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The SEC and Ohio St will be a common refrain for this season, and week one stated that tone. While Ohio St.’s offense struggled to live up to preseason billing until deep in the second quarter, Georgia and Alabama had no such struggles, winning their games by a combined 104-3 margin. Florida pulled off the big upset of the week, though the coming out party by QB Anthony Richardson against Utah showed it was likely a preseason rank issue. The ACC needs to be on high alert, the conference survived the disaster, but #18 NC State and North Carolina were both taken to the wire by in-state schools East Carolina and Appalachian St. in the best games of the early afternoon. Meanwhile, the Pac 12 sees their playoff chances on life support following the losses by Utah and Oregon.
SEC schools again dot the best matchups of the week, with #1 Alabama traveling to Texas, #20 Kentucky at #12 Florida, and #24 Tennessee visiting #17 Pittsburgh. #9 Baylor at #21 BYU merits special mention as it could factor into deciding a wide-open #4 seed in the college football playoff. We get our staff together to run through this week’s action.
What Game Are You Looking Forward To?
#1 Alabama at Texas
Jason Wood: How can it not be Alabama versus Texas? The Longhorns have been stuck in this weird place where they are perceived as a juggernaut in waiting, given the talent pool in Texas and their booster resources, yet they end up being just another team most seasons. We saw Nick Saban take his first loss to a former assistant last season when A&M beat 'Bama, and nothing would signal Texas' return to form than if Sarkisian could beat his mentor. Quinn Ewers is one of the more talked about prospects and one of the first NIL millionaires, and supposedly he'll be the bridge to Texas' return before Arch Manning takes over. Meanwhile, Alabama is the favorite to win the title again and needs to make light work of the 'Horns to maintain that status.
#20 Kentucky at #12 Florida
Christian Williams: The Kentucky Wildcats are heading to The Swamp to take on the Florida Gators this week, and there isn't a more intriguing matchup. Florida is fresh off an upset of the #7 team in the country on the back of Anthony Richardson. Richardson flashed a skillset that the NFL often covets, placing him firmly in the mix to become a first-round quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft. Meanwhile, Kentucky dismantled a Miami (OH) defense after settling into the new offense. Will Levis and Richardson will battle for the QB3 title next spring. This matchup will hold weight in the eyes of NFL evaluators.
Kevin Coleman: After Florida beat a top-10 Utah team in Week 1, this game has become my must-watch game of the week. There is no love lost between these programs; Kentucky has won two of the last four games. This game has many storylines, but the main event will be Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson versus Kentucky quarterback Will Levis. Both players are battling for QB3 in the 2023 draft class, and this game could have lasting ramifications for each player. Richardson will look to capitalize on his big game against Utah last week and keep that momentum going in draft circles against a tough Kentucky defense. Levis will look to outshine Richardson on the field to help his draft stock. On top of the players on the field, the winner of this game will have an inside track of being the second-best team in the SEC East behind Georgia.
Jonathan Morris: Once again, on Saturday night, I'll be tuning in to watch Florida at the Swamp. This time they'll get another tough challenge in SEC east opponent Kentucky. Florida proved a lot last week in their close win against Utah. Quarterback Anthony Richardson gave the Gators' offense a big lift and made big-time plays when needed. Kentucky is coming in with a chip on its shoulder as they never feel like they get the respect they deserve, despite having a formidable football program over the last several years. I'm interested to see how Florida handles all the hype in a potentially big letdown spot after an emotional week one win. For Kentucky, this is the perfect opportunity to show everyone they are for real, and their quarterback Will Levis will do his best to showcase that he and the Wildcats are legit.
Craig Lakins: The game I've circled on my calendar is #20 Kentucky at #12 Florida. For me, this matchup is about the quarterbacks. Will Levis and Anthony Richardson can elevate their draft projections in a significant way this season. They each have tools that NFL GMs covet in a quarterback, but both come with question marks that they hope to put to rest. Going head-to-head will be a great way to see who has a leg up early in the season.
#24 Tennessee at #17 Pittsburgh
Dan Hindery: There are not ten teams in the country with better talent and coaching than Tennessee, which is why it is hard to believe they enter Week 2's matchup at Pitt unranked. There is a real chance Tennessee goes on the road and puts 40-plus points on the Panthers and shows this is a different program after nearly two decades of primarily underachieving. This is the time of year when it is fun to try to figure out which teams come out of nowhere to have great seasons, and I view the Volunteers as one of the top candidates to be that surprise team.
Jason Wood: Dan, I'm excited for Tennessee, too. But there are more than nine teams with better talent, at least objectively based on recruiting rankings. Tennessee doesn't pass the Blue Chip ratio. At least, not yet.
Dan Hindery: Jason, good point, though I was looking at it through the lens of talent (with experience factored in) and coaching combined.
Many schools with more talent on paper have first-year quarterbacks (Texas, OU, TAMU, ND) or don't have their offensive schemes up and cooking yet (ND, UF, Clemson, LSU, Oregon, etc.).
Hooker has been around forever and played a lot of football, and Heupel seems to have that offense humming. I'm definitely veering into hot-take territory with top 10 (maybe I should have said top 15), but I think Tennessee is a lot better than people think.
Jason Wood: Dan, yeah, as I said, I don't take issue with your sentiment when factoring in coaching. From the look of things, USC and Tennessee's 2023 classes will put them over the line. And to be fair, Tennessee, USC, and UNC are a class away from making the ratio.
Iowa St at Iowa
Matt Bitonti: Part of being the offensive line guy is enjoying the grind games. We're talking about the rivalries with a low over/under total: 3 yards and a cloud of dust-type football. The "slobber knockers," as the late great John Madden would say. In this year's Cy-Hawk game, Iowa hosts Iowa State. That game is going to find its way to my screen. It's inevitable. The Iowa Corn Grower's Association sponsors a trophy. I'm all in.
What Player Are You Watching?
QB Jaren Hall, BYU
Christian Williams: Jaren Hall, the veteran quarterback from BYU, is a player to keep an eye on this week. Hall boasts plus athleticism and a baseball arm and could find himself rising on draft boards with a productive 2022 season. He gets a Baylor defense that allowed just 150 yards in a 69-10 blowout against Albany in Week 1. Hall will need to string together impressive performances against top defenses to become a first-rounder, and he has that opportunity this week.
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