25 Key Storylines To Watch in College Football Week 2
Dak Dillon-US PRESSWIRE
Week 1 of the 2012 college football season is officially in the books, which is good news for fans who don't enjoy watching boring blowout games.
While there were a few decent games in the first weekend of the season, it was mostly filled with top-ranked teams beating up on weak opponents.
There was also plenty of sloppy and ugly play, as a lot of teams seemed to have trouble adjusting to live game action.
Luckily, Week 2 should offer up a few more competitive contests and intriguing developments.
Here's a look at the 25 key storylines to watch in Week 2.
Missouri Makes Its SEC Debut Against Georgia
Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
Missouri will make its SEC debut on Saturday when the Tigers welcome SEC East foe Georgia to Columbia.
Both squads used Week 1 as an opportunity to beat up on bad teams, as Missouri beat Southern Louisiana, 62-10, while Georgia knocked off Buffalo, 45-23.
Bottom line: It's hard to judge how good either team really is just yet.
One thing's for sure, though; Missouri's James Franklin and Georgia's Aaron Murray are two of the top quarterbacks in the country, and it should be fun to watch them battle.
The Bulldogs may be ranked in the top 10, but the Tigers have the talent on defense with players such as DT Sheldon Richardson, DE Kony Ealy, linebackers Zaviar Gooden and Andrew Wilson and CB E.J. Gaines to slow down Murray and his dangerous supporting cast.
Ultimately, if Franklin plays up to his potential and proves that he's ready for the SEC stage, we could see the first big rankings-shaking upset of the season on Saturday night.
Texas A&M Makes Its SEC Debut Against Florida
Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE
Texas A&M will also make its SEC debut on Saturday when the Aggies host Florida for what should be one of the best matchups of the weekend.
New A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin may not have a proven quarterback, but he does have RB Christine Michael, WR Ryan Swope and one of the strongest offensive lines in the country to build his offense around.
Florida's defense has plenty of talent at all three levels, but slowing down Michael, Swope and the rest of the Aggies on the road will be easier said than done.
The Gators have to improve their passing attack from last week's poor showing, or else Texas A&M will simply stack the box and rely on star defenders like DE Damontre Moore and LB Sean Porter to shut down RB Mike Gillislee.
Keith Price and Washington Look To Pull off a Major Upset at LSU
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LSU is bigger, stronger and more athletic than Washington at almost every key position on the field. However, the Huskies do have one advantage, and that's at quarterback.
Keith Price is one of the best signal-callers in the country, and he has the explosive arm talent that could really test the Tigers' talented yet inexperienced secondary.
The problem is, the Huskies defense just isn't good enough to shut down LSU's many offensive weapons such as running backs Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue and speedy sophomore receiver Odell Beckham.
If Price puts together a performance like the one we saw from him in last year's Alamo Bowl, when he outdueled Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, the Huskies might be able to hang around for four quarters.
In the end, though, it just doesn't look like Washington will have enough defensive difference makers to go into Death Valley at night and pull off a monumental upset.
USC Heads to the East Coast
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
It's not often that USC makes the trip to the East Coast.
This weekend, though, the Tri-State Area will finally get an up-close look at the Trojans when they battle Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
The Orange are a big four-touchdown underdog, but it should be interesting to see if the change in time zones affects the Southern California crew.
USC's offense was firing on all cylinders last weekend in a 49-10 beatdown of Hawaii, while Syracuse lost a 42-41 heartbreaker to Northwestern.
QB Matt Barkley and his explosive receiver duo of Marqise Lee and Robert Woods will be looking to put on another show on Saturday as they try to wow the East Coast crowd and prove that they belong in the conversation to be the top-ranked team in the country.
Michigan Has To Bounce Back After a Week 1 Disaster
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Whooped, dominated, destroyed—there are a lot of different words you could use to describe what happened to Michigan at Cowboys Stadium last Saturday night. The only word that the Wolverines need to focus on, though, is future.
The embarrassing 41-14 blowout loss to Alabama in front of a prime-time national audience is now in the past, and there's no use in worrying about it now.
The fact is, Michigan is 0-1, not 0-12. The season is certainly far from over, and the goal of winning a Big Ten title is still very much alive.
It's up to coach Brady Hoke to get his team refocused on the future, and that starts with a matchup against Air Force this weekend.
Michigan is a better team than the one we saw against the Tide. Now, the Wolverines just have to figure out how to make the most of their talent.
