Welcome back to The Professor, a weekly guide to what we learned in college football. For more from Week 2 in college football, catch up on scores here and check out our five takeaways Saturday night.
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The Ohio State coaching staff features a combined 34 years of head coaching experience between Urban Meyer, owner of three national championships, and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who made Indiana and Rutgers competitive.
On Saturday night at Ohio Stadium, that trio of accomplished coaches was no match for Lincoln Riley, four days after his 34th birthday in only his second game as a head coach.
While the Sooners' staff features veterans with head coaching experience -- Ruffin McNeill, Mike Stoops -- Saturday night's showdown between Oklahoma and Ohio State matched one of the most successful head coaches in college football history, surrounded by successful coordinators, against the youngest FBS head coach in the second game of his first season.
In the 31-16 Sooners victory, the 34-year-old Riley eased just about any concern about him taking the place of Bob Stoops, the national title-winning Oklahoma legend who unexpectedly retired in June.
Riley stepped into a great situation at Oklahoma in that he inherited a back-to-back Big 12 championship roster with a proven star quarterback in Baker Mayfield. But he also faced many hurdles: He had to replace a legend, which is never easy. He got the promotion suddenly in the middle of the offseason. He lost a Heisman finalist receiver and two 1,000-yard rushers. His first head coaching job happens to be one of the most demanding and high-profile programs in the sport. His second game was on the road in one of the sport's most hostile environments against a team ranked No. 2, with that talented coaching staff and a roster bursting with talent that beat the Sooners by three touchdowns in Norman a year ago.
And yet the decisive final score in favor of Oklahoma left no doubt: Lincoln Riley got the best of Urban Meyer and showed just why Stoops felt so confident in Riley being ready to replace him now.
In fact, Meyer and the Buckeyes were lucky the result was not worse. Oklahoma scored only three points in the first half despite the fact that it did not punt. It outplayed the Buckeyes on offense early, only to turn the ball over on downs, lose two fumbles and miss a field goal on its first four possessions. It was the type of mistake-filled start that could rattle a young coach and a team playing an enormous game on the road with possible playoff implications. Missed opportunities can add up, and the opposition can adjust and make a team pay for not capitalizing on its early chances, especially with the support of a raucous home crowd.
Instead, Oklahoma counterpunched with haymakers and made Ohio State appear almost helpless to keep pace. With a decisive advantage in passing game with Mayfield over the Buckeyes' J.T. Barrett, plus a touted offensive line that held its own against Ohio State's touted defensive line, Riley carved up Schiano's defense in his other role as play-caller.
After falling behind 10-3 early in the second half, Oklahoma responded with a five-play, 67-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 36-yard pass from Mayfield to fullback Dimitri Flowers.
Later, it scored three touchdowns in less than eight minutes, with drives of 92 yards and 64 yards, plus a quick touchdown after a Barrett interception.
Mayfield completed 27 of 35 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions despite losing standout tight end Mark Andrews to an injury in the first half. He averaged 11 yards per pass attempt, more than twice as much as Barrett (5.2). According to Sports-Reference, the 386 passing yards were the most Ohio State has allowed in a home game since at least 2000, and Oklahoma's average of 6.8 yards per play was the sixth-most Ohio State has allowed on any field since 2000. The 15-point margin of victory -- again, it could have been worse -- made for Ohio State's worst loss at the Horseshoe since a 6-6 team in 1999 fell to Illinois by 26.
All of this came in the second game ever as a head coach for Riley, a Mike Leach/Dana Holgorsen Air Raid protégé who has enjoyed a rapid rise up the coaching ladder that included just two years as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator before getting the promotion to one of the most coveted jobs in college football.
Riley and Mayfield make up an all-time great pairing between play-caller and quarterback. Mayfield, a former Texas Tech walk-on, has been a top-four Heisman finisher two years in a row, and Saturday's win gives him a chance to make some history this season. Riley has a knack for creative calls and plays that put Mayfield in position to succeed, and Mayfield, in turn, can be unstoppable thanks to his escapability, especially behind such a veteran offensive line.
