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Who got better, who got worse, who made history in Week 2

Who got better, who got worse, who made history in Week 2

It would stand to reason that players would improve dramatically from spring to fall camp. Or maybe from fall camp to Week 1. Or heck, perhaps even during bowl practice. But none of those statements make for an effective clich√©, so if you ask coaches, they’ll tell you without hesitation that the most progress a team makes all year is between Weeks 1 and 2.

And it’s true. Look around the country. Michigan got better. Penn State got better. North Carolina got … OK, it’s not foolproof.

But the point is, if Week 1 is a litmus test of teams’ biggest flaws, Week 2 is our first opportunity to see whether those issues have been addressed. With that in mind, let’s evaluate some progress reports from around the country.

Alabama QBs
Progress:
starter announced and both played

Sure, Jalen Hurts probably felt vilified, but Alabama actually announced its starting QB — Tua Tagovailoa — for its game against Arkansas State, and no one got scolded afterward (that we know of). In fact, Tagovailoa showed he was worthy of the job once again, becoming the first Tide QB to throw four touchdowns without a pick in a game since AJ McCarron in 2013. That’s pretty good. But the other good news is Hurts didn’t sit out. Was he put on a pedestal? Maybe not, but he did finish with two TD throws of his own. Believe it or not, those six passing TDs are the second most in a game in Alabama history.

Big Ten West
Progress:
well, Wisconsin is good

OK, so the Badgers haven’t locked up the division yet, but it sure feels inevitable. While Wisconsin got its ground game going in a win over New Mexico, the rest of the division had a rough day. Northwestern lost at home to Duke. Nebraska lost in Scott Frost’s delayed debut to Colorado. Purdue lost at home to Eastern Michigan. Minnesota and Iowa both needed late TDs to win at home. But hey, Illinois is 2-0, so anything is possible.

Clemson Tigers
Progress:
baby steps

Maybe there’s still a QB battle going on at Clemson, but it was clear as the Tigers struggled to hold a second-half lead that Kelly Bryant was the anchor of the offense. Dabo Swinney put virtually everything on Bryant’s shoulders, and he did just enough to win. The pass defense, on the other hand, has some serious question marks. Clemson’s linebackers looked confused regularly, and Kellen Mond exposed the secondary. Some of this is fixable, but with Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech on deck, the Tigers aren’t likely to see another real test like this for a while.

Georgia running game
Progress:
giving out whuppin’s

Remember the old “This is SportsCenter” commercial with Evander Holyfield searching the offices for Charley Steiner, announcing, “Come on out and get your whuppin'”? That’s pretty much what Evander’s son, Elijah Holyfield , and the rest of the Georgia backfield did to South Carolina’s defense Saturday. Holyfield led all rushers with 76 yards, but there were five Georgia backs with at least 30, and for the game, the Bulldogs outrushed South Carolina 271 to 54.

SEC West
Progress:
holding steady

Texas A&M looked really good, but it lost. Ole Miss scored 76 but also gave up 41 to an FCS team. LSU won easily again, but Joe Burrow completed just 50 percent of his passes. Nick Fitzgerald returned and helped Mississippi State to a road win at Kansas State. Arkansas managed to lose to a team that had allowed 88 points in its first two games. Let’s call it a mixed bag for the division.

UCLA Bruins
Progress:
none

UCLA found some solace by scoring on each of its final two drives, but Oklahoma was already up 42-7. And before those two touchdowns, UCLA had started the Chip Kelly era by averaging 4.4 yards per play. That’s not exactly the tempo-driven explosiveness Kelly enjoyed at Oregon, but he also knows this project is going to take time. So after the game, he directed his only criticisms at Oakland A’s executive Billy Beane, saying if Beane had paid Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray a little more money to play baseball, the Bruins might’ve stood a chance.

