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Will Ohio State’s defense be up to the challenge?


The first weekend in college football offered an all-too-brief insight into most of the teams in the country. With 11 games remaining, it will take more time to make an accurate assessment of where many of them are going this season.

Some of that process will be fast-forwarded in Week 2 with some key non-conference showdowns taking place, including a pair of in-state rivalry matchups that offer more at stake than just bragging rights.

The results will start to separate some of the playoff contenders from the pretenders and raise or lower the outlooks for those teams.

The five biggest questions for Week 2:

Is Ohio State’s defense good enough?

Starting on the road in the Big Ten isn’t an easy proposition. So it’s no surprise that the Buckeyes struggled to put away Minnesota. What was surprising is how well the Gophers moved the ball on the ground. Mohamed Ibrahim had 160 rushing yards before leaving in the third quarter and overall Ohio State allowed more than 400 yards. It’s not a good sign with Oregon’s potent offense coming to town this week. The Buckeyes need to turn things around quickly to silence doubts about the defense or more questions will be raised.

Will the real Iowa State stand up?

The Cyclones are in uncharted territory after being in the top 10 of the preseason USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll for the first time. Those expectations seemed warranted with the returning cast that included the Big 12 offensive and defensive player of the year. A too-close defeat of Northern Iowa set off alarms. Now rival Iowa comes into town. The Hawkeyes dominated Indiana in the opener and have gotten the best of their neighbor in recent seasons. Iowa State has to respond with a big performance against a quality opponent or all that promise from the offseason goes away quickly.

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Does BYU have enough to end its losing streak to Utah?

Last year was the best opportunity for the Cougars to finally beat the Utes after losing the past nine meetings. However, COVID-19 wiped out their annual matchup and left a hole in BYU’s impressive 11-1 season. The Cougars benefit from having their rival at home this year, but must overcome the departures of quarterback Zack Wilson and several other stars from the 2020 team. Utah will be planning to spoil the occasion as it looks to make a run in the Pac-12.

How will Hudson Card fare on the road?

It was a great debut for the Texas quarterback as the Longhorns handled a dangerous Louisiana-Lafayette team easier than expected. Card was efficient, throwing for 224 yards on 21 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions. All of that came in the comfortable environment of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, however. Now Texas heads to Arkansas for a night game against the Razorbacks. There will be a raucous crowd and intense pressure. Card’s performance will say a lot about how high the Longhorns can hope to finish in Steve Sarkisian’s first year.

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Can Michigan continue its momentum from its strong start?

Such is the state of the Wolverines that their game against Western Michigan was seen as a significant indicator of where this program is entering Jim Harbaugh’s eighth season. The easy win was a good start. The competition gets tougher with Washington headed to the Big House. While the Huskies lost to Montana, they’re still talented enough to pull an upset. A second win for the Wolverines would keep things rolling in the right direction and provide more optimism ahead of the Big Ten schedule.

Follow colleges reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football’s biggest questions for Week 2



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