Baker Mayfield:- Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 10, 2017
Great quarterback ✅
Great flag planter ✖ pic.twitter.com/IDjY61mwFc
When the game was over, Mayfield planted a flag at the center of the Horseshoe, celebrating one of the biggest regular-season nonconference wins in school history. Riley soaked up the atmosphere, too, before emphasizing afterward that this was merely the beginning, that Oklahoma is playing for a lot more in 2017 than a win over Ohio State. The Sooners are taking aim at another Big 12 title, a playoff bid and a Heisman for Mayfield.
"We'd be disappointed if this is the highlight of our season... we've only played 2 games."- Lee Benson (@LeeBensonNews9) September 10, 2017
-Lincoln Riley pic.twitter.com/QfVCzrdyJ5
We're a long way away from knowing how Riley will do at Oklahoma in the long run. But on Saturday night, he showed that he's capable of giving this Sooners team a chance to compete for all of its lofty goals.
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Lessons Learned in Week 2
Lamar Jackson is still a statistical machine
The star Louisville quarterback had 525 yards of total offense in the Cardinals' 47-35 win at North Carolina. For the second year in a row, Jackson has recorded over 1,000 yards of total offense in his first two games. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Patrick Mahomes is the only other player to do that since 2000.
- In 2016, Jackson had 697 passing yards, 318 rushing yards and 13 total TDs through two games against Charlotte and Syracuse to establish himself as a Heisman contender in early September. In 2017, Jackson has 771 passing yards, 239 rushing yards and eight total TDs through two games against Purdue and North Carolina.
- Jackson's 525 yards on Saturday -- 393 passing, 132 rushing -- were more than 16 teams have so far this season, including six that have played two games.
- According to Louisville, Jackson is the second player to have 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in consecutive games.
- Since 2000, according to Sports-Reference, Jackson has three of the 30 games in which a player has had 350 passing yards and 100 rushing yards. He's 2-for-2 so far this season.
Next up? Attempting to solve a Clemson defense that has allowed a total of 237 yards in two games, including Saturday's 14-6 win over Auburn.
USC's balance could be unstoppable
USC had overwhelming talent at just about every position during the Pete Carroll years, most famously boasting a backfield that featured LenDale White, Heisman winner Reggie Bush and Heisman winner Matt Leinart. This year's backfield can't match those heights … because few backfields have ever matched those heights. But with Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine gone from Oklahoma, no team in 2017 has a backfield as good as USC's.
In the Trojans' 42-24 win over Stanford that reinforced their playoff contender status, Sam Darnold completed 21 of 26 passes for 316 yards and four TDs with two INTs. Ronald Jones II rushed for 116 yards and two TDs. And five-star freshman Stephen Carr rushed for 119 yards. Sports-Reference says it's the only time since 2000 that Stanford's defense has allowed over 300 passing yards and 300 rushing yards in the same game.
Jones propelled USC in its Week 1 win over Western Michigan. Against Stanford, Darnold and rising star wideout Deontay Burnett got off to a hot start, and the running game finished the job as the Cardinal struggled to keep up. It also proved to be an impressive day for the USC offensive line against a Stanford team known for its physicality. The Trojans have won 11 games in a row, and this offense can become awfully scary to defend in a hurry, with a bunch of blue-chip talent fitting together well.
Notre Dame's close-game struggles continue
It took just two games for a combative postgame Brian Kelly to re-emerge after yet another close Notre Dame loss:
The Fighting Irish went 4-8 last season with a hard-luck record of 1-7 in games decided by one possession (eight points or less). After blowing out Temple in Week 1, Notre Dame reverted to its 2016 form on Saturday against Georgia: It lost 20-19, thanks to a late Georgia field goal and a Brandon Wimbush fumble on its final possession.
It's far too early to say that what happened Saturday is a sign of things to come. Forget what happened last year, and losing by a point to a top-20 Georgia team with a talented and experience defense is forgivable, especially since the Notre Dame defense mostly played well. Still, it just adds to the frustration in South Bend. Close-game results tend to even out over time, coming down to luck in many cases. For now, Notre Dame is 0-1 in close games in 2017, and Kelly is back to facing immense pressure and difficult questions about a program that is 5-11 (with wins over Nevada, Syracuse, Miami, Army and Nevada) in its past 16 games overall dating back to a heartbreaking loss to Stanford to end the 2015 regular season.
