Drew White | Staff Writer
College football fans have been treated to an incredible 2017-18 season thus far, complete with outstanding individual performances, enormous upsets and several marquee matchups between top-ranked teams. Labor Day weekend brought a great opening set of games, and Week 2 was equally as mesmerizing. The weekend was filled with big-time matchups, including key rivalries and four games that pitted top-25 teams against each other, and they certainly did not disappoint.
This past Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, No. 17 Louisville, led by last year’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson, outlasted North Carolina in a shootout, 47-35. Jackson had a video game-like stat line against the Tar Heels, completing 25 of his 39 passing attempts and throwing for 393 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson ran for an additional 132 yards and three touchdowns, single-handedly accounting for more points than Carolina did on the afternoon.
In a non-conference rivalry game — or not, if you ask Penn State head coach James Franklin — Pittsburgh traveled to State College to face No. 4 Penn State in an in-state showdown. Penn State won the highly-anticipated matchup 33-14.
After the game, Penn State coach James Franklin denied having a rivalry with Pitt, choosing to diminish the matchup to a simple non-conference game for his Nittany Lions.
“I know last year for their win [against us], it was like the Super Bowl,” Franklin told reporters after the game on Saturday. “But for us, this was just like beating [last week’s opponent] Akron.”
Franklin’s comments were met with ire from Pitt backers, and even those who remain neutral on the Pitt – Penn State spectrum voiced sentiments that Franklin’s comments were low and inelegant.
Down the coast, No. 3 Clemson hosted No. 13 Auburn in a marquee ACC/SEC game on Saturday evening that saw two top-15 teams square off, with Clemson, the reigning national champions, coming out on top 14-6.
In the beginning days of the post-Deshaun Watson era, Clemson relied heavily upon their defense in a key win over a quality opponent, highlighted by defensive end Austin Bryant’s four sacks.
Notre Dame hosted Georgia for the first time in both programs’ history. It was also the first time that Georgia crossed the Mason-Dixon line and played a game in the north since visiting Michigan on October 2, 1965.
The game was a nail-biter, but the No. 15 Bulldogs pulled out the 20-19 win over the No. 24 Fighting Irish in South Bend, highlighted by UGA wide receiver Terry Godwin’s unbelievable touchdown catch in the second quarter. Godwin somehow secured a bobbling ball against his right shoulder as he fell out-of-bounds despite pressure from Irish defensive back Julian Love.
Week 2’s only top-5 matchup, between No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, surely highlighted the whole weekend.
The game began as a defensive struggle as both teams managed just three points in the opening half. In the second half Baker Mayfield heated up, as he finished the game with 386 yards passing and three touchdowns in a resounding 31-16 Sooner victory over Big 10 powerhouse Ohio State.
The win was capped off by Mayfield controversially taking the Sooner flag, waving it and staking it in the middle of the Ohio State ‘O’ at the midfield, putting the entire nation on notice in a public display of disrespect to the Buckeyes.
The win bumped the Sooners to No. 2 in the AP poll, directly behind Alabama, who handled Fresno State at home this past weekend, 41-10. Rounding out Week 3’s AP top-five were No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 USC, and No. 5 Penn State.
Within the FCS ranks, Duquesne picked up their first win this weekend as they toppled Valparaiso 45-40. The Dukes, after falling to South Dakota State in a lopsided loss in Week 1, benefitted from a balanced offensive attack against the Crusaders.
Graduate quarterback Tommy Stuart, a Boise State transfer, threw for 292 yards and three passing touchdowns and rushed for 48 yards and one touchdown on the day. A.J. Hines led the Dukes’ running attack, compiling 100 yards on the ground to go with two touchdowns on only 11 carries. P.J. Fulmore also added 88 yards for Duquesne.
The Dukes will travel to Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday, Sept. 16, to take on the 1-1 Dayton Flyers in the last leg of a three-game road trip. Almost a calendar year ago, Duquesne beat Dayton on Sept. 17, 2016, at Rooney Field, 34-20.
In the 11-team PFL (FCS) 2017-18 Preseason Coaches’ Poll, Valparaiso placed tenth. Dayton finished atop the league at second, right behind No. 1 San Diego.