B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 2

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 11, 2020

B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 2

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    Oklahoma WR Charleston Rambo
    Oklahoma WR Charleston RamboSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    We'll need to wait at least one more week before the first showdown between ranked teams in this 2020 college football season, but plenty of excitement is still on tap with both the ACC and Big 12 getting underway in Week 2.

    Well, most of the ACC and Big 12, at any rate. Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU each had games postponed in recent days, and Boston College, North Carolina State, Virginia and Virginia Tech don't have a game scheduled until next Saturday. But at least conference favorites Clemson and Oklahoma will take the field, looking to break in the many new pieces of their potential championship offenses.

    In all, 20 games are on the docket, including a 10 p.m. ET kickoff between Coastal Carolina and Kansas certain to keep us entertained late into the night.

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

    • Will a single AP Top 25 team lose this week?
    • Which players will rack up the most passing and rushing yards?
    • How potent will the highest-scoring game be?
    • And, of course, who are our College Football Playoff picks? 

    Our experts are on the case to let you know.

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

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    Iowa State QB Brock Purdy
    Iowa State QB Brock PurdyPhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    I'll be boring right away: None of them! I'm not expecting any of these contests to finish close either. I'll have a screen on Louisiana's trip to No. 23 Iowa State, though. Appalachian State is the Sun Belt favorite, but Louisiana is clearly its second-best team. If major openings pop up after this season, ULL coach Billy Napier deserves a serious look.

                   

    Adam Kramer

    My final answer is an unfun "no," but let me at least maneuver around how chaos could arrive. Most of the games feel lopsided—point spreads well over two touchdowns that should play out as such. I am, however, intrigued by Louisiana vs. Iowa State. The Ragin' Cajuns lost only three games last year (Mississippi State and Appalachian State, twice), and all three margins were 10 points or fewer.

    Iowa State has a significant enough talent advantage to win, but it would not shock me if this ended up being tight.

                          

    Kerry Miller

    Of the six games involving a ranked team, five will be merciless blowouts. The exception is No. 23 Iowa State vs. Louisiana, which will come right down to the wire before the Cyclones escape with a win over a solid Ragin' Cajuns squad. ULL won 11 games last season, and most of their top players return. Quarterback Levi Lewis, running back Elijah Mitchell and Co. will put up a good fight.

           

    Joel Reuter

    No ranked teams will lose, but No. 23 Iowa State will have its hands full with Louisiana. The Ragin' Cajuns went 11-3 last season, and Lewis is back after throwing for 3,050 yards and 26 touchdowns. And keep in mind, this is the same Cyclones team that went to three overtimes with Northern Iowa in its opener a year ago.

                  

    Brad Shepard

    No Top 25 team will lose this weekend, but I'm excited to watch three matchups that could be closer than some think. I'm bully on Notre Dame this year, but Duke will better than expected. That will be a nice early test for the Irish. We'll see if North Carolina is legit right away, with the Tar Heels going against Andre Cisco and a solid Syracuse secondary. Finally, don't sleep on Louisiana upsetting Iowa State. Still, all those should survive.

What Stats Will Heisman Favorite Trevor Lawrence Post at Wake Forest?

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

    David Kenyon

    If this margin is within 28 points, I'll be surprised. But this is a valuable game for Lawrence, who's working with a receiving corps that's thin on past production. As the offense shakes off six months' worth of rust, Lawrence completes 15-of-24 for 205 yards and two touchdowns with 35 rushing yards. Keep it simple. Trust the running game. Don't get hurt.

                 

    Adam Kramer

    Before we look ahead, let's look back first. In his season debut last year, Lawrence was not sharp against Georgia Tech, throwing two picks in what still amounted to a Clemson blowout. But we will see a much sharper, crisper version of him this time.

    I am curious to see who he throws to most outside running back Travis Etienne, but I'm not sure it matters much in this game. Lawrence needs to be mindful of Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest's best player and one of the best defensive players in the country, but he should still find success. It won't be the sharpest we see Lawrence all season, but he'll still throw for 307 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He'll also run for a touchdown.

