Wasn’t that fun? Sure, there were a few blowouts in Week 1, but there were plenty of the kinds of wild momentum swings and dramatic finishes that make college football such a tremendous carnival ride every fall.
At first glance, the Week 2 slate might appear less promising. Look closer, however, and there’s actually a lot to like on the calendar. The Saturday lineup features three Top-25 matchups – and almost a fourth – as well as some early conference showdowns in the top-tier leagues.
As always, your preference may vary based upon your own rooting interests, but here’s a look at our picks for the top five games.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 22 Texas
Time/TV: Saturday, noon ET, Fox
Why watch: There’s no disputing this one as the headliner of the week as far as pedigreed programs are concerned. The Crimson Tide play a true non-conference road game against a power-five opponent, which hasn’t happened since a trip to Penn State in 2011. This will become a conference contest in the not-too-distant future, of course, so the Alabama coaching staff will embrace this opportunity to become acquainted with the environs in Austin. The Longhorns have bigger notions, however, as they try to produce the first seismic event of the 2022 campaign. Tide QB Bryce Young’s bid for a repeat run to the Heisman got off to a solid start as he accounted for six touchdowns against Utah State. DE Barryn Sorrell and his line mates up front must generate pressure for the Longhorns to have any hope of slowing Young down. The Texas debut of Quinn Ewers against Louisiana-Monroe was also mainly successful, though he was picked off once. He’s going to need ground support from RB Bijan Robinson to keep the chains moving.
Why it could disappoint: The best ‘Bama teams of recent vintage were able to bury even quality opponents quickly. It is the defensive side of the ball where the real mismatch could present itself. Alabama will likely not post a second shutout, but LB Will Anderson and Co. will make it difficult for the Longhorns to keep pace if the Tide can build any kind of a lead.
STAFF PICKS:Bold predictions, Top 25 game picks led by Alabama-Texas
BIG WINS:The five times Texas has beaten No. 1 ahead of Alabama visit
BOWL PROJECTIONS:Georgia grabs No. 1 seed in College Football Playoff
No. 20 Kentucky at No. 19 Florida
Time/TV: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Why watch: Nothing like jumping right into conference play. This is a huge one in the SEC East, with the winner likely to emerge as the perceived primary challenger to Georgia in the division. (Yes, we know, Tennessee fans – we’ll get to you shortly). The Gators had to work until the final minute to prevail against Utah last week, while the Wildcats had a much easier tune-up against Miami (Ohio). Florida fans were eager to see QB Anthony Richardson in action, and he didn’t disappoint with 274 yards of total offense and three rushing TDs against the Utes. He figures to be monitored closely by veteran Wildcats’ LB DeAndre Square. Kentucky QB Will Levis picked up where he left off last season with three TD throws in the opener against the RedHawks, though the RB situation remains uncertain with all-conference performer Chris Rodriguez still suspended and Ramon Jefferson out with a knee injury.
Why it could disappoint: It shouldn’t, though it’s possible the defenses will control matters and keep the flashy plays to a minimum. The personnel issues in the Wildcats’ backfield might leave them ill-equipped to exploit the Gators’ front that surrendered nearly six yards a carry against the potent Utah ground attack.
No. 8 Baylor at No. 25 Brigham Young
Time/TV: Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Why watch: This clash of future Big 12 opponents should be worth staying up late. These teams are more than capable of trading scores well into the Provo night. Baylor is the first of the Big 12 favorites to face a significant road test. The Cougars, happy to be back home after last week’s long trip to South Florida, look to avenge last season’s loss in Waco and earn a huge resume boost in their quest for a major bowl. BYU QB Jaren Hall has numerous dynamic weapons in his arsenal, notably versatile WR Puka Nacua. The Bears will counter with QB Blake Shapen, who was nearly flawless in a tune-up against Albany but will now face a more athletic and experienced Cougars’ back seven featuring LBs Max Tooley and Payton Wilgar.
Why it could disappoint: An effective pass rush figures to be the path to building an insurmountable lead. Baylor might be the better candidate to pull that off, with DE Gabe Hall and LB Matt Jones leading a deep rotation up front.
Tennessee at No. 14 Pittsburgh
Time/TV: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Why watch: The reigning ACC champion Panthers look to snag a second Power Five non-league victory of the young season in this rematch with the upstart Volunteers, who are hoping to make noise in an increasingly crowded SEC East. Pittsburgh prevailed by a touchdown last year in Knoxville, but Tennessee brings a more experienced group into the return visit to Pitt Stadium. New Panthers QB Kedon Slovis endeared himself to Pitt fans forever by engineering the Thursday night ‘Backyard Brawl’ victory against West Virginia in his first home start, spreading the ball efficiently among seven receivers. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker was able to do as he pleased last week against Ball State, and his prior experience should have him well prepared for this season’s first road trip.
Why it could disappoint: It isn’t likely to, but the Panthers might find it hard to get ramped up for a second consecutive week, even with a couple of extra days between games.
No. 12 Southern California at Stanford
Time/TV: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Why watch: The Lincoln Riley era at USC got off to a solid start against outmatched Rice, but things get more serious for the Trojans this week as they jump into Pac-12 play on the road. The Cardinal are a few years removed from competing for the conference crown but can still make life difficult for the contenders – just ask last year’s Oregon squad. Trojans QB Caleb Williams threw two TD passes and just three incompletions against the Owls. He also flashed the running ability he displayed at Oklahoma, but he’ll want to steer clear of Stanford LB Levani Damuni if he decides to take off here. Cardinal QB Tanner McKee and RB E.J. Smith could find real estate against the USC defense that scored three times on interceptions but surrendered 280 yards a week ago – with most of those coming in the first half when the game was close.
Why it could disappoint: If the Cardinal defense doesn’t get its share of stops, Stanford will have trouble matching scores in a track meet. It’s also possible but less likely that USC, while more than capable of mounting a comeback, could experience a cascade of miscues in its first test under new management in hostile environs.