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Maize 'n' Brew Top 25 Likes The Cardinals

The questions get deeper for many teams after a volatile Week 2.

Scott Cunningham

Nobody said it better than Sports Illustrated, and this was even before Ohio State crashed in front of 107,000 at the Shoe.

It wasn't a good day for the Big Ten. Iowa required a late rally to beat Ball State; Nebraska needed a remarkable play from running back Ameer Abdullah to escape McNeese State; and Purdue and Northwestern lost to MAC opponents (Central Michigan and Northern Illinois). The Spartans had a chance to change the national perception of the Big Ten with a strong showing in the Northwest. They couldn't make it happen.

Michigan State led 24-18 at the break, but Oregon's speed and execution proved to be too much. Following Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller's injury in the preseason and Wisconsin's loss to LSU in Week 1, the league was in desperate need of a boost. A 19-point loss from its premier team doesn't help matters.

At least one of the major conferences will be left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff field. As of now, the Big Ten can't feel great about its chances.

Last week, five B1G teams made it here, and all seemed deserving. Today, there are three... barely.

To check out the previous week's poll, click here.

Sunday Morning Brews Poll - Week 2

Oz6hshh_medium #1. Georgia Bulldogs (1-0, Previously #1)

The Bulldogs have a bye this week as they prepare for South Carolina - a game that looks increasingly winnable, as Spurrier's Gamecocks struggled in a 10-point victory against the East Carolina Pirates. More than their bye week or South Carolina's struggles, Georgia seems well set up because of everything that comes after that South Carolina game: Troy, then a riveting conference slate of Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, and Auburn, ending with Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech. A pretty good chance at 11-1, anyone?

Eqvk1zm_medium #2. Florida State Seminoles (2-0, #2)

The 37-12 win over Citadel doesn't scream 'dominating,' but most of Florida State's numbers were very good. What was not were the 322 yards allowed, thanks largely to 4.5 yards per carry and 250 yards the old fashioned way. FSU's front needs to grow a new wall if it wants to make it through a playoff.

Oz6hshh_medium #3. Alabama Crimson Tide (2-0, #4)

Lane Kiffin has done everything Saban has asked of him so far, which so far has been to beat up outmatched and undeserving foes. A 41-0 shutout of Florida Atlantic featured 189 yards from Amari Cooper - encouraging for Alabama fans - and a kicker who was 7/7 between the uprights. That, too, was encouraging for Alabama fans.

4bsojdu_medium #4. Oregon Ducks (2-0, #6)

For two years there, Oregon had Stanford's number, and it seemed an insurmountable climb for a team like the Cardinal. For the next two years, the Cardinal did nothing but stop the Ducks in their tracks and get in their heads. Now, the Ducks seem prepared to exact a little revenge on anybody and everybody who resembles Stanford. The defense isn't scary, but the defense is the diversion.

Bqlmrac_medium #5. Baylor Bears (2-0, #7)

Baylor has put up better offensive stats than Oregon against worse competition. But they also have the #2 total defense so far, a far cry from Oregon's 88th-ranked unit. The Bears are first in rush defense and eight in passing efficiency defense. Whether this can hold up is the question, but they're ranked behind Oregon for a different reason than not having played Michigan State. After this, Oregon faces one real test (Stanford) and plenty of good teams that look easy to beat. Baylor heads through Texas, TCU, and an overperforming West Virginia through October, then OU, OSU, TTU, and KSU to end the season. Pac-12 or no Pac-12, Baylor's schedule smells riper for an upset.

Also, in a blow to Bryce Petty's Heisman march, the injured quarterback sat and got a chance to watch Seth Russell throw for 438 yards, 5 TD's and no interceptions. Easy as pie, apparently.

Bqlmrac_medium #6. Oklahoma Sooners (2-0, #8)

The arsenal around Trevor Knight is still coming into form, but 8.4 yards per rush and three receivers with at least 11.7 yards per catch will do for now. Meanwhile, the defense held a pretty solid (F/+: 74) Tulsa team to 7 points. National polls are high on Oklahoma (3rd in the Coaches and Sagarin polls, 4th in the AP Poll), and they're not wrong. The Sooners still have to keep growing, though.

Oz6hshh_medium #7. Texas A&M Aggies (2-0, #10)

The top ten of offensive doom continues with Texas A&M. Kenny Hill's stat line was a disappointing 17/26, 283 yards, and 4/0. For the season, he has 9.23 yards per attempt, 70.9% completions, 7/0 TD ratio and just 1 sack. The A&M secondary also forced a 16/42 performance by Lamar's quarterback - part of a 73-3 win.

