One of the great things about college football is its unpredictability. Everybody loves a huge upset (except the team that loses, of course).
With the College Football Playoff beginning in 2014, championship hopefuls can’t afford an early season slip-up against an unranked foe. While the overwhelming majority of top 25 teams should coast to easy wins in Week 2, here are four schools that need to make sure they bring their ‘A game’ Saturday if they want to remain undefeated.
All rankings are from the Week 2 Associated Press poll.
No. 24 Missouri Tigers at Toledo, Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET
Mizzou needs to show continued improvement after letting FCS South Dakota State hang around into the third-quarter last weekend. The Jackrabbits were within 21-18 in Columbia before a kickoff return touchdown from Missouri’s Marcus Murphy gave the hosts some breathing room.
Toledo is coming off a 54-20 season-opening win over New Hampshire, and boasts an Alabama transfer under center in Phillip Ely. Ely threw for four touchdowns and 337 yards in the Week 1 victory, leading the Rockets on seven straight touchdown drives to blow the game open.
The Rockets are always tough at home, and are less than two years removed from beating a ranked team (Cincinnati) in the Glass Bowl. In addition, Toledo matches up well with the Tigers and won’t be in awe of the visitors after playing them tough in 2013 (Missouri got a pair of late touchdowns to pull away for a 38-23 win). Watch out for #MACtion in Ohio.
No. 16 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Michigan, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Honestly, with the incredible history and tradition this series has, would a Michigan win in South Bend even be considered an upset?
The Wolverines come into Saturday’s showdown with a boatload of confidence after beating Appalachian State 52-14 in the Big House (and earning some revenge for 2007 in the process). The Devin-to-Devin connection came up big, with QB Devin Gardner completing 13 of his 14 passes and WR Devin Funchess catching seven of them, three for touchdowns. Michigan also boasts a running back that can do some damage, as Derrick Green tallied 174 rushing yards in the lopsided win over the Mountaineers.
Notre Dame needs to lean on QB Everett Golson, who made a triumphant return after missing all of last season with five total touchdowns in a season-opening 48-17 win over Rice — three on the ground plus two more through the air. A 239th straight sellout crowd in Notre Dame Stadium will definitely help the Fighting Irish, but taking down their longtime rival in the programs’ last currently scheduled meeting will be anything but easy.
No. 21 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. San Diego State, Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
North Carolina struggled with FCS Liberty into the third-quarter last Saturday at home, actually trailing 22-21 before erupting for four touchdowns in less than four minutes to crush the Flames’ dreams of an upset. The Tar Heels can’t afford to overlook SDSU, a program with nine wins in its last eleven games. Only six programs in the country have a better record than the Aztecs since September 28, 2013. Rocky Long’s team also boasts touchdowns in each of its last 10 quarters dating back to last year, the second longest current streak in the country.
UNC played two quarterbacks in Week 1, with Marquise Williams finishing 19-29 for 169 yards and Mitch Trubisky adding 66 passing yards (10-16). Williams threw two touchdowns and two picks, while Trubisky had one of each. It will be interesting to see if coach Larry Fedora continues to give both players significant snaps if Saturday’s game against San Diego State is close in the fourth-quarter. The Heels should benefit from regaining the services of four players that were suspended for the opener: Des Lawrence, Brian Walker, Donnie Miles, and M.J. Stewart.
No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Virginia Tech, Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Ohio State survived a scare against Navy in Baltimore Saturday (trailing 7-6 at halftime), and despite a 25-game regular season winning streak, the Buckeyes will probably be a fixture in the ‘upset alert’ section while freshman J.T. Barrett gets comfortable in his new role as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback.
With Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller out for the season after shoulder surgery, OSU’s dreams of a playoff berth rest solely on Barrett’s shoulders. The Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week was 12-15 for 226 yards with two touchdowns and a pick in his first college game, but he’ll get a stiffer test when the Hokies come to Columbus. Ohio State’s rush defense will also have a chance to make a statement after allowing the Midshipmen to rack up 370 yards on the ground.
Virginia Tech heads to the Horseshoe for its first ever game vs. Ohio State with a 34-9 win over William & Mary in the rearview mirror. Coach Frank Beamer’s team may be young (28 of the 34 points in last week’s game were scored by freshmen), but they could pose problems for an Ohio State squad that still is feeling its way without its biggest playmaker in Miller.
What do you think? Which of these four teams is facing the stiffest test in Week 2? What other ranked program should be on upset alert?