Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Sep 2016

Seventh Day Adventure: Week 2

by Ian Boyd

Week 1 of college football went off with a smash. The 7.0 television rating for Texas' upset win over Notre Dame was both massive for an opener and well deserved as the overtime contest featured all the kinds of drama that make college football great.

Some big themes from opening weekend included the plausibility of a WIDE-open Big 12, an SEC that may be having a down year due to lack of quarterbacks, and the possibility of a mid-major team in the College Football Playoff if the Houston Cougars can run the table from here. Much of the SEC outside of Alabama struggled, while the Tide ended up rolling with a freshman quarterback to put away the USC Trojans.

Naturally things are cooling down for Week 2, with many of the premier programs taking a week to scrimmage against regional doormats. However, there are a few games on the schedule that could have a big impact on the coming season. Week 2 will feature multiple teams that could be major players in the 2016 season and they'll have a chance to prove it against real competition.

All times are listed as Eastern.

Louisville (-12) at Syracuse -- 8 p.m. Friday (ESPN2)

Overall Louisville Syracuse
2016 Proj. F/+ 19 58
When Louisville has the ball Offense Defense
2016 Projected S&P+ 27 55
2015 S&P+ 49 70
2015 FEI 55 107
2015 IsoPPP+ 45 95
2015 Rushing S&P+ 24 94
2015 Passing S&P+ 60 112
When Syracuse has the ball Defense Offense
2016 Proj. S&P+ 20 49
2015 S&P+ 23 61
2015 FEI 55 95
2015 IsoPPP+ 25 61
2015 Rushing S&P+ 7 47
2015 Passing S&P+ 51 71

Lamar Jackson is one of the most exciting players in college football and his sophomore year is laden with potential as he leads the way for one of college football's most experienced teams. The Cardinals' 2015 season was defined by rushing success when Jackson was in the game but an inconsistent passing attack that the freshman struggled to execute.

Well, in Week 1, albeit against Charlotte, Lamar Jackson completed 17 of 23 passes for 286 yards and six touchdowns to go along with his typical 100-plus rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. This team shares a conference with Clemson and Florida State and also has a date with Houston later in the year, all of whom are contenders for the playoffs. Louisville has a chance to play spoiler for any or all of them.

First they have to handle Syracuse, now led by head coach Dino Babers who's bringing the Art Briles "veer and shoot" offense that just had a huge inauguration for the Texas Longhorns against Notre Dame. The Orangemen had a nice start of their own, pounding Colgate 33-7 with quarterback Eric Dungey throwing for 355 yards and two scores. If the Louisville defense isn't ready to go then there's potential for an exciting shootout here.

Watch for:

  • Lamar Jackson highlights -- this kid is electric.
  • How far along has the Louisville passing game come since 2015?
  • Can the Syracuse offense pick apart an athletic and veteran Cardinals defense?
  • S&P Outright Pick: Louisville

Kentucky at Florida (-16.5) -- 3:30 p.m. (CBS)

Overall Kentucky Florida
2016 Proj. F/+ 89 26
When Kentucky has the ball Offense Defense
2016 Projected S&P+ 88 5
2015 S&P+ 104 6
2015 FEI 82 23
2015 IsoPPP+ 69 6
2015 Rushing S&P+ 42 5
2015 Passing S&P+ 93 7
When Florida has the ball Defense Offense
2016 Proj. S&P+ 66 72
2015 S&P+ 80 56
2015 FEI 84 56
2015 IsoPPP+ 103 56
2015 Rushing S&P+ 102 73
2015 Passing S&P+ 111 44

Kentucky is in dire straits this year already. They have struggled to put anything together in the Mark Stoops era and are now taking on a potential Eastern Division contender in the Florida Gators. The Gators have a lot to prove this season, including whether they can safely navigate conference games against lower-level SEC squads. Their season began with a 24-7 victory over the Massachusetts Minutemen in which their offense looked anything but intimidating.

The match-up between the Gators offense and Wildcats defense promises to be the more interesting contest of this game since neither of these units stands out as particularly dangerous. Barring a disaster there, the game figures to be won in the matchup between the initially solid-looking Kentucky offense and the always-formidable Gators defense.

The Wildcats started their season with a loss to the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, but hidden in that defeat was a strong performance by quarterback Drew Barker, who threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns. If Barker can come anywhere close to that performance against the Gators then this game could get interesting -- and consequently the SEC East might as well.

Watch for:

  • Can Drew Barker navigate the athletic Florida defense?
  • Does this Gators offense have any skill players that coach Jim McElwain can build around?
  • How far apart are these SEC Eastern teams from each other?
  • Rumors about Kentucky hiring a new coach this offseason.

