Winners and Losers from Week 2 of College Football
The second week of college football brought two massive Top 15 showdowns, and both games delivered on the hype.
Most of the Top 25 took care of business, though Syracuse and Nebraska fell in early road tests. Expect both Maryland and Colorado move up after pulling off impressive wins.
LSU outlasted Texas in what turned into a barnburner, with Joe Burrow and the Tigers' uber-athletes proving to be a little too talented for a revamped Longhorns defense. LSU looks more legitimate as a title threat than in recent memory thanks to its newfound offensive identity and Grant Delpit's defensive greatness.
Read about these and more entrants in our the big winners and losers of Week 2.
Winners: Contending Defenses
The biggest games often feature offensive fireworks and exciting back-and-forth affairs. But that wasn't the case in Week 2, when elite defensive play penned most of the storylines. The only teams in the Top 11 that allowed more than 20 points this week were Michigan (21 to Army) and Texas (45 to LSU). Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Auburn and Florida held their respective opponents to 57 total points.
Both Clemson and Ohio State faced more serious competition yet still yielded only 10 total points. The Tigers were ferocious as they swarmed Kellen Mond throughout the afternoon. The Aggies star quarterback was running for time as soon as the ball was snapped more often than not, which is especially impressive considering how much turnover Clemson's D had this past offseason.
The Buckeyes stomped the talented Cincinnati Bearcats in a matchup that looked like a potential trap game. The Bearcats have two big-time talents in quarterback Desmond Ridder and running back Michael Warren II, but there's a clear difference between Greg Schiano's defense and Greg Mattison's. The latter has the Buckeyes playing much faster and with more discipline than Schiano's 2018 abomination.
Losers: Josh Gattis and Michigan's Offense
While we're only two games into the season, there's already some clarity regarding who was running the Alabama offense last year.
Mike Locksley, Alabama's 2018 offensive coordinator and now the Maryland Terrapins' head coach, has led his team to a pair of offensive explosions. Josh Gattis, Locksley's co-coordinator with the Crimson Tide and now the coordinator for the Michigan Wolverines, hasn't been nearly as effective in his first solo play-calling role. The Wolverines narrowly escaped with a double-overtime win against Army at home Saturday, 24-21—and that margin was close thanks to a lethargic offense.
Gattis boasted this offseason about "speed in space," but his offense has been more of the same slog seen under head coach Jim Harbaugh. Nothing about the new offense was innovative or effective, and the Wolverines' victory against Army produced a passing attack that averaged just 7.5 yards per attempt and 2.4 yards on the ground.
Senior quarterback Shea Patterson showed similar issues with consistency and processing to the ones he displayed last year, and the pass blocking was again shoddy.
Harbaugh and his Wolverines can't afford continued letdowns like this. There's little doubt left that Harbaugh was a better NFL coach than collegiate one. This offense, and the lack of impact from Gattis' presence, has the Big Ten ready to pounce on what was the preseason conference favorite for many.
Winners: Mike Leach and Anthony Gordon
Any concerns that Washington State head coach Mike Leach may have made the wrong choice by naming Anthony Gordon the starting quarterback are dead and gone. His decision looked questionable at first as he opted for a quarterback with just five passing attempts in his career over Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud.
But Anthony's stats have been ridiculous, including 60 completions on 74 attempts, 884 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception. Gordon's been a natural fit in Leach's system, and he's done it on a unit that lost its leading running back (James Williams) and offensive lineman (Andre Dillard) from last year.
The competition level will increase next week as Houston looms, but Leach's ability to incorporate unproven talent into his program is impressive. The Cougars are a well-oiled machine even though they don't boast the recruiting successes of other Pac-12 teams.
Leach's zaniness is charming, but his coaching ability is even more endearing. The pirate-enthusiast continues to churn out elite passing production in his 33rd year of coaching.
Loser: Willie Taggart Era
Sure, Florida State won 45-44, but that doesn't stop the Seminoles from being a loser this week. Willie Taggart's tenure with the school continues to be a mockery compared to where this program was earlier this decade. It shouldn't have taken a missed extra point in overtime to beat UL Monroe in Tallahassee.
Taggart is just 53-58 in his career, boasting just one 10-win season (2016 with South Florida). Just as unimpressive, he's beaten only one 10-win ranked team (Navy). Things need to improve immediately.
While Taggart can say the team is "still learning to win" all he wants, blowing a double-digit halftime lead against a low-level opponent isn't acceptable. This team should have a faster learning curve than others because of the recruiting hotbed they benefit from each season.
