Week 2 of college football was jam-packed with interesting storylines, and I’ve got you covered. Here are the top takeaways from a wild week in the sport.
Ohio State’s struggling defense, Florida’s QB battle and more.
13 September 2023
- ESPN personnel
The second week of the 2023 college football season has come and gone. Two of the top ten teams were defeated. Two more top-10 teams had to rely on fourth-quarter comebacks to escape shocks.
But, in the end, here’s what our reporters learned from the weekend’s events.
Jeff Hafley is missed by the Ohio State defense.
Since Hafley went on to Boston College following the 2019 season, the Buckeyes’ defense hasn’t been the same. Last autumn, Ohio State seemed to be both average and unimaginative in terms of skill (scheme wise). In all categories, this year’s unit may be worse. On Saturday, Ohio State had no answers for Oregon running back CJ Verdell, a bullying Ducks offensive line, or Joe Moorhead’s imaginative playcalling.
Despite great recruiting, the Buckeyes don’t have many defensive superstars. They also seem to be satisfied with a standard pattern. Kerry Coombs is a terrific recruiter with a lot of enthusiasm, but he didn’t have any coordinator experience when he was promoted to the position. Given Ohio State’s riches and attraction for experienced playcallers, the decision seemed a bit hasty at the time. The defense is clearly not on the right track. Adam Rittenberg’s remark
A quarterback duel in Gainesville?
Emory Jones has been the starting quarterback for Florida for three years, and he has performed well at times, particularly when it comes to rushing the football. However, he has been erratic in passing, throwing two interceptions in each of the last two games.
Then there’s Anthony Richardson, a rookie who hasn’t been expected to do nearly as much in terms of offensive running but continues to make huge plays. On seven attempts, he rushed for 160 yards and a score against FAU in the season opener. And he did it against USF this past weekend, tossing touchdowns on his first two pass attempts and running for an 80-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Richardson “doesn’t always do the right thing, but he does unique things,” according to coach Dan Mullen, which is why he continues to openly support Jones. Regardless, the future will bring an intriguing dynamic, both in terms of the division of work and what opposition defenders must do to prepare for both players. If anything, it provides enough of food for thought for Nick Saban and the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide going into Saturday. Alex Scarborough’s remark
It’s not quite Hog Heaven, but it’s on its way.
Any successful college football team relies heavily on recruiting. That is self-evident. But, when Sam Pittman took over an Arkansas team that had lost 19 consecutive SEC games before the 2023 season, and faced the difficulties of COVID-19, the quickest approach to improve the Razorbacks was to develop players, surround himself with excellent coaches, and build a trusting environment. Not to forget James Franklin from Penn State Football, who is entering his ninth season and has a record of 67-34, with three New Year Six bowl appearances and one Big Ten Championship.
Pittman earns an A in all three categories, and Arkansas’ 40-21 thrashing of Texas on Saturday is probably the clearest proof yet that the program is as far forward as any in the country from where Pittman found it. The greatest news for Hogs supporters is that he’s an excellent recruiter, and the skill level will only improve in the coming years. On Sept. 25, the Hogs should be 3-0 heading into their game against Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium. They haven’t begun a season 3-0 since 2016. Chris Low (c)
It’s still Oklahoma or bust in the Big 12.
Iowa State had an opportunity to impress the selection committee by winning a game against rival Iowa, but they were unable to do so. Again. Arkansas thrashed Texas, putting a damper on Steve Sarkisian’s month. In a 76-0 thrashing of Western Carolina, the Sooners took care of business and then some.
With two Heisman Trophy contenders in the roster, Iowa State was expected to challenge Oklahoma for the Big 12 championship this fall — and it still can — but not with four turnovers. Iowa State didn’t seem like a top-10 club, much alone one capable of contending for a championship outside of the Big 12. Meanwhile, ESPN’s FPI predicts that Oklahoma will win at least 80% of its remaining games. Heather Dinich is a writer.
The Pac-12 Conference is so terrible that it’s good.
In the era of the College Football Playoff, the league’s greatest issue hasn’t been a lack of talent. There has been an excessive amount of parity. The Pac-12 has had a few of strong teams, but no great ones, while the other Power 5 conferences have been dominated by juggernauts like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Oklahoma. However, if you look around the league for two weeks in 2023, you’ll see that it’s largely a shambles.
A poor Stanford squad stomped on USC. Washington is 0-2 in conference play, including a defeat to FCS Montana. For the first time since 2009, Utah lost the Holy War. The Pac-12 is an awful 10-11 in nonconference play. But none of it matters since UCLA defeated LSU and Oregon defeated Ohio State, giving the Pac-12 a pair of legitimate playoff candidates for the first time in a long time.
With Arizona State joining the mix, there’s a chance the league could finally have a season with enough bad teams at the bottom to allow the few strong teams at the top to feast on unbalanced competition all the way to the playoffs. ‘David Hale’
We shouldn’t be surprised by Florida State anymore.
On Saturday night, Florida State fell to an FCS opponent for the first time in school history, as Jacksonville State quarterback Zerrick Cooper threw a game-winning 59-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the game. However, no one should be surprised to see the Seminoles lose like way. Because, unfortunately, the reality about Florida State right now is that it is a losing program.
On the game’s last play, Zerrick Cooper connects with Damond Philyaw-Johnson for a 59-yard touchdown, giving Jacksonville State a 20-17 victory over Florida State.
