When you think of all the hype surrounding the preseason college football polls, then look at where things stand after just one week of games, it shows how ridiculous it is to have a ranking system come out before there's anything to evaluate teams by.
In fact, I would argue that Week 2 is the first time anyone should examine the polls and see what they mean. Preseason rankings aren't going to go away because there's too much investment in them, but remember not to take them as sacrosanct.
Now that the railing on preseason polls is over, we should focus on the positives. Let's talk about this week's polls and the Week 2 games that are going to provide the biggest shakeups when the rankings are released next week.
|2014 College Football Polls - Week 2|
|Pos.||AP Top 25||USA Today|
|1||Florida State||Florida State|
|7||Michigan State||Ohio State|
|16||Notre Dame||Arizona State|
|20||Kansas State||Kansas State|
|21||South Carolina||South Carolina|
Key Week 2 Matchups
No. 7 Michigan State at No. 3 Oregon
All eyes will be on the Pac-12 this weekend, as the two biggest games involving ranked teams take place out west. The first one is the marquee matchup of Week 2 with the defending Big Ten champion Michigan State Spartans traveling to Autzen Stadium to take on the third-ranked Oregon Ducks.
In addition to being a battle between two Top 10 teams, the Spartans and Ducks are diametric contradictions. The Spartans want to hit you in the mouth and pummel you with defense; the Ducks want to run you off the field with their offense.
Ted Miller of ESPN.com listed all the ways in which these two teams differed from each other using last year's stats:
Last year, Oregon ranked No. 2 in the nation in total offense (565 yards per game) and No. 4 in scoring offense (45.5 ppg). Michigan State ranked No. 2 in total defense (252.2 ypg) and No. 3 in scoring defense (13.2 ppg). The Spartans also enter the game knowing they beat the Pac-12 team that beat the Ducks, given that they dispatched Stanford 24-20 in the 2014 Rose Bowl.
It's not an entirely apt point because college football teams change dramatically each season, but the roster construction is relevant. Mark Helfrich has kept the Chip Kelly legacy alive by recruiting speed and playing at a faster pace than should be humanly possible.
Mark Dantonio played defensive back at South Carolina and grew up as a coach on the defensive side of the ball, most notably at Ohio State from 2001-03.
With all that said, ironically, the difference in the game looks like it will come from Michigan State's offense against Oregon's defense. Connor Cook has been hit with the dreaded "game manager" label.
If Oregon comes out firing on all cylinders in front of its home crowd, Cook will have to make plays down the field to keep things from getting out of hand. He's proven doubters wrong in the past, but even this might be above his head.
Prediction: Oregon 34, Michigan State 24
No. 14 USC at No. 13 Stanford
While it's not getting the same attention as Michigan State vs. Oregon, USC and Stanford might be an even more important game on the schedule because the winner will get a leg up on the loser in the Pac-12 standings.
This is also a big moment for USC, which is still trying to work its way back to elite status after probation took away scholarships. The Trojans are in good shape right now, but we don't know how good they really are or what will happen when their depth gets tested.
When you look at the coaches in this game, at least based on their resumes, it's no-contest which side has the edge, via ESPN's College Football Twitter feed:
ESPN CollegeFootball @ESPNCFB
#USCvsSTAN Which coach is more underrated? "David Shaw is in the top 3 coaches in all of CFB" - @McShay13 #CFBLIVE http://t.co/Lg9PeMsJFY2014-9-3 18:44:33
Steve Sarkisian could never figure out how to bring top-tier talent to Washington and was working with a blank slate, while David Shaw took over a program Jim Harbaugh built and has kept rolling.
Neither one is an excuse or denigration of the jobs they have done, just an observation based on their career trajectories.
The last four times these teams have met, the results have been nothing less than exciting. Each game has been decided by eight points or less, including one overtime game in 2011 and a last-second field goal in 2013.
That certainly signals an entertaining game, though Stanford's physical style will eventually wear out USC's defense and give the Cardinal the upper hand in the Pac-12 title race.
Prediction: Stanford 27, USC 20
Michigan at No. 16 Notre Dame
This game is notable not just because it's Michigan and Notre Dame, but because it will be the last time we see these two teams play each other for a long time. Since the Fighting Irish are becoming a de facto ACC school in football, there's no room for the Wolverines anymore.
This also has the potential to be an exciting showdown, as noted by Bill Bender of SportingNews.com on Twitter:
Bill Bender @BillBender92
Notre Dame-Michigan final act won't disappoint, both teams averaged more than 10 yards per play last week. #MichvsND http://t.co/KKKWrtEaFP2014-9-3 14:06:17
That stat is misleading because Michigan played an FCS school (Appalachian State). Notre Dame's performance does deserve praise since it came with a quarterback in Everett Golson making his first start since the 2012 season and suspensions to wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive end Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore as the school investigates an academic fraud scandal.
The Wolverines do have their own dynamic playmaker at quarterback in Devin Gardner and a special talent at wide receiver in Devin Funchess, who Gardner raved about after the Appalachian State game to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com:
Nick Baumgardner @nickbaumgardner
Devin Gardner says Funchess "can probably be the best receiver to ever play here." ... That's a pretty big statement? "Yeah, it is."2014-9-1 17:07:10
We are going to find out just how much of that raw potential Funchess has tapped into already against a solid Notre Dame secondary. The Fightin' Irish have had to supplement their depth due to the absence of Russell, so Michigan might be able to take more chances than it otherwise would have.
If that happens, the Wolverines will end their rivalry with Notre Dame in style.
Prediction: Michigan 20, Notre Dame 17
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