NFL Expert Picks - Week 2
Plus, this Alabama defense has a chance to be one of Saban's best ever, with a phenomenal pass rush -- facing off against a more inexperienced Ole Miss offensive line -- a loaded linebacking corps and one of the best defensive backfields in recent Alabama history, led by Marlon Humphrey and Eddie Jackson.
The key to Alabama avoiding those costly mistakes, though, is the development of its new backfield. While Alabama has blown out USC and Western Kentucky, Nick Saban has been publically critical of his team, undoubtedly trying to fight complacency, especially given the youth on offense.
Despite the presence of Kelly, the reverse is also true: Alabama's defense is capable of making Ole Miss' offense uncomfortable and also forcing mistakes. Ole Miss has a chance, but it's hard to see Saban losing to Freeze again.
Overshadowed by a phenomenal day of games between ranked teams, Oregon-Nebraska is an intriguing undercard, a key nonconference showdown for both teams. Now, he's trying to get a marquee win at Nebraska to boost confidence after a lackluster debut season in Both teams ranked in the bottom seven nationally in pass defense last year.
Both had a few embarrassing losses. Both have gone through some rebuilding on the defensive line. Both defenses are beatable, and the key will be the quarterback play of Oregon's Dakota Prukop, the transfer from Montana State, and Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong, a capable runner who's had an uneven career as a passer in terms of accuracy and decision-making. Nebraska has a solid receiving corps for Armstrong, but Oregon's advantage, should Prukop play well enough, is in the running game, where Royce Freeman leads a deep group of playmakers against a rebuilding Huskers D-line.
The is the fifth-ever meeting between the Buffaloes and Wolverines, who met four times in the s when both programs were powers. Michigan won three out of four games, but the series is most remembered for Kordell Stewart's incredible Hail Mary to Michael Westbrook to beat the Wolverines in ' Each program has spent most of the past decade trying to restore former glory, although Michigan didn't fall nearly as far as the Buffaloes -- who haven't played in a bowl game since -- and Michigan is also currently far ahead in its rebuild.
Colorado has made promising strides early in Mike MacIntyre's fourth season, with a more experienced roster dominating Colorado State and Idaho State by a combined score of , but going on the road to the Big House and beating this Michigan team is a different matter.
While the Wolverines still have questions about their backfield, if nothing else we know they're going to have a dominant defense this year, one that is capable of overwhelming the Buffaloes. Both the Panthers and the Cowboys have been tasked with bouncing back from emotional weeks, although things are much more positive for Pitt. Despite nearly blowing a big lead, Pitt held on to beat Penn State in their first rivalry showdown since And despite holding a three-point lead with the ball and four seconds left, Oklahoma State lost to Central Michigan on a bad call by officials and then a miracle Hail Mary lateral touchdown on an untimed down after 60 minutes had already been played.
So, after the emotional highs and lows of last Saturday, Pitt now visits Stillwater for an intriguing, under-the-radar nonconference battle between the Panthers, known for their physical running, and the Cowboys, known much more for their passing. Oklahoma State needs to get QB Mason Rudolph on track, and while Pitt is capable defensively -- its pass rush in particular, led by Ejuan Price, is dangerous -- it can be beaten downfield for big plays, so it's going to be important for the Cowboys to get James Washington in gear on the outside.
No Big Ten team ever wants to be called an underdog at home against a MAC team, but that's exactly what Illinois is this week. It's hard to fault Vegas for making Western Michigan a three-point favorite. Fleck's squad has plenty of weapons, which could make Western Michigan a candidate for the Group of Five's major bowl bid. To do that, this is almost certainly a game the Broncos have to win. UNC's pass defense is a lot better than Western Michigan's, but it seems likely that the Broncos have more firepower on offense than the Fighting Illini, which is something that is rarely said about a MAC team against a Power Five opponent.
In fact, this one's a lot worse: South Florida is a two-touchdown favorite at the Carrier Dome against the Orange, who the Bulls beat at home last year. Syracuse's offense is certainly more dangerous this time around under new coach Dino Babers, but we also saw what this defense looks like last Friday against Louisville, when Lamar Jackson had passing yards and rushing yards.
The stakes are high for what should be a phenomenal prime-time atmosphere in Norman on Saturday night, and tension has risen after backup Oklahoma quarterback Austin Kendall said , "I think they have a really basic defense. I'm really looking forward to it. If my number's called, I think I can do the same. Thus far, Ohio State has won blowouts against Bowling Green and Tulsa, holding the two to an average of 3. These are Group of Five teams, sure, but they're Group of Five teams that both averaged over 37 points per game last year.
The Buckeyes finished sixth nationally in yards per play last year, and while they did lose eight starters, they've loaded with talent and have gotten stellar early-season performances from new faces like S Malik Hooker, CB Marshon Lattimore and DEs Nick Bosa and Sam Hubbard. Oklahoma, meanwhile, lost its opener to Houston and former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, scoring just six points in the second half against the Cougars.
