Winners and Losers from Week 2 of College Football
To the untrained eye, college football's Week 2 slate may have looked like a weak one—two great games surrounded by a litany of likely blowouts.
Follow this beautiful, chaotic sport for long enough, though, and you come to appreciate that the so-called "boring" weeks tend to feature some of the most ridiculous results of all.
Not only did both of the great games (Oregon-Ohio State and Iowa-Iowa State) deliver in the form of wins by the underdogs, but there were two other wholly unexpected nail-biters involving teams ranked in the AP Top 10.
Then in the latter half of the day, Texas, USC and Florida State all suffered upset losses in ugly/painful fashion. Miami also darn near lost at home to Appalachian State, so it was a rough night for fans of teams who used to be good a decade ago.
Read on for the full list of Week 2 winners and losers.
Winner: Iowa Hawkeyes in the Biggest Cy-Hawk Game to Date
Iowa and Iowa State have been playing on an annual basis (excluding 2020) since the 1970s and have met a total of 68 times overall.
Never before has the Cy-Hawk game been anywhere near this important from a national perspective, though, largely because never before has this much been expected from the Cyclones.
This was the first ever meeting in which both teams were ranked, let alone both ranked in the Top 10.
But, as has been the case every time since Matt Campbell took the ISU job in 2015, Iowa defeated its in-state rival, this time by a score of 27-17.
To put it lightly, it was not an offensive clinic by the Hawkeyes. There were only two drives in which they gained so much as 20 yards, and they finished the night with a mere 173 yards of total offense.
They flexed their muscles on defense, though, forcing four turnovers and capitalizing on each one of them.
The Breece Hall fumble was immediately returned for a touchdown, and the three Brock Purdy interceptions turned into a touchdown and two field goals for Iowa. The ISU defense was only able to do so much when repeatedly put in tough situations.
And while Iowa's offense had trouble moving the ball, at least it made sure to protect the ball, per usual. For the fifth consecutive time in this rivalry, the Cyclones were unable to force a single turnover. And that means their offense was constantly deep in its own territory.
Winning with defense has been Iowa's M.O. for decades, but this year's squad just might be a title contender because of it. Remember, they held Indiana without a touchdown last weekend, too. And with both Ohio State and Wisconsin already suffering losses this season, there's certainly room for Iowa to become the team to beat in the Big Ten, if it isn't already there.
Loser: Ryan Day's Regular-Season Winning Streak
Ryan Day won three games in 2018 while "pinch hitting" for Urban Meyer, carried a 13-0 record into the College Football Playoff the following year and went a perfect 6-0 during the regular season in 2020. Factor in the season-opening win over Minnesota and he entered Week 2's showdown against Oregon with a 23-0 career record in non-playoff contests.
But that winning streak came to an unceremonious conclusion in a 35-28 loss to the Ducks.
The Buckeyes offense left an awful lot of points on the field. On five of their first eight possessions, they went at least 40 yards without changing the scoreboard—three turnovers on downs, one punt and one drive that ended at halftime. And they had quite a bit of difficulty establishing the run, even though Oregon was without star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and highly touted linebacker Justin Flowe.
However, let's not pretend that Ohio State lost this game because of its offense. There absolutely could have been better execution at the end of those drives that stalled out in Oregon territory, but C.J. Stroud threw for nearly 500 yards with just one interception when he tried to force something that wasn't there on a 3rd-and-18 late in the fourth quarter.
It was the defense that let the Buckeyes down time and again.
Led by C.J. Verdell's 161 yards and two touchdowns, Oregon shredded the Buckeyes front seven with the ground game, rushing for 269 yards and three scores. Basically any time the Ducks wanted to run the ball off the left edge, it was wide open. And backfield penetration was completely nonexistent. With the exception of dropping Travis Dye for a one-yard loss on a 1st-and-10 in the first quarter, Ohio State didn't record a single tackle for loss.
Once that ground game was established, Oregon made mincemeat of the Buckeyes over the middle of the field. Eleven different Duck receivers made at least one catch for a gain of 10 or more yards, as Anthony Brown had all day to survey the field to figure out which guy had broken free of the man-to-man coverage that simply wasn't working.
