Top 10 College Football Games to Watch in Week 2

Josh SachnoffContributor IIISeptember 7, 2013

Top 10 College Football Games to Watch in Week 2

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    It will be tough to top last week's slate of games, but Week 2 of college football will still feature three important matchups.

    There are lower profile matchups, such as games like Syracuse vs. Northwestern and Texas vs. BYU, but the big three of the day will consist of state bragging rights, division title implications and a bitter rivalry that will be coming to an end after 2014. 

    The Florida Gators will head into Miami (FL) in an in-state battle that has not taken place since 2008, while South Carolina travels to Athens to take on a Georgia Bulldog team that will be looking to bounce back after a tough loss at Clemson last Saturday. The game of the day will take place under the lights at "The Big House," between Notre Dame and Michigan. 

    With Week 2 on its way, here are the Top 10 games to watch on Saturday.

Florida at Miami (FL)

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    No. 12 Florida @ Miami (FL), 12:00 PM ET ESPN

    The two in-state rivals haven’t played since 2008. That was when Tim Tebow was still running the show in Gainesville under head coach Urban Meyer. The Gators won convincingly 26-3 in the Swamp.

    Florida will travel to Miami this time though, where they haven't played since 2003. 

    This will be the best early game of the day. The Gators are determined to prove they are still the team to beat in the state of Florida, and Miami is looking to get back into the national spotlight with a win over the No. 12 team in the country.

    Florida had six players suspended for last week’s home opener against Toledo, including potential All-SEC cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy. Purifoy will be back this week, along with running back Matt Jones, who had been suffering from a viral infection.

    The Gators tend to not score a lot of points offensively and win by defensively shutting down opponent’s offenses.

    It could get interesting, though. The Canes’ have potential All-American running back Duke Johnson, who rushed for 186 yards and one touchdown last week against Florida Atlantic. 

    If the stout Gator defense can somehow maintain Johnson in the backfield and lock down quarterback Stephen Morris from getting the ball to his receivers, Florida will be in business.

    Florida was the fourth-best team in the nation at defending the run last season.

    The Gators don't generally blow out opponents and likely won’t blow out "The U" either, but they'll win by a comfortable 11 points.

     

    Prediction: Florida 28, Miami 17

Cincinnati at Illinois

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    Cincinnati @ Illinois, 12:00 PM ET ESPN2 

    This is a game that many people will likely underestimate. As sad is it sounds, this is a big home game for Illinois

    The Illini could have been the ninth FBS team to fall victim to an FCS team last week, but held on late to defeat Southern Illinois 42-34. 

    On the other hand, Tommy Tuberville’s Cincinnati Bearcats manhandled Big Ten foe Purdue on the road 42-7. 

    There is a solid chance this will turn into an offensive affair, especially for Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux, who has the opportunity to pick apart a younger and inexperienced Illini secondary unit through the air.

    With the Bearcat offense being more than capable of scoring points, a lot will be on the shoulders of Illinois senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after passing for 416 yards and two touchdowns. 

    Don’t expect Cincinnati to manhandle Illinois on the road like they did to Purdue last week. It should be a much tighter game between these two teams. 

     

    Prediction: Cincinnati 35, Illinois 27

     

Oregon at Virginia

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    No. 2 Oregon @ Virginia, 3:30 PM ET ABC/ESPN2

    Even under new head coach Mark Helfrich, the Ducks offense seemed to be just as explosive as when Chip Kelly was at the helm.

    It was only Nicholls State, but no one can take away a 66-3 win where the Oregon put up 772 total yards of offense, a new school record, and running back De'Anthony Thomas rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns. 

    Virginia knocked off BYU 19-16 with a late 13-yard touchdown run by Kevin Parks with 2:36 remaining in the game last Saturday. 

    The Cavaliers will come in with a little momentum on Saturday after their big win last week, but pulling off a second consecutive win against No. 2 Oregon is going to be difficult. 

    The Virginia defense is going to have its hand's full with all of the speed on the ground. The Ducks are expected to debut highly touted freshman running back Thomas Tyner, who will add to an already dangerous running game consisting of Thomas and Byron Marshall.  

    Virginia's offense must put up more than the 19 points they had against BYU, and take long drives down the field to eat up the clock. If Parks and the offense cannot do any of the following, it's going to be a struggle to go score for score with one of the best offenses in college football. 

    The Ducks have started off slow in games when traveling east, specifically Purdue in 2008 and Tennessee in 2010. Virginia will need to hope that traveling two timezones over will affect them, because if not, Marcus Mariota and the Oregon offense will roll all over them by the second half.