Don't forget about Clemson's Austin Bryant
There seems to be no end to Clemson's talent on defense since Brent Venables arrived as defensive coordinator. That's especially true on the line. The Tigers have had six defensive linemen drafted in the past three years, and yet they've repeatedly reloaded. This year, only Carlos Watkins had to be replaced, and the returning stars were superb sophomore tackle Dexter Lawrence, versatile junior Christian Wilkins and late-2016-breakout-star end Clelin Ferrell. Those three deserved a lot of preseason praise, and they all got it. We were reminded on Saturday night that the fourth starter, end Austin Bryant, shouldn't be overlooked.
Previously a rotational player, Bryant moved into a starting end spot as a junior, with Watkins gone and Wilkins sliding back over to tackle. Clemson's defense finished with 11 sacks in its 14-6 win over Auburn; Bryant had four of them, which is twice as many as he had in the nine games he played in 2016 after missing six with an injury. Kent State attempted only five passes in Clemson's opener, creating few opportunities for sacks. The Tigers made up for it against Auburn, relentlessly attacking new QB Jarrett Stidham. Auburn averaged just 1.8 yards per play, and Bryant helped seal the win with a third-and-20 sack on Auburn's final possession.
It's hard enough to contain one top defensive lineman like Ferrell or Lawrence or Wilkins or Bryant. Good luck stopping all four.
A reminder that time of possession is overrated
Few stats are capable of being more misleading than time of possession, which has gotten more and more irrelevant over time as teams have embraced tempo.
On Saturday, Pittsburgh did its best to play keep-away from Penn State's explosive offense. In that sense, trying to control time of possession could have worked. The problem is that keeping possession means nothing if you fail to actually take the ball anywhere. In a 33-14 loss to the Nittany Lions, Pitt had the ball for 38:20 and out-gained Penn State 342 to 312. But it committed three turnovers, converted one of four red-zone trips into a touchdown and averaged two fewer yards per play than the Lions.
Pitt especially played keep-away in the first half, and at one point it went on a 15-play drive that lasted 8 minutes, 2 seconds. The possession netted 31 yards and resulted in a 33-yard punt. The Panthers fell behind 14-0 early and proceeded to slowly run out the clock on themselves.
Pitt's 15-play, 31-yard drive paled in comparison to Louisiana Tech's instantly legendary accomplishment in a blowout loss to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs held the ball for 36:08 in a 57-21 loss. In the fourth quarter, they went on a nine-play drive that got all the way to the Mississippi State six-yard line and lasted 6 minutes, 30 seconds. Sounds good, right? The problem is that Louisiana Tech netted a total of three yards, thanks to the spectacular 87-yard fumble that resulted in a third-and-93.
Utah continues to torment BYU in Holy War rivalry
BYU-Utah is an underappreciated rivalry nationally. It also feels like a rivalry that's been relatively even, but in reality, that's almost never been the case. The Utes totally dominated the series for decades until LaVell Edwards arrived at BYU. From 1972-92, BYU won 19 of 21 meetings and emerged as a national power, including the 1984 national championship season. Since then, Utah has won 17 of 24.
BYU's angst has only grown this decade. The Cougars are independent now, still hoping that they can garner an invite to a power conference. Utah got that invitation and joined the Pac-12 in 2011, and the Utes haven't lost to the Cougars since becoming a Power Five team. What's made it more excruciating for BYU is how heartbreaking the losses have been: During Utah's seven-game Holy War winning streak, six of the games have been decided by seven points or less.
The latest was Utah's 19-13 win on Saturday in Provo. After getting shut out by LSU, the Cougars struggled on offense yet again and were out-gained 430 to 233.
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All-America Team of the Week
QB: Lamar Jackson, Louisville; Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; and Sam Darnold, USC. We covered this in our five takeaways on Saturday night: Jackson had the most jaw-dropping performance, but Mayfield and Darnold both came through with phenomenal performances in big games.