Ohio State's CFP dream isn't over. Let's not forget that the 2014 national champion Buckeyes also lost a home nonconference game (vs. Virginia Tech) before reeling off 13 consecutive victories—and there's little question that this year's offense can score just as relentlessly as that one did.
But this defense also had a rough go last week against Minnesota up until Mohamed Ibrahim had to leave the game with a season-ending injury. The Buckeyes desperately need to improve on D before that big game against Penn State on Oct. 30.
Winner: Florida's Probably-No-Longer-Backup Quarterback Anthony Richardson
There were a ton of hotly debated quarterback battles this past offseason, most notably at Ohio State, Oregon, Texas and Texas A&M.
But up until eight days ago, it never felt like Florida's job was up in the air. Heck, Athlon Sports' Steven Lassan wrote in mid-August about the top 15 QB battles for 2021, which included 12 Power Five schools, plus nine "other Power Five battles to watch." Florida wasn't anywhere on that list, as most everyone assumed fourth-year quarterback Emory Jones was going to be the guy for the Gators.
Through two games, however, it couldn't be more obvious that their best chance at beating Alabama next weekend rests in the hands and legs of redshirt-freshman Anthony Richardson.
Richardson had 160 rushing yards on just seven carries in the opener against Florida Atlantic, but he was merely 3-of-8 for 40 yards through the air.
Week 2 against South Florida was a much, much different story.
Well, it was the same story on the ground, with Richardson rushing four times for 115 yards. But in the passing department, he went 3-of-3 for 152 yards and two touchdowns—while Jones sputtered to a final line of 14-of-22, 151 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions.
The unofficial passing of the torch took place early in the fourth quarter.
Richardson scrambled toward the sideline before launching a perfect dart to Jacob Copeland 36 yards down the field, setting up 1st-and-Goal at the USF 7. Richardson got hit so hard on the play that his helmet popped off, forcing him to sit out at least one play. But Dan Mullen left Jones in at quarterback for four consecutive non-scoring plays.
When the Gators got the ball back, Richardson was back on the field and he ran for an 80-yard touchdown on the only play of that drive. He suffered an apparent injury toward the end of that run, but hopefully it was just a cramp on a hot and humid day, because the college football world deserves a chance to watch this phenom try to do his thing against the Crimson Tide defense.
Loser: Tennessee's Quest for a 4th-Quarter Comeback
If you're the type to scan the college football schedule for the most intriguing matchups between unranked teams, Pittsburgh at Tennessee surely caught your eye this week. Both teams dominantly won their season openers and, frankly, aside from Oregon-Ohio State, there wasn't much else worth circling in the early slate of games.
And the Volunteers could not have asked for a much better start to that game. They forced a Panthers three-and-out, blocked the punt and scored from two yards out one play later. Two more Pitt three-and-outs ensued, Tennessee took a 10-0 lead and it looked like Rocky Top might run away with a big early win.
Out of nowhere, Pitt scored on five straight possessions for a 27-20 lead, which it pushed to 41-27 early in the fourth quarter before the Vols mounted a comeback.
Hendon Hooker led them on a quick march down the field with a 19-yard run and a 34-yard pass to Jacob Warren. Jaylen Wright punched in the touchdown to cut Pitt's lead in half, and the Tennessee defense quickly got the ball back to its offense for Hooker to go to work again.
A 15-yard run by the quarterback and a pair of 15-yard penalties against the Panther secondary got the Volunteers back into the red zone in a hurry. But on 4th and 1 from the Pitt 4, they called a woefully predictable run for Wright up the gut and got stuffed behind the line of scrimmage for a turnover on downs. Like, there was never any chance of that play working.
The defense forced another three-and-out giving Hooker and Co. one more chance to complete the comeback. But on the second play of a drive that started at the Pitt 34, Hooker underthrew his intended target, setting up Brandon Hill to darn near take one the opposite way for six points.
From there, Pitt was able to run out the clock on an impressive 41-34 road win. Feels strange to praise the defense in a game with 75 total points, but the Panthers forced three turnovers, had five sacks and came up big when it mattered the most.
