The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Three Games to Watch: Week Two

Blake Dover
October 15th, 2016 – The Commodores defense makes a stop during their 17-16 win against the University of Georgia in Sanford Stadium Saturday afternoon.

The first week of college football is in the books. Alabama is still on top Vanderbilt flexed some early season muscles against MTSU, and Texas A&M looked utterly unwilling to fight on as Josh Rosen fake spiked the ball, hitting Jordan Lasley for a ten-yard touchdown, and cementing the second greatest comeback in college football history. Moving forward, this week has a slew of elite national and SEC matchups, and here are the top three to watch.

Oklahoma (6) vs. Ohio State (2)

College GameDay is travelling to Columbus this week for the second top-10 matchup of the season.

Ohio State had a shaky first half against an upstart Indiana team, but settled down in the second, laid on 36 points, and buried the Hoosiers. J.K. Dobbins broke the buckeye freshman rushing record with 181 yards, and J.T. Barrett (it seems he’s been there a decade) again showed confidence stemming from experience when the game didn’t progress as they hoped.

Mayfield completed 95% of his attempts, and eight different Sooners found the end zone last Saturday vs the Miners. As shining of a performance as it was, it proved very little, considering the opposition won just three games last year.

Mayfield and Barrett will face off this week in a repeat of last season’s matchup, with the stakes as high this year. Both teams are likely conference champions and CFB contenders, but both desperately need this big win on their resume come December, especially if they falter any week down the season. Mayfield admitted that last season’s 21-point loss still haunts the team, “For a team to sing their fight song on our field, quite frankly it’s embarrassing.” The Sooners are thirsting for revenge, but could face a back in Columbus whose skill hasn’t been seen since the Ezekiel Elliott era. Vegas has Ohio St. prevailing, but don’t be surprised to see Mayfield willing his team to a victory this Saturday.

Clemson (3) vs. Auburn (13)

Jarrett Stidham won over the starting quarterback job over junior Sean White this offseason, and delivered a lukewarm performance in his open. His two turnovers and two touchdowns were enough to carry the team over Georgia Southern, but it was really the defense that controlled the game. Georgia Southern totaled just eight passing yards, four completions, and an interception on a night that saw only their defense score off a Stidham fumble.

Clemson’s new quarterback Kelly Bryant had an easy start, letting C.J. Fuller, Tavien Feaster, and Travis Etienne carry the scoring load in the opener vs. Kent State. The defense only permitted a single pass yard and completion. On the ground, however, Kent State found softer resistance, totaling nearly 120 yards despite no quarterback threat to keep the secondary on its heels.

Clemson is coming off a National Championship season over the arguably the most dominant team in college football history, and delivered Nick Saban his first championship loss in his head coaching career. However, top offensive weapons Wayne Gallman, Deshaun Watson, and Mike Williams were all drafted, and the Tigers will have to find new playmakers ahead of early matchups with Auburn, Louisville, and Virginia Tech if they want to qualify for another playoff bid.

On the other side, Auburn hasn’t gotten to Atlanta since the 2013 season, riding last minute sheer-luck wins over Georgia and Alabama (the infamous kick six). Fans have cooled on Gus Malzahn, and he needs a great season to recapture the spirit and energy from his first one. This matchup between ACC and SEC heavyweights will certainly be used in conference debates, and, along with Oklahoma at Ohio State, will reveal an early season glimpse at the elite teams this year. Higher-seeded Clemson will have to rattle Jarrett Stidham, and look for Auburn to counter by testing the weakness in Clemson’s run game. The historically porous Auburn secondary has yet to prove their worth, but this might be their year.

UGA (15) vs. Notre Dame

Coming from Atlanta, I’m surrounded by Georgia fans who have the same yearly routine. It starts on National Signing Day, with the Bulldogs averaging over 20+ commitments in classes that are typically top ten, if not top five (the state of Georgia has the fourth most high school football recruits behind California, Texas, and Florida, and UGA has little competition from in-state schools). The hype starts to build, and many people claim that this will finally be UGA’s championship year. “The secondary will finally be good this year”, they say, “and our QB is finally mature now”.

The season starts, and most years they win the opening three, four, or five games. The hype grows, and every Monday there are UGA sweaters in the halls, and more fans becoming vocal about their support. The first loss happens, and the championship pessimist and optimist camps begin to form, with the pessimist camp growing in size with the second and third losses. After relegation to a low-level bowl game, the crowd goes home, starts following recruiting, and awaits the beginning of next season, when it will all finally come together. They haven’t won the East since 2012, and since then have been favored to win three times. We will see if this season the voter confidence translates into a trip to Atlanta.

Notre Dame is coming off, quite frankly, an awful season.  The Fighting Irish went 4-8, didn’t make a bowl game, and fired their defensive coordinator midway through the season. This season started with a 49-16 thumping of Temple, with Brandon Wimbush flashing his potential, and Vegas has them as a touchdown favorite at home against the travelling Bulldogs.

This game is an early season challenge, with potential for redemption for both teams. UGA is looking to prove its #15 ranking, and Notre Dame is looking to bounce back from the disastrous 2016 season. The Bulldogs have hopes to win the East, and a road win would bolster their College Football Playoff résumé. Having won five of his last six starts, sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason going down is a blow to Georgia’s season hopes. Jake Fromm will likely have to man the ship this week, and until the diagnosis of Eason’s injury returns, he might be UGA’s guy for the long term. Notre Dame fans are surely lukewarm about the team this season, and a win over ranked UGA would help regain their trust.

The last time these two teams met, Georgia won its only National Championship. Irish fans are hoping to even the score, while the Bulldogs look to keep their season and fans in high hopes.



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Blake Dover, Author

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