Another week of college football has come and gone and it was as entertaining as the last.
There were top 25 showdowns, upsets of multiple ranked teams, plus things went rather swimmingly for the FBS programs in Utah, at least in the win-loss column.
There are still plenty of unknowns about the season — it’s mid-September after all — but things are slightly more clear than they were a week ago.
And some things are more confusing than ever.
Here are six takeaways from Week 2 of the 2023 season:
BYU wins again but disruptive defensive plays are lacking
There was plenty of good to be found in BYU’s 41-16 win over Southern Utah on Saturday. The Cougars’ passing attack woke up for one, in a big way.
Quarterback Kedon Slovis completed 22 of 32 passes for 348 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. He spread the ball around fairly well, too, with four receivers each recording at least three receptions, another four making a single catch.
There was dynamic special teams play as well from the Cougars, from Harrison Taggart (a blocked punt) and Parker Kingston (41-yard kickoff return), specifically.
BYU’s defense surrendered quite a few yards in totality, but held the T-Birds to a single score in three out of the four quarters, shutting out SUU in the second quarter completely.
BYU soundly defeated a team it was better than, a good sign moving forward, though the Cougars may not be more talented than many of the teams remaining on the schedule, with only Power Five teams left.
One thing lacking, though, and this isn’t unheard of, were disruptive behind the line of scrimmage defensive plays. Think tackles for loss and sacks.
Through three weekends of college football, the Cougars rank No. 83 in the country in tackles for loss per game, having recorded six against Sam Houston and just four against SUU. Right now, BYU is the worst team in the Big 12 at generating tackles for loss.
BYU also has a single sack this year — from defensive end Tyler Batty against Sam Houston — ranking No. 122 across the FBS.
Jay Hill’s defense has been much more aggressive than previous versions under former defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki, as it has shown in back-to-back weeks, but so far the Cougars haven’t proven capable of getting real pressure on opposing quarterbacks or penetrating offensive lines. Not consistently at least and certainly not enough.
Utah keeps winning, but it needs to get healthy soon
The Utah Utes are 2-0 to start the season, with wins over a pair of Power Five opponents in Florida and Baylor.
Not only that, but one of those wins came on the road, in football-crazed Texas, and the Utes have been without numerous projected starters on both sides of the ball due to injuries.
Given all the injuries, the undefeated start to the season is nothing short of miraculous for the Utes, or clear evidence of the depth of talent Kyle Whittingham and company have brought to Salt Lake City.
It was obvious to anyone who watched the Utes battle Baylor that the Utah offense needs better quarterback play. When Nate Johnson provided it, the Utes did well. When he and Bryson Barnes did not, it was a slog.
It is also clear that Utah’s defense can be elite. Without multiple starters, the Utes’ defense has proven extremely stout. Just look at the points scored by Florida and Baylor when they didn’t play Utah this season.
There is every reason for Utah fans to be optimistic about the campaign given its start. The team is building depth and winning games without its best players.
The sooner those players get back, though, the better. Sure, Cam Rising and Brant Kuithe are experienced, and the same goes for defensive tackle Simote Pepa, defensive end Connor O’Toole and linebacker Karene Reid.
But even the most experienced players still need time to get acclimated and used to playing full speed tackle football again.
With conference play beckoning — following this week’s matchup against Weber State — Utah doesn’t have time to slowly allow injured players to get to full speed. The Utes play UCLA on Sept. 23 and the Bruins dominated SDSU, a traditionally good Group of Five program.
After that, the Utes play at Oregon State, and the Beavers increasingly look like the best team in the conference. Even Cal, Utah’s opponent after OSU, looks improved after shutting down Auburn in a 14-10 loss.
The Pac-12 is arguably the best it has been since it expanded to include Utah and Colorado, and more and more it looks like teams need to be playing at their best week after week to have a chance.
Can Utah do that without its injured stars?
Shades of 2018 for Utah State?
You may suffer from whiplash year-to-year if you are a Utah State football fan. One year, the Aggies might be really bad. And then the next they are mediocre, only to then improve to be incredible the following season.
Or one year they are abysmal and the next they beat everyone they play, even when it isn’t reasonable.
Or one year they are great, the class of their conference, then quickly fall to mediocre and then bad.
All of those scenarios have happened over the last 10 years for Utah State and through two games it appears to be happening again.
The Aggies were very mediocre in 2022, finishing 6-7 overall, but through two games this season USU appears to have the potential to be a great Mountain West Conference team.
The Aggies played Iowa well in a Week 1 loss, and followed that up with a record-breaking victory over Idaho State.
