Bleacher Report's Week 2 College Football Awards
In addition to a spot in the driver's seat in the SEC East Division, Georgia's road win over South Carolina netted the Bulldogs one of Bleacher Report's awards for Week 2 of the 2018 college football season.
This weekend had the ideal blend of predictability and utter madness, and there was no shortage of awards to hand out during that wild ride.
Now, as far as the rankings are concerned, it was a boring week. Eighteen of the AP Top 25 teams won by at least a three-touchdown margin, and the only ones to lose to an unranked opponent were No. 15 Michigan State and No. 25 Florida. In other words, this wasn't one of college football's patented "Holy smokes, everybody lost and no one wants to play for the national championship" kind of chaotic weeks.
But there were still statement wins by title contenders, historic streak-breaking victories for a couple of Power Five programs and more than a few outrageous individual performances.
It wasn't all good news, though. Several of our awards go to disappointing showings, such as Arizona's disaster against Houston, and Purdue's equally abysmal effort against Eastern Michigan.
Sit back and enjoy this Week 2 recap, starting with the only non-Saturday game.
The Non-Saturday Game of the Week
It was rather uncool for the schedule makers to give us so much non-Saturday college football in Week 1, only to take it away almost entirely in Week 2. After getting 12 games last Thursday, eight on Friday and one each on Sunday and Monday, we had the Friday night showdown between No. 16 TCU and unranked SMU as our lone option.
But, hey, at least that Texas tussle got weird as hell to make up for it.
Following a lengthy lightning delay, the madness started on the first drive with SMU's Braeden West pinballing his way through three would-be tacklers before breaking free for a 51-yard touchdown. A few possessions later, TCU punter Adam Nunez mishandled the snap, got it back and dropped it again before a sliding SMU defender somehow kicked the ball out of the end zone for a bizarre safety.
Just like that, the Horned Frogs were down 9-0 against an opponent that got destroyed by North Texas one week ago.
TCU rallied, though, thanks to three consecutive unconventional touchdowns.
First, KaVontae Turpin went untouched on a 78-yard punt return—the fourth such touchdown of his career. On TCU's next possession, running back Sewo Olonilua fumbled the ball at the 10, but it bounced into the end zone where receiver Jaelan Austin fell on it for another score. And then linebacker Alec Dunham scooped a strip-sack and took it 25 yards to the house.
The Horned Frogs ran the ball 42 times; however, not a single TCU running back scored a touchdown. (Two QBs each rushed one in.) There was only one passing touchdown in the game. And yet, they managed to score six TDs en route to the 42-12 victory, setting the stage for a strange Saturday.
The Actual Game of the Week
The best game of the week was supposed to be No. 17 USC at No. 10 Stanford, but that was an uneventful punt party that the Trojans never had much of a chance of winning.
The backup plan for best contest was No. 3 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina, but that was an even less entertaining. The Bulldogs took an early 14-0 lead and never looked back.
The actual best game—without a close runner-up, we might add—was No. 2 Clemson at Texas A&M.
While all the other projected conference winners were busy asserting their dominance—Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Washington each won by at least four touchdowns—the presumed ACC champion got all it could handle from the Aggies in a 28-26 road win.
Kellen Mond torched Clemson's secondary for 430 yards and three touchdowns, but he did so in the type of lucky fashion that made it seem like something magical was happening.
On the second TD, he was running for his life with Isaiah Simmons blitzing from the outside. Off balance, on the move and about to take a hit, he floated a pass to the goal line that somehow found the hands of a diving Quartney Davis. And on the third TD, which almost tied the game, Mond fired a dart into a nonexistent window for a bobbling catch by Kendrick Rogers.
But it wasn't enough. Despite not scoring a point in the final 16 minutes and giving up 501 total yards, Clemson held on for the win.
The Statement Win of the Week
Playing at newly ranked South Carolina was supposed to be a significant challenge for Georgia. Not many experts were gutsy enough to pick the outright upset, but more than a few of us suggested the Gamecocks were good enough to at least cover the eight-point spread.
Here's hoping you ignored that advice, because Georgia steamrolled South Carolina.
