College football games, Week 2: Do Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M hold the key to beating Clemson?
Breaking down the top storylines ahead of the second week of the college football season
No. 12 Texas A&M has cracked some sort of code. It's the one that has allowed the Aggies to play No. 1 Clemson closer than anyone in the Tigers' last 20 games (not counting a 2017 playoff loss to Alabama).
A year ago, in a 28-26 loss to Clemson, a star was born. Texas A&M's Kellen Mond broke out against that celebrated Clemson defensive line, throwing for 430 yards. The Aggies gained 501 yards that night, thoroughly disgusting former defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell.
"Whatever numbers we had don't really matter because they had 500 yards [of] offense," Ferrell said that night.
You might recall, following that win in College Station, Texas, Clemson sealed the deal by winning the next 13 in a row by an average of 30 points while basically grabbing college football by the throat.
Texas A&M's best hope might be the old coaching saw: The biggest gain of the season is made between Week 1 and Week 2. That Tigers victory was so long ago that Dabo Swinney needed Kelly Bryant to win the game. But the Aggies haven't forgotten about it.
"There will be an upset," said Jared Hocker, an Aggies junior offensive lineman, this week.
The line (Clemson -17.5) does seem a bit high for a pair of top-15 teams. Jimbo Fisher is more than familiar with Death Valley, going 4-4 against Clemson while at Florida State. Only one of those wins came at Clemson (2013).
"Jared better play well," Fisher said, reacting to Hocker's prediction. "It's great to have confidence, but that doesn't need to be said. We understand the opponent and have great respect for them."
A spectacle in Austin: No. 6 LSU vs. No. 9 Texas is the "hottest" college football ticket since 2015, according to Vivid Seats ($372 current get-in price for a single ticket). Not counting postseason games, it is the most coveted college football ticket in the state of Texas in the last five years.
It has been called the biggest game at Texas since 2006 when No. 1 Ohio State knocked off No. 2 Texas. Texas' Minister of Culture is going to be there. Actor / mega fan Matthew McConaughey is so Texas that he is teaching a filmmaking class. He will be in attendance as well. The forecasted high for Saturday is 102 degrees, and Darrel K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium has been known to hold the heat well.
So which way for the Tigers and Longhorns? This game may be decided in Texas' backfield. Due to injuries, a converted quarterback (Roschon Johnson) is backing up starting tailback Keontay Ingram. That means quarterback Sam Ehlinger will have to run to win. That was the strategy in Texas' biggest win last year against Oklahoma. Ehlinger ran for a career-high 72 yards in that game. However, in a 31-point win over Louisiana Tech in the opener, the 'Horns ran for a pedestrian 153 yards. Ehlinger had 34 of those.
The winner almost certainly vaults into the top five and gets layers of early-season College Football Playoff hype.
Quarterback quandary in Stanford-USC: His name is Kedon Slovis. The true freshman may be all that stands between success and failure at USC this season. Slovis is starting at quarterback now that sophomore J.T. Daniels has been lost for the season to a knee injury. His first starting assignment comes against No. 23 Stanford in what is one of the biggest Pac-12 games this season.
Slovis' presence suggests it's not always a pipeline of quarterbacks. He got a late offer from USC after having played for Kurt Warner in the Phoenix area. Once Slovis made his appearance against Fresno State in the opener, the offense was simplified. The offense will have to be opened up against the physical Cardinal. Slovis threw only eight times in the second half of Week 1. For the second straight season, the offense is in the hands of a true freshman.
Daniels went 5-7 in his first season, but there was optimism with his top wide receivers back. However, Stanford-USC looks like it is limping to the finish line before a ball is snapped as Stanford's K.J. Costello has also been ruled out after a hit to the head last week vs. Northwestern. In his place, phenom Davis Mills will get his first start. Mills, a junior, was 247Sports' No. 1 pro-style quarterback. Before Saturday, he had thrown two career passes.
"I don't want [Slovis] looking over his shoulder," Helton told the Los Angeles Times. "He's going to walk out there and be the No. 1 quarterback."
