This is a weekly series of five lists of essential information for the coming college football weekend. This week, Nick Saban’s mad about having great QBs and Texas has LOST TO MARYLAND TWICE.
5 Things We Learned in Week One
Alabama might have the best quarterback in the nation The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman posits that the Crimson Tide have the best signal-caller in the country running the show with the selection of Tua Tagovailoa as starter over Jalen Hurts. And, yeah, that’s true, and, yeah, the rest of the country is absolutely screwed because of it. But the bright side of all this is Nick Saban, paranoid at the thought of what happens if Hurts tries to take advantage of the new transfer rules right before Tagovailoa suffers a season-ending injury, has decided to start a season-long war with the media.
I could have given you a whole long spiel on the politicking that’s going on here and will no doubt continue all year, but here’s the long and short of it: Saban shouldn’t behave that way to any reporter when asked a question, let alone a good question from ESPN’s Maria Taylor about the very pertinent ‘Bama QB situation. And if we’re being honest, Saban knew that the moment he went into full Oompa-Loompa rage mode. So why did he do it? Listen closely to how he phrases his response. Saban says that Taylor was trying to get him to “say something bad” about Hurts. All Taylor asked was about the status of the QB situation after a game, but Saban seems to think he’s being asked to declare one player as the starter going forward, and thusly making the other guy the back-up would be saying something derogatory about them. Or, in other words, Saban thinks if declares either Tua or Hurts as the back-up, he’ll hurt their feelings. Maybe enough to, you know, exercise their right to leave and go play somewhere else. Nick’s smart enough to know he was going to take heat for this behavior nationally, but as long as it keeps the kid who’s 28-2 in his career as a starter around in case of emergency, he’ll be fine playing the short, angry villain.
Throw Miami into the Atlantic Ocean The U is most certainly not back. In fact, they weren’t back last year when they started 11-0, otherwise their first lost wouldn’t have been to Pitt and a true-freshman QB. The U is only going to be back when the Hurricanes don’t just beat top-tier talent, they dominate them on a consistent basis, the way they did for one magical night last November versus Notre Dame but stretched out for a full season. What we’ve now seen from Miami in the last 4 games played going back to last year is ugly-looking performances where seemingly nothing works and the magic of the Turnover Chain can’t swing momentum. And yet, they’ll still probably win 10 games because that’s the lack of talent in the Coastal division right now.
Kansas should absolutely move down from FBS to FCS football SB Nation’s Matt Brown says the Jayhawks might as well look at getting rid of football altogether. Bill Self has (regrettably) built a basketball dynasty that’s kept this Titanic afloat, but it’s becoming harder and harder to watch after what felt like a predictable overtime home loss to Nicholls. Soon, it might not even be profitable for new athletic director Jeff Long to keep trying to make this cow swim. Oh well, at least that one win is guaranteed against Texas (TRY AND FIGHT ME, ‘HORNS FANS. TRY TO TELL ME IT’S BETTER THAN IT LOOKS, 2-TIME TERP LOSERS).
Burn Michigan’s offense to the ground and start all over Jim Harbaugh seems to be living in a world where, as long as the players dress in the traditional uniforms and run the same offense he was using under Bo Schembechler, the Wolverines are going to be just fine. That’s not even close to the case after Shea Patterson’s debut made it seem like Jake Ruddock is going to forever remain Harbaugh’s only kinda-good QB. A lot of why the Wolverines struggled so much against Notre Dame has to do with the speed and improvement on the defensive line of the Fighting Irish, and Patterson shouldn’t shoulder that much blame. But Ol’ Nervous Bird Harbaugh? Oh buddy, throw it all in the trash. Start from scrap. The offensive line is both poorly recruited and poorly coached. Try to make at least one more halftime adjustment from the zero versus the Irish. Let Patterson work more from the gun and get rid of the ball quicker against a heavy rush. Something. Just change it all, because right now Harbaugh’s offense makes a mockery of an admittedly talented team that he has assembled.
Kyler Murray’s going to do just fine I found out that this offseason featured a number of analysts claiming Murray didn’t have the arm strength to give the Sooners the same pop throwing the ball as they did with Baker Mayfield. And yes, Murray might not be the historically efficient player that Mayfield was, but he threw for 209 yards on just 11 attempts versus Florida Atlantic, otherwise known as an even 19 yards per attempt. He’s good. Real good.
