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College football overreaction index, Week 2: LSU can score; is Maryland legit?

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) celebrates after connecting with wide receiver Justin Jefferson for a touchdown against Texas during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Austin, Texas.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) celebrates after connecting with wide receiver Justin Jefferson for a touchdown against Texas during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (Eric Gay/AP)

Welcome to the college football overreaction index, where we examine the most important storylines from the past weekend of games to determine what’s worth paying attention to and what’s flying under the radar around the nation.

Here are the biggest takeaways from Week 2.

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LSU has a dynamic offense, and Joe Burrow is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.

Verdict: Not an overreaction.

For as much talent as LSU has had on offense in recent years — Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Leonard Fournette, to name a few — the Tigers have struggled to score points. That has a lot to do with who was leading the unit, both at quarterback and on the coaching staff.

It appears LSU has finally found a combination that works. Burrow passed for 471 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-38 victory over Texas in Austin, becoming just the third LSU player to throw for 400 passing yards in a game and the first Tigers quarterback to do it against an AP-ranked opponent since Rohan Davey in the 2002 Sugar Bowl against Illinois. LSU also had three receivers with 100-plus yards in a game for the first time ever.

When coach Ed Orgeron brought in New Orleans Saints assistant Joe Brady in the offseason to serve as passing game coordinator with offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, no one predicted such an immediate turnaround. This is LSU after all, a program known for its conservative, run-heavy offensive approach.

And yet, through two weeks, the Tigers have scored 55 points against Georgia Southern and 45 against Texas and are ranked fifth in the nation in passing yards per game (410.5).

LSU might finally have an offense worthy of its blue-chip talent. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the SEC.

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence (10) and Luke Price celebrate Lawrence's touchdown against Texas A&M Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Clemson, S.C.
Clemson's Trevor Lawrence (10) and Luke Price celebrate Lawrence's touchdown against Texas A&M Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Clemson, S.C. (Richard Shiro/AP)

You can pencil Clemson into the College Football Playoff already.

Verdict: Not an overreaction.

With a 24-10 win over Texas A&M, the Tigers easily handled their first big hurdle of the season. And it might turn out to be their only hurdle.

Clemson held the Aggies to their fewest points in a game since 2015 and constantly harassed quarterback Kellen Mond, who threw for just 236 yards on 42 attempts after throwing for more than 400 yards in last season’s matchup. Texas A&M couldn’t get anything going on the ground either, totaling just 53 rushing yards on 2.0 yards per carry.

The Tigers defense was expected to drop off after losing five starters to the NFL, but it seems as if the unit is just as strong with playmakers like Isaiah Simmons, A.J. Terrell and Xavier Thomas up front.

A Week 3 matchup against Syracuse initially spelled trouble, but the Orange are coming off an embarrassing 63-20 loss to Maryland and have looked out of sync offensively. With Syracuse falling out of the rankings this week, Clemson won’t face another Top 25 team the rest of the season, and will likely be favored by double digits in each game. And whoever the Tigers face in the ACC championship game is unlikely to give them a challenge, either, with North Carolina and Virginia the current leaders of a watered-down Coastal division.

Barring an injury to one of their stars, the defending champions have a clear path back to the playoff.

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Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields plays against Cincinnati during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields plays against Cincinnati during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. (Jay LaPrete/AP)

Nobody will challenge Ohio State in the Big Ten.

Verdict: Overreaction.

Week 2 was certainly encouraging for Buckeyes fans. New quarterback Justin Fields scored four total touchdowns in an easy win over a tough Cincinnati team, while a pair of Big Ten East rivals struggled. Michigan needed double overtime to put away Army, and Penn State trailed Buffalo at halftime before exploding for four touchdowns in the third quarter to pull away.

With the way Ohio State is playing under Ryan Day, it certainly seems as if it’s the Buckeyes’ conference to lose. The defense has been solid, and Fields has shown why he was rated a five-star prospect in high school, flashing the ability to pass and run at a high level. Running back J.K. Dobbins, who struggled at times last season, rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns in just one half of work against the Bearcats.