Aside from throwing for a touchdown on a gadget play, Gamecocks star Deebo Samuel was a non-factor, finishing with just 32 yards from scrimmage. In fact, aside from Bryan Edwards' being on the receiving end of both South Carolina touchdowns, no one could find any space against this Bulldogs defense.
Before a pair of meaningless drives late in the 41-17 blowout, South Carolina had just 207 yards of total offense and was averaging fewer than 4.0 yards per play.
And Georgia's offense was every bit as impressive as its defense. The Dawgs effortlessly marched down the field on three consecutive possessions to open the second half, quickly turning a respectable game into a slaughter. Jake Fromm completed 15 of 18 passes, and they averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
It wasn't any individual who dominated. Mecole Hardman made a couple of highlight-reel plays, but this was a teamwide beatdown that may have effectively eliminated everyone but Georgia from winning the SEC East.
Expect more of the same for at least the next four weeks. Georgia's opponents in that stretch (Middle Tennessee, Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt) are no better equipped to slow this offense than South Carolina was.
The Heisman Stud of the Week
Let's start with the bad news: Jonathan Taylor fumbled again this week.
Wisconsin's sensational running back put the ball on the turf eight times last season, resulting in six turnovers. He also lost a fumble last week against Western Kentucky. It's a serious concern on par with the thermal exhaust port on the Death Star and is capable of blowing up Wisconsin's College Football Playoff dreams.
But that mistake is a small footnote on what was otherwise a ridiculous day for Taylor.
The sophomore set new career highs for both carries (33) and rushing yards (253) in Wisconsin's 45-14 win over New Mexico. Taylor also matched a career high with three rushing touchdowns. And he did it all one week after an impressive debut against the Hilltoppers (18 carries, 145 yards, two touchdowns).
Coupled with Bryce Love's poor Week 1 performance, Taylor's efforts give him a strong case to be the early front-runner to win the Heisman. The difficulty level will ramp up once the Badgers get into the Big Ten portion of the schedule, but Taylor's 12-game projection is 2,388 yards and 30 touchdowns—pretty close to what Melvin Gordon did in 14 games in 2014 (2,587 yards, 29 touchdowns).
By his otherworldly standards, Taylor (and Wisconsin) got out to a slow start in this one. Before scoring his first touchdown with 2:20 remaining in the first half, he had 13 carries for 60 yards with the fumble. The Badgers were 35-point favorites, but they were trailing 7-3 before Taylor took over.
From there, it quickly became apparent that the Lobos had no hope of containing him. Of his final 21 carries, 16 went for at least five yards, and 10 resulted in a gain of at least nine yards.
Next up for Taylor is a home game against BYU, which he gashed for 7.1 yards per carry in a blowout win last September.
The Hot-Seat Humdinger
So, what's the record for shortest amount of time before a college football head coach was fired?
It's a pertinent question after Kevin Sumlin fell to 0-2—in hideous fashion—in his first season with Arizona.
One week removed from struggling to pull away from Rice, Houston put an early whooping on Arizona. The Cougars led 21-0 barely 10 minutes into the game. With roughly three minutes remaining in the third quarter, it was a 38-0 laugher.
The Wildcats eventually woke up and put points on the board, but it was far too little, way too late. Houston cruised to a 45-18 win.
Sometimes it's fair to blame the start time for this type of sluggish beginning. West Coast teams that are traveling east for a noon kickoff tend to struggle. But let's not pretend this was Hawaii traveling to Boston College for what would feel like a 6 a.m. start for the Rainbow Warriors. This was also a bit of an early kickoff for the Central Time Zone Cougars, and they didn't look like they were wiping the sleep out of their eyes for the first two hours.
Throughout the 38-0 start, the zero on the scoreboard was most troublesome for Sumlin and Arizona. The Wildcats struggled to slow anyone last season, allowing 34.4 points per game. No one was expecting this team to start pitching shutouts. But 2017's fifth-highest scoring offense (41.3 ppg) has been absent through two weeks.
The obvious missing factor was Khalil Tate's legs. He rushed for at least 24 yards in every game last season, including six consecutive games with at least 137 yards. But thus far, the dual-threat extraordinaire has been painfully one-dimensional, rushing 15 times for 22 yards.
