Preview Thursday: Week 2

The return of the upset is back in college football. 

A pair of Associated Press Top 25 programs fell in Week 1 action when then-No. 5 LSU dropped a 45-24 contest to then-No. 8 Florida State and when then-No. 9 Clemson lost on the road to unranked Duke. 

Shedeur Sanders and Colorado entered the poll this week at No. 22. Sanders and his father Deion Sanders, who is in his first year as head coach of the Buffaloes, prevailed over then-No. 17 TCU on the road last Saturday, and the quarterback threw for a program record 510 yards. 

More competition is on the docket this week in the form of early season rivalries. The Sanders’ and Colorado will take on Nebraska, while No. 3 Alabama and No. 11 Texas will meet one more time before the two share conference battles in the Southeastern Conference beginning next season. 

Here are several games to watch this week. 

No. 10 Notre Dame at NC State 

The Fighting Irish are off to a 2-0 start to the season, starting on the right note after beginning 0-2 a year ago. 

Head coach Marcus Freeman has the offense churning under Sam Hartman at quarterback. Hartman tossed two more touchdown passes last week against Tennessee State and matched his 82% completion. 

Notre Dame will face stiff conference competition with the Wolfpack this week, and the Fighting Irish will do so on the road. NC State won 24-14 over UConn in its season-opener Aug. 31, featuring quarterback Brennan Armstrong throwing for 155 yards and leading the Wolfpack with 96 rushing yards. 

“This will be our first true road test. We know as we get ready to go down to Raleigh, North Carolina, and play NC State and we expect to be a very hostile environment,” Freeman said. “I’ve only been there one time, and that was as a player in 2004. And I remember as a player, it was a hostile environment and a great environment for college football so we’re looking forward to that, and I think they’ve won the last 16 out of 17 games at home and so we know the challenge it will be to go down there and try to get a victory at NC State.” 

No. 20 Ole Miss at No. 24 Tulane 

It takes a lot for a quarterback to have a perfect outing, and Tulane’s Michael Pratt was nearly that in the season-opener last week. 

Pratt completed 14 of his 15 passes, and four of his throws went for touchdowns. It was a performance that caught the eye of Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, who said this week his Ole Miss team must be ready for a hot Tulane program. 

“I’m not worried about evaluating them. I’m worried about trying to go beat a top-25 team so this is not an evaluation game,” Kiffin said. “Going on the road for the first time with our team into one of the hottest teams in the country and probably the hottest quarterback in the country off of almost being perfect last week, so I would actually like another evaluation game but that’s not what this is certainly.” 

The run that Tulane has been on is impressive. The Green Wave have won 10 of their last 11 contests, which includes a Cotton Bowl victory last season over Caleb Williams and USC. 

Ole Miss had itself a noteworthy first game of the season as well. The Rebels defeated Mercer 73-7 and quarterback Jaxson Dart went 18-of-23 for 334 passing yards along with four touchdowns to boot. 

Tulane head coach Willie Fritz recalled the 2021 meeting between the two programs, which saw Ole Miss beat the Green Wave 61-21 during a season that saw them go 2-10. 

Now, a year removed from a 12-2 season, Tulane appears ready to try and change its luck this time around. 

“I thought we had a tough time with just getting lined up the tempo and some things like that (in 2021),” Fritz said. “There’s a lot of differences. New playcaller on offense, it’s coaching, their head coaches’ scheme. I think they got a different playcaller defensively, a new coordinator, a new coordinator in special teams so a lot of different philosophies they’re doing right now. When you’re playing these games early in the season, and you got new people on the other side are calling things you got to look at where they were at last year and the year before that and then also game one.” 

No. 11 Texas at No. 3 Alabama 

The 2023 Allstate Crossbar Classic takes place in Tuscaloosa this year, and this season’s matchup between Texas and Alabama should play similar to their matchup in 2022. 

The Longhorns had Alabama on the ropes in the fourth quarter. They led 19-17 until soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young and the Crimson Tide advanced the football to the Longhorns’ 14-yard line, kicking in the go-ahead score with 10 seconds left on the clock. 

“We knew the type of team that they have at Alabama. I know the players that they’ve recruited, I know the coaching that they have,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “For us to be able to go toe-to-toe with them a year ago, I think in the end I’m not big on moral victories but I do think for some of the guys on our team, it was like, ‘OK, continue to believe in what we’re doing. It’s going to work and we’re getting there and we’re getting closer.’” 

Quinn Ewers, who exited last year’s game against Alabama due to injury, and Texas played well in the season-opener against Rice. Ewers had 260 passing yards and three touchdowns while Jaydon Blue and Jonathon Brooks ran the Longhorns to 158 rushing yards. 

Texas forced Rice to go 4-for-13 on third down, and the Longhorns averaged 44.5 yards per punt on their two kicks away. Four times did Texas score in the red zone, and Bert Auburn went 3-for-4 in field goal tries. 

Alabama will trot out first-year starting quarterback Jalen Milroe against Texas. Milroe was all over the football field versus Middle Tennessee, accounting for five touchdowns — three through the air and two on the ground. 

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said Texas is “physical” and play “really good up front,” something to keep a note of when the two teams battle in the trenches. They’ll also play in the regular season for just the second time since 1922. 

“They played extremely well in the first game, and they were excellent on special teams so this is a really good team all the way around,” Saban said. “This is going to be a good barometer for us to find out where are we as a team. And so we’re going to focus on doing a great job of trying to get our guys to prepare to play a great game and do a good job in terms of execution.”