5 Teams Headed to The Good Place
Auburn While perhaps not enough to topple Alabama in the SEC West, the Tigers look like they’re going to make damn sure it’s a fight. Large adult sons like Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown and Dontavius Russell were flying around and making Washington QB Jake Browning completely wet the bed late in the game.
Mississippi State 3 different quarterbacks played for the Bulldogs instead of Heisman dark horse and starter Nick Fitzgerald, and while the opponent was FCS side Stephen F. Austin, head coach Joe Moorhead’s debut included 63 points and 618 total yards of offense. Keeping up that pace with Fitzgerald back in for a road game at Kansas State makes Clanga terrifying.
Boise State Brett Rypien torched one of the nation’s more underrated defenses in Troy for 305 yards and 4 touchdowns on 28 attempts. God help UConn.
Stanford JJ Arcega-Whiteside had 226 of QB K.J. Costello’s 332 yards passing against San Diego State, and that was on a night where Bryce Love struggled. The Cardinal might have added a new dimension to their offense.
UCF My god, McKenzie Milton is going to wipe the floor with everyone spinning the magic bean. An effortless throw moving to his right for a 50-yard TD was the first of 5 scoring tosses against UConn. Nobody’s stopping the Knights’ offense again.
5 Teams Very Deep into the Bad Place
Texas TWO. TIME. TERP. LOSERS.
UCLA Chip Kelly’s return to college football didn’t just come with a home loss to Cincinnati. The Bruins scored just 17 points under a once-prodigious offensive coach.
Florida State Willie Taggart’s debut was another where offense seemed like an impossible task. Bud Foster’s defense shut down the Seminoles with almost an entirely new cast to get Virginia Tech a drubbing of a win.
Arizona Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s approach to making Khalil Tate a better passer seems to be taking away his running ability. You know, the best thing he does. The Wildcats had 10 points after 3 quarters against a BYU team coming off 4-8 because of this hubris.
Purdue The better football team did not win last Thursday night in West Lafayette, but the younger and more mistake-prone team did lose after the Boilermakes handed Northwestern plenty of opportunities they were all too happy to cash in.
5 Teams Trapped in Football Purgatory
Northwestern Again, the more talented Big Ten team didn’t win last Thursday. But no matter the opposition, the Wildcats find ways to win, even more amazing when their head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, is the kind of guy who runs his injured starting QB Clayton Thorson out there in Week One but keeps pulling him every other series for a walk-on because he’s on a “pitch count.”
Michigan State Barely squeaking by Utah State at home to open the season? Yep, Sparty’s on track to win 10 games in typical bizarre and ugly fashion.
Notre Dame Huge win against Michigan unless you actually watched the game, where QB Brandon Wimbush’s hot start throwing the ball was stymied in the second half and the Irish struggled in general to get the ball moving after grabbing a 21-point lead.
LSU Nick Brossette piled up 125 yards and a pair of long TD runs, but the Tigers offense looked average and leaned on big plays from the defense. It’s exactly what we expect them to be, but shouldn’t be enough to be up by as much as 30 on Miami.
Ohio State Scoring at will was impressive, sure, but how about a young defense giving up 31 points and 7 plays of 20 yards or more to Oregon State, who’s going to struggle to move the ball on everybody? Buckeyes have work to do this week versus Rutgers to be ready to slow down TCU next week.