And Sumlin should know how to use a mobile quarterback. This is the same head coach who let Johnny Manziel run wild en route to the 2012 Heisman. You wouldn't know it from what he has done to Tate and this offense.
The Biggest Bounce-Back Performance
To put it lightly, Michigan's season started with a whimper. In the loss to Notre Dame, the defense gave up touchdown drives of 75, 96 and 75 yards in the first four possessions. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that Michigan's offense finally found its legs, but it couldn't complete the comeback.
To avoid even a whiff of Jim Harbaugh hot-seat rumors and hot takes, the Wolverines needed a big bounce-back performance against Western Michigan.
And they got one.
Michigan scored 35 points in the span of just over 15 minutes in the first half. Shea Patterson and Co. ran 17 plays for 262 yards on those five possessions, moving the ball at will against the Broncos. Karan Higdon led the way with rushes of 19, 43 and 67 yards. There were also big strikes from Sean McKeon (17-yard TD), Chris Evans (27-yard TD) and Nico Collins (44-yard TD).
In all, Michigan averaged 8.5 yards per snap, and Patterson threw for three touchdowns. That's much, much better offensive execution than we saw one week ago.
The defense was on point, too. The Wolverines only forced one turnover, but they held Western Michigan to 208 total yards (2.8 yards per play). LeVante Bellamy rushed for 25 yards on the first snap by the WMU offense, but the Broncos didn't gain more than 15 yards on a single play the rest of the game. Their longest passing play went for just 10 yards.
And this is the Western Michigan offense that racked up 10.5 yards per pass attempt, 621 total yards and 42 points last week against Syracuse. Everyone expected Michigan to win, but it's incredible that a sad field goal with less than three minutes remaining was all Western Michigan could manage in this 49-3 stomping.
Shout out to Michigan's divisional rival, Penn State, for also bouncing back in a big way. The Nittany Lions didn't actually lose last week, but needing overtime to win a home game against Appalachian State was not a great initial look for them. Crushing Pittsburgh 51-6 on the road was a much more inspired performance.
The Biggest No-Show of the Week
While Western Michigan was busy looking helpless against a Big Ten foe, Eastern Michigan took care of Purdue 20-19, pulling off one of the most shocking upsets of the young season.
The Boilermakers moved the ball well, especially on the ground. They averaged 8.1 yards per carry and amassed 476 yards of total offense. (They also averaged 8.1 yards per carry in last week's loss to Northwestern, so that isn't the issue with the offense.)
But when it mattered the most, that attack vanished.
On two consecutive first-quarter possessions, Purdue drove at least 70 yards to get the ball into the red zone before stalling and settling for a field goal. One drive later, the Boilermakers went from their 35-yard line to the EMU 7 before taking a bad penalty followed by a fumble.
All told, they ran 27 plays, gained 196 yards and got six points out of it. Meanwhile, between the two field goals, Eastern Michigan scored a 75-yard touchdown.
That's a tough sequence to swallow, but not as bad as what happened at the end of the game.
Following an interception—the first turnover of the season for Purdue's defense—the Boilermakers were in the perfect position to seal the win. Leading by two on the EMU 20 with 6:35 to go, they had an 88 percent chance of victory, per ESPN's win probability chart.
A touchdown would've iced it. A field goal would've forced Eastern Michigan to score a touchdown. Instead, Purdue lost one yard before missing a 38-yard field goal, leaving the door open for the Eagles. They converted a 4th-and-15 on the ensuing 15-play drive before chipping in the game-winning field goal.
Eastern Michigan was a 15-point underdog. It didn't stop the Eagles from handing the Boilermakers their second loss of the year.
While we're here, let's also give a shoutout to North Carolina for getting smacked around by East Carolina. The Pirates were 15.5-point underdogs, but they cruised to a 41-19 victory over the Tar Heels. At this point, the home game against Western Carolina in mid-November may be the only thing standing between UNC and its first winless season in school history.
The Best Back-and-Forth Bonanza
Let's be honest: The early slate of games Saturday was less than lackluster on paper. Mississippi State at Kansas State had potential, but given the amount of trouble KSU had with South Dakota in Week 1, it looked like a good week to go do something else until Georgia and South Carolina kicked off.
But here's hoping you stayed in and had a screen devoted to Georgia Tech at South Florida, because that game was out of control.
