The 9 Biggest Wins of the First Two Weeks of College Football

By Amy Daughters -

One feature of almost every football schedule is the “if, then” game.

Though it can occur any time during the season, it packs the most punch early in the year, for instance, “if we can beat Arkansas in Week 2, then we’ll be 5-0 by October.”

It’s the one game—often a non-conference affair—that the early season pivots on. A win means a move up the rankings and continued hope, while a loss equals a step back and a struggle to regain championship momentum.

Following are nine such games from the first two weeks of college football. Though all seem fairly obvious, what’s important is the string of games that follow the big victory. In each case, it’s the “if, then” game followed by a run of “should win” contests.

If any of these teams reach pay dirt later in the season, these will be the wins that got the ball rolling—the signature victories necessary for a title run.

Texas A&M over South Carolina

The Aggies were No. 21 coming into their opener at South Carolina, a ranking many considered too high for the young, Manziel-less team. Texas A&M hung up 680 yards of offense on the No. 9 Gamecocks and strutted out of town with a 52-28 win.

The victory gained the Aggies 12 spots in the AP poll and a much different outlook on the season. Rather than approaching the rest of its schedule from a 0-1 foundation, A&M was 1-0 with FCS Lamar, Rice and SMU on tap.

The Aggies spanked Lamar 73-3 last Saturday night, moved up to No. 7 in the AP and have every reason to expect to be 4-0 by the time they meet Arkansas in Arlington on Sept. 27. If A&M can handle the Razorbacks and then take care of Mississippi State in Week 6 and Ole Miss in Week 7, it will be 7-0 coming into its Oct. 18 road trip to Alabama.

LSU over Wisconsin

Though LSU hasn’t lost a season opener since 2002 (remember they’ve knocked off the likes of No. 20 TCU, No. 3 Oregon, No. 18 North Carolina and No. 15 Arizona State), the importance of its win over No. 14 Wisconsin this season can’t be overstated.

If the Tigers wouldn’t have gone on a 15-point fourth-quarter run and rallied to beat the Badgers, they would have cost themselves a 5-0 start and a Top Ten ranking by the time they traveled to Auburn on Oct. 4.

The Tigers are 2-0 and ranked No. 10 after blanking FCS Sam Houston last weekend and have a run of home games with Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State and New Mexico State standing between them and the Auburn game.

Ole Miss over Boise State & Vanderbilt

While playing Boise State and Vanderbilt to open up the season isn’t necessarily squaring off with Alabama and Florida State, it’s not like facing Southern Miss and UAB—Mississippi State’s first two opponents in 2014—either.

Ole Miss was No. 18 in the AP preseason poll and after taking care of Boise State in Atlanta (35-13) and Vanderbilt in Nashville (35-13) are No. 14 and have a far easier path between now and Oct. 4, when it welcomes Alabama to Oxford.

If the Rebels can take care of Louisiana-Lafayette this Saturday and beat Memphis on Sept. 27 after a bye next week, they will be 4-0 and nearing Top Ten status by the time they gird their loins for a run of games with the Crimson Tide, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn.

Louisville over Miami (Fla.)

Not only was Louisville’s 31-13 win over Miami (Fla.) in the season opener the first-ever ACC action for the Cardinals, it set up a sweet scenario for a team that was unranked in the preseason polls.

Yes, if Louisville could beat the Hurricanes in Week 1, it could engineer a 6-0 start to the season.

The win moved the Cardinals into the No. 25 slot in the AP and the Week 2 victory over FCS Murray State (66-21) took them to No. 21.

Standing between Louisville and its Oct. 11 date at Clemson are Virginia this Saturday in Charlottesville, FIU in Week 4, Wake Forest in Week 5 and Syracuse on the Friday night leading into Week 6.

Virginia Tech over Ohio State

Another ACC team omitted from the preseason AP, Virginia Tech’s 35-21 Week 2 triumph over No. 8 Ohio State secured the Hokies the biggest jump in the polls thus far this season.

After a 34-9 win over FCS William & Maryland, the road trip to Columbus to face the Buckeyes was literally the gateway to the rest of Virginia Tech’s season. Theirs was the case of “win in Week 2 and have a chance to go undefeated.”

