*Since this is a weekly segment, the previous week’s winners and losers can be found here.
Week 2 was littered with marquee matchups and dominating quarterback performances. While none may have been more prominent than Lamar Jackson’s six-touchdown day in Louisville’s ACC opener, other stars from both the Big 12 and Pac-12 showed out, too.
However, not every national contender had memorable outings. Ohio State and Auburn learned the hard way that they have something to prove, whereas other winners and losers of the week included eye-popping numbers, upsets and potential drops in job security.
Lamar Jackson: It’s hard to believe how little hype the REIGNING Heisman Trophy winner had entering this season. The Louisville quarterback once again enjoyed one of his patented performances, throwing for 393 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 132 yards and three more scores in a 47-35 victory at North Carolina.
This comes a few days after North Carolina linebacker Andre Smith insisted to reporters that Jackson wouldn’t be an issue. “He’s not going to beat us,” Smith said. “We’re just going to stop anything that he tries to do.” Well, the Tar Heels, who are now 0-2, held him to fewer than 530 total yards, so maybe that’s a minor victory.
This recent showing cements two of last weekend’s takeaways. One, Louisville might only go as far as Jackson can take it, but he can do a lot. And two, North Carolina’s defense has regressed from middling to dreadful after the departure of coordinator Gene Chizik.
Baker Mayfield: Mayfield played his game. He slung it. He ran it. He torched Ohio State’s defense for 386 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in a statement victory over Ohio State inside the Horseshoe.
The two-time Heisman Trophy finalist played with an edge from the outset, finishing 11-of-18 for 158 yards in the first half, while the Sooners out-gained the Buckeyes 222-92 yardage wise.
Mayfield helped Oklahoma seize control in the third quarter with a 92-yard drive that took just 1:40. He peppered passes of 17, 42 and 18 yards over the top of the Ohio State defense. The Sooners scored touchdowns in three of their first four possessions of the second half. What might have been an early Heisman Trophy statement this season, Mayfield showed no remorse for the Buckeyes following the game as he might have pulled off the most savage move this college football season.
USC Trojans: After struggling to put away Western Michigan at home last week, USC finally played to their potential in a 42-24 victory over Stanford. Sam Darnold threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns while Stephen Carr and Ronald Jones II both went over 100 yards rushing.
In a sense, it was reminiscent of what Stanford has done to opponents during David Shaw’s tenure. The Trojans simply clubbed the Cardinal – as Darnold was more than able to take advantage of what presented itself. Without a regular season matchup with Washington, the Trojans’ chances of running the table in the Pac-12 are greatly enhanced with this victory.
Georgia Bulldogs: No Jacob Eason? No problem. The Bulldogs back-up QB, Jake Fromm, can tell his grandchildren that his first collegiate start came inside Notre Dame Stadium, where he pioneered Georgia to a 20-19 victory over the Fighting Irish. Fromm’s performance wasn’t all that efficient, completing only 55.1 percent of his passes for 144 yards and one score. However, it was Georgia’s defense that took the game over; limiting Notre Dame to 265 total yards of offense and a 4-for-17 success rate on 3rd down.
In a wide-open SEC East, Georgia proved this week that they have the mental fortitude to handle themselves in a hostile environment. As conference play nears, head coach Kirby Smart should be proud to see how far his defense has come from a season ago, rising from outside the Top 50 in Def. S&P+ in 2016 to 23rd overall so far in 2017.
Ohio State Buckeyes: Following their loss to Oklahoma, Ohio State remains winless in its history when facing a Top 5 non-conference opponent at home. Although falling to the Sooners doesn’t necessarily derail the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes – Ohio State should know that better than anyone, since losing at home to a far weaker Virginia Tech three years ago didn’t prevent Urban Meyer’s bunch from not only securing a playoff bid but winning the national title.
What the stumble against the Sooners does do is eliminate Ohio State’s margin for error. The Buckeyes’ passing attack continued to sputter on Saturday night, registering only 183 total yards through the air. In addition, J.T. Barrett’s quest for being more accurate in his passes this season has yet to materialize. In his first two starts, Barrett’s completion percentage has yet to reach above 60 percent. Of course, not all of this is his fault. Last night, Ohio State lost the field possession battle greatly mainly due to the lack of explosion from the running back tandem of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. As a whole, the two averaged less than four yards a carry. Through the season’s first two weeks, it’s clear that the transition to offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson hasn’t gone as smooth as anticipated.
Baylor Bears: Life comes at you fast. One day you’re competing for a top spot in the Big 12, and then the next day you’re losing to programs like Liberty and UTSA in back-to-back weeks at home.
Things are clearly worse than we thought with Baylor’s transition from the Art Briles to the Matt Rhule era. Baylor quarterback Anu Solomon — a grad transfer from Arizona — has yet to perform adequately, completing only 46.1 percent of his passes for 415 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs combined in his first two starts. It’s not a far-off statement to make that if Solomon’s struggles persist, then Zach Smith may get an extended look under center in the future.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs: There’s not much explaining to do on this one, except only to ask “how does one convert on a 3rd & 93?”
Auburn Tigers: Auburn’s problem is the same as it’s been since the start of the 2014 season. Their offense is erratic and often one-dimensional, and their running game isn’t imposing enough that it can make an impact against “good” defenses.
The Tigers, who suffered their first loss on the season, managed a miniscule 38 yards on 42 carries while also averaging 3.3 yards per passing attempt. Embarrassing. While Clemson’s defense is really good, maybe better than last year’s even, it’s not hard to foresee Auburn experiencing even more troubles offensively once they hit the teeth of SEC play.