Another week of dominant defensive football sees Alabama (2-0) return to the top of the Associated Press (AP) rankings, following a 41-10 walkover against Fresno State (1-1).
Head coach Nick Saban has his ballhawks firing on all cylinders, having already beaten then third-ranked Florida State (0-1) while giving up just a single score in a 24-7 victory.
The Crimson Tide’s defensive prowess will be somewhat tested this week, when Colorado State (2-1) comes to Tuscaloosa. The Rams have put up 58- and 38-point performances to start the season, and they topped the 40-point plateau six times last year.
Even so, online sportsbook Bovada doesn’t give Colorado State much of a chance to light up the scoreboard against Alabama, as the Tide are rated as heavy 29.5-point home favorites.
By winning the season’s first true clash of titans – a 31-16 road upset last Saturday over then second-ranked Ohio State (1-1) – Oklahoma (2-0) claimed that spot for themselves, moving up three positions in the AP rankings.
The Sooners will get a breather this time around, with Tulane (1-1) of the American Athletic Conference coming to town. After defeating a powerhouse like the Buckeyes, Oklahoma will no doubt be looking to avoid a letdown – especially with a Big 12 showdown against Baylor next on the schedule – so seeing the Sooners as 35.5-point home favorites isn’t all that surprising.
Clemson (2-0) may not have star quarterback Deshaun Watson under center this season, but the defending National Champions have adjusted on the fly, beating then 12th-ranked Auburn (1-1) in a tight 14-6 game last Saturday.
That win put the Tigers on a collision course with an ACC rival this week, as Clemson visits 14th ranked Louisville (2-0) in a battle of big-time offenses. Clemson is averaging 35.0 points and 473 yards per game, which somehow pales in comparison to Louisville’s 41.0 points and 614.5 yards per.
Sufficed to say, the scoring will come fast and furious in this one, but Bovada believes the game will stay close throughout. With the experience edge, and defending champ chip on their shoulder, Clemson has been installed as slight 3.5-point road favorites.
One of the more highly touted non-conference rivalries in recent college football memory pits Texas (0-2) against USC (2-0), with an epic 41-38 win in the 2006 Rose Bowl giving the Longhorns bragging rights a decade later.
Leaving aside the brewing controversy over vacated wins for a moment, that rivalry has lost its luster of late, as both Texas and USC have struggled to maintain their elite standing. The Longhorns stumbled to a 5-7 record last season, while the Trojans went 1-3 before winning out.
This year, it looks to be more of the same for Texas, which lost 51-41 to Maryland (2-0) opening week. And while a 56-0 whitewashing last week over San Jose State (1-2) helped right the ship, Texas will be traveling into the lion’s den of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to face a hungry USC squad.
The Trojans are the AP’s fourth-ranked team following last week’s 42-24 dismissal of then 14th-ranked Stanford (1-1), a win made more impressive by virtue of coming on the road. USC finished last season ranked third by the AP, and a win this week would likely put them back there – especially if Louisville manages to knock off Clemson.
The halcyon days of 2006 are long gone for the Longhorns, who will head to L.A. as 16.5-point road underdogs.
The only other matchup of ranked teams this week involves two teams on the fringe, with 23rd-ranked Tennessee (2-0) taking on 24th-ranked Florida (0-1). The Volunteers have hit 42 points in both of their wins, while the Gators mustered only three scoring plays in a 33-17 season opening loss to then 11th-ranked Michigan (2-0).
Florida’s game last week was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma, so the Gators should be the fresher team as 4.5-point home favorites.