B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 2

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 6, 2019

B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 2

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    Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher
    Texas A&M head coach Jimbo FisherBob Levey/Getty Images

    Following an opening weekend in which blowouts were plentiful and only one ranked team suffered a loss (No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 16 Auburn), Week 2 of the 2019 college football season promises to be more entertaining.

    From Friday night's tilt between newly ranked Boise State (No. 24) and sneaky good Marshall through the into-the-wee-hours-of-Sunday-morning showdown between Oregon State and Hawaii, it's a jam-packed slate.

    Even if we somehow get through another Saturday without a heaping supply of unranked-over-ranked upsets, there are two games with massive season-long implications as No. 1 Clemson hosts No. 12 Texas A&M before No. 6 LSU travels to No. 9 Texas.

    To help you figure out what to expect, Bleacher Report's college football experts—David Kenyon, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—joined forces to offer up predictions on the hottest burning questions, such as:

    • Can Texas A&M upset the apple cart with a road win over Clemson?
    • Will LSU or Texas emerge with a critical AP Top 10 victory?
    • Will the SEC rally from Week 1 embarrassment or continue to struggle?
    • And which Heisman Trophy-caliber running back will have the biggest Week 2 performance?

    Our experts are on the case to let you know.

No. 12 Texas A&M at No. 1 Clemson: Who You Got?

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    Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
    Clemson QB Trevor LawrenceRichard Shiro/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Texas A&M snatched seven interceptions in all of 2018. Last week, the Aggies picked off four passes against Texas State. So, we're going to see the answer to a different question: Is this a better A&M defense, or did the Aggies simply dominate an overmatched opponent? If they can't force a couple of turnovers, it'll be difficult to edge Clemson on the road. Thus, I'll take the Tigers.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Clemson will win and cover the 16.5-point spread. Kellen Mond had the game of his life in last year's two-point loss to Clemson (430 yards passing, three TDs), and I can't imagine he'll have a repeat performance against an improved Tigers secondary. Moreover, Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Justyn Ross were nowhere near as involved in the 2018 tilt as they will be this year. Add in the Death Valley factorClemson is 37-1 in its last 38 home gamesand this one could get ugly. Clemson 45, Texas A&M 21.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    There is a lot to like about the Aggies with Mond and a young, talented defense that has plenty of potential. Though coordinator Mike Elko's unit will make plays on that side of the ball, the youth will shine through against a seasoned offense as explosive as Clemson's. Plus, A&M has offensive line issues. While Clemson lost more production up front than many teams could replace, the Tigers are still loaded with talent and will pressure Mond. A&M won't keep it as close as last year, as Clemson will pull away in the second half to win 37-24.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Clemson is the pick, but my confidence here is weaker than I would have expected before Week 1. We know last year's thriller showed the Aggies can get up for this matchup, and Mond looked ready to take a leap in performance this season in his 2019 debut last week when he accounted for four touchdowns. Lawrence is the nation's most talented player, but he didn't play like it against Georgia Tech. There's room for an upset, though I'm not quite willing to pick it.

Who'll Win the Other Game of the Week: No. 6 LSU or No. 9 Texas?

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    LSU QB Joe Burrow
    LSU QB Joe BurrowMichael Democker/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Joe Brady's impact on the LSU offense was clear in Week 1. The first-year passing game coordinator brought a few simple concepts that the New Orleans Saints run on a weekly basis and made Tiger quarterback Joe Burrow's life easy against Georgia Southern. Similar to Texas A&M, though, we need to see the unit's effectiveness when the competition level rises dramatically. I'll pick the chaos-causing, aggressive Texas defense to win at home.

                 

    Kerry Miller

    I caught a lot of flak for my "Early Heisman Candidate" article about Burrow's ability to follow his performance against UCF in the Fiesta Bowl, but did you know he is averaging 314.0 passing yards, 42.0 rushing yards and 5.0 combined touchdowns over his last three games? And did you know that Texas has allowed at least 320 passing yards in five of its last eight games, while LSU has held 10 consecutive opponents below 300 passing yards?

    My point is that Burrow is better than most have given him credit for and that the more popular Sam Ehlinger is facing the much more difficult secondaryarguably the nation's best. The Tigers will eke out a critical road win, followed immediately by a national discussion about the possibility of two College Football Playoff teams from the same division. LSU 35, Texas 28.