Wisconsin Faces a Tricky Road Test at Oregon State
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Wisconsin has been known for having meltdowns on the road in recent years.
In fact, during Bret Bielema's six years as head coach, the Badgers are just 16-12 in true road games.
That means Bielema better have his team properly prepared for its trip to Corvallis to play Oregon State this weekend.
The Beavers may be coming off a disappointing 3-9 campaign in 2011, but they've got some dangerous impact players such as QB Sean Mannion and WR Markus Wheaton who could make this game interesting.
Last year, Wisconsin shut out Oregon State in Madison, 35-0, but remember, that was Mannion's first real extensive game action.
If the Badgers aren't careful, this game could be a lot closer than expected.
Auburn Hopes To Avoid an 0-2 Start
Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
Auburn's new starting QB, Kiehl Frazier, stunk up the Georgia Dome in the team's 26-19 loss to Clemson in Week 1, but he wasn't the only player who underperformed.
The Tigers defense also had a pretty bad outing as well, giving up 528 total yards.
Frazier completed just 11 passes for 194 yards, threw an interception, got sacked twice and just looked lost in general.
The sophomore signal-caller really needs to step his game up this Saturday, or Auburn's going to start the season 0-2.
The Tigers will make the trip to Starkville to battle a Mississippi State squad that has some legitimate playmakers on both sides of the ball.
QB Tyler Russell and RB LaDarius Perkins are definitely going to cause problems for Auburn's undisciplined defense.
Plus, if Frazier continues to throw the ball like he did against Clemson last week, Mississippi State defensive backs Johnthan Banks, Corey Broomfield and Nickoe Whitley are going to have a field day.
Miami Will Try To Slow Down Collin Klein
Scott Sewell-US PRESSWIRE
Miami's defense looked underwhelming in the season opener against Boston College.
The Hurricanes gave up 537 total yards and 32 points to a Boston College team that ranked dead last in the ACC in both scoring offense and total offense last season.
Sure, Al Golden's squad came away with a 41-32 victory, but if the defense plays like that against Kansas State, they're going to get crushed in Manhattan on Saturday.
QB Collin Klein is one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in college football, and he's the type of playmaker who could single-handedly embarrass a weak defense.
Even if Miami can keep Klein contained, the defense is still going to have to figure out how to slow down Kansas State's emerging star running back John Hubert, who ran for 152 yards on just 12 carries last week.
Klein and Hubert are the type of dynamic offensive duo that's going to put Miami's defense to the test on Saturday.
Game 2 of the Bill O’Brien Era Will Be Another Big Challenge
Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
The Bill O'Brien era at Penn State didn't start off in encouraging fashion, as the Nittany Lions dropped their season opener to Ohio, 24-14.
Now, O'Brien will have to take his team on the road to play a Virginia team that's better than a lot of people give it credit for.
The Cavaliers have some dangerous firepower at the offensive skill positions with QB Michael Rocco, running backs Perry Jones and Kevin Parks and receivers Darius Jennings and Tim Smith.
Penn State's offense, on the other hand, looked awful in the second half against the Bobcats last week.
The unit clearly misses the presence of RB Silas Redd and WR Justin Brown, who both transferred during the offseason.
If the Nittany Lions offense doesn't figure out how to correct some of its glaring flaws, their season could slide downhill in a hurry.
Everett Golson Faces a Quality Purdue Defense
Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE
Everett Golson looked solid but not exactly spectacular in his first game as a starter last Saturday.
Golson completed 12 of his 18 passes for 144 yards and threw a touchdown in Notre Dame's 50-10 win over Navy in Ireland.
The redshirt freshman must play well against Purdue, though, because the Boilermakers have the type of talent on defense to really cause some major havoc for the Irish.
The team's two athletic defensive tackles, Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston, are both capable of breaking into the backfield and applying consistent pressure, and cornerback Ricardo Allen is a relentless ball hawk.
Golson doesn't have to beat Purdue all by himself, but he's going to have to make sure that he takes care of the ball and doesn't make any critical mistakes.
South Carolina’s Offense Has To Improve
Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE
South Carolina's offense could only muster up 17 points and 272 yards against Vanderbilt last week, but the Gamecocks managed to do enough to come away with an ugly victory.
That kind of offensive effort sure isn't going to win an SEC championship this season.
RB Marcus Lattimore may be a star, but given that he's just 10 months removed from knee surgery, he can't be expected to carry the offense by himself.
