OHIO STATE VS. TCU
The first true challenge for both Ohio State and TCU will take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Saturday. The Horned Frogs have outscored opponents 97-17 so far this season, while the Buckeyes have out-paced their challengers to the tune of 129-34.
Ohio State was a consensus top-three team in the country prior to their issues during fall camp. After two weeks, they don’t look like they’ve missed a step with head coach Urban Meyer patrolling the sidelines on Saturdays. The TCU game will be the final game in the suspension of Meyer, but should be the toughest test for the Buckeyes thus far. OSU has cruised past Oregon State (77-31) and Rutgers (52-3) behind the stellar play of sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins and strong running of junior Mike Weber and sophomore J.K. Dobbins. Haskins has looked like a Heisman candidate through two weeks, completing nearly 80-percent of his passes (42-of-53) for 546 yards, nine touchdowns and only one interception. Weber and Dobbins have combined for 364 yards on 65 carries (5.6 yards per carry) and four touchdowns.
Defensively, the Buckeyes have a disruptive front seven led by future top NFL draft pick Nick Bosa. The younger brother of former Buckeye Joey Bosa, Nick has already racked up five tackles for loss and three sacks in the first two games. Bosa has also recovered a pair of fumbles. The defense as a whole has tallied 12 total tackles for loss and eight sacks, while adding two interceptions.
TCU was picked as a sleeper by many pundits for the College Football Playoff this year as Gary Patterson’s crew returned a veteran-heavy defense and plenty of skill on offense. While the Horned Frogs haven’t been particularly challenged in 2018 with wins over Southern (55-7) and at SMU (42-12), the games have allowed sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson to gain invaluable experience. There were questions about whether Robinson would be able to lead TCU back to the Big 12 Championship, but if the first two games were any indication, Robinson has all the tools. In limited action, Robinson has thrown for 336 yards, four touchdowns, and rushed for 112 yards with three scores on the ground.
On defense, TCU was one of the best teams against the run in 2017. Returning for the Horned Frogs includes senior defensive end Ben Banogu, who was the 2017 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and a First Team All-Big 12 performer, senior defensive end Ty Summers and senior safety Ridwan Issahaku. The trio leads a group that is made up of 19 returning letterwinners from last season and could be Patterson’s best unit in his 18 years as head coach. They’ve held opponents to 213.5 yards and 9.5 yards per game.
Ohio State has alumni all over the nation, but this game is being played just 18 miles down the road from Texas Christian University, so the crowd may be more purple than scarlet and gray. Both teams will have plenty of opportunities to make big plays, but in the end, this one should come down to whichever young quarterback plays better.
USC AT TEXAS
Trojans. Longhorns. Part III.
When Texas and USC met in the 2006 BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl, it became one of the most iconic football games ever played. The two teams hadn’t met on the gridiron until last season. While both teams hadn’t competed at the same level as they did in the mid-2000’s in a couple years, Texas and USC gave college football fans another masterpiece. In a defensive, back-and-forth battle, USC emerged victorious, 27-24, in double overtime.
So what does part three have in store?
USC is coming off an underwhelming performance at Stanford. Freshman quarterback JT Daniels was harassed all night and was sacked four times, while being forced into two interceptions and a fumble. The Trojans also got off to a sluggish start in their season opener against UNLV, but finished the game by scoring 24 points in the fourth quarter to defeat the Rebels, 43-21. Daniels has 497 yards passing through two games, but has just one touchdown to two interceptions. The USC rushing attack has been a three-headed monster with senior Aca’Cedric Ware leading the way 159 yards. Sophomores Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai are also averaging over five yards per carry.
Defensively, the Trojans have plenty of returning experience, led by seniors Porter Gustin, Cam Smith and Marvell Tell III. USC had trouble slowing down UNLV’s rushing attack, surrendering 308 yards to the Rebels, but cleaned up the run defense by holding Stanford and Heisman-hopeful Bryce Love to just 159 yards on the ground.
