– Hunter Hart
As is usually the case, week two of college football was a snooze-fest, with a few exceptions. The Clemson-Texas A&M game in College Station didn’t disappoint with the second-ranked Tigers needing a two point conversion stop to close out the Aggies. #8 Notre Dame also had to hold off upstart Ball State to improve to 2-0. However, every other top ten team won by double digits, including #3 Georgia rolling over #24 South Carolina, 41-17, in what many thought would be the game of the week.
The next week has more promise with two top 15 matchups headlining Saturday’s slate of games. I will take a look at these games and how they will impact the College Football Playoff race.
#12 LSU at #7 Auburn. 2:30 CST in Auburn, AL.
Both programs started off the season with a signature non-conference win. Auburn took down Washington in a thriller in Atlanta and LSU pounded Miami in Baton Rouge. Now, the teams look to gain an upper-hand in the SEC West race with a win on Saturday.
Why LSU needs to win.
The Tigers emerged into the national spotlight after their 33-17 drubbing of Miami in week one. They now look to further impress the committee with a strong showing against Auburn. LSU’s defense has been stout thus far, only allowing two touchdowns in two games. They will get a true test on Saturday, facing off against an Auburn offense that just put up 63 points. This game is LSU’s first on the road this season. The Tigers have looked good so far but the ability to go into a hostile environment and play well is what separates a great team from a good one. Fortunately for them, their remaining top 25 matchups are all at home. Unfortunately for them, all three games occur in a brutal October stretch. Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama all come to town later in the season. The primary focus is the game on Saturday, though. If the Tigers are able to go on the road and knock off Auburn, they will leap to the front of the playoff race and give themselves some room for error throughout the rest of the year.
Why Auburn needs to win.
Once again, Gus Malzahn and the Tigers are competing for a spot in the playoff. Last season, Auburn was one win away from becoming the first two-loss team to make the CFP. This year, they hope to fit in to the conversation again, despite having one of the toughest schedules in college football. They already defeated #6 Washington in the season opener and still have to travel to Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama to finish out the year. A win on Saturday would be another huge step to their ultimate goal. The Tigers’ tough defensive line will look to slow down LSU’s balanced attack while Jarrett Stidham hopes to improve on a mediocre start to his season.
#4 Ohio State vs #15 TCU. 7:00 CST in Arlington, TX.
This neutral site showdown between the Pac-12 and Big Ten is the first test of the season for both of these teams. The teams have won by a combined 173 points in their first two games. Something will have to give on Saturday when the teams face off in Jerry World.
Why Ohio State needs to win.
The Big Ten, praised as the nation’s best conference, has looked weak in the first couple weeks of the season. Preseason top 15 teams Michigan and Michigan State both fell in tough road games and #11 Penn State needed overtime to finish off Appalachian State. Furthermore, Purdue, Northwestern and Nebraska all suffered bad non-conference losses in games they should have won. With that being said, Ohio State still looks as good as ever. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins has looked phenomenal in his first two starts as a Buckeye. The sophomore has entered Heisman conversation after throwing for 550 yards and nine touchdowns to begin the season. The defense struggled against Oregon State but bounced back to only allow three points against Rutgers. Ohio State has plenty of chances to shine this season, with road games at Penn State and Michigan State and a showdown with rival Michigan to end the season. Still, the Buckeyes have a chance to prove themselves this weekend. It is essentially a road game for Ohio State with TCU’s campus residing only 20 miles away from AT&T Stadium. We will find out if the Buckeyes are legit on Saturday.
Why TCU needs to win.
Many experts are already handing the Big 12 championship to Oklahoma. Not so fast, say the Horned Frogs. TCU has bursted out of the gates, outscoring their first two opponents, 97-19. Of course, games against Southern and SMU don’t prove much. What would prove something is if the Horned Frogs were able to knock off Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes opened as a 12 point favorite, perfect for the underdog narrative that Gary Patterson has thrived on at TCU. Sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson has done an excellent job filling the shoes of Kenny Hill thus far. Now, the dual threat youngster will go up against the top defensive line in the country. It will be interesting to see what Gary Patterson cooks up to allow Robinson to gain some confidence early. If the Horned Frogs are able to pull off the upset, they will gain a tremendous confidence boost going into conference play and their Oct. 20 showdown with Oklahoma may have significant playoff implications.
#17 Boise State at #24 Oklahoma State. 2:30 CST in Stillwater, OK.
Boise State, perennially the top team outside of the power five, is good once again. They hope to prove their prowess on the road in Stillwater this Saturday. Oklahoma State hopes to spoil the Broncos quest for a New Year’s Six bowl and get a signature win of their own.
Why Boise State needs to win.
The Broncos have looked stellar so far, with two dominating wins over Troy and UCONN. While it is unlikely that they have a shot at the College Football Playoff, the goal is to make a New Year’s Six bowl game. The highest ranked champion from the Group of Five conferences (Conference USA, American, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt) receives an automatic bid. Boise State earned a bid to the Fiesta Bowl in 2014 but has been unable to find its way back to those marquee bowl games. They hope to change that this year with a relatively easy schedule and powerful passing attack. After the game against Oklahoma State, the Broncos do not play another ranked team. Their toughest opponent is Fresno State, who they play at home near the end of the year. The only team standing in the way of the Broncos quest seems to be Oklahoma State. A road win against a top 25 team would give Boise State a tremendous advantage over any other Group of Five team.
Why Oklahoma State needs to win.
Mike Gundy has the Cowboys playing well once again. Fresh off of losing star quarterback Mason Rudolph to the draft, the Oklahoma State offense put up a combined 113 points in its first two games. The Cowboys have been surprisingly good over the past several years, winning 10+ games every season since 2015. However, they have been unable to turn the corner, consistently falling to Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma. Cowboy fans are eager to get some revenge on their in-state rivals. Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, the matchup with the Sooner comes during a brutal three game stretch to end the season. The Cowboys take on #5 Oklahoma, #14 West Virginia and #15 TCU in consecutive weeks. Considering this tough sequence, the Cowboys need a win against Boise State on Saturday if they hope to reach the ten win mark again.