As the old adage goes. The biggest improvement that you’ll see from a football team is their progression from Week 1 to Week 2. Several teams took that saying to heart and made positive strides. But others not so much, as losses to unranked opponents dropped them in the polls. Here are the winners and losers from an eventful Week 2 action.
Winner: ACC Quarterbacks. Who said that the well of burgeoning underclassmen quarterbacks was dry? Because Louisville’s sophomore Lamar Jackson and red-shirt freshman Florida State’s Deondre Francois put on a show on Saturday. Combined, the duo completed 60.5 percent of their passes for 673 yards and four touchdowns. Jackson’s elusiveness on the ground (by rushing for 199 yards) helped diversify the Cardinals’ offense.
With all the buzz surrounding Clemson’s Deshaun Watson entering the season. So far, it has seemed that Francois and Jackson have taken away his spotlight. The stage is only going to get bigger between the two, as the Seminoles head to Louisville for College Gameday next week.
Loser: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys lost to Central Michigan 30-27 after the Chippewas were allowed — incorrectly — an untimed down with zeros on the clock in the fourth quarter. It was caused by an intentional grounding call on Oklahoma State, when quarterback Mason Rudolph was still in the pocket and didn’t throw it anywhere near an eligible receiver, even though one referee admitted after the game that CMU should not have been given a play.
Evidently, Central Michigan scored on the play. Say what you will about the officiating, but the Cowboys’ poor handling of the situation on 4th down might have influenced the referee’s decision.
Loser: Northwestern. The Wildcats lost only two games during all of the 2015 regular season. So how does Northwestern respond in the early portion of 2016? By falling to a second-tier MAC opponent in Western Michigan and FCS Illinois State, of course. How fast things can turn in just one season.
For Northwestern, their struggles so far this season lies on offense, where the ‘Cats have produced just 596 total yards and 31 first downs in its first two games. Quarterback Clayton Thorson has battled with his accuracy in this young season, only hitting 50 percent of his passes. In addition, Thorson has only completed two passes for over 25 yards. In a cloudy Big Ten West, two setbacks already to non Power Five opponents puts Northwestern squarely behind the 8-ball. It’s amazing how quick Northwestern has dropped off after an outstanding 10-win season a year ago.
Winner: Arkansas. After an underwhelming performance by the Razorbacks in Week 1. Bret Bielema and company came up swinging during their valiant win over TCU in Fort Worth in double-overtime. Arkansas finally showed glimpses of a balanced offense with Aaron Allen throwing for 223 yards and three touchdowns, to compliment a Rawleigh Williams’ 137-yard rushing performance.
Overall, the game wasn’t pretty, but it was a win that Arkansas should feel proud of. After missing out on countless opportunities of finishing opponents off last season, the Razorbacks stepped forward by hanging tough against a lethal offense. The SEC West may be a one-horse race with Alabama, but with Arkansas’ emerging passing attack and sound linebacker play is something that makes Bielema’s team a force to be reckoned with as soon as conference plays arrives.
What else did we learn?
- Has LSU found a quarterback?: All it took was a Brandon Harris benching early in the second quarter against Jacksonville State to create a QB controversy in Baton Rouge. Although it’s easy to jump to conclusions, the performance from junior Danny Etling (6/14, 100 yards, 1 TD) sparked LSU’s rather sluggish offense to pleasant standards in the second half. At the surface, Elting is certainly not a mobile threat that Harris is. However, Etling’s efficiency through the air and composure in the pocket is something that Harris has yet to bring to the table in almost two seasons of starting. LSU hasn’t had the luxury of true pocket passer since Zach Mettenberger in 2013. And after so many failed experiments with dual-threats over the years, maybe it’s time for coach Les Miles to go a different route to help expand the Tigers’ offense?
- Should we be worried about Clemson?: Considering Clemson DID win both of their games, there shouldn’t be a question that they still are a Top 3 team, right? Well, after a sluggish performance against Auburn in Week 1 – albeit on the road, plus an uninspired game versus Troy in its home opener. Something needs to be brought to head coach Dabo Swinney’s attention. It mainly has to do with the Tigers’ offense. Running back Wayne Gallman entered his junior season primed for a banner season. And in his first two games, he has yet to show his star potential, rushing for only 157 yards on 39 carries (4.0 avg). Numbers like that isn’t good enough to satisfy a break-neck offense like Clemson’s and help Deshaun Watson out in the long-run. Speaking of Watson, his performance last Saturday was one to forget, completing slightly better than 50 percent of his passes (not to mention 26 incompletions), totaling a career-worse 35 QBR.