Week Two Lowe Down: Will the road be friendly?

Matt Lowe

September 08, 2017 at 2:05 pm.

The return of Kam Pettway should be a big boost to Auburn's offense. Photo Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The return of Kam Pettway should be a big boost to Auburn’s offense. Photo Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Week Two of The Lowe Down.

Regardless if you were on the edge or not about your team a week ago, I don’t know about you, but I thought Week One of the college football season was extremely entertaining.

Not only did we see a few upsets (South Carolina, Maryland, Howard, Liberty come to mind), but we also saw a couple of teams catch the choke-a-litis bug (uh, um, Texas A&M and Georgia Tech (cough)) and an old-reliable (Alabama) dominate yet again. Now the Aggies choke job was one of epic proportions, and if I was the school’s athletic director I probably would’ve thought long and hard about relieving Kevin Sumlin of his command on the spot. But at the same time, you have to tip your hat to a UCLA team that never quit.

This week, there are a number of big-time matchups with major national implications on the line. And the road team has a great shot in every one of ’em.

Clemson and Auburn hook up for Round 2 in Death Valley. Ohio State and Oklahom collide for Round 2 in Columbus. Georgia and Notre Dame clash for the first time since the two played for the 1980 national title. And USC and Stanford battle in a critical Pac-12 showdown. Problem is, all these great games start at or around THE SAME TIME. C’mon man! What’s up with that?

After a strong start, and well, you know, the late-game collapses by a few of my predicted winners, last week’s record rounded out to 16-7. To the games we go…

Friday, September 8

No. 11 Oklahoma State (1-0) at South Alabama (0-1) 7:00 p.m. CT
The last time Oklahoma State ventured into Alabama to play on a week night, it got smoked by Troy, 41-23, in front of a nationally televised audience in 2007. Now will that happen this year? Doubt it, but South Alabama is a capable team offensively and stranger things have happened (uh um, Howard became the first 45-point underdog in history to win outright last week when it stunned UNLV). That said, don’t expect an upset here, but do expect a LOT of points. OSU’s offense, which is highly skilled and experienced, already looks like it’s in mid-season form and the Jags don’t have the horses on D to keep up.

The Lowe Down: Oklahoma State 59, South Alabama 23

Saturday, September 9

No. 17 Louisville (1-0) at North Carolina (0-1) 11:00 a.m. CT
Louisville trailed Purdue 14-10 at the half last week, but a key third quarter 61-yard pick-six by Stacy Thomas, a big 20-yard fourth-quarter TD pass from Heisman winner Lamar Jackson to Dez Fitzpatrick and Blanton Creque’s third field goal of the night kept the Cardinals from the jaws of defeat. Jackson, much like he was all of last season, was a one-man wrecking crew for Louisville offensively. The junior accounted for 485 yards (378 passing, 107 rushing) of the Cardinals’ 524 total yards and fired two touchdown passes. But if Louisville wants to remain among the ACC’s elite teams, it will need to clean up the penalties and turnovers (two fumbles at the goal line) that almost wound up costing Bobby Petrino’s team the game a week ago to avoid an upset against an always offensive-minded North Carolina squad, which is coming off a disappointing loss to Cal.

The Lowe Down: Louisville 37, North Carolina 28

No. 13 Auburn (1-0) at No. 3 Clemson (1-0) 6:00 p.m. CT
You’ll be hard-pressed to find many teams around the country with the combined offensive and defensive line talent that Auburn and Clemson possess — which is always critical to a championship run — but this game more than likely will come down to quarterback play, being able to run/stop the run, turnovers and the kicking game (sounds cliché right?). Both teams are breaking in new starting quarterbacks. Clemson rolled out dynamic dual-threat Kelly Bryant in its 56-3 win over Kent State a week ago and Auburn unveiled Jarrett Stidham in a 41-7 win over Georgia Southern. Bryant, an electrifying runner, has never played in a game of this magnitude, nor has he seen a defense like he’s about to see. Stidham, on the other hand, has been in a similar environment. He started at Kansas State and against a highly-ranked Oklahoma team before a season-ending ankle injury cost him his true freshman season at Baylor. Stidham looked rusty in his first start for the (Lee County) Tigers, but he settled in as the game progressed. Auburn’s offensive line had some protection breakdowns last week against Georgia Southern and if that happens this weekend Stidham will pay for it. But the return of bruising tailback Kam Pettway — aka “Bubba” — should ease the pressure off AU’s new QB. Pettway’s presence could also open up opportunities in the passing attack if he can churn out big chunks of yardage on the ground. This should be a great game, but I think Auburn has the edge at quarterback, running back and kicker, which will sway the outcome to the visitors liking.

