Week 2 Saturday Six-Pack: A Return to Campus

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Week 1 of the 2017 college football season spread action over five consecutive days, featured the greatest upset in the game’s history; the second-biggest comeback ever; and a Monday night finale that came down to a double-overtime two-point conversion attempt.

How, exactly, can Week 2 meet that high standard? Well, the answer is rather easily.

College football Week 2 features a lineup that’s better than Week 1. Not only are there marquee matchups throughout the day, both in conference play — USC vs. Stanford — and non-conference action — Oklahoma-Ohio State, Clemson-Auburn — but NO MORE NEUTRAL FIELDS.

This weekend is college football as it’s meant to be: great teams playing each on campus with the festive atmosphere that accompanies it.

Not included in the Saturday Six-Pack — mostly because it was cancelled as a result of Hurricane Irma — is Miami’s visit to Arkansas State. Probably for the best for The U.

Aside from being a rare Power Five-at-Group of Five contest, this was not like most games for other reasons…

2017 Record: 10-7 overall (8-6 ATS)*

due to the inconsistency of FCS line availability, the ATS and overall records differ

Saturday Six-Pack: STONE TANGERINE EXPRESS IPA

The coming days function as the bridge between summer and autumn. Stone’s Tangerine Express IPA offers a taste befitting the season, with the traditional IPA bitterness accented by grapefruit and tangerine. Cheers to a great Week 2!

TCU at ARKANSAS

3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT
TV: CBS
Line: TCU -3.5; O/U 58

Former Southwest Conference counterparts Arkansas and TCU played 68 times between 1920 and 1991, but last year’s overtime affair in Fort Worth marked the first meeting since.

Last season’s exciting showdown sets the stage for Saturday’s contest. TCU quarterback Kenny Hill erupted for 377 yards and a passing touchdown, with another 93 and two on the ground. It was the second time in his career the former Kenny Trill carved up an Arkansas defense, having hit up the Razorbacks for 386 yards passing with four touchdowns in 2014.

Both games went to overtime, with Hill’s team coming out on the winning side once, and last year in a loss.

Hill can’t be saddled with the 2016 loss; Arkansas inundated the Horned Frogs defense behind three passing touchdowns from quarterback Austin Allen, and an economic 137 rushing yards from Rawleigh Williams.

Allen’s back, and while Williams is gone, the Hogs have a typical, Bret Bielema run game. Backs Chase Hayden, Devwah Whaley and David Williams combined for over 200 yards with four touchdowns in a Week 1 rout of Florida A&M.

The big question mark is whether TCU, returning much of its defense from a season ago, is improved. Gary Patterson-coached teams have a knack for bouncing back from lackluster finishes, and last year’s 6-7 final mark qualifies. With a ton of experience on both sides of the ball, and one of the game’s premier strategists on the sideline, the Frogs begin the march back to redemption with a big, road win.

PREDICTION: TCU 38, Arkansas 30

AUBURN at CLEMSON

7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT
TV: ESPN
Line: Clemson -5.5; O/U 53.5

I absolutely love regional, non-conference rivalries. Auburn-Clemson isn’t one in the classical sense, having gone dormant long before the allure of TV money broke up such pairings. Rather, this series takes its roots in the game’s early days, but has added exciting, modern chapters.

Auburn nearly shocked the nation last year at Jordan-Hare, grinding down the eventual national champion in a Week 1 slug-fest. The Week 2 return date features a new-look Clemson team, though these Tigers remain viable contenders for the College Football Playoff.

Auburn entered the season something of a trendy dark-horse pick to crash the Playoff party. This road test is the perfect measuring stick for the Plains Tigers’ championship viability.

Both sets of Tigers rolled in Week 1, though it’s difficult to glean too much from the openers. 2017 Georgia Southern isn’t the Willie Fritz-coached 2015 Eagles, and Clemson didn’t blow out Dri Archer-led 2012 Kent State. This is the first, truly revealing contest for either team.

Perhaps quarterback Jarrett Stidham is prepared to elevate the Auburn offense to heights not seen since 2013 — but give me a Brent Venables defense in Death Valley.

PREDICTION: Clemson 24, Auburn 17

OKLAHOMA at OHIO STATE

7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT
TV: ABC
Line: Ohio State -7.5; O/U 64.5

Whether it was Bloomington — the Hoosiers gave Ohio State problems in the previous two visits under Urban Meyer — or the Buckeyes playing possum, the first half was ugly. The second? Well, it was ugly if you’re one of the teams scheduled to face Ohio State in 2017.