S&P Outright Pick: Florida

SMU at Baylor (-28.5) -- 3:30 p.m. (FS1)

Overall SMU Baylor
2016 Proj. F/+ 58 7
When SMU has the ball Offense Defense
2016 Projected S&P+ 59 60
2015 S&P+ 79 65
2015 FEI 111 4
2015 IsoPPP+ 75 17
2015 Rushing S&P+ 8
2015 Passing S&P+ 90 34
When Baylor has the ball Defense Offense
2016 Proj. S&P+ 123 7
2015 S&P+ 119 2
2015 FEI 116 9
2015 IsoPPP+ 126 14
2015 Rushing S&P+ 125 36
2015 Passing S&P+ 117 6

Baylor still has big question marks after an offseason in which they lost a few players to the NFL, a few other key players were kicked off the team, and their head coach Art Briles was removed in the midst of a scandal. SMU gave Baylor all they wanted in this contest last year before fading when the Bears just wouldn't stop scoring. The Mustangs return quarterback Matt Davis and his favorite accomplices across the offense, but early returns from 2015 (a 34-21 victory over UNT) suggest that the defense is still vulnerable to a juggernaut offense like the Bears will bring to the game.

For Baylor this game will be a great test of a young defensive line that had to replace every starter from 2015, and then also three players in Brian Nance, Jeremy Faulk, and Byron Bonds that were the first choices to serve as the new replacements. They've converted to a 3-4 hybrid scheme that utilizes star linebacker Taylor Young as a defensive end/outside linebacker. That tweak, along with the introduction of former four-star safety recruit Davion Hall to the starting lineup, should ease that transition.

Their challenge will be in stopping a Mustangs rushing attack that makes great use of Matt Davis' running ability in head coach Chad Morris' "smashmouth spread" schemes. The goal for SMU will be to turn this into a competitive shootout, if the Bears prevent that from happening in a decisive blowout, that'll be a good sign that they don't intend to go quietly into the night without Coach Briles.

Watch for:

  • How well Baylor keeps SMU quarterback Matt Davis under wraps.
  • Baylor quarterback Seth Russell is a dual-threat in his own right capable of huge performances.
  • Can the Bears control the trenches on either side of the ball with their depleted roster of linemen?

S&P Outright Pick: Baylor

Arkansas at TCU (-4) -- 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Overall Arkansas TCU
2016 Proj. F/+ 11 25
When Arkansas has the ball Offense Defense
2016 Projected S&P+ 34 39
2015 S&P+ 70 67
2015 FEI 7 20
2015 IsoPPP+ 3 40
2015 Rushing S&P+ 10 37
2015 Passing S&P+ 1 26
When TCU has the ball Defense Offense
2016 Proj. S&P+ 37 18
2015 S&P+ 71 18
2015 FEI 61 42
2015 IsoPPP+ 92 19
2015 Rushing S&P+ 56 65
2015 Passing S&P+ 118 14

TCU seems to have a habit of scheduling pro-style, power running opponents from either the Big 10 or SEC every year before engaging a schedule of spread-passing Big 12 opponents. They have taken on LSU and Minnesota in the past and now get Dallas/Fort Worth recruiting rival Arkansas. The Hogs have developed a similar tradition, taking on the spread-passing Texas Tech Red Raiders for the last two years before initiating a schedule of hard-nosed SEC teams.

Head coach Brett Bielema's Razorbacks made a move in the offseason that could help when they hired deposed Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads as their new defensive backs coach. Rhoads has a great deal of experience with Big 12/Air Raid passing attacks that he now brings to Arkansas. To put it mildly, Arkansas really needs it. They were atrocious in pass defense a year ago despite playing a very conservative style of defense. The Hogs expect to be very stout up front, but without improvements on the back end this game could get out of hand.

On the other side, TCU has to be at least mildly concerned by the fact that the South Dakota State Jackrabbits just dropped 41 points on their defense. South Dakota did their work mostly through the passing game with quarterback Taryn Christion throwing for 333 yards, mostly relying on big receiver Jack Wieneke, who had nearly 200 receiving yards and a pair of touchdown catches. The Razorbacks don't have a comparable attack, with quarterback Austin Allen struggling to light up the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in Arkansas' opener.

What Arkansas generally does have is a big, punishing offensive line and a stable of explosive running backs. TCU is relatively undersized on defense and may be vulnerable if the game is close and Arkansas can start to lean on them with their run game. If styles make fights, then this might be one of the more entertaining games of the season.

Watch for:

  • Can the Arkansas secondary keep up with TCU's Air Raid passing attack?
  • Can TCU's secondary hold up to Arkansas' power run game?
  • Does Arkansas have a running back that they can feature this season?
  • TCU quarterback Kenny "Trill" Hill may end up being a fun story for the 2016 season.

S&P Outright Pick: Arkansas

North Carolina (-7) at Illinois -- 7:30 p.m. (BTN)

Overall North Carolina Illinois
2016 Proj. F/+ 28 83
When North Carolina has the ball Offense Defense
2016 Projected S&P+ 16 42
2015 S&P+ 17 19
2015 FEI 10 71
2015 IsoPPP+ 12 32
2015 Rushing S&P+ 15 62
2015 Passing S&P+ 23 17
When Illinois has the ball Defense Offense
2016 Proj. S&P+ 1 13
2015 S&P+ 54 90
2015 FEI 56 80
2015 IsoPPP+ 62 59
2015 Rushing S&P+ 106 66
2015 Passing S&P+ 65 67

It's another contest of strength on strength and weakness on weakness as head coach Larry Fedora's explosive Tar Heels look to come back after a disappointing opening loss to Georgia and get back on track against Lovie Smith's defensively tough Fighting Illini.

