Iowa in the CFP! Texas won’t survive the SEC! A reality check on the overreactions in week 2

Texas is not back. Florida State is not USC.

After impressive opening games, those teams were given a generous dose of Stanford reality at the Coliseum in Week 2, which resulted in the sacking of coach Clay Helton on Monday. So in hindsight, we could get carried away by our overreactions in week 1.

That’s why we love college football, a sport where the state of Iowa is a college football playoff threat one week and is still the second best team in its home state the next week.

Here are a few overreactions from week 2:

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Michigan will beat Ohio State

Ohio State hasn’t looked this vulnerable in a while after Oregon’s stunning 35-28 street win at Horseshoe on Saturday. Buckeye’s quarterback CJ Stroud and the offensive aren’t the problem; he threw for 484 yards with three touchdowns and a pick on 35-for-54 passing. But defense is a mess under first-time defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, who was hired after Jeff Hafley left to become Boston College head coach in 2020. Long reputed to be a great recruiter and skilled defensive-backs coach, Coombs had never called plays above the high school level. Ohio State’s defense wasn’t very good last season and looks worse this year.

“I’m responsible,” Coombs told reporters on Saturday. “That’s my job, so we have to play better. If we say we have to play better, I’m not blaming the players. The standard of our defense is excellent and I have to do a better job.”

All the fault isn’t on Coombs. In the 2017 and 2018 recruitment classes, Ohio State signed 11 defensive players who were in the top 100 of the ESPN 300. These included Chase Young, Shaun Wade, and Jeff Okudah. After Urban Meyer overtook Coombs to hire Alex Grinch as co-defensive coordinator in 2018, Coombs left the program to join the Tennessee Titans staff and defense recruitment for the Buckeyes declined dramatically. They have only signed one defensive player among the top 100 of the ESPN 300 in the 2019 and 2020 classes (defensive end Zach Harrison, who has become a real star). This is the puzzle current head coach Ryan Day faces: Defensive battles could be about the X and the O as much as the Jimmys and the Joes.

Still, let’s not assume Michigan will finally beat Ohio State, which hasn’t happened since November 26, 2011. Yes, the Wolverines looked good in Saturday’s 31-10 win over Washington, but they’re getting more of quarterback Cade McNamara and the passing game to beat a team of OSU’s caliber. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, have more than two months to improve on their defense.

Texas won’t survive in the SEC

The schedule doesn’t get any friendlier for Trainer Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns, who face Rice, Texas Tech, TCU and Oklahoma next month. Wesley Hitt / Getty Images

As we warned you last week, put the brakes on these “Texas is back” proclamations. After the Longhorns looked so good in a 20-point win over Louisiana at the start, they lost 40:21 in Arkansas on Saturday. The Hogs stacked 471 yards of offensive, including 333 yards, while averaging a whopping 7.1 yards per carry. Five players in Arkansas had at least 40 yards. The Longhorns were sacked and only had two quarterback pressures.

“Over time, they kind of drained us, so our defense was in the field … it kind of drained us,” said Texas coach Steve Sarkisian. “Forty-seven rush attempts. We never put pressure on them to throw the ball. I think part of it” [was] We just couldn’t do it offensively to take the pressure off the defensive. “

On the other side of the ball, the Texas offensive line couldn’t stand against a subpar SEC defense line (but it could be much better). Texas star Bijan Robinson was kept to just 69 yards by one score on 19 attempts, and the Longhorns even struggled against three-man fronts.

After just two games, it’s too early to say Sarkisian won’t succeed. It’s far too early to say the Longhorns won’t be able to compete every time they move from the Big 12 to the SEC, be it in 2025 or sooner. Until then, Sarkisian and his staff must dramatically improve talent in both lines of scrimmage. Since 2008, Texas has selected three offensive linemen in the NFL draft, none in the first round. During that time, Alabama had drafted 19 offensive linemen, including eight first-round players. Worse still, Vanderbilt had drafted six such players since 2008, including a first-round player. And Texas fans wondered why the twin sons of former Longhorn All-American Blake Brockermeyer, James and Tommy, signed up with the Tide.

