Week 2 Fearless Predictions

USC takes a long road trip and Miami battles Kansas State in Week 2. Check out CFN's prediction for the slate's biggest games.

More from CFN: Week 2 Fearless Predictions | Post-Week 1 power rankings

Miami (FL)
at
No. 21 Kansas State

Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, FX

Here's The Deal: It's the sequel for Miami and Kansas State, who played in a thriller that went down to the final play in South Florida last September. The mini-series now moves to Manhattan, Kan., where the Wildcats will be looking to make it two straight over the ‘Canes. From the looks of it, KSU might have been looking ahead to this week's showdown, struggling mightily with FCS Missouri State before finally pulling away in the final quarter. Overlooked and underrated, the Wildcats revel in opportunities to make a statement against more nationally known opponents.

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Miami was slow out of the gate in its opener, too, but exploded on the road against Boston College, authoring a key 41-32 victory. If the young Hurricanes can make it two straight away from home, it could be the start of minor turnaround for the program under head coach Al Golden.

Why Miami Might Win: The Hurricanes appear as if they might be able to run the ball effectively this season behind a big and physical Brandon Linder-led line. Miami burned Boston College for 208 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, spearheaded by Duke Johnson. The blue-chip true freshman erupted for 135 yards and two touchdowns on only seven carries, showcasing the top-end speed that earned him so many offers.

The Kansas State defense has star power in LB Arthur Brown and CB Nigel Malone, but the total product is a little weak. The ‘Canes should be able to move the ball on a team that showed cracks between the 20s against Missouri State.


Kansas State's hopes rest, as usual, on quarterback Collin Klein.

Why Kansas State Might Win: QB Collin Klein is a difference-maker, the kind of dual-threat who can carry a team on his broad shoulders. A run-first player, he'll batter a suspect Miami defense that got shredded for 441 passing yards by BC's Chase Rettig last week. Klein might be a little more inclined to exercise his right arm this weekend, pointing it in the direction of receivers Tramaine Thompson and Chris Harper.

When Kansas State works between the tackles, Klein will be complemented nicely by big-play RB John Hubert. The junior, who had a career day versus the Hurricanes last year, went for 152 yards on 12 carries in Week 1.

What Will Happen: This is Klein's stage. And he's going to use it to exploit an average Miami defense. The ‘Canes harbor a few quality players, like DE Anthony Chickillo and LB Denzel Perryman, but this is hardly a vintage D. No. 7 will be a one-man gang on Saturday, barreling through the line, while occasionally showcasing an improved throwing motion.

Miami will have success on offense, mostly on the ground, but it won't be enough to erase a persistent gap on the scoreboard. Kansas State will keep its visitor at a consistent arm's length, aided by a couple of critical turnovers from Malone in the secondary.

CFN Prediction: Kansas State 34, Miami 26

No. 2 USC
vs.
Syracuse

(in East Rutherford, N.J.)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Here's The Deal: Matt Barkley will take his first of what could be two trips to the New York metropolitan area as his Trojans visit Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. USC delivered a predictable start to its 2012 campaign, easily disposing of Hawaii and former assistant Norm Chow, 49-10. The Trojans will be making a rare trip to the East Coast, an opportunity to spread its brand to potential recruits in a different quadrant of the map.

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The Orange came out on the losing end of a see-saw battle with Northwestern in the Carrier Dome in Week 1, succumbing in the final minute, 42-41. Beyond just fixing the obvious problems on defense, the staff will need to make sure that its players have their heads on straight following an emotional loss. If Syracuse still has its mind on last week, it'll get run out of the stadium in the first 15 minutes.

Why USC Might Win: The Trojans are going to move the ball on everyone this fall. Syracuse sure doesn't look as if it'll be an exception. The Orange were toothless in the opener, eventually falling to the passing of a backup quarterback, Northwestern's Trevor Siemian.

USC harbors an embarrassment of riches on offense that begins with Barkley and continues with receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, and running backs Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal. Without much of a threat from the Syracuse pass rush, Barkley will spend much of the afternoon padding his Heisman resume.


With offensive weapons like Marqise Lee, the Trojans are in good shape.

Why Syracuse Might Win: If you can't score, you won't have much of a chance of upsetting USC this year. Fortunately for the Orange, its offense is already operating as if its midseason.

As expected, the ground game was quiet, but QB Ryan Nassib more than picked up the slack by going 44-of-65 for 470 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Eight different receivers caught at least three balls, led by the triumphant return from suspension of WR Marcus Sales. If Alec Lemon can make it back from an injury, Syracuse is capable of causing problems through the air for the Trojans defensive backfield.