Texas stumbled to start the season with a loss to Maryland. The Longhorns dug themselves a 24-7 hole early against the Terrapins, but rallied and actually led 29-24 in the third quarter. Maryland scored the game’s final 10 points to beat Texas, 34-29. The Longhorns came back in week two and beat Tulsa, 28-21, but it wasn’t exactly what the fans in burnt orange were hoping for. UT has playmakers on offense, but they need more consistency. Sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger has stepped up in big moments, with his arm and legs, while senior Tre Watson and freshman Keaontay Ingram have paced the running backs. Texas has two big playmakers on the outside in junior wide receivers Lil’Jordan Humphrey (6’4”, 225 lbs) and Collin Johnson (6’6”, 220 lbs).
The defense in Austin returned 13 letterwinners, including four of five primary defensive lineman. It’s early in the year, but the Longhorns haven’t quite gelled on the defensive side of the ball. Texas ranks 69th in the country in passing defense and 90th in rushing defense. But one area where Texas has stood out to this point in on third down. The Longhorns have held opponents to a 28-percent third down conversion rate, which is 29th in the country.
All in all, this game is pitting two of college football’s prestigious programs in a game that should be just as exciting as the previous two. Buckle up folks.
LSU AT AUBURN
Tigers will be on the prowl in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday as the LSU Tigers take on the Auburn Tigers. These two have alternated wins in their last five meetings, with the home team winning each game.
Ed Orgeron and the LSU Tigers will try to buck that trend this week. They’re coming in fresh and rested after the Tigers defeated Southeastern Louisiana last weekend, 31-0. On offense, LSU may have the piece they’ve been missing the last couple years: a quarterback. Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow has taken the reins to the LSU offense and steered them to a 2-0 start. Despite a less than 50-percent completion percentage, Burrow has been efficient in moving LSU down the field with his arm and legs. Most importantly, Burrow, as well as the rest of the LSU offense, have yet to commit a turnover through two games. LSU has incredible athletes on the outside, as they always do, and a monster tight end in senior Foster Moreau, but the offense continues to run through the running back. This year, those duties fall on Nick Brossette, a senior who has racked up 262 yards at 6.4 yards per carry in 2018.
Defensively, LSU is among the nation’s best. They have held both opponents to under 100 rushing yards and allowed just 17 points through two games. They have one of the nation’s best secondaries led by preseason All-American sophomore Greedy Williams, as well as one of the best linebackers in the country in junior Devin White, who was a Second Team All-American in 2017. Not only does LSU have talented players, but they have one of the best defensive coordinators in the country in Dave Aranda.
Auburn was on the precipice of a monumental season in 2017. They lost a tight game to No. 3 Clemson in week two, but bounced back to start 5-1. Then, inexplicably, they lost to an unranked LSU squad that had fallen to Troy just two weeks prior. Auburn went on to beat a pair of No. 1 ranked teams (Georgia and Alabama), and returns a majority of last year’s offense. Senior quarterback Jarrett Stidham has looked the part in 2018, completing nearly 70-percent of his passes for 386 yards and a pair of scores. Auburn returned their top four receivers from 2017, who combined for 187 receptions, 2,602 yards and 17 touchdowns. On the ground, Auburn has spread their carries between three players, junior Kam Martin and freshmen JaTarvious Whitlow and Shaun Shivers. The trio has combined for 394 yards on 65 carries and three scores.
On defense, Auburn held a veteran Washington squad to just 16 points in week one, then allowed just seven points to Alabama State when the Tigers had a 47-point lead in the third quarter. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has revived the Auburn defense and the Tigers have finished in the top-12 in scoring defense each of the last two years. Auburn replaced three-quarters of it’s secondary from last season, but they have plenty of talent on the defensive line and start three senior linebackers.
Let’s be honest, these two teams don’t like each other. Not only is this a conference game, but it’s a divisional game for the teams. Both can really only afford one loss and with Alabama lingering on the schedule later, neither can afford to lose this one. Will home-field advantage be the difference once again?