Pregame mind games aside, this is a fun matchup in which Oklahoma will try to attack the Buckeyes' revamped defense with its loaded backfield that features Mayfield and RBs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. On the other side, the Sooners will attempt to slow down a promising Ohio State offense that has mostly played well behind QB J. This is a great quarterback matchup, and there's plenty of skill talent involved, as well. It's a huge challenge for a young Ohio State team on the road, but the Buckeyes have the talent to escape from a hostile environment with a win.
Fifty years ago, Michigan State and Notre Dame tied in one of the most famous games ever. The Spartans were ranked No. A tie could only benefit one of them, and Notre Dame played things conservatively down the stretch as the game ended Notre Dame leads the all-time series , and this is the first meeting between the Spartans and Fighting Irish since , with a two-year break as Notre Dame's ACC scheduling arrangement got underway. The rivalry series has offered plenty of drama, and it's an important early game for both.
Michigan State, which was sluggish against Furman in Week 1 and off last week, is the defending Big Ten champion trying to prove that it still belongs among the nation's elite after losing so many key players from its playoff team. Notre Dame, meanwhile, is trying to keep slim playoff hopes alive after losing a heartbreaker in double-OT to Texas in Week 1.
The game could be decided by the matchup of Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer -- who has grabbed hold of the starting job ahead of Malik Zaire -- against Michigan State's defense, which has one of the nation's best players in DT Malik McDowell and appears improved in the secondary but can be vulnerable to big plays thanks to its aggressive scheme.
Few teams are more familiar with what Christian McCaffrey is capable of than the Trojans. USC lost to Stanford twice last season: Despite the loss, USC got off easy early in the year, as McCaffrey ran for yards, caught three passes for 37 yards and averaged Then, in the Pac title game, McCaffrey made a Heisman statement: The USC offensive line also might not be as strong as hoped, with center Toa Lobendahn sidelined for the season -- although standout Stanford DT Harrison Phillips may also be out with an injury.
Overall, the Trojans have a ton of talent, but it's hard to pick against McCaffrey at home, especially given the damage we've already seen him to do the Trojans way from home. Is this is a must-win for either team? No, of course not. But life would be a whole lot easier for Kevin Sumlin and Gus Malzahn with a win as these two teams attempt to rebound from disappointing seasons. Auburn's start to the season has had mixed results, as the Tigers played Clemson close but stumbled horribly on offense in the opener in a loss, then dominated Arkansas State These are two flawed but dangerous teams trying to prove that they're capable of playing up to their talent level.
Both have improved defenses, with impressive pass rushes in particular, and both have quarterbacks with a lot to prove: While Auburn may have figured things out on offense against Arkansas State, the Aggies defense -- led by Myles Garrett -- has the ability to knock the Tigers back out of sync and force mistakes in the passing game, especially given their improvement in the secondary. Purdue transfer Danny Etling will likely make his first start at quarterback for LSU after he relieved the ineffective Brandon Harris early in a win over Jacksonville State last week.
Etling hasn't produced great results in his career, but LSU simply needs someone it can trust to make good decisions, stretch defenses a bit downfield and show poise under pressure. Harris had not been doing that, and it led to the loss at Wisconsin. With Leonard Fournette expected to return to the lineup from an ankle injury, the Tigers just need to spread Mississippi State's defense out a little bit to make room for Fournette and Derrius Guice to go to work in the running game.
This is the type of game, at home, that LSU is capable of winning with its old-school defense and running philosophy, assuming it can avoid costly mistakes at quarterback.
Georgia freshman quarterback Jacob Eason actually averages Coming off a knee injury, RB Nick Chubb was fantastic against the Tar Heels, but the offense was sluggish last week, and it now faces a much more difficult challenge against Missouri. Last year, the Bulldogs won an ugly game against the Tigers, who have had much more dire problems on offense, which continued with just 11 points in an opening loss at West Virginia before recovering to score 61 against hapless Eastern Michigan last week.
Whether it's Eason or Greyson Lambert starting for Georgia, at least the Bulldogs do have Chubb, a far better weapon than anyone Missouri has on offense. North Texas at No. For all of Texas' problems last year, Cal proved to be a temporary cure for its struggles on offense. QB Jerrod Heard had passing yards and receiving yards, and the Longhorns racked up total yards. Consequently, that '04 season was Zook's last in The Swamp.
McElwain's job isn't in danger by any means, given his team's SEC East championships the last two seasons. But the combination of suspensions, poor offensive play and another loss to their Big Orange rivals would put a much different spin on the Gators' compass.
The Group of 5 and FCS remained winless against top teams through Week 2, and perennial G5 buster Boise State missed an opportunity in a triple-overtime loss to Washington State. Is there anybody from the Group of 5 who can step up and beat a top team? But the game to watch is No. This is his time to shine. Week 3 bowl projections. Now, the Commodores have a chance to get back on that level under coach Derek Mason. The Commodores should like their chances, too.
The rush defense is solid at ninth in the FBS Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmur has been flawless with yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions through two games.
Shurmur is one of five quarterbacks in the FBS with at least six touchdown passes who is averaging more than 10 yards per passing attempt. Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions takes care of the ball, too.