Week 1 of the college football season was a fun prelude to a packed Week 2 slate.
Here’s what you should be watching for this weekend.
Can Jarrett Stidham puncture a fierce, seasoned Clemson defense? (Auburn at Clemson, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Stidham is supremely talented. We haven’t seen a ton of him, but everything we’ve seen has been good. He hasn’t faced a defense like Clemson’s, though.
Stidham accounted for three touchdowns in the Tigers’ season-opening win against Georgia Southern. He’s more of a pocket passer than your typical Auburn QB, but Stidham is mobile enough to elude pass rushers or pick up a first down when the time calls.That said, this Clemson defense has seen it all. It has playmakers everywhere you look. From Dexter Lawrence to Christian Wilkins to Ryan Carter, these dudes are monsters. The Tigers allowed one — ONE — passing yard against Kent State. A lot of that is pressuring the quarterback. But their coverage is great, too.
Stidham can’t be expected to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns. But if he’s efficient, moves the chains and makes the right reads, Clemson is beatable.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen this weekend.
Score prediction: Clemson 27, Auburn 17
Which J.T. Barrett will show up for Ohio State? (Oklahoma at Ohio State, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Barrett had a nice outing against Indiana if you look at the box score. He threw for 304 yards and accounted for four touchdowns. Nothing to scoff at.
But a few things: A) Oklahoma is not Indiana. B) Barrett missed an array of open receivers against the Hoosiers. And when he finally got going in the second half, a lot of his yardage was a function of Buckeye receivers scampering away from Hoosier defenders:
Barrett hasn’t been quite the player he was as a freshman. We know the talent is there, though. We also know he can beat Oklahoma. He and the Buckeyes walloped the Sooners in Norman last season. No. 16 threw for four touchdowns.
But we need to see that guy instead of the one who threw for 337 yards — combined — in his final three games of last season. Barrett has plenty of weapons around him, including J.K. Dobbins, who looks like he could be the next electric running back to captivate college football fans.
Another reason why Barrett needs to improve in order for Ohio State to win? Because Baker Mayfield, who was allergic to incomplete passes on Saturday, is quarterbacking Oklahoma.
Baker is balling. Time for Barrett to do the same.
Score prediction: Ohio State 42, Oklahoma 35
Will Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm look like a freshman against Notre Dame? (Georgia at Notre Dame, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Fromm looked outstanding in his first college outing. The Notre Dame defense looked stout last Saturday, too. These two storied programs are perennially hyped. Is this year they break through?
You can’t draw grand conclusions from one game, but Fromm has the tools to be successful. Most importantly, he was accurate. The freshman completed two-thirds of his passes for almost 10 yards per attempt.
The fact that this game is in South Bend is huge, though. A young quarterback is going up against a veteran defense in front of a raucous crowd. For what it’s worth, Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush barely has more game experience than Fromm — and both teams have good running games. Nick Chubb looked like pre-injury Nick Chubb against Appalachian State, rumbling for 96 yards and two scores. Fighting Irish tailbacks Josh Adams and Dexter Williams each ran for more than 100 yards against Temple. If Fromm looks anything like he did in Week 1 against Notre Dame, Georgia will be in good shape.
But that’s a big if.
Score prediction: Notre Dame 31, Georgia 24
Will USC have any answer for Stanford’s rushing attack? (Stanford at USC, Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
Western Michigan ran for 263 yards against USC in Week 1. Stanford racked up 656 yards of offense against Rice, with 287 coming on the ground.
This is pretty simple: The Trojans have the quarterback edge with Sam Darnold under center. They have a darn good running back of their own in Ronald Jones. Their secondary is outstanding (Western Michigan didn’t reach 100 passing yards last weekend).
But USC knows what’s coming. Bryce Love. Cameron Scarlett. Dorian Maddox. And they'll keep coming. The Trojans need to stay disciplined and control the line of scrimmage. Easier said than done.
Score prediction: Stanford 35, USC 34
Can someone besides Lamar Jackson step up for Louisville? (Louisville at North Carolina, Saturday, noon ET, ESPN)
Lamar Jackson was Lamar Jackson in Week 1. The reigning Heisman winner passed for 378 yards, ran for 107 and threw for two scores.
Yet Louisville struggled to beat Purdue, a team that’s been stuck in the basement of the Big Ten for the last half-decade. Not an encouraging sign for the Cardinals, who lost their final three games of 2016 after a blazing start. And North Carolina is probably better than the Boilermakers.Still, Louisville should beat the Tar Heels, even in Chapel Hill. UNC is no longer has QB Mitch Trubisky (now with the Chicago Bears) or running back Elijah Hood (Oakland Raiders). And Louisville's Jackson will show up. That’s what Heisman winners do.
Who else steps up, though? The defense has talent, but its holes are evident. The Cards’ running game sans Jackson could stand to improve.
Louisville is better than it showed against Purdue ... we think. But we’ll need to see it to really believe it.
Score prediction: Louisville 40, North Carolina 31
Northwestern 24, Duke 23 (12 noon ET, ESPNU)
Arkansas 30, TCU 28 (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Penn State 42, Pittsburgh 20 (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Oregon 40, Nebraska 24 (4:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
Washington State 35, Boise State 27 (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)