After Further Review Week 2: Texas A&M has some serious problems
There are so many games over the course of a college football weekend that some slip through the cracks and others require further examination the next day. Before we turn the page to Week 3, here’s a closer look at some of the most interesting outcomes of Week 2.
Appalachian State 17, Texas A&M 14
Texas A&M’s passing offense has gotten worse over the course of Jimbo Fisher’s tenure.
The struggles of A&M’s aerial attack were on full display in the Aggies’ 17-14 loss to Appalachian State on Saturday. Haynes King completed 13 of his 20 pass attempts for a measly 97 yards as A&M struggled to move the ball in its limited opportunities.
King opened the 2021 season as A&M’s starter but was sidelined for the year with an ankle injury. He beat out LSU transfer Max Johnson for the starting job in 2022 and his performance on Saturday surely made a lot of Aggies fans wonder if Johnson is a better option.
But what if King is simply a product of his environment? Texas A&M’s success under Fisher has not been because of its passing offense and it’s worth wondering if there needs to be fundamental change to the offensive structure in College Station.
The Aggies have thrown for fewer yards per game in each of Fisher’s four full seasons with the team. After Kellen Mond threw for 253 yards per game in 2018, A&M’s passing averages have declined to 235 yards per game in 2019, 234 in 2020 and 209 in 2021.
Florida State threw for more than 253 yards per game in six of Fisher’s eight seasons with the school and the Seminoles averaged over 300 yards passing per game in Jameis Winston’s two seasons as a starter. FSU’s passing offense was a big reason for the team’s success under Fisher in the 2010s and that success simply hasn’t been seen in College Station. Does Fisher’s system need to evolve? Does he need to find and develop a great quarterback? Is the answer a little bit of both?
Alabama and Nick Saban quickly realized in the 2010s that it was becoming untenable to win national championships without throwing the ball more with a great quarterback with NFL potential. After Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron and Jake Coker won national titles with the Tide, title-winning quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones were early picks in the NFL draft and are currently starters on Sundays.
If A&M is going to consistently challenge Alabama in the West, it will have to come to the same realization. After all, it’s no coincidence that A&M’s standard of SEC success was set by a Heisman-winning season from Johnny Manziel.
Marshall 26, Notre Dame 21
Entering the season, it was obvious that Notre Dame lacked weapons on offense. Breaking in a new quarterback is one thing, but doing it without much talent on the outside was going to be a big challenge to overcome for the Irish. At the same time, the offensive line was considered a major strength that, coupled with a strong defense, would lead the Irish to plenty of wins in Marcus Freeman’s first season as head coach.
That’s what made Notre Dame’s complete inability to run the ball in Saturday’s shocking home loss to Marshall so surprising. With such an experienced and talented line, the Irish are supposed to be able to push people around up front — especially a program like Marshall. Instead, the Irish rushed for only 130 yards on 37 carries while Marshall's Khalan Laborn went for 163 yards on 31 attempts.
Tyler Buchner, that aforementioned new starting QB, actually led the team with 44 rushing yards. Beyond the lack of skill at receiver, the Irish don’t seem to have a true No. 1 running back either. Audric Estime has only 54 yards on 19 carries through two games. Chris Tyree showed some flashes earlier in his career but the coaches don’t seem to trust him to be more than a change of pace back. Logan Diggs, meanwhile, has gained only 16 yards on 11 tries.
This has put a ton on Buchner’s shoulders in his first year as the team’s starter. Thus far, it has not been a winning formula with the Irish off to a surprising 0-2 start.
USC 41, Stanford 28
USC is up to No. 7 in the AP poll after an easy win over Stanford. But the Trojans' convincing wins may be fool’s gold at the moment.
USC’s offense has been fantastic so far. Let’s get that out of the way first. Caleb Williams was phenomenal against the Cardinal and Jordan Addison and Mario Williams form one of the best receiving duos in college football. USC will likely be one of the highest-scoring teams in college football in 2022.
But there are a lot of similarities between this USC team and Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma teams when it comes to the disparity between offense and defense. And this is a Trojan defense that can’t count on key turnovers all season.
A week after recording three pick-sixes, USC forced four turnovers against Stanford on Saturday night. Tanner McKee threw two interceptions while running back E.J. Smith fumbled twice.
McKee threw picks on Stanford’s first two drives of the game as USC turned each of them into touchdowns. The second interception came on a fourth and goal at the USC 2 at the end of a 73-yard drive.
Two possessions later, Stanford marched 73 yards again before Smith fumbled at the USC 2 and Mekhi Blackmon — the same player who had McKee’s second interception — came up with the ball.
