The Week 2 college football schedule isn’t quite as appetizing as Week 1′s bountiful buffet of ranked matchups, but there’s still plenty of intrigue. Here are the biggest storylines to watch this weekend, starting with an historic matchup in Iowa:
The biggest game in Cy-Hawk history: For the first time in 65 meetings, No. 10 Iowa and No. 9 Iowa State will face off as top-10 teams. Despite coach Matt Campbell elevating the Cyclones to their most consistent level of success in program history, he’s 0-4 against the Hawkeyes. This is Iowa State’s best opportunity yet to cement itself as not only a perennial Big 12 contender, but a team that can be part of the College Football Playoff conversation late in the season. If the Cyclones win Saturday, there’s a clear path to an undefeated season, provided they can knock off Texas and Oklahoma in November. For Iowa, it’s another chance to exert its dominance over its in-state rival and carry that momentum into what could be a Big Ten West championship, especially with Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern all starting 0-1. The Cyclones have the advantage on offense with running back Breece Hall and quarterback Brock Purdy leading the way, but the Hawkeyes defense is more than capable of a dominant performance.
Big chance for Oregon: If there’s ever a good time to take on Ohio State in Columbus, it might be this week. The No. 3 Buckeyes looked shaky in the first half of an eventual win over Minnesota in Week 1, but quarterback C.J. Stroud showed improvement in the second half as Ohio State’s game-changing talent took over on both sides of the ball. No. 12 Oregon is coming off an unconvincing 31-24 win at home over Fresno State, with the biggest takeaway being the ankle injury suffered by star pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. If the former blue-chip recruit is healthy enough to wreck Ohio State’s game plan and make Stroud uncomfortable in his first home start, the Ducks have a puncher’s chance of pulling off the upset. Coach Mario Cristobal has been steadily building Oregon back into a national power, but this game might show just how far the Ducks still need to go to get back to an elite level — especially if they can’t find a star quarterback. We’ll see if Ohio State has found its next one.
Get ready, Georgia: A matchup between No. 2 Georgia and UAB might look unappealing on paper, but there’s reason to believe this game will be competitive. Since restarting their football program under coach Bill Clark, the Blazers have made big strides on defense, and the offense showed signs of improvement behind quarterback Tyler Johnston III in last week’s win over Jacksonville State. Add the fact that the Bulldogs might be without starting quarterback JT Daniels as he nurses an oblique injury, are coming off an emotional win against Clemson and might be looking ahead to the start of the SEC schedule and there’s a chance Georgia sleepwalks through the first half or longer before pulling away. If the offense struggles again, there are going to be some uncomfortable questions for coach Kirby Smart as the Dawgs try to handle the weight of national championship expectations.
Make it happen, Michigan: Washington’s shocking upset loss to FCS Montana last weekend took some of the shine off Saturday’s second Big Ten vs. Pac 12 matchup, but there’s still plenty at stake. Michigan might have found a promising quarterback in Cade McNamara, who’ll have his hands full against a defense that has plenty of talent, most notably cornerback Trent McDuffie. The season-ending injury to star receiver Ronnie Bell takes some wind out of the Wolverines’ sails on offense, but the running back duo of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins already looks like one of the nation’s best. A comfortable win over a solid Power Five program would give coach Jim Harbaugh’s team some confidence as it looks to end a long wait for a Big Ten title game appearance. For Washington, a poor showing will only fuel criticism of offensive coordinator John Donovan and coach Jimmy Lake in what could be a season to forget.
Look out, Hurricanes: There’s no shame in losing to Alabama in the Nick Saban era. What Miami must avoid is letting Week 1′s disappointing effort carry over into a tricky game against Appalachian State. The Mountaineers return 88% of their production on defense and entered the season ranked 36th nationally on the side of the ball in efficiency, per ESPN’s SP+ metric. Teams of late have had trouble recovering from a season-opening beatdown by the Crimson Tide. For coach Manny Diaz’s sake, Miami needs to avoid the same fate.
Hogs vs. Horns: Arkansas needed a big second half to put away Rice in the season opener, but the play of quarterback KJ Jefferson through the air and on the ground is an encouraging sign in Year 2 of coach Sam Pittman’s rebuild. Texas’ hopes rest on its new signal-caller Hudson Card, who had an up-and-down debut in a win over Louisiana. A tough road game for the Longhorns should tell us plenty about Card’s potential and whether coach Steve Sarkisian has enough playmakers to compete with Oklahoma for the Big 12 title this season.
Underrated rivalry: The Holy War between BYU and Utah is one of the meanest rivalries in all of college football, and there’s plenty at stake this year. The No. 21 Utes are looking to extend a nine-game winning streak over the Cougars, tied for the longest in a rivalry that dates to 1922. BYU quarterback Jaren Hall has the unenviable task of following No. 2 overall draft pick Zach Wilson, but a strong debut against Arizona showed that the sophomore has plenty to offer. How Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer fares opposite Hall will determine Utah’s ceiling in the Pac-12 race.