                    

    Kerry Miller

    In last year's blowout of Wake Forest, Lawrence was resting on the sideline midway through the third quarter, yet he still put up nice numbers. I expect similar returns in this opener, but maybe Dabo Swinney leaves his golden goose out there a bit longer to help foster a rapport with a relatively unproven receiving corps. Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson Jr. were highly touted recruits in the 2019 class, but now we start to find out if they can live up to the hype. Put me down for 315 combined passing and rushing yards with four touchdowns for Lawrence.

                

    Joel Reuter

    Last season, Lawrence completed 21 of 27 attempts for 272 yards and four touchdowns in a 52-3 dismantling of Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons ranked 101st in the nation against the pass last year, and things could go from bad to worse after the secondary lost two starters. Lawrence reaches 300 yards and connects on three touchdown passes while rushing for another score.

                  

    Brad Shepard

    With Amari Henderson and Essang Bassey gone from the Demon Deacons secondary, it will be tough sledding right away for Wake Forest against college football's top quarterback (playing this month, at least). Clemson has its own question marks at receiver with Justyn Ross out for the year after neck surgery.

    Wide receiver Amari Rodgers will be a breakout star this season, and the Tigers have a lot of unproven, young options like Ladson and Ngata to pick up the slack by committee. Swinney will ride Etienne early, but Lawrence will still roll up 280 yards and three touchdown passes in a walk-away win.

Which Newcomer Makes the Biggest Splash with His New Team?

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    Miami QB D'Eriq King
    Miami QB D'Eriq KingGerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Note: All answers were submitted before Thursday night's contest between UAB and Miami.

    David Kenyon

    With a nod to D'Eriq King's debut at Miami, I'll take Oklahoma receiver Theo Howard. The UCLA transfer missed much of 2019 with hand and wrist troubles and tore his Achilles in the offseason, but he's healthy and ready to join a rotation that lost CeeDee Lamb to the NFL and Jadon Haselwood to a knee injury. Oklahoma takes on Missouri State to open the campaign, giving Howard a terrific chance to catch a couple of touchdowns in his debut.

                  

    Adam Kramer

    By the end of Week 2, we will be talking about the next great running back and a player so gifted we might actually be able to say "Texas is back"and mean it this time. Although he is listed as the No. 3 RB on the depth chart, Texas freshman Bijan Robinson will become a star in short order. In fact, an opening game against UTEP might be the perfect formula for him to earn early touches.

    I wrote a profile on Robinson last fall and flew out to Arizona to watch him play. He is physically rare (222 lbs) and still shifty and powerful. He can also catch the ball and is destined for collegiate greatness. It won't take long for him to find it.

                         

    Kerry Miller

    Miami's new quarterback, King, is the obvious choice, but give me the less obvious Bryan Bresee. Clemson's freshman defensive tackle was the No. 1 recruit in the 2020 class, and it sounds like he'll be a starter right away. With Wake Forest breaking in new starters at both quarterback and running back and replacing a pair of 1,000-yard receivers, Bresee and this Tigers defense figure to make an immediate impact.

            

    Joel Reuter

    I'm intrigued to see what King can do for a Miami program that checked in "30th" in the initial AP poll. He redshirted after Houston started 1-3 last year and then transferred during the offseason. Now he'll look to return to his form from 2018, when he threw for 2,982 yards and 36 touchdowns while adding another 674 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Circle that matchup with Clemson on Oct. 10 now.

                          

    Brad Shepard

    It's an easy answer, but it's the correct one: King. The former Houston signal-caller is a next-level athlete, and he'll do lot of exciting things this season, beginning with Thursday's opener against UAB. The Hurricanes have question marks at the skill positions, which could limit King's ceiling. But you're going to see him do a lot of things on his own, and his skill set is exceptional. Watch out for transfer edge-rusher Quincy Roche for Manny Diaz's squad too.

Will There Be an FCS-over-FBS Upset?

