Clear Your Schedule 2017 | Week 2

By Brian Wilmer -

What a week.  After a downright chaotic Saturday of college football, we were treated to a Sunday of college football, during which I tweeted:

This happened shortly after UCLA completed its ridiculous comeback that likely cost Kevin Sumlin his job (eventually, not immediately).  I’m not a UCLA die-hard or anything, but I root for chaos.  It’s hard to get more chaotic than that — of course, until Paul Johnson decided to go for two Monday night in a failed attempt to get a win before the Ramblin’ Wreck was actually required to go for two.  That led me to tweet:

I may be asking the same of the games I chose for this feature.  Let’s review:

South Carolina 35, NC State 28
Michigan 33, Florida 17
Alabama 24, Florida State 7
LSU 27, BYU 0
Virginia Tech 31, West Virginia 24
Tennessee 42, Georgia Tech 41 (2OT)

We have six more games to break down this week — all written, so no heckling the narrator — right after this trivia question!

Trivia question, Week 2 (answer at the end of the column):  Liberty defeated Baylor, 48-45, last week to defeat its first-ever Power 5 opponent.  Against which three other FBS opponents did Liberty record victories since 2010?

Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)

Nebraska (1-0) at Oregon (1-0)
4:30pm | FOX

  • A familiar face:  Nebraska coach Mike Riley has exited the tunnel at Autzen Stadium a few times.  Riley’s teams have won five of 15 faceoffs with Oregon clubs, and the Ducks will be looking to exact a bit of revenge against the Huskers.  Nebraska clipped Oregon, 35-32, last season in Lincoln, though first-year Ducks coach Willie Taggart was not a part of that decision.  This is the Huskers’ first trip to Oregon since their last — and only — visit on September 27, 1952.  That 28-13 decision was the first of Nebraska’s six wins in seven outings against Oregon, but that did not take place in Autzen Stadium.  The 1952 contest was played in Portland.
  • Royce rolls:  Oregon running back Royce Freeman is approaching some significant milestones.  Freeman’s 48 career trips to the end zone are one shy of Charles White (USC)’s fourth-best career conference mark, while he needs just four all-purpose yards to eclipse 5,000 for his career.  Freeman tallied 23 carries for 150 yards and four scores in a 77-21, season-opening victory over Southern Utah.
  • The big test:  We’ve seen already that the Oregon offense has suffered no ill effects from the coaching change, but the real exam comes this Saturday.  The Ducks’ run defense ranked 121st in 2016, surrendering 246.50 yards per game.  Nebraska will run Saturday.  They will run a lot.  The Huskers rushed for 225 yards in a 43-36 victory over Arkansas State last week, including 192 yards (on 31 carries) by sophomore running back Tre Bryant.  Bryant presents a challenge to a Ducks defense that allowed 228 yards on 47 carries (two scores) in last season’s loss to the Huskers.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Both teams’ defenses have many unanswered questions.  Whomever finds the answers first wins this one.

#13 Auburn (1-0) at #3 Clemson (1-0)
7:00pm | ESPN

  • Life after Deshaun:  Clemson fans were a bit concerned  about the potency of the Clemson offense after star quarterback Deshaun Watson headed off to Houston.  Those concerns were quieted — for the week, at least — by the performance of Kelly Bryant.  The 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior notched 313 yards of total offense, setting a Clemson record for total yardage by a quarterback in a season-opener.  Bryant connected on 16-of-22 throws for 238 yards, a score and a pick, combining with his 77 rushing yards on seven carries.  Freshmen Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper completed 9-of-12 passes in relief of Bryant, throwing for 76 combined yards and a score.
  • Grounding the Eagles:  No FBS team compiled fewer offensive yards against another FBS team last week than did Georgia Southern against Auburn.  GSU notched just 78 yards on 56 plays against the Tigers in their lid-lifter.  Auburn held its opponent to eight yards passing (4-for-8) and 70 yards rushing.  While it is clearly safe to say that Georgia Southern and Clemson are not exactly parallel opponents, Auburn’s defensive quickness will be a factor.  Linebacker Tre Williams notched 10 tackles and two sacks, while Marlon Davidson added two sacks of his own.
  • Tim’s tweets:  Any week in which we cover a Clemson game requires a note from one of the most legendary SIDs of all time, Clemson’s Tim Bourret.  Tim graces us with this tweet this week:

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Bryant and Stidham are at the top of the card for this one, but the defenses will be the main event.

