Two weeks into the college football season, we’re seeing some old powers show signs of rising again.
Florida State, Texas and Penn State are looking like potential playoff contenders, while Miami is making some noise as well.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M was on the short end against the Hurricanes, part of a surprisingly slow start for the powerful SEC.
Our college football reporters take a closer look at what we learned in Week 2.
Glory days in Florida?
Florida State and Miami are both good and nationally relevant at the same time? It might be early, but this would be a huge development not only for college football but for the ACC, which has needed both teams to get back to their respective glory days for the good of the conference. What has stood out is the way both teams completely controlled their SEC opponents. That’s right, the ACC has had the upper hand in the early-season matchups, going 4-1. It brings new meaning to #goacc.
Florida State and Miami happen to have the two most impressive wins. The Seminoles showed the swagger we expect from an FSU team in a Week 1 win over LSU in which they relished breaking the Tigers’ will. Miami showed the same type of physicality and dominance in a 48-33 win over Texas A&M on Saturday, a huge step forward in changing the narrative around the program.
Miami might not quite be where Florida State is now, but the Hurricanes are very clearly believing in what Mario Cristobal is preaching. The way they won that game — in contrast to the slog of a loss to A&M last year — is proof of their progress. Given the issues we’ve seen with Clemson and North Carolina, it’s not so hard to imagine a scenario in which Miami and Florida State end up in the ACC championship game — a dream matchup the league has longed to see. — Andrea Adelson
Jimbo still has work to do
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, who received a guaranteed 10-year contract extension before the 2021 season that will pay him $95 million through 2031, lost to Miami on Saturday.
The Aggies are paying Fisher $95 million NOT to lose … to anyone. And two games into his sixth season at College Station, Fisher has lost 22 times.
What was so striking about Saturday’s decisive loss to the Hurricanes is that it’s evident the Aggies are better than they were during last year’s 5-7 season — and yet it still wasn’t good enough against a Miami program that is still “building,” as coach Mario Cristobal described it.
The good news for Texas A&M? Alabama and LSU have already lost, too, which means the SEC West is up for grabs. The bad news? The Aggies won’t win it if they continue to lose the turnover battle, can’t pressure the quarterback and can’t sustain a lead. — Heather Dinich
Is the SEC broken?
For the first time since 2002, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Alabama, Florida and LSU all have a loss by the end of Week 2. LSU fell by three touchdowns 45-24 to Florida State in Orlando, Florida, in Week 1. Texas handed the Crimson Tide a 34-24 loss Saturday night, their first double-digit defeat under coach Nick Saban and his first as a college head coach since 2003. While it might have been less surprising, the Gators fell at Utah by 13 and couldn’t even get the correct number of players on the field in their opener. Texas A&M lost 48-33 at Miami on Saturday, and Vanderbilt fell 36-20 to Wake Forest.
Two-time defending national champion Georgia is still No. 1, but the rest of the SEC looks rather ordinary. It could have been even worse for the SEC on Saturday. Tennessee led by only 7 at the half against FCS program Austin Peay before pulling away for a 30-13 victory. Ole Miss won 37-20 at Tulane, which played without star quarterback Michael Pratt. The Rebels scored 10 points in the final two minutes, including a 56-yard field goal. Kentucky trailed FCS program Eastern Kentucky in the third quarter before finally getting things together in a 28-17 victory. Missouri beat Middle Tennessee State by 4, Mississippi State defeated Arizona by 7 in overtime (after getting a defensive stop inches from a first down on fourth-and-10 on the final play of the game), and Auburn survived by 4 at California, which missed three field goals. It might mean more in the SEC, as the slogan goes, but it might mean a lot less for its teams in December if things don’t turn around. — Mark Schlabach
The Pac-12 leftovers are ready to play spoiler
Colorado might be the sport‘s attention magnet right now, but elsewhere in the dying Pac-12, its two remaining constituents continue to impress. During a week when both Oregon State and Washington State took legal action against the conference and commissioner George Kliavkoff, the schools’ football teams had impressive performances. After taking care of UC Davis at home with ease and outscoring their first two opponents 97-24 through two games, Oregon State sits at No. 16 in the AP poll. Meanwhile, unranked Washington State won’t be unranked much longer after taking down No. 18 Wisconsin in Pullman.
