By: James Ward
College Football: The first week of the college football schedule is in the books. We had great games, massive comebacks and monumental upsets. If Week 1 is any indicator, the 2017 college football season should be fun. Underrated
Mason Rudolph: This year in college football has already been labeled “The Year of the Quarterback,” undoubtedly because of the potential first round NFL talent. Even if Oklahoma State loses a winnable game in September or October, like they usually do, Rudolph should be included with the other top quarterbacks in college football. He’s also thrown 147 passes without an interception. Underrrated.
TaQuon Marshall: The Georgia Tech quarterback set school records for most rushing touchdowns, carries and rushing yards by a quarterback in his first start at quarterback, as well as the ACC record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. Marshall did all of this against an SEC defense that made sure to hit him on every play. Underrated.
Oregon Football: In his first game as Ducks head coach, Willie Taggart’s team scored 77 points. In his second game, Oregon is favored by 13.5 points against Nebraska and that’s too much, too soon. Overrated.
Three Things You Probably Didn’t Know:
1) When Howard beat UNLV in Week 1 as 45-point underdogs on the road, the Bison pulled off the biggest upset (by point spread) in college football history. Also of note, Howard quarterback Caylin Newton is a true freshman and also the little brother of 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton.
2) After Saturday’s game against Florida State, Nick Saban has now won all 11 openers as Alabama head coach. That streak includes eight Power Five opponents by an average margin of 22 points.
3) It took exactly one week for Lamar Jackson to be the favorite in the 2017 Heisman Trophy race. Bovada’s latest odds have him at +400, ahead Sam Darnold at +600.
Louisville (-9.5) at North Carolina: Last week, the Cardinals survived a potential upset against Purdue, while the Tar Heels lost to California. The Louisville/Purdue game was close, but the Cardinals lost two (almost three) fumbles on the goal line, so the score might not be a good indicator of the game. Both Purdue and Cal are at the bottom rung of their respective conferences and they’re playing for first year head coaches. A loss for North Carolina against Cal is a bad mark on the Tar Heels 2017 resume. Also, Cal first-time starting quarterback Ross Bowers threw for 363 yards and fourth touchdowns against the North Carolina defense.
Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino is an offensive genius and Lamar Jackson has the ability to shred this defense. Playing mistake free against the Tar Heels should be manageable for Jackson. On paper, the Cardinals are the supremely talented team in this matchup. This game reminds me of some of Louisvllle’s early season matchups last year. The Cardinals aren’t built to win a national championship, but they have enough talent and speed to make average opponents look inferior. Louisville will win in a blowout.
Oklahoma (+7) at Ohio State: For one half against Indiana, Ohio State looked ripe for an upset. Hoosiers quarterback Richard Lagow picked apart the Buckeyes defense, throwing for over 400 yards. Remember: Ohio State lost three defensive backs to the first round of the NFL Draft last year. In addition to shoddy secondary play, J.T. Barrett’s inability to throw the ball accurately downfield was still a major problem. If not for the game-breaking, run-after-the-catch abilities of his receivers, the score could’ve been a lot closer. Eventually, Ohio State’s supreme talent won out and the Buckeyes defeated the Hoosiers by 28 points.
This week, Ohio State is favored by more than a touchdown against Oklahoma, a team expected to contend for a national title. If Lagow can dominate the Buckeye secondary, Baker Mayfield should have a huge game. Against UTEP, Mayfield was 19-of-20 for 329 yards and three touchdowns, and the Sooners won easily. Mayfield will have a big night against the Buckeyes. In addition, the Sooners will limit Ohio State’s big plays and force Barrett to actually throw the ball down the field. Advantage: Sooners. Oklahoma will keep this game close
Stanford (+6) at USC: Another game between two relatively equal teams. (Spoiler: Take the points!) For all the hype surrounding Sam Darnold coming into this season, his first start of the year was a dud. Darnold and the Trojans look to rebound after a too close for comfort game against Western Michigan, and the Stanford defense (especially the secondary) might be the best in the Pac-12. In Stanford’s first game, the Cardinal destroyed Rice in Australia. Because of the travel, Stanford has had an extra week to prepare for USC. The Cardinal has also won three straight against the Trojans, all by double digits.
While the Christian McCaffrey era is over in Palo Alto, the Bryce Love era began in earnest against Rice. Love actually averaged more yards per carry last season than McCaffrey and should be equally as dangerous in the passing game. USC allowed 263 rushing yards against Western Michigan in Week 1, so this is a matchup that favors Stanford. I think this game will be close, but Stanford’s ability to make big plays while dominating the passing game on defense (three of their four DBs made Preseason All Pac-12) gives them a chance to pull off the upset. Take the points, but the Cardinal have a good chance to win this game outright.
Last Week: 2-1
Season Record: 2-1
Ward’s Winners Overall Record: 60-48-0
James Ward is the Executive Producer of CBS Sports Radio Weekends and Sunday Morning Football. On Saturdays, you can find him in studio producing Eye on College Football and catching as many games as possible. Check him out on Twitter (@JamesWardCBS).