On its face, week two of college football seemed like an unsurprising affair, but some of the results of this past weekend could have some major ramifications down the line. Here are the winners and losers for week two of college football:
Winner: Mack Brown
Mack Brown is only two games into his return to coaching, and he already has his men playing some inspired football. For the second straight week, North Carolina found itself down in the fourth quarter, this time to Miami (FL), but the Tar Heels (2-0) remained calm and collected on the ensuing drive, converting a fourth and 17 to eventually score with a minute left. Already, Carolina has won more games this year than it did all of last season. If Mack Brown and his team can keep this going, perhaps they can make some noise in the ACC’s relatively weak Coastal Division. It isn’t all roses for the Tar Heels; they’ve got No. 1 Clemson on their schedule, and No. 25 Virginia looks tough this year, but the change in leadership seems to be paying dividends thus far down in Chapel Hill.
No. 7 Michigan barely pulled out a win at home against Army last Saturday, but they did not look good doing it. Army dictated the terms of the game, relentlessly running the ball and eating clock. Michigan’s main problems, though, came on offense, and many of these problems were self-inflicted. The Wolverines’ ball security issues from last week did not go away against the Black Knights (1-1), as the team fumbled the ball four times, losing three of them. These turnovers proved to be very costly, giving Army a short field or robbing Michigan (2-0) of a red-zone opportunity. This win will look good on Michigan’s résumé, since Army itself is a strong team, but there should be a lot of concern in Ann Arbor over how sloppy and ineffectual this team looks. Should the Wolverines play like this against Ohio State, then Michigan will be heading for another disappointing season. And let’s be honest, how many more disappointing seasons can Jim Harbaugh afford to have at this point?
Winner: Jeff Monken’s analytics
Anybody watching the broadcast of that Army-Michigan game heard Fox Sports’ Joel Klatt mention Army head coach Jeff Monken’s analytics at least 500 times. There was a reason for that, though, and that’s because they were working very well. Instead of relying on his gut or his football sense to determine when to go for it on fourth down, Monken relied on numbers and percentages based on distance and field position. The result? Army was 3-for-3 converting on fourth down in the contest. Monken’s approach to the game might be a bit too unconventional for the old-schoolers out there, but it did bring Army football back from the dead, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a struggling power-five program tried to court his services in the near future.
Loser: The Pac-12
None of the Pac-12 football teams played in any games that grabbed national attention last week, but there were some late-night results on Saturday within the Pac-12 that could have College Football Playoff ramifications, and not in a way the Pac-12 will be happy about. Two results specifically stand out: USC’s home thrashing of No. 23 Stanford and No. 14 Washington’s home defeat to Cal. The two losers of these games are perennial contenders for the Pac-12 title and a playoff spot, so to have these two teams damaged this early in the season is a major blow to the conference’s playoff hopes, especially when coupled with No. 16 Oregon’s collapse in week one. All three of these teams will likely have to run the table to have a chance of qualifying, and they all still have to go through other tough, in-conference opponents, including each other. If none of them can escape unscathed, then who is the Pac-12’s best hope of making the playoff? Utah? Please. The Pac-12 has had a tendency over the past few years to produce several good teams, but no great teams — teams that beat up on each other and render all of them a tier or two below playoff contention. Based on the results so far, there is no indication that this season will play out any differently.
Honorable Mention: Coastal Carolina
In its third year in the FBS, Coastal Carolina finally has its first victory over a power-five program! Yes, that victory came against the very worst power-five program there is (Kansas), but it is still an achievement worth celebrating. And celebrate the Chanticleers did, by whacking a Jayhawks piñata to smithereens in the postgame locker room. Of all the postgame celebrations I’ve seen in my life as a sports fan, that ranks near the top of the list. As for Kansas, basketball season is almost here, I promise.