Facing Notre Dame aside, it could be months before any Irish opponent has as stiff a test as BYU does this weekend. The No. 21 Cougars host No. 9 Baylor on Saturday, and a win could catapult BYU into the top-15 a month before it meets Notre Dame in Las Vegas.
From an Irish perspective, a Cougars victory would obviously be appreciated. While Notre Dame (0-1) played Ohio State close over the weekend, there are only so many chances at impressive wins in a season, and if the Irish want to impress the Playoff committee in November, they need to have an impressive win already.
That Oct. 8 matchup with BYU will be the only such chance before the first Playoff rankings are released.
No. 3 Ohio State (1-0): After holding off Notre Dame, 21-10, the Buckeyes can ease up this week. No offense to Arkansas State, but also offense to Arkansas State (12 ET; BTN). Ohio State should have no trouble against the Red Wolves, particularly not when favored by 44 points.
Marshall (1-0): The Thundering Herd ran all over FCS-level Norfolk State last week, winning 55-3, but the more notable aspect may have been Texas Tech transfer quarterback Henry Colombi’s 24-of-26 passing for 205 yards. That kind of efficiency stands out no matter the opponent.
Marshall is a 20.5-point underdog at No. 8 Notre Dame (2:30 ET; NBC) this weekend, per PointsBet, and the combined points total Over/Under of 51 suggests a 35-14 result, give or take. Frankly, it may be surprising to see the Herd score two touchdowns.
Cal (1-0): Cal dismissed FCS-level UC Davis, 34-13, but still ran for only 158 yards on 30 carries (sacks adjusted) while giving up 148 yards on 24 rushes. Such an inferior opponent averaging 6.2 yards per carry may be a Cal concern to monitor, even if UNLV (4 ET) struggles to exploit that this weekend. The Golden Bears are favored by 13 points, as of midday Wednesday, with a Over/Under of 48 points.
North Carolina (1-0): The Tar Heels tried to let Appalachian State win this weekend. North Carolina played no defense and when that wasn’t enough, it gifted the Mountaineers an additional possession down one score in the final minute. The resulting 63-61 Tar Heels victory was dramatic, comical and a poor portent for what may come North Carolina’s way this season.
Sophomore quarterback Drake Maye threw for 352 yards and four touchdowns on 24-of-35 passing while adding another 76 yards and a score on 12 rushes, but the Tar Heels defense also gave up 40 points in the fourth quarter.
Some improvement should come at Georgia State (12 ET; ESPNU) on Saturday, but even there, North Carolina is favored by 7.5 points with an Over/Under of 64.5. Considering the Tar Heels nearly topped that total on their own last week, perhaps it is a touch low.
North Carolina QB Drake Maye this season:
🔹89.3 PFF Grade
🔹645 Passing Yards (1st in NCAA)
🔹9 PASS TDs (1st) pic.twitter.com/5FZffetZit
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 7, 2022
No. 21 BYU (1-0): The Cougars went to the humidity of South Florida and had no problem with the Bulls, winning 50-21, despite missing some perimeter playmakers. The most impressive part of that showing may not have been the 50 points, which was even with BYU easing up as the blowout ballooned, but that the Cougars gave up 279 total yards on 57 plays. Holding any FBS offense to those totals warrants notice.
A similar defensive showing may not be likely this weekend, but still getting by Baylor (10:15 ET; ESPN) will establish BYU as a team to be reckoned with this season. In their last year as an independent, the Cougars still scheduled their way to possibly make some noise. Favored by four points, Irish fans should hope BYU wins by plenty more than that.
Stanford (1-0): The Cardinal dusted FCS-level Colgate, 41-10, and maybe nothing can be taken away from that, or maybe sophomore running back E.J. Smith should be praised for gaining 118 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries while quarterback Tanner McKee threw for 308 yards and two scores on 22-of-27 passing.
Those trends may continue this week against No. 10 USC (7:30 ET; ABC), given a 67.5-point total while the Trojans are favored by nine points. If Stanford manages to score 30 points against USC, that will be notable on both sides of that equation.
UNLV (1-0): The Rebels took a week off after opening the season earlier than most, and they will now head to Cal. Given the Bears’ struggles against UC Davis’ rushing game last weekend, it feels pertinent to point out UNLV averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last year.
Syracuse (1-0): The Orange pulled off a 31-7 upset of Louisville that seemed to shock many college football followers, but not anyone who saw this space hype Syracuse’s combination of an established ground game and newly-imported offensive assistants with creative passing instincts. That led to star running back Sean Tucker gaining 184 yards from scrimmage with two touchdowns on 27 touches while quarterback Garrett Shrader threw for 236 yards and ran for 94 more with three total touchdowns.
More of the same should be expected at Connecticut (7 ET; CBSSN), as Syracuse is favored by 23 points. If the Orange could beat Louisville by 24, it should be able to beat the Huskies by more.
No. 5 Clemson (1-0): The world watched the Tigers’ offense sputter against Georgia Tech on Monday, yet everything else about Clemson is still so good, it won 41-10. Junior DJ Uiagalelei did not quiet any rumblings of a quarterback controversy, but he will at least start this week against FCS-level Furman (3:30 ET; ACCN). Expect freshman Cade Klubnik to see plenty of playing time in a rout, though. Their stats from Monday:
Uiagalelei: 19-of-32 for 209 yards and a touchdown with 28 yards and another score on 13 carries.
Klubnik: 4-of-6 for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Navy (0-1): The end of the road may be coming for Ken Niumatalolo. Losing 14-7 to FCS-level Delaware started this season off on a bad note, one worsened when realizing the Midshipmen lost three fumbles and ran for only 184 yards on 63 carries. A 2.9 yards per rush average will undermine a triple-option offense in every way.
A six-point underdog with Memphis (3:30 ET; CBSSN) visiting this week, an 0-2 start could snowball on Niumatalolo in his 16th season as Navy’s head coach.
Boston College (0-1): Losing 22-21 to shorthanded Rutgers was not the way Phil Jurkovec wanted to start what should be his last collegiate season, even if he connected with star receiver Zay Flowers for two touchdowns. Jurkovec’s two interceptions were obviously part of the problem in the loss, but the real issue was the Eagles rushed for 39 yards on 18 carries when Jurkovec did not have the ball.
Virginia Tech (8 ET; ACCN) is far from a strong program at the moment, yet it is favored by 2.5 points against Boston College this week in what should be a low-scoring affair.
No. 10 USC (1-0): The Trojans made quick work of Rice, winning 66-14 thanks to two Caleb Williams-to-Jordan Addison touchdowns and intercepting the Owls four times. It may be a few weeks before genuine insights can be formed about USC’s uniquely-crafted roster.