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    The Citadel QB Brandon Rainey
    The Citadel QB Brandon RaineyMike Stewart/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    No, but I'm mildly interested in The Citadel's trip to South Florida. Respect the triple-option, my friends. New USF coach Jeff Scott has probably picked the brains of his former colleagues at Clemson, which used to defend a similar offense at Georgia Tech. USF should win, but it could be concerning for a little bit.

                    

    Adam Kramer

    I don't foresee an FCS upset, but we'll get something close from what was an FCS team just a few years ago. Coastal Carolina is a relatively small underdog to Kansas and, as a reminder, Coastal Carolina beat Kansas last season. Revenge game for the Jayhawks? Um, sure? Or, will the Chanticleers just make things weird and chaotic and win once again? I'm going to side with that instead.

    Regardless of whether you are satisfied with this answer, this game will be played at 10 p.m. ET Saturday night. And that is simply magical, delightful news for all.

                         

    Kerry Miller

    Probably not, but where's the fun in that? I'll go slightly out on a limb and say The Citadel knocks off South Florida. The Bulls were woeful on offense last season, and it's not like they had a lot of offseason practices to figure things out under a new head coach. Moreover, USF's defense struggled mightily against the runparticularly against Navy's triple-option offense (434 yards). Well, guess what type of offense The Citadel runs? Give me QB Brandon Rainey and that triple-option offense in a 24-21 upset.

                     

    Joel Reuter

    Never say never. USF was picked to finish last in the AAC media poll, and it is facing a Citadel team that upset Georgia Tech in overtime a year ago. The Bulldogs can pull off another surprise in 2020.

                 

    Brad Shepard

    Nope. Not this week. There really aren't any candidates that can get it done. The Citadel gave Alabama a scare for a half in 2018, but the Bulldogs wound up losing 50-17. South Florida will take care of business this weekend. Eastern Kentucky is not a good team, so it won't have a chance to beat even a rebuilding West Virginia. Georgia Southern will take care of Campbell. Nothing else will be close.

Who Throws for the Most Yards in Week 2?

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    Texas Tech QB Alan Bowman
    Texas Tech QB Alan BowmanRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    I have an eye on North Carolina's Sam Howell, but give me Texas Tech's Alan Bowman. He averaged 340 yards in three appearances last year before a shoulder injury ended his season. The Red Raiders host Houston Baptist, which surrendered 361 passing yards to North Texas last week. And the only reason it wasn't more? North Texas ran for 360 yards too.

                    

    Adam Kramer

    Howell. There's not a player in college football I am more intrigued by. As a freshman, he showed tremendous flashes. In his sophomore year, we will see more.

    Howell threw for more than 300 yards in five of his final eight games and went for 294 yards in another. And while Syracuse is not exactly a typical season-opening cupcake, it had the nation's No. 110 pass defense last year at 262.5 yards allowed per game. This is not an ideal concoction for the Orange, and both Howell and North Carolina will come out hot.

                         

    Kerry Miller

    There are several intriguing options, but the safest bet is Bowman. Two years ago, in the third game of his college career, he lit up Houston for 605 yards and five touchdowns. He then opened the 2019 season with a 436-yard performance against Montana State. He hasn't been able to stay healthy, but when he's out there, he's slinging it. And his opponent this week, Houston Baptist, just allowed more than 700 yards in a loss to North Texas. If he wants to, Bowman could have another 600-yard night.

                                  

    Joel Reuter

    Texas QB Sam Ehlinger. The Longhorns are facing a UTEP team that went 1-11 last season, allowing 35.9 points and 229.6 passing yards per contest. With nine 300-yard games on his resume, Ehlinger is more than capable of lighting up the Miners, and this will be his best opportunity to pad his stat line in the Heisman Trophy race.

                             

    Brad Shepard

    Let's roll with Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler against Missouri State, which is coming off a 1-10 season. Yes, it's intriguing that Bobby Petrino's the Bears coach, but the Sooners will roll, and this is a confidence-building game for the redshirt freshman quarterback. Lincoln Riley will let him air it out.

