Welcome to Four Down Territory, Omaha Sports Insider’s weekly college football round table. We will be joined by members of the Omaha Sports Insider staff to get their thoughts on what is going on in the world of college football. This week we are joined by KMTV Sports Director Adam Krueger, Weekend Sports Anchor Ben Stevens and Tyler Martin of OmahaSportsInsider.com.
Heading into week two of the college football season, many people feared the action on the field would be a letdown after the amazing opening weekend that fans were treated to.
Even though there were not as many marque matchups, there is still plenty to talk about as many of the games were closer than expected and even a few teams were upset. What was your biggest story in week two of the college football season?
ADAM: For me, it was probably seeing how those teams who stubbed their toe, or were less than impressive in their opening game, rebounded this week. I’d basically call it Back on Track Saturday. Oklahoma played way more like the team they should’ve played like as did Tennessee. LSU & Notre Dame also looked improved, but playing lesser opponents, they obviously should have.
BEN: I know it may sound a little biased as a graduate of Syracuse, but along the lines of record-breaking performances, I think one of the biggest storylines from Week 2 came on Friday night with Louisville QB Lamar Jackson.
He set a new ACC record with 610 yards of total offense in the Cards huge 62-28 blowout over the Orange. I mean come on, if you tuned into ESPN over the weekend, you had to have seen Jackson’s hurdle on his way to the end zone.
Jackson and No. 10 Louisville’s big performance also sets up a huge game this Saturday against No. 2 Florida State. The game is at 11 a.m.; a nice appetizer for the Oregon vs. Nebraska entrée.
TYLER: I’d have to say the fact that Northwestern, a team that finished 10-3 just a season ago, fell to 0-2 after losing to Illinois State is one of the biggest storylines in not just the Big Ten, but all of college football. This was sure to be one of the Huskers toughest road games coming into the season, but not looking that way anymore.
Let’s switch gears now and take a look at the Big Ten.
The lowest point of week two for the Big Ten was Northwestern’s loss to FCS Member Illinois State. The loss put the Wildcats at 0-2 on the season.
Though Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald has been successful since taking the head coaching job in 2006, Northwestern could be looking at its third losing season in four years. After Saturday’s loss, is Fitzgerald’s job in jeopardy?
ADAM: In the short term it might appear that way. But if the Wildcats pull out a 6-6 or 7-5 record with an upset win over a Top 25 team in there, which is fairly likely, then I think he’s absolutely safe.
He’s coming off a 10-win season and a Top 25 finish in 2015. And with him being one of the program’s most illustrious alums, it would take more than a losing season this year to get rid of him.
BEN: I’m not sure Fitzgerald’s job is in jeopardy quite yet, but this definitely hasn’t been the start of the season the Wildcats were looking for or expecting. After a 10-win season last year, there were a lot of high hopes in Evanston entering this season.
But week one, Northwestern dropped a close one to Western Michigan. And then, you thought okay, week two the Wildcats will bounce back against FCS opponent Illinois St. But nope. The offense has really struggled this year and Clayton Thorson doesn’t seem to be connecting with his wideouts very well through two games. Northwestern needs a huge comeback win this week at home against Duke before Nebraska comes to town the following week.
TYLER: Not quite. Conference play hasn’t even started yet, and although it doesn’t look very promising right now, Northwestern could turn things around and be a contender in the Big Ten. However, the hot seat is on, and will continue to heat up if the losses keep rolling in.
Let’s take a look at Nebraska.
After a slow start in Saturday’s matchup with Wyoming, Nebraska was able to pull away for a 52-17 win over the Cowboys. With the Wyoming game in the rearview mirror, we can officially look at Oregon. What is Nebraska’s biggest advantage against Ducks and can the Cornhuskers improve to 3-0?
ADAM: I know Oregon’s defense is less than stellar but I still don’t know if Nebraska’s running game vs. Ducks’ run defense is necessarily the biggest advantage.
Honestly, it’s probably more the fact that Riley and most of his staff have seen basically EVERYTHING Oregon has ran in the past decade. That has to count for something. And obviously, the Husker Nation crowd there for the 350th consecutive sellout is also one of Nebraska’s biggest advantages.
Nebraska can win, but it would take the Huskers’ cleanest outing in all three phases since Riley’s been there, which is a tall order.
BEN: : I think Nebraska has two very solid things going for them heading into possibly the biggest matchup in Mike Riley’s two-year tenure as head Husker: its positive turnover margin and the run game.
Let’s start with the Blackshirts. Nebraska has a plus-seven turnover margin and seven interceptions, tied for most in the country. This is going to be big for the Huskers if they hope to slow down the up-tempo Oregon offense that has put up a combined 97 points in their first two games. And speaking of hoping to slow down the Oregon offense, Nebraska’s rushing attack will be key as well.
All the talk out of Lincoln following the season opener against Fresno St. was the 51 times Big Red ran the ball. I’m not saying they need to run the ball that many times against Oregon, but the Huskers will need to establish a ground game to keep the ball out of the Ducks’ hands on offense.
TYLER: I don’t know that the run game is exactly an advantage, but if Nebraska can win the time of possession battle and slow the game down, things should roll in Nebraska’s favor.
Oregon quarterback Dakota Prokrup was asked earlier this week what it’s like playing in front of 90,000 people and he replied “I’ve never been before 90,000. It was only my second time last week in front of 54,000.” Those 90,000 screaming fans in red will be Nebraska’s greatest ally.
Week three of the college football season offers plenty of intriguing matchups. No.1 Alabama will try to beat No. 19 Ole Miss for the first time in two years while No. 10 Louisville will try to keep their offense rolling against No. 2 Florida St. Outside of Nebraska vs. Oregon, what game are you looking forward to the most on Saturday?
ADAM: Tough to narrow it down to one but the top two I’m looking forward to seeing are Ohio State at OU and FSU at Louisville. I’ll be curious to see how Ohio State responds to a tough night atmosphere in Norman with a Sooners squad that’ll be itching to redeem itself after the Houston loss.
As for Florida State, I’ll be interested to see if that comeback win vs. Ole Miss was luck or if the Seminoles are for real. And I want to see if Louisville is actually worthy of their top ten ranking.
Going from an 8-5 finish last year to a top ten team right now is showing them a lot of respect. I’ll be curious to see if the Cardinals are legit, or just a one man show.
BEN: I’m personally really looking forward to the primetime matchup between No. 3 Ohio State and No. 14 Oklahoma. I think this game’s hype has gone down a lot because Oklahoma didn’t look too hot in their season opening lost to Houston. But this will be the Buckeyes first real test this year after easily handling both Bowling Green and Tulsa. And it comes on the road in Norman. This will definitely show us what Urban Meyer’s squad has got in store for the rest of the season.
TYLER: The game I’m really looking forward to is No. 12 Michigan State vs. No. 18 Notre Dame. College football fans and analysts sleep on Michigan State every season, and I think this is a statement game for the Spartans.