Two power five football conferences kicked off this week, though apparently half of the Big 12 teams who were scheduled to take the field failed to get the memo. The conference had an unsettlingly poor debut for the 2020 season, and while Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia all took care of business against overmatched opponents, Texas Tech narrowly escaped an embarrassing loss against Houston Baptist of the Southland Conference, a program that has been playing football for less than a decade and handily lost to North Texas only a week ago.
It was a particularly rough day for the state of Kansas, whose teams went 0-2 against Sun Belt programs. Kansas State had no answer for an Arkansas State offense that was able to establish the running game with a strong performance by the Red Wolves offensive line and was completely outmatched as they attempted to cover star wide receiver Jonathan Adams Jr. (eight catches, 98 yards, three touchdowns) who proved too difficult to contain no matter who was throwing him the ball. Meanwhile, the Kansas Jayhawks were thoroughly outclassed by Coastal Carolina, but at least had the good sense to schedule the game for 10 PM eastern to ensure that few casual fans would witness their shame.
But the highlight for all Iowa fans came in the first of the Big 12’s three losses to the Sun Belt. Since I’ve been an Iowa football fan, I’ve always maintained that my second favorite team on a given week is whoever is playing against Iowa State. With the Hawkeyes on a football hiatus this fall, several college teams will get the distinction of serving as m y primary rooting interest until Big Ten action resumes. This week’s new favorite, Louisiana, sure set the bar high.
The Ragin' Cajuns air it out for a 78-yard TD ‼️ pic.twitter.com/x2hAKvYdba— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) September 12, 2020
The Ragin Cajuns ran roughshod over the #23 Cyclones, holding their vaunted offense to only 14 points, shutting down Brock Purdy in the passing game, and producing big plays on special teams, scoring a touchdown on both punt and kick returns. The Ragin Cajuns are no scrubs; they won eleven games last season and finished in the top 20 in the country in both total offense and defense. Yet to watch them overpower the Cyclones on both sides of the ball was jarring, especially given the preseason hype surrounding Matt Campbell’s club. The 31-14 margin of victory doesn’t even reflect the true extent of Louisiana’s dominance, as Billy Napier’s team missed two makeable field goals that could have made the final score even worse. If I didn’t know better, I might have assumed Louisiana was the Power Five team with dreams of contending for a conference crown and Iowa State the plucky upstart.
Iowa State just lost to the unranked Ragin' Cajuns AT HOME BY 17 POINTS pic.twitter.com/FfA63zcKSi— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) September 12, 2020
Iowa State’s Big 12 aspirations are still very much in play, but it’s tough to ignore the cracks that were exposed in their opening loss. Brock Purdy looked completely out of sync with his receivers and proved unable to handle the press man coverage played by the Ragin Cajun defenders, who swarmed the Cyclone receivers and broke up five passes over the course of the contest. The Cyclone offense should improve when star tight end Charlie Kolar returns to the field, but that won’t solve their problems on special teams or the issues they had stopping Louisiana on their final drive in which they controlled the line of scrimmage against a gassed Iowa State defense. If the Cyclones can’t get their act together soon, Hawkeye fans may enjoy watching several of their new “favorite teams” impose their will against them once conference play starts.
The ACC also returned to action last week. The #1 Clemson Tigers proved they are still legitimate title contenders in a decisive victory of a Wake Forest team that clearly misses former QB Jamie Newman, and while Notre Dame signal caller Ian Book has the same limitations that have shadowed him for much of his career, but may have found a new weapon in sophomore running back Kyren Williams who totaled over 200 yards of offense in the Irish’s win over Duke. While Clemson and Notre Dame look like the primary contenders for the ACC crown, the road forward looks rockier for another of the conference’s traditional powers. Florida State appeared utterly inept on offense in their loss to Georgia Tech, whose freshman quarterback Jeff Sims outplayed his counterpart in Florida State’s James Blackmon. Mike Norvell is certainly off to a rocky start in Tallahassee, and the road back to contention could be a long one for the Seminoles.
That’s it for week 2. With more Power Five teams returning to action every week, the college football slate should continue to improve, assuming the teams playing can avoid significant coronavirus outbreaks. Stay tuned!