South Florida came away with a 49-38 victory, but that final score doesn't do justice to the way these teams bounced back and forth for three hours. In total, there were nine lead changes, four of which happened in the span of three minutes, 14 seconds.
After a Brenton King field goal gave Georgia Tech a 3-0 lead, Terrence Horne returned the kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. Five plays later, TaQuon Marshall had an incredible 45-yard rushing touchdown. Horne responded with another kickoff return for a touchdown, this one from 97 yards away. And on Georgia Tech's next play, Marshall found Clinton Lynch for an 81-yard touchdown.
Adding to the absurdity of this game, Georgia Tech lost star running back KirVonte Benson to a leg injury just before all that scoring started. The Yellow Jackets also played most of the second half without Marshall, who suffered a leg injury of his own. That paved the way for redshirt freshman Tobias Oliver to rush for 97 yards and three touchdowns, pacing GT to a 38-28 lead early in the fourth quarter.
But the Blake Barnett-led Bulls owned the rest of the game, scoring the final 21 points for the win.
If that name sounds familiar, Barnett was the guy who started the 2016 season opener for Alabama, only to immediately lose that job to Jalen Hurts. He transferred to Arizona State where he took about 10 snaps before transferring to South Florida. He threw for three touchdowns and rushed for a fourth in USF's opener and accounted for four more in this one—two with his arm; two with his legs.
The Bulls—who don't play Memphis and who get UCF at home in the season finale—are looking like a strong early candidate to represent the Group of Five in a New Year's Six bowl.
The Streak-Breaking Win of the Week
The Kansas Jayhawks just won a road game.
If that doesn't blow your mind, let us paint you a picture that was nine years in the making.
You probably already know Kansas has been quite bad for a while. The Jayhawks have lost at least nine games in each of the last eight seasons, compiling an overall record of 15-81 in that 2010-17 era of ineptitude.
But did you know that none of those 15 wins came on the road?
Dating back to September 12, 2009, Kansas had lost 46 consecutive road games by a combined score of 1,954-642. That's an average margin of 28.5 points per game. And most of them felt like bigger losses than that.
Heck, over the last two seasons, the Jayhawks gave up at least 34 points in all 11 road games and failed to score more than 30 in any of them. Just during that most recent two-year stretch, their average margin of defeat was 33.2 points, and none of the games were decided by fewer than 12 points.
But one week after losing a home game to FCS school Nicholls State, Kansas left no doubt in a 31-7 blowout win at Central Michigan. Pooka Williams Jr. led the offense with 125 rushing yards and two touchdowns, but the defense sealed the deal. The Jayhawks forced six turnovers, each coming in the second half.
The Other Streak-Breaking Win of the Week
What a day on the gridiron for two schools typically known for their success on the hardwood.
Not only did Kansas finally win a road game for the first time in almost a decade, but Kentucky ended a 31-game losing streak against Florida.
For much of this stretch, there was no hope whatsoever for the Wildcats. From 1994 to 2013, Florida's average margin of victory was 29.7 points. Only three of those 20 were decided by fewer than 16 points.
But in recent years, it simultaneously seemed like it was both bound to happen and cursed to never happen.
In 2014, Florida needed three overtimes to prevail. The following year was a 14-9 slopfest that the Wildcats could have won at any time but never did. And last year, Kentucky was up by 13 with eight minutes remaining, only to have it slip away.
At long last, the Cats got the job done with a 27-16 road win over the 25th-ranked Gators.
Led by Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky ran at will. The Wildcats averaged 7.4 yards per carry en route to 303 yards on the ground. It was the first time since November 2013 that a team ran for at least 300 yards against Florida. The only other team during that stretch to average at least 6.3 yards per carry against the Gators was Georgia's 8.3 mark last year.
But it wasn't until the fumble recovery for a touchdown on the final play of the game that Kentucky fans could believe it was happening. Perhaps some of the ghosts from the past three decades will finally stop haunting them now.
The Best Individual Performance in a Loss
Darrell Henderson is no stranger to big individual performances.
