College football delivered another thrilling wild ride in Week 2 on Saturday with two top 10 teams suffering upsets and plenty of other ranked programs going down to the wire against lower-rated opponents. No. 3 Ohio State fell at home for the first time since 2017 to launch No. 12 Oregon (and shockingly, the Pac-12) into the College Football Playoff conversation. Across the Midwest, the battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy emerged with a dominating victory.
While Week 2 didn't have the same number of major upsets as the first week of the season, the ones that happened will have reverberations across the sport. And with so many of the top teams facing struggles -- even in wins -- the sport could have more parity than there has been in several seasons.
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Here are winners, losers and overreactions from an earth-shattering Week 2 of the 2021 college football season.
Oregon: Despite being ranked 12th, Oregon entered its matchup against No. 3 Ohio State as massive 15-point underdogs. Once top defenders Kayvon Thibodeaux and Justin Flowe were ruled out, the odds seemed even slimmer. And yet, it was Oregon coming out of the gates and absolutely taking it to the class of the Big Ten from the first snap in a 35-28 victory. Suddenly, struggles against Fresno State feel a lifetime away. The victory puts Oregon right back in the College Football Playoff conversation. Perhaps just as significantly, it gives the Pac-12 a pair of national contenders to build its credibility as the Ducks join UCLA a week after the Bruins beat LSU.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes entered the 2021 season at No. 18 in the AP Top 25. Two weeks into the season, they have perhaps the most impressive resume on the board. The Hawkeyes have wins over back-to-back ranked opponents to start the season for the first time since 1960 after beating No. 17 Indiana and No. 9 Iowa State. No. 10 Iowa crushed the Cyclones 27-17 despite finishing with fewer than 200 offensive yards. If Kirk Ferentz can find a little more juice on offense against some softer defenses, this could be a real Big Ten contender -- if not more.
The #HardRockCat: Some quick-thinking fans at the Miami vs. Appalachian State game saved a cat from having to use one of its nine lives. What appeared to be a stray cat suddenly dangled inside the stadium at Hard Rock Stadium. Craig and Kimberley Cromer – a pair of season ticket holders – grabbed a flag they always hang from the second level and used it to break the cat's fall. No description can really do the bizarre situation justice.
. @CanesFootball fans are live savers! Literally! And @canesvoice can give play by play to just about anything.— VICTOR BERMUDEZ (@vicbermudez) September 11, 2021
Thankfully, the cat bounced harmlessly off the outstretched flag and survived to tell the tale. Only in college football, folks. Only in college football.
Florida QB Anthony Richardson: Richardson was responsible for just seven total plays in No. 13 Florida's 42-20 win over USF. All he did was threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns, rush for 115 yards and a touchdown and shockingly out-gain incumbent starter Emory Jones (35 plays) in both categories. Florida coach Dan Mullen said after the game that he was sticking with Jones as starting quarterback for the Gators against No. 1 Alabama next week. But if things get sticky early, Richardson has proven he deserves his shot.
Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong: Don't know the name? Learn it. The Virginia junior has been a revelation through two games, completing 71.6% of his passes for 734 yards and seven touchdowns. Against Illinois on Saturday, he threw for a program record 405 yards and five touchdowns in an easy 42-14 Cavaliers victory over a Big Ten squad. Armstrong has tougher games on the schedule, but he looks like an early breakout candidate.
What a day for Brennan Armstrong 😤 @UVAFootball— ACC Network (@accnetwork) September 11, 2021
🔹 405 Pass Yds
🔹 5 Pass TDs pic.twitter.com/MEBu2b4iQ0
Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs: It has to be said, Ohio State's defense is playing with injuries. But every time Oregon presented the Buckeyes a unique situation, Coombs' defense was woefully unprepared to stop it. Oregon running back CJ Verdell rushed for 161 yards and posted 34 yards receiving with three touchdowns in a monster effort that Coombs could do nothing about. Quarterback Anthony Brown diced up Ohio State's coverage for 236 yards and two touchdowns, especially when they went into man coverage near the goal line. Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is a great play caller, but the Buckeyes defense is officially a problem.
Texas: If this is a preview of the Longhorns' entrance to the SEC, Texas might want to reconsider. Against an Arkansas team picked sixth in the SEC West – and which struggled mightily against Rice a week ago – Texas was totally outclassed. Arkansas rushed for 333 yards and four touchdowns in a 40-21 victory over the Longhorns. Quarterback Hudson Card was benched after just 15 pass attempts. It was a total butt-kicking for a team that thought it might be able to push for national contention. Unfortunately, beating a Sun Belt team in Week 1 was just that: beating a Sun Belt team.