Kansas Jayhawks
Progress:
historic

The last time Kansas won on the road, Tyler Perry’s “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” topped the box office, and the Jayhawks took the film’s title to heart, doing bad on the road for nearly a decade, losing 46 straight. To provide some context, Boise State had 39 wins on the road between Kansas’ two victories. Coastal Carolina, which has played just one year of FBS football, had more road wins. And sure, Kansas only beat Central Michigan. But this was coming off a home loss to an FCS foe, so go ahead and pop the bubbly, Jayhawks. You’ve earned it.


Kentucky Wildcats
Progress:
31 furlongs

Oh, you thought Kansas’ streak-breaking win was big? Try this one on for size: Kentucky beat Florida for the first time in 31 years. Just think of all that has happened in that span: Jared Lorenzen, Steve Spurrier, Tim Tebow, three UK hoops championships, a Jim McElwain shark meme … it has literally been a lifetime for a whole bunch of Wildcats fans. In fact, go ahead, Kentucky. Celebrate by doing the Dan Mullen dance.

Bryce Love
Progress:
107 yards

After a dismal opener against San Diego State, Love found his way back into the Heisman talk with a strong stat line in a win over USC, running for 136 yards and a touchdown. Love had runs of 59 and 28 yards, which offer some optimism about his big-play potential. Or, if you’re a glass-half-empty person, he averaged just 2.45 yards per carry on his other 20 rushes. Either way, defenses are focused on Love, and that has opened up some throwing lanes for QB K.J. Costello, helping Stanford jump out to a 2-0 start.

Florida State Seminoles
Progress
: FCS playoff contender

What we know for sure about FSU is: If it played at home and won the turnover battle by at least three, it would definitely contend for a spot in the FCS playoffs. Beyond that, though, Week 2 might have been worse than Week 1. The Seminoles trailed Samford until late in the fourth quarter, surrendered 475 yards to QB Devlin Hodges and struggled to block the Bulldogs’ pass rush for most of the game. Willie Taggart has a big job ahead of him, and FSU fans haven’t been this angry at a coach since Jeff Bowden.

Texas Longhorns
Progress:
from Lennie to George

This was almost the winter of Tom Herman’s discontent. Texas nearly blew a 21-0 second-half lead but managed to hang on and escape the Tulsa dust bowl. Last week, Herman alluded to John Steinbeck, chalking up his team’s struggles to wanting the game too bad, trying too hard. In the second half on Saturday, it was more an issue of mailing it in, like a ninth-grade book report on “The Pearl” because it was only 100 pages.

North Carolina Tar Heels
Progress:
exceptional

This is counterintuitive, but hear me out. After a 3-9 season in 2017, an offseason that included mind-boggling quotes from head coach Larry Fedora and the suspensions of more than a dozen players, then an opening-week loss to Cal in which QB Nate Elliott threw four picks in the first half, UNC was at rock bottom. So what happens when you go lower than rock bottom? I’m not a scientist, but it stands to reason that you circle right back around to the top. Or at least, that’s the only remaining hope for Tar Heels fans.

Khalil Tate‘s Heisman campaign
Progress:
done

After the game, Kevin Sumlin said Tate suffered a leg injury that impacted Arizona’s game plan. Perhaps, though coming off a bad performance in the opener against BYU, this feels like more of a trend. Either way, the preseason hype for Tate’s Heisman chances is gone, and instead, it was Ed Oliver making his push Saturday. Tate tossed two picks, finished with just 8 yards rushing, and Arizona fell to 0-2 under Sumlin. Oliver, meanwhile, had five tackles, a pass breakup and four QB hurries.

American Conference
Progress:
plus-6

The Power 6 narrative didn’t get off to a great start in Week 1, but Week 2 was a much different story. Houston dominated Arizona. USF proved it wasn’t taking a step back without Quinton Flowers, as former Alabama QB Blake Barnett looked sharp in a win over Georgia Tech. And while UCF’s McKenzie Milton had a rare bad game, the Knights kept rolling, too. Power 6? Maybe not, but the American clearly has some teams that will compete for a New Year’s Six bowl.



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