QB Connor Shaw is an athletic and intriguing signal-caller, but he has to show that he can stay healthy and guide the offense to consistent success.
Shaw, Lattimore and the rest of the Gamecocks will have the chance to show some improvement this Saturday, when they welcome East Carolina to Williams-Brice Stadium.
Can Nevada Beat Another BCS Team?
Nevada QB Cody Fajardo
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Nevada pulled off a surprising upset last week when the Wolf Pack beat Cal on the road, 31-24.
Chris Ault's squad will hope to take down another BCS school again this weekend when the South Florida Bulls visit Reno.
QB Cody Fajardo, who totaled 327 yards of offense in the season opener, is one of college football's hidden gems, and he's the type of dual-threat quarterback that could cause fits for the Bulls defense.
South Florida QB B.J. Daniels better be ready to come to play on Saturday if he wants to go toe-to-toe with Fajardo.
Overall, the Bulls may be bigger and more athletic, but Nevada is a fundamentally sound and well-coached team that has enough offensive playmakers to pull off another statement victory over a BCS opponent on Saturday.
Taylor Martinez Wants To Show He's a Legitimate Heisman Contender
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
It looks like Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez heard the criticism about his passing prowess and decided to do something about it this offseason. He absolutely torched the Southern Miss secondary in the team's season opener.
Martinez completed 26 of his 34 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns in the 49-20 win, and he had the look of a legitimate Heisman contender.
The junior dual-threat signal-caller will now try to build off his opening-game success when Nebraska makes the trip to Los Angeles to battle UCLA this weekend.
If Martinez can put together another solid performance and lead the Cornhuskers to a big non-conference road win on Saturday, his Heisman buzz should continue to grow.
Mike Glennon and David Amerson Both Have Something to Prove
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Two of the most disappointing players from Week 1 were North Carolina State teammates QB Mike Glennon and CB David Amerson.
During the Wolfpack's 35-21 loss to Tennessee, neither Glennon nor Amerson looked like the potential high NFL draft picks that many thought they were.
Glennon threw four interceptions and coughed up a fumble that turned into a safety, while Amerson was burned for two long touchdown passes in the first half.
They'll each have the chance to redeem themselves against Connecticut this weekend.
So far, though, their early struggles have to be concerning to NFL scouts.
Will Central Florida Spoil Urban Meyer’s Party?
Rob Leifheit-US PRESSWIRE
Central Florida is one of the most talented non-BCS teams in college football, and the Knights started off their 2012 campaign in strong fashion by beating up on Akron, 56-14.
Now, they'll have the opportunity to show just how good they really are when they head to Columbus to take on Ohio State.
The Buckeyes had a strong performance in their season opener, and Urban Meyer has received plenty of praise around campus so far. However, it will be interesting to see how his team handles the step up in competition this weekend.
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller has a tendency to be hot and cold, and if he's off his game, UCF has the talent to make things interesting.
How Will Todd Gurley and T.J. Yeldon Follow Up Their Fantastic First Games?
Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE
It looks like two freshman running backs—Georgia's Todd Gurley and Alabama's T.J. Yeldon—will both play a key role in the SEC race this season.
Both Gurley and Yeldon started off their collegiate careers with sensational performances in their debut games.
Georgia's freshman back ran for 100 yards on just eight carries and scored three touchdowns, while Alabama's first-year rusher totaled 137 total yards of offense and scored a touchdown.
It should be interesting to see how the young budding stars follow up their breakout performances.
Can Arizona Avenge Last Year’s Blowout Loss to Oklahoma State?
Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
Last year, Arizona lost 37-14 to Oklahoma State, but that score should be a lot closer this time around.
The Wildcats have one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country, senior Matt Scott, leading new coach Rich Rodriguez's offense.
Plus, they have enough talent on defense to cause plenty of problems for Oklahoma State's true freshman QB Wes Lunt, who will be making his first start on the road.
Oklahoma State is the better and more complete overall team, but if Lunt struggles, Scott could take advantage and help the Wildcats avenge last year's embarrassing loss.
Stanford Can’t Afford Another Disappointing Performance
Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
Everyone was expecting that Stanford would experience a drop-off this season after losing star quarterback Andrew Luck, but no one expected the Cardinal to almost get upset by San Jose State in Week 1.
Luck's replacement Josh Nunes only threw for 125 yards in the 20-17 victory.