What Will Happen: Syracuse left a lot of its fight and emotion on the Carrier Dome carpet last Saturday, which is not the way a team wants to head into a game with USC. The Trojans are markedly more talented than the Orange in all facets of the game, but particularly when Barkley is under center. He'll deliver another monster effort through the air, connecting with Lee and Woods on touchdowns. Nassib will go up top at least 50 times, which will also lead to a number of costly turnovers that help put the game out of reach.

CFN Prediction: USC 49, Syracuse 17

No. 24 Florida
at
Texas A&M

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Here's The Deal: After all the shuffling and all the realignment controversy, now it's for real in the SEC. It's game on for Texas A&M and Florida in an interdivisional matchup that carves out a new era for the league and a new identity for an Aggie team stuck in the Texas shadow. A&M is stepping out, stepping up and going from being a good program in a great conference to a new face in the best conference. Because of that, for this week, Texas A&M football becomes the story in college football.

After last week's game against Louisiana Tech was postponed because of Hurricane Isaac, the Aggies are truly starting fresh with no prep time, a new coaching staff, several new players in key spots, and a whole slew of question marks.

Can new Miami Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill be quickly replaced? Will Kevin Sumlin be able to make the prolific Houston offense work in the SEC? Can the Aggies start to win the close games after losing five last year by a combined total of 17 points, including two overtime heartbreakers? And, of course, can a team that couldn't make enough noise in the Big 12 go toe-to-toe with SEC teams on a regular basis?

Meanwhile, even with a game under its belt -- a 27-14 win over Bowling Green -- Florida has just as many issues with a quarterback controversy that might finally be settling down, an offense that failed to get anyone fired after a mediocre performance against a MAC team, and a coaching staff that's starting to come under fire from the fan base. Considered by many to be a top contender for the East title and a sleeper for the national championship, Florida looked anything but that last week and desperately needs a good game with a road trip to Tennessee up next and LSU coming up soon.

Why Florida Might Win: Johnny Manziel, welcome to the SEC. The new Texas A&M starting quarterback has a ton of talent, good upside and excellent mobility, but he's about to deal with a Gator defense that's far better than it looked against Bowling Green. The Gators were never in any real danger, and they didn't allow anything deep, but they let Falcon quarterback Matt Schilz connect on a slew of short-to-midrange passes that didn't go anywhere.

Texas A&M isn't Bowling Green, but Manziel is going into his first game against a defense designed perfectly to disguise coverages and play with his reads. When in doubt, athletic rookie quarterbacks take off instead of forcing a potential mistake, but Manziel won't get much room to move against a smart and sure-tackling Florida linebacking corps.

Why Texas A&M Might Win: The offensive line should be able to hold its own. Flip a coin between LSU and Alabama for who has the SEC's best front five, but A&M might be in the discussion and at the very least earns the No. 2 spot. This isn't a big line full of road-graders who can go smashmouth on the Florida defensive front, but it's a quick and athletic group of veterans who are terrific in pass protection and should be able to get on the move to make a few second-level blocks to spring a few nice running plays.

Manziel is going to need all the time he can get, and the NFL-caliber Aggie tackles -- Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews -- should provide it. Bowling Green wasn't able to generate any running game, but Bowling Green isn't supposed to. The line was able to keep Schilz relatively clean, giving up just one sack, and A&M should have the same success.

What Will Happen: It's not like home-field advantage has helped the Texas A&M cause lately. There wasn't a more super-charged atmosphere last year than the Texas game, and the Aggies lost. A&M lost to Oklahoma State and Missouri at home, too. However, this will be something different. The Florida offense will try to power away with Mike Gillislee, with some success, but Driskel will have a mediocre day against the aggressive Aggie D. Manziel will also struggle a bit, but the Aggie offense will be just effective enough to make Driskel press and throw a few game-changing picks to set the tone for A&M's new life in the new league.

CFN Prediction: Texas A&M 27, Florida 23

Purdue
at
No. 22 Notre Dame

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Here's The Deal: Both teams couldn't have asked for anything more out of the first week. While there wasn't anything shocking, and both teams were expected to win their respective games relatively easily, both performances were still impressive. Now starts the fun for the Irish.

Notre Dame's Big Ten season kicks off against a veteran and dangerous Boilermaker squad, with Michigan State and Michigan to follow, and while this might be the easiest of the three games, there could be a little bit of a problem with jet lag, coming back from Ireland after blasting Navy 50-10. Almost everything worked well for the Irish on the long road trip with the defense holding up well against the dangerous Navy option attack, and the offense getting the job done with an explosive and effective ground game. Purdue is going to bring more offensive balance and a defensive line that should be able to hold up far better than the Midshipmen could.