Winner: Home Teams Big on Friday Night
More often than not, we can count on at least one Thursday or Friday game to deliver some fourth-quarter, late-night drama.
But this week, there were no games Thursday and all four Friday night games were decided by at least 24 points.
There was a decent amount of early entertainment in each of those contests, though.
Kansas led No. 17 Coastal Carolina by a score of 9-7 at the end of the first quarter before the Chanticleers gradually pulled away for a 49-22 victory. Jayhawks quarterback Jason Bean delivered a few highlight-reel runs to help keep things interesting into the third quarter, but Coastal Carolina just kept marching down the field with five touchdown drives of more than 70 yards.
In the other FBS-against-FBS game, UTEP had a pair of long field-goal drives and trailed 10-6 early in the second quarter before things got out of hand in Boise State's favor. Thanks to a punt-return touchdown and a pair of one-play scoring drives, the Broncos led 31-6 midway through the second quarter despite possessing the ball only three-and-a-half minutes to that point in the game. Hank Bachmeier threw for 340 yards and a pair of touchdowns en route to a 54-13 blowout.
North Carolina A&T had a 20-play, 86-yard touchdown drive on its opening possession against Duke, and it added another long scoring drive late in the second quarter to tie the game up at 14-14. But the Blue Devils outscored the Aggies 31-3 the rest of the way. Duke's Mataeo Durant didn't have anywhere near as many yards in this game (41) as he did last week against Charlotte (255), but he did find the end zone three times for the second consecutive game. In Blue Devils history, the record for rushing touchdowns in a single season is only 14—by Brandon Connette in 2013 and Winston Siegfried in 1941. Durant is already at six through two games.
And in the most dramatic game of the evening, North Dakota scored touchdowns on each of its first three possessions, jumping out to an early 21-7 lead at Utah State. But the Fighting Hawks were only able to manage a field goal the rest of the way while USU's Logan Bonner threw for 390 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-24 victory. It was closer than the final score, though. North Dakota had the ball and trailed by just three early in the fourth quarter before the Aggies ran away with it.
Loser: Yet Another Team Hoping to Score Against Georgia
One of the biggest takeaways from Week 1 was that, despite losing a bunch of starters from last year's team, Georgia is still outrageously good on defense. The Bulldogs held Clemson—you know, the team that has played in six of the last seven College Football Playoffs—to 180 total yards and three points.
UAB didn't have much better luck against the Dawgs.
Midway through the third quarter, Georgia opened up a 49-0 lead. At that point, UAB had 96 yards of total offense and looked completely helpless to do anything about that. Even when Georgia's defense was full of second-stringers, the Blazers still weren't able to do much of anything. They were only able to put points on the board when Georgia's third-string quarterback Carson Beck threw a 61-yard pick six to Keondre Swoopes.
Thus, through two games, Georgia's defense has only allowed one field goal.
But let's talk about the offense for a moment, too.
With JT Daniels out with an oblique injury, Stetson Bennett IV stepped in at starting quarterback and absolutely destroyed a UAB secondary that shut out Jacksonville State in Week 1. Here's a rundown of Bennett's first five pass attempts: 73-yard touchdown, 10-yard gain, 12-yard touchdown, 89-yard touchdown, 61-yard touchdown. That's 5-for-5 for 245 yards and four touchdowns, which is a passer efficiency rating of 782.3.
It shouldn't matter in the long run. This is Daniels' job once he's healthy. All the same, what an incredible performance to make sure UAB never had a chance in this one.
Winner: No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 8 Notre Dame... Just Barely
You just never know when an AP Top 10 team is going to get upset by an unranked opponent, but it sure did seem unlikely to happen this week.
No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 6 Clemson and No. 7 Cincinnati each faced an FCS opponent. No. 3 Ohio State hosted No. 12 Oregon and No. 9 Iowa State and No. 10 Iowa battled each other. Throw in No. 2 Georgia as a mortal lock to blowout UAB and the only spots where it even seemed remotely possible were No. 5 Texas A&M at Colorado and No. 8 Notre Dame vs. Toledo.