#5 Oklahoma (1-0) at #2 Ohio State (1-0)
7:30pm | ABC

  • We owe you one:  Remember September 17, 2016? Oklahoma does.  Ohio State rolled the Sooners, 45-24, that day.  Oklahoma fell to 1-2 following the beatdown, but that was the last time the Sooners dropped a game.  J.T. Barrett made good on 14-of-20 passes for 152 yards and four scores nearly a year ago, adding 74 rushing yards on 17 carries.  Running back Mike Weber carried 18 times for 123 yards in last year’s contest, and is expected to be ready to face the Sooners this week after missing the season-opener.  OU’s Baker Mayfield completed just north of 50 percent of his passes in last year’s game, throwing for two touchdowns and two picks.  Interestingly, OU’s sports information department notes that Mayfield has never lost a non-neutral site road game in nine tries while wearing a Sooner jersey.
  • O is for Oklahoma, Ohio State…and offense:  Though admittedly reviewing a small sample size, this game features the nation’s third (Oklahoma) and thirteenth (Ohio State) most prolific offenses among FBS teams.  The Sooners and Buckeyes racked up a combined 1272 yards of total offense in week one victories, with Ohio State hovering dangerously close to becoming the fourth team in Tim’s tweet above (304 passing yards, 292 rushing).
  • Nearing a number:  Whenever J.T. Barrett is able to record three total touchdowns, he will take his place at the top of the Big Ten among its quarterbacks.  Barrett’s 104 total touchdowns are just two shy of Drew Brees’ conference record (106).  The two scores that separate the players could arguably be Brees’ two receiving touchdowns (one in his junior year, one his senior year) he recorded while at Purdue.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  If OU coach Lincoln Riley can get revenge for last year’s loss, a CFP bid looms quite likely — if the Sooners take care of business.

#15 Georgia (1-0) at #24 Notre Dame (1-0)
7:30pm | NBC

  • And the young shall lead them:  Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason will miss this contest with a left knee injury, leaving freshman Jake Fromm to man the ship for the Bulldogs.  Fromm completed 10-of-15 passes last week against Appalachian State, throwing for 143 yards and a touchdown.  Georgia coach Kirby Smart was equal parts complimentary and skeptical in his weekly presser, saying, “Sometimes it happens the unexpected way. You certainly don’t script that to happen that way. I thought he came in and managed the situation well. Every situation will be different because App State obviously wasn’t planning for him, so the next team probably will be. We know that. Jake Fromm is a mature freshman that’s going to be able to take over the offense and hopefully go out and execute. He’s got some good players around him. He’s got to use those guys.”  Eason will return later in the year, but will be unavailable Saturday.
  • Ground patrol:  Georgia’s rush defense will need to be on — pardon the pun — red alert Saturday night in South Bend.  The Irish saw three separate rushers all break the century mark last Saturday night, with running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams combining to tally 285 yards on the ground in a win over Temple.  Junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush carried 12 times for 106 yards, as well.  Georgia allowed 136 yards on 32 carries against App last week, holding mobile quarterback Taylor Lamb to 66 yards on 10 carries.
  • Slightly lower stakes:  This is the second time these teams have faced off, with the first serving as the backdrop for arguably the most significant moment in Georgia football history.  The 1981 Sugar Bowl saw the undefeated and top-ranked Dawgs fend off the Irish, 17-10, on January 1st, making Vince Dooley’s club the national champion.  The victory made Georgia the champs for the first time in 38 years.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Georgia is one of the trendy pundit picks this season.  Winning in South Bend would justify some of that confidence.