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Why Purdue Might Win: Notre Dame, welcome to the Purdue defensive front. Defensive line might be Navy's weakest area, with a slew of smallish try-hard types trying to hold up against a good Notre Dame offensive line and running game. Defensive line might be Purdue's biggest strength, with future NFL starter Kawann Short and fellow big body Bruce Gaston combining forces as one of the nation's best tackle tandems.

The inside running game and big holes aren't going to be there this week for the Irish, and that means it will be up to Everett Golson to be consistent and effective to keep the chains moving. Eastern Kentucky isn't Notre Dame, but it wasn't able to move the ball a lick through the air, completing just 8-of-22 passes for 85 yards with two picks.


Everett Golson and Notre Dame look to build off last week's thumping of Navy.

Why Notre Dame Might Win: Is Purdue's running game going to go anywhere? The Boilermakers chose to throw the ball rather than grind it out, but when it was time to pound away, the production was spotty. There were a few big plays, and averaging 4.4 yards per carry wasn't awful, but Akeem Hunt and company aren't going to have the room they enjoyed last week.

The Irish linebackers did a great job of swarming around the Navy runners before they had a chance to get free. While it helped that Midshipman quarterback Trey Miller suffered an ankle injury early on, the Notre Dame defensive front pounced only allowing a few decent runs. If Purdue is going to win, the production is going to have to come through the air.

What Will Happen: Notre Dame won't look as dominant and impressive as it was against an overmatched Navy team, but it's going to be effective on the short-to-midrange passes to get the Purdue linebackers on the move. The Boilermaker passing game will be effective enough to make it tight late, but Golson will have an efficient, breakout game.

CFN Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Purdue 27

No. 13 Wisconsin
at
Oregon State

Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, FX

Here's The Deal: Did Wisconsin get exposed by Northern Iowa, or was that just a Week One, get-the-kinks-worked-out-struggle?

The Badgers hardly looked like the juggernaut that ripped through the last two seasons on the way to consecutive Rose Bowl appearances. They had problems getting the vaunted running game going against the Panthers and struggled way too much against the speed of the backs in pass patterns. On the plus side, that could potentially be the kick in the pants needed to focus for a good road game against an Oregon State program desperate to become relevant again.


Bret Bielema's Badgers will be hoping for a better showing in Week 2.

It wasn't all that long ago that Oregon State was a player in the Pac-12 -- back then, the Pac-10 -- title chase, but two straight losing seasons and a disastrous 2011 have suddenly put the pressure on to make this a bounce-back campaign. Unfortunately, the Beavers will have to take on Wisconsin without the benefit of a tune-up, with the Nicholls State game postponed until the end of the season because of Hurricane Isaac.

Last year, Oregon State went into Madison and was stomped 35-0, but with road games at UCLA and Washington State coming up next, it's time to hit the ground running and show that things have dramatically changed over the last year.

Why Wisconsin Might Win: Oregon State really, really needed the Nicholls State game. It was a rocky summer with a slew of backups leaving the team, some academic problems, and a slew of suspensions. The issues mostly affect the depth, but still, it would've been nice to have had a game to get a good rotation going to be able to hold up against a Badger team sure to come out with an attitude after the problems against Northern Iowa.

Last year the Beavers struggled mightily to score and had problems on the offensive line. With three new starters up front, it's going to take a while to jell, opening up the opportunity for Wisconsin to pin its ears back a bit and get to the quarterback. The call has gone out this week -- get to the quarterback. The Wisconsin defense allowed just 41 rushing yards to UNI, but ...

Why Oregon State Might Win: The linebackers were exposed a bit in pass coverage. Northern Iowa was able to get its backs matched up against Wisconsin linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland and was able to use its speed -- and poor tackling from the secondary -- to get back in the game late.

Do the Beavers have the backs to do the same thing? Malcolm Agnew and a slew of quick runners have to get to the second level and Sean Mannion has to be able to deliver the ball. Of course the Badgers are going to try to adjust and will attempt to plug the leak, but Oregon State still has to try getting the mid-range passing game going.

On the defensive side of the ball, the strength might be the line, with excellent size and three starters returning. If the Wisconsin offensive line isn't far better than it was last week, the Beavers should be able to hold their own.

What Will Happen: Oregon State will connect on a few big plays and will put up plenty of yards, but it will lose the turnover battle big. The Badger running game will have a fire lit under it and will make up for the problems of last week.

CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Oregon State 17

Washington
at
No. 3 LSU

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Here's The Deal: A little more than three years into his tenure, Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian has done a terrific job so far, but has yet to get his kids over the hump. For this discussion, LSU is Mt. Rainier. The Huskies are back after an unusually long stretch of futility. Still, they remain on the outside of contention in the Pac-12, and haven't made a stir beyond the Pacific Northwest. Of course, all of that would change if U-Dub could go into SEC country -- Baton Rouge of all places -- and shock one of the country's elite programs. Barring a total implosion, the Huskies are playing with house money this week, knowing what an upset would mean to the program going forward.


Up-and-coming QB Keith Price gives the Huskies a fighting chance against LSU.

It's business as usual for LSU, much the way it was for Alabama in Arlington, Texas, last Saturday night. The Tigers are accustomed to wearing the target and being viewed as a potential springboard for someone else's future. Bring it on. LSU revels in an opportunity to rob opponents of their dreams, bringing them down a few pegs in the process. Ranked No. 3 in this week's AP poll, LSU kicked off its season with a methodical 41-14 thumping of North Texas.

Why Washington Might Win: The Huskies boast the better quarterback in this one, up-and-coming junior Keith Price. He's a special player, a winner who'll maximize the talent around him. Although the Tigers are mighty tough on defense, Washington is going to hit them with an array of talented skill position players, like TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Kasen Williams and RB Bishop Sankey. Moving the ball will not be easy, but it's going to help to have balance and an eclectic ensemble of playmakers.

The dismissal of CB Tyrann Mathieu means LSU is starting a true freshman, Jalen Mills, at one corner spot. The Huskies defense, once a glaring liability, is now home to a handful of all-star candidates. The Tigers might be surprised by the speed, strength and overall ability of Josh Shirley, Sean Parker, Desmond Trufant and rookie DB Shaq Thompson, who all have the talent to excel in the SEC.

Why LSU Might Win: Besides being in Baton Rouge at night, Washington has two major problems with which to contend this weekend: How do they stop the Tigers' power ground game, and who'll keep the defenders out of Price's face? Neither has an easy answer. Even with an injury to hulking LT Chris Faulk, LSU is very physical at the point of attack, springing a cadre of bulldozing runners that includes Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard and Michael Ford. Blue and Hilliard both went well over 100 yards rushing in the opener.

Yes, the Huskies are improved on defense under new coordinator Justin Wilcox, but corralling this kind of a north-south attack is an assignment of a different kind. When the Huskies have the ball, they'll worry about the LSU pass rush, which comes in waves, with ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo often reaching shore first. U-Dub was already concerned about its pass protection, and then starting RT Ben Riva broke his forearm in the San Diego State win. Price is good, but like any quarterback, his efficiency will plummet if he doesn't have time to check down his receivers.

What Will Happen: LSU doesn't lose often in Death Valley ... especially at night. And it hasn't fallen to a non-conference foe in the regular season since 2002. Old habits are hard to break.

This is a rugged matchup for Washington. Heck, LSU is tough on most opponents. The Tigers are too physical on both sides of the ball, not to mention their superiority on special teams. They'll pummel the Huskies with a steady diet of north-south runners, occasionally mixing in a Zach Mettenberger shot downfield. Does Washington have enough on offense to keep pace? Against another defense, yes. But against this one on the road, no way. The Tigers will control the tempo of the game, never allowing the Huskies to feel as if the upset is on the horizon. By the second half, the home team will begin milking the clock as it plays an old-fashioned game of keep-away.

CFN Prediction: LSU 41, Washington 10

No. 16 Nebraska
at
UCLA

Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX

Here's The Deal: Now that UCLA was able to turn a few heads with its opening-week effort, it's looking to capture the attention of the entire country in Week 2. The Bruins played well in the debut of head coach Jim Mora, running away with a 49-24 victory that was unusually led by the offense. However, the victim was Rice, leaving many to wonder whether or not this program is truly ready to take a forward step following the miserable Rick Neuheisel era. While UCLA is at least a year away from being a serious threat in the Pac-12 South, beating a ranked opponent is the kind of thing that can instantly galvanize the fan base, and help raise awareness for would-be recruits.


Will Taylor Martinez keep it up after a stellar opener?

You could count on a few fingers the number of Big Ten teams that played their openers as if they were ready for the start of the 2012 season. Nebraska was one of them. The Huskers zipped past Southern Miss, 49-20, the reigning Conference USA champs and an always dangerous school. If the team is going to remain unbeaten and survive its only road game of September, it might have to do so without star RB Rex Burkhead. The senior injured his knee last week, leaving him questionable for Saturday night.

Why Nebraska Might Win: At best, Burkhead still won't be at full strength, which means other Huskers will need to step up. Taylor Martinez looks as if he'll be up to the task. The heavily scrutinized quarterback is coming off the best game of his career, throwing five touchdown passes, without a pick, to five different receivers. Plus, Ameer Abdullah is not a typical backup, an elusive sophomore who went for 81 yards a week ago.