The Idaho State win wasn’t notable because of the opponent, but because of the offensive outburst by the Aggies.
USU scored and scored and scored against Bengals, doing things last done by an Aggie team in 2018. In case you forgot, 2018 was the best year of the Jordan Love-Matt Wells era in Logan, when the Aggies won 11 games and nearly outscored everyone.
Love gets the majority of the credit for that success, but the Aggies were balanced on offense, with a dynamic rushing attack featuring Darwin Thompson and Gerold Bright.
Fast forward to 2023 and the Aggies have a veteran quarterback in Cooper Legas and a balanced passing attack, coupled with a dynamic rushing attack involving running back Robert Briggs, Davon Booth and Rahsul Faison.
It isn’t a perfect parallel, but after USU’s showing against ISU, it is hard not to think of 2018 and what might be for the 2023 team.
Is the SEC overrated and people are admitting it?
This isn’t about Texas and Alabama. Well it is a little bit.
With Texas’ win over Alabama, coupled with wins over SEC teams by Utah, North Carolina, Florida State, Miami and Wake Forest, the vaunted SEC has lost six games to Power Five opponents through two weeks this season.
Sure, there’ve been wins. Tennessee over Virginia, Auburn over Cal and Mississippi State over Arizona, but the major SEC nonconference matchups have not gone the way they usually do.
For years, the SEC’s reputation as the strongest football conference stemmed from success against Power Five opponents in September and again during bowl season.
That September success have evaporated this year.
And people are noticing it.
The ACC, its prestige specifically, has risen dramatically after FSU beat LSU, North Carolina beat South Carolina and Miami beat Texas A&M.
The Seminoles have a legitimate argument to being the top ranked team in the country, if only AP voters cared less about their preseason beliefs.
And already people are throwing out the question “Is Miami back?” because of the Hurricanes’ dominant win over the Aggies.
Going back to Alabama and Texas, the Crimson Tide’s loss Saturday was the program’s first loss to a nonconference opponent at home since losing to UL Monroe 21-14 in 2007, and the Longhorns was clearly better team.
Georgia is still unbeaten, as is Tennessee, but for the first time in years the argument that SEC teams beat up on each and deserve the benefit of the doubt in the rankings looks shaky.
Has the Colorado-Oregon game arrived yet?
Colorado now stands at 2-0 after dominating Nebraska, one week after eking out a thrilling win over TCU.
The Buffaloes are the talk of college football, to the point that both ESPN’s College GameDay and Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff are headed to Boulder this coming week for the Colorado-Colorado State rivalry game.
Colorado should win that game. Easily. The Rams are not good and the Buffaloes are clearly much improved.
How improved remains the big question, though.
The Cornhuskers are not good. Matt Rhule has a significant rebuild on his hands, one that might defeat him. It did in Scott Frost and Mike Riley before him.
And while TCU may end up being a good team — the Horned Frogs bounced back in Week 2 with a 41-6 win over Nicholls — few believe TCU is anything close to the team it was a year ago.
Colorado is clearly good, but no one knows just how good and that won’t be determined in Week 3.
The first real challenge awaits in Week 4, when the Buffaloes travel to Eugene, Oregon, to take on the Ducks. A week later, the Buffs host USC.
But you can be sure that on Saturday, Sept. 23, the eyes of the nation will be glued on the goings-on in Autzen Stadium. A win over Oregon would vault Colorado into Pac-12 contender status, and with the way Pac-12 teams are performing this season, if you are a contender in the conference you are also a contender to make the College Football Playoff.
That sort of turnaround by Colorado would be the most significant story in college football, possibly ever.
Mel Tucker could soon be out at Michigan State
The coaching carousel may soon begin spinning.
According to multiple reports Sunday, later confirmed by Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller during a 3 p.m MDT press conference, Spartans’ head coach Mel Tucker’s job is in serious jeopardy.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg and Pete Thamel reported that the coach has been suspended, without pay, and his status is in doubt due to an on-going university sexual harassment investigation, as first reported by USA Today.
Secondary coach Harlon Barnett will lead the program on an interim basis with former MSU head coach Mark Dantonio returning as associate head coach, Haller told reporters.
Per Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal, Tucker can be be fired “without being owed the remainder of the deal if he engages in ‘conduct which, in the university’s reasonable judgment, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule on the university.’”
Writes Couch. “This, I think, would qualify.”
Per USA Today, any formal decision of Tucker’s job status, and the more than $77 million that remains on his contract, isn’t expected to be decided until a Title IX hearing on Oct. 5.