But even those teams were substantial favorites.
Until the games began.
Notre Dame's game came first, and it was only available on Peacock's streaming service, which made for an interesting fourth quarter of people frantically trying to figure out if or how they could watch a possible upset.
Thanks to a pick six late in the second quarter, Toledo carried a 16-14 lead into halftime and held that same edge after a scoreless third quarter. It seemed the Fighting Irish had gotten things under control when a 55-yard Chris Tyree touchdown pushed them ahead by a 24-16 margin, but the Rockets went 89 yards and 73 yards on their next two possessions to take a 29-24 lead with just 95 seconds remaining.
However, Notre Dame's Jack Coan—moments after having a dislocated finger reset on the sideline—led the Irish to a game-winning touchdown in less than 30 seconds.
Texas A&M's close call could at least partially be blamed on losing starting quarterback Haynes King III to an injury early in the first quarter, but switching to Zach Calzada is no excuse for completely losing the ability to move the ball. The Aggies didn't record a single first down in the first 28 minutes of the game, and then they opened up the third quarter with back-to-back three-and-outs.
Fortunately for their College Football Playoff aspirations, the Aggies were a brick wall on defense. Colorado put together one touchdown drive in the first quarter, but that was it. So when Calzada found Isaiah Spiller for an 18-yard touchdown on a wheel route late in the fourth quarter, it was just enough to put the Aggies ahead by the final score of 10-7.
Because of the losses by Ohio State and Iowa State, it's unlikely Texas A&M or Notre Dame will drop far in the rankings, if at all. But a pair of close calls by Top 10 teams against opponents not expected to do much of anything this season feels like an early omen for a particularly chaotic season.
Loser: Mid-American Conference
Though Toledo did darn near pull off what would have been a massive upset, it ended up being a rather miserable day for the Mid-American Conference.
There were four matchups between the MAC and the Big Ten, each of which resulted in a win by the home team from the Power Five.
Ball State got smoked by No. 11 Penn State. Ditto for Eastern Michigan against No. 18 Wisconsin, which had just 44 yards of total offense and one first down through three quarters. Buffalo managed just a field-goal in a 28-3 loss to Nebraska. And try as it might to battle back from an early 21-3 deficit, Miami-Ohio fell short in a 31-26 loss to Minnesota. (Which, it was pointed out during the broadcast, was Minnesota's 20th consecutive nonconference victory. That streak includes bowl games and dates back to September 2015. Who knew?)
Elsewhere in the MAC, Northern Illinois lost a shockingly high-scoring 50-43 game against Wyoming, Bowling Green lost to South Alabama 22-19 when the Jaguars scored 10 points in the final two minutes and Akron allowed Temple to score defensive touchdowns on back-to-back plays in the second quarter of its 45-24 loss to the Owls.
All told, the MAC went 0-8 against FBS opponents. But it also ended up on the wrong end of one the most embarrassing losses of the week when FCS team Duquesne defeated Ohio 28-26. The Bobcats returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but a failed two-point attempt with nine seconds remaining sealed their fate in a game where Duquesne—which managed just six first downs in a 45-3 loss to TCU last weekend—possessed the ball for more than 41 minutes.
One positive for the league, though: Kent State rushed for 494 yards and seven touchdowns while Montre Miller picked off three passes in a 60-10 rout of VMI. But that hardly makes up for everything else that went poorly.
Winner: Arkansas in Blowout Fashion Against No. 15 Texas
So, you wanted to join the SEC, did you, Texas?
In every way, shape and form, the Longhorns got worked by Arkansas in a 40-21 loss to the Razorbacks.
Hudson Card looked rock solid in last week's win over then-ranked Louisiana, but he looked very much like a redshirt freshman in this one. Even when he had time in the pocket to make some reads, he had some ugly misses. Similar to that one start Sam Darnold had with the New York Jets, it was like Card was seeing ghosts out there.
Card didn't throw any picks, but he was replaced by Casey Thompson after a strip-sack late in the third quarter. And, to his credit, Thompson immediately led a pair of long scoring drives in which he sealed the deal with rushing touchdowns, which is certain to be discussed in earnest on Longhorns message boards for the next seven days.
