While You Were Cheering: Recapping the CFB World – Week 2

The best and worst part about college football is the sheer quantity of content. It can be daunting to look at a slate of games and see that there are 4 watchable games that all kick off within a half hour of each other and try to reconcile within yourself which one is the most watchable. Sometimes this phenomenon trickles into oversaturation, especially if you are a newer fan to college football and trying to take in as many brands, styles, and coaching philosophies as possible.

A close friend at work grew up in New England, and of course given his specific vector of time and geography, is a huge Patriots fan and a fan of all things NFL in general. That makes sense considering his first sporting memories are a young Tom Brady hoisting his first of five Super Bowl trophies. On the flip side, I grew up an almost strictly NCAA fan because, well…the early 2000s Lions weren’t exactly what a young fan was looking for.

This year, I am approaching college football as if I am giving this friend a tour of college football, introducing him to certain brands and philosophies and how they change as one moves across the country; where different coaches came from and how their stops and resumes are affecting their decisions and the programs they are building, and how all of that fits into the larger landscape of matriculating players to his beloved NFL. I am trying to take in as much of the content as possible (no, there are not too many bowl games) because at the end of the day, football is simply entertainment, and college football is entertainment in its purest form.

Starting this season, I am spearheading a weekly rundown of the storylines you might not hear much elsewhere: the G5 conferences, the late night slate, the teams that are rebuilding, etc. There is so much college football to take in, and unfortunately most of my time is spent taking in Michigan-specific content (like Stephen’s incredible weekly MGoAnalysis), that I don’t want to miss other compelling narratives across the country and the sport. So look no further: while you were cheering for Michigan, here’s what happened in Week 2.