But it’s only Week 2. Ohio State has yet to face a real test, and that might not come until Week 5 at Nebraska. The Buckeyes’ top competitors in the East are still working the kinks out. Michigan is adapting to a new spread offense scheme, and Penn State is still settling in on defense after struggling to stop the run against Buffalo. Michigan State is also looking to fix its offense, though a 51-17 win over Western Michigan is encouraging.

In the West, Wisconsin and Iowa have been impressive early. The Badgers have polished off back-to-back shutouts, and quarterback Jack Coan appears to have taken a step forward to add a vertical passing threat to the team’s dominant rushing attack behind Jonathan Taylor. The Hawkeyes, after struggling a bit with Miami (Ohio) in Week 1, held Rutgers to 125 yards of total offense in a 30-0 win Saturday and have one of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks in Nate Stanley.

It’s also unclear what kinds of seasons Maryland and Minnesota can put together after 2-0 starts, and whether Purdue, Northwestern and Nebraska can bounce back from early losses. The Buckeyes might have the most talent in the Big Ten, but giving them the trophy now would be premature.

Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson (17) prepares for a snap during the first half against the Syracuse Orange, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in College Park.
Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson (17) prepares for a snap during the first half against the Syracuse Orange, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in College Park. (Will Newton/AP)

Maryland’s offense is legit, and the Terps can be a factor in the Big Ten race.

Verdict: Overreaction.

The No. 21 Terps are ranked for the first time since 2013, and it’s well-deserved. With blowout wins over Howard and then-No. 21 Syracuse, Maryland has scored at least 56 points in back-to-back games for the first time in program history.

Whether the Terps can keep it up is the question, but coach Mike Locksley and offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery have already shown they’re capable of scheming up points.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of Maryland’s 2-0 start is the play of graduate transfer quarterback Josh Jackson, who has looked poised in the pocket and has thrown seven touchdown passes to just one interception. If he can recapture the same form that made him one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC as a freshman at Virginia Tech in 2017, the Terps might have finally found a consistent playmaker at a position that has been lacking one for years.

Will that be enough to compete in the Big Ten East? We’ll see. The Terps passed their first big test with flying colors by routing the Orange, but four ranked teams still remain on their schedule, including a stretch of three in five weeks to end the season.

Assuming Maryland gets by Temple in Philadelphia this weekend (the Terps are seven-point favorites), a Friday night matchup with a likely-to-be-ranked Penn State looms. The next two weeks will tell us a lot about these Terps and whether they can aspire to more than just bowl eligibility in Locksley’s first season.

North Carolina coach Mack Brown cheers on his team during the fourth quarter against Miami in Chapel, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.
North Carolina coach Mack Brown cheers on his team during the fourth quarter against Miami in Chapel, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (Chris Seward/AP)

North Carolina can make the ACC championship game in Mack Brown’s first season.

Verdict: Not an overreaction.

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Two games and two wins over Power 5 opponents for a man who hasn’t led a program since 2013. Who said this coaching thing is hard?

Brown, who returned to North Carolina after coaching at Chapel Hill from 1988 to 1997, has the Tar Heels 2-0 for the first time since 2014, with victories over South Carolina and Miami.

A 2-0 start doesn’t always portend future success, but have you seen the ACC Coastal division? With Miami 0-2, Virginia Tech struggling to find its identity and Georgia Tech rebuilding, No. 25 Virginia is North Carolina’s chief competition. Pittsburgh and Duke are capable of competing for the top spot (you might have already forgotten that Pitt reached the ACC title game last season), but each faces more tough nonconference tests, with the Panthers playing No. 13 Penn State and No. 17 Central Florida and the Blue Devils getting No. 7 Notre Dame. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels play Appalachian State and Mercer. Advantage, UNC.

Outside of a home game against No. 1 Clemson in Week 5, the Tar Heels have a realistic chance of winning all of their remaining games, and might even be favored to win most of them. Two or even three losses probably won’t knock them out of contention.

The odds of UNC winning its division with a true freshman quarterback and coach who has recently spent more time in an announcing booth than on the practice field were through the roof to begin the season. Now, the Heels might be the odds-on favorites.

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