Joseph Lisi is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, the Maxwell Football Club and the National Football Foundation. He is the owner of the website: www.goforthe2.com and hosts a weekly college football radio show on SB Nation Radio. He focuses on three college football games in Week 2.
Stanford is 5-2 against USC in the last 7 games and have won those games by 8.8 points per game. The Trojans won in 2013 and 2014 by a total of 6 points or 3.0 points per game.
Stanford was 4-3 in the first seven games of 2016 against opponents with a combined overall record of 57-34 or .626%. In the team’s final six games of the year, the Cardinal won six straight games against opponents with a combined overall record of 27-46 or .369%. Stanford also lost to Washington and Washington State for the first time since 2007.
USC won 10 games in 2016 against teams with a combined overall record of 50-65 or .434%.
Keys to the game
Stanford rushed for 289 yards in their first game against Rice and will be a critical match-up to watch play out in this contest.
The Cardinal were 7-0 in 2016 every time they rushed for over 200 yards and won those games by 17.7 points per game.
USC’s defense held 6 of 13 opponents under 100 yards rushing in 2016 and were 6-0 in those games winning by 24.0 points per game. The Trojans gave up 263 rushing yards to Western Michigan in their 49-31 victory at home last Saturday.
In Stanford’s three losses in 2016, the offense failed to rush for over 100 yards (Washington, Washington State and Colorado).
Stanford only passed for 2 games in 2016 over 200 yards.
It came in the loss at home to Washington State and the win over Oregon. If USC can put pressure on the Cardinal by jumping out early on with Sam Darnold and the passing game, it can force Stanford out of their game plan of running the football.
USC will want to run the football on Saturday as well to create offensive balance and keep the Cardinal from playing pass on every down.
Last year, the Trojans rushed for over 200 yards in six games and were 5-1 in those contests winning by 24.0 points per game. The Trojans rushed for 232 yards last week against Western Michigan.
Bye week benefit or detriment?
Many believe that because Stanford has had an extra week to prepare for this game, this will greatly benefit head coach David Shaw and the team.
While a bye week can be beneficial for a team at the latter end of the season (week 8 and beyond) to allow them time to get “healthy”, it can have the opposite effect in the early part of the year.
There is no pre-season in college football, therefore, the early games provide an opportunity to allow offenses the ability to find continuity on the offensive line along with the quarterback to wide receiver relationship in the passing game. That takes a few games to develop and the fact that the bye week falls right after the team’s trip to Australia, this could hurt the Cardinal offense in this game in terms of timing.
TCU at Arkansas
Rematch of last year’s game in Fort Worth. Arkansas won in overtime 41-38.
TCU won 6 games in 2016 against FBS opponents with a combined overall record of 22-39 or .666%. The Horned Frogs won those games by 22.8 points per game.
TCU lost 7 games in 2016 against FBS opponents with a combined overall record of 60-30. The Horned Frogs lost those games by a total of 13.2 points per game.
Arkansas won 7 games in 2016 against FBS opponents with a combined overall record of 37-40 or .480%. The Razorbacks won those games by a total of 14.0 points per game.
Arkansas lost 6 games in 2016 to FBS opponents with a combined overall record of 52-27 or .658%. The Razorbacks lost those games by 22.6 points per game.
Arkansas offensive line vs. the front seven of TCU
Arkansas rushed for 236 in their week one win over Florida A&M. Since 2016, the Razorbacks are 6-0 when rush for over 200 yards in a game. Arkansas defeated four FBS opponents during that span and won those games by a total of 20.0 points per game.
In 2016, the Razorbacks were breaking in three new starters on the offensive line. They did not have continuity and were not the same offense that averaged 194 rushing yards per game in 2015. The offense rushed for 164 yards per game last season and did not have the same success with the play action passing game with quarterback Austin Allen (25 TDs 15 INTs in 2016).
Conversely, the Horned Frogs allowed 187 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses in 2016 and had one of the worst statistical defenses under head coach Gary Patterson.
Over the past two seasons, the Horned Frogs have not been able to shut down the run and allowed over 60 rushing yards more over the last two seasons (187 in 2016, 182 in 2015), then in 2014 when they gave up 120 rushing yards per game. TCU was 1-5 at home last season and lost those games by 12.2 points per game.
The Razorbacks rushed for 180 yards in last year’s win.
Running backs Chase Hayden and Devah Whaley combined for 180 yards with 2 touchdowns last week and should be main contributors this week.