RB: Rashaad Penny, San Diego State. Penny somehow rushed for 1,000 yards last year as the backup to 2,000-yard rusher Donnel Pumphrey. With Pumphrey gone, Penny has 413 yards in two games, including 18 carries for 216 yards and a TD in a 30-20 win at Arizona State. That doesn't tell the whole story: He had a 95-yard touchdown run and a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown to propel the Aztecs.
RB: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin. The true freshman ran 26 times for 223 yards and three TDs, including a 64-yard score five minutes into a 31-14 win over Florida Atlantic.
WR: Courtland Sutton, SMU. The potential first-round pick played like one on Saturday: In a 54-32 win over North Texas, he hauled in eight catches for 163 yards and four touchdowns.
WR: Jaylen Smith, Louisville. Smith caught a 75-yard TD from Jackson and finished with nine receptions for 183 yards in the win at UNC.
WR: Tyre Brady, Marshall. The Thundering Herd lost to N.C. State, but it's hard to ignore a wideout like Brady, a Miami transfer who caught 11 passes for 248 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown that gave Marshall a 10-point lead in the second quarter.
OL: USC. There were some concerns about the Trojans' offensive line after losing tackles Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler and guard Damien Mama, but there's still solid experience on the unit, and it eased a lot of questions on Saturday. Stanford's defense managed just one tackle for loss in the entire game, and USC had two 100-yard rushers and 623 yards of total offense, converted 10 of 12 third downs and averaged 8.4 yards per play.
DL: Austin Bryant, Clemson. Bryant led the charge in Clemson's dominant defensive effort against Auburn, recording four of the team's 11 sacks of Jarrett Stidham.
DL: Ed Oliver, Houston. Our preseason No. 1 overall player picked up where he left off last year in Houston's first game, a 19-16 win at Arizona. Oliver had 11 tackles, 1 ½ tackles for loss and a forced fumble as the Cougars contained the Wildcats' rushing attack.
DL: Noble Hall, San Diego State. The end had five tackles, 2 ½ tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in the Aztecs' 30-20 win at Arizona State.
LB: Uchenna Nwosu, USC. Nwosu was all over the place in USC's win over Stanford, finishing with four tackles, a sack and five pass breakups.
LB: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma. Lost in the deserved Baker Mayfield plaudits is how well Oklahoma's defense played at Ohio State. The Buckeyes managed just 16 points and 350 total yards, and Okoronkwo was the biggest thorn in their side with edge pressure and 2 ½ tackles for loss.
LB: Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter, Georgia. The Bulldogs had nine tackles for loss against Notre Dame, and both Bellamy and Carter came up with big plays. Carter forced two fumbles, including one that stopped a 10-play drive in the third quarter. On the Irish's last possession, Bellamy jarred the ball loose from Brandon Wimbush from behind, and Carter recovered the fumble to seal the win.
LB: Peyton Pelluer, Washington State. The senior finished with a team-high 14 tackles and returned an ill-advised interception 36 yards for a touchdown with 5:51 left, an integral part of Washington State's comeback from down 31-10 in the fourth quarter to beat Boise State in triple-OT.
DB: Marcus Allen and Grant Haley, Penn State. The two combined for the blocked field goal return touchdown to beat Ohio State and the fourth-down stop to beat Wisconsin last year. On Saturday against Pitt, they made key individual plays: Haley intercepted Max Browne on Pitt's first drive and returned it 42 yards to set up a quick Penn State touchdown. And Allen made a fantastic tackle outside for a safety late in the game. Pitt averaged just 4.6 yards per pass attempt, Allen had 12 tackles and Haley added a sack.
Marcus Allen: seek and destroy pic.twitter.com/PsRMEtjW38- Sam Cooper (@SamDCooper) September 9, 2017
DB: Parnell Motley, Oklahoma. The sophomore cornerback shined with eight tackles, a pass breakup and a tackle for loss against Ohio State, and he also came up with a fourth-quarter interception of J.T. Barrett that allowed the Sooners to score their final touchdown to leave no doubt in a 31-16 win.
DB: Garrett Davis, Houston. Oliver wasn't alone in fueling Houston's big defensive performance against Arizona. Davis, a junior safety, had a team-high 11 tackles, and he also intercepted Khalil Tate in Houston territory with 3:49 left and the Cougars nursing a two-point lead.