                 

    Brad Shepard

    This is a tough one because I finally believe in what Tom Herman is building in Austin. The Longhorns will get better on defense as the season goes on, but LSU impressed me more than any team last weekend in knocking out Georgia Southern 55-3. The Tigers have a lot of weapons around Burrow, who understands the system in his second year on the bayou. The difference in this game will come from LSU's secondary, which is the nation's best. Ehlinger will make plays, but he'll also make mistakes, and the Tigers will take advantage in a close, grind-it-out win, 27-23.

            

    Ian Wharton

    Give me LSU. I'll buy into its new-look offense against Texas' revamped defense. This is tough timing for the Longhorns, who would benefit if this matchup came later in the season. They'd have more time to jell, develop their new defensive starters and see more film on the Tigers offense. That will play a massive role in an LSU win. 

Which AP Top 25 Teams (If Any) Will Lose to an Unranked Foe?

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    Syracuse head coach Dino Babers
    Syracuse head coach Dino BabersMatt Bell/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Syracuse and Nebraska both had underwhelming offensive showings to begin the year. Both are traveling for a road game opposite a quality roster with an experienced quarterback. Not the combination you want. Maryland's offense looks much-improved thanks to head coach Mike Locksley and Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson, and the Terrapins will be a problem for the Orange. Steven Montez remains an under-the-radar signal-caller at Colorado, which will take on Nebraska. Both upsets will happen, and the game in Boulder will be a high-scoring affair.

            

    Kerry Miller

    The 16 ranked teams that are hosting unranked opponents will be fine. Two of the four going on the road will lose, though. No. 21 Syracuse's offense was woeful in the opener against Liberty, and the Orange will lose at Maryland unless Tommy DeVito transforms into a good quarterback overnight. And Colorado will squeak by No. 25 Nebraska for the second consecutive year. The Buffaloes offense was more impressive than anticipated in Week 1, and Nebraska's Adrian Martinez did not look right against South Alabama. No. 18 UCF (at Florida Atlantic) and No. 23 Stanford (at USC) will win, but not comfortably.

                

    Brad Shepard

    Maryland plays against a Syracuse team that didn't win any style points in a Week 1 win over Liberty. Babers likely was holding back part of his game plan, but the Terrapins have a sneaky collection of talent, and this has the potential to be a key early-season upset in Coach Locksley's first year. Also, while it probably goes against everything intelligent to pick USC over Stanford in freshman Kedon Slovis' first career start, I like the Trojans' talent. They'll beat the Cardinal to gain a little post-JT Daniels momentum.

               

    Ian Wharton

    Nebraska will lose to Colorado. This was a tight matchup last year (a 33-28 Buffaloes win), and though both teams are in better situations, the hype on Nebraska is more based on hope than anything substantive. The Buffaloes have enough offense to challenge a solid Cornhuskers defense and the athleticism on D to keep the pressure on Martinez and Co.

5 SEC Teams Lost in Week 1; How Many Will Falter in Week 2?

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    Georgia State celebrates a Week 1 victory over Tennessee
    Georgia State celebrates a Week 1 victory over TennesseeWade Payne/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Four SEC teams will lose. Arkansas will drop its SEC opener to Ole Miss. Elsewhere, LSU will lose at Texas; Texas A&M will fall at Clemson; and Vanderbilt will falter at Purdue. There won't be many surprises, but there'll be a couple of missed opportunities for a statement win. The swing games are BYU at Tennessee and West Virginia at Missouri. If the visiting team steals a win, it will be another rough weekend in SEC country.

                    

    Kerry Miller

    It's going to be a repeat of last week: five SEC teams will go down. One loss will come in the Arkansas-Ole Miss game (presumably the Razorbacks). Vanderbilt falls to 0-2 at Purdue. Tennessee loses another home game, this one against BYU. My Clemson-over-Texas A&M pick is already on the record. And the unlikely fifth will be a Missouri loss to West Virginia, even though the Tigers are favored by nearly two touchdowns. The league will still be in fine shape for two spots in the CFP, though, because No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia, No. 6 LSU, No. 10 Auburn and No. 11 Florida will each improve to 2-0.

             

    Brad Shepard

    Four. We already know of one loss because either Arkansas or Ole Miss will lose in the battle for the SEC West cellar. Texas A&M will have a strong season, but that will not include a win over top-ranked Clemson. Vanderbilt travels to Purdue, and while that will be close, look for Jeff Brohm to shake his early-season demons and for the Boilermakers to rebound from an ugly loss to Nevada. Finally, are you really going to pick Tennessee over BYU after that loss to Georgia State? If so, you're a more confident individual than I am.

                   

    Ian Wharton

    Four. Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Texas A&M will all fall, and we know either Arkansas or Ole Miss will too. The conference will have one other competitive game when Missouri hosts West Virginia, but the rest of the slate looks advantageous. All eyes will be on the Aggies and LSU Tigers in their high-profile games. 

How Many More Wins over Power 5 Foes Will the Mountain West Get This Week?

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    Hawaii QB Cole McDonald
    Hawaii QB Cole McDonaldMarco Garcia/Associated Press

    Note: There were four such victories by the Mountain West Conference in Week 1. Hawaii defeated Arizona, Nevada knocked off Purdue, Boise State came back to beat Florida State and Wyoming shocked Missouri. There were also close calls from Utah State and Fresno State against Wake Forest and USC, respectively.

           

    David Kenyon

    I like Hawaii to emerge victorious from the touchdown-fest against Oregon State, but that's my only MWC-over-Power Five prediction. San Diego State should have yet another excellent defense this season, but the Aztecs, also yet again, simply cannot score. UCLA, perhaps despite its greatest efforts to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, will eke out a win. Similar for Minnesota against Fresno State.

                  

    Kerry Miller

    Only one MWC team will topple a Power Five foe, and it will be news that most folks on the mainland won't hear about until the following morning. Hawaii will double down on its "Week Zero" victory over Arizona by securing bragging rights over another Pac-12 opponent: Oregon State. The Beavers have not made any strides on defense since last year, given the 52 points they allowed in the season-opening loss to Oklahoma State. Hawaii might put up 60 in this one.

                 

    Brad Shepard

    Just one. Minnesota held serve in a home win over a strong Fresno State team a year ago. Though the Gophers must travel across country this time, they'll win again. Oregon will take care of business against Nevada, too. UCLA lost to Cincy a week ago, but the Bruins will be better in a win over San Diego State. That leaves Hawaii having to play an Oregon State defense that can't stop anybody. The Rainbow Warriors will score a lot and beat the Beavers. Take the over too.

            

    Ian Wharton

    Just one: Fresno State will top a quality Minnesota team. I'm also tempted to take Nevada over Oregon in a true stunner. The Ducks failed to impress as they became too conservative last week against Auburn, and they can't shake those late-game demons as a program. I won't go on the record by taking Nevada, but the Wolf Pack have a chance.

What Will Jalen Hurts Do for an Encore at Home Against South Dakota?

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    Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts
    Oklahoma QB Jalen HurtsAlonzo Adams/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Jalen Hurts will have around 350 yards of total offense with three or four touchdowns. Oklahoma is going to waltz past South Dakota, so Hurts is headed for the sideline much earlier this weekend. That's not a problem. Keep your stars healthy for a prime-time trip to UCLA on Sept. 14.

                   

    Kerry Miller

    suppose "whatever he darn well pleases" isn't enough of an answer, but he won't put up numbers anywhere close to last week's. That's not because South Dakota's defense will provide much more resistance than Houston's did, but rather because Hurts won't need to take a snap after halftime. (And Oklahoma will capitalize on that opportunity by letting Tanner Mordecai run the offense in the third quarter before he gives way to Spencer Rattler in the fourth.) Maybe in two quarters Hurts will put up passing stats comparable to his 332 yards and six total touchdowns from Week 1, but he'll keep the running to a minimum against the Coyotes.

            

    Brad Shepard

    Hurts will do whatever coach Lincoln Riley allows him to. The Sooners will have this one in hand before halftime, so why would he play his star quarterback deep into the game? Riley should be known as the quarterback whisperer by now, and Hurts looks tailor-made to run this offense. Even in limited action, he'll roll up around 300 total yards and account for four touchdowns before he hits the sideline to watch the rest of a blowout.

                    

    Ian Wharton

    He'll play one half of football and continue to rack up ridiculous numbers. Maybe it's because he's wearing No. 1 or a smaller quarterback jacket, but he looks slimmer and more explosive than he did at Alabama. The Sooners have too much talent for defenses to key in on him, and he'll have 350 total yards in the first half before he sits.