TCU passing offense vs. Arkansas secondary
Arkansas struggled last year when opposing offenses challenged them vertically. This is the strength of the TCU offense entering this game and will be the match-up that you want to see play out in this contest.
The Razorbacks allowed 221 passing yards per game last year and gave up 377 passing yards to TCU in last year’s game. In the Razorbacks last three games of 2016, the defense allowed 839 passing yards (279.6 yards per game) with 5 touchdowns and one interception.
TCU passed for 300 yards with 6 touchdowns in their 63-0 win over Jackson State.
Third down conversions will be critical in this ball game to see what team can dictate the tempo. Because of the contrast in styles (Arkansas run, TCU pass) the team that can establish momentum early on should win this game.
TCU running back Darius Anderson carried for 67 yards last week and could be utilized in the short to intermediate passing game.
Georgia at Notre Dame
Rematch of the 1980 National Championship game.
Georgia will be starting backup quarterback Jacob Fromm in this game.
Georgia won 8 games in 2016 against FBS opponents with a combined overall record of 45-45 or .500%. The Bulldogs won those games by 7.8 points per game.
Georgia lost 5 games in 2016 against FBS opponents with a combined overall record of 38-26 or ,593. The Bulldogs lost those games by 10.0 points per game.
Notre Dame lost 8 games in 2016 by a total of 50 points or 6.2 points per game.
Georgia’s rushing offense against Notre Dame’s front seven
The Bulldogs will want to run the football early on to establish the line of scrimmage and take the pressure of Jake Fromm in this game. Fromm played last week after starting quarterback Jacob Eason was injured and completed 10 of 15 passes for 143 yards with one touchdown.
Running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are a dynamic one-two punch for the Bulldogs and create mismatch problems for a slower Notre Dame defense on the perimeter. Georgia rushed for 221 yards on the ground last week with Chubb leading the way with 96 yards and two scores. Michel added 87 rushing yards with one touchdown as well.
Michel is an excellent pass catcher and can be utilized in pass formations to create mismatches for Notre Dame. Michel has run the “Wildcat” formation in red zone opportunities which allows Georgia an extra blocker at the point of attack.
If Georgia has success running the football, look for Fromm to attack off of play action including the tight ends into the offense. Last week, Jeb Balzevich and Isaac Nauta caught 3 passes and showed the ability to run solid routes in the passing game.
Georgia struggled with their third down opportunities last week converting 5 of 14 or 35%. Playing on the road with a new quarterback, the Bulldogs must be able to stay in manageable third down situations to keep the pressure off of their offensive line.
Notre Dame allowed 180 rushing yards per game last season and consistently wore down against more physical teams at the point of attack.
Last week, the Fighting Irish played a blue-collar team in Temple that challenged them on the interior line.
Notre Dame allowed only 85 rushing yards in that game, however, Temple did lose starting quarterback Phillip Walker along with leading rusher Jahad Thomas and starting offensive lineman Dion Dawkins to the NFL. That accounted for 97% of the rushing production from last season.
Notre defeated Temple 49-16 and will be challenged by SEC speed on the perimeter in this game.
Notre Dame passing offense vs. Georgia secondary
Last year, Georgia allowed 183 passing yards to opposing offenses and held a very good Appalachian State offense in check last week in Athens.
Georgia held Appalachian State to 7 of 18 on third downs and that will be critical for the defense going up against Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
Wimbush completed 17 of 30 passes for 184 yards with 2 touchdowns and one interception last week. Wimbush also showed mobility outside the pocket rushing for 106 yards with one touchdown on 12 carries.
He will need to challenge a veteran Bulldogs secondary that allowed 183 passing yards per game last year and held the Mountaineers to 148 passing yards in their win.
Georgia allowed 136 rushing yards on the ground last week and must be able to force Wimbush into long third downs to give their front seven an opportunity to create pressure.
Notre Dame allowed 2 sacks as an offensive line unit last week and will face a very quick and physical group with the Bulldogs from seven.
A bright spot for the Notre Dame defense was the fact that they recorded 3 sacks last week against Temple. Last year, the Fighting Irish recorded 14 total sacks which ranked 118th nationally out of 128 teams in FBS.
Georgia recorded 2 sacks last week and last season had 29 as a defensive unit. More importantly, was the fact that the unit recorded 23 of the 29 in the last 8 games of the season which shows progression and an understanding of the defensive scheme.