The Lowe Down: Auburn 26, Clemson 23

No. 5 Oklahoma (1-0) at No. 2 Ohio State (1-0) 6:30 p.m. CT
In one corner stands Oklahoma’s offensive line, ranked by Lindy’s as the best in America. In the other corner stands Ohio State’s defensive line, ranked by Lindy’s as the best in America. On Saturday night, something will have to give. Last week, Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow torched the Ohio State secondary for 410 yards and three touchdowns — with two interceptions — despite being under steady pressure from the Buckeyes deep front wall for the majority of the game. This week, Baker Mayfield takes aim at the Buckeyes’ defensive backfield armed with the best O-line in college football protecting him. Sure, Oklahoma lost a ton on offense off last year’s team (just a cool 4,500 yards and 47 TDs), especially at running back, but wideouts Jeffrey Mead and Jeff Badet and tight end Mark Andrews are all capable of making plays in the passing game. And the next wave of Sooner tailbacks, which includes Abdul Adams, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry in spot duty last season, Marcelias Sutton, a junior college transfer, and true freshman Trey Sermon, a physical bruiser, could morph into a lethal backfield trio for the Sooners starting Saturday night. But a big key to the game will be protecting Mayfield. If that happens, the OU offense should be able to move the ball. But the million dollar question in this game is: Can the Sooner defense — which consists of a number of new faces along the defensive front and will be without starting cornerback Jordan Parker (out for year with knee injury) — come of age and stop Ohio State’s potent running attack, which now features a good-looking rookie tailback J.K. Dobbins, who has blazing speed, and veteran Mike Weber, the team’s leading rusher from a year ago, and the always potent J.T. Barrett at QB? If the Sooners can slow the home team’s ground game, then they could exact some revenge for last year’s beat-down in Norman.

The Lowe Down: Ohio State 36, Oklahoma 33

No. 15 Georgia (1-0) at No. 24 Notre Dame (1-0) 6:30 p.m. CT
The last time Georgia and Notre Dame played, Vince Dooley’s Bulldogs, armed with famed running back Herschel Walker, got the best of Dan Devine’s Irish and won the 1980 national championship. Now I’m not saying this game will hold a candle to the one played 36 years ago on New Year’s Day in New Orleans, but the fan interests is through the roof for this non-conference showdown and the winning team could go on to bigger and better things. A key matchup to watch will be Notre Dame’s offensive line, one of the nation’s best, against Georgia’s rugged — and experienced — front seven. The Irish have two quality tailbacks in Dexter Williams and Josh Adams, who combined for 285 yards and three scores in a win over Temple last week, and quarterback Brandon Wimbush is an electric dual-threat who can make plays with his feet if protection breaks down, so establishing a ground game will be critical to Notre Dame’s offensive success. The same could also be said for Georgia. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel form one of the better one-two tailback punches in America and it will be extremely important for the Bulldogs offense to get those two cranked up early considering Jake Fromm, who looks like the real deal, will be making his first career start on the road. If the Bulldogs can run on the Irish, then they’ll have a good shot at pulling the mild upset.

The Lowe Down: Georgia 24, Notre Dame 20

No. 14 Stanford (1-0) at No. 6 USC (1-0) 7:30 p.m. CT
Don’t sleep on Stanford this year in the Pac-12. Sure, USC is the sexy pick to win the league due to the hype surrounding quarterback Sam Darnold, which is real by the way, but Stanford has won four consecutive games in the series and has the horses on offense and defense to match up with the Trojans. Both teams feature outstanding running backs — USC has Ronald Jones II and Stanford Bryce Love — and of course the Trojans have Darnold, who is expected to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft, but Stanford signal-caller Keller Chryst may be the man on the spot in this game. He’ll need to play a clean game and make sound decisions because the Cardinal should be able to move the ball on the ground. Also, keep an eye on an outstanding matchup on the perimeter when USC wideout Deontay Burnett squares off against the Pac-12’s top cover corner Quenton Meeks. If Meeks can neutralize Burnett that will be a big win for the Cardinal.

The Lowe Down: Stanford 31, USC 28

In other Saturday games:

Florida Atlantic 10 at No. 9 Wisconsin 55

Iowa 28 at Iowa State 20

Fresno State 3 at No. 1 Alabama 48

Pittsburgh 14 at No. 4 Penn State 48

No. 23 TCU 27 at Arkansas 30

South Carolina 52 at Missouri 38 (Upset Special)*****

UAB 29 at Ball State 28

Nebraska 38 at Oregon 42

Hawaii 29 at UCLA 45

Utah 27 at BYU 20

Houston 30 at Arizona 37