    The Sooners are thin on running backs with Kennedy Brooks opting out and Rhamondre Stevenson serving a suspension, so OU should throw the ball a lot. Especially to Charleston Rambo. Expect big numbers.

Who Rushes for the Most Yards in Week 2?

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    Louisville RB Javian Hawkins
    Louisville RB Javian HawkinsBryan Woolston/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Can I cheat and say Army as a team? Well, too bad. I'm doing it. This offense might attempt six passes on a normal day, but the Black Knights take on Louisiana-Monroe. Last year, the Warhawks had the third-worst rushing defense in the country. Army collected 340 rushing yards while throwing four passes in a 42-0 dismantling of Middle Tennessee last week. Lather, rinse, repeat.

                    

    Adam Kramer

    I was going to say Chuba Hubbard. In fact, I was in the middle of this response when Oklahoma State's game was postponed a week. #2020

    Instead, I'll go with Louisville running back Javian Hawkins. In short order, the nation will learn more about a running back who ran for 1,525 yards in 2019. In shorter order, Hawkins will rush for an abundance of yards against Western Kentucky—a formidable opponent—on Saturday. I'll say Hawkins runs for 186 yards and scores a few times. A quality start for a great ACC running back.

                    

    Kerry Miller

    I like a good "Who's that now?" prediction for top rusher early in the season, so give me Georgia Southern's Wesley Kennedy III against Campbell. The Fighting Camels (no, really, that's what they're called) have been woeful against the run when facing FBS opponents in recent years, and Kennedy has averaged 7.5 yards per carry over the past three seasons. He'll still be splitting carries with J.D. King and quarterback Shai Werts in that triple-option offense, but one of those Eagles will have a field day.

                  

    Joel Reuter

    Kansas' Pooka Williams Jr. After rushing for 1,061 yards last season, Williams returns as the focal point of the Jayhawks offense. He rushed for 99 yards on 22 carries in a 12-7 loss to Coastal Carolina last year, and he should have no problem improving on that mark with another year of experience.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    Keaontay Ingram is poised for a breakout at Texas, even if he doesn't have to do it on his own with Bijan Robinson and others in Tom Herman's backfield. The Longhorns are a huge favorite in their season opener against UTEP, and the Miners won't have an answer for this running game. The only question is whether Ingram will get enough carries to "get his," but with Hawkins going up against a better-than-advertised Western Kentucky defense and Hubbard's game getting postponed, Ingram may be this week's highlight back.

Over/Under 79.5 Points in Week 2's Highest-Scoring Game?

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    North Carolina WR Dazz Newsome
    North Carolina WR Dazz NewsomeJulio Cortez/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Over, because the under is boring. As for where, I'll go back to Houston Baptist and Texas Tech. While the visiting team has a disastrous defense (good for Texas Tech), the offense seems extremely fun. Huskies quarterback Bailey Zappe threw for 480 yards in the loss to North Texas. Texas Tech wins 56-35.

                   

    Adam Kramer

    We won't get that high in Week 2. Seventy is reachable, although there will be some rust, and I don't know if we have that perfect "Big 12-ian" matchup for things to get that weird. (For the record, I really hope I am wrong.) 

    North Carolina and Syracuse, however, could do some scoreboard destruction. I've already stated my case as to why Howell will explode in Week 1 for the Tar Heels. And while UNC's defense will be improved, Syracuse could find enough success to build quite a point tally. This one ends up 45-24.

              

    Kerry Miller

    Over, and my pick is Charlotte at Appalachian Statea matchup that just so happened to produce the second-highest total in Week 2 of last season. App State won 56-41, and I forecast similar fireworks for Round 2.

    The Mountaineers have struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks over the past two years, and the 49ers have a pretty good one in Chris Reynolds. And with Zac Thomas back at QB for App State, an offense overflowing with redshirt seniors should have its way with the Charlotte defense once again. Maybe they each scale back by one score to something more like 49-35, but that's still over 79.5 points.