Iowa makes the CFP

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes have not allowed 25 points in 24 consecutive games, the longest run among the Power 5 teams. AP Photo / Matthew Putney

After the Hawkeyes beat Indiana in the opener, the Hawkeyes rolled past Iowa State again in the Cy-Hawk game and won 27-17 on the road. Defensively, Iowa is good enough to contend for a Big Ten title and possibly a place in the CFP. The Hawkeyes forced seven ball losses in two games and converted them to 37 points (20 against Iowa State). They haven’t allowed 25 points in 24 consecutive games, the longest streak among the Power 5 teams. Iowa had six interceptions in its first two games and an FBS best 70 since 2017. Punter Tory Taylor is a weapon for field position.

“There is no secret formula, we play defense the way we play it,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

And there is no secret behind Iowa’s insult. As usual with Ferentz, there is nothing noticeable on this side of the ball. It ran 39 times for 67 yards and averaged 5 yards per run in its sixth straight win over its state rival. The Hawkeyes will take much, much more of their offensive to get through the Big Ten. The good news: You don’t play Ohio State or Michigan in the regular season and you get Penn State at home. A trip to Wisconsin on October 30th could be the biggest remaining obstacle.

Arkansas is the second best team in the SEC West

Trelon Smith stormed for 75 yards with 12 carries and a touchdown in Arkansas’ upset Texas in Week 2. Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama is clearly the best team in the SEC-West, and no one else is even around. LSU remains a mess and coach Ed Orgeron could get into trouble if things don’t get better soon. The Tigers announced Monday that John Emery Jr.’s running back won’t be playing this season, allegedly because of academics. LSU averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in a 34-7 win against FCS enemy McNeese State on Saturday (Division II West Florida Argonauts averaged a 42-36 win against the Cowboys a week earlier 4.8 yards).

The move from No. 7 Texas A&M slowed a little when it was revealed on Monday that quarterback Haynes King would be missing an indefinite amount of time due to a lower leg injury. Sophomore Zach Calzada was a little shaky in a 10-7 win in Colorado. After a less than impressive start against Louisiana Tech, the Mississippi state defenses were strong in a 24-10 win over NC state.

Still, Arkansas’s win over Texas was the most impressive statement in the SEC West last weekend. Are the Hogs good enough to land right behind the tide in Coach Sam Pittman’s second season? Probably not. But what the 59-year-old former offensive line coach has achieved in such a short time is impressive. He’s waited three decades to be the head coach and the Hogs are already buying into what he sells. Remember, he took over a program that ran in SEC games 1-23. After going 3-7 last season, getting the Hogs to a bowl game in year 2 would be a monumental move, and they’re more than capable of doing that.

Georgia has a quarterback controversy

With Georgia’s starting quarterback JT Daniels, Stetson Bennett threw five touchdowns in the first half of the Bulldogs 56-7 win over UAB in Week 2. Brett Davis / Getty Images

Georgia’s starting quarterback JT Daniels failed to play in the 56-7 win against UAB last week due to an oblique injury. Bulldogs trainer Kirby Smart said Daniels was struggling with the injury prior to the Clemson opener but made it worse during that game and woke up in pain the next day. On Monday, Smart said Daniels was feeling better after a few extra days of treatment, but his status for Saturday night’s game against South Carolina (7 p.m. ET, ESPN and the ESPN app) is uncertain.

“The approach is rest, recovery, and treatment, and we made the best of it,” said Smart. “The biggest thing we’ve been told is that you don’t want to make it worse.”

In the absence of Daniels, former walk-on Stetson Bennett had a record day against the Blazers, throwing five touchdowns in the first half. He’s clearly Georgia’s No. 2 quarterback, but Daniels’ injury would likely have to stay or he would have to fight hard to get back for Bennett to regain the starting job. Bennett played well at times last season but stalled after losing to Alabama and Florida. In his defense, he struggled with injuries in both games, but the backlash on social media was so bad that Bennett dropped his iPhone. He might be the only student on the UGA campus using a flip phone.

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