College Football: 3 Teams that need to step up in Week 2
The 2023 college football season is approaching its second week after an eventful opening weekend. It featured teams like Colorado proving to be legit, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and his team being upset and USC quarterback Caleb Williams strengthening his heisman campaign once again. Which teams are due for a bounce back performance after disappointing week 1 outings?
New Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule is 0-1 so far in his first season at the helm in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers lost their season opener to Minnesota 13-10 in a game they were positioned to win after a solid showing by their defense. The Cornhusker defense only gave up 55 total rush yards and 196 yards through the air. Former Georgia Tech and current Nebraska quarterback Jeff Sims threw 3 interceptions to 1 touchdown in the loss. If the Huskers want to have their first winning season since 2017 under former head coach Mike Riley, it starts with the performance of Sims.
Nebraska now must turn their attention to arguably the most talked about team in the nation in No. 22 Colorado. The Buffaloes are coming off an impressive 45-42 shoot-out victory over last years runner-up for the national championship in TCU. Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders had a breakout performance by garnering a school record 510 passing yards and 4 touchdowns while completing 80.9 percent of his passes. Colorado wideout/defensive back Travis Hunter had arguably the most impressive showing in week 1. On offense, Hunter had 11 catches for 135 reception yards with an average of 10.8 yards per catch. On the other side of the ball, the sophomore two-position athlete tallied an interception and a pass deflection. Last but not least, freshman halfback Dylan Edwards led the Buffaloes pass catching room with 5 receptions for 135 yards and 3 touchdown catches.
The Cornhuskers and Buffaloes have met 71 times in history, as Nebraska leads the all time series 49-20-2. Nebraska will have to do it’s best to contain the three-headed monster on Colorado’s offense in Hunter, Sanders, and Edwards, but it wont be an easy task. This matchup features two new head coaches that have the daunting responsibility of rebuilding their respective schools back to national relevance with Rhule at Nebraska and former NFL defensive back Deion Sanders at the helm for Colorado.
Former Auburn and current Texas State quarterback T.J Finley had a prolific season debut for the Bobcats, as he garnered 298 passing yards while accounting for 4 touchdowns (3 passing, one rushing) and completed 73 percent of his passes. The win against Baylor marked Texas State’s first win against a Power Five team. It turned out to be a great debut for first-year Texas State head coach G.J Kinne, as he signed with the Bobcats shortly after the 2022 campaign.
Baylor on the other hand, has now lost five consecutive games dating back to last season. This is a Baylor team that won the Big-12 championship over Oklahoma State only two years ago. Junior quarterback Blake Shapen (2021 Big-12 Title game MVP), tossed for 303 passing yards with two touchdowns, but suffered an MCL injury on his left knee that made him miss spurts in the second half of the game.
Due to the injury, the Bears will be without Shapen for the next 2-3 weeks. Sophomore quarterback Sawyer Robertson will likely be under center after playing against the Bobcats last weekend. The Mississippi State transfer garnered 113 passing yards along with two crucial turnovers in the final two drives for the Bears that effectively sealed the win for the Bobcats.
The Bears will now welcome No. 12 Utah to Waco as the Utes are coming off a victory over the SEC’s Florida Gators without starting quarterback Cam Rising. The 2022 PAC-12 Championship MVP suffered a torn ACL injury against Penn State in the Rose Bowl back in January. In his absence, junior quarterback Bryson Barnes led the Utes to the 24-11 victory of the Gators. Barnes tossed for 159 passing yards in the matchup, which included a 70-yard touchdown pass to wideout Money Parks on Utah’s first play on offense.
At this time of writing, it looks as if Barnes will be under center for the second consecutive week while Rising continues to rehab his knee. The Utes are heading into Baylor with supreme confidence along with a defense that is second in the nation in 3rd down conversion percentage. Can the Bears rally behind Robertson and win their first game since November 5, 2022?
The Clemson Tigers had perhaps the most embarrassing loss in week 1, as they lost to the Duke Blue Devils 28-7. The manner in which Dabo Sweeney’s team lost was the embarrassing part, but not who they lost to. The Blue Devils are led by second-year head coach Mike Elko, who led the Blue Devils to a 9-4 record in his first campaign in Durham. After the victory over Clemson, Duke have won 7 of their last 8 games dating back to last season.
The Tigers offense looked incompetent last Monday night, as the offense went 1/4 in Red Zone Efficiency while the Blue Devils were a perfect 2/2 on the night led by junior quarterback Riley Leonard (who had 98 rush yards and a rushing touchdown). Clemson sophomore quarterback Cade Klubnik tallied 209 passing yards on 43 attempts with only an average of 4.9 yards per pass.
Clemson are past the days of transcendent quarterback play such as the likes of former Clemson quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence, both of whom won national championships for the Tigers.
The Tigers next game is at home against Charleston Southern, a team that only won two games last season. This game is a chance for Clemson to do some fine-tuning and find out what works and what doesn’t work. Most importantly, it will give a chance for Klubnik to build his confidence before No. 4 Florida State visits Death Valley on Sept. 23.