This week: vs. No. 18 Oklahoma State, Saturday
What's at stake: This is Rich Rodriguez's first season at Arizona and a it's a non-conference game, so a loss would not really hurt the Wildcats much. A win over a ranked team, on the other hand, would be huge. It would set up Arizona to go 3-0 to start the season (South Carolina State is next week) and possibly speed up the process of rebuilding.
What's going on: Arizona kept both sides of the ball pretty vanilla in Week 1. With a tougher opponent this week, you can likely expect some different looks and possibly more players to see action.
Get more info on the team and join the Arizona community at WildcatAuthority.com.
What it'll take to win: Arizona has to stop the run. If it can contain Joseph Randle and company, it may have a legit chance to win. It won't be easy, but it is hard to imagine a victory without it.
-- Jason Scheer, WildcatAuthority.com
No. 7 Georgia
This week: at Missouri, Saturday
What's at stake: Georgia's first SEC game of the season, at Missouri, is a critical early-season test for the Bulldogs. Any conference game is critical in the SEC, but Georgia needs to avoid digging an early hole for themselves for the third season in a row. A loss wouldn't end Georgia's hopes to win the SEC East (the Bulldogs rallied to win the East after dropping their first conference game last season), but it would leave very little margin for error the rest of the way.
What's going on: Georgia fans, the media and Missouri's coaching staff are all in wait-and-see mode on two of Georgia's top defensive starters. Coach Mark Richt suspended All-American safety Bacarri Rambo and starting middle linebacker Alec Ogletree last week for violation of team rules, but he and the rest of the Bulldogs are intentionally not saying if Rambo and Ogletree are playing because they feel like it "gives them an advantage."
Suspensions have become a real problem for the Bulldogs on defense. Two other starters -- linebacker Chase Vasser and cornerback Sanders Commings -- are suspended for the first two games of the year for off-season arrests. The four missing starters caused Georgia's defense to be uncharacteristically sluggish for a half.
Get more info on the team and join the Georgia community at DawgPost.com.
Cornerback Malcolm Mitchell (ankle), offensive tackle John Theus (ankle) and running back Ken Malcolme (hand) are all expected to play. Malcome started Week 1, but true freshman Todd Gurley exploded with over 220 total yards and two touchdowns in his debut. Richt said he hopes to determine the starting running back by Thursday.
What it'll take to win: If Georgia controls the line of scrimmage they will win. That is what usually separates teams in SEC play. The addition of Rambo and Ogletree would give the Bulldogs a better advantage. Much is being made of this contest being Missouri's first ever in the SEC, and that the crowd will be crazy. But a crazy atmosphere is par for the course in the SEC -- it won't be anything new for the Bulldogs. The line of thinking amongst many in Georgia is that Missouri will likely jump up and beat one of the better teams in the SEC East ... the Bulldogs just hope it is not them.
-- Dean Legge, DawgPost.com
This week: at No. 22 Kansas State, Saturday
What's at stake: The Hurricanes lost a close game to Kansas State at home last season after unsuccessfully converting a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Miami was stuffed on four straight goal line plays to end it. The Hurricanes will be looking to even things up in this game. The Canes started the season with a win on the road against Boston College and if they can win a second straight game away from home against a BCS opponent, the outlook for the rest of the 2012 season will appear brighter than it did just a few weeks ago.
What's going on: One of the key storylines for Miami in this game will be the return of junior right tackle Seantrel Henderson. The former No. 1 recruit has had an up-and-down career at Miami and lost his job to true freshman Ereck Flowers after missing most of preseason camp due to various issues. He's back on the practice field and is listed as the second team right tackle after not even traveling to BC last week. He could well be Miami's most talented offensive lineman and will make a big impact if healthy and motivated.
Get more info on the team and join the Miami community at CanesTime.com.
What it'll take to win: The difference in last year's game was the running of K-State quarterback Colin Klein. The Canes simply couldn't stop him, especially when it mattered the most. They haven't faced many rushing quarterbacks since that game so it'll be interesting to see the type of adjustments that they made and the type of defensive game plan they have in place to prevent Klein from doing similar damage on the ground in this game.
