We won’t be able to learn much about this new-look Georgia team until they face a real challenge in Week 3 vs. South Carolina. What we do need to see against Ball State this week is a better showing all around. In their first game, the Bulldogs didn’t look as dominant as they should have against UT Martin:
- They were only able to score 17 first-half points
- Didn’t have a single rusher over 54 yards
- Allowed nearly 5 yards per carry on defense
- Only registered one sack on defense
- Almost got outrushed by the Martin run game
I want to see a better start from the offense, an improved defensive performance against a much inferior opponent, an improved rushing attack on offense, and a better pass rush from the Bulldogs this week.
Similar to Georgia, we won’t be able to learn much about Michigan until later in the season when they face some real competition. All you can ask for if you are a Wolverines fan is that the team keeps building off of the stellar performance they put together last week. The Michigan defense allowed just 235 yards of total offense, as well as not allowing a single point until the fourth quarter. J.J. McCarthy looked more than comfortable as he put together one of the best QB performances of Week 1. One area that looked lackluster for Michigan was the pass rush, as they failed to record a single sack in week 1, so I would like to see that improve this week vs. UNLV.
Unlike the first two teams, we are going to know a lot about this Alabama squad after this week. Alabama didn’t leave much concern for their defense in week 1; they forced three fumbles, recorded three sacks, and allowed just 211 total yards. What most people will want to see is how this new-look Alabama offense with Jalen Milroe performs against a respectable Texas defense. Milroe looked good against MTSU in week one, but I need to see more before I have confidence in him leading the Crimson Tides offense. Milroe needs to show he can be a proficient passer, as well as hurt you with his legs. Accuracy has been an issue for him in the past, and he needs to prove he can be the Quarterback Alabama needs him to be before I have confidence in this Alabama offense again.
#4 Florida State
Florida State is back! After beating LSU handily in week 1, the Seminoles proved to everyone in the college football world they are a playoff contender once again. Where do I begin with how impressive this team was? Jordan Travis looked like one of the best QBs in the country, the offensive line looked incredible, their pass rush and run defense was terrific, and their receivers looked unstoppable. The one area Florida State could improve upon might be the run game, seeing as their leading rusher only averaged 3.9 yards per carry and the team as a whole averaged 4.0 yards per carry, but other than that, it was an immaculate performance, proving that the Seminoles are back and here to stay. We won’t be able to learn much more about the Noles this week, seeing as they are playing Southern Miss, but we learned plenty about who this team was in week 1.
#5 Ohio State
There isn’t any beating around the bush; the Ohio State offense wasn’t good in week 1. Kyle McCord looked uncomfortable at times and was unable to find some of his biggest targets throughout the game. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka had a combined five catches for under 40 yards. TreVeyon Henderson couldn’t get going either, only gaining 47 yards on the ground. In order for the Ohio State Buckeyes to compete for a national championship this season, the offense has to improve. The good news is they have two straight weeks of easy games (Youngstown State and Western Kentucky) to figure things out offensively. The defense left no room for concern, holding Indiana to 153 total yards and 3 points. Look for the Ohio State offense to attempt to turn things around over the next few weeks before their big matchup with Notre Dame on the 23rd of this month.
USC has looked impressive over their first two games this season. Caleb Williams is a star, Lincoln Riley is an offensive genius, and Tahj Washington is one of the biggest threats in the country, but that defense is still a huge question mark. Giving up a combined 42 points over their first two games against Nevada and San José State isn’t the best look, especially when you see they didn’t record a single interception and allowed nearly 400 yards a game to both squads. I will be looking for a better USC defense this week against the 1-0 Stanford Cardinal, who boast a decent offense themselves. I don’t think that the USC offense has a single doubter in the country; the fate of their college football playoff dreams rests on the shoulders of that defense. Look for them to steadily improve as the season progresses.
#7 Penn State
There won’t be much to learn about Penn State this week, seeing as they are playing Delaware, but we did learn a lot about them last week when they took on West Virginia. The biggest takeaway was that the Drew Allar hype is real. The former #1 overall QB recruit in 2022 showed us he is the real deal by throwing 21 of 29, 325 yards, and three touchdowns. The offensive line looked solid, KeAndre Lambert-Smith looked explosive, and the defense held up. The biggest thing with Penn State this year will be getting consistent play from both sides of the ball. They have the skill to compete for a playoff spot, but they need it all to come together on a weekly basis. The good news for them is they have a reasonable amount of time to gel before their big game against Ohio State on October 21st.
Washington will be looking to improve the defensive side of the ball this week against Tulsa, who don’t have a horrible offense in their own right. In week 1, Washington allowed 402 yards of offense to be racked up against them by Boise State and allowed 21 first downs and nearly 5 yards per carry. In order to be considered a playoff contender, that defense will need to tighten up as the season progresses and show improvement throughout the year. Now, when you take a look at the Huskies’ offense, it’s clear they are one of the best in the nation. This offense will be good enough to compete with anyone in the Nation this season, led by senior quarterback Micheal Penix Jr. and one of the best-receiving pairs in the country in Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan. I’m looking for an improved defensive performance against Tulsa this week to prove to me that Washington has what it takes on both sides of the ball to call themselves contenders this season.
Like some of the other teams on this list, little will be learned this week about the Volunteers, as they are taking on Austin Peay in week 2. Despite that, Tennessee looked impressive during their week one matchup against Virginia. Joe Milton looked more mature, the Vols running game looked overwhelming, and the defense held Virginia to only 201 total yards. What I want to see out of Tennessee this week is the continued maturation of Joe Milton; if he can prove he has gotten that giant arm of his under control and he can guide and direct that offense, Tennessee has the potential to be scary good this season.
#10 Note Dame
Over their first two games this season, the fighting Irish have been about as dominant as a team could be, outscoring their opponents a combined 98-6. But this week, they finally get their first real test when they travel to Raleigh and take on the 1-0 NC State Wolfpack. Notre Dame has proven their defense is elite over the last two weeks. Granted, they have played two inferior opponents (Navy and Tennessee State), but they held them to under 170 total yards in both games and didn’t allow a single touchdown. The key with Notre Dame, similar to Penn State, will be getting consistent play from both sides of the ball week in and week out. The Irish must show they can relieve some of the pressure off Sam Hartman with their running game, and Audric Estime has been doing that over the last two weeks. I want to see if that Notre Dame running game can pick up and if the offense can be above average every week. They can have a fantastic season if they can accomplish those two things.
As I said earlier, the Texas versus Alabama game is the game of the week. Texas showed some strengths and weaknesses in their first game vs. Rice that Alabama will definitely be looking to exploit this weekend. To start with Texas’s strengths, Quinn Ewers looked great, Xavier Worthy once again looked like a significant receiving threat, and the run defense was astonishingly good. Despite those good areas, the Longhorns showed a lot of red flags:
- The offensive line wasn’t great, allowing three sacks, eight tackles for loss
- Averaged 4 yards per carry against a Rice defense they should have dominated
- The running game never got going like it should have, with their leading rusher having just 55 yards
- The offense got off to a slow start, only scoring 16 first-half points
- Possession time was split 31:36 (Texas) to 28:24 (Rice)
I want to see the Longhorns come out against Alabama and clean up their offensive line play, get their running game going to relieve pressure on Quinn Ewers, and get off to a better start so as not to dig themselves into a hole to start the game. If Texas plays like they did versus Rice, it will be a long night for them.