While Oregon, USC and Utah continue to be the favorites for the conference title and a potential playoff spot, all three of those teams will have to face at least one of the Cougars and Beavers, if not both, on their way to trying to accomplish their goals. There will be no shortage of motivation in those games for the Cougars and Beavers, who will be left behind as their conference mates flee to the Big Ten and Big 12 next season. As Wazzu head coach Jake Dickert proclaimed after the win Saturday, the Cougars “belong in a Power 5” and both they and Oregon State seem to be intent on reminding everyone of that. — Paolo Uggetti
Texas gets over the hump
I’m not going to sit here and write that Texas is back. That’s no certainty after only two games. But something seemed appropriate about the Longhorns beating Alabama on Saturday night. It seemed a little bit like they were exorcising their demons. Because in some ways it was the Crimson Tide that started Texas’ down slide in the 2009 BCS national championship game. Mack Brown couldn’t turn things around when they went south after that. Neither could Tom Herman or Charlie Strong.
‘Hook ’em, baby!’ McConaughey goes wild for Texas’ first TD
Matthew McConaughey is fired up on the mic after Xavier Worthy’s deep touchdown for Texas.
And yet there was Strong on the sideline in Bryant-Denny Stadium as a member of Alabama’s support staff, congratulating Longhorns super fan Matthew McConaughey. And there was Steve Sarkisian, who said it felt like a “full circle” moment, returning to Tuscaloosa, where Nick Saban resurrected his career and paved the way for him to become Texas’ head coach. Sarkisian’s athletic director, Chris Del Conte, said moments like Saturday’s postgame celebration were why he hired Sarkisian — for that offense and for his ability to recruit.
It has been a long time since Texas could go toe-to-toe with a team like Alabama, but the Horns had the better quarterback in Quinn Ewers and the better receivers in Xavier Worthy, Adonai Mitchell and Jordan Whittington. They had the more complete team. “You can tell we’re starting to get our footing,” Del Conte said. “It’s nowhere near a finished product, but it’s pretty fun to be where we’re at today.” — Alex Scarborough
Iowa’s offense has subtle signs of hope
Iowa might not average 25 points per game to meet offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s amended contract. The Hawkeyes have only 44 in two games, 37 from the offense. But they’re undeniably better than the historically poor unit we saw last season, and there are indicators of improvement as the games go by. Redshirt freshman running back Jaziun Patterson provides a different element, as he showed with a 59-yard breakaway against Iowa State. Patterson can be used beyond short-yardage situations to complement Kaleb Johnson.
“I’m a downhill runner,” Patterson said. “They say I run wild. I run with a purpose. Every time you see me run the ball, I’m running the ball hard.”
Ferentz can diversify his play calls with a more experienced unit. The next step is to hit on more chunk plays, as Diante Vines and others got behind Iowa State’s defense Saturday, but quarterback Cade McNamara couldn’t connect. “We’re growing,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The thing I’m probably most excited about is we have a lot of potential to continue to grow.” — Adam Rittenberg
Patience pays off for Penn State
On the surface, Penn State did what it was expected to do against Delaware. Its offense scored on eight of its 11 possessions in a 63-7 rout, including the first four times it had the ball — all on rushing touchdowns (three from Nicholas Singleton and one from Kaytron Allen). But consider this as the competition gets stiffer for the Nittany Lions, with their annual White Out game coming in two weeks against Iowa: Six of those scoring drives lasted at least eight plays, and two went at least 10 plays (a 13-play, 60-yard drive in the first quarter and a 10-play, 74-yard drive on the opening possession of the second half).
Penn State also won the time of possession battle 42:22 to 17:38. That type of ball control behind its two stellar sophomore running backs, Singleton and Allen, could go a long way toward determining Penn State’s fortunes in the Big Ten East and beyond. — Blake Baumgartner
Nebraska’s quarterback situation is a mess
First-year Nebraska coach Matt Rhule is already at a crossroads. Through two games, it’s clear the Huskers won’t be competitive with Jeff Sims at quarterback. He threw three picks in the 13-10 loss to Minnesota in the opener and was even worse against Colorado on Saturday in Boulder, where the offense had difficulty executing at even a basic, foundational level. Given there is no threat to move the ball through the air when Sims is in the game, Nebraska’s one-dimensional offense has become all too easy to prepare for, and the run game will surely suffer as a result.
The tough part about situations like this is that we have to operate under the assumption Sims outplayed Heinrich Haarberg and Chubba Purdy to win the job, which — if true — doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the idea things will change if either one of them takes over the starting job. With games against Northern Illinois and Louisiana Tech the next two weeks, Rhule has a little bit of runway to find a solution before Big Ten play, but the clock is ticking. — Kyle Bonagura