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College Football 2012 — Week Two Preview

Boise State v Michigan State
Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

Week One told us a few things. Like that Alabama is really, really good.

This week, we don’t have any matchups between ranked schools, but we do have some intriguing games that should tell us a bit more about some of these teams. Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Florida all have challenging road games against BCS-conference opponents. Oklahoma and Stanford, who struggled last week, will try to work out some kinks. Missouri and Texas A&M get their first tastes of life in the SEC. Poor Savannah State will be obliterated by another Top 25 team. And Alabama and Arkansas can set up the first top 10 matchup of the season.

Here is what to look for this week in college football:

Western Kentucky (1-0) at #1 Alabama (1-0)

[Saturday, 3:39 P.M. EST on SEC Network]

After manhandling Michigan and moving into the top spot in the A.P. poll, the Crimson Tide look to keep on their winning ways in what should be a tune-up game before a big conference test next week at #8 Arkansas. Despite losing several stars to the NFL, the Alabama defense was as dominant as ever in Week One, holding Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson to just 200 passing yards and 27 yards on the ground. Western Kentucky quarterback Kawaun Jakes threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns in the Hilltoppers’ win over Austin Peay, but it will be a very different atmosphere against the Crimson Tide in front of a raucous home crowd in Tuscaloosa.

#2 Southern Cal (1-0) at Syracuse (0-1)

[Saturday, 3:30 P.M. on ABC]

Matt Barkley and his talented receiving corps went for 372 yards and four touchdowns in a Week One rout of Hawaii. Now they take their aerial attack on the road against a Syracuse team with a pretty good passer of its own. The Orange defense, though, is unlikely to slow down the Trojans. Quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for 482 yards and four touchdowns in Syracuse’s shootout loss to Northwestern, and if Northwestern can hang 42 on the Orange, what can the Trojans do?

Washington (1-0) at #3 Louisiana State (1-0)

[Saturday, 7 P.M. on ESPN]

In one of the more interesting coaching moves in recent years, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian had a live tiger brought to the Huskies’ sideline during practice this week in an effort to prepare his team for the hostile environment of Baton Rouge. But a tiger in a cage is one thing—preparing for a ferocious LSU defense and tens of thousands of screaming Cajuns is something else entirely. LSU gave up just 219 total yards in their season-opening win, 130 of which came on just two big plays. The Washington offense, which will be without running back Jesse Callier (torn ACL) and put up just 21 points in a win over San Diego State, will need some big breaks if they want to pull off the upset. LSU is 28-0 in non-conference games under coach Les Miles.

Fresno State (1-0) at #4 Oregon (1-0)

[Saturday, 6:30 P.M. on Pac-12 Network]

Oregon’s potent offense picked up right where it left off last season, rolling up over 600 yards of offense in a game in which the starters never saw the field in the second half. New Fresno coach Tim DeRuyter has implemented some big changes for the Bulldogs, installing a new spread offense and a 3-4 defense. Both had good success in Week One against Weber State, but will obviously have a much tougher test against Oregon’s high-powered offense. The Ducks have beaten Fresno State seven straight times and have not lost to an unranked team in almost four years.

Florida A&M (0-1) at #5 Oklahoma (1-0)

[Saturday, 7 P.M. on pay-per-view]

After struggling to get by UTEP last week (the Sooners led just 10-7 going into the fourth quarter), Oklahoma will look to build some confidence on both sides of the ball. Under defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, the Sooners kept the UTEP offense scoreless, but struggled to get off the field on 3rd downs and gave up 177 rushing yards to running back Nathan Jeffery. On the other side, it seemed apparent that quarterback Landry Jones and his new corps of receivers were still working out some kinks with their timing. This matchup should give them a good opportunity to work on those problems as they look ahead to their next game, a conference matchup with #21 Kansas State.

Savannah State (0-1) at #6 Florida State (1-0)

[Saturday, 6 P.M.; no television]

Savannah State lost 84-0 to Oklahoma State, and things could get even worse this week with a trip to Tallahassee. The Seminoles hung 69 points and 606 yards on Murray State last week and could easily match or exceed those totals against an even more-mismatched FCS foe.

#7 Georgia (1-0) at Missouri (1-0)

[Saturday, 7:45 P.M. on ESPN2]

Missouri gets its initial taste of the SEC, hosting the Bulldogs in their first conference game of the year. The Bulldogs’ defense struggled last week, but should be bolstered by the return of three defensive starters who were suspended for the game. After losing its top two rushers in the off-season, Georgia is hoping that Todd Gurley’s 100-yard, two touchdown outing last week wasn’t just a fluke. Missouri put up 62 points and over 450 total yards last week against SE Louisiana, but will now be facing their first test against an SEC defense.

Louisiana-Monroe (0-0) at #8 Arkansas (1-0)

[Saturday, 7 P.M. on ESPNU]

Arkansas struggled with some early-season jitters last week, trailing Jacksonville State 14-7 in the second quarter before exploding for 18 unanswered points. This week, coach John Smith’s task will be working out those problem areas and keeping his team focused on the Warhawks instead of looking ahead to next week’s matchup against top-ranked Alabama. The Razorbacks have won 12 straight at home and have outscored Louisiana-Monroe by an average of 28 points per game in nine previous meetings.

