Following another week of Out-of-Conference play — which saw Oklahoma take on Ohio State, and Clemson host Auburn — we’re looking at how the “Power Five” leagues match-up after a chaotic week two.
#5: The Big10
While it may yet turn out to be the deepest conference in football, the Big 10 didn’t come to play last night. Michigan (-33.5), Penn State (-19.5), and Wisconsin (-31.5) all struggled on offense against teams that frankly had no business hanging around with them. Each gave up a pair of touchdowns, and only Penn State came close to covering — thanks largely to a fourth quarter flurry from Quarterback, Trace McSorley. Following relatively ugly performances in straightforward-on-paper games, the conference’s primary contenders all have work to do.
Further down the Big10’s pecking order, we saw a mixed picture. Northwestern, this year’s popular “dark horse” pick, struggled mightily on the road to Duke, losing 41-17 while putting up just 191 yards of total offense. Equally anemic was Rutgers’ performance against Eastern Michigan which allowed the EMU Eagles to improve to 1-39 against Big10 opponents. However, on a more positive note, Indiana, Michigan State, Maryland and Iowa all logged respectable wins, and Nebraska can be proud of keeping it within a touchdown on the road in Oregon. On balance, the middle-to-bottom of the conference lived up to expectations.
The real dent to the Big10’s standing came late with Oklahoma’s surprise win against Ohio State in the Horseshoe. After a slow start for both teams, the Sooners dismantled the Buckeyes in the second half. With zero TDs, one INT, and just 183 yards passing, Ohio State Quarterback, J T Barrett, struggled to keep the Buckeyes in the game. Baker Mayfield for Oklahoma was, by contrast, clinical. Going 27/35, for three TDs and no picks, the Sooners QB proved too much for an Ohio State defense that gave up 437 yards against Indiana the week before.
All in all, week two has brought the Big10 back down to earth. None of the league’s top teams surpassed expectations this week, and each demonstrated that there is work to be done.
#4: The Big 12
Notwithstanding Oklahoma’s landmark win on the road against Ohio State, the Big 12 didn’t show us a whole lot this week. Although Texas, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Kansas State all delivered commanded victories (scoring into the high forties and fifties), they did so against minnow opposition.
Given that Big 12 teams should be beating the likes of South Alabama and East Carolina comfortably, the performances of Oklahoma State and West Virginia weren’t enough to offset the embarrassing losses chalked up by Kansas and Baylor, who lost to Central Michigan and UT San Antonio — both at home. That said, TCU did run roughshod over Arkansas, and will likely climb up the top 25 rankings as a result. Come next week, the Big 12 could have a top four team, a top ten team, and two top 20 teams.
The Big 12 might be better than most of us thought going into week one, but we’ll need to see a little bit more from teams not named Oklahoma before we can begin to think about regarding the Big 12 as a top three conference.
The top of the PAC-12 has to be taken extremely seriously following USC’s commanding win over (#14) Stanford. Sam Darnold’s 316 passing yards were enough to see the Trojans chalk up an 18 point win against a Stanford team that many had tipped for the upset. Expect to see USC ranked No.2 in the nation next week when the AP Poll is published.
UCLA and Washington, the league’s other big guns, looked devastating on offense albeit against Hawaii and Montana. Oregon, too, pulled out a solid win against Nebraska despite recording zero points in the second half. Further down the league, the picture was more opaque. Oregon State were crushed by Minnesota, and it took three periods of overtime for Washington State to get past Boise State. More worrying for the conference was California’s relatively tight win against FCS Weber State.
The top of PAC-12 certainly looks healthy. USC are for real, and UCLA have shown themselves to be offensive juggernauts. Stanford will recover from their loss and 2-0 Oregon look strong. The only question-mark surrounding the conference is depth.
Much like the Big 12, the SEC’s story in week two was one of meeting — and not surpassing — expectations. After a hectic week one schedule, most of the conference took to the field against FCS opponents, and no upsets were recorded.
In the big games, the SEC finished 1-2. Arkansas were held to under 300 yards in total offense during their 28-7 loss to ranked TCU. The Horned Frogs played their SEC opponent at their own game, drawing three sacks and an interception while racking up 195 rushing yards. Elsewhere, Auburn — one of the league’s strongest teams — struggled against a Clemson defense that limited Jarrett Stidham to just 79 passing yards. Two TDs were enough for the Tigers to get past Auburn 14-6.
But in South Bend, Indiana, it was a different story, with Georgia recording a crucial win on the road at Notre Dame. In the end it was the Bulldog’s rushing attack that made the difference, as the favoured Fighting Irish struggled to contain Georgia’s Sony Michel and Nick Chubb who averaged 5.6 and 4.8 yards per carry respectively.
With exception of losses for Virginia and Syracuse, the ACC had a good night. Clemson’s win over Auburn secured the Tigers another week in the top 4, and Louisville’s in-conference win over North Carolina — which involved an offensive clinic from QB Lamar Jackson — will likely push them further up the AP rankings. With Miami and Florida State both out of action, we sadly didn’t get to see the rest of league’s top-tier — so we must reserve judgement for now.
Duke’s demolition of Northwestern points to a striking level of depth in the ACC, and Pitt managed to put up 14 against a Penn State team intent on making noise in the playoffs. Though it wasn’t all fun and games for the ACC, NC State, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech all got through this round with comfortable wins against lower-opposition. Yes, we might have like to see more, but week 2 was replete with examples of Power Five underachievement.
Clemson’s win against an elite SEC team combined with Louisville’s high-powered offensive display constituted a strong night for the ACC which was capped off with a sign that the league has tremendous depth. However, the league’s stint at the top of these rankings could be short-lived — the ACC is about to get fratricidal. The next round of games will see Miami take on FSU and Louisville host Clemson. Chaos is coming, but will it be a ladder?