College football’s biggest night of the season didn’t disappoint.
Yeah, it’s only Week 2, but we’re comfortable saying an evening slate that featured four top-25 matchups kicking off within 90 minutes of each other is the most stacked night of college football we’re going to see in all of 2017.
All four of those big games delivered too. Let’s start with the surprise, which was No. 5 Oklahoma beating No. 2 Ohio State 31-16 in Columbus.
After Ohio State beat Oklahoma a year ago in Norman, this was supposed to be an even tougher game for the Sooners. Oklahoma entered 2017 with a first-year head coach and needing to replace three of its best offensive players — three guys who were some of the best in college football.
But these transitions are a lot easier when you have one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in college football in Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield was magnificent, throwing for nearly 400 yards and three touchdowns. And he delivered what could be the troll of the 2017 season after the game, putting an Oklahoma flag on the Ohio State logo at midfield.
Mayfield was a Heisman finalist in 2016 and is a great early-season bet to be back on the stage in 2017. He could be joined there by USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who helped his No. 6 Trojans put up six touchdowns in a 42-24 win over No. 14 Stanford.
Darnold threw two picks, but he threw just three other incompletions otherwise, going 21-26 for 316 yards and four touchdowns. He was boosted by a USC running game that thrashed a very good Stanford front for over 300 rushing yards. Yeah, the Trojans got off to a bit of a rocky start in Week 1, but if USC can put up over 600 yards of offense against Stanford, is there anyone standing in the USC offense’s way other than itself?
A matchup of the USC offense and the No. 3 Clemson defense would be a spicy College Football Playoff game. Clemson’s defensive line showed why it was the best in the country in a 14-6 win over No. 13 Auburn. Clemson racked up 11 sacks — one short of a school record — and prevented the Auburn offense from having any semblance of a rhythm.
With a Florida State team missing its quarterback, Clemson is the rightful favorite to win the ACC and get back to the College Football Playoff for the third-straight season.
The other top-25 pairing of the night was by far the most even. No. 15 Georgia used a late field goal to beat No. 24 Notre Dame 20-19 on the road. As Georgia’s two-pronged rushing attack of RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for 136 yards on 26 carries, the Georgia defense held Notre Dame to 55 rushing yards on 37 attempts in the team’s first trip north of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1965.
The Bulldogs did it with a true freshman at quarterback too. After coming in for Jacob Eason in Week 1, Jake Fromm hasn’t been overwhelmed. Through two weeks the Bulldogs have looked like a steady force in what could be a messy SEC East. Maybe 2017 is the year we get the glimpse of why the Bulldogs fired Mark Right after a 10-win season in 2015.
Here are the rest of this week’s winners and losers.
Scott Shafer: Now the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee, ex-Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer made his return to the Carrier Dome on Saturday. He got the last laugh. The Blue Raiders upset the Orange 30-23 and held the explosive Syracuse offense to only 308 total yards while forcing two turnovers. MTSU took a 30-23 lead with just under seven minutes to go, and Shafer’s defense held strong by forcing an Eric Dungey interception and a turnover on downs to seal the win.
Shafer, who was received warmly by the Syracuse fans, celebrated the win appropriately:
Epic: 2 years after being fired as Syracuse's head coach, Scott Shafer upsets SU w/ MTSU. Had celebratory cigar ready pic.twitter.com/zut9RIaYoF
— Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) September 9, 2017
Oregon: Oregon is off to a 2-0 start under new coach Willie Taggart thanks to a 42-35 home win over Nebraska. The Ducks put up 409 yards of offense in the first half and stormed out to a 42-14 halftime lead. The offense couldn’t get anything going in the second half and things got tight at the end, but the Ducks managed to hang on by picking off Huskers QB Tanner Lee four times. The last interception came in the final minutes when the Huskers had a chance to tie things up. Sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert completed 21-of-25 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
Shea Patterson: Yeah, South Alabama and UT Martin aren’t the toughest opponents, but Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson has impressed through two weeks. On Saturday, the sophomore threw for a school record 489 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-23 win over the Skyhawks. Patterson has lived up to his five-star billing by throwing for a combined 918 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 76.9 percent of his passes. Yeah, that’s pretty good. Things will get a little tougher next week when the Rebels travel across the country to Cal. Two weeks later, Ole Miss heads to Tuscaloosa.
Things will get a little tougher next week when the Rebels travel across the country to Cal. Two weeks later, Ole Miss heads to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama. Enjoy this while you can, Shea.
Courtland Sutton: If you haven’t paid attention to SMU over the past few years, you’ve missed out on one of college football’s best receivers. Courtland Sutton has combined for 125 catches for 2,108 yards and 19 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He had a slow start with only two catches in Week 1, but Sutton had a huge game Saturday against North Texas. In a 54-32 win, Sutton caught eight passes for 163 yards and an American Athletic Conference record four touchdowns. You’ll see him playing on Sundays before too long.
Illinois: Lovie Smith’s team was a home underdog with Conference USA champs Western Kentucky coming to Champaign. The Illini lived up to the challenge. In a 20-7 home win, Illinois held the high-powered Hilltoppers to just 244 yards of offense, including only six — yes, six — yards rushing. Illinois forced only one turnover, but it was a big one.