     

    Prediction: Oregon 48, Virginia 16

South Carolina at Georgia

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    No. 6 South Carolina @ No. 11 Georgia, 4:30 PM ET ESPN

    This is a critical SEC game that will likely decide who wins the SEC East Division and advances to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta on Dec. 7. 

    A game that is generally close became a blowout last season when South Carolina dismantled Georgia 35-7 at home. This was the Bulldogs third-straight loss to the Gamecocks. 

    The ol' ball coach Steve Spurrier had his team ready for last Thursday. The Gamecocks quickly took control against North Carolina and didn't care to look back.

    Even with the convincing 27-10 win, the attention was on star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s opening performance, where he appeared to be tired. Don’t expect the same performance from Clowney this week though, as he will likely be a big threat to a Georgia offensive line that gave up four sacks last week against Clemson. 

    With South Carolina having momentum heading into Athens, Georgia can’t afford to be out of sync offensively or defensively, because the Gamecocks will take advantage of their weaknesses.

    Losing wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell was a major blow for the offense, but Aaron Murray will manage to find new targets. The backfield consisting of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall should open up the passing game, because of the threat they pose to opposing team’s defenses. 

    This won't be anything like last year’s game. Expect a score-heavy game that goes back and forth throughout the entire game. In the end though, Georgia head coach Mark Richt will be able to sleep a lot easier Saturday night knowing that his team bounced back against No. 6 South Carolina and will have the opportunity to control their own destiny in the SEC East Division.

     

    Prediction: Georgia 35, South Carolina 31 

Syracuse at Northwestern

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    Syracuse @ No. 19 Northwestern, 6:00 PM ET Big Ten Network

    These two teams played the most exciting game in Week 1 last season. Northwestern blew a 22-point lead with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter, but managed to come back in the final minute to win 42-41 in the Carrier Dome. 

    Syracuse will be seeking revenge from last season’s game, as well as on the Big Ten, after losing last week’s game to Penn State 23-17. The Orange need to improve offensively after only putting up 260 total yards on the Nittany Lions. 

    Northwestern had trouble putting Cal away on the road last week, but eventually scored with 1:51 in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach at 44-30.

    The Wildcats will be dealing with a few key injuries. Quarterback Kain Colter suffered a mild concussion on the second play of last week’s game and is day-to-day. Starting running back Venric Mark likely won't be 100 percent, as he deals with a hamstring injury.  

    Northwestern's offense will rely on quarterback Trevor Siemian and running back Treyvon Green, who had a big performance against Cal by rushing for 129 yards and two touchdowns. 

    Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats seem to struggle on the road in their opening games, but steadily improve once they return home to Evanston, where they have won 13 consecutive non-conference games. The streak began in 2008 against, ironically enough, Syracuse. 

    With the fire power of the Northwestern offense, as well as a defense that had two interceptions returned for touchdowns last Saturday, there is no doubt the home-winning streak hits 14. 

     

    Prediction: Northwestern 34, Syracuse 21

Texas at BYU

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    No. 15 Texas @ BYU, 7:00 PM ET ESPN2 

    Both teams faced off in 2011, with Texas winning in a close one 17-16.

    The Texas Longhorns started off slow last week against New Mexico State, but went on to outscore the Aggies 42-0 in the second half for a final margin of 56-7. The offense, led by quarterback David Ash, set a school record by racking up 715 total yards. Ash threw for 343 yards and four touchdowns, while running back Malcolm Brown had three receptions for 109 yards and one touchdown. 

    The BYU Cougars limp in after a disappointing game at Virginia, where they lost 19-16 with 2:36 left in regulation. There was a two hour rain delay and it rained the entire second half, but it’s no excuse for BYU’s poor offensive performance. 

    The Cougar defense needs to prevent the Longhorn offense from finding the end zone multiple times. If Texas begins to pull away, then quarterback Taysom Hill will not be able to lean on running back Jamaal Williams as much and be forced into passing the ball a lot more. Hill was 13-of-40 for 175 passing yards last week at Virginia. 

    BYU will put up a fight at home in Provo, but Texas will eventually take over the game with big offensive plays in the 4th quarter. 

     

    Prediction: Texas 31, BYU 17

West Virginia at Oklahoma

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    West Virginia @ No. 16 Oklahoma, 7:00 PM ET FOX

    Last season, this matchup turned into a shootout with Oklahoma outlasting West Virginia 50-49. With two new starting quarterbacks, don’t expect both teams to combine for 99 points and put up 1,440 total yards for a second straight year.

    The Mountaineer offense is still trying to get their quarterback situation figured out after the departure of Geno Smith to the NFL.