Oz6hshh_medium #8. Auburn Tigers (2-0, #11)

I'm a little bearish on Auburn at #8, but an underwhelming field forces them a notch or two higher. Against San Jose State, Auburn allowed 319 total yards (7.9 per pass) and got only 135 through the air. Nick Marshall went 10/19, but contributed to a three-headed monster on the ground. Cameron Artis-Payne, Marshall, and Corey Grant averaged 12 carries, 101 yards, and a touchdown. To me, this screams 'healthy in November.'

4bsojdu_medium #9. USC Trojans (2-0, #12)

After 701 yards on 105 plays a week ago, USC had a reasonable encore with 291 yards on 59 plays against a classic defense (4.93 per play). Stanford showed off its athletic receivers, but USC had the talent to match and they kept up with Ty Montgomery. The Trojans were outgained statistically, but their running was effective and the Trojans proved that they could combine two things that offensive teams have often failed to do: a potentially vicious offensive attack, and the ability to not fall off a cliff against a great defense. The Trojans held their own against a slightly depleted Stanford front seven, and held the Cardinal to almost a yard less per rush. Sarkisian didn't flinch, either.

4bsojdu_medium #10. Stanford Cardinal (1-1, #9)

The Cardinal was more mistake-ridden yesterday than they had been in a long time. In many ways, they looked better than the Trojans, with endless opportunities to put the Trojans away. They also looked dramatically worse. Shaw used a different-looking offense that utilized plenty of three-wide receiver sets, and shied away from leaning on the offensive line.

Kudos to Shaw for adapting to his personnel, but there are inevitable questions with that - especially after a mistake-ridden performance yesterday - about how well this team can execute it.

R0dmwjn_medium #11. Michigan State Spartans (1-1, #3)

Michigan State did their best to combine efficiency with explosiveness - after all, they earned more first downs (25 to 19) and almost as many yards (466 to 491) as the Ducks, but ultimately it was in vain. What was most impressive about the Spartans was how physically they hit the Duck playmakers, and what was most impressive about the Ducks was how it didn't phase them. Still, the Spartans had the right plan, and sometimes you just get beat. Independent of the Big Ten's context, this 19-point loss had nothing to be ashamed about. The Spartans have a burgeoning list of weapons and the DNA to win the Big Ten.

Uhvdasx_medium #12. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-0, NR)

Even if Golson wasn't a revelation, their speed at receiver was. If their front seven wasn't a revelation in the midst of allowing 100 yards and 2.9 per carry, their secondary was. They look a lot like what the Wolverines seemed like before meeting the Irish.

Eqvk1zm_medium #13. Louisville Cardinals (2-0, #19)

Louisville is looking increasingly like a hurricane in the ACC. After a 31-13 win over rival Miami, the Cardinals led Murray State 45-7 at the half and coasted the rest of the way. They lead the nation in red zone offense, time of possession, and have 0 interceptions. There will be three tests this year: at Clemson, vs. Florida State, and at Notre Dame. Even if UL goes 1-2 in those matchups, they should easily reach 10 wins and put up some terrific numbers.

R0dmwjn_medium #14. Wisconsin Badgers (1-1, #13)

Granted, there was sure to be an emotional letdown after last week, and it showed in a 37-3 win against an exceedingly mediocre opponent. The Badgers will have to move on from last week and find a groove against Bowling Green, South Florida, and then Northwestern. They also have the asset of not playing in the SEC West, where the LSU Tigers - for all their on-field talent - have a rocky road ahead.

Oz6hshh_medium #15. Louisiana State Tigers (2-0, #14)

The Tigers are too flawed but plenty dangerous, and they showed all the things they needed to in a Week 2 victory. The quarterbacks looked better and Leonard Fournette looked like a good running back. The receiving corps looks nightmarish after Travin Dural - the second leading receiver against Sam Houston was Fournette for 32 yards, followed by a redshirt freshman John Diarse and the two heralded true freshmen. No one else caught passes.

The Tigers get Mississippi State at home in Week 4, with back-to-back October trips to Auburn and Gainesville. And those are merely the appetizers for a difficult season-ending month.

Eqvk1zm_medium #16. Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0, #21)

The Hokies didn't dominate the Buckeyes, as their running game was mediocre and Michael Brewer threw two picks. But their defense is as stout as it ever was, and their stiffest test from here on out is either next week, versus Eastern Carolina, or in late October against Miami. But the path to 10 wins (again) is wide open for Frank Beamer.

Oz6hshh_medium #17. Ole Miss Rebels (2-0, #15)

The running game underwhelmed again, but Bo Wallace, Evan Engram, and that defense came to play. Wallace put up 23/30, 320 yards and a 1/0 TD ratio, and Vanderbilt's quarterback, Stephen Rivers, went 6/25 for 60 yards. The 41-3 win was expected, but they still must build on their performance, starting with the running game. Immediately after that would be cutting down on the penalties (almost 10 a game), tackles for loss, and fix a familiar problem, the red zone offense.

