6 pivotal games to watch in Week 2 (with picks)

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More Dash: Four playoff picks | Conference power rankings | 7 teams with injuries/issues at QB

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (“Passing Is Overrated” T-shirts sold separately at West Point, where the Cadets scored 62 points Saturday without completing a forward pass):


Last weekend was fun, but this weekend will be better. Why? Because the proliferation of neutral-site games is largely over, clearing the way for big-time intersectional matchups where they should be played – on campus.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is really cool. JerryWorld remains a great destination. Charlotte and Indianapolis are perfectly acceptable. But the true flavor of the sport is captured in the mammoth old on-campus stadiums that shake with noise when the home team is playing a big game. We have that this Saturday, all over the place.

Six important games that will be played in great environments:

Oklahoma-Ohio State (31). Where: The Horseshoe, Columbus, Ohio. When: 7:30 p.m. ET. Expected atmosphere, on a scale of 1-5: 5. There are 105,000 reasons why Urban Meyer is 34-2 in the Shoe as coach of the Buckeyes. (Actually make it 105,001: He also has incredible talent.) Best matchup: Oklahoma’s offensive line, led by tackle Orlando Brown, against Ohio State’s deep array of defensive ends. Dash pick: Ohio State 35, Oklahoma 24.

Can Baker Mayfield (6) and Oklahoma get revenge on Ohio State in Columbus after last year’s drubbing? (AP)
Can Baker Mayfield (6) and Oklahoma get revenge on Ohio State in Columbus after last year’s drubbing? (AP)

Georgia-Notre Dame (32). Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind. When: 7:30 p.m. Expected atmosphere, on a scale of 1-5: 4 ½ . They still haven’t played many night games at Notre Dame, and they’ve never played a regular-season game against the Bulldogs – the only other meeting was in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, when Georgia clinched the national championship. Expect a stoked crowd. Best matchup: Fighting Irish running game, which cranked out 422 rushing yards and 9.59 yards per carry against Temple, runs into a Georgia defense with 10 returning starters and 10 juniors or seniors in the starting lineup. Dash pick: Notre Dame 28, Georgia 23.

Auburn-Clemson (33). Where: Death Valley, Clemson, S.C. When: 7 p.m. Expected atmosphere, on a scale of 1-5: 5. Few places can match the sheer noise of Clemson, and the home fans should have an extra decibel or two of gusto coming off a national championship. Best matchup: A Clemson defense that only allowed two Kent State plays of longer than 10 yards (and none longer than 20) against an Auburn offense that cranked out 19 double-digit gains, four of 30-plus yards and two of 60-plus. Dash pick: Clemson 31, Auburn 27.

Stanford-USC (34). Where: L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles. When: 8:30 p.m. Expected atmosphere, on a scale of 1-5: 3 ½ . The stadium is grand and historic, but not easy to fill. Still, Trojans fans have been known to hop on the bandwagon, and it’s rolling despite a flirtation with disaster last week against Western Michigan. No love lost between alums of these two schools. Best matchup: USC QB Sam Darnold, coming off a pedestrian season debut, against a Stanford pass defense that allowed just 95 passing yards and 42 percent completion accuracy to Rice. Dash pick: Stanford 26, USC 24.

Pittsburgh-Penn State (35). Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa. When: 3:30. Expected atmosphere, on a scale of 1-5: 4 ½ . Happy Valley at night is a solid 5. Happy Valley in the afternoon, against an old rival, will still be cranked. Best matchup: Pitt multi-purpose back Quadree Henderson, who had 201 all-purpose yards on just nine touches last year in a win over Penn State, against a defense that is tops in the Big Ten after one week. Dash pick: Penn State 34, Pitt 21.

TCU-Arkansas (36). Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark. When: 3:30 p.m. Expected atmosphere, on a scale of 1-5: 4. They can get after it in Fayettenam, and the Hogs love nothing more than beating anyone from Texas. Best matchup: Horned Frogs QB Kenny Hill against the Arkansas secondary – and himself. Hill had a habit of throwing it to the other team last year, with 13 interceptions. This year he’s already thrown one interception in just 24 attempts against Jackson State. Dash pick: TCU 41, Arkansas 38.


Louisville (37) committed a staggering 16 penalties against Purdue, and 10 of them were false starts. That sounds like it could be an NCAA record – especially for a neutral-site game where opposing crowd noise certainly was not a factor.

Coach Bobby Petrino explained the false starts as a communication issue with freshman center Robbie Bell, who was trying to call out fronts and protections and missing quarterback Lamar Jackson’s hand claps to snap the ball. It sounds like a very correctable situation, but it continues last season’s penalty-intensive trend for the Cardinals.

Louisville was flagged for the eighth-most penalty yards per game in 2016. Between that and turnovers (32 last year, tied for third-most in the nation), the Cardinals did a fine job of self-sabotage. With 16 penalties and three lost fumbles Saturday, they’re on track for more of the same.


Turner Gill (38), Liberty. He’s now beaten as many Big 12 teams at Liberty as he did in two seasons as the coach at Kansas (one). The former Nebraska quarterback who did good work before Kansas at Buffalo is doing good work after Kansas as coach of the Flames (35-25 overall, with five straight winning seasons).


Scottie Montgomery (39), East Carolina. The Pirates program has cratered quickly under Montgomery, losing 10 of 13 games and five in a row with the season-opening loss to James Madison. A loss to that FCS power is not a great shame, but being beaten by 20 points – and trailing by 27 until the final minute – is bad. All of ECU’s last nine losses have been by double digits.


When hungry in the incomparable food city of New Orleans, The Dash recommends a visit to Compere Lapin (40) in the Warehouse Arts District. It’s a bit highbrow but also a little funky, and fully worth it. Get the spiced pig ears appetizer (yes, seriously). Get the oysters. Get the trio of pork. And get a Louisville Slugger cocktail (bourbon, apple brandy, chicory, smoked vanilla). Thank The Dash later.

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