A loss to an FCS team. A Pac-12 upset. And lots of winners.
Here’s how Notre Dame’s 2021 opponents fared in week two of the college football season:
Result: Lost, 20-17, to FCS Jacksonville State
Current record: 0-2
PFF team rank: 73rd (out of 130)
The Florida State Seminoles lost their first ever game to an FCS opponent on a last second 59-yard touchdown pass. PFF graded their overall performance as a 73.4; their previous game against the Irish was graded 70.9.
Defensive end Jermaine Johnson II was the team’s best graded player, according to PFF. He had 11 tackles, 2 1⁄2 sacks and hurried Jacksonville State’s quarterback three other times. He also batted a ball. His PFF grade was 81.1.
Result: Lost, 32-29, to Notre Dame
Current record: 1-1
PFF team rank: 46th
PFF gave the Rockets a 67.7 grade for their performance Saturday against the Irish. Cornerback Chris McDonald, who only yielded two catches (to Chris Tyree and Deion Colzie) for 15 yards was Toledo’s most outstanding player. PFF gave him a 84.4 grade for his performance, which included an pick-six, a pass break-up (intended for Kevin Austin) and a tackle.
Result: Won, 49-0, over UConn
Current record: 2-0
PFF team rank: 15th
After an impressive, but closer, win over the Oregon State Beavers, the Purdue Boilermakers just stomped the sputtering Connecticut Huskies Saturday. PFF was impressed, giving the team an overall 89.5 grade for its performance.
The Boilermakers had four standouts, two on each side of the ball: Tackles Greg Long and Cam Craig and linebackers Kieren Douglas and Jacob Wahlberg. Long, who played left tackle, did not allow a single pressure in 30 dropbacks while Craig, playing right tackle, didn’t yield a single hit, hurry or sack in 22 dropbacks. PFF also cited Craig for his run blocking prowess, giving him a 75.9 grade for his 28 snaps in running formations.
Douglas, who played in the box, on the line and lined up against the slot receiver, had three tackles and was not targeted. Wahlberg — who did not start — had four tackles, gave up just five yards receiving the two times the Huskies zeroed in on his man.
Result: Won, 34-7, over Eastern Michigan
PFF team rank: 85th
One week after looking lost against Penn State, the Wisconsin Badgers controlled its game against the Eastern Michigan Eagles. PFF gave the Badgers an overall 84.7 grade for its effort, and awarded grades in excess of 90 points to quarterback Graham Mertz and nose tackle Keeanu Benton.
Mertz was 14-for-17 for 141 yards and feasted on the short yardage throws the Eagles were willing to give him (11-for-11 on passes 9 yards or fewer). Jack Nelson was the highest rated right guard of Notre Dame’s 12 opponents in Week 2, earning high marks for his run blocking and allowing just one QB hurry.
Benton didn’t make his impact on the stat sheet — registering just one tackle — but he gummed up the middle of the Eagles’ offensive line and effectively made that a no-go zone. He also had a pass breakup.
Result: Won, 42-7, over FCS Murray State
PFF team rank: 13th
A week after gushing over Desmond Ridder, the Bearcats signal-caller had a ho-hum 14-for-22, 243 yard, 2 touchdown performance against inferior competition.
Instead, the stars were on the defensive side of the ball — including nose tackle Curtis Brooks. The graduate student had five tackles, stifling the Racers’ offense. He also had two hurries and one hit of Murray State’s quarterback, for an overall PFF grade of 91.1 in 34 defensive snaps.
Bryan Cook was the highest rated strong safety of Notre Dame’s 2021 opponents in Week 2, allowing just one catch on two targets for two total yards. The hometown senior also had a pass breakup.
Result: Won, 35-14, over Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
PFF team rank: 40th
One week after a surprise upset of North Carolina, the Hokies were leading just 14-7 at halftime against an Blue Raiders squad that was, on paper, outmatched.
A stout defense kept the Hokies in front while its rushing attack caught up, helping Tech cruise to a victory after a big second-half push.
Result: Lost, 42-28, to Stanford
PFF team rank: 25th
The Trojans inexplicable loss to the Stanford Cardinal started with their kicker being tossed from the game for targeting. This was only the beginning of a weird night that saw the Cardinal, who many of us left for dead, capitalize on numerous Trojans miscues to complete a surprising rout.
Only one Trojans player on offense or defense graded out particularly well, according to PFF. Left guard Andrew Voorhees was perfect on his 59 snaps (37 passing), not allowing a single pressure and being the leader of the Trojans’ 185-yard, 2 touchdown effort on the ground.
Result: Won, 59-17, over Georgia State
PFF team rank: 78th
For as bad as Sam Howell looked in his first game was as good as the North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback looked in his second. The junior was a part of five of seven Tar Heels scores on the day, including a 62-yard scamper to keep the game well out of reach.
Howell was 21-for-29 for 352 yards and three passing touchdowns and added 104 yards (on 11 carries) on the ground. He earned a 94 grade from PFF for his performance.
Other notables were weak-side linebacker Cedric Gray (two tackles, one forced fumble), free safety Ja’Qurious Conley (five tackles, one for a loss) and inside linebacker Power Echols (four tackles, one interception, limited receivers to one catch for seven yards in the three times his man was targeted.)
Result: Lost, 23-3, to Air Force
PFF team rank: 121st
It’s very difficult to pinpoint what is going right for the Navy Midshipmen, who have now lost nine of their last 12 games.
The Mids finished with 68 yards of total offense and couldn’t manage two first downs before the fourth quarter.
Will Harbour, a middle linebacker who also lined up on the defensive line at times, was PFF’s top Midshipmen defensive player. He had nine tackles, one for a loss and didn’t allow a single yard to a receiver that he was covering.
Result: Won, 42-14, over Illinois
PFF team rank: 7th
Through two games, Brennan Armstrong has been a joy to watch.
The junior captain was 27-for-36 for 405 yards, five touchdowns and one interception and had 31 rushing yards in a rout of Illinois. Armstrong attempted 11 (!) passes of 20 or more air yards, and completed five of them. He was also a perfect 9-for-9 for 111 yards and two touchdowns when the Fighting Illini brought the blitz.
He earned a PFF grade of 94.7 this week.
Armstrong ➡️ Woods
— Virginia Football (@UVAFootball) September 11, 2021
Result: Won, 45-17, over Kennesaw State
PFF team rank: 61st
Nice debut for Jordan Yates, making his first start for the Ramblin’ Wreck. The redshirt freshman was 17-for-23 for 254 yards and four touchdowns.
No surprise here, either: Defensive lineman Jordan Domineck, who rumbled his scoop-and-score was PFF’s top graded defensive player for the Yellow Jackets. Besides his score, he had another forced fumble, five tackles, two QB hurries and a sack.
— Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (@GTAthletics) September 11, 2021
Result: Won, 42-28, over USC
PFF team rank: 110th
A much, much improved performance for the Cardinal. They shouldn’t have too much trouble with Vanderbilt next week, but which version of this team will we see against UCLA in two weeks?