It was quite the coup when Illinois hired Smith, the former Chicago Bears' coach and a legend in the all-important Chicago metropolitan area that produces the bulk of the state's talent. Typically most of that talent doesn't enroll down in Champagne, but it just might if Smith can win some big games like this home contest with North Carolina.

The Tar Heels' conservative defense was predictably gashed by Nick Chubb and the Georgia run game, but now faces a much more suspect Illini offense. On the other side of the ball, Smith is inheriting a fairly stout defense and will face his first big test in applying his pro-style wisdom to stopping a college spread offense like that the Tar Heels employ.

North Carolina's offense struggled in Game 1 without dual-threat quarterback Marquise Williams, but this was understandable given that the Bulldogs have what might be an elite defensive roster and probably an elite defensive coach running the show in Kirby Smart. The Tar Heels running game hummed along quite well against Georgia; the question will be whether their passing game can get on track. Trubisky averaged only 3.9 yards per pass attempt, and that impotence prevented North Carolina from keeping pace with the Bulldogs. The Tar Heels need the passing game to provide some explosiveness to compete in an increasingly competitive ACC.

Watch for:

  • Does Lovie Smith bring the pro-style, Tampa-2 defense to college to take on the spread offense?
  • Mitch Trubisky and the Tar Heels passing attack needs to get on track.
  • How does Illinois' pro-style offense translate against a power five defense?
  • Which team rushes for more yards? That team probably wins.

S&P Outright Pick: UNC

Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee -- 8 p.m. (ABC)

Overall Virginia Tech Tennessee
2016 Proj. F/+ 33 8
When Virginia Tech has the ball Offense Defense
2016 Projected S&P+ 63 9
2015 S&P+ 72 18
2015 FEI 78 46
2015 IsoPPP+ 90 41
2015 Rushing S&P+ 84 25
2015 Passing S&P+ 74 43
When Tennessee has the ball Defense Offense
2016 Proj. S&P+ 23 24
2015 S&P+ 40 42
2015 FEI 25 62
2015 IsoPPP+ 56 31
2015 Rushing S&P+ 32 17
2015 Passing S&P+ 50 31

Virginia Tech has been pretty poor on offense for the last several years, but their numbers may not be indicative of how they'll perform in 2016 under new head coach Justin Fuente's direction. In Week 1 against Liberty the Hokies were relatively quiet on offense with new junior college quarterback transfer Jerod Evans throwing four touchdown passes but with only 6.9 yards per pass attempt.

The Virginia Tech Hokies defense is still under the direction of longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster and likely to field yet another aggressive unit. The key to their defense is typically how good their cornerback play is, since Foster is often aggressive about leaving them on islands, but that may remain untested even after this game against Tennessee.

Butch Jones' Volunteers are 1-0 in the standings but are 0-1 in terms of moral victories after needing overtime and a great deal of luck to beat Appalachian State in their season opener. For a team that was talked up as a potential SEC Eastern division winner and playoff contender, it was far from the impressive performance that was anticipated.

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs really struggled, throwing for only 6.6 yards per pass attempt, throwing an ill-advised interception, and rushing for minus-4 yards. The Vols will need a stronger performance from their signal-caller to put down the Hokies, especially if Fuente's spread offense is ready to go sooner than expected.

Watch for:

  • Can Joshua Dobbs overcome the pressure that Bud Foster's defense will bring?
  • Jerod Evans and the new Hokies spread offense could roar to life at any moment; will it be this weekend?
  • Bob Shoop defenses are very good, and this Volunteers unit may be better than realized after the disappointing team performance against Appalachian State.
  • Fans holding signs mocking Volunteers coach Butch Jones.

S&P Outright Pick: Tennessee

S&P PICKS: WEEK 2

Favorite Spread Underdog S&P Pick S&P Pick against the spread
Louisville 12.5 at Syracuse Louisville Louisville
at Florida 16.5 Kentucky Florida Florida
at Baylor 28.5 SMU Baylor Baylor
at TCU 4 Arkansas Arkansas Arkansas
North Carolina 7 at Illinois North Carolina North Carolina
Tennessee 9 Virginia Tech Tennessee Tennessee

Posted by: Ian Boyd on 09 Sep 2016

2 comments, Last at 09 Sep 2016, 4:55pm by bird jam

Comments

1
by Greazypickle :: Fri, 09/09/2016 - 4:41pm

Where are you getting these spreads?

Louisville opened at -13.5 and is now 16
Baylor opened at -32 and is -32
TCU opened at 7 and is now 7.5

http://www.wagertalk.com/livelines/

2
by bird jam :: Fri, 09/09/2016 - 4:55pm

I didn't think Tennessee's performance was particularly disappointing on defense against App. State. They gave up a short-field TD after a turnover and a long TD on a fluky busted assignment where a defensive end wound up in coverage but otherwise pretty much shut the Mountaineers down. It was the offense that was the real disappointment.