College football brought us quantity in Week 1. There were a ton of games, a ton of really good games, but little in the way of high-ranking teams and arch-rivals facing off.
This week is the polar opposite of that. This week we get quality over quantity, with a few match-ups that could have huge conference/playoff implications down the road.
Notre Dame vs. Michigan
The Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry began in 1887 when Michigan students traveled to South Bend to teach them the game of football. Fast-forward 127 years, and Michigan students will once again travel to Notre Dame to teach the Irish a lesson.
This time the class will also be the end of the course. The Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry will end after Saturday night, which is no great tragedy. Notre Dame vs. Michigan is easily the most casual, unassertive rivalry in college football. They’re the old couple that silently fumes and stares daggers into their newspaper while the other makes annoying mouth noises.
Notre Dame is about third or fourth on Michigan’s list of top rivals after Ohio State and Michigan State. The same could easily be said for Michigan vis-à-vis Notre Dame, considering that Notre Dame is a rival to pretty much everyone.
Both schools got off to good starts by beating teams they should have beaten in Week 1. Michigan routed Appalachian State 52-14. Devin Gardner was 13 of 14 for 173 yards and 3 TDs. De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green combined for 285 of Big Blue’s 350 yards on the ground.
Notre Dame pelted Rice 48-17. But the biggest win for the Irish served as proof that QB Everett Golson hasn’t skipped a beat since sitting out last year for academic impropriety. Golson threw for touchdowns of 75 and 53 yards, and became only the third QB in Irish history to run for three TDs in a game.
So, what to make of two hated foes playing their last game against each other after thumping their opening-day opponents? I would expect a lot. Ishaq Williams, KeiVarae Russell, and Kendall Moore are still gone from the Irish defense. Deep threat DaVaris Daniels is unavailable to Golson on the offensive side.
If Notre Dame were whole I’d lean their way. But they’re not. Expect fireworks, and expect the Irish to come up just short.
Michigan 31, Irish 27
USC vs. Stanford
If Notre Dame-Michigan is the old couple stewing in their muted rage, then USC-Stanford is the dysfunctional trailer-park couple chucking cookware at each other at 4 a.m. This is a true rivalry. No one questions the love lost between new USC coach Steve Sarkisian and Stanford coach David Shaw.
After all, it was only last year that then-Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian went on the radio right after playing Stanford and accused the Cardinal of faking injuries to slow down the Huskies.
David Shaw, of course, denied that Stanford faked injuries to slow down Sarkisian’s offense. However, after watching tape of the USC win over Fresno State, David Shaw might want to consider faking injuries to slow down Sarkisian’s offense.
The Trojans beat the Bulldogs 52-13. And unlike the opening-day victims put down by Oregon, Michigan State, and Stanford, Fresno State isn’t some walkover opponent. Cody Kessler threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns, while the Trojans looked like they might be a rival to Oregon as far as having the best offense in the Pac 12.
USC isn’t only a threat on offense as they proved last week when defensive end Leonard Williams racked-up seven tackles and an interception. In fact, look for the match-up between Williams and Stanford left-tackle Andrus Peat to be pivotal. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan has shown himself to be very susceptible to making bad decisions under pressure.
I would say Stanford’s defense is the closest thing to an SEC defense you’ll find outside of the SEC. But SEC defenses don’t seem to be as good anymore. So, I’ll say the Stanford defense is the closest thing you’ll find to the Stanford defense, which means they’re big and stingy.
However, I think USC did more than just win a game on opening day. They made a statement, racking up 701 total yards of offense on a Fresno State team that’s put more than a few people in the NFL over the last few years. USC’s offense will be too much for Stanford, and USC’s defense will force Kevin Hogan into mistakes he can’t afford.
USC 34, Stanford 23
Oregon vs. Michigan State
If styles make fights, then this game would no doubt be a contest that would be etched in the fame of pugilistic lore. However, since it’s a football game, it’s just going to have to settle for being a really awesome way to spend a Saturday night.
The Ducks and the Spartans have become synonymous with domination; the offensive explosion and domination for the former and bone-crushing defense for the latter.
There are also huge College Football Playoff implications for both teams in this game. It has long been assumed that the first “Final Four” in CFB will include Florida State, the SEC champion, and the Pac 12 champion. Therefore, leaving space for one “wild card” team.
A win for Michigan State, beating the #3 team in the country in their own house, would go a long way towards not only moving the Spartans up in the polls, but also in shoring up that fourth spot. Especially, considering #4 Oklahoma doesn’t have anyone anywhere near that highly ranked on their roster and wouldn’t be able to match that win.
For the same reason, it’s also a huge game for Oregon, since their conference is shaping up to be the deepest in the country next to the SEC and a loss before they even get into the meat of their conference schedule might knock them out of contention for a pretty-much guaranteed playoff spot.
Who wins it? Oregon. The Spartans bring back key starters on defense, like Shillique Calhoun and Taiwan Jones. But Marcus Mariota is like nothing the Spartans have seen before. The dual-threat nature of Mariota, plus the very strong home-field advantage for the Ducks, gives them the win.
Oregon 27, Michigan State 20