#14 Stanford (1-0) at #6 USC (1-0)
8:30pm | FOX

  • Seeing red:  For as much success as USC has enjoyed over Stanford in the history of this rivalry — the Trojans have won 58 of the 92 games played between the two, according to some sources, 60 of 95 according to others — Stanford has ruled the roost of late.  The Cardinal have won seven of the last 10, including the last three by double-figures.  One of those double-figure victories came at an inopportune time, with Stanford collecting a 41-22 victory in the 2015 Pac-12 title tilt.  Cody Kessler was under center for the Trojans the last time they collected a defeat of the Cardinal, a 13-10 decision on September 6, 2014.
  • You again:  USC’s sports information department notes that sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold has thrown for greater than 200 yards in 11 straight games.  The last time Darnold fell short of doubling the century mark? That would be in last season’s loss to the Cardinal.  Darnold completed 5-of-7 passes for 45 yards last season against the Cardinal, in relief of now-Pitt passer Max Browne.
  • Made with Love:  The Cardinal are missing all-everything back Christian McCaffrey, as he now dons black and blue for the Carolina Panthers.  Junior Bryce Love proved quite capable in his stead against Rice in his team’s first game in Australia, carrying 13 times for 180 yards in a 62-7 win.  Love’s duty was somewhat limited last season against USC, carrying just 11 times for 51 yards.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Stanford has owned this series of late, but this seems to be the time for USC to again wrest control — of the series and league.

Boise State (1-0) at #20 Washington State (1-0)
10:30pm | ESPN

  • That’s…different:  Boise faces another team from — as their sports information department calls it — the Autonomous Five this week.  (Author’s note:  I’m not sure if I want to imagine the Autonomous Five as a new rock band, a group of fledgling superheroes, or something else.)  The Broncos have lost only to Baylor among Power Five (yeah, that sounds better) schools in their past six tries, winning 14 of their last 20 against such foes overall.  One of those wins came against Wazzu last year (31-28), the Broncos’ first such win against the Cougars in five outings.
  • Falk-in good:  Washington State quarterback Luke Falk will look to again light up the Broncos.  Falk completed 55-of-71 throws against Boise State last year, going for 480 yards and four scores.  Granted, this was in a losing effort, but it helped Falk reach a record he broke in last week’s contest.  Falk eclipsed Connor Halliday’s career touchdown passes mark in his team’s win over Montana State, throwing for his 90th, 91st and 92nd career scores.  He will now set his sights on former USC signal-caller Matt Barkley’s career league record of 116.
  • Limiting the Pirate’s ravaging:  Boise State’s sports information department notes that this will be the second Air Raid team against whom the Broncos have faced off this year.  While this is true, it’s not wholly representative — Troy finished last season 37th in the land in passing offense, while the Cougars finished third.  That said, the Bronco defense did keep Troy largely under wraps last week, as the Trojans completed just 17 of their 34 passes for 139 yards.  None of those 17 passes found the end zone.  That same physical, pressing defense will be an absolute requirement against the Cougars, with Reid Harrison-Ducros (4 tackles, sack, pass break-up last week against Troy) particularly worthy of attention Saturday night.

Print that, tweet that, whatever:  Other games may get more national love, but this will be the most fun game to watch Saturday.  Look for another close one.

Trivia answer:  We asked earlier:   Liberty defeated Baylor, 48-45, last week to defeat its first-ever Power 5 opponent.  Against which three other FBS opponents did Liberty record victories since 2010?

Liberty defeated Ball State 27-23 in 2010, Appalachian State 55-48 in 2014 and Georgia State 41-33 in 2015.

Quick note:  To all of you in the path of Hurricane Irma — including me, potentially — please be safe.  May you and yours escape this storm as unscathed as possible.

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Until next week, football fans! Thanks for reading!