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Week 2 College Football Preview
By Matt Horkman

The first college football week is in the books. As you might expect from late-August football, the games were somewhat sloppy, thanks to poor tackling and shoddy officiating. The tackling will improve, though, as will the officiating. Although I doubt any of us will stop complaining.

The major headline coming out of week one is the apparent vulnerability of juggernauts Alabama and Florida State. The Crimson Tide struggled to put away West Virginia and Florida State nearly suffered what would’ve been an historic upset at the hands of Oklahoma State.

Stay calm, people. Alabama and Florida State will be fine. Great teams lose great talent, yet they always manage to replace it. The Seminoles recruit at a high-level under head coach Jimbo Fisher. Ditto with Alabama and Nick Saban. It’s going to take time for players to build chemistry. Additionally, give both teams credit for scheduling respectable opponents out of the blocks.

The Mountaineers are coming off a rough season (4-8), but they’re still a major college football program. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, is one of the top recruiting programs in the Big 12. The Cowboys are relying on many new players this season, so it’s not surprising they fell behind early only to roar back in the second half. People may look back on Florida State’s first week performance differently if Oklahoma State wins 10 games.

Let these teams play a couple of games first before judging too hard. The chips will start to fall at the end of the month. At that time, if Alabama and Florida State still look sloppy, then it might be time to worry.

Last Week: 5-2
Season Record: 5-2

All times are eastern.

No. 14 USC at No. 13 Stanford
Time/TV: 6:00 p.m. September 6, ABC
Prediction: From a talent standpoint, USC and Stanford are on similar levels. In fact, the Trojans probably recruit a little better. Still, David Shaw’s program is among the best in the country because of its stability. You don’ have to worry about the Cardinal going through an identity crisis. Their defense is going to knock your teeth out and their offense is going to grind you into submission with its power running game. For USC, a strong start to the season gives quarterback Cody Kessler much-needed momentum entering this game. Kessler hasn’t always played well for the Trojans, but he looked special last week. This should worry Stanford and the rest of the Pac-12. Kessler cementing himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 is a game changer in that conference. He may take a step closer to doing just that this week, as the Trojans pull the upset.

USC 24 Stanford 20

No. 7 Michigan State at No. 3 Oregon
Time/TV: 6:30 p.m. September 6, FOX
Prediction: For the second consecutive week, you have a Big Ten program relying on ground and pound football facing a non-conference opponent with superior athletes. Despite replacing six starters from lastMarcus Mariota year’s defense, the Spartans should once again field perhaps the best defense in the Big Ten. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is among the best in the nation and has had all off-season to prepare his defense for Oregon’s high-octane offense. You can’t prepare for speed, though. Oregon’s offense, particularly on the edges, will prove to be too quick for Michigan State. Quarterback Marcus Mariota (my preseason Heisman pick) should be able to establish a rhythm, getting rid the ball quickly. The Spartans will keep it interesting for about three quarters, but their offense simply won’t generate enough big plays to keep pace with the Ducks.

Oregon 30 Michigan State 21

BYU at Texas
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. September 6, Fox Sports 1
Prediction: Since Charlie Strong took the Texas head-coaching job, he has used last year’s 40-21 thumping BYU gave the Longhorns as a motivating tool to get his team ready for the season. Unfortunately, things are looking downhill for the Longhorns. Quarterback David Ash is suffering from conclusion-like symptoms, so he will not play. Texas also lost center Dominic Espinosa to a broken ankle and now Strong suspended two offensive linemen (Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle) for violating team rules. With a backup quarterback and makeshift offensive line, Texas needs their defense to play well. That could be a tall order going up against BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, who is finally throwing the ball as well as he’s running it.

BYU 27 Texas 13

Michigan at No. 16 Notre Dame
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. September 6, NBC
Prediction: This is the last game between Michigan and Notre Dame for the foreseeable future. The possibility of matching these two programs in a bowl game, however, is going to be real good moving forward. Still, this is the end of an era. Last year’s meeting saw Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner go wild on the Fight Irish, totaling 376 yards of offense and accounting for 5 touchdowns. He's been hot and cold since that performance, though. An academic violation cost Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson the entire 2013 season. By all accounts, he’s clicking on all cylinders. It was evident last week against Rice. It’ll be evident this week against Michigan.

Notre Dame 28 Michigan 24

Virginia Tech at No. 8 Ohio State
Time/TV: 8:00 p.m. September 6, ESPN
Prediction: While the score (34-17) looked good on paper, Ohio State was a few bad bounces from losing to Navy. The Buckeyes are taking it slow with quarterback J.T. Barrett. Urban Meyer eased him along by calling several early screen passes. This game does have an upset feel to it because of Ohio State’s young offensive line. Led by All-American defensive tackle Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech has a good enough defense line to control the trenches. I’m still going with the Buckeyes nonetheless. Virginia Tech is a young team. Several of their players haven’t seen anything quite like primetime football in Columbus. The Buckeyes’ home-field advantage is the difference in his one.

Ohio State 31 Virginia Tech 24

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