Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Nebraska get Sun Belt surprises and more college football Week 2 takeaways

Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Nebraska get Sun Belt surprises and more college football Week 2 takeaways

Imagine the swing in emotions Texas A&M fans went through in Week 2.

It felt great to watch Texas lose 20-19 in the final minute to No. 1 Alabama in heart-breaking fashion. It felt terrible to become Appalachian State’s next pelt in a stunning 17-14 loss a few hours later. Now, the long road to that Oct. 8 showdown against the Crimson Tide must feel impossible under Jimbo Fisher.

“We did not execute and play at the level we needed to and that’s my fault,” Fisher said in his postgame conference via TexAgs.com. “That’s as a head football coach, that’s your job to have your guys ready to play and get them in position to make plays. That’s on us.”

This was a much different press conference for Fisher, whose retaliatory press conference against Alabama’s Nick Saban on May 18 that was the highlight of “Talkin’ Season.” No. 15 Miami visits College Station, Tex., next week before the Aggies head to Jerry World to face No. 16 Arkansas on Sept. 24.

There is a lot to talk about at Texas A&M now, starting with a sound piece of advice for all Power 5 athletic directors: If you want a non-conference cupcake, then don’t schedule Appalachian State.

The Mountaineers are 3-13 against Power 5 opponents since the legendary upset against Michigan on Sept. 1, 2007. But they have split the last six games against Power 5 opponents since 2018 – and all six games were decided by seven points or less:

DATE SCORE
Sep 10, 2022 Appalachian State 17, No. 6 Texas A&M 14
Sep 3, 2022 North Carolina 63, Appalachian State 61
Sep 11, 2021 No. 22 Miami 25, Appalachian State 23
Nov. 9, 2019 Appalachian State 20, South Carolina 15
Sep 21, 2019 Appalachian State 34, North Carolina 31
Sep. 1, 2018 No. 10 Penn State 45, Appalachian State 38 (OT)

“We’ll go play anyone, anybody, anywhere, any time,” Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark said on the telecast. “We came into College Station and beat the No. 6 team in the country. How cool is that?”

Boone, NC, thought it was hot…

Appalachian State won the possession battle 41:29-6:31 and limited the Aggies to 186 total yards. Fisher now has a quarterback controversy – should Texas A&M give LSU transfer Max Johnson a look? The pressure the next two weeks is off the charts, especially after a day where Texas fans had the last laugh.

MORE: Boone explodes in celebration after App State win

The Aggies, however, weren’t the only top-10 teams to lose to a Sun Belt school….

Early Irish goodbye

Notre Dame went from a good loss in Week 1 to Ohio State to an all-out disaster in a 26-21 loss to Marshall in Marcus Freeman’s home opener. This was a striking example of “losing twice” after the top-five showdown with the Buckeyes.

What went wrong? Tyler Buchner (18 of 32, 201 yards, 2 rushing TDs, 2 INTs) struggled with accuracy and turnovers, and the Irish generated a running game that averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. Marshall coach Charles Huff, another former Nick Saban assistant, has a resume-keeping victory that started with running back Khalan Laborn (31 carries, 163 yards, TD).

It’s a painful loss in the Irish’s first-ever game against a Sun Belt opponent, and those stick in South Bend longer than they should. Ask Brian Kelly, who was 26-4 against Group of 5 opponents. The losses against Tulsa (2010), South Florida (2011), Navy (2016) and Cincinnati (2021) were part of that tenure.

MORE: Five numbers from Notre Dame’s historic loss

Three of those four losses were in South Bend, and those are even tougher to shake off.

The challenge for Freeman is to bounce back in Year 1 knowing the CFP isn’t happening, maintain the momentum in recruiting and to quiet the critics that came after those previous coaches. Holtz and Kelly recovered. Faust and Davie? Not so much.

USC was unreal (for a half)

Lincoln Riley passed the first prime-time eye-test against Stanford in the Trojans’ Pac-12 opener, and quarterback Caleb Williams put on a show in a 41-28 victory. Williams finished 20 of 27 for 341 yards and four TDs.

The good news? USC flipped the script from last year’s 42-28 loss to Stanford that resulted in Clay Helton’s firing, too. The Trojans put on a passing clinic in the first that half that impressed Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who was in attendance to watch his son Brenden.

Brenden caught Williams’ first pass of 20 yards or more, but it was the connection with Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison that put the Cardinal on the mat in the first half with a 35-14 lead.