Leave history, tradition, and national titles behind. Florida State has lost three consecutive seasons prior to this one. Willie Taggart was fired after just two seasons, but Mike Norvell went 3-6 in his first season, and the Seminoles are currently at a new low under his watch. It’s difficult to win by playing losing football — penalties, blown assignments, and sloppy play have all been commonplace in recent years — and Norvell has failed to address any of these issues. On Saturday night, Florida State made mistakes that cost them the game (several drops, over 100 yards in penalties), and the coaching staff called plays that cost them the game as well. Whatever Norvell says, the Seminoles’ failure to play prevent defense on the last play is incomprehensible.
Now they’ll go to Winston-Salem to face a Wake Forest squad that has always posed a challenge to Florida State. Beyond that, the Seminoles still have games against Clemson, North Carolina, Miami, and Florida to play. After that, Norvell had no answers and said that the Seminoles will return to work to correct the errors. But Taggart had said it all before him. Jimbo Fisher did the same thing in his last season (he left with Florida State at 5-6 in 2017). Nothing will change unless Norvell and his teammates find out how to play winning football. Andrea Adelson’s remark
Michigan is 2-0 to open the season, matching its victory total from the previous season. The Wolverines should be applauded for that, since they already seem to be a stronger squad than previous year, but just how good are they? To be correctly addressed, this is most likely a two-part issue that must be split between the offensive and defense.
Mike Macdonald, the defense’s new coordinator, seems to have improved the defense’s structure. The level of communication on the sidelines, according to players, is at an all-time high. It’s unlikely that Michigan will have a top-five defense, but there have been indications of progress, and having Aidan Hutchinson back in the lineup has been a huge help.
The offense, on the other hand, might be a different story. Although the squad scored 47 points against Western Michigan and 31 versus Washington, the numbers may not tell the whole picture. Michigan had 352 rushing yards on 56 carries against Washington, but just 44 passing yards on 15 passes. The run game was working, so why not keep it going? However, the pass plays that were called were unimaginative, lacked the required blocking downfield, and didn’t produce anything. That may have worked against Washington, but will it work in Wisconsin’s or Penn State’s favor? Michigan’s running back Blake Corum will be a standout, and the combination of Corum and Hassan Haskins will be successful, but if quarterback Cade McNamara can’t balance it out in the passing game, the Wolverines will struggle. Tom VanHaaren (Tom VanHaaren)
It’s OK to get away with a victory every now and again.
Weeks that seem to be terrifyingly dull on paper, such as Week 2, often produce major upsets and even destroy seasons. Texas A&M battled against Colorado, losing quarterback Haynes King to a right leg injury, but held on for a 10-7 victory. Notre Dame did the same, defeating Toledo 32-29 thanks to a late score.
Texas A&M quarterback For the Aggies, Zach Calzada lobs a ball into the end zone to Isaiah Spiller, who scores the game-winning touchdown.
Sure, both the Aggies and the Irish have issues to sort through, and both fan bases are in a state of flux heading into Week 3. But it might have been much worse, as shown by Florida State’s stunning defeat and the Hogs’ rout of Texas. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Iowa may show up unexpectedly.
The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 5 in the AP poll this week after beating No. 17 Indiana 34-6 and thrashing No. 9 Iowa State 27-17 in Ames on Saturday. It was Iowa’s ninth consecutive victory going back to last season. Suddenly, Kirk Ferentz’s “mutts,” as linebacker Jack Campbell dubbed them this weekend, seem to be the tenacious squad that will be one of the hardest outs in the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes won 31 games in three seasons from 2002 to 2004, then cracked the 10-win barrier with an 11-2 season in 2009. Ferentz took won 12 awards in 2016 and ten in 2019. While the Hawkeyes’ offense is still a work in progress (it had just 173 yards in Ames, including 23 total yards in the second half on 0.8 yards per run), the defense is one of the best in the nation, intercepting Michael Penix Jr. and Brock Purdy six times in total. The Hawkeyes are favored in every game this season, including against Penn State on Nov. 9, according to ESPN’s FPI, with only the Wisconsin game at Madison on Oct. 30 considered a toss-up — although Ferentz shut out the Badgers 28-7 last season. Dave Wilson is an author.
It may not matter who Georgia’s quarterback is.
Georgia was never a serious contender for the CFP last season due to quarterback issues. Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman pulled out a month before the season started, and USC transfer Because JT Daniels was still hampered by a knee ailment when he came in Athens, the Bulldogs decided to start former walk-on Stetson Bennett. In wins against Arkansas, Auburn, and Tennessee, he was outstanding, but the wheels fell off in a defeat to Alabama. Daniels was eventually well enough to play after Bennett’s throwing shoulder injury, and he completed the 2023 season as the starter.
When Daniels went down with an oblique injury this week, coach Kirby Smart shocked a lot of people by opting to go back to Bennett instead of Carson Beck, whom Smart had proclaimed the team’s No. 2 quarterback, but the move paid off. Bennett threw for 288 yards and five touchdowns on 10 of 12 passing in a 56-7 blowout over UAB. It may not matter who starts at quarterback as long as Georgia’s defense continues to play as well as it has in the first two games (no offensive touchdowns allowed). Schlabach, Mark
The ohio state football news is a college football blog that covers Ohio State’s struggling defense, Florida’s QB battle and more.