East Carolina (1-0) at #9 (tie) South Carolina (1-0)

[Saturday, at 12:21 P.M. on SEC Network]

Marcus Lattimore showed no ill effects from the knee injury that ended his 2011 season, rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns as the Gamecocks kicked off their season with their first conference win of the year.  This week, he’ll be going against an East Carolina defense that gave up over 400 yards through the air, but only 119 on the ground to Appalachian State. It could be an interesting test as Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw suffered a bruised shoulder and, as of press time, it is unknown if he will be able to play Saturday and how effective he might be. So expect to see a heavy dose of Lattimore, who rushed for 112 yards and three touchdowns against East Carolina last year, in this one.

#9 (tie) West Virginia, BYE

After putting up 69 points on Marshall last week, the Mountaineers are on cruise control with a bye this week followed by games against James Madison and Maryland before beginning Big 12 conference play on Sep. 29.

#11 Michigan State (1-0) at Central Michigan (1-0)

[Saturday, 3:30 P.M. on ESPNU]

Le’Veon Bell carried the Spartans on his shoulders last week, toting the ball 44 times for 210 yards and two touchdowns in their win over Boise State. This week, Michigan State will play its first-ever game at Central Michigan. The Spartans beat the Chippewas 45-7 in East Lansing last year. Central Michigan coach Dan Enos is a former Michigan State quarterback and was an assistant for six years under Spartans coach Mark Dantonio.

Ball State (1-0) at #12 Clemson (1-0)

[Saturday, 12 P.M. on ACC Network]

Clemson running back Andre Ellington rushed for a career-high 231 yards last week, and the Tigers offense should be even better next week when All-American receiver Sammy Watkins returns from a two-game suspension. But this week the focus will be on the Clemson defense. Still taking heat from giving up 70 points to West Virginia in last year’s Orange Bowl, new defensive coordinator Brent Venables must prepare his squad for a Ball State team that rushed for 329 yards and put up 596 total yards (4th best in school history) last week against Eastern Michigan. Ball State has lost 25 straight games to ranked opponents.

#13 Wisconsin (1-0) at Oregon State (0-0)

[Saturday, 4 P.M. on FX]

Heisman finalist Montee Ball rushed for a pedestrian (by his standards) 120 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win over Northern Iowa. This week, he’ll be facing an untested Beavers squad that vividly remembers last year’s 35-0 loss to the Badgers in Madison. This will be Oregon State’s season opener after last week’s game had to be postponed when Nicholls State, the scheduled opponent, was unable to fly out due to Hurricane Isaac. Wisconsin is the highest-rated nonconference team to visit Corvallis since 1977. The Badgers have won 33 consecutive nonconference games.

Central Florida (1-0) at #14 Ohio State (1-0)

[Saturday, 12 P.M. on ESPN2]

Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown while adding two more touchdowns through the air in coach Urban Meyer’s debut at Ohio State. This week he’ll face a disciplined Central Florida defense that held Akron to just 69 rushing yards and forced four turnovers. This is the second of a four-game season-opening homestand for the Buckeyes. They do not hit the road until Sep. 29 for their first conference game at #11 Michigan State.

Austin Peay (0-1) at #15 Virginia Tech (1-0)

[Saturday, 1:30 P.M.; no television]

After needing a last-second field goal and overtime to beat Georgia Tech in Week One, the Hokies will look to work out some of the kinks against a much less intimidating opponent. Austin Peay gave up 49 points to Western Kentucky and are unlikely to have much better luck against Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, the school record-holder for total offense.

#16 Nebraska (1-0) at UCLA (1-0)

[Saturday, 7:30 P.M. on Fox]

Nebraska rolled last week behind a career passing day (354 yards and five touchdowns) from quarterback Taylor Martinez. This week, he will likely again have to shoulder the load as Rex Burkhead, the Cornhuskers’ workhorse running back, could miss the game with a sprained knee ligament. Last week against Rice, UCLA scored the most points (49) they had put up since the 2005 Sun Bowl. However, this week they’ll face a much tougher test against a Nebraska defense that held defending Conference USA champion Southern Miss to just 260 total yards.  Special teams could play a role in this one—Nebraska’s usually automatic kicker Brett Maher missed two field goals last week, while UCLA had three PATs blocked.

New Mexico (1-0) at #17 Texas (1-0)

[Saturday, 8 P.M. on Longhorn Network]

Texas’s quarterback controversy seems to be settled for the time being, so now the Longhorns will look to get their offense rolling. And they’ll continue to do so behind a powerful running game that saw Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron each go for 100+ yards and have three touchdowns between them. This game will pose an interesting test for Texas’ defense—after preparing for Wyoming’s spread offense last week, Texas has had less than a week to switch gears and get ready for the Lobos’ triple option attack.

