College football games, Week 2: Texas A&M's bet on Jimbo Fisher gets tested, plus top storylines
Taking a closer look at what you need to know entering Week 2 of the 2018 college football season
This is your chance, Texas A&M.
Not your last chance … but your latest chance. This is what you paid Jimbo Fisher $75 million to do. This is why Fisher went out and snagged Notre Dame's rising-star defensive coordinator Mike Elko.
It's about being relevant again. The Aggies haven't been, of course, in a while. Their last conference championship was one conference (the Big 12) and 20 years ago (1998). Hiring Fisher was the equivalent of going all in -- pushing the chips into the middle of the table.
Let it ride, then. On Saturday in College Station, Texas, No. 2 Clemson becomes the highest-ranked nonconference opponent ever to visit Kyle Field. The Tigers haven't won in the state of Texas since the 1959 Bluebonnet Bowl. Meanwhile, the Aggies have lost to their last five ranked opponents.
Texas A&M's desperation is palpable. Sneak a look at Fisher's pay stub, if you can, for proof. The school spent half a billion dollars merely renovating its stadium. A&M has the best of everything. The problem has seemingly always been finding a football program to go along with the gleaming facilities. The next step may have to wait. The Aggies are 12-point underdogs at home to a team some think is the best in the country.
Quarterback Kellen Mond was effective in the opener, but any quarterback is going to have problems against the best defensive line in the country. Clemson's three-deep in the D-line accounted for 40 percent of the tackles (26) and five of the 10 tackles for loss against Furman.
Good luck to the "Maroon Goons" -- the offensive line really calls itself that -- the heaviest in A&M history (313-pound average).
Consider it an opportunity for the next step in College Station. The Aggies are used to them.
Let's take a look at more Week 2 college football storylines.
1. Gamecocks' early test: While considering South Carolina's chances to upend No. 3 Georgia, consider this daunting history: The Gamecocks are 2-26 all-time against teams ranked in the top 3 of the AP Top 25. The only wins came in 1981 against North Carolina and 2010 against Alabama.
If South Carolina wins, that would mean the 'Cocks would have to lose at least two games to these remaining seven SEC opponents to lose an SEC East tie to Georgia: at Vanderbilt, at Kentucky, Missouri, Texas A&M, Tennessee, at Ole Miss, at Florida. Too soon?
2. A note to Sparty: The high in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday for the Arizona State game is expected to be 107 degrees. Oh sure, it will "cool" down somewhat for the 7:45 p.m. PT start (that's 10:45 p.m. ET!) at Sun Devil Stadium. The last time Michigan State traveled to a Pac-12 site, it was 91 degrees at kickoff for the 2014 game at Oregon.
3. Stanford's best Heisman Trophy candidate: Going into the USC game, it's receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior caught six passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns (plus a two-point conversion) against San Diego State. Arcega-Whiteside, born in Spain, spent his summer as an intern answering phones for Stanford professor Condoleezza Rice.
"You wouldn't realize you're talking to the former secretary of state," Arcega-Whiteside said. "And she loves football. She knows her stuff."
The receiver's biggest challenge was being a filter between pranksters trying to reach Rice, also a former member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. It was easy to hanging up on callers identifying themselves as "Princess Leia" and "Salt-N-Pepa."
But Arcega-Whiteside also mistakenly stiff-armed a former ambassador who he thought was trying to prank him. There's plenty of motivation to get it right this week. USC beat Stanford twice in winning the Pac-12 last season.
4. Is this Penn State? James Franklin's defense was outscored 28-14 in the fourth quarter at home to Appalachian State. The Nittany Lions gave up 451 yards in that overtime win. If Penn State is struggling with App State, how are things going to look at Pittsburgh? Although, it might be fun to watch quarterback Trace Sorley (a touchdown pass in 29 straight games) running around all season trying to outscore everyone.
5. Delayed Frost warning: The last time Scott Frost faced Colorado in Lincoln, Nebraska, he was a Husker graduate assistant in 2002. The last time he faced the Buffaloes as a player, Frost became the 12th quarterback ever to rush and pass for 1,000 yards each in a season.
That was 21 years ago. Colorado and Nebraska meet for the first time since they were both in the Big 12 together in 2010. Nebraska actually kicks off the season after having its game cancelled last week due to weather. Times and conferences have changed. Frost was Nebraska's national championship quarterback who beat CU 27-24 in 1997. The rivalry goes back 120 years to 1898. Nothing can get back those epic CU-Nebraska Big Eight clashes of the early 1990s.
6. End of one Heisman candidacy, beginning of another?: Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin has vowed a hard look at the decision-making that led to quarterback Khalil Tate's career-low 14 rushing yards (on only eight attempts) vs. BYU. "We certainly have to do a better job schematically to get him more involved with his legs," Sumlin said this week. "It's something we have taken a really hard look at this week."
That's a good idea. You might want 2017's No. 7 rusher, No. 3 Power Five rusher and No. 1 quarterback rusher to, you know, run. Sumlin and staff get a chance to redeem themselves with one of the nation's most dangerous weapons Saturday at Houston.
Cougars' defensive lineman Ed Oliver was named national defensive player of the week with 13 tackles, three for loss vs. Rice. Playing Tate may enhance his Heisman chances. In 2016, four of Oliver's five sacks came against Heisman winners Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield.
7. Thirty-one going on … Kentucky hasn't beaten Florida since (a) MTV actually played music, (b) the first email privacy law as passed, (c) Bill Buckner became (in)famous. Actually, all of those things occurred in 1986, along with the Wildcats last victory over the Gators, who area 14.5-point favorite to make it 32 in a row.
9. Hush up and play: Coming off one of the worst coaching debuts ever at a historically top 10 program, Willie Taggart didn't exactly distinguish himself this week. Florida State's coach accused Virginia Tech players of faking injuries to slow the pace of play. Dude, your team (vs. Samford this week) just came off a three-touchdown loss at home in which they posted one stinkin' field goal. Flopping Hokies was not the problem.
10. Quick kicks: Stat of the week: Texas A&M has scored at least 14 points in 28 straight games. That's the longest streak in the SEC … After one game, Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa is second nationally among Power Five quarterbacks at 14.2 yards per pass attempt going into the Arkansas State game. Red Wolves' quarterback Justice Hansen is tied for the FBS lead with six touchdown passes … Watch Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger against Clemson. The Kansas transfer caught five passes in the opener. That's two fewer than Aggie tight ends caught all of last season … Kansas State (vs. No. 18 Mississippi State) has beaten one ranked nonconference opponent at home since 2012. That would be FCS Central Arkansas last year, 55-19 … More on CU-Nebraska: The last time the last two consensus national coaches of the year met was 2010. TCU (Gary Patterson) vs. Utah (Kyle Whittingham).
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