             

    Joel Reuter

    Under. I don't expect offenses to be particularly crisp given the offseason circumstances. That said, I expect to see plenty of points in the Houston Baptist vs. Texas Tech game. The Red Raiders don't play defense, ranking 127th in the FBS in yards allowed per game (480.8) last season. Meanwhile, the Huskies scored 50 or more points three times last season, so they can put up a big number. They'll break 70 but fall short of 80.

                  

    Brad Shepard

    Under. I would have picked Tulsa vs. Oklahoma State as that highest-scoring game, but let's go with ULL and Iowa State instead. With Lewis and a duo of running backs who could play for plenty of Power Five programs, the Ragin' Cajuns will be a handful for the Cyclones. But Iowa State has its own talented group of offensive players to more than keep pace. This game will wind up below 79.5 points, though. The final score should be something like 38-34 Iowa State.

Obligatory 'Preseason' Prediction: Which 4 Teams Reach CFP, and Who Wins It All?

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    Alabama's Mac Jones and Nick Saban
    Alabama's Mac Jones and Nick SabanButch Dill/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and...anyone have a dartboard?

    Look, the AAC isn't making it without an undefeated team, and I expect UCF, Cincinnati and Memphis to ruin that for one another. The Conference USA and Sun Belt teams aren't getting in either. So, what happens if Notre Dame, Georgia and Texas or Oklahoma State each has two losses to their respective league champion?

    I'm not sold on Georgia, but this bizarre year shoves the Dawgs into my top four. Still, say Georgia loses to Alabama but beats Florida, which otherwise goes undefeated. Florida would miss the SEC title game, but would two-loss Georgia make the playoff over one-loss Florida because of the head-to-head win? Fair or not, I'd guess yes. Maybe it'll be simpler, but why would 2020 start making sense now? What will make sense is Clemson winning it all.

                          

    Adam Kramer

    This is a question I've gotten used to answering over the past five years or so, but this year is filled with disclaimers and unknowns. Still, the show must go on.

    1. Alabama: I love the offense, regardless of who takes snaps at quarterback, and the youth on defense will grow up this year.

    2. Clemson: Trevor. Travis. A vault of young players ready to blossom. A conference that won't have the firepower to push back most weeks. The Tigers thrive once again.

    3. Georgia: Alabama and Georgia will play this year, and someone will have a loss. But in terms of talent, I still have a feeling the Bulldogs will be potent enough.

    4. Oklahoma: Boring? Yeah, maybe. But Oklahoma has earned the respect, and the absence of two other conferences limits the options.

    The winner? Roll Tide. It feels strange to be so high on Alabama after the offseason exodus on offense, but I'm still a believer in the talent they return. The defense will also be light-years better. Oh, and Nick Saban.

                        

    Kerry Miller

    Last year, I picked Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Michigan, and it's just a question of which "actually playing football in the fall" team I want to replace the Wolverines, because Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma are the obvious picks, per usual.

    Let's get a little kooky with that fourth spot, though: UCF finally gets a seat at the table. A second SEC team is the far more likely outcome, but the 10-game SEC slate will be a meat grinder that spits out multiple losses for everyone except Alabama. And if the Knights go undefeated, maybe they get the nod at No. 4and get slaughtered by either Alabama or Clemson in the semis. And I'll boringly take Alabama over Clemson in the national championship.

                

    Joel Reuter

    Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Florida. Clemson looks like the clear-cut No. 1 team in college football entering the season, and that's my boring pick to win it all. It's the fourth spot that carries the most intrigue, but Florida will beat Georgia on Nov. 7, paving the way for the Gators to snag a playoff berth.

              

    Brad Shepard

    There are so many things that can happen this year, and we're already seeing major ramifications with the COVID-19-related opt-outs, for instance. When it's tough to predict, you need to go with familiarity. Saban will have his Alabama guys ready. Same goes for Swinney at Clemson. Kirby Smart's talent depth at Georgia will show up. And I have to take Riley's offensive prowess at Oklahoma.

    That last one is dicey, considering Oklahoma State and Texas will be formidable this year, but I feel good about the first three. As for who wins it all? I'll take the Tigers.

                

    Odds via DraftKings unless otherwise noted.

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