It was far too little too late, though, because a Texas run defense that did a fantastic job against the Ragin' Cajuns sprung all sorts of leaks against the Hogs.
Arkansas rushed for 333 yards and four touchdowns and had six different guys average at least six yards per carry. It was the Razorbacks' first 300-yard rushing performance since November 2016.
Maybe this is the start of something special for Arkansas. Too soon to say. But it does confirm that Texas is, once again, not back.
Loser: Poor Western Carolina
After a way-too-close-for-comfort 40-35 Week 1 win over Tulane, Oklahoma dropped from No. 2 to No. 4 in the AP poll and had something to prove this weekend.
Unfortunately for Western Carolina, it was the sacrificial lamb on the calendar.
If you don't count the one-play "drive" at the end of the first half when the Sooners took a knee, they scored on each of their first 11 possessions—nine touchdowns and two field goals. Spencer Rattler didn't see the field in the second half, but he still racked up 243 passing yards and five touchdowns against the overmatched WCU defense.
Rattler was the only individual Sooner to put up any noteworthy numbers in the 76-0 rout, though, as they spread the love deep into the depth chart. Sixteen different Sooners had either a rush or a reception that went for at least 11 yards.
You may be thinking, "Well, yeah, it's a Top 10 team against an FCS school. Of course Oklahoma won by 76." But this was an unusually merciless beatdown.
Alabama only beat Mercer by 34. Cincinnati beat Murray State by 35. Clemson topped South Carolina State by 46. We're used to seeing title contenders jump out to a big early lead in these games before engaging cruise control.
But against a Western Carolina team which had lost its last four games against FBS opponents by a combined 188 points, even Oklahoma's cruise control resulted in touchdowns more often than not.
This was just the 10th time in the past two decades that an FBS team won a game by at least 75 points.
Winner: Several Incredible Individual Performances in the Evening Slate
In addition to Spencer Rattler making light work of Western Carolina's over-matched defense, there were a bunch of guys who put up remarkable in games that kicked off in the 7 p.m. ET range.
First on the list was North Carolina's Sam Howell having a nice bounce back from last week's rough start against Virginia Tech. Against the much less formidable defense of Georgia State, Howell threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 104 yards and two more scores. Curiously enough, two of the last five players to put up at least 350-3-100-2 did so against North Carolina's defense, so it must be nice for the Tar Heels to be on this side of things for a change.
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral also had a five-touchdown game in a 54-17 win over Austin Peay, although his scores all came through the air. He easily could have had more, but the Rebels took their foot off the gas midway through the third quarter.
The most important big performance came from Kentucky's Chris Rodriguez Jr. The Wildcats running back rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. He also had a five-yard touchdown reception early in the first quarter. And they needed every last bit of his offense in a 35-28 victory over Missouri that came down to the wire.
But the most ridiculous stats came from Memphis' 55-50 victory over Arkansas State.
Tigers quarterback Seth Henigan threw for 417 yards and five touchdowns, almost all of which went to two receivers—Calvin Austin III had six catches for 239 yards and three scores; Sean Dykes made nine grabs for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Memphis also had Brandon Thomas rush 18 times for 191 yards and two touchdowns as part of their 680 yards of total offense.
But Arkansas State went for 681 yards with quarterbacks Layne Hatcher and James Blackman combining for 584 yards and five touchdowns. (Hatcher also ran in a touchdown.)
And here's one more for you: Southeastern Louisiana's Cole Kelley (who played at Arkansas in 2017-18) threw for 453 yards, rushed for 42 yards and accounted for five total touchdowns, but his Herculean effort wasn't quite enough in a 45-42 loss to Louisiana Tech.
Loser: Florida State on a Hail Mary
Last Sunday, Florida State played in one of the most entertaining games in recent memory. McKenzie Milton took the field for the first time in nearly three years, bringing the 'Noles all the way back to force overtime before falling short against Notre Dame.
Even in defeat, it felt like the start of something special for a once-proud program that had a 21-26 record over the past four seasons.