Addison caught TD passes of 22 and 75 yards, respectively. He finished with seven catches for 172 yards. Williams hit 10 of 12 passes for 222 yards in the first half alone.

The Cardinal adjusted in the second half, and USC didn’t hit a play of 20 yards or more after their first drive in the third quarter. Stanford did cut the lead to 13 points and had an onside kick attempt in the fourth quarter but never quite threatened.

MORE: Transfers Williams, Addison ball out for USC

There is no question the Trojans have one of the most-exciting offenses in the FBS with Williams and Addison leading the way. Riley, however, will need to develop a closer mentality throughout the season, which continues against Fresno State in Week 3.

Big Ten ‘split’

Through two weeks, Minnesota is the only Big Ten West team that remains unbeaten. The last two Big Ten champions suffered non-conference losses in different fashions in Week 2.

No. 19 Wisconsin suffered a 17-14 loss at Washington State at Camp Randall Stadium, and Cougars quarterback Cam Ward wasn’t the problem. The Badgers had three turnovers and 11 penalties for 106 yards.

Iowa managed just 150 total yards in a 10-7 loss to rival Iowa State, but that wasn’t the worst part. The Hawkeyes had a chance to tie in the final seconds after the Cyclones were called for unsportsmanlike conduct before time expired, then Aaron Blom missed a 48-yard field goal.

Compound that with the fact that every Big Ten East team is 2-0 so far, and you have another compelling reason for the conference to scrap divisions. Remember, the Big Ten East champion is 8-0 in the conference championship game since the conference ditched the Legends and Leaders divisions.

quick hits

Ohio State didn’t have wide receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Julian Fleming, and it did not matter. Marvin Harrison Jr. turned in an incredible performance in a 45-12 victory against Arkansas State. Harrison had seven catches on nine targets for 184 yards and three TDs. He had four catches of 30 yards or more, including this beauty down the left sideline.

The SEC East is down to three unbeaten teams. Who will challenge Georgia? Will it be No. 24 Tennessee or No. 20 Kentucky? The Vols escaped Pitt in a thrilling 34-27 overtime thriller. Hendon Hooker passed for 325 yards and a pair of TDs. The Wildcats, meanwhile, shut down Week 1 hero Anthony Richardson in a convincing 26-16 victory. Richardson was limited to 147 total yards with two interceptions, and the Wildcats won without suspended running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. Mark Stoops passed Bear Bryant for the most wins in program history with 61 in the process. The Wildcats have four of the next five at home, with the lone road trip at No. 22 Ole Miss on Oct. 1. Tennessee plays Florida in two weeks. We’ll know more then.

Michigan started JJ McCarthy in a 56-10 blowout against Hawaii, and the sophomore did not disappoint. McCarthy led five TD drives in six possessions, and through two games the Wolverines have scored TDs on eight of his nine drives. McCarthy finished 11 of 12 for 229 yards and three TDs; an average of 19.1 yards per attempt. Cade McNamara (4 of 6, 26 yards, INT) struggled in relief. It’s tough to over-react too much knowing the competition, but McCarthy looks like the starter when it gets serious in Big Ten play.

Holy Cross hits the Hail Mary. The Crusaders beat Buffalo 37-31 on a desperation heave from Matthew Sluka, who threw across the field to Jalen Coker, who caught the ball short of the goal line before lunging into the end zone. It’s a 46-yard prayer answered.

Week 3 sneak peek

Will Scott Frost still be Nebraska’s coach when the Huskers face No. 7 Oklahoma at Memorial Stadium on Saturday?

That is the unthinkable position Frost is in after a stunning 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern in Week 2. Is it unthinkable or untenable now?

“Fire Frost!” that broke out in the student section in the third quarter.

That was before Nebraska marched 98 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Eagles quarterback Kyle Vantrease, who passed for 406 yards, responded with the game-winning 8-yard touchdown run with 36 seconds remaining. Nebraska had a chance to tie at the end of regulation, but Timmy Bleekrode missed a 52-yard field goal attempt on the final play. Georgia Southern gained 642 yards under first-year coach Clay Helton.

The loss dropped Frost to 5-22 in one-score games, and the Huskers are 1-2 heading into the back half of the home-and-home series against the Sooners, their former Big 12 rival. This was not the stage anyone in Lincoln expected in the offseason given the coaching staff overhaul that included bringing on new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.

Is this Frost’s last stand – or will he make that long? That is the dominant storyline in a week that might not feature a game between ranked teams outside of Miami-Texas A&M.

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