Though there are plenty of twists and turns left for the Hokies, they have one of the most compelling opportunities to win out in 2014. Here’s what’s left: East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Western Michigan, at North Carolina, at Pitt, Miami (Fla.), Boston College, at Duke, at Wake Forest and Virginia.

USC over Stanford

The Trojans’ 53-yard field goal with two minutes remaining not only iced No. 13 Stanford last Saturday, it set USC up for what could be a return to the national spotlight via the College Football Playoff.

The truth is, the now No. 9 Trojans have as much work left to do as any team on the list, but they still have a shot of being 10-0 by the time the UCLA game rolls around on Nov. 22.

Making the run will mean wins over Boston College, Oregon State, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah, Washington State and Cal.

It’s a realistic scenario and could mean that USC’s closing games at UCLA and at home with Notre Dame will be “game of the century” material.

Oregon over Michigan State

Oregon is the other Pac-12 team that passed a difficult test in Week 2, another possible gateway to bigger and better things.

The Ducks were No. 3 coming into their clash with No. 7 Michigan State, the 46-27 win earned them the No. 2 slot in the AP, jumping over Alabama which had the much lighter task of facing Florida Atlantic last Saturday.

Though Oregon should have no problem being at 4-0 when it welcomes Arizona to Eugene on Oct. 2 (Wyoming and Washington State), and 5-0 after beating the Wildcats, after that things become more difficult. Yes, were USC will wait until the end of the season to see if No. 12 UCLA is for real, the Ducks will travel to L.A. and find out for themselves on Oct. 11.

After that it’s Washington and Cal followed by another date with pesky Stanford, the team which has used defense to knock Oregon out of its top-two ranking the last two seasons.

Notre Dame over Michigan

Notre Dame is more like Ole Miss than Virginia Tech in that its big early-season win points to a 4-0 start rather than the promise of a 10-0 run.

The Irish began the season ranked No. 17 in the AP and moved up to No. 16 after rolling over Rice 48-17 in the opener. Notre Dame’s 31-0 shutout of Michigan earned it a five-slot climb to No. 11, where it ought to stay or improve upon until a Week 6 visit by Stanford.

The Irish have Purdue this Saturday in Indianapolis, take the next week off and then hook up with Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sept. 27.

Even if Notre Dame can squash Stanford, it will have to deal with a visit from Florida State on Oct. 18, making its road to a possible College Football Playoff appearance as difficult as that of any power-five team.

BYU over Texas

While the focus of the BYU’s 41-7 triumph over Texas has been on how horrible the Longhorns played, what about the Cougars and what the win does for the rest of their season?

The truth is, Texas may be the closest thing to a ranked opponent that BYU will see all season. While the Longhorns weren’t ranked coming into the game, they did receive 126 votes in the Week 2 AP poll, making them technically the No. 26 team.

What’s left for BYU is a run 10 of opponents it can beat: Houston (tonight at 9:00pm EST on ESPN), Virginia, Utah State, UCF, Nevada, Boise State, Middle Tennessee, UNLV, FCS Savannah State and Cal.

The Cougars running the tables would result in a question nobody thought to ask in the first season of the College Football Playoff: What do we do with a 12-0 independent team that is not Notre Dame?

  1. Dan
    September 11, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    BYU wins=BYU’s in.

  2. Jeff
    September 11, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    I love how people continue to discredit the smaller programs. Does anyone remember UCF went 10-2 last season (if I remember right) and destroyed their bowl opponent? BYU had trouble with Virginia last season. Also what is up with discrediting a very good Cal program. Year in and out Pac-12 opponents have to gear up for the game of they will lose to them. I see 3 games BYU could easily lose. If they win then they deserve to be in the play off.

    • G of F
      September 11, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      Also almost nobody claims easy wins @ BSU, they may have unraveled in the 4th in Atlanta but they will still be tough out. Oh and Nevada might be pretty good to.

    • Drew
      September 11, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      UCF was 11-1 going into the bowl game, which a close loss to South Carolina.

  3. Jinzo
    September 11, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Can’t wait for that huge Savannah St – BYU clash! Georgia Tech’s scoring could be in jeopardy!