Flapping gums in the Flatirons: You'd think Nebraska and Colorado never bolted their traditional conferences. Straight fire is flying back and forth between the No. 25 Cornhuskers and Buffaloes like it was the early 90s again. That's when the teams were competing for the Big Eight and national championship on a regular basis.
Nebraska goes to Folsom Field for the first time since 2009 after CU won at Lincoln last year for the first time since 2004. The Huskers will bring the usual red wave of fans with them. Colorado athletic director Rick George is pleading for "civility."
"The fact that we did [beat them], I think, really upset them. So there is some bad blood," said CU linebacker Jonathan Van Diest.
"It's a target on their head, basically," Nebraska cornerback Cam-Taylor Britt said.
Colorado's marketing department is urging Buff fans to keep their tickets ("Keep The Red Out") instead of selling the to the expected red horde coming from Nebraska. Some rivalries just endure. The teams are a combined 18-30 the last two seasons.
You can go home again … and lose? Maybe in some parallel universe, Luke Fickell should be the Ohio State coach. The loyal Buckeye soldier / former linebacker was tapped as interim coach in 2011 after Jim Tressel had burned the program to the ground in Tattoogate. A 6-7 season sealed his fate, especially when Urban Meyer became available and went undefeated in his first season.
Fickell goes home Saturday with a Cincinnati team more than capable of upsetting the No. 5 Buckeyes. The Bearcats have won 13 of their last 15 games and smacked down UCLA last week. If 1,300-yard rusher Michael Warren goes off, look out. Justin Fields opened his Ohio State career with five total touchdowns against FAU.
Cryin' Game: One thing is for sure in Miami-North Carolina: Someone will be shedding a tear Saturday night. Mack Brown was overcome by emotion in the opening win over South Carolina. Meanwhile, Miami gacked one up vs. Florida. Brown wears his heart on his power-blue sleeve. Miami hasn't started 0-2 since 1978.
Hospital bed watch: While New Mexico's Bob Davie will stay in bed as he recovers from a believed cardiac illness that saw him hospitalized after his team's opening game, Liberty's Hugh Freeze will not be staying in his. Freeze caused a national stir last week when he coached from a hospital bed in the press box, watching his team lose its season opener to Syracuse before holding a press conference via video chat from the same bed.
The Flames go to Louisiana-Lafayette with Freeze still recovering from back surgery and a staph infection. He will reportedly coach from a "medical chair" in the Louisiana press box. This isn't the first time the mercurial Freeze has made a spectacle; he once faked his own funeral at Ole Miss. "I haven't been on the practice field with these kids in 15, 16 days," Freeze said this week. "And I think it shows."
Your Volunteers update: I'll just leave this right here: The last time Tennessee opened the season 0-2 with both games at home was 1980. Vol Nation is still recovering from the horrific loss to Georgia State. The quality of competition improves with BYU coming to town. Meanwhile, some perspective: The opposition for that 0-2 start in 1980 was No. 16 Georgia and No. 5 USC.
Quick hits: In case you missed it, Clemson-Texas A&M features the two highest-paid coaches in the history of the game. The combined 10-year salaries of Swinney and Fisher are $167 million … crummy game of the week: Illinois at Connecticut … with the injury to Jake Bentley at South Carolina, quarterback Ryan Hilinski takes over vs. Charleston Southern. Ryan is the brother of Washington State's Tyler Hilinski, who committed suicide last year. Ryan is wearing his brother's No. 3.
CBS Sports HQ Daily Newsletter
Get the best highlights and stories - yeah, just the good stuff handpicked by our team to start your day.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Join our Pick'em Challenge and compete for $1,000 each week.
This will go down as likely the wildest game from the 2019 season
The Bulldogs landed the knockout punch in the second half as they work toward their first title...
The College Football Playoff is not out of the conversation for the Fighting Irish
Tucker is taking advantage of his time in the desert by coaching in leisure wear
Let's make sense of why the Irish came up short yet again, and what UCF's stunning loss means
Georgia and Notre Dame went back-and-forth all game, but the Dawgs prevailed between the hedges