  • Kevin Sumlin Went From Bad to Worse
    • Losing to BYU last week was a bad way to begin his tenure in Tucson. Before the season began, I was under the impression that Sumlin’s bar was very low in order of expectations in the desert – win 7 or 8 games, make a competitive appearance in the bowl game, don’t get fired for horrible sexual harassment, and continue building for next year. After a bad Week 1 loss in which Arizona threw on 8 of their 10 first downs (and only three designed runs for Tate, who rushed for 1400 yards last year), things looked even worse against a very solid Ed Oliver and Houston team (fun fact about Ed Oliver – he has 43 career tackles for loss – in only 25 career games.
    • Arizona was losing 31-0 at halftime and didn’t look remotely competitive, not scoring their first touchdown until 11 seconds remained in the third quarter, making it a 38-10 ballgame. I’m starting to think that Kevin Sumlin isn’t that good of a coach and he just rode a once-in-a-generation athlete in Johnny Manziel to some great years at A&M. Losing is one thing, especially in Year 1, but Sumlin is showing no proof of concept and is not letting his next once-in-a-generation athlete Khalil Tate run and gun freely like he did so well last year: he is averaging 1.5 yards per carry and completing only 51.9% of his passes.
  • Kansas: Emphatically Back
      • After losing to an 8-4 FCS Nicholls State at home in overtime in Week 1, people were down on Kansas, even for Kansas’ standards. In fact, a Kansas law professor advocating shutting the whole program down:
    • But they took care of business on the road at Central Michigan, winning 31-7. They entered the season 103rd in Bill Connelly’s preseason S&P+ rankings, only 7 spots ahead of Oregon State for the worst Power 5 team, and their Week 1 performance proved that that ranking was astute. But yesterday, they went into Kelly-Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant and looked…competent, holding CMU rushers to under 4 yards per carry and intercepting CMU QB Tony Poljan 4 times to hold the Chips to only 7 points. Of note: Kansas has not held an opponent to single-digit point totals since Rhode Island in 2016 and has not held an FBS opponent to single-digit point totals since 2009…against UTEP.
    • Kansas snapped the FBS’ 2nd-longest road losing streak of 46 games. Kansas has a chance to earn its 2nd win in 3 games this season when they host none other than Rutgers, who got blown out of the water by Ohio State yesterday, 52-3. Kansas has not started 2-1 since 2014, but only one of those wins was an FBS program (it was also Central Michigan!).
  • Texas: Still Not Back
    • After an ugly and frustrating loss on the road to Maryland in Week 1 (I’m happy those players got a win after the storm they endured this offseason), Texas defeated Tulsa in their Week 2 home opener, but again did not look comfortable doing so. After racing to a 21-0 halftime lead, Texas let Tulsa back into the game; the Golden Hurricanes pulled within a touchdown with 4:35 remaining.
    • Sam Ehlinger looked comfortable and threw a great game, completing 21 of 27 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns, but the Longhorn defense could only muster two quarterback hurries against a Tulsa offense that ranked 124th in Passing S&P+ a year ago.
    • Texas hosts USC next weekend, who looked equally as uncomfortable against an excellent Stanford team. I don’t expect either team to be ranked, so I’m putting the over/under of seeing the Vince Young pointing in confetti clip after the 2006 Rose Bowl at about 150 in an effort to make this game feel relevant again.
  • Florida: Also Not Back
    • In a weird Week 2 conference matchup, Florida looked all out of sorts against an average Kentucky team. Even though it is Year 0 for Dan Mullen, he’s been in the SEC long enough to know how to gameplan for Tennessee, but that didn’t change anything. Florida couldn’t get anything going. Feleipe Franks only completed 17 of 38 passes and Florida only rushed for 128 yard.
    • Kentucky’s last scoring play was one of the weirdest you will ever see – Franks fumbled as he was dropping his arm to pass, but the ball somehow went 15 yards downfield through the air. No whistle was blown nor did any referee signal an incomplete pass so Kentucky’s Kent Davonte Robinson scooped the ball up and kind of wandered to the endzone with a Florida offensive lineman right next to him. As head coach Mark Stoops was screaming “GO!” on the sideline, Robinson sprinted to the endzone after almost giving the referee the ball, scoring six more points for the Wildcats. It was an ugly and weird finish to an ugly and weird game.
    • This is Kentucky’s first win over Florida since 1986.
  • Texas Tech Covers
    • This is too fun not to share. Texas Tech was a 76.5 point favorite against FCS Lamar. Erik Ezukanma’s touchdown catch with 8:47 remaining put TTU up 77-0 to cover.
  • Purdue Remains Weird
    • After looking quite good against a very talented Northwestern defense in Week 1, Purdue struggled mightily against Eastern Michigan yesterday, only managing 19 points despite racking up 476 total yards (I know total yards are meaningless, but the lack of conversion is shocking). They held Eastern to 2.2 yards per carry and only 3-13 on 3rd down conversions, but Eastern put together a late drive of 15 plays and 72 yards that was aided by a poorly timed personal foul – on 3rd and 8, Purdue LB Cornel Jones sacked EMU QB Tyler Wiegers, effectively ending the game but was called for a personal foul, giving the Eagles new life. They would continue driving, got another fresh set of downs via a Purdue pass interference penalty, and kicked the game winning field goal as time expired.
    • Regardless of the outcome of this game, Purdue should be worried – their defense allowed 347 passing yards and host Drew Lock and Missouri next weekend, who have one of the best passing offenses in the country.
    • Head coach Jeff Brohm insists on a two-quarterback system, though neither were noteworthy yesterday – Elijah Sindelar (18-30 against Northwestern with 3 picks) went 8-14 for 87 yards yesterday and David Blough went 6-10 for 48 yards. I know the weather played a part in those numbers, but I think something could come from sticking to one quarterback. But hey, Purdue is weird.
  • Big Ten Continuing To Impress…Not
    • Both Minnesota and Indiana had to pull some magic in the final minutes to escape with wins. Fresno State came into Minneapolis as one of the best G5 teams in the country, but was largely silent until late in the 3rd quarter when Minnesota WR Tyler Johnson fumbled on the Gopher 17-yard line, setting up a short field and an easy touchdown drive for Fresno State. The Bulldogs would score a big touchdown on their next drive, a 45-yard TD pass to take the lead, only to allow a 10-play, 74 yard Minnesota touchdown drive late in the 4th. Fresno was knocking on the door in the final minutes until Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield, Jr. had one of the most athletic interceptions you will ever see.
    • In a stormy game in Bloomington, Indiana went toe-to-toe with a very average Virginia team, who, by their own head coach’s estimation, is not an ACC caliber team. Virginia’s last drive was stifled until a very bad personal foul with no time remaining gave the Cavaliers a final untimed down. Virginia QB Bryce Perkins threw it a bit too far into the back of the endzone and the Hoosiers escaped an ugly game with a win to improve to 2-0.
  • Utah Escapes Late
    • Don’t let the score fool you. Utah defeated Northern Illinois on the road yesterday, 17-6, but NIU had them on the ropes late. With 6:51 remaining, NIU kicked a field goal to make the score 7-6 and Utah pulled away with two scoring drives to finish the game. At the time, I found this to be an interesting decision – 4th and 7 from the opponent’s 27-yard line down four points, and the field goal is the choice. I understand it, but I say go for it and let the defense hold Utah (as they had been all game, Utah only averaged 1.7 yards per carry) if they don’t convert. Utah escapes with an ugly win over a very good NIU team, but NIU had a chance to go for a huge P5 upset.
  • Same Story for the Aztecs
    • San Diego State may have won by two touchdowns, but it took some time to get there. Sacramento State took a 14-13 lead about halfway through the 3rd quarter, and it took SDSU until 4:05 left in the game to take the lead back. They would score an insurance touchdown late after Sacramento State turned the ball over on downs deep in their own territory, but SDSU doesn’t look good as my prediction of 2018 UCF.
  • What Even is UNC
    • North Carolina looked decent last week in a game against a solid Cal opponent. This week was….bad, losing to East Carolina 41-19. The Pirates rank 126th in 2018 S&P+ yet still shut out North Carolina in the 2nd half.
    • UNC failed to get a first down in 5 of their 7 second half possessions.
    • UNC also has their work cut out for them as McKenzie Milton and UCF’s offense come to town next weekend.
  • Other Quick Bullets
    • Illinois is 2-0!
    • Hawaii is 3-0!
    • New Mexico State does not look like they will be back in the bowl discussion this year. They are 0-3 and have been outscored 137-20.
    • After looking like butt for two straight weeks, Colorado State put together a beautiful drive in the final minutes to defeat Arkansas, 34-27, because college football is just so weird.

We did not learn too much about the best teams this week. Other than Clemson escaping from an incredibly tough Texas A&M atmosphere thanks to a fumble through the back of the endzone, every other Top 10 team save for Notre Dame won by double digits, and only 4 teams in the Top 25 lost (#15 Michigan State to Arizona State, #17 USC to #10 Stanford, #24 South Carolina to #3 Georgia, #25 Florida to Kentucky). Next week will likely be more of the same as the big powers are playing the last of their tune-up games before conference play begins in Week 4.

Thanks for reading While You Were Cheering!

Photo Credit: Frank Oliver/The Journal & Courier

Bill Getschman