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Week 2 Watch Guide: Oklahoma-Ohio State, Auburn-Clemson and much more

Playoff implications headline an action packed Week 2

Florida State Seminoles v Clemson Tigers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

After an exciting kick off weekend to the season, Week 2 is packed with huge, potentially season-defining matchups across the college football landscape. There are three Top 15 meetings highlighted by Saturday night’s battle in Columbus between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Oklahoma Sooners.

#5 Oklahoma at #2 Ohio State, Saturday, Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m. (ABC); OSU -7.0

The Sooners have won 11 straight since their loss to Ohio State last season (the nation’s longest win streak) and senior quarterback Baker Mayfield kicked off the 2017 season with a near-perfect performance in their 56-7 win against the UTEP Miners. Mayfield completed 19-of-20 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns. Mayfield will be looking to outplay his counterpart, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, who led his Buckeyes to a season opening 49-21 win at Indiana last Thursday. Barrett had 365 yards of total offense, 304 in the air with three touchdowns and one on the ground to go with 61 yards rushing.

In last season’s matchup, Barrett had four touchdowns and no interceptions compared to Mayfield’s two touchdowns and two interceptions, which included a pick-six by linebacker Jerome Baker. That’s added motivation for Mayfield, a Heisman finalist last season. Both squads are looking for skill players to step up on what will be one of the biggest stages either team plays on this season. Expect a high-scoring affair as both defenses will be scratching their heads trying to get stops as the fourth quarter winds down. I think Ohio State wins a close one in the Horseshoe, spoiling Baker Mayfield’s redemption attempt.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Auburn v Oklahoma Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

#13 Auburn at #3 Clemson, Saturday Sept. 9, 7 p.m. (ESPN); Clem -4.5

A battle of the Tigers will be taking place Saturday night in Death Valley when defending national champion and third ranked Clemson hosts 13th ranked Auburn in a rematch of last season’s opener.

The Clemson Tigers walked out of Jordan Hare last year with a hard fought 19-13 win in a defensive battle where points were hard to come by. Both teams kicked off their 2017 seasons with relatively easy wins while breaking in new starters at quarterback. Auburn was led by sophomore quarterback, Jarrett Stidham, a transfer from Baylor, who went 14-of-24 for 185 yards and a touchdown in the Tigers’ 41-7 win over Georgia Southern. Stidham managed the game fairly well in his first start and will be looked upon to provide consistency at quarterback, which is something that’s evaded the Tigers for the last few seasons. A balanced run game is Auburn’s offensive identity and they showed a two-headed backfield that could be very dangerous in 2017 with junior running back Kerryon Johnson and sophomore running back Kam Martin. Johnson carried the ball 16 times for 136 yards and a touchdown while Martin also racked up 136 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown.

Clemson v Boston College Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Clemson’s new starting quarterback, junior Kelly Bryant, has some big shoes to fill in the departed Deshaun Watson. Clemson is looking to replace not only their quarterback but also their leading rusher and receiver from last season’s team. Bryant had a respectable first start in the Tigers’ 56-3 win over Kent State last Saturday, completing 16-of-22 for 236 yards and a touchdown while also compiling 77 yards on the ground. Junior wide receiver Deon Cain looks to be the go to guy for Bryant, as he had 2 receptions for 70 yards including a 61-yard touchdown. Cain averaged 19.1 yards per reception in 2016 with 724 yards and 9 touchdowns to help the Tigers in their title campaign.

Clemson will also look to take some pressure off of their quarterback with a strong running game similar to Auburn’s. The Tigers ran for 353 yards as a team against Kent State led by freshman running back Travis Etienne, who carried the ball 8 times for 81 yards and a touchdown, and junior CJ Fuller’s 51 yards on 7 carries and two touchdowns.

Both teams will look to establish their running game early and rely on their defenses to set the tone. I think Auburn’s quarterback and running game will be the difference in this one, spoiling Clemson’s attempt to run the table to back-to-back championships.

