It snapped a 214-game streak of wins at home when scoring more than 35 points. Nebraska has changed quarterbacks, assistants, coordinators and players. It’s not working for Scott Frost. At some point, the guy in the biggest office has to be held responsible for these embarrassing performances.
Alabama‘s receivers aren’t title-caliber: When Jameson Williams and John Metchie III got hurt last season, the Alabama offense suddenly fell to Earth. Nick Saban had an entire offseason to fix the unit, adding a pair of highly touted transfers in Jermaine Burton and Tyler Harrell while developing more freshmen. Early returns are troubling, to say the least.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Alabama wide receivers had just three total catches for 14 yards in the 20-19 win over Texas. No receiver finished with more than 40 yards receiving despite pinpoint passes from the Heisman Trophy-winning QB Bryce Young. Oh, and by the way, a strong performance against Utah State became far less impressive after the Aggies lost big to Weber State.
Luckily, Traeshon Holden and Ja’Corey Brooks had a few catches in the fourth quarter to set up the game-clinching field goal, and running back Jahmyr Gibbs was huge in the passing game. But with so much blue-chip talent at receiver, these kinds of performances from the pass-catchers is embarrassing — and hardly title-caliber.
Sun Belt is the best Group of Five conference: It wasn’t a perfect weekend, but the Sun Belt made a heck of a case for the best Group of Five league in college football. The Sun Belt became the first Group of Five conference to beat multiple top-10 opponents since 2003 as Appalachian State and Marshall felled Texas A&M and Notre Dame, respectively.
That wasn’t all.
As previously mentioned, Georgia Southern shocked Nebraska. South Alabama flew past Central Michigan in an important nonconference matchup, while Georgia State pushed North Carolina to the limit. Funnily enough, the only bad spot was Coastal Carolina needing a late score to beat Gardner-Webb, but the Chanticleers can handle a bad game.
It doesn’t hurt that all three of the assumed AAC contenders — Houston, Cincinnati and UCF — all have losses now. The Sun Belt can steal the New Year’s Six spot.
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