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College football takeaways: Clemson and Oklahoma start strong

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September 15th, 2020

It's early in the college football season, with the SEC still waiting to start later this month and the Big Ten possibly returning in October, and play was sloppy at times last weekend.

However, there were still a number of exciting games and standout performances, and I love seeing college football back in action. 

Here are my takeaways from Week 2.

Clemson and Oklahoma start hot

Ranked No. 1 in the polls, Clemson showed little rust when it dominated Wake Forest, 37-13, and improved its record to 70-5 since 2015.

The Tigers turned it on after they were forced to punt on their first series. They scored on three consecutive possessions and led 37-3 before they took their foot off the gas pedal in the third quarter.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence (22-for-28, 351 passing yards) and running back Travis Etienne (17 carries, 102 rushing yards) were efficient, and highly touted defensive line recruits Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy are poised to make an impact after terrific debut performances.

The Spencer Rattler era has begun Oklahoma, which jumped out to a 31-0 first-quarter lead against Missouri State. The strong-armed quarterback completed 14 of his 17 passes, and didn’t play in the second half after he led the Sooners to a 41-0 advantage.

Oklahoma was missing some starters because of COVID-19 concerns, but the Sooners are still loaded and appear ready to win a sixth straight Big 12 title.

Honorable mention: Texas

Sam Ehlinger completed  25 of his 33 passes for 426 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-3 rout of UTEP.

Upsets aplenty

Louisiana-Lafayette is ranked for the first time by the AP (19th) after it throttled previous No. 23 Iowa State.

The Ragin' Cajuns broke open the game with special teams, when they returned a kickoff and punt for touchdowns, but Louisiana-Lafayette’s defense deserves plenty of credit for keeping former Heisman hopeful Brock Purdy in check and holding Iowa State scoreless in the second half.

Louisiana-Lafayette has won 12 of its last 14 games, with both losses to Sun Belt rival Appalachian State.

Arkansas State rallied from a late deficit at Kansas State, and Layne Hatcher threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Adams Jr. with 38 seconds remaining to give the Red Wolves an elusive victory over a Power Five conference foe.

Adams was the best player on the field, and he caught three touchdown passes. The Arkansas State defense also held Kansas State to just 91 rushing yards. Quarterback Skylar Thompson made plays to give Kansas State a chance to steal the win, but Arkansas State earned it and bounced back from a 37-24 loss to Memphis.

Georgia Tech entered 2020 with low expectations, after it went 3-9 in its first season under head coach Geoff Collins. The Yellow Jackets fell behind, 10-0, to Florida State in the first half but surprisingly rallied to win, 16-13, as a 13-point underdog.

True freshman Jeff Simms overcame a couple early interceptions and thoroughly outplayed counterpart James Blackman in the second half. Simms completed 24 of his 35 passes for 277 yards and added a team-high 64 rushing yards.

Florida State’s new coach, Mike Norvell, has a lot of work to do with the Seminoles offense.

North Carolina has upside

It’s a young team, but North Carolina could be outstanding this year.

The defense was formidable against a thin Syracuse squad, recorded seven sacks, and held the Orange to 202 yards. I also like the talent the Tar Heels have at running back and receiver.

But it made no sense to see them in a 7-6 contest in the third quarter, given their firepower. After a touchdown drive on the first series, the offense performed sluggishly, with penalties and turnovers hurting them, and quarterback Sam Howell must make better decisions following an up-and-down performance.

North Carolina scored 24 unanswered points to blow open the second half, and I expect the Tar Heels to play better in the weeks to come.

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