The Memphis running back rushed for at least 100 yards in seven games last season, including finishing the season on a five-game streak of topping the century mark—even though he has never carried the ball more than 15 times in a game. The man averaged 8.9 yards per tote in 2017, and he started this season with a bang, rushing nine times for 76 yards and a touchdown while adding a 62-yard receiving score for good measure.
Henderson brought the noise to Annapolis, Maryland, to face Navy.
Henderson rushed 13 times for 212 yards and three touchdowns. That's 16.3 yards per carry.
On his final touch of the first half, he broke free for 21 yards to set up a more realistic Hail Mary attempt right before the intermission. On his first two touches of the second half, he ran in touchdowns from 78 and 59 yards. Add it up and that's 158 yards in three carries. The Midshipmen had no answer for him.
Unfortunately for Henderson, he was basically the only guy who showed up to play offense for the Tigers. His three touchdowns were the only points they put on the board. And excluding what Henderson accomplished, the Tigers had just 148 yards of total offense and committed four turnovers.
As a result, Navy eked out a 22-21 come-from-behind victory, claiming the early lead in the AAC West. Houston is looking like the team to beat in this division, but Navy gets the Cougars at home in October to potentially change that.
The Boneheaded Penalty of the Week
Delayed one week by weather, the Scott Frost era at Nebraska was oh so close to beginning with a victory.
After trailing by an early 14-0 margin, the Cornhuskers stormed back to take the lead before halftime, hanging on to it for almost the entire second half.
Colorado trailed 28-27 with 1:14 remaining and was facing a 3rd-and-24 from well outside field-goal range. Even if the Buffaloes picked up 20 yards on the play, it still would have been a 53-yard attempt for a kicker who had already missed from 37 and 43 in the fourth quarter. In other words, they needed all 24 of those yards.
Well, actually, all they needed was 15 yards, courtesy of Nebraska's senior defensive back Antonio Reed.
On a pass attempt that wasn't all that close to being completed, Reed launched himself at Jay MacIntyre. It wasn't targeting because he didn't lead with his helmet, but there's no question it was unnecessary roughness on a defenseless receiver.
Instead of fourth-and-impossibly long, the Buffaloes were handed a first down in Nebraska territory. And on the next play, Steven Montez dropped a dime to Laviska Shenault Jr. from 40 yards away for the game-winning touchdown.
Nebraska almost marched down the field to return the favor, but with dual-threat QB Adrian Martinez sidelined by a knee injury, the drive stalled and ran out of time on the Colorado 20.
Ole Miss wasn't quite the highest-scoring team of the week. A missed extra point in the fourth quarter contributed to the Rebels putting 76 points on the board, and they fell one shy of the 77 points Texas Tech and Miami each scored.
But while the Red Raiders and Hurricanes shut out their FCS foes, Ole Miss gave up 41 points to Southern Illinois, ensuring this will go down as one of the highest-scoring games of the season. At any rate, the 117 total points would have finished in a three-way tie for the second-highest total in 2017, trailing only the seven-overtime 71-68 classic between Western Michigan and Buffalo.
So, how did it happen?
Well, for starters, the Salukis weren't scared of their SEC foe. They got the ball six times in the first half, scoring five touchdowns and a field goal. Sam Straub torched the Rebels for 382 yards and four touchdowns through the air, and he ran in a fifth touchdown from two yards out.
Ole Miss kept pace, though, scoring five first-half touchdowns of its own. In fact, the teams combined to score on 11 consecutive possessions, all of them on drives that started on their own half of the field. Thus, this wasn't just a scorefest—it was also a yardage extravaganza. Both teams had more than 600 yards from scrimmage.
Once the fourth quarter started, it was all Ole Miss. Southern Illinois was driving with a chance to tie the game at 49, but instead, Straub threw an interception that Vernon Dasher (aptly named) returned 88 yards for a touchdown. Straub threw another pick on the next drive and was strip-sacked on the possession after that, which the Rebels also took the house for six.
Despite the two defensive touchdowns, plenty of individuals had monster performances for the Rebels. Jordan Ta'amu threw for 448 yards and five touchdowns. A.J. Brown, Braylon Sanders and D.K. Metcalf all racked up at least 90 receiving yards and a score. And Scottie Phillips—he of the 204 yards and two touchdowns against Texas Tech last week—ran for 107 yards and two more scores.