Eqvk1zm_medium #18. Clemson Tigers (1-1, #24)

Swinney had this to say earlier this week to reporters: "Well, first of all, we're good enough. We've got a talented team. I mean, we're good enough to win in any environment against any team out there, I really believe that." Swinney's march of optimism was certainly helped by a group that allowed 7 rushing yards on 28 attempts, 44 yards total on 53 plays and gained 735 themselves.

I'm nursing a suspicion that Dabo Swinney used the South Carolina State game (a 73-7 drubbing) to repair some of the confidence and bloodthirstiness in his Tigers squad before a bye week that leads into Florida State. Their jump in these standings had less to do with that score, though, and more with other teams underperforming and Clemson's overall quality.

Unfortunately for Clemson, this still feels like a team that needs time and isn't getting it. The run defense is up there with some of the best in college, but their age is a drawback on offense and the secondary. For an offense that's trying to get comfortable, it's a tall task to beat top-5 teams in their first month.

Bqlmrac_medium #19. TCU Horned Frogs (1-0, #23)

TCU got a bye this weekend. This link has a review of how they did in Week 1.

Bqlmrac_medium #20. West Virginia Mountaineers (1-1, NR)

The good news, for West Virginia fans, is last week's standoff with Alabama may not have been a fluke. After putting up 365 yards on Alabama's secondary, Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett put up 348 on Towson, with 35/40 completions. WVU played poorly last year on defense (102nd overall), but they return most of their guys and rank a surprising 33rd in scoring defense so far.

The bad news? They play Maryland next, which bodes poorly for the Big Ten, Week 3.

Oz6hshh_medium #21. Missouri Tigers (2-0, #22)

Missouri looked beleaguered against Toledo. They didn't guard the run well, and Toledo put up 24 on them while turning it over twice (once on a momentum-changing interception return) and accruing 60 yards of penalties. Missouri only rushed for 3.8 yards a pop, and bad Mauk showed up, throwing two interceptions. Still, the SEC East is wide open, and the defense is leaning on some youth that could make strides. This team is missing something, though.

Bqlmrac_medium #22. Oklahoma State Cowboys (1-1, #20)

Their big test this week was to just go out and perform against a weaker opponent. For the most part, they did that. Still, they allowed 374 yards to Missouri State, and the offense took too many field goals - one a 19-yarder. The other bad news is J.W. Walsh left the game with a leg injury, prompting the backup quarterback to enter late in the first and throw for 244 yards, 16/26 completions and 2/0 TD ratio. Walsh will likely be out for some time.

R0dmwjn_medium #23. Ohio State Buckeyes (1-1, #18)

In all the talk of Virginia Tech's defense, it's only fair to point out the Buckeyes have a pretty good defense themselves. They managed to get more speed on the field while sacrificing nothing from their run defense - take away a 17-yard sweep from receiver Sam Rogers, and Ohio State allowed 108 yards on 40 carries (2.7 ypc). Michael Brewer got well under 10 yards per completion (8.7), and gave the ball back to their athletic secondary twice.

Of course, VT crunched Ohio State's offense into a one-dimensional system; there were only 9 completions by the Buckeyes all game, which is alarming considering their runners averaged 2.7 ypc and Ezekiel Elliott struggled again. This might be the reason: the Hokies defenders hit the Buckeyes runners at or behind the line of scrimmage on designed inside runs 64% of the time.

4bsojdu_medium #24. Utah Utes (2-0, NR)

Utah isn't perfect - their passing defense is weak and Travis Wilson struggles getting completions - but things are set up well for them. They get a bye this week, before heading to the Big House to face a Michigan team that struggles on the offensive line. Utah is first in the nation in sacks, and second in tackles for loss. A victory there, followed by a win against Washington State, would build momentum heading into a fight with a UCLA team that has also struggled mightily along the line.

4bsojdu_medium #25. Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0, NR)

This feels a little like throwing a dart at one of the dozen or so "upper-middle class" teams in college football, but the Sun Devils have shown some good things over the start of the season. A defense that lost a lot of pieces is managing a top-50 output so far against some weak competition. Also, their running game is averaging 345 yards and 5 touchdowns. After playing Colorado and a bye, the real test starts, with three straight against UCLA, USC, and Stanford.


Important Games

Georgia vs. South Carolina, 3:30 pm

With Arkansas, Florida, and Tennessee improving, this may be one of the less important games on Georgia's schedule. South Carolina had their work cut out to beat East Carolina, and their running game was still M.I.A.

Minnesota vs. TCU, 4:00 pm

Minnesota's been fun to watch, but TCU is both underrated and under-the-radar... a perfect recipe for some more embarrassment for the Big Ten. That goes for you, too, Maryland.

UCLA vs. Texas (at AT&T Stadium), 8:00 pm

This game looked like fireworks a week ago, and now both teams have plummeted down the polls. Still, the quality of the football will be good, between Charlie Strong's defense and a UCLA team with star players and a lot to make up for.