The possibility that the Ohio State No.3 might not play a leading role in deciding this year’s college football playoffs suddenly exists after Oregon No.11’s dominant running game and the late interception won a victory on route 35-28.
That being said, there is precedent for an OSU rebound from an early season loss. In 2014, the Buckeyes lost in September to Virginia Tech and then won the national championship in the first year of the playoff format.
But now the Buckeyes find themselves playing from behind as Oregon rise to the top of the playoff race. For the first time in six years, the Pac-12 can realistically consider placing the conference champion in the top four.
That makes the Ducks the biggest winner of the week. Here are the rest of those teams worthy of praise or review from Week 2 of the 2021 season:
The Ducks’ obvious growth under coach Mario Cristobal has been forgotten amid last year’s struggles amid the pandemic. Since taking office, Cristobal has built a squad that can measure up to any team in the country, with the kind of physical mindset borrowed from his time in Alabama that contrasts with the larger Pac- 12. Case in point: Oregon amassed 269 yards and three touchdowns in Ohio State’s worst performance against the run since 2018. If the Ducks can do it against the Buckeyes, they can get around any remaining teams on their line. calendar.
The Ducks are big winners. The Pac-12 too. Largely a non-factor in the playoff hunt since 2017, the conference can now boast: Our best team, Oregon, is better than the best of the Big Ten. These arguments carry enormous weight among the members of the playoff selection committee. And while it’s currently reserved for the Ducks, the benefit of Saturday’s win would extend to the undefeated team or a conference-top loss in early December, be it the Ducks, the UCLA, Southern California, or whatever.
The Iowa No.12 is expected to be the top-ranked Big Ten team in USA TODAY Sports AFCA’s next coaching poll after a 27-17 win over No.10 from Iowa State, the Hawkeyes’ sixth consecutive victory in the series. How did they remove it? It’s simple: Iowa had a plus-four revenue margin and scored 20 points on these takeouts. It helped overcome a weak performance on offense, as the Hawkeyes finished with just 173 yards on 60 plays. After choking out the Cyclones, it’s time to start taking Iowa very seriously as the top contender for the New Year’s Six and a legitimate contender for the Big Ten title and top four.
The Wildcats didn’t get another monster game from quarterback Will Levis, but still managed to beat Missouri 35-28 in the SEC opener for both teams. Levis, a Penn State transfer who threw for 367 yards in Game 1, finished with 204 total attacking yards and two combined scores. With two weeks on the books, the Wildcats are an easy pick for the SEC East’s third-best team and the only team other than Florida with a shot at knocking off Georgia from the top of the division.
Corral threw for 281 yards and five touchdowns without an interception despite a game under three quarters as Mississippi beat Austin Peay 54-17. Heisman Trophy credentials are rising for the former five-star rookie, who has yet to return the ball in two games after a 2020 season defined by periods of savage inconsistency. Corral has now played three full games and 109 attempts without a pick pitch.
After a disappointing loss to Penn State to open the season, the Badgers rebounded with a dominant performance against Eastern Michigan, a team expected to land in the top half of the MAC. Wisconsin ran for 352 yards, dominated the clock and limited the EMU to just three first downs and 92 yards of attack.
Caroline from the south
If it does not come against an elite competition, this South Carolina’s 2-0 record after a 20-17 victory over East Carolina is commendable given both factors at play. First, this is a team clearly in the early stages of a rebuild under the leadership of first-year coach Shane Beamer. And two, the Gamecocks won both games with coach-turned-quarterback Zeb Noland taking over for an injured Luke Doty, the team’s scheduled starter in August.
Ohio State playoff hopes take a dent but it’s possible to survive loss if the Buckeyes deal with the No.13 from Penn State, Mich., and the opponent’s cross in the conference championship game. As dominant as OSU has been in the Big Ten over the past decade, is flawless conference play realistic given the state of the Buckeyes’ defense? This group has now allowed 472 yards and six rushing touchdowns in two games; last year’s unit allowed 781 yards and 10 points in eight games.
It’s nearly impossible to line up the preseason hype about Washington with how this team looked for two weeks. After losing 13-7 in their opener to Montana, UW was pushed back in a 31-10 prime-time loss to Michigan. Who are the Huskies? They are clearly not a team that can beat just anyone on both sides of the ball, which contrasts with the kind of program built under former coach Chris Petersen. It is also a group sufficiently incompetent offensively to only manage two touchdowns in eight quarters of play, including four against an opponent of the Football Championship Subdivision. UW has gone from being a competitor to the nation’s biggest disappointment.
State of North Carolina
After a 45-0 win over South Florida that suggested the preseason against NC State – namely that this team could be one of the ACC’s top four or five – was actually based, the Wolfpack put together a big flop of a performance losing 24-10 to Mississippi State. They didn’t handle the ball well, protect the football, harass MSU quarterback Will Rodgers, throw anything in the air or get the job done on the third down. Otherwise, a great performance from coach Dave Doeren’s group.
After an auspicious 1 week under new coach Steve Sarkisian, Texas fell back into mediocrity with a 40-21 loss to Arkansas. The Razorbacks, now 2-0, have made huge strides under the guidance of sophomore coach Sam Pittman, who inherited a dumpster smoldering fire but made the program very competitive in the SEC. After beating Louisiana-Lafayette to get things going, the Longhorns are expected to drop out of the national standings after allowing 333 rushing yards and averaging 3.8 yards per game.
Notre-Dame and Texas A&M
The No. 7 Fighting Irish and No. 5 Aggies survived as big favorites – the Irish 32-29 against Toledo and A&M 10-7 vs. Colorado – but raised his eyebrows along the way. For Notre Dame, the victory came despite a frustrating performance from quarterback Jack Coan, who threw a six-pick to give Toledo a 16-14 lead at halftime but threw the winning touchdown pass with just over a minute to play. The Aggies lost starting quarterback Haynes King early to the Buffaloes and didn’t score the touchdown until 2:41 playing in the fourth quarter. King’s replacement Zach Calzada completed 18 of 38 attempts for 183 yards.
State of Iowa
Developing the program to become one of the best in the Big 12 is a remarkable achievement, so it’s easy to see why Coach Matt Campbell’s name is tied to every major job posting in the FBS and NFL. But his tenure was not perfect: Campbell’s teams started out slow and failed to beat Iowa. In a year with real playoff hopes, that these flaws have surfaced again is very disappointing. Worse still, quarterback Brock Purdy’s three interceptions against Iowa opened the door for replacement Hunter Dekkers, so there could be some quarterback controversy heading into Week 3.
Injuries, missed opportunities and key mistakes sent Tennessee to a 41-34 home loss to Pittsburgh, the program’s first loss under new coach Josh Heupel. Before 10-0 after the first quarter and 13-7 at the start of the second, the tide changed after the Volunteers lost starting quarterback Joe Milton to an apparent lower leg injury. The offense struggled to gain ground behind replacement Hendon Hooker, who started slowly before finishing with 189 yards and two scores with an interception. The loss can be hung on three Tennessee turnovers and the defense’s inability to secure key saves against quarterback Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh offense.
Follow academic journalist Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg