Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, September 4, 2017
This shapes up as a terrific Saturday dotted with myriad big game. All eyes are on Oklahoma?s visit to Ohio State, which won in Norman last year. How will OU do with 33-year-old Lincoln Riley having taken over for Bob Stoops? This could be a preview of a playoff game. Thank you, Football Gods!
Here is a look at the Best of Week 2.
Best game: Oklahoma at Ohio State. Whoa, Nellie! This is gonna be sweet. The Buckeyes won last season in Norman, 45-24, so you know OU will be stoked for payback. Adding intrigue is the fact former Sooner offensive coordinator and Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is in his first season as Ohio State?s OC. So, a week after he faced the Hoosiers in the season opener, he takes on another former employee in Oklahoma.
Best head coach matchup: Duke?s David Cutcliffe vs. Northwestern?s Pat Fitzgerald. Cutcliffe is entering his 10th season in Durham and has built a fine program, going to four bowls in a row before a 4-8 mark in 2016. This is the third meeting in a row between these two prestigious institutions, as NU has won both in 2015 and 2016. In fact, the Wildcats have won three in a row vs. the Blue Devils. Fitz is aiming for a third bowl in a row and has a team that looks capable of winning the West.
Best coordinator clash: Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead VS. Pitt?s Pat Narduzzi, who runs the Panther defense. Moorhead had a monster impact on the Nittany Lion attack last year, making it one of the nation?s best during a run to the Big Ten title. And his attack notched 52 points in the opener vs. Akron. Narduzzi built some dynamite defenses at Michigan State. How will he slow down Penn State, which is looking to avenge last year?s 42-39 loss at Pitt?
Best QB battle: Ohio State?s J.T. Barrett vs. Oklahoma?s Baker Mayfield. This is a Heisman contender showdown. Barrett had his moments in an opening 49-21 win at Indiana, hitting 20-of-35 passes for 304 yards with three TDs. And he ran for 61 yards and a score. Mayfield was spectacular in a 56-7 win vs. UTEP, hitting 19-of-20 passes with three TDs.
Best chance for an upset: Michigan State vs. Western Michigan. The Spartans need to be careful with the Broncos coming to town. Yes, P.J. Fleck has rowed off to Minnesota, but WMU still has lots of talent under new boss Tim Lester. The Broncos gave USC all it could handle last week in the L.A. Coliseum. The Spartans looked dominating in an opening win vs. Bowling Green. But this will be a big step up in completion. MSU has won the last 10 meetings vs. the Broncos.
Player on the spot: Nebraska QB Tanner Lee. He will need a big game if the Cornhuskers want to leave Oregon with a win a week after NU squeaked by Arkansas State, 43-36. The Tulane transfer hit 19-of-32 passes for 238 yards and two TDs in his Husker debut. The new NU 3-4 defense has a lot to prove after getting shredded last week. If the Huskers struggled to stop the Red Wolves, how will they stop the mighty Ducks?
WEEK 2 GAME RANKINGS
1. Oklahoma at Ohio State
2. Nebraska at Oregon
3. Pitt at Penn State
4. Northwestern at Duke
5. Iowa at Iowa State
6. Minnesota at Oregon State
7. Indiana at Virginia
8. Cincinnati at Michigan
9. Ohio at Purdue (Friday)
10. Western Michigan at Michigan State
11. Western Kentucky at Illinois
12. Florida Atlantic at Wisconsin
13. Eastern Michigan at Rutgers
14. Towson at Maryland
More Week 2 notes:
- Two schools will play in the state of Oregon, with Nebraska in Eugene (Ducks) and Minnesota in Corvallis (Beavers). FCS games? Maryland plays Towson. And Michigan State (Western Michigan), Rutgers (Eastern Michigan) and Purdue (Ohio) are dancing with the MAC. Want more? Five of the 14 schools are on the road. And there are seven games vs. Power Five leagues.
- The Cornhuskers beat the Ducks last year in Lincoln, 35-32, but that was an Oregon squad that went on to finish 4-8 and missed a bowl for the first time since 2004. UO coach Mark Helfrich was fired and the school tabbed Willie Taggart from South Florida to assume command. NU coach Mike Riley knows Oregon well from his days as head coach at Oregon State.
- Minnesota is at Oregon State. The Gophers beat the Beavers last year. Expect Oregon State to be improved under Gary Andersen, the former Wisconsin coach who won two games his first year in Corvallis and four last season. This will be Minnesota?s first trip to Oregon State, as the four previous meetings all were in Minneapolis. The Gophers are 3-1.
- We also have some rivalry games, with Pitt at Penn State and Iowa at Iowa State. Pitt and Penn State renewed their rivalry last year after it was dormant since 2000. Thank goodness. College football is better when these schools clash. The Panthers toppled the Nittany Lions last season, 42-39. You know Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi will have his team ready to invade Beaver Stadium. Pitt has not been to State College since 1999, the last time Penn State beat the Panthers. And Pitt hasn?t won there since 1988, losing the last four visits. The battle for Cy-Hawk is a blast, as fans from Council Bluffs to Keokuk get jacked up. Iowa has won the last two meetings and three of the last four in Ames.
- Illinois needs to be careful when Western Kentucky comes to Memorial Stadium. The Hilltoppers lost coach Jeff Brohm, who took the Purdue job. But he had Western Kentucky rolling, going 31-10 the last three seasons with three bowl games and two league titles. The Hilltoppers won C-USA in 2016, going 11-3.
- IU?s game at UVa is interesting. Yes, the Cavaliers have been to just one bowl (2011) since 2007 and are coming off a 2-10 season. Still, this is an ACC program. So, there is talent. And Bronco Mendenhall is a good coach beginning his second season. He built a strong program at BYU before coming to UVa. Complicating matters for Indiana is the fact the trip to Charlottesville comes on the heels of a tough and emotional season-opening loss to Ohio State. Indiana and Virginia have played just two times. The Cavaliers won both encounters, 47-7 in Charlottesville in 2009 and 34-31 in Bloomington in 2011.
- Will Michigan have a letdown after that big win vs. Florida? Cincinnati is next. The Bearcats are coached by former Buckeye assistant and player Luke Fickell.
- Purdue needs to be careful on Friday night in Ross-Ade Stadium when Ohio visits. The Bobcats are a top MAC program under 72-year-old Frank Solich, who is in his 13th season in Athens owning an 88-67 mark, eight bowls and four division titles. One of those championships came in 2016, when Ohio went 8-6. It would be far from a shock to see the Bobcats leave Ross-Ade Stadium with a victory. The schools last met in 1988, with Purdue prevailing in West Lafayette.
- Florida Atlantic and new coach Lane Kiffin come to Madison. This is excellent. Once the fastest-rising coaching star in America, Kiffin finds his career in reverse at age 42. The man who once coached the Raiders, Tennessee and USC and most recently was offensive coordinator at Alabama is now running a C-USA program. Kiffin takes over for former Wisconsin assistant Charlie Partridge, who was ousted after posting three consecutive 3-9 seasons. The Owl program was berthed in 2001 with Howard Schnellenberger as the first coach and has just two bowl appearances, the last being in 2008.