    Junior quarterback Paul Millard threw for 237 yards and one touchdown last week, but the offense had put up only seven points heading into halftime against FCS opponent William and Mary. It took until late in the fourth quarter for West Virginia to finally pull off a 24-17 victory. 

    On the other side, it appears for now at least that Bob Stoops made the right call for the starting quarterback job. Trevor Knight not only threw for three touchdowns, but also rushed for 103 yards in a blowout 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe. It was also a relief for the Sooner defense to get a shutout after what the nation witnessed last season. 

    The Sooners have lost only four games at home in the past decade, and three of them occurred in the past two seasons. West Virginia doesn’t have the offensive threats it had last season to keep up in this game. 

    The Mountaineer defense, led by linebacker Isaiah Bruce and tackle Shaq Rowell, will have to step up and force an inexperienced Knight to make plays with his arm, otherwise West Virginia could be in for a rough outing in Norman.

     

    Prediction: Oklahoma 35, West Virginia 13

Arkansas State at Auburn

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    Arkansas State @ Auburn, 7:30 PM ET ESPN3

    The big question of this game: will Gus Malzahn be able to defeat his former team? Malzahn left his first year head coaching gig at Sun Belt Arkansas State to head back to Auburn after Gene Chizik was fired for his 3-9 campaign in 2012. 

    Arkansas State blew out FCS opponent Arkansas-Pine Bluff 62-11 in Week 1 and had four players rush for over 100 yards. 

    After last season, any win is a good win for the Tigers. Auburn snuck out a 31-24 victory against Pac-12 opponent Washington State, but struggled through the air with only 99 total passing yards. The running game will be in key in his matchup with Tre Mason and Corey Grant being the workhorses on the offense. Mason had 73 yards rushing and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, while Grant rushed for 146 yards and one touchdown last week. 

    Even though the Red Wolves will be in SEC Territory, expect them to challenge Auburn and make it a closer game than most may anticipate.

     

    Prediction: Auburn 27, Arkansas State 21

Notre Dame at Michigan

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    No. 14  Notre Dame @ No. 17  Michigan  8:00 PM ET  ESPN 

    It will be the last game between these two “"rivals" in "The Big House" until further notice. 

    We have heard statements from both coaches over the issue, but it's time to settle it out under the lights. 

    The Fighting Irish finally held on to win 13-6 last season after three straight years of late heartbreaking losses, where they lost by a combined total of 12 points.

    Quarterback Tommy Rees threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns against Temple last week. Rees’s main target is TJ Jones, who had 138 receiving yards. The defense, though, continues to be the main strength of the Irish with defensive end Stephon Tuitt and defensive tackle Louis Nix. 

    The Wolverines are looking to seek revenge offensively after turning the ball over six times and being held to just two field goals in 2012. Denard Robinson was more of a threat as a runner, where quarterback Devin Gardner is a better passer, but can run as well.

    The Michigan offense has running back Fitzgerald Toussaint back at full strength, as well as wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and tight end Devin Funchess in the passing game. The defense, of course, will continue to be solid. The Wolverines defense allowed only nine points last week against Central Michigan. 

    Will it be any surprise if this game goes down to the very end? Both teams have talented defenses, but the offensive edge leans with Michigan because of Gardner being under center. 

     

    Prediction: Michigan 24, Notre Dame 20

     

Washington State at USC

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    Washington State @ No. 25 USC, 10:30 PM ET  Fox Sports 1

    Prior to the beginning of the 2013 season, the Trojans first four games were supposed to be warm-up games for their showdown at Arizona State on Sept. 28.

    After struggling for much of the first half against Hawaii, it appeared the Trojan offense was going to be a work in progress.

    The defense, though, looked improved under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergrast. The Trojans held the Warriors to an impressive 23 rushing yards. 

    Washington State under second-year head coach Mike Leach stayed tough on the road at Auburn in Week 1, but couldn’t find a way to come through in the end as they lost 31-24. Starting quarterback Connor Halliday passed for 344 yards and one touchdown, but had three interceptions.  The interception in the endzone late in the fourth quarter was the most costly of the three. 

    The Trojan offense still has no clear quarterback starter between Cody Kessler and Max Wittek. Kessler, who is reportedly the starter for this week, must get the ball to wide receiver Marqise Lee in the passing game if they want success through the air. Lee had a few uncharacteristic drops against Hawaii, though.

    The rushing game could return Silas Redd, but if not, will rely on Tre Madden and Justin Davis to pick up the slack on the offensive side.

    With questions surrounding the USC offense, Washington State cannot be counted out of this game. If the Cougar offense stays turnover free, they could keep this game close.

    USC has not lost to Washington State since 2002. 

     

    Prediction: USC 30, Washington State 24