The loss of several significant non-conference games was one fallout from last year's college football season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oregon and Ohio State were scheduled to meet last September in the first of a two-game series. The matchup of teams in the top 10 of the preseason poll would have been the marquee non-conference game of the season.
Twelve months later, we'll finally see the schools square off with the No. 3 Buckeyes hosting the No. 11 Ducks. It'll be a significant test for both teams with hopes of making the playoff. Ohio State's defense was shaky at times against Minnesota, while Oregon held off Fresno State in a game that was too close for comfort. The winner takes a major step toward its goal.
The other significant showdown of the weekend sees the resumption of the rivalry between No. 10 Iowa State and No. 12 Iowa that was called off last year. The Cyclones struggled against Northern Iowa, raising doubts about their lofty status. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes routed Indiana and will try to win their fifth consecutive game in the series, though the last three victories have been by a combined 14 points.
Another game matching in-state foes with some animosity takes place when Brigham Young hosts No. 18 Utah. The series has been dominated by the Utes, who have won the last nine times. There's also one game outside the Top 25 worth noting. Washington visits Michigan in another significant Pac-12 vs. Big Ten meeting.
Bold predictions for Week 2
In the crazy world of college football, there are always surprises. Some of our experts offer their forecasts for some unlikely events this weekend.
While Georgia's defense was mighty impressive in shutting down Clemson, its offense didn't exactly light the world on fire. That will change this week. The offense will move the ball and the defense that surrendered only 3 points to Clemson will give up more. But not many more, as Alabama-Birmingham will struggle to move the ball and will not hit double digits on the scoreboard.
Iowa State entered the 2021 season with expectations it has never had thanks to the incredible rebuilding effort of sixth-year coach Matt Campbell. But there’s been one persistent issue that seems to be rearing its head for the Cyclones once again: slow starts. ISU is just 8-11 in September under Campbell and was hardly convincing last Saturday in a 16-10 win over Northern Iowa of the FCS. Now big brother Iowa comes to town and puts Campbell’s most glaring issue in Ames into focus: His Cyclones are 0-4 against Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes, who have ripped off seven straight wins overall dating to last season. More impressively, Iowa hasn’t given up more than 24 points in a game since 2018. Perhaps Iowa State raises its level of play, but I think the stout Iowa defense will keep a talented Cyclones squad in check and the Hawkeyes offense will do just enough to win this high-stakes showdown.
Iowa tops Iowa State as slight underdogs and climbs into the top 10 of the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll. A second win against a ranked opponent in as many weeks should convince the naysayers that the Hawkeyes are the biggest threat to Ohio State coming out of the Big Ten West. Not that a win would be that surprising given the recent and not-so-recent history between these two rivals: Iowa has won five straight in the series and holds an overall lead of 45-22.
We've seen anticipated high-profile, non-conference games not match our expectations. That won't be the case when No. 3 Ohio State hosts No. 11 Oregon. The Ducks might seem overmatched after struggling against Fresno State, but the Bulldogs are underrated. That might breed some overconfidence for the Buckeyes, who had some shaky moments against Minnesota. This one will be close throughout and don't be surprised if Oregon heads home with a massive win.
The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy series gets an early start this year as Air Force visits Navy on what figures to be an emotional Sept. 11 for the academy teams.
As far as on-field matters are concerned, last week’s dismal showing by the Midshipmen against Marshall would appear to be a bad sign. But the long trip always poses challenges for the visitors in this series. Will the Falcons win? Yes, probably, but don’t expect it to be a cakewalk.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football picks: Predictions for Top 25 NCAA games in Week 2