They'll hit their ACC schedule next week as they travel to Virginia. More difficult road games at Wake Forest, Boston College and Florida await them. They need to mature soon, or Taggart's star may fully fade.
Winner: Maryland's Offense
What a start to Mike Locksley's tenure as head coach of the Maryland Terrapins. With 142 combined offensive points through two games, this program has more positive buzz around it than it's had in years. And it was easy to see why Saturday as Maryland demolished Syracuse at home, 63-20.
The Terps had 42 on the scoreboard at halftime thanks to three Anthony McFarland Jr. touchdowns and several chunk plays by quarterback Josh Jackson. Jackson, a former Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback, has been a massive upgrade over the team's 2018 signal-caller rotation.
Maryland appears to have the speed with playmakers and size in the trenches to hang with anyone. While the Terps aren't quite Ohio State, it shouldn't surprise people if Maryland can pull off a win against Penn State later this month—or overcomes Nebraska, Michigan or Michigan State in November.
They have that much offensive talent and the right scheme and play-caller to maximize them.
Loser: Texas' Revamped Defense
The game of the week was LSU's 45-38 win over Texas. It was an offensive show, with 880 total passing yards and eight touchdowns between the Tigers' Joe Burrow and Longhorns' Sam Ehlinger. But unfortunately, that also meant the defenses weren't up to snuff.
Texas' secondary was picked apart throughout the night and especially when it needed a stop the most. We knew that replacing eight starters would be tough, but the Longhorns allowed 433 yards to the LSU receiving trio of Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr. The final dagger, a 61-yard touchdown from Burrow to Jefferson, came on an atrocious breakdown in coverage despite pressure all over the quarterback.
LSU deserves a ton of credit for its offensive overhaul and performance in this game. But Texas was rocked hard in the second and fourth quarters, which usually points toward coaching as a factor. While the Tigers adjusted, Tom Herman's Longhorns were one step behind.
Now Texas' title chances rest in others' hands if it runs the table.
Winners: Tyler Huntley and Utah's Offense
The Utah Utes were stuck in an early game that had its fair share of drama in the first half as Northern Illinois stayed within one score until the third quarter. The Utes defense was sloppy initially. But once Utah's cornerbacks tightened their outside alignment, Huskies quarterback Ross Bowers had to settle more often, and NIU couldn't produce any second-half points.
The Utes' offensive star is the big winner, though. Quarterback Tyler Huntley was phenomenal when he needed to take the offensive reins, throwing for 214 yards, running for 38 and accounting for two scores. He delivered a clutch 16-yard run where he bulldozed through defenders, which helped the Utes go up 14-7 in the second quarter.
His passing was efficient, but he still found chunk plays, and that was the difference-making effort in the 35-17 Utah win. Running back Zack Moss struggled to find consistency as the Huskies loaded up the box, and Huntley made them pay with timely throws that kept the chains moving.
Loser: 2019 Hype on Scott Frost
It's too early to write off Nebraska as a Big Ten noise-maker, but losing to Colorado after being up 17 in the first half was a sign that this program isn't ready for lofty expectations. Scott Frost's defense collapsed as Buffaloes senior quarterback Steven Montez caught fire in the fourth quarter.
Montez connected on a 96-yard touchdown off a flea-flicker and then the game-tying 26-yard touchdown with 46 seconds remaining. Nebraska's offense mostly flatlined in the second half after it dominated the first half. Whether it was because of complacency, poor adjustments or the altitude, Frost was badly outcoached on his way to 0-6 on the road as the Huskers' head man.
This is still a young team. One week after a dominant defensive effort against South Alabama, the Nebraska defense was shaky in the 34-31 loss, with each Colorado scoring drive lasting no longer than 3:07. The Cornhuskers need the poise and toughness that comes with experience.
Winner: UCF's Big-Play Passing Attack
UCF head coach Josh Heupel made the difficult decision to bench Notre Dame transfer quarterback Brandon Wimbush for freshman Dillon Gabriel, but it paid off against Florida Atlantic. Though Wimbush was the safer option because of his running ability, his lack of passing prowess was still evident in Week 1. That opened the door for Gabriel.
At just 6'0" and 186 pounds, Gabriel looks unassuming as a big-play passer. He wasn't efficient against the Owls, completing just seven of 19 passes. But he was deadly while creating big plays, as he racked up 245 yards, two touchdowns and five passes of more than 20 yards.
Alongside electric running back Greg McCrae, the Knights could've unearthed one of the country's more potent duos. Gabriel will have his work cut out for him in coming weeks, but he seemed to separate himself from Wimbush with this performance. Stanford looms as his next obstacle.