Week 2 college football storylines for Kentucky fans to follow
Each week Cats Illustrated will be highlighting the most storylines, the most intriguing games, and anything else that might be of interest to Kentucky fans in particular. This goes beyond our coverage of UK football but we'll try to tie it back in wherever possible.
Texas hosts LSU in the game of the week ... There haven't been too many marquee matchups through two weeks as we look down the schedule for Saturday's games but this is a treat. The winner of this game will catapult into prime playoff contention, though each road would still be tricky to navigate.
This will be our second look at Florida ... The Gators will have gone two weeks since their last game against Miami in that season opener for the entire sport. We already know Florida's defense is fast and tough to block up front when they're getting after the passer. We know the Gators have some explosive skill position weapons when they have the ball in space. But that retooled offensive line that was a question going into the season remains a question for Dan Mullen's team. That's one reason for optimism if you're a Kentucky fan looking ahead to Week 3. Another: Feleipe Franks didn't look like a transformed player (what led to that perception anyways?) against the Hurricanes.
What will Justin Fields do for an encore? ... Ohio State put a lot of hurt on FAU in the first quarter last wink. If you blinked, you missed about four touchdowns. That was Justin Fields, the former Georgia Bulldog who "beat out" former Kentucky quarterback Gunnar Hoak in a competition that probably was never a competition - no shade intended. Everyone is talking about Trevor Lawrence, Tua Tagavailoa and now even Jalen Hurts as leading Heisman contenders, but Fields could put up huge numbers for a very talented Ohio State squad. OSU gets the second-most prominent program in Ohio this weekend in Cincinnati. The Bearcats won 11 games a year ago and finished off Chip Kelly's UCLA squad a week ago.
Is Michigan on upset alert? ... The Wolverines are one of the reasons the Big Ten is poised for a strong season but don't sleep on Army going into the Big House. Michigan's physical superiority should produce a win but the Black Knights put a scare into Oklahoma last season and are hovering around the Top-25. If some funky things happen it could get interesting.
Texas A&M's brutal schedule gets real ... The Aggies are paying Jimbo Fisher a lot of money. More than $70 million over the term of his contract (that should be "we're buying a couple of national championships" money, but it's really "we're buying a chance to compete for second in the West most years" for the foreseeable future). Texas A&M looked good in Week 1 and they're ranked No. 12 nationally. It wouldn't be a shock if they made some noise this season, although they are not widely regarded as a likely playoff team. One reason for that is the schedule. There's No. 1 Clemson this week and also No. 10 Auburn in two more weeks, No. 2 Alabama in mid-October, and then No. 3 Georgia and No. 6 LSU back-to-back to finish the regular season. If the Aggies finish 9-3 it means they had a really good team.
Scott Satterfield could well get his first win at Louisville ... The Cardinals draw Eastern Kentucky at home so it should be a win. It's tough to take anything from the 35-17 loss to Notre Dame. A step forward would look like a comfortable victory and better ball control at the quarterback position. There aren't many likely wins on UofL's schedule. This is one. The fact we're even highlighting this game is a sign of how few intriguing games there are on the weekly lineup.
The character of Tennessee's team may be revealed against BYU ... How must Volunteer fans be feeling? They've been through the ringer since that national championship in '98, watching the slow, steady decline of a once-proud program. With every coaching change - and there have been many - there's an inevitable surge in enthusiasm, but at this point it seems like even the most diehard of the diehards would struggle to believe "this time" is different than the tenures of Butch Jones, Derek Dooley or Lane Kiffin. Pruitt's first year was forgettable and now starting 0-1 with one of the biggest upset losses in recent college football history, at home against Georgia State? Utah was able to dispatch BYU but the Utes are a much better team than UT. This is another game Tennessee could lose, and if they drop two straight at Neyland the wheels could come off. That would be good news for Kentucky, although every Wildcat fan knows a lot tends to conspire against UK in head-to-heads here.
Battle of the West's bottom feeders ... Arkansas-Ole Miss is about as unattractive an SEc game as we'll see during the 2019 season, but hey, it's SEC football. Sort of. It's too early to tell how improved the Razorbacks will prove to be in Chad Morris' second year, but the early returns were not good with a close call against Portland State at home. Ole Miss lost to Memphis to start their own season. Getting to .500 might be a stretch for either squad.
Vandebilt at Purdue has some intrigue ... It's the rare SEC-Big Ten regular season matchup. Purdue gets home field but the Boilermakers collapsed on the road at Nevada in a surprising loss their first time out. But Purdue did start 0-3 before rebounding to finish impressively (at least until that bowl game against Auburn), so maybe slow starts are just a Brohm thing. Vanderbilt has played well in early season action under Derek Mason recently so the Commodores would seem to have a chance going into West Lafayette. There will be a lot of skill position talent on the field for both of these squads.
Miami at UNC has ACC divisional implications ... With the Tar Heels knocking off South Carolina as 11-point underdogs, it's now fair to wonder whether they can contend in a very weak half of the ACC. This game features Jarren Williams, of course, who turned in a gutsy performance against Florida even though he was running for his life as the Gators racked up 10 sacks.
Stanford at USC as the Trojans with new quarterbacks on both sides ... The Trojans defeated Fresno State as expected in their season opener but lost starting quarterback JT Daniels for the season in the process. Freshman Kedon Slovis will get the nod in his absence. An equalizer: Stanford has ruled starting quarterback K.J. Costello out for this week's game as well. If the Cardinal, ranked No. 23, goes into the Coliseum and wins, it would further underscore the North's strength compared to the South and it would be one more step in the wrong direction for Clay Helton.
Missouri looks to rebound at home against West Virginia ... Maybe everyone should have been talking more about the trap game dynamics with Mizzou going on the road to Wyoming for a long, funky road trip with so many unknowns for everyone at the start of the season. But the loss was a bad look beyond any possible rationalizations. If the Tigers beat West Virginia at home then it might be a sign the Week 1 loss was more of a fluke than a sign of things to come. Then again, West Virginia has been picked to finish towards the bottom of the Big XII and struggled against James Madison last Saturday.
Can UK move into the Top-25 with a win against EMU? ... In my "Midweek Thoughts" piece a couple of days ago I outlined why that's probably unlikely. Favored teams are pretty heavily favored, which means the teams ahead of Kentucky in the Coaches Poll are probably going to hold steady. But it's possible.
It's a good thing that Nebraska and Colorado are playing again ... A bit of sentimental bias here, but the Cornhuskers and Buffaloes often gave us one of the better late season rivalries of the year through the end of Tom Osborne's dynasty. That game was played the day after Thanksgiving each year. Conference realignment, with NU going to the Big Ten and CU to the Pac-12, put the series on hold. The teams didn't play between 2010 and 2018. But last year the series resumed with Colorado winning 33-28. So many rivalries in college sports have been interrupted for indeterminate lengths of time, maybe some permanently, and while change is a constant, for traditionalists these old rivalries make the sport better. In terms of this year, Nebraska needs to be better than they were in Week 1 against South Alabama.