With WKU pinned deep in its own territory, Julian Jones picked off Mike White and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown, giving Illinois a 13-0 lead at halftime. QB Chayce Crouch’s nine-yard touchdown increased the Illini’s lead to 20-0 midway through the third. WKU managed its only score early in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late. Freshman Mike Epstein led the way with 111 rushing yards for Illinois, which improved to 2-0.
Dante Pettis: Dante Pettis set a Pac-12 record in Washington’s 63-7 home win over Montana. When the senior receiver returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown at the end of the first quarter, it was the seventh of his career. That’s more than anybody in the conference’s history. Pettis, who also brought a punt back for a score in Week 1, is one away from the NCAA record, held by Wes Welker (Texas Tech) and Antonio Perkins (Oklahoma).
He can't be stopped! Pettis sets a new Pac-12 record with 7 punt returns for a TD. #PurpleReign
— UW Football (@UW_Football) September 10, 2017
Baylor: Things are worse than we thought with Baylor’s transition from the Art Briles era. After losing in Week 1 to Liberty, Baylor lost 17-10 to Texas-San Antonio on Saturday.
Both of those games have been at home, so it’s reasonable to wonder if the Bears are going to be 0-3 before Big 12 play begins. Next week’s game is a road trip to Duke, which handled a very good Northwestern team quite easily.
Baylor quarterback Anu Solomon — a grad transfer from Arizona — was just 10-26 passing for 121 yards and a touchdown and an interception vs. the Roadrunners. Zach Smith may get an extended look against Duke.
Rutgers: Rutgers showed some legitimate improvement from last year by giving No. 7 Washington a competitive game last weekend. The Scarlet Knights followed that up by losing at home to Eastern Michigan, a program that had never beaten a Power Five team in 58 tries. EMU was also 0-38 all-time against the Big Ten. That streak came to an end Saturday in Piscataway.
Rutgers had a few chances to win the ballgame — or at least force overtime — but mistakes were made. Most notably, Rutgers quarterback Kyle Bolin threw a crucial in the fourth quarter with his team trailing 16-13. Bolin led the Scarlet Knights inside the EMU 30-yard line, but was picked off by Brody Hoying, who returned it 71 yards to the Rutgers 5.
Rutgers blocked EMU’s ensuing field goal try and drove back into Eagles territory in the game’s final minutes. A personal foul penalty pushed Rutgers out of field goal range. And then this happened:
Georgia Southern: If Tyson Summers’ job was on tenuous footing after going 5-7 in his first season with the program, things just got a lot worse. The Eagles were destroyed 41-7 by Auburn in Week 1. In Week 2, Summers’ team lost again at homeish to… New Hampshire. Yes, FCS New Hampshire. It wasn’t particularly close either. New Hampshire led the game 22-0 at halftime and went on to win 22-12 in a game played in Birmingham because of Hurricane Irma. Georgia Southern’s only touchdown came with 6:18 left in regulation when the game was firmly in hand. Things are not going well in Statesboro.
Northwestern: Many, us included, pegged Northwestern as a sleeper pick to emerge from the Big Ten West. The Wildcats hardly looked like contenders on Saturday. In a 41-17 loss at Duke, the Wildcats gave up 538 yards of offense to the Blue Devils while mustering only 191 yards of their own. With his team playing behind most of the day, Clayton Thorson really struggled, completing only 11-of-29 passes for 120 yards and two interceptions.
Pat Fitzgerald is a great coach, so it’s too early to count out the Wildcats just yet, but they better get it turned around quickly. Northwestern has a reprieve with Bowling Green visiting Evanston next Saturday before opening Big Ten play against No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 4 Penn State.
Kansas: Just when you think the Jayhawks have made progress, there’s a moment to knock that thought out of your brain.
Kansas lost 45-27 at home to Central Michigan, a week after the Chippewas needed multiple overtimes to beat FCS foe Rhode Island. Yes, the same Rhode Island that Kansas beat by 49 a year ago.
KU’s win vs. Texas seemed to buoy the program to the heights of three wins in 2017. But with a nine-game Big 12 slate, KU’s going to need at least one conference victory to get to three wins. And the 18-point loss to CMU means Kansas still hasn’t beaten an FBS team in regulation since 2014. That’s brutal.
East Carolina: ECU lost to FCS James Madison in Week 1. Things didn’t get much better in Week 2. The Pirates traveled to West Virginia and fell behind 49-3 by halftime, allowing 479 yards in the process. When the dust finally settled, ECU allowed 614 yards in a 56-20 loss in Morgantown. That’s an 0-2 start for ECU that should quickly become 0-4 with its next two games coming against Virginia Tech and South Florida.
Bowling Green: Bowling Green’s struggles under Mike Jinks continue. The Falcons were a perennial MAC contender throughout the decade before falling off a cliff last year in Jinks’ first season. The Falcons won their last three games in 2016 to finish 4-8. That good finish has not carried over to 2017 as BGSU lost to FCS South Dakota at home on Saturday. Now 0-2, BGSU fell behind 21-3 after the first quarter and ended up allowing 520 yards to the Coyotes. South Dakota, led by Minnesota transfer Chris Streveler at QB, led wire-to-wire. Streveler was the game’s top performer with 306 yards passing, 119 yards rushing and four total touchdowns.
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