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2019 College Football Reaction & Analysis: Week Two

Chip Kelly, UCLA
While we didn't have five straight days of college football like in Week One, the second weekend of the 2019 college football season still brought plenty of fireworks. We saw our first Top 10 battle of the year, even more upsets across the land, and a number of head coaches see their hot seat get even warmer. Here is what I took to be the most important moments of the Saturday, and what I'm looking forward to this upcoming Saturday.

LSU and Their Offense is Legit: Much of the talk surrounding LSU and their offense over the off-season centered around their new commitment to opening things up and passing the ball more. After overcoming a legitimate Playoff contender in Texas, it has become clear that this new offensive strategy is working. Quarterback Joe Burrow was good enough to play his way into the Heisman conversation, shredding a quality Texas secondary to the tune of 471 yards and four touchdowns. He did it by spreading it around to a talented receiver group that includes veteran Justin Jefferson and budding stars Ja'Marr Chase & Terrace Marshall Jr. The question now shifts to whether this unit will be able to continue its current streak. The Tigers' offense had some moments early on in 2018 but struggled in two of their three losses, including not even scoring a point against Alabama. That 'Bama game still awaits in early November, but a number of road blocks before that will give us a clearer picture going forward.

Hot Seat Head Coaches: It was not a great Saturday for second-year head coaches across the college football landscape. This was especially true for a trio who are already feeling their seats get very warm: Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee, Willie Taggart at Florida State and Chip Kelly at UCLA. Pruitt followed up a stunning home loss to Georgia State by surrendering a comfortable lead against road underdog BYU. Taggart followed up the Boise loss by going down to the wire against Louisiana-Monroe, with a missed extra point helping the Seminoles escape. Then there was Kelly, whose UCLA squad lost their second straight to a Group of Five opponent, struggling once again offensively against San Diego State. All three may be able to survive because they are still so early in their tenure but these are proud programs losing to teams they have no business losing to. Pruitt in particular looks to be in hot water, as the Volunteers have been the complete opposite of the dark horse SEC East contender some thought they could be in 2019.

Is Clemson Ever Going to Play a Close Game Again?: A feisty Texas A&M team that lost by just two points in 2018 looked like an extremely difficult early non-conference game for the reigning National Champion Clemson Tigers. That ended up not being the case, as the Tigers won comfortably, 24-10, with a late touchdown by A&M making things appear closer than they actually were. For all the questions Clemson's defense had going into the season, they looked superb in this one, shutting down Kellen Mond, who threw for 430 yards in this matchup last fall. Brent Venables continues to prove time and time again that he is the best D-Coordinator in collegiate football and worth every single penny of his 2 million dollar price tag. Only helping the Tigers is the fact that their toughest competition in the ACC Atlantic, Syracuse, lost by 43 over the weekend.

Don't Overlook USC: No preseason college football hot seat list was complete without the presence of Clay Helton at USC. Helton was coming off the worst season at 'SC in two decades, and a tough schedule with a young roster didn't make the 2019 season look much better. Yet, even after the loss of QB J.T. Daniels for the rest of the season, the Trojans pulled off an upset victory late Saturday over Stanford. It was a very big win for Helton but also a coming out party for true frosh Kedon Slovis, who tossed for 377 yards and three scores in his first USC start. Could an unheralded youngster at QB like Slovis really be the one to save Helton's job? The Trojan defense still needs plenty of work, but there is significant momentum for this team as it begins a brutal late September-early October stretch that includes Utah, Washington and Notre Dame. If things go right, this could still certainly be a team ready to contend for a Pac-12 South Title.

It Isn't Time to Panic at Michigan... Not Yet: Last season, a tough and hard-nosed Army team came agonizingly close to upsetting Kyler Murray and Oklahoma before the Sooners pulled things out late. Oklahoma recovered to win the Big 12 and earn their third Playoff berth, while Murray of course went on to win the Heisman. This Saturday, Michigan got the Army treatment, forced to battle the Knights into overtime to secure a close victory. Naturally, people have jumped on the Wolverines and Jim Harbaugh for such a close win against an inferior opponent at home. Yet, those same people seemed awfully quiet when OU did the same thing last season. Sure, Michigan's new look offense looked extremely underwhelming in the win, but this Army defense is experienced and well-coached. This could end up actually being a resume booster in the long run for Michigan if they're able to learn from it, as Army has proven themselves as a very quality Group of Five foe.

What I'm Watching Next Week

Washington State-Houston (Friday, 8:15 PM CT, ESPN): Sure, Washington State versus Houston probably isn't going to decide the National Championship race but if you're watching for pure entertainment value, this one is well worth it. These two teams have explosive offenses that love to chuck the ball all over the field, and will see Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen square off with his former boss: Mike Leach. It wouldn't be surprising to see 100-plus points in this Friday night duel.
Iowa-Iowa State (3 PM CT, FS1): The Cy-Hawk rivalry is one of the most underrated rivalries in college football, and the arrival of College GameDay will raise the stakes. The Hawkeyes have looked good early, and have now won four straight against ISU. However, the Cyclones' program continues to rise, and Matt Campbell is going to take down the Hawks at some point.
Arizona State-Michigan State (3 PM CT, FOX): An upset over Michigan State was the highlight of Herm Edwards' debut season with the Sun Devils. Can he pull it off once again in 2019, with a true freshman going up against a vaunted MSU defense. Playing in East Lansing should give the Spartans a further advantage.
Clemson-Syracuse (6:30 PM CT, ABC): This matchup become a lot less interesting with Syracuse's 43-point loss on Saturday, but it should still be worth watching. The Orange have been Clemson's toughest threat in the ACC the last two seasons and they play host to the Tigers during their homecoming, which could keep things intriguing.

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