But after a humiliating 20-17 loss to Jacksonville State coupled with Notre Dame's close call against Toledo earlier in the day, we're now left to wonder if perhaps both teams who played last Sunday just stink.
With 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the 'Noles led 17-7 and had the ball at the Jacksonville State 1. Probably 99 times out of 100, that's a win. But a turnover on downs was followed by a 97-yard touchdown drive by the Gamecocks.
Florida State still only needed two or three first downs in order to run out the clock on a three-point victory, but the offense couldn't get it done, punting the ball back to Jacksonville State with 90 seconds remaining. Clemson transfer Zerrick Cooper got the Gamecocks to their own 41 with six seconds remaining before throwing a Hail Mary up the right sideline to Damond Philyaw-Johnson.
For some completely inexplicable reason, Florida State didn't play prevent defense. Only two defenders were anywhere near Philyaw-Johnson when he caught the ball at the FSU 20, and those two defenders (freshman Jarvis Brownlee Jr. and freshman Sidney Williams) looked like they had never tackled someone before in their lives. He was able to cut back into the middle of the field and picked up a block on his way in for a game-winning touchdown.
Per The Athletic's Matt Brown, it was Florida State's first loss to a non-FBS opponent since losing to William & Mary all the way back in 1959.
Winner: Michigan's Run Game Yet Again
In a Week 1 win over Western Michigan, the Michigan Wolverines rushed for 335 yards. It was their first time rushing for at least 330 yards in a single game since November 2017.
But in case you thought it was just a fluke against a Group of Five opponent, Jim Harbaugh's run game double down with 343 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-10 victory over Washington.
And that is simply not a thing that happens to Washington. Per Sports-Reference, the last opponent to even rush for 250 yards against the Huskies was Alabama in the 2016 College Football Playoff, and the last time they allowed at least 315 rushing yards in a single game was nearly a decade ago against Baylor during the 2011 bowl season.
Blake Corum led the way for Michigan with 21 carries for 171 yards and three scores. Hassan Haskins wasn't far behind him, rushing 27 times for 155 yards and a touchdown.
Michigan won by 21 points despite passing for just 44 yards. This run game and this defense are exactly what Harbaugh has wanted Michigan football to be in recent years, and maybe the Wolverines are finally there.
Or maybe Washington is just awful. This is UW's first 0-2 start since going 0-12 back in 2008, and let's just say their offensive execution through these first two games is bringing back some painful memories of the Tyrone Willingham era.
Loser: Ranked Pac-12 Teams in the Late Slate
After Oregon set a fantastic early tone for the Pac-12 on Saturday afternoon, things got pretty ugly for the league's other ranked teams in the late games.
The most alarming loss was a little Pac-12 on Pac-12 crime with Stanford bouncing back from a 24-7 loss to Kansas State to clip No. 14 USC in a 42-28 game that wasn't even that close.
The Cardinal's Nathaniel Peat got the party started early with an 87-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but it was mostly Tanner McKee doing the damage after that. The second-year quarterback won the job during that loss to Kansas State and accounted for three touchdowns with no turnovers in this one. Meanwhile, Kedon Slovis' turnover turned out to be a lethal one, with Kyu Blu Kelly returning that third-quarter interception for a touchdown and pretty much breaking USC's will to play.
No. 21 Utah had won nine consecutive games in its in-state rivalry with BYU, but the Utes struggled to get anything going in a 26-17 loss to the Cougars.
Utah turned the ball over on each of its first two possessions and got burned later in the first half when a failed fourth-down attempt was followed by a 93-yard touchdown drive by BYU. Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall didn't have a mammoth stat line (149 passing yards, 92 rushing yards, three touchdowns), but it sure felt like he was hitting Utah with haymakers all night long.
And though No. 23 Arizona State eventually pulled away from UNLV for a 37-10 victory, that game was uncomfortably close until deep into the third quarter. The Sun Devils were a huge favorite against a Rebels team that went 0-6 last year and opened this year with a loss to Eastern Washington, but it was a 14-10 ballgame until the final minute of the third.
At least Arizona State's defense came to play. UNLV scored on each of its first two possessions, but had just 26 yards of total offense after that.