Part of the Yahoo Sports family, Rivals.com offers in-depth coverage of nearly every college program across the country. With local experts dialed into every move on campus, fans can get unparalleled coverage of their favorite teams.
Each week, we’ll talk to our reporters on the ground to get their thoughts on the biggest happenings during the college football season. As we look ahead to Week 2, we explore what’s at stake for Texas against LSU, check in on panic levels at both USC and Tennessee, and discuss how Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond could use this weekend to become a household name.
All eyes on Mond
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond cracked the door to the national conversation with a four-touchdown performance that included 194 passing yards in a Week 1 win over Texas State. Now the junior has a chance to kick the door wide open, as the Aggies will visit a No. 1 Clemson team led by much-acclaimed passer Trevor Lawrence.
A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher has a reputation for developing talented quarterbacks, and Mond, who has seemingly taken massive strides under Fisher’s tutelage, seems to be the next in line. Mark Passwaters, who covers the Aggies for AggieYell.com, has seen Mond’s transformation up close and thinks there’s a chance every football fan in America will know the quarterback’s name come Saturday.
“Mond has been quicker with his reads, more accurate with his throws and generally more confident and consistent,” Passwaters said. “He looks like a much, much better quarterback. Can he outplay Trevor Lawrence? It will be a tough task, but for A&M to beat the Tigers, Mond will have to be at his best. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Monday his defense won't see many better than Mond, and he's right.”
Mond turned in an impressive performance against Clemson a year ago but ultimately came up two points short. A year later, he hopes to complete the upset with his team opening as a 17.5-point underdog. If he manages to do so, we’ll be looking at the birth of Mondmania.
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Clay Helton loses weapon in battle for his job
Clay Helton’s future at USC is roughly as certain as a spin of a roulette wheel, and the loss of starting quarterback JT Daniels to a season-ending knee injury has made things even more chaotic.
Helton, who was nearly fired following last year’s 5-7 finish, now sees his employment hinge heavily on the play of true freshman Kedon Slovis, who went 6-of-8 for 57 yards and an interception after taking over against Fresno State last weekend.
“I think Daniels was the clear best choice to run this offense, but I also don't think the season is necessarily in a freefall now with Slovis,” said Ryan Young, who covers the Trojans at TrojanSports.com. “It has to be emphasized that Slovis beat out two veteran QBs for that backup job — including the guy, Jack Sears, whom fans expected to challenge Daniels.”
But while things may not be as bleak as they seem on the surface when it comes to USC’s quarterback situation, Helton will still spend the season sweating. The waters within the USC athletics office are choppy to say the least, and calming them will take a small miracle.
“As far as Helton's future, nobody knows for sure what the magic [win] number is,” Young said. “There's too many variables, with many still wondering if Lynn Swann will still be the AD in charge to make that decision when the time comes. Helton still has one of the most talented teams in the Pac-12 and he and his staff picked Slovis ahead of two older QBs to be in this spot, so there should be no excuses for him regardless of what happens."
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Have Miami’s quarterback issues been resolved?
Miami freshman Jarren Williams drew mixed reviews following his first career start, but mixed reviews are a welcomed arrival in Coral Gables because of how bad the Hurricanes’ quarterback play has been over the last few seasons.
By most accounts, Williams' debut was a solid one. The young starter threw for 214 yards and a touchdown in a neutral-site rivalry game. He was, however sacked 10 times and made his share of bad decisions in the Hurricanes' 24-20 loss to Florida. And while most people were encouraged, Miami offensive coordinator Dan Enos criticized the young quarterback for not playing well enough to win following the game.
Last week matters not, however. What’s important now is Williams’ trajectory and how he looks against 1-0 North Carolina this weekend. Nobody is interested in waiting for him to hit his stride, after all.
“Offensive coordinator Dan Enos made it pretty clear that his standards are not lowered just because Williams is a redshirt freshman,” said Gary Ferman, who owns and operates Canesport.com on the Rivals network. “Miami will be in must-win mode for the rest of the season and that means Williams will be expected to be an asset towards that goal. He should improve with his adjustment to the speed of the game and get better with his progressions. He should also have a better feel for the game now.”
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Jeremy Pruitt must ease concerns in Knoxville
If the newlywed phase of the Jeremy Pruitt-Tennessee marriage wasn’t over following last year’s 5-7 finish, it certainly is now.
Pruitt’s Volunteers spent Saturday suffering a 38-30 loss at the hands of a Georgia State squad that finished last year with a 2-10 record and in the Sun Belt conference’s cellar. And while Pruitt is nowhere near in danger of losing his job, some doubts about the hire are surfacing.
A bounce-back win over BYU this weekend would certainly help public perception. A loss, on the other hand, would amplify the sighs creeping out of Knoxville. Brent Hubbs, who covers Tennessee at Volquest.com, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the enormity of the situation.
“Saying things like ‘must-win’ in Week 2 is generally a hot take, but Saturday night is huge for Tennessee as the Vols host BYU,” Hubbs said. “Coming off a loss to Georgia State that was not a fluke, Jeremy Pruitt’s second-year squad has plenty of questions.”
Vol fans don’t exactly have a reputation for being a patient or benevolent bunch, so things could get uncomfortable for Pruitt if he drops consecutive games to non-Power Five opponents.
“Tennessee has to find a way to not beat themselves while dealing with plenty of questions and criticism from a fan base that’s still befuddled and angry over Saturday’s shocking performance at home to open the season,” Hubbs said.
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Texas-sized statement on the way?
There will be plenty written about this weekend’s LSU-Texas matchup, and rightfully so. The two programs arrive at the clash ranked No. 6 and No. 9 respectively. Then, there’s that whole bit about both programs attempting to hire current UT head coach Tom Herman back when he was running the show at Houston. This game somehow feels bigger for the hosting Longhorns than it does the visiting Tigers, however.
Texas’ momentum under Herman is impossible to ignore. The Horns are coming off a Big 12 title game appearance and recruiting better than they have in years. All of that gives this weekend the feel of a signpost moment when it comes to the team’s relation to the national picture.
A win over the Tigers would not only erase any lingering bad taste from non-conference losses to Maryland in back-to-back years but also announce the Longhorns as a legitimate playoff contender. That’s all to say the next step in the Texas-is-back tour is not only tangible, it’s purple, gold and led by head coach with a cajun accent.
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