Week 2 was pretty awesome, despite our big showdown with Syracuse getting deflated. More on that later.
Mack Brown had seemed to be righting the ship all offseason, but nobody expected dividends to come so quickly. They beat Miami, giving the Hurricanes an ugly 0-2 start. I picked the ‘Canes third in their division and was never high on the Manny Diaz hire. I am not sure it’s going to work out down there and part of it may be systematic. Give it another two seasons and I think UNC and Louisville may be our prime competition in the ACC (Virginia certainly is about it for this season).
Texas’s offense looked awfully good against LSU, but their defense is bad. They returned very few starters on that side of the ball, and while their Sugar Bowl win was impressive, most of their wins last season were very close. I expect them to drop two more games this season. LSU deserves their #4 ranking after that big road win. I’d even put them at #3 above UGA. After all, Georgia hasn’t played anybody of note yet this season and lost to both LSU and Texas last season.
Michigan barely escaped a close one with Army - needing two overtimes to get the win. It was a little fluky with all the fumbles, but Ohio State is clearly the team to beat in the Big 10. Michigan was my playoff pick and I’m not going to bail yet, but I definitely regret the pick.
Of course, Clemson took care of business against Texas A&M. The dominance of Clemson’s young defense was surprising. Clemson fans should feel extremely optimistic about the rest of the season. You can read my key takeaways from the game here.
For week 3, here’s what you should be watching:
UNC at Wake Forest (6pm, ESPN)
Wake is a three point favorite, but UNC is the biggest (good) surprise team in the ACC. If they win this one, they’ll probably beat Appalachian State and be ranked at 4-0 when they host Clemson. That would be interesting, but you can’t cheer for the Heels over the Deacons. It just ain’t right. This is a good one between two upper-half ACC teams.
NC State at West Virginia (Noon, FS1)
It is a proud tradition of mine to rag on NC State, it looks like NC State needs to be one of the ACC’s top teams after Clemson and Virginia. Miami, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse haven’t impressed, which leaves very little beyond the top two teams in the ACC. NC State could take advantage.
West Virginia is rebuilding under Neal Brown. They’re a touchdown underdog at home. This is my top game of the early time slot because it’s an opportunity to take a look at an upcoming opponent and is an interesting non-conference P5 game.
Ohio State at Indiana (Noon, FOX)
Ohio State has exceeded my expectations. Justin Fields has been really good (76% passer, 6TD, 0 INT, 229 Passing YPG, 51 Rushing YPG). I don’t think this one will be all that competitive, but it’s a good chance to take a look at a possible playoff contender.
Alabama at South Carolina (3:30, CBS)
For Clemson fans that like to keep tabs on arguably the only other title contender in the country and for those who like to see U of SC get embarrassed, this is a must watch. The spread is 25.5 and I think they cover. The Cocks did win the last time Alabama came to Columbia though. Another interesting thing about this game is that it is one of two common opponents (along with Texas A&M) we share with Alabama, making it a great reference point for future analysis.
Iowa at Iowa State (4:00pm, FS1)
Objectively speaking, this is the better football game. It’s a rivalry game worth of being played on the season’s final week, however they always play fairly early in the season. Iowa State is the slight favorite, but they haven’t looked good lately. Iowa has played well and a Hawkeyes win would further indicate that the Big 10 may be the strongest conference this season (Ohio State has looked great, Maryland made a big statement, and Wisconsin looks to be back to the Wisconsin of ole’). Since Syracuse blew it against Maryland, College GameDay will be at this one.
Clemson at Syracuse (7:30, ABC)
Clemson had a great Saturday, but things in College Park, MD went quite poorly for our ACC citrus-themed brethren.
Syracuse quickly fell down 0-14 and then found themselves trailing 7-28 at the 9:19 mark of the second quarter. The game was already over at that point. Syracuse surrendered 42 points in the first half, 63 in the game. Their secondary, which returned all their starters, looked awful. Everyone thought the Orange would be the second best team in the Atlantic and second or third (with consideration to Virginia) best team in the ACC. Right now they look a notch (or two) below Clemson, Virginia, NC State, Boston College, UNC, and maybe even Duke and Louisville.
Before last weekend, I was nervous about this game. It’s not that I didn’t think we could or would win it. It just appeared to be a legitimate test (~15% chance of a loss) and the probable de facto Atlantic Division championship. It doesn’t seem like nearly the test, nor do the stakes seem as high now.
I expect Clemson to do what it did the last time it had a QB start and finish a game against Syracuse - win 54-0. Ok, that may be an exaggeration, but only a slight one. I think they could cover the 24 point spread in a 42-7 type win.