DB: Thomas Graham, Oregon. The four-star true freshman played an integral role in the Ducks' 42-35 win over Nebraska. He had seven tackles, a tackle for loss and two pass breakups. Most importantly, he had two of the team's four interceptions of Tanner Lee, including one that set up Oregon's sixth and final touchdown late in the second quarter.
K/P: Nick Schrage, Army. The Black Knights erased a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Buffalo 21-17, a win that was clinched by Schrage, the punter, On fourth-and-five at his own 42-yard line with 2:28 left, Schrage took off running around the right side and gained 15 yards for the first down, allowing Army to run out the clock.
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Report Card: Grading The Week In College Football
A: TCU. A year after falling 41-38 in a heartbreaker at home against Arkansas, the Horned Frogs got revenge on the road in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks missed two field goals and finished with just 267 total yards -- their fewest since 2013 -- as the TCU defense came through with a dominant effort. After the inconsistent performances of 2017, TCU lived up to its pregame top-25 billing.
A-: South Carolina. The Gamecocks are off to an impressive start, topping N.C. State in the opener and decisively beating Missouri 31-13 on Saturday to start off 1-0 in SEC play. The Gamecocks offense has hardly been dominant, but Jake Bentley continues to show impressive tools, and the defense forced three turnovers to make this a runaway win. The result -- combined with giving up 43 points to Missouri State -- prompted Missouri coach Barry Odom to fire defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross on Sunday.
B+: Alabama. After the opening win over Florida State, Saturday against a much lesser FSU, Fresno State, went exactly as expected: Alabama won 41-10, led by QB Jalen Hurts' 128 passing yards, 154 rushing yards and three total TDs. Freshman QB Tua Tagovailoa and RB Najee Harris got playing time, and the defense didn't give up a touchdown until garbage time. All in all, few things to complain about, depending on what the film says about the offensive line …
Saban asks reporter opinion on OL play. Answer "so-so." "Well, if I watch the film and think it was so-so, maybe I oughta hire your ass."- John Zenor (@jzenor) September 9, 2017
B: Oregon. A+ for the first half … D+ for the second half? At least Oregon's defense held on and didn't pull a Texas A&M. In the first game against a Power Five opponent under Willie Taggart, the Ducks stormed out to a 42-14 halftime lead over Nebraska behind an excellent day from sophomore QB Justin Herbert. The Ducks were then outscored 21-0 in the second half, but after it looked like Nebraska might storm all the way back, Oregon forced a couple punts and intercepted two passes to ensure there would be no repeat of the 2015 Alamo Bowl.
B-: Iowa. The battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy is capable of producing unorthodox results, and nothing seems more unorthodox than a rivalry game in which these two programs combine to score 85 points. Sure, there was overtime, but Iowa won 44-41 in a game in which both teams had a 300-yard passer and a 100-yard rusher. Of course, while that does not sound like an Iowa-Iowa State game … it was the same score the teams played to in 2011, only Iowa State won that one. One year later, Iowa State won 9-6, so maybe we should expect that again in 2018.
C+: Washington State. Few things about the game against Boise State made sense, from the brief benching of QB Luke Falk to a comeback from down 31-10 behind backup QB Tyler Hilinski after Falk left with an injury to the fact that Washington State scored 47 points in a game in which it had zero offensive touchdowns in the first 52 minutes. With both backup QBs playing -- Kansas transfer Montell Cozart replaced an injured Brett Rypien for Boise State -- Washington State erased the 21-point deficit and won 47-44 in triple-OT on a 22-yard Hilinski touchdown to Jamal Morrow. Leach has turned around the Cougars program, but in his sixth season, this is actually the first time they have started 2-0.
C: Michigan. The Wolverines held onto a three-point lead for much of the third quarter in an overall uneven performance against a rebuilding Cincinnati team under first-year coach Luke Fickell. The Michigan defense overwhelmed the Bearcats' offense, holding them to 200 total yards in a 36-14 win, but the Michigan offense struggled for much of the game. Sixteen of the 36 points came from the defense (two TDs and a safety), and the Wolverines lost two fumbles and converted 5 of 15 third downs.
