College football is certainly living up to the hype in 2021. The new season is only two weeks old yet there have been a number of exciting games, shockers, and wild finishes. If you expected any less from the NCAA this season, you’re no doubt pleased to be wrong so far.
The first two weeks of the campaign have also prompted a reordering, with the third, fourth, seventh and tenth-ranked teams – Clemson, Ohio State, Iowa State and North Carolina – having already lost games. Meanwhile, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, Nos. 2, 6 and 9 in preseason, have had to sweat it out in close calls verse unranked teams.
Only three teams starting out between 12th and 21st are still unbeaten, an amazing occurrence given the season is only two weeks old. Fans who have been placing bets on college games are likely having a topsy-turvy time and will hope the latest NCAAF odds turn out to be kinder by the end of Week 3.
Alabama has remained true to form and have kept up their dominance while Georgia has employed a mean defense. Of course, it’s easy to predict that either one of these teams will finish No.1 in the country and the other will almost definitely be No.2. The way things are going, though, nothing is as certain.
Oklahoma, Ohio State and Clemson look shaky at the moment, but it’s hoped that they will maintain a steady course from here on out. The Buckeyes’ defense leaves a lot to be desired and the same could be said for the Tigers’ passing. If things continue the way they’ve started, there are a few teams who started the season outside of the top five who could creep in and take advantage. Let’s look at two of them.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State is 2-0 after wins against Wisconsin and Ball State. Their defense has become a force to reckon with, but they haven’t faced a stern test yet. The previous opponents ranked in the top 50 of offensive SP+ last season and have brought most of their best players back but the Nittany Lions are yet to go up against an elite offense.
They didn’t allow Ball State a touchdown until they were up 31 in the final quarter and held both opponents to just 23 combined points and four yards a play.
Arnold Ebiketie, a Temple transfer, has been remarkable at defensive end while Penn State has made four interceptions and has broken up six passes. They managed to smother Ball State’s quick-passing offense rather impressively but aren’t likely to have as much of an edge over Auburn this week.
The PSU offense, however, leaves room for worry as it didn’t score against Wisconsin in the first half. It has shown marked improvement since then, having made chunk plays in the second half of that contest then showing remarkable efficiency against Ball State in the following game.
Sean Clifford went 21-for-29 for 230 yards on Saturday while Keyvone Lee and Devyn Ford had 14 carries for 100 yards in a nice display.
The Bearcats ranked eighth in the AP poll and 10th in SP+. They’ve recorded a 49-14 victory over Miami and a 42-7 win over Murray State so far.
They’ve also put an impressive defense on display, which is unsurprising given what we’ve been seeing from them. Luke Fickell only needed a year to get the defense into the top 40 and an additional two seasons shot them into the top 10. While they’ve lost coordinator Marcus Freeman to Notre Dame, they’ve kept up the dominant defensive showings and neither of their past two opponents managed to get over 3.7 yards per play.
Cincinnati has maintained the eighth spot in defensive SP+ after allowing a single touchdown that wasn’t in garbage time and they’re just as efficient at defending the run as they are at defending the pass. Like Penn State, they’re poised to face a tougher test in Week 3 as Indiana is up next. That will be followed up by a game with Notre Dame.
Like PSU, the Bearcats’ offense can go from sensational to questionable. Quarterback Desmond Ridder and the rest of the offensive setup are quite formidable when everything is in place but, if one thing isn’t clicking, it all falls apart.
If they can maintain a potent offense and keep things up defensively, however, Cincinnati could become a problem for everyone.