Physical at the point of attack, Nebraska will manage the Bruins defense in order to allow Martinez and Abdullah to squirt through holes. Bruins QB Brett Hundley played well in his first game, but he'll find the Huskers D a lot more challenging than that of Rice. LB Will Compton will keep his eyes on the elusive hurler, making sure he can't get beyond the second level.

Why UCLA Might Win: The offense looked very good last Thursday, regardless of who was playing defense on the other side of the line. A more pro-style approach seems to fit the Bruins personnel, though the running game remains king on campus for now. Not only is Hundley a threat to take off from the pocket, but Johnathan Franklin is one of the Pac-12's most underrated backs. He exploded for 214 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, and is capable of carrying this attack on his back.

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The Nebraska D is solid, but not impenetrable now that tackling machine Lavonte David is playing on Sundays. UCLA has had problems rushing the passer in recent years, but six sacks in the opener could be a sign that this defense is prepared to turn the corner in 2012.

What Will Happen: Not so fast, Bruins. UCLA is clearly headed in the right direction under Mora, but Nebraska will be like biting off a little more than the team can chew at this time. The Bruins are still a little young, and are searching for an identity. While Franklin can play with anyone, his O-line is uncertain, Hundley is green and the defense needs more time to gel. Martinez will balance a little more running with his passing this week, getting ample support from Abdullah and the receivers. The Huskers D will take UCLA down a peg, reminding it that it remains an unbalanced and inconsistent production.

CFN Prediction: Nebraska 31, UCLA 23

No. 7 Georgia
at
Missouri

Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Here's The Deal: Texas A&M moving to the SEC is getting more attention and press than Missouri's move, but the Tigers were more prominent in Big 12 play over the last several seasons and could make the more immediate splash. A&M is stuck in the brutal SEC West and has no reasonable prayer of getting by LSU, Alabama and Arkansas to win the division, while Mizzou, with a win over Georgia, would be front and center in the East title chase. But don't assume the defending division champions are going to have a problem with the emotion and excitement of the SEC home opener for the Tigers.

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Georgia was fine in the Week 1 45-23 win over Buffalo, looking like it was going through the motions at times but never having any real problems. Now it's time to ramp up the intensity and effectiveness on both sides of the ball and establish itself as the lead dog in the division pack. With home games against Florida Atlantic, Vanderbilt and Tennessee up next before the showdown at South Carolina, the potential is there to go on a nice run over the first half of the season, but it's about to be in for an electric atmosphere, even by SEC standards.

Why Georgia Might Win: Can the Missouri offensive line hold up against the Georgia defensive front? The Tigers have a decent front five if everyone is healthy and effective, but that's not a given. Left tackle Elvis Fisher held up in his first game back, but can he handle the speed and quickness of the Dawg ends? Is the right guard situation settled with Jack Meiners missing last week's game with a knee injury? The line did a great job for the running game last season and it was decent in pass protection, but the Georgia defensive front is better than anything the Tigers dealt with last year.

No, the Dawgs weren't a rock last week, giving up 227 rushing yards to Buffalo, but there's no denying the talent of the front four, especially in the interior, and it's not going to get pushed around. Can the Tigers get the running game going against this group? Quarterback James Franklin is mobile and can make things happen under pressure, but he's going to have to make every right decision behind a line that will be fine, but a bit leaky. But if Franklin gets time ...

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Why Missouri Might Win: The Missouri passing game could be efficient and effective. There will be a point this year when the Georgia secondary is among the most talented and productive in the country, but it's not there yet. Corner Sanders Commings will be serving a suspension for a second straight week, and there's still a question mark about if Bacarri Rambo will be on the field for the first time this year -- the coaching staff hasn't definitively said one way or another. Throw in Malcolm Mitchell's sprained ankle, and the Georgia pass defense might not be cohesive.

Franklin misfired a bit against SE Louisiana, but he didn't make any mistakes and didn't force any throws. Able to spread the ball around, he should be able to make the right decisions and prevent the major, game-changing mistakes, but more importantly, he should be able to take advantage of a secondary that allowed a mediocre Buffalo passing game to move the ball a little bit.

What Will Happen: Georgia has always been terrific on the road, and with a heady quarterback in Aaron Murray and tremendous athletes on both sides of the ball, they're about to show why. Missouri will be good, and Franklin will be effective, but Murray will have the better game in a tough, physical win that makes a statement early on in the East race.

CFN Prediction: Georgia 27, Missouri 17


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