College Football Week 2: Ducks Fly, Cyclones Stall

On paper, the college football Week 2 slate of games didn’t look that juicy. There were only two games involving pairs of ranked teams. One of them (No. 12 Oregon at No. 3 Ohio State) figured to be a cruise for the Buckeyes—the Ducks were missing star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and linebacker Justin Flowe while playing on the road. The other (No. 10 Iowa at No. 9 Iowa State) is, well, not the most riveting of rivalries.



And yet, as college football often does, Week 2 delivered drama in surprising ways. Here’s who came out on top and who fell short during a busy weekend of games.

Winner: Oregon

The Ducks didn’t just hang with the Buckeyes; they beat them by a touchdown, 35–28. C.J. Verdell ran for what looked like a way too easy 161 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Anthony Brown threw for two more, and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead seemed to have Kerry Coombs’ Buckeye defense chasing its tail all afternoon. The game’s defining play was Oregon’s last touchdown, which stood up as the game-winner. No fewer than six Buckeyes chased Brown and Verdell while the QB flicked an easy TD to his tight end, Moliki Matavao (check it out in the video above).

Loser: Iowa State

It’s not a stretch to say this game with Iowa was the biggest in the Cyclones’ history. The Hawkeyes are their biggest rival, and they were playing a ranked-versus-ranked game for the first time in the 68-game history of their rivalry. ESPN even brought College GameDay to Ames to celebrate the occasion.

But on the field, Iowa State couldn’t deliver. The Iowa defense nabbed four turnovers, including one Breece Hall fumble that the Hawkeyes’ Jack Campbell returned for a game-turning touchdown. Despite the hype, ISU’s 27–17 loss was deeply anticlimactic.

Winner: FCS teams (again)

Back in Week 1, six teams from the Football Championship Subdivision, the lower half of Division 1, beat Bowl Subdivision teams (a significant uptick compared to the five combined FCS upsets over the past two seasons). And it included the first ranked FCS-over-FBS win since 2016, as No. 20 Washington fell to Montana. (More on the Huskies in a moment; things have not gotten better for them.)

In Week 2, two more FCS teams beat up on FBS foes. Duquesne beat Ohio, 28–26, for the first FBS win in school history. Then Jacksonville State stunned Florida State with a 59-yard Hail Mary on the last play of the game—inexplicably, FSU wasn’t lined up in a prevent defense to stop exactly that outcome.

Loser: Mike Norvell

That’s FSU’s head coach, who made the doomed call not to put his team in prevent defense to head off JSU’s upset. Norvell had an absurd explanation for the call (see below).

That explanation is very likely false, as it turns out. As Pro Football Focus’ Seth Galina explains, Florida State only had one deep safety on the play (not the two Norvell suggested), giving the Gamecocks all the real estate they needed to pull off an incredible upset.

Winner: Michigan

The Wolverines haven’t played anyone of consequence yet, but they dominated Western Michigan in Week 1 and did the same to Washington in Week 2. They beat the Huskies 31–10 and didn’t allow UW’s offense to move the ball much at all––especially on the ground, where the Huskies were limited to a paltry 69 yards on 28 carries (not including four sacks for a loss of 19 more yards). Plus, the Big House in Ann Arbor looked great on TV.

Winner: NBC

Notre Dame beat Toledo, 32–29. It wasn’t a great day for the Irish, who fell behind with just over a minute left and needed a comeback in the nick of time to avoid their own upset. The game was broadcast exclusively on Peacock, as Notre Dame broadcast partner NBC used the Irish to beef up subscriptions to its new streaming service.

As the game went on, lots of people surely realized that in order to watch Notre Dame lose to a MAC team, they’d have no choice but to sign up for Peacock and thus let Comcast (NBC’s parent) have even more of their money. Congrats to the network suits, who remain unbeaten in college football.

Loser: USC

The Trojans lost at home to Stanford, 42–28, in a game that wasn’t even as close as the two-touchdown margin suggests: USC trailed by 29 with six minutes left. Stanford, which took an ugly loss to a mediocre Kansas State the week prior, isn’t a great team. Yet the Cardinal were able to rout the Trojans on their own field, and now USC coach Clay Helton must contend with commentary in the Los Angeles Times calling for his replacement. At this point, it’s hard to dispute that USC could find a better steward for its football program.

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