#18 Oklahoma State (1-0) at Arizona (1-0)

[Saturday, 10:30 P.M. on PAC-12 Network]

This week, Oklahoma State fans may finally have a chance to see just how good quarterback Wes Lunt really is. The true freshman was 11/11 for 129 yards last week, but was pulled late in the first quarter of the Cowboys’ blowout of Savannah State. This week, he’ll face a tougher challenge against a BCS conference opponent who knows Oklahoma State as well as anyone (this will be the third time the two schools have played each other in the last 16 months). Arizona needed overtime to beat Toledo last week, but coach Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense put up 624 total yards, the second-highest total in school history. Lunt certainly has big shoes to fill, replacing Brandon Weeden. But if he can prove to be as good as advertised, Oklahoma State may have something special.

Air Force (1-0) at #19 Michigan (0-1)

[Saturday, 3:30 P.M. on ABC]

Michigan will try to recover from their ugly loss to Alabama by taking on the triple-option attack of Air Force. The Wolverines were manhandled by the Crimson Tide in every phase of the game, trailing 31-0 in the second quarter. Running back Fitzgerald Toussiant will be back from a one-game suspension, which should help a Michigan offense that managed just 69 yards on the ground. The Falcons have lost 19 straight games to ranked opponents.

Grambling State (0-1) at #20 Texas Christian (0-0)

[Saturday, 7 P.M. on Fox Sports Southwest]

After having a rare Week One bye, TCU begins its first season in the Big 12 by hosting Grambling State before its first conference game next week at Kansas. TCU’s offense could be potent this year with the return of quarterback Casey Paschall along with three of his top four receivers and two of the top three rushers. Paschall is expected to start this week despite failing a team-administered drug test in the offseason. The Horned Frogs have six 11-win seasons in the last seven years, the only FBS school that can make that claim.

Miami (1-0) at #21 Kansas State (1-0)

[Saturday, at 12 P.M. on FX]

After a slow start, Kansas State exploded for 42 unanswered points last week against Missouri State. Although primarily known for his running ability, Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein showed he could get it done with his arm, going 19/28 for 169 yards and two touchdowns. This week, he’ll go against a Miami defense that, while certainly more athletic than Missouri State, gave up 441 passing yards last week against Boston College. Kansas State could roll if Klein’s passing is on. But if he struggles, this game could be tight as Miami has an offense (208 rushing yards, 415 total yards) that can go toe-to-toe with the Wildcats. Kansas State has won 10 consecutive home games against unranked opponents.

Purdue (1-0) at #22 Notre Dame (1-0)

[Saturday, 3:30 P.M. on NBC]

After pummeling Navy 50-10, the Irish will look to keep their offense clicking on all cylinders. Notre Dame rolled up 293 yards on the ground and 490 total against the Midshipmen. And it was a truly balanced attack, with 10 different players catching a pass and four different players receiving six or more carries. Despite putting up 48 points against Eastern Kentucky, Purdue’s offense is still in flux. After serving a one-game suspension, quarterback Caleb TerBush has been reinstated and is expected to start ahead of Robert Marve, who threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns last week.

Missouri State (0-1) at #23 Louisville (1-0)

[Saturday, 3:30 P.M. on WHAS/ESPN Gameplan]

Louisville running back Jeremy Wright rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns in the Cardinals’ Week One win over Kentucky. This week, he should be able to find similar success against a Missouri State defense that gave up 51 points and 324 rushing yards to Kansas State last week.

#24 Florida (1-0) at Texas A&M (0-0)

[Saturday, 3:30 P.M. on ESPN]

The atmosphere in College Station should be electric as Texas A&M hosts its first-ever SEC conference game. Johnny Manziel is the first freshman to start at quarterback for the Aggies in 68 years, but he has the benefit of four returning starters on an offensive line that gave up just nine sacks last year. He should be benefitted by the strong ground attack of running back Christine Michel against a Gators defense that gave up over four yards per carry last week. After having two quarterbacks split time last week, Florida coach Will Muschamp has finally named sophomore Jeff Driskel the Gators starting signal caller. But, like A&M, they will rely on a potent ground game to protect their young quarterback. Last week, senior running back Mike Gillislee had a career-high 148 yards and two touchdowns in the Gators’ win over Bowling Green. Due to Hurricane Issac forcing the postponement of last week’s A&M-Louisiana Tech game, this is the first time since 1967 that the Aggies will open the season with a conference game.

Duke (1-0) at #25 Stanford (1-0)

[Saturday, 10:30 P.M. on PAC-12 Network]

The Cardinal needed a field goal late in the fourth quarter to eke out a win over San Jose State. This week, Stanford could have its hands full against a much-improved Duke squad that many expect to make a bowl this year for the first time since 1995. Trying to fill the big shoes of Andrew Luck, new quarterback Josh Nunes threw for just 125 yards and a touchdown in Week One. In last year’s 41-14 win, Stanford held Duke to just 30 rushing yards and may need a similar defensive effort this year if the offense cannot find a higher gear. Duke is seeking its first 2-0 start to a season since 1998.

 

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