#14 Stanford at #6 USC, Saturday Sept. 9, 8:30pm (FOX); USC -6.5

Saturday night in Los Angeles could be an early preview of the Pac 12 Championship game when the 14th ranked Stanford Cardinal travel to face the 6th ranked USC Trojans.

Stanford is coming off an extra week of rest as they opened the 2017 campaign in Sydney, Australia on August 26 with a 62-7 win against the Rice Owls. The teams had contrasting big questions heading into 2017 as the Cardinal were trying to figure out how they were going to replace running back Christian McCaffrey. Meanwhile, the Trojans were trying to temper expectations with returning star quarterback Sam Darnold.

For the Cardinal, they answered their big question early and often in Week 1 with junior running back Bryce Love. Love averaged 7.0 yards per carry in 2016, and he picked up where he left off racking up 180 yards on only 13 carries and a touchdown. That 13.8 yards per carry will probably come down a bit when the two teams meet up on Saturday night, but Love and their other junior running back, Cameron Scarlett, will look to set the tone and take some pressure off senior quarterback Keller Chryst.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - USC v Penn State Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

USC almost had a hiccup in Week 1 against defending MAC champion Western Michigan. The Trojans were able to rally in the fourth quarter to walk away with a 49-31 victory. Defensively, USC will need to button things up against the run game as they let up 263 yards to the Broncos while holding WMU quarterback Jon Wassink to 67 passing yards.

Look for Darnold to bounce back in this high octane matchup as he’ll try to lead USC to their first win against the Cardinal in four seasons. Stanford’s running game will not go quietly, though, and the Trojans will need to show up Saturday night if they want a chance to walk out of the Coliseum with the win. USC will get the win in a back and forth offensive battle and take control of the Pac 12 championship race.

#15 Georgia at #24 Notre Dame, Saturday Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m. (NBC) ND -4.5

The last time these two teams met, the stakes were a little bit higher. Georgia’s 17-10 win over Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl won them the National Championship led by freshman running back Herschel Walker. This time around, each team is looking to get an early-season quality win. The 15th ranked Georgia Bulldogs will be looking to their backfield once again Saturday night when they visit the 24th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The Bulldogs opened their 2017 campaign with a 31-10 win over Appalachian State but lost starting quarterback, Jacob Eason, to a knee injury. The Bulldogs handed the ball over to true freshman Jake Fromm, who managed the game quite well in his first college game action. Fromm completed 10-of-15 passes with 143 yards and a touchdown while leading the Bulldogs to three consecutive scoring drives to stretch their lead. He’ll be depending on his backfield of senior running backs, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, to help take the pressure off him. The duo combined for 183 yards on 31 rushes and three touchdowns and will be tasked with setting the tone against the Irish.

Nicholls v Georgia Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Notre Dame’s offense was clicking on all cylinders in their opening 49-16 win over the Temple Owls. Junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush stepped into his first career start completing 17-of-30 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He also accumulated 106 rushing yards on 12 carries and another touchdown. The Irish had a huge day on the ground racking up 422 yards and had three players go over 100 yards.

Both teams have a huge opportunity Saturday night to improve their playoff resume with an impressive non-conference win. Fromm will have a chance to show why he was one of the top rated quarterbacks coming out of high school last year. Georgia’s backfield of Chubb and Michel will be counted on to carry the load for the Bulldogs against an improved Irish defense. Georgia’s biggest challenge will be slowing down the Notre Dame offense, which is loaded with skill players. But if there’s a defense and a coach to do it, it’s Georgia’s and head coach Kirby Smart. I think the Bulldogs walk out of South Bend with a hard fought W in a tightly contested battle.

Other Saturday games of note:

#17 Louisville at North Carolina, Noon (ESPN), Louisville -10.0

Pittsburgh at #4 Penn State, 3:30pm (ABC), Penn State -22.0

#23 TCU at Arkansas, 3:30pm (CBS), TCU -3.5

Boise State at #20 Washington State, 10:30pm (ESPN), Washington State -10.0