It's clear that Nunes is going to need to break out of his shell and put up bigger passing numbers against Duke this weekend, especially since he'll be squaring off with the underrated passing combo of QB Sean Renfree and WR Conner Vernon.
If Nunes fails to get the ball down the field again on Saturday, the Blue Devils may end up putting another big scare into the Cardinal, just like the Spartans did last week.
Pittsburgh’s Defense Has To Step Up
Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Pittsburgh wasn't the only FBS team that lost to an FCS opponent in Week 1, but the Panthers' defeat was definitely the most embarrassing.
New coach Paul Chryst's squad was outcoached and outplayed in basically every facet of the game by Youngstown State in the 31-17 loss at home last Saturday.
The defense gave up 381 total yards to the Penguins, which is completely unacceptable.
After watching that lackluster performance, Cincinnati wide receivers Anthony McClung and Kenbrell Thompkins have to be licking their chops for their upcoming matchup with the Panthers.
Northwestern vs. Vanderbilt Could Be Fun
Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE
Northwestern and Vanderbilt clearly don't have the talent to compete for conference championships this season. However, both teams have enough playmakers on offense to at least be fun to watch in 2012.
Wildcats QB Kain Colter and Commodores QB Jordan Rodgers are both solid, mobile signal-callers who can create big plays with both their arms and legs.
This game isn't necessarily a marquee matchup, but don't be surprised if it turns out to be one of the most entertaining games of Week 2.
Can Washington State’s Offense Get on Track?
Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
Mike Leach's return to the sideline at Washington State turned out to be a nightmare instead of the triumph that Cougars fans were hoping for.
Leach's offense looked nothing like the explosive attacks that we were used to seeing at Texas Tech, as the team mustered up just six points and 224 yards in a blowout loss to BYU.
Neither QB Jeff Tuel nor WR Marquess Wilson looked as good as advertised, and the offense as a whole just seemed to lack the necessary weapons it takes to succeed.
Tuel and Wilson both have to step up in the coming weeks in order for Washington State's offense to get on track, and that starts with the team's matchup with Eastern Washington this Saturday.
Tim Beckman Takes Illinois on the Road for the First Time
Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE
First-year Illinois head coach Tim Beckman already has his first win under his belt as the leader of the Illini.
Now, he'll have to get his team ready for a tough road test at Arizona State.
Injured starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase's status for the game is still uncertain, according to Beckman in his weekly news conference (h/t Colleen Kane, Chicago Tribune). If he isn't ready to go, then it will be up to Reilly O'Toole to step in and lead the team in what should be a pretty hostile environment.
The Illini have all the pieces to put together a strong defensive performance on a weekly basis, but if Scheelhaase is out, the offense could struggle, especially on the road.
Who Is the Best Team in the State of Iowa?
Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE
This weekend, in-state rivals Iowa and Iowa State will battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy as well as state bragging rights when they square off in Iowa City.
The Hawkeyes have won 21 of the last 29 meetings, but last year the Cyclones pulled off a 44-41 upset at home.
If this year's game resembles the wild 2011 affair, this should be one of the most entertaining matchups of Week 2.
How Many Points Will Oregon Score?
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Oregon's offense lost its two key players from 2011—RB LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas. However, you wouldn't have known after watching the Ducks dismantle Arkansas State's defense on opening weekend.
Led by new QB Marcus Mariota and dynamic and versatile playmaker De'Anthony Thomas, the Ducks rolled up 50 first-half points on the Red Wolves before taking their foot off the gas.
The team finished with 606 yards of total offense.
Judging from that performance, it seems like Oregon's offense should be just fine with Mariota, Thomas, RB Kenjon Barner and WR Josh Huff leading the way in 2012.
The Ducks' next victim is Fresno State, a team that gave up an average of 35 points per game last year.
Look for Mariota, Thomas and the rest of the offense to once again pad their stats this weekend against the Bulldogs.
How Many Points Will Savannah State Give Up?
Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE
Savannah State gave up 84 points last week.
Florida State scored 69 points last week.
Obviously, it doesn't take a mathematical genius to realize that the Tigers are going to be in a world of hurt this Saturday.
The program will reportedly earn $860,000 (via Chris Gay of The Augusta Chronicle) for taking a beating from Oklahoma State and Florida State to start off the 2012 season.
I guess the lesson we can all learn from this is that you really can put a price on dignity.