The Aerial Assault of the Week
With a tip of the cap to Ohio State's quarterback tandem—Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell—who completed 30 of 33 attempts for 354 yards and five touchdowns in the annual pummeling of Rutgers, we need to talk about what Chris Robison did for Florida Atlantic.
As the 2017 season progressed, we grew accustomed to seeing FAU rush for a ridiculous number of yards. Lane Kiffin's Owls averaged more than 285 rushing yards per game and led the nation with 52 rushing touchdowns.
But their passing game was just OK as a result. Aside from the two games against North Texas, the Owls didn't reach 300 passing yards. They only eclipsed two touchdowns through the air in one game.
Go back to the pre-Kiffin days and it doesn't get any prettier. Since becoming an FBS program in 2004, Florida Atlantic had only thrown for 400 or more yards twice in school history: 463 yards against Minnesota in 2007 and 403 yards against Florida International in 2012.
Better add September 8, 2018, to that list, because Robison torched Air Force for 471 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-27 win. He completed 33 of 40 attempts, making up for FAU's inability to run the ball for a second straight week.
Racking up that type of yardage against Air Force is almost impossible. That triple-option offense bleeds so much clock that there simply aren't enough snaps in the game. Per Sports Reference, the only other team to throw for at least 470 yards against Air Force in the past 16 years was Derek Carr-led Fresno State in 2012 (479 yards).
All things considered, there wasn't a more impressive passing performance this week.
The FCS Game That Got Everyone Buzzing
Florida State's offense—the O-line in particular—looked downright awful in last week's Monday night loss to Virginia Tech. But surely Willie Taggart's second game as head coach of the 'Noles would go a lot smoother, right?
Uh, not so much.
FCS school Samford scored on a 54-yard touchdown pass on its first snap of the game. One FSU three-and-out and one Bulldogs 75-yard drive later and this was a 13-0 game that suddenly, shockingly required game-break updates during the Clemson-Texas A&M battle.
Thanks in part to two missed field goals by Ricky Aguayo, Florida State trailed for almost the entire game. The 'Noles finally took the lead with four minutes remaining and sealed the win with a pick-six on the ensuing Samford possession.
But for about three hours, virtually every college football fan outside Tallahassee was an honorary Samford fan.
FSU's offense came to life a bit in this one. Deondre Francois threw for three touchdowns and rushed in a fourth. Quite the improvement from last week's three-interception stinker.
This time around, though, it was the defense's turn to underwhelm. Florida State did force five turnovers, but it allowed Devlin Hodges to throw for 475 yards—the most passing yards by any player in Week 2.
For what it's worth, Samford is a good deal better than your average FCS school. Two years ago, Hodges threw for 468 yards and four touchdowns in a high-scoring affair with Mississippi State. Samford has been in the FCS playoffs in each of the last two seasons. Still, Florida State was a 32.5-point favorite and should have won this game with ease. There's a lot of work yet to be done.
The Upset That Didn't Surprise Anyone
Technically, Arizona State was the underdog against No. 15 Michigan State.
But all the signs pointed to an upset.
You don't hear about the East Coast team traveling west for a late kickoff as often as you hear about the West Coast teams going east for early games, but this 10:45 p.m. ET kickoff time was an obvious concern for Michigan State.
Not only was there a time difference, but they were also playing in a different climate. On Friday in East Lansing, Michigan, the high temperature was 69 degrees. On Saturday in Tempe, Arizona, the low was 82 degrees, and it was right around 100 degrees at the start of the game. It's almost impossible to prepare for that.
Factor in how great Arizona State looked in a Week 1 rout of UTSA and how average Michigan State looked in a come-from-behind win over Utah State, and it was quite the recipe for a Big Ten disaster.
They looked evenly matched early on, and Michigan State led by 10 at the end of the third quarter. But the Spartans looked exhausted in the fourth. The Sun Devils capitalized with one touchdown and a pair of field goals in the final 15 minutes, while Michigan State couldn't even put together a drive of more than 20 yards.
Herm Edwards was able to run the clock all the way down on ASU's final possession before calling upon Brandon Ruiz to chip in the game-winner.
Though it was a rather predictable outcome, it was the biggest upset of the week as far as the rankings are concerned.