Five College Football Games to Watch: Week 2

Week 1 of the college football season proved to have some rather exciting moments and some unpredictable outcomes. BYU shocked #3 Oklahoma and Sam Bradford was put out of commission for a few weeks. Georgia showed that they might be in serious trouble this year after a less than stellar performance in Stillwater. Boise State made a lot of progress towards a 2nd BCS Bowl. FSU and Miami provided a thrilling closer to the opening weekend in a game with eight lead changes and a combined 32 points in the fourth quarter. Ohio State survived a scare from Navy.  Alabama even got a few first place votes in the AP. Though there's only one truly blockbuster match up, Week 2 could provide more interest for fans as there are a few contests featuring big names (at least historically speaking) and several teams begin to dabble in conference play. Now on to the five "must watch" games of Week 2 (not involving Alabama) and remember, rankings are from the AP until the BCS rankings come out...and all times listed are central:

CLEMSON at GEORGIA TECH (15)
Thursday, September 10th - 6:30 pm - ESPN

Though both ACC teams started their seasons with cupcakes, this Thursday contest will be one to watch. It'll be interesting to see if Dabo Swinney can get anything going at Clemson in his first full year there after taking over part of the way through the 2008 season after Bowden's implosion. Clemson whacked Middle Tennessee State 37-14 in their opener, but Georgia Tech will naturally prove to be a much stiffer challenge.

Georgia Tech is beginning year two of the Paul Johnson era and remained at #15 after beating FCS Jacksonville State 37-17 in an error-filled affair. Tech had five fumbles against the Gamecocks (and lost three of them) and apparently suffered many dropped passes as well. Johnson had this to say after the game, "...we will have to be 100 times better on Thursday night or we will get run out of our own stadium.”

While Clemson aren't world beaters by any stretch of the imagination (they'd be ranked #31 if you rank them in the 'others receiving votes' category), they're worlds better than JSU and if they could sneak out a win against Georgia Tech, it could help them greatly in what's looking like a very weak Atlantic Division of the ACC. Given that the Coastal Division looks to be much tougher, the pressure is really on Georgia Tech to come out with a win against a team from the other division.

NOTRE DAME (18) at MICHIGAN
Saturday, September 12th - 2:30 pm - ABC

Before the season started, many people met this game with a roll of the eyes and a groan after last year proved to be an exercise in extreme suckitude for both of the storied programs. ND housed Michigan 35-17 in South Bend and it was shocking at the time before everyone figured out just how terrible Michigan really was. Notre Dame's final record of 7-6 looked better than it was as they lost to pretty much any decent team they played...and even some bad teams they played, such as Syracuse.

Notre Dame claims they've buckled down and changed their attitudes after the 2008 regular season and they turned that newfound enthusiasm into a 49-21 victory over Hawai'i in the Hawai'i Bowl. It seems to be carrying over so far into 2009 after they waxed Nevada 35-0 in their opener (and Jimmy Clausen didn't even get sackend once!) Michigan beat up on the Western Michigan Broncos in their opener to the tune of 31-7. While neither of those opening weekends are exactly resume wins for either team, they were rather sound victories...something both programs only rarely produced in 2008. So yeah, there's a bit of the history of both programs carrying this pick, but in the early goings anyway, both teams look to be significantly improved over last year.

UCLA at TENNESSEE
Saturday, September 12th - 3:00 pm - ESPN

This is one of the rare times I'll pick a game featuring two unranked teams (though they are both 'ranked' in the mid-30s if you extend out the "others receiving votes" category of the AP Poll), but I think we're all more than a little curious to see how the Kiffin experiment will function against a team that's not the worst team in the FBS. Their 63-7 win over hapless Western Kentucky has their fanbase amped up. To some extent, that's largely understandable given the optimism of fans with a new coach (especially after watching the final year of the Reign of Phil.)

UCLA is also trying to get things rolling in the right direction under a new(ish) coach. Rick Neuheisel is in his second year in charge of the Bruins and hoping to improve on the 4-8 campaign of his first year. Things got off to a rocky start for the Bruins' defence in their opener against San Diego State in that they gave up TDs on the Aztecs' first two possessions. They buckled down afterward though and shut them out the remaining three quarters in a 33-14 win. One of UCLA's four wins last year came against Tennessee when they defeated the Vols 27-24 in Pasadena. The Vol Nation will certainly want their revenge and former USC coaches Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron will certainly want to defeat UCLA because of their present and past employers.

SOUTH CAROLINA at GEORGIA (21)
Saturday, September 12th - 6:00 pm - ESPN2

I think we're going to be able to tell a lot about Georgia's prospects for the rest of the year based off of this game. Though South Carolina didn't show a whole heckuva lot in their 7-3 win against NC State, they're not going to roll over and play dead for a Georgia team badly in need of a win. The thought of an 0-2 Georgia is jarring considering the success they've had under Mark Richt, but things aren't looking so hot right now in Athens after their opening weekend trip to Stillwater. After a successful opening drive, the wheels kind of fell off for the Bulldogs in their 24-10 loss. Spotty QB play from Joe Cox, turnovers and the loss of their starting left tackle will have to be overcome if Georgia's to make any noise in the SEC East this year. The good news though is that Georgia's defense was able to somewhat contain OSU's offensive juggernaut to a mere 307 yards of offense. Two of OSU's TD scoring drives started at Georgia's 32 and 24.

USC (3) at OHIO STATE (8)
Saturday, September 12th - 7:00 pm - ESPN

Based solely on ranking, this is unquestionably THE game of the week. In 2008, the Trojans tore the Buckeyes limb from limb in Los Angeles to the tune of 35-3. Hopefully this year, the game will live up to its heavyweight billing and produce something actually worth watching. Opening weekend contests for the two teams make you think a repeat of last year could be in store after Ohio State narrowly defeated Navy 31-27 (and was dropped two places in the rankings as a reward) and USC decimated San Jose State 56-3. Navy is certainly better than San Jose State, but it's not like Navy is elite, even if their offense is difficult to defend. USC is breaking in a true freshman quarterback though and there's quite a difference between lining up against San Jose State in the friendly atmosphere of home and taking on Ohio State at the 'Shoe. It'll be the one the nation as a whole will be tuned into this weekend and will definitely be a game that shapes the national championship race as it'll be a resume win no matter who the victor is.

 

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