C-: Texas A&M. A week after the second-worst meltdown in college football history, Texas A&M narrowly avoided humiliation on its home field against an FCS team. With 12:05 left, Nicholls scored a touchdown and got a two-point conversion to tie the game at 14. The Aggies scored a touchdown and kicked a field goal late to safely win 24-14.
D+: The state of Arizona. Both Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez and Arizona State coach Todd Graham entered this season on the hot seat, and that hasn't changed. The Wildcats gave up only two points in the second half against Houston but still lost 19-16. And after beating New Mexico State by only six, Arizona State fell at home to San Diego State 30-20, giving up 216 rushing yards to Aztecs tailback Rashaad Penny while rushing for only 49 yards themselves.
D: Syracuse. Scott Shafer went 14-23 in three seasons as head coach of Syracuse from 2013-15. In his return to the Carrier Dome as Middle Tennessee's defensive coordinator, Orange fans welcomed him back with open arms:
Video: Syracuse fans give Scott Shafer a standing ovation on his way up to MTSU's coaching box in the Carrier Dome. pic.twitter.com/hiTp1mqsR8- Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) September 9, 2017
By the end of the afternoon, Shafer had a victory cigar ready:
Epic: 2 years after being fired as Syracuse's head coach, Scott Shafer upsets SU w/ MTSU. Had celebratory cigar ready pic.twitter.com/zut9RIaYoF- Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) September 9, 2017
Middle Tennessee, a Conference USA contender, had a rough Week 1 game in losing to Vanderbilt 28-6, but it responded with a 30-23 win at Syracuse in which Shafer's defense held Dino Babers' Orange offense to 308 total yards and just 3.3 yards per play.
D-: Northwestern. Conference play has yet to begin, but Northwestern's hopes of being a sleeper contender in the Big Ten West appeared to be overstated on Saturday at Duke. While the Wildcats had a depleted secondary, that wasn't an excuse for the ineffectiveness of the offense. Duke overwhelmed Northwestern 41-17, getting a fantastic performance from sophomore QB Daniel Jones, who threw for 305 yards and two TDs and rushed for 108 yards and two TDs. The Duke defense shut down the Wildcats, holding star RB Justin Jackson to 18 rushing yards and Northwestern as a team to 191 total yards.
F: Rutgers and Kansas. There was hope that arguably the two worst Power Five teams would be on the upswing this year. Maybe they still will be, but they showed no signs of that in Week 2. Kansas gave up 467 yards and five TDs to Central Michigan QB Shane Morris, a Michigan transfer, in a 45-27 home loss. Rutgers, meanwhile, became the first major conference team ever to lose to Eastern Michigan, throwing a late interception, then squandering an opportunity to take advantage of Eagles mistakes on the final drive. Eastern Michigan won 16-13 in Piscataway, continuing the positive signs for the Eagles under Chris Creighton while prolonging Rutgers' despair.
Eastern Michigan was 0-58 against Power 5 teams over a 126-year history.- Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) September 10, 2017
Then Rutgers appeared. pic.twitter.com/GLabHqUWRn
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Week 3 Syllabus
1. No. 3 Clemson at No. 14 Louisville. With the Miami-Florida State game postponed to Oct. 7, Clemson-Louisville has shifted into ABC's prime-time slot. The Tigers' defense will try to continue its dominant play this week against Lamar Jackson.
2. Texas at No. 4 USC. The Longhorns and Trojans meet for the first time since the best college football game ever: the 2006 Rose Bowl.
3. No. 23 Tennessee at No. 24 Florida. The Vols finally beat the Gators for the first time since 2004 last year, and yet Florida still won the SEC East.
4. No. 9 Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh. Mason Rudolph and the explosive Cowboys offense try to keep rolling on the road against a Pitt team facing its second straight nonconference top-10 opponent after losing to Penn State.
5. No. 25 UCLA at Memphis. An interesting road trap for Josh Rosen and the Bruins against a prolific Memphis offense, with the Bruins facing a 9 a.m. PT kickoff at the Liberty Bowl.