Week 2 of the college football season is here — and the ACC and Big 12 are making their debuts.
Six teams ranked in the AP Top 25 are in action, including No. 1 Clemson and No. 5 Oklahoma. Another key storyline will be No. 10 Notre Dame playing in its first game as a full ACC member (at least for this season) against Duke, which is led by Clemson transfer Chase Brice.
COVID-19 remains a factor in the 2020 season and has led to several postponements, but the games will go on this week. Every week, Sporting News will survey the landscape looking for Heisman contenders, coaches on the spot, upset alerts and other trends. With that in mind, get ready for Week 2.
Sporting News ranked the top 25 quarterbacks in college football this season, and four of the top five are in action this weekend in Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Texas’ Sam Ehlinger and Notre Dame’s Ian Book.
All four are considered strong Heisman Trophy contenders considering that Ohio State’s Justin Fields — the lone returning finalist — will not be playing as of now.
Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler checked in at No. 13, and he will be making his debut as a starter against Missouri State. The standard is high considering that Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won back-to-back Heisman Trophy awards in 2017-18, and Jalen Hurts finished second behind Joe Burrow last season.
Rattler can get off on the right foot against the Bears, and there is a high standard considering how his predecessors fared the past three seasons with coach Lincoln Riley:
Hurts added 176 rushing yards and three more TDs in his debut. The ball barely touched the ground in those games. Rattler will have a chance to add his name to that conversation with a big-time performance.
Miami bottomed out last year in the Independence Bowl with a 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech out of Conference-USA. The Hurricanes also lost to FIU last season.
That capped a 6-7 year in Manny Diaz’s first season, but he didn’t waste time making changes. Rhett Lashlee comes over from SMU as the new offensive coordinator, and Houston transfer D’Eriq King makes his debut Thursday against another Conference-USA opponent in UAB.
The Blazers pose an interesting test for the Hurricanes. UAB averaged 10 wins the past two seasons, has an experienced quarterback in Tyler Johnston III and a 1-2 backfield punch of Spencer Brown and Jermaine Brown Jr. The Blazers also played last Thursday.
That makes for an interesting game — one worth having on a screen while the Chiefs and Texans open the NFL season at the same time.
It’s hard to find an upset given all the games involving ranked teams feature double-digit spreads. Iowa State opens the season with another star quarterback in Brock Purdy, who led the Big 12 in passing yards in 2019. The Cyclones could be considered a sleeper pick to the reach the conference championship game.
Louisiana presents an interesting challenge in the opener, however. The Ragin’ Cajuns have averaged nine wins in Billy Napier’s first two seasons, and senior quarterback Levi Lewis operates an offense led by running backs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas, who combined for 1,967 rushing yards and 27 TDs in 2019.
If Louisiana can avoid turnovers, then this one could get interested in the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame opens against Duke in its quest to be ACC champion.
That’s one of the most intriguing storylines of a season impacted by COVID-19. The Irish are 22-9 against the ACC since an arrangement was made with the conference in 2014. But the one-time engagement is much-more interesting.
Brian Kelly has the Irish in playoff contention again. Notre Dame is 33-6 the past three seasons, and Book returns as a senior quarterback.
Notre Dame was 8-3 ATS as a favorite and 5-2 ATS at home last season, so that’s a good bet to hit up against the Blue Devils, too.
In a week that tends to drive over-reactions, Notre Dame figures to be at the center of that as usual.
The drama surrounding the Big Ten’s season continued into Week 2, and there has been no definitive choice for when the conference will resume game action.
That decision has become a chess piece in the upcoming election, too. President Donald Trump offered another opinion on that this week:
Maryland and Illinois are strong Democratic states, according to 270ToWin, but the other Big Ten states are where it gets interesting. Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — all Democratic leans with the exception of Ohio as a battleground state — make up 74 electoral votes.
Trump won four of those five states in the 2016 election. Until the conference revisits the decision, this will continue to be a political topic into November.
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