College Football Rankings 2012 Week 2: Teams That Will Improve After Slow Start

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 01:  Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines throws the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Cowboys Stadium on September 1, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

College football's opening week did not feature many upsets, but it did feature some teams that will need much better performances to keep their spot in the polls.

Coaches will tell you that a team does the most improving between Week 1 and 2 of the season. Of course, phrases like this are usually uttered by a coach that is in shock at how poorly his team played in Week 1 and hopes to see his words of wisdom come true the following week.

Fortunately for some, the improvement does come. Whether it be because of first-game jitters, a new system in place or just a plain, old-fashioned underestimated opponent, we do see teams struggle in their opener only to live up to their potential as the season goes on.

These teams looked awfully sluggish to open the season but should look much better in Week 2.


Wisconsin Badgers

The Wisconsin Badgers are the favorites to take home the Big Ten Championship this season, but they certainly didn't look like it against the FCS Northern Iowa Panthers.

The Badgers needed a pass deflection late in the fourth quarter on fourth down to keep the Panthers from making an impressive comeback that came up just short as the Badgers won 26-21. The close score was the kind of near-upset that made fans do a double take at the scoreboard, especially given the early dominance that put the Badgers up 26-7.

Surprisingly, it was Montee Ball that had a disappointing game. He averaged a mere 3.8 yards per carry against the Panthers, needing 32 carries to get to 120 yards. 

Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien played brilliantly, completing 19-of-23 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns.

With Oregon State up this week, expect Ball to return to form and dominate the Beavers. Considering O'Brien fit right into the Badgers offense, they should be balanced like they were last season when they beat the Beavers 35-0.


Michigan Wolverines

Staying in the Big Ten, the Michigan Wolverines can't get any worse than they looked last week.

Alabama rolled into Arlington, Texas and flattened Michigan in the season opener, letting the whole country know that their Big Ten foe was nowhere near their level.

However, the news isn't all bad for Michigan—they won't face a team like Alabama the rest of the season. The Crimson Tide brought a level of physicality on defense that few in the country can bring and it took away MIchigan's greatest weapon on offense, the speed of Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith.

In Week 2 the Wolverines have a great opportunity to pick up the pieces and prepare themselves for a run in the Big Ten as they get running back Fitzgerald Toussaint back after his one-game suspension and get a highly beatable opponent in Air Force.

Look for Michigan to shake off the cobwebs from its beating in Texas and utilize that offensive speed to pile up the rushing yards and scores against the Falcons.


Stanford Cardinal

Fans of the Cardinal already miss Andrew Luck, that much is certain after the Cardinal were nearly upset by a feisty San Jose State team 20-17.

Junior quarterback Josh Nunes, who won the starting position over sophomore Brett Nottingham, didn't look good and his stat line proved it. He was 16-for-26 passing for a lowly 125 yards and one touchdown. While these numbers were definitely underwhelming, there's reason for the Cardinal faithful to believe there will be a nice rebound against the Duke Blue Devils in Week 2.

Nunes didn't wow anyone at the quarterback position, but he didn't lose the game either. He threw no interceptions and completed over 60 percent of his passes. Running back Stepfan Taylor was the backbone of the offense going for over 100 yards and providing some consistency.

With the first game out of the way, Nunes can focus on making a few more throws down the field and lead the Cardinal to a more convincing win at home.