Preparing for the opening game of the regular season is an exciting time, but that feeling can quickly turn to disappointment for college football teams that struggle right away.
Sometimes, a poor showing still resulted in a win. The corrections needed, though, are apparent. Plus, the current system means two losses often end championship dreams, and several big-name programs already have one.
Fortunately for most schools, Week 2 of the campaign is largely packed with inferior opponents. Painless victories will be a regular sight. However, a couple of teams are preparing for a challenging opponent.
While the panic meter isn’t necessarily high, another rough outing Saturday could change the narrative.
Kevin Sumlin is a respected offensive coach. Khalil Tate attracted Heisman Trophy love during the offseason. On paper, it’s a connection meant to thrive. However, the debut of the Sumlin-Tate pairing ended with Arizona falling to BYU 28-23. Tate mustered only 211 yards of total offense and accounted for two touchdowns. Now, the Wildcats hit the road for Houston, which allowed 439 yards to Rice but has an explosive offense. Arizona better be prepared for a shootout on the scoreboard, and that burden falls largely on the dual-threat quarterback.
Florida Atlantic Owls
Few expected Florida Atlantic to spring an upset at Oklahoma, but a little competitiveness seemed realistic. Instead, the Owls fell behind 56-0 as new quarterback Chris Robison struggled with his timing. Additionally, star runner Devin Singletary managed 82 yards on 19 touches. But with the blowout over, FAU can re-focus for Air Force. The Falcons had no issue with FCS school Stony Brook, surrendering a mere 75 yards of offense. Their defense will be confident entering the matchup with FAU, which has a thin margin for error in pursuit of a New Year’s Six bowl bid.
Florida State Seminoles
During an ugly debut for Willie Taggart, the Seminoles consistently went nowhere. That’s not hyperbole. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Florida State had 35 plays of zero or negative yards in 63 snaps against Virginia Tech. Dreadful, miserable and every other synonym fit the recap. On the relative bright side, the ‘Noles host Samford in Week 2. Still, the visitors are built to compete for the FCS championship, so Taggart and Co. won’t be looking past the lower-division team. FSU needs the offense to respond after its horrible day and dispatch Samford.
Unlike their rivals to the north, the ‘Canes have a cupcake on the docket. There’s no danger of a loss to Savannah State, but Miami was equally dismantled in Week 1. LSU cruised to a 33-17 victory. Much of the blame has deservedly been pointed at Malik Rosier, who posted a brutal 42.9 completion percentage. Backup quarterback N’Kosi Perry was suspended for the opener, so the dual-threat should make his college debut in Week 2. The question is whether he can start a controversy or if Mark Richt will stubbornly stand by Rosier regardless of Perry’s performance.
Correctable errors plagued the Wolverines during their forgettable trip to Notre Dame. There was a botched snap on a field goal, as well as Shea Patteron’s ugly back-foot interception and game-sealing fumble. The loss didn’t affect Michigan’s chances at a Big Ten crown, but Jim Harbaugh’s national championship-seeking roster knows it must be perfect from here. Next up is Western Michigan, which surrendered 560 yards and 55 points to Syracuse in Week 1. At worst, it’s an opportunity for the Wolverines to get back on track as Big Ten action looms.
Michigan State Spartans
After finishing as the No. 7 defense last year, Michigan State needed to replace one lineman and one linebacker. Given the returning experience, the Spartans figured to showcase an elite unit. For one week, that wasn’t the case. MSU needed a late fourth-quarter score to survive Utah State 38-31. In Week 2, the Spartans head to Arizona State for a 10:45 p.m. kickoff. That’s a long wait for an Eastern Time Zone team, and the Sun Devils present a big challenge for MSU anyway. If the Spartans don’t bounce back, there’ll be concern about their potential in the Big Ten.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Eleven years after Appalachian State stunned Michigan, the now-FBS program nearly upended Penn State. The Mountaineers even held a late fourth-quarter lead before Trace McSorley’s game-tying touchdown and Amani Oruwariye’s overtime interception saved the Nittany Lions. This weekend, they’ll challenge rival Pitt on the road and try to avoid a similar fate as then-No. 2 Miami last season. Not allowing Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett to use his mobility will be essential for Penn State, especially after giving up 159 rushing yards to App State.
Texas is not back. But it doesn’t mean the Longhorns are inept, either. While they’re plenty talented, a sluggish defensive start combined with turnovers on three straight fourth-quarter possessions doomed Tom Herman’s team at Maryland. Texas must use Tulsa as a tune-up opportunity since USC and TCU are heading to Austin during the following two weeks. If the Longhorns are unimpressive — or even lose — they’ll be staring a potential 1-3 start to September in the face. And that’s not something Tom Herman wants to experience on his gradually warming seat.
Chip Kelly envisioned his debut going a little better than that. Starting quarterback Wilton Speight left with an injury, and UCLA’s overhauled offense eventually fell to Cincinnati 26-17. It gets worse, though; the Bruins meet Oklahoma this Saturday. If you’re wincing, you’re not alone. “Rebound” in UCLA’s case is basically “don’t get obliterated.” The defense allowed just 304 yards in the season-opening loss, so it would be encouraging if a unit that ranked 123rd nationally in 2017 is actually this improved. Deal with the offense later, just don’t get obliterated.
Jake Browning didn’t do much to change his declining reputation in Washington’s loss to Auburn. The senior quarterback threw a senseless interception, lost a fumble inside the red zone and took two straight game-sealing sacks. Last season, the Huskies seemed to win 10 games in spite of his shaky performance, and Week 1 suggested that might be the case again. Or, he can prove the doubters wrong. Browning could begin his redemption tour opposite North Dakota and show Washington’s scoring potential prior to a meaningful road clash with Pac-12 foe Utah.