-- Mike Bakas, CanesTime.com
No. 16 Nebraska
This week: at UCLA, Saturday
What's at stake: The general feel about Nebraska locally is they have a BCS-caliber team in 2012, but they have to run the table in non-conference for that goal to happen. In addition, the Huskers have offered at least 40 prospects in the state of California this year. A great showing against UCLA would go a long way in helping convince recruits Nebraska is still a national brand, especially in the Big Ten.
What's going on: With depth at the running back position, First Team All-Big Ten runner Rex Burkhead's injury isn't as scary as some would automatically think if he can't go on Saturday. Nebraska also lost starting wide receiver Tim Marlowe last week until probably the end of October, but expect the offense to be more electric because of it. Marlowe is a smart, hardworking leader who deserves to play, but he will be replaced by sophomore Jamal Turner. The former four-star quarterback is special when he gets his hands on the ball and is a threat to take it to the house at any point. He can also factor into the running game.
BIG RED REPORT
Get more info on the team and join the Nebraska community at CanesTime.com.
What it'll take to win: Nebraska will need to pressure UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley more than Rice did in his first collegiate game. In addition, poor tackling won't get it done against running back James Franklin, like it did against the Golden Eagles.
On offense, Martinez needs to keep spreading the ball around and not get fixed on one receiver like he has in years past. A trio of young running backs will also all need to step up and replace Burkhead if he can't go. Nebraska cannot afford to become a one dimensional team in Pasadena.
-- Josh Harvey, BigRedReport.com
No. 18 Oklahoma State
This week: at Arizona, Saturday
What's at stake: Oklahoma State will be playing its first true Pac-12 road game since the Cowboys defeated UCLA 31-20 in 2004 (they beat Washington State 39-13 to open the 2008 season, but that game was played in Seattle and not in Pullman, Wash.). The growth of OSU's program under Mike Gundy is best illustrated by the team's record on the road. The Cowboys were 2-11 in Gundy's first 13 road games, but over the last three seasons they are 11-2, including wins in 10 of OSU's last 11. OSU's 10 road wins over the last two years are tied for the most in the nation.
What's going on: Oklahoma State led the nation with 44 turnovers in 2011 and has forced at least two turnovers in 12 consecutive games. The Cowboys defense also has intercepted a pass in 12 games in a row. Wide receiver Tracy Moore, whose 45 receptions for 672 yards and four touchdowns is the most of any returning receiver on the team, will make his debut Saturday night after serving a one-game suspension in the season opener.
Get more info on the team and join the Oklahoma State community at GoPokes.com.
What it'll take to win: Wes Lunt, who last week became the first true freshman quarterback to start an Oklahoma State season opener since at least 1950, will be making his first start in front of a hostile crowd Saturday night. The 18-year-old was a perfect 11-for-11 passing for 129 yards in his college debut against Savannah State (the first perfect game for any Cowboy with more than 10 passing attempts in a game). The Cowboys will need for Lunt to play like a two-year starter while putting the ball in the hands of the Cowboys' playmakers.
-- Terry Tush, GoPokes.com
This week: vs. No. 24 Florida, Saturday
What's at stake: The better question is what's not at stake. The past two years of realignment talks, conference exit fees, and threatened lawsuits all pointed to this Saturday. It is Texas A&M's inaugural SEC clash against Florida that has attracted the attention of a national TV audience. The Aggies want to prove out of the box that they belong in the SEC with a victory. Florida wants to give Texas A&M a proper SEC welcome by sending the 12th Man home with a stinging high-profile defeat at Kyle Field. The Aggies' schedule is front-loaded with SEC home games, so now is the time to collect wins.
What's going on: Hurricane Isaac postponed Texas A&M's opener with Louisiana Tech. The good news is the Aggies are fresh with no major injuries, and they had an extra two days to prepare for the Gators. The bad news is the team didn't have the opportunity to get over the usual first game jitters and hiccups.
Get more info on the team and join the Texas A&M community at Aggie Websider.
Making matters worse, redshirt freshman QB Johnny Manziel will be taking his first collegiate snaps against a stout Gator defense. Despite head coach Kevin Sumlin's pass-happy reputation from his University of Houston days, don't be surprised if the Aggies utilize their strength at offensive line and running back to establish a consistent ground attack. Five-star true freshman running back Trey Williams has lived up to the hype during fall camp and should have an impact in the contest along with veteran Christine Michael.