Most Week 2 Rushing Yards: Travis Etienne, D'Andre Swift or Jonathan Taylor?

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    Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
    Wisconsin RB Jonathan TaylorChris O'Meara/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Jonathan Taylor will have the most rushing yards of this trio, no hesitation. The simple reason is the Wisconsin back's opportunity is much better, particularly against Central Michigan. Georgia will rotate its depth-filled unit, which limits D'Andre Swift's statistical upside. And as much as Travis Etienne is a threat to break off a 90-yard run, I'll play the odds and trust A&M's defense over CMU's.

            

    Kerry Miller

    Texas A&M has a solid rush defense, so I'm shying from Etienne, even though he's probably the one member of this trio who will get fourth-quarter touches. And for some reason, Swift hasn't been anything special against FCS opponents: nine carries for 54 yards against Samford; eight carries for 43 yards against Austin Peay. Thus, even though it would make sense for Wisconsin to use its game against Central Michigan to find out what Jack Coan is capable of at quarterback, I'll take Taylor. He ran for 253 yards and three scores in Week 2 last year and put up 223 yards and three touchdowns in the same week of his freshman season.

                

    Brad Shepard

    If I'm Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst—breaking news: I'm notI want to throw the ball a little more than usual and get Coan some numbers against an exploitable Central Michigan team. But Taylor has shown he doesn't need a lot of carries to toss up big numbers. Etienne has to go against a unit full of athletic Texas A&M defenders. While he'll eclipse 100 yards, it won't be by much. Georgia will see the Murray State game as the perfect opportunity to get James Cook and Zamir White a lot of carries. So go with Taylor, who'll break off a couple of big runs and wind up with 150-175 yards.

            

    Ian Wharton

    I hate to go with the heavy favorite, but Taylor should be the pick almost every week until he's proved otherwise. He was incredible in Week 1 (135 yards, 16 carries, 2 TDs), and Wisconsin has the least effective passing game between the three teams. Swift should also have a huge first half before he sits as Georgia wins. Etienne will benefit from playing all four quarters, but the Aggies defense is stout enough to somewhat hold him in check compared to Swift and Taylor.

Which Game Not Involving a Ranked Team Will Be Most Entertaining?

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    North Carolina QB Sam Howell
    North Carolina QB Sam HowellNell Redmond/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    As always, I have two answers. For the "If You Like Points Special™," it's Oregon State at Hawaii. For drama, Miami's trip to North Carolina is worth monitoring. The Heels clearly believe in what head coach Mack Brown is selling (no surprise) and have a prime-time clash with the Hurricanes, who obliterated last season's UNC team 47-10 and forced six turnovers. Since Miami joined the ACC in 2004, however, UNC is 4-3 at home against the Canes, and Miami has no such victory greater than six points. A UNC win would throw a heck of a twist into an already messy Coastal Division.

                    

    Kerry Miller

    I never would have guessed this in the preseason, but it has got to be Miami at North Carolina, right? The Hurricanes' opener against Florida was a terribly sloppy-but-highly entertaining affair, and the Tar Heels stunned everyone with their win over South Carolina in Sam Howell's debut at quarterback and Brown's return to the sideline. Is UNC kind of good? Could Miami be a hot mess this year? If nothing else, it's the knee-jerk-reaction showdown of the week. Honorable mention to South Florida at Georgia Tech, too, though only because last year's game went off the rails.

            

    Brad Shepard

    We've already talked about how Oregon State at Hawaii will be a barn burner, so that would be an excellent pick. But the one I'm most excited to see is North Carolina against Miami. I said last week I wanted to see the UNC-South Carolina game because of the intriguing storylines, and Brown's team pulled the upset. Now, the Heels go against Manny Diaz's young team, which nearly did the same in Week 1 against Florida. The winner of this game is well on its way to a sneaky-strong season in the ACC.

            

    Ian Wharton

    North Texas at SMU. If you haven't seen Mason Fine play for North Texas yet, try to catch this game and enjoy the Mean Green's passing attack. Plus, SMU transfer quarterback (from Texas) Shane Buechele had 360 yards in his debut for the Mustangs, so this one should be a back-and-forth offensive affair.

          

    Odds via Caesars