You probably don’t need us to tell you that USC can’t count on its opponents turning the ball over near the end zone all season long, but we’re going to tell you that anyway. The Cardinal had over 400 yards of offense against the Trojans despite an offensive line that is still in the middle of an overhaul.
With a visit from Fresno State and experienced QB Jake Haener looming in Week 3, USC can’t expect a bunch of turnovers next week or even overlook the Bulldogs. Haener and Fresno State had one of the bigger upsets of the first quarter of the 2021 season with a win at UCLA. If USC’s defense doesn’t step up and the USC offense turns it over a couple of times, Fresno State could prove to be a far tougher opponent than either Rice or Stanford.
BYU 26, Baylor 20 (OT)
In the offseason, the biggest question mark surrounding Baylor entering the 2022 season seemed to be finding replacements for so many key players on defense. That may have overshadowed what BU lost on offense.
Last year, Baylor could rely on Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner at running back and Tyquan Thornton and R.J. Sneed at receiver. Going into a hostile road environment in Provo, the lack of proven commodities at those positions was very apparent — especially in the passing game. It didn’t seem like there was a single receiver who could consistently get open against the BYU secondary and new starting QB Blake Shapen had a rough night.
With the passing game struggling, the coaches kept dialing up running plays without much success, especially late in the fourth quarter and in overtime. The Bears rushed for 152 yards on a whopping 52 attempts in the loss. That’s less than three yards per try.
BYU is a really good team and Provo is a tough place to play, but Dave Aranda has some problems to sort through before Baylor gets into Big 12 play.
Iowa State 10, Iowa 7
Remember in the offseason when Kirk Ferentz claimed that Iowa’s offense would look different in 2022? Well, it does look a bit different. It’s somehow even worse than last season. Ferentz’s big adjustment was to install his son, Brian Ferentz, as quarterbacks coach in addition to his duties as offensive coordinator. Through two games, it’s gone miserably.
Spencer Petras, now in his third year as the starting QB, is 23-of-51 for 201 yards and two interceptions. That’s a completion percentage of 45.1 and 3.9 yards per attempt. The running game has gained a measly 115 yards on 61 attempts (1.9 avg).
The result of that is a 7-3 win over South Dakota State that featured two safeties and a field goal and a 10-7 loss to Iowa State in which the Hawkeyes gained a total of 150 yards.
Iowa fans have to hope this is rock bottom for this offense.
Virginia Tech 27, Boston College 10: Boston College cannot block. The Eagles have allowed nine sacks in two games — losses to Rutgers and Virginia Tech. BC blew a late lead in the home loss to Rutgers and then got dominated on the road by a VT team coming off a loss to Old Dominion. In that defeat, BC had 155 yards of offense. Only four of those yards came on the ground. Things are not going well in Jeff Hafley’s third season.
Oregon State 35, Fresno State 32: Shoutout to Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith for going for the win on the road. Down 32-29 in the final seconds of OSU’s game at Fresno State, Smith had a decision to make with his team just two yards from the end zone. Should he keep the offense on the field and go for the win, or should he try to send the game to overtime with a chip-shot field goal? At first he sent the special teams unit out there, but changed his mind after a Fresno timeout. It paid off as Jack Colletto plunged in for the game-winning score to improve the Beavers to 2-0 on the year.
OREGON STATE WINS THE GAME ON THE FINAL PLAY OF THE GAME!@BeaverFootball pic.twitter.com/V8YIWqs1SV
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 11, 2022
Kansas 55, West Virginia 42 (OT): WVU looked an improved team in a heartbreaking Week 1 loss to Pitt before falling back to Earth and losing to Kansas in Week 2. Lance Leipold deserves a ton of credit for his early work with the Jayhawks but things are trending in the opposite direction for Neal Brown at WVU. The Mountaineers are now 17-20 overall and 11-17 in Big 12 play during his tenure. The hot seat talks are already percolating and will surely intensify if the Mountaineers can't get things turned around in a hurry. The Sept. 22 trip to Virginia Tech looks like a big one for Brown before WVU dives into Big 12 play.
Middle Tennessee 34, Colorado State 19: Middle Tennessee bounced back nicely from an embarrassing loss to open the season with a 34-19 win over Colorado State. The Blue Raiders lost 44-7 to James Madison a week ago in the Dukes’ first FBS game. While James Madison has been one of the best FCS programs over the last few seasons, MTSU should have put up more of a fight. That score was a big reason why MTSU was a 13.5-point underdog against the Rams, though the Blue Raiders started the game like a massive favorite. MTSU scored the first 34 points of the game before CSU finally scored with 8:41 to go.