Indiana’s success attacking Ohio State with the pass through the first three quarters suggests question marks for the Buckeyes defense, but offensively? This looks like Urban’s best collection of talent since arriving in Columbus five years ago. That’s scary.

Oklahoma Heisman Trophy contender Baker Mayfield struggled mightily against Ohio State a season ago, completing just 53 percent of his passes and throwing two interceptions.

After Richard Lagow attacked a few holes in the Ohio State defense in Week 1 for 420 yards, Mayfield should fare better against the Buckeyes this time. Defense is another story. Slowing an Ohio State attack with J.T. Barrett and a rushing rotation that includes breakout freshman J.K. Dobbins and Antonio Williams, and has yet to even play Mike Weber this season is a whole other challenge for the Sooners.

PREDICTION: Ohio State 35, Oklahoma 28

GEORGIA at NOTRE DAME

7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT
TV: NBC
Line: Notre Dame -4.5; O/U 53.5

With all due respect to the NFL, which features the very best football players in the world (and quarterbacks who KNOW THE PLAYBOOK~!), a matchup like Georgia-Notre Dame exemplifies why college football is the best.

These are two history-rich programs with some of the best players ever to play the game and passionate fan bases — and they have played just once before. Georgia outlasted Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl behind two touchdowns from Herschel Walker.

This — the first on-campus showdown between the two programs — features a new Bulldog running back carving out his name in Georgia football history. Nick Chubb leads Georgia under the watchful gaze of Touchdown Jesus. Chubb was limited in the Week 1 rout of Appalachian State, but still managed two touchdown carries.

Expect a heavier workload in Week 2 with Jacob Eason sidelined and Jake Fromm making his first career start.

While it’s not the debut for Brandon Wimbush — he threw for a pair of touchdowns in a Week 1 romp over Temple — the talented Georgia presents a much stiffer challenge. The Irish must be able to establish Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, the most dynamic run-game tandem Brian Kelly’s had in his time at Notre Dame.

PREDICTION: Notre Dame 27, Georgia 24

STANFORD at USC

8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT
TV: FOX
Line: USC -6.5; O/U 56

Rivals Stanford and USC might well face a second time this season in the Pac-12 Championship Game; both have the qualities necessary to reach Silicon Valley the first weekend in December. That gives this early-season matchup a decided championship feel.

Add Stanford’s recent success against the Trojans — especially at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — juxtaposed with the lofty preseason expectations on USC, and the stakes don’t get much higher for a Week 2 contest.

Stanford was off Week 1 after decimating Rice in Australia, 62-7. The Cardinal offense has never looked better, but putting too much stock in an overseas contest against an overmatched foe would be a mistake. Keller Chryst needs his offensive line to give him time against a tenacious USC pass rush, led by defensive end Porter Gustin. Meanwhile, Bryce Love and the Cardinal run game won’t have the benefit of missing linebacker Cam Smith for a half, as Western Michigan did.

Conversely, preseason Heisman frontrunner Sam Darnold has a much more difficult challenge with the Stanford defense than he faced against Western Michigan in Week 1. Given the issues USC had with dropped passes against the Broncos, and that Stanford has one of the Pac-12’s most talented secondaries between Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder, this may not be the week for the Trojans to breakout with the pass.

Both teams have question marks. Each has decided superlatives. It should make for a thrilling entry into this ever-growing rivalry.

PREDICTION: Stanford 34, USC 31

BOISE STATE at WASHINGTON STATE

10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT
TV: FOX
Line: Washington State -10; O/U 58.5

The wildfires raging throughout the Pacific Northwest loom over this regional non-conference date. The game is on as of Friday morning, but concerns about air quality are very real.

Boise State held off the Cougars last year on the Smurf Turf, and Bryan Harsin arguably has a better all-around squad this year. But so does Washington State — considerably better, even, at least by early-season standards.

Despite turning a corner under head coach Mike Leach in recent years, Washington State’s been brutal in September. The resounding blowout of Montana State was no-nonsense. Luke Falk operating behind a stout offensive line is a thing of beauty, and though the Broncos bring a much more aggressive defensive front into this one, expect Falk to register big numbers in a Cougars win.

PREDICTION: Washington State 41, Boise State 28