What it'll take to win: Manziel is a playmaker but can also try to do too much outside the pocket and does make mistakes. For Texas A&M to win, Manziel can't let the hype of this game get to him. He must play within himself and limit turnovers. On defense, the Aggie front seven must neutralize the Gator ground attack and force Jeff Driskel to throw downfield into coverage packages. If the Aggies must pull in safeties and go man coverage to stop the run, Florida is primed to hit some big pass plays and come out on top.
-- David Sandhop, Aggie Websider
No. 2 USC
This week: vs. Syracuse (in East Rutherford, N.J.), Saturday
What's at stake: The No. 2 Trojans travel to East Rutherford, N.J., to take on Syracuse at MetLife Stadium on Saturday. After opening the season with a lopsided 49-10 win at home over Hawaii, USC will face its first true test. This game will prove to be a crucial one for the Trojans, who cannot have any missteps if they want to be playing in Miami in January. A loss to Syracuse would mean there can be no margin for error the rest of the season, a feat that could prove very difficult with both Oregon and Notre Dame coming to L.A. in November.
What's going on: Reports out of the East Coast are questioning how Syracuse will handle the No. 2 team in the country. Meanwhile, in Southern California, the Trojans are worried how they will defend against a quarterback who threw for 482 yards and four touchdowns a week ago. The focus at practice this week has been on the Trojan secondary. After a rather calm fall camp, coaches have visibly displayed frustration with players as they prepare for Saturday for the second straight week, notably on the defensive side of the ball.
Get more info on the team and join the USC community at SCPlaybook.com.
Although USC coach Lane Kiffin will not report or discuss injuries this season, it is believed cornerback Torin Harris and linebacker Lamar Dawson -- both starters in 2011 -- will return to play this week. Both said after practice on Wednesday they were ready to go. The real answer to whether or not either will play may not come until the first snap of the game on Saturday, as Dawson was announced as a starter versus Hawaii but did not see any action. The worth of signing Silas Redd continues to grow for the Trojans, as sophomore tailback D.J. Morgan tweeted Wednesday, and Kiffin confirmed, that he will be out 3-4 weeks with minor knee surgery.
What it'll take to win: The Trojans were a few drops away from a very dominating offensive performance vs. Hawaii. Look for much of the same -- as Barkley continues to look for his go-to receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. This game for USC, however, is really about the defense. Throughout fall camp, the Trojans secondary was liable to giving up big plays over their head. After hauling in only nine interceptions in all of 2011, takeaways have been a major point of emphasis for the secondary and this will be their first test to see if the emphasis has paid off.
-- Lindsey Thiry, SCPlaybook.com
No. 13 Wisconsin
This week: at Oregon State, Saturday
What's at stake: Wisconsin is heading on the road for a true non-conference road game for the first time since September 2010, so showing it can compete in a hostile road environment will be key for when the Badgers open up the Big Ten slate at Nebraska on Sept. 29. The Badgers have fared well against the Pac-12 in the regular season, winning their last five meetings, but they lost last year's Rose Bowl to Oregon. With everyone pointing to how easy this non-conference schedule is, a loss would be a huge blow to the ego and national title hopes of Wisconsin.
What's going on?: Wisconsin is coming off a less-than-enthusiastic 26-21 victory over Northern Iowa, an FCS opponent that had a chance to take the lead last Saturday with less than five minutes to go. Head coach Bret Bielema was calm, cool and collected in the 48 hours after the game, saying his team played three quarters of "very, very good football" and that all the problems that popped up in the fourth quarter are "easily correctable."
Get more info on the team and join the Wisconsin community at BadgerNation.com.
What it'll take to win: A cleaner effort. Wisconsin didn't look like one of the top 25 teams in the country, so a more complete effort will be needed, especially going halfway across the country against a BCS opponent in its home opener. The Badgers will need to be better in the run game and crisper defensively, as it can't let mental gaffes continue to plague it. Those issues are the main reason UW lost at Michigan State and Ohio State last year and didn't play LSU for the national championship.
-- Ben Worgull, BadgerNation.com