Week 1 of the 2021 college football season is officially in the books. And, as you might have expected, there was no shortage of high octane action. Top-ranked Alabama absolutely shut down D’Eriq King and the Miami Hurricanes in a 44-13 win. Meanwhile, Notre Dame barely escaped their trip to Florida State with a win, finishing with a 41-38 overtime win courtesy of a Jonathan Doerer field goal. Plus, new Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian led the Longhorns to a major 38-18 debut win against Louisiana.
And, of course, there were a few head-scratching upsets. The UNC Tarheels had a disappointing 17-10 loss against Virginia Tech, punctuated by QB Sam Howell’s three interceptions. Penn State surprised the favored Wisconsin Badgers 16-10 in a defense-heavy matchup. And Chip Kelly rallied the UCLA Bruins to a statement win over LSU, earning a 38-27 win thanks to a dominant running game. Now that we have a slightly clearer picture of the current NCAA football landscape for the season, let’s take a look at the Week 2 games to keep an eye on.
Saturday, Sept. 11th
Oregon Ducks @ Ohio State Buckeyes
Oregon may have left Week 1 with a win, but it wasn’t the most convincing win. In a game where they were favored by 20.5 points, Oregon squeaked by with a 31-24 victory against visiting Fresno State. Even Oregon QB Anthony Brown Jr. admitted in interviews the offense didn’t live up to its potential. Brown Jr. finished the game with a 62% completion percentage and a touchdown, but only 172 yards in the air. He did flash some potential running, with 56 yards and a touchdown. The team was outgained in total yards, with Fresno State gaining 373 to Oregon’s 358. The offense will definitely be looking for a tighter performance in Week 2.
Some Ohio State fans went into this season wondering how C.J. Stroud would function as a replacement to Justin Fields, who took the Buckeyes to the National Championship last year. Stroud shined in his debut against Minnesota, tossing 294 yards and four touchdowns, with 246 yards in the second half. The pass defense kept the Golden Gophers to just 205 passing yards, which is surprising considering the injury to CB Sevyn Banks and the numerous new starters on defense. Less inspiring was the rush defense, which allowed Minnesota RB Mohamed Ibriham to rack up 163 yards and two touchdowns before leaving in the third quarter with an injury.
Expect an offensive matchup. Both teams showed some major holes defensively in their first games, and Oregon lost stalwart defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux to an injury against Fresno State. While Brown Jr. might not tear up the Ohio State defense through the air, Oregon RBs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, as well as Brown Jr. himself, will look to grab some yards on the ground. Meanwhile, expect Stroud to build off his Week 1 performance against a weakened Oregon defense. While it’s tempting to lay the points with Ohio State, grab the over and watch the offenses shine instead.
Best Bet: Over 63.5
Prediction: Ohio State wins 41-27
Saturday, Sept. 11th
Iowa Hawkeyes @ Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa entered their first game ranked one slot lower than their opponent, with Iowa ranked 18th and Indiana at 17. If you just watched the game, you wouldn’t know that. Iowa dominated the Hoosiers in this matchup from the very beginning, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Hawkeyes defense held Indiana to 233 total yards while forcing Hoosiers QB Michael Penix Jr. to throw three picks. Plus, two of those interceptions were taken to the house. The Iowa offense wasn’t spectacular, with QB Spencer Petras completing less than half of his passes and RB Tyler Goodson amassing the majority of his yards on a single play. But, with a defense playing that well, there was no need for offensive fireworks.
When you’re favored by 28.5 points in a game, you’re expected to put up some numbers. That didn’t happen for Iowa State on Saturday. The Cyclones only put up 16 points against Northern Iowa in Week 1 while putting up 335 yards. The offense couldn’t find its rhythm, with QB Brock Purdy passing for only 199 yards and RB Breece Hall averaging 3.0 yards per rush. The defense picked up the slack, picking off Northern Iowa’s QB Will McElvian twice while holding the Panthers to 275 yards. The big question is whether this low-scoring match was simply shaking off the cobwebs for the Cyclones or a sign of deeper issues.
Iowa’s defense is the squad to watch in this matchup. After dismantling Indiana’s offense last week, the Hawkeyes will be eager to take down an Iowa State offense that put up 436.3 yards per game last season. The Iowa State offense will put up more points than last week, but it won’t be enough to put away the pesky Hawkeyes. Iowa wins by the skin of their teeth in this upset.
Best Bet: Iowa Moneyline
Prediction: Iowa wins 21-20
Saturday, Sept. 11th
Washington Huskies @ Michigan Wolverines
A major highlight (or lowlight) for the first week of college football was the stunning Montana upset over Washington. The Montana Grizzlies, who went into the game with +1300 moneyline odds, beat the Washington Huskies straight up 13-7. Considering Washington was favored by 22.5 points, this was a major shocker for the Huskies, who went into the game ranked 20th. Washington QB Dylan Morris was picked off three times while RB Richard Newton scored the team’s lone touchdown. This is a team in need of a palate cleanser.
Michigan, on the other hand, has some major momentum after a huge 47-14 win over the visiting Western Michigan Broncos. The Wolverines racked up 335 rushing yards, highlighted by a 74-yard touchdown run by RB AJ Henning. Michigan was meant to win the game, as they were favored by 16.5 points. They head into Week 2 with some major momentum.
Washington will need to head into Michigan Stadium with their heads held high if they want to compete in this matchup. But unless they avoid turnovers and get some points on the board, a road win against Michigan will be just out of reach. While Michigan might not have as many highlight-reel plays as they did last week, they should grind out a hard-fought win on Saturday. Head coach Jim Harbaugh rallies the Wolverines to a big home win against the desperate Huskies.
Best Bet: Michigan -6.5
Prediction: Michigan wins 21-14