Florida State's prevent defense: The last play of Jacksonville State's 20-17 upset victory over Florida State has to be seen to be believed. The Seminoles led 17-14 with just six seconds left in the game when JSU quarterback Zerrick Cooper connected with Damond Philyaw-Johnson for a 59-yard Hail Mary, who scored the game-winner after the clock ran out.
JACKSONVILLE STATE WALK-OFF TOUCHDOWN! #SCtop10 pic.twitter.com/MTxkuRJgp2— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 12, 2021
At first glance, it like a strange case of miscommunication and poor tackling in Florida State's loss, the program's first ever FCS failure. Unfortunately, it gets even worse. After the game, Norvell revealed he called a two-deep man under to try and get pressure on the quarterback instead of going into a prevent defense with four deep because he was worried about the fact there were six seconds left and JSU had a timeout. Of course, six seconds isn't enough for a Hail Mary to develop, connect and then call a timeout. Norvell's nonsensical explanation was just the cherry on top of the worst loss in program history.
Colorado: The Buffaloes had one of the weirder 2020 seasons with a 4-1 record that no one knew quite how to evaluate. But in their first game against an FBS opponent in 2021, Colorado had a chance to make a national statement against No. 5 Texas A&M – and blew it in a 10-7 loss. The Aggies were held to just three points through the first 57 minutes of game time, but Colorado gave up a lengthy touchdown drive that cost them the game largely because of conservative play on offense. Granted, backup Aggies quarterback Zach Calzada looked completely lost after getting thrust into the game because of a Haynes King injury. This was not the best version of Texas A&M that will play this season. When you beat a top-five team, that doesn't matter. There's still plenty to be excited about with this Colorado team, but there isn't a statement quite like this anywhere on the schedule.
Miami coach Manny Diaz: No. 22 Miami escaped with its first win of the year in a 25-23 victory vs. Appalachian State, but it doesn't especially matter. Heading into Diaz's third season as coach of the Hurricanes, it's painfully obvious that this team isn't anywhere close to competing. Miami quarterback D'Eriq King did everything he could with 279 yards of total offense, but averaging 4.9 yards per play against a Sun Belt opponent won't cut it. Defensively, the Hurricanes allowed scoring drives of 11 and eight plays in the second half to let the Mountaineers take control of the game. With Michigan State and a feisty Virginia squad on the schedule between now and the end of the month, Diaz doesn't have much time to turn it around. Miami needed this win to be easy.
Quarterback changes could be coming
In addition to Richardson at Florida, impressive performances from a handful of backup quarterbacks could change the landscape. While Notre Dame's Jack Coan came in and threw a game-clinching touchdown pass in the Irish's 32-29 victory vs. Toledo, backup Tyler Buchner completed all three of his passes for 78 yards and a touchdown and added another 68 yards on the ground. The offense at Texas ran more smoothly after experienced backup Casey Thompson entered the game for starter Hudson Card. Even Iowa State backup Hunter Dekkers settled the offense down and threw a touchdown pass in the Cy-Hawk rivalry. With so many new quarterbacks around the country, a number of competitions could quickly open back up.
The CFP race is wide open
There are four teams that have combined for 20 of the 28 possible College Football Playoff appearances since the format started in 2014: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma. Amazingly, two of the four already have losses through Week 2. When the AP Top 25 comes out Sunday, Alabama at No. 1 and Georgia at No. 2 are the only no-brainers. Cincinnati was tied with Murray State at halftime before winning 42-7. No. 9 Iowa State lost. No. 4 Oklahoma looked shaky against Tulane in Week 1. Outside of Alabama, there haven't been other unbeatable superpowers through the first two weeks. Could this be the year we finally get a truly wacky top four? If this is how the season is starting, maybe.
Texas A&M's issues are deeper than QB
Calzada's poor play is a big part of why Texas A&M went down to the wire with Colorado, but that isn't the only reason. The Aggies' offensive line didn't look special against a Buffaloes defense that shouldn't have been close. Texas A&M averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and outstanding running back Isaiah Spiller was held to just 20 rushing yards. Of course, facing stacked boxes because of an inability to stretch the field is part of the issue, but this was a top-five offensive line unit in America last season before graduating four starters. Texas A&M's all-world defensive front ultimately scratched and clawed to hand the Aggies a win, but there's a lot of growing up to do in College Station, Texas, and not much time to do it. After a respite against New Mexico, Texas A&M gets Arkansas, Mississippi State and Alabama in consecutive weeks.