  4. @dbrunstheworld
    September 11, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    In today’s college football, agreements are fluid. A road game at Georgia Tech and a home date against Notre Dame were both on BYU’s 2014 schedule before Tech cancelled and ND postponed.

  5. Tully
    September 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    I am guessing that Baylor over Cupcake number one and cupcake number two are not making this list…..Well heck with you all Baylor has cupcake number three coming up this week

    Cupcakes have to count for something…

  6. L. E. Deaux, FWAA 1982-Present
    September 15, 2014 at 3:21 am

    And why should BYU’s credentials be questioned if they do win out. I keep asking the talking heads the following questions for which they have no legitimate answers:

    Would Taysom Hill be a Heisman Candidate at USC, Stanford, Clemson, Penn State? YES!
    Would BYU’s Olympic-like athletes at Linebacker including book ends Alani Fua (6′-5″, 234, 4.56 40 and Bronson Kaufusi, 6′-7″ – 265 and 4.63 40 be first string everywhere in the SEC. You bet!
    BYU’s middle linebackers all range from 6-0 to 6-3 and 230-245 and run sub 4.7 40’s three deep and run to the ball as well as any SEC team (or better), so do they not meet the eye test?
    BYU can run when Hill doesn’t! Would Jamaal Williams, BYU’s OTHER running back with over 2000 yards rushing and 2500 total yards in his first two seasons be an All American Candidate if his helmet said Alabama or South Carolina? Yep!
    Would BYU’s deep secondary and bevy of talented skill players on both sides of the ball and at special teams be formidable if they played in other conferences.

    The real question for Mark May and company is, does BYU’s personnel look like a top notch football team and do they play like one this season? So far the answer is clearly yes. So IF BYU runs the table, in spite of their middle of the road schedule, why shouldn’t they be considered a great team. How many great OOC games does Alabama play and how over rated is the SEC when it has to date only played 6 P-5 opponents, mostly at home. Show me where on their schedules they cross three time zones like a BYU, USC, Notre Dame, Rutgers. Show me where those tough road games are for SEC OOC? Do they fly to Seattle, Salt Lake, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Boston, Ann Arbor, Columbus, Norman (wait, Tennessee did – and lost by three TD’s)? The reality is the SEC never seems to prove squat on the road, in dry desert heat, in snow, at Alpine Altitudes. Of six SEC vs P5 games only two required an Airplane to get to the venue. Can and should the SEC be given so much credit for playing mainly Sun Belt and C-USA teams at home on the grounds they play each other? Sounds like circle-jerk logic to me. ,

    Of course a 12-0 BYU deserves to be in. That way they can prepare for and hand Alabama its ass just like another Rocky Mountain based program, UTAH did. Hell yes BYU should be in if they run the table. All being 12-1 or 11-2 proves is that you can be defeated. .

    • Day
      September 15, 2014 at 8:37 am

      I can understand & respect anyone’s common knowledge or defended their school. If BYU goes 12-0 & you are correct, I would vote them into playoff. To bash the SEC is another thing, in my opinion, BYU would go 6-6 in the SEC, that is being nice. You mentioned that BYU could hand Alabama their own a@* like UTAH did. Utah game was 5 years ago, just like when LSU flew (over the mountains) & beat Washington (at their house).Alabama had a home n home with Penn St a couple years back. Georgia played Arizona St & Colorado in home n home games. BYU schedule is set up for them like the SEC is set up for the SEC. BYU also plays C-USA, 1 ACC, 1 PAC-12, American Conference & WAC teams, BYU beat up on a down Texas team & by the way plays Savannah St. SEC proves a lot on the road when it comes to neutral site games, home n home or bowl games, SEC is too busy beating each other up in their own conference to be worried about flying out to Nevada or Utah St for a guaranteed win. Good luck to BYU but I can see them losing 3 games & not making playoffs.

  7. @dbrunstheworld
    September 15, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    It would be nice to this year’s BYU team to assume they could finish up 2-6 in SEC play for a 6-6 record, Day?

    • Day
      September 15, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      Yeah, I screwed that one up, thinking a head of myself. I meant 4-4 in SEC, BYU does look really good this year & they do have some great players.

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