5 (or more) Stone-Cold Locks
Record straight up: 12-9
TCU (-22.5) at SMU Chad Morris left Dallas in the offseason to take over at Arkansas. Not having that explosiveness Morris could both recruit and coach up keeps the Mustangs from hanging around for too long and keeps the Golden Skillet in Fort Worth. TCU 45, SMU 21
Mississippi State (-8) at Kansas State This would be a really intriguing matchup and possibly a good upset pick for the Big 12’s best non-conference win if we could just forget the Wildcats needing to rally in the second half at home to beat South Dakota. Fitzgerald’s return provides too much firepower. Mississippi St 41, Kansas St 27
Arizona (+3.5) at Houston A disastrous debut for Kevin Sumlin seems to make the folks in Vegas forget that the Cougars struggled for 3 quarters against a terrible Rice team. Wildcats bounce back if Tate is fully unleashed as a runner. Arizona 38, Houston 34
Duke (+2.5) at Northwestern The winner is smarter. I’m sorry, this is a lame joke, but it’s also kind of a lame game. Northwestern 24, Duke 17
Georgia Tech (-3.5) at South Florida Aaaah, now this is football drugs. The Ramblin’ Wreck’s gonna run for all the yards. We will see if Charlie Strong has enough offense from Alabama transfer QB Blake Barnett to counter. USF 37, Georgia Tech 30
UCLA (+30.5) at Oklahoma God, this is going to be ugly. Bruins will need freshman Kazmeir Allen to basically triple his production vs. Cincinnati to stand any chance. Oklahoma 52, UCLA 17
Rutgers (+35.5) at Ohio State This is only here because it’s a conference game and it poses an interesting question: can the Buckeyes cover another huge line? It’s Rutgers. Dreams do come true. Ohio St 58, Rutgers 17
Ball State (+34.5) at Notre Dame The TRUE Hate Week game! Cardinals want to be crowned football kings of India-what’s that? No way in hell, huh? Fine. Notre Dame 48, Ball State 13
Colorado (+3.5) at Nebraska Due to weather last week, this will be Scott Frost’s debut as Huskers head coach. Lots of unknowns for the Huskers, but the juice inside Memorial Stadium is going to be nuts, enough to do the Buffs in. Nebraska 31, Colorado 27
Memphis (-6.5) at Navy A big-time early-season showdown in the American, especially with the Midshipmen looking to avoid an 0-2 start after getting smacked in the face at the start by Hawai’i, the new Funnest Team Ever. Malcolm Perry and Zach Abey deliver a desperate win. Navy 37, Memphis 34
Iowa State (+3.5) at Iowa EL ASSSSSSSSICOOOOOOOOOOO. Truly the greatest rivalry ever for being terrible, until last year when it wasn’t. A reminder that both these teams beat a conference champion at one point last season because this sport is the best. Iowa 31, Iowa State 28
Wyoming (-18.5) at Missouri Woo buddy, Drew Lock can sling it. Cowboys already gave up 41 to Wazzu and might do the same again against a better offense. Mizzou 45, Wyoming 20
Virginia (+6) at Indiana Who asked for this, besides a confused basketball fan. Indiana 28, Virginia 20
Arkansas (-13.5) at Colorado State The Rams have already been blown out twice this season. Morris’ new job means the Hogs make it 3 straight. Arkansas 35, Colorado State 7
Fresno State (+2) at Minnesota PJ Fleck’s second season started out a little sloppy against New Mexico State. A young group of Gophers can’t have a similar slow start or they’ll be run out of their own building by a good Bulldog squad. Fresno St 38, Minnesota 28
Tulsa (+23) at Texas 2-TIME TERP LOSERS don’t deserve this kind of trusting line. Texas 31, Tulsa 17
Connecticut (+31.5) at Boise State As will be the case every week: godspeed, Randy Edsall. Boise St 45, UConn 10
California (+2.5) at Bringham Young Both teams won their openers, which…yeah? But while they had the worse opponent, the Golden Bears have been the team trending up for a while now. Cal 38, BYU 21
Michigan State (-6) at Arizona State The power of #Pac12AfterDark is so great it makes you believe that the Sun Devils are headed somewhere under Herm Edwards. Sparty’s traditional slow starts will only strengthen that belief, but it’s not going to be enough. Michigan St 38, Arizona St 31
Kentucky (-14) at Florida Is this finally the year the Gators’ legendary streak ends? I have no real clue, but saying the Wildcats are 2-toucdown underdogs in this matchup is giving Dan Mullen a little too much credit after one game, isn’t it? Florida 28, Kentucky 24
Georgia (-10) at South Carolina There’s a very real chance that this is the last chance in the next 5 years for anybody but the Bulldogs to win the SEC East, and even then that chance includes a 2-score spread that’s pretty justifiable. Jake Bentley and Deebo Samuel are fun, just not enough to top the Dawgs. Georgia 31, South Carolina 20
Penn State (-7.5) at Pittsburgh This spread is perfect because it’s definitely the top 2 ways this game goes: close all the way to the end, or the Nittany Lions shake off the cobwebs and prove last week was a fluke. The thing, not only is Appalachian State really good and the Panthers not far behind, last week was not a fluke. James Franklin has Trace McSorely and a bunch of kids you haven’t heard of yet. Not a great formula for road games against rivals early in the season. Pitt 35, Penn St 31
Southern California (+6) at Stanford The Trojans looked all kinds of sloppy against UNLV. Enough so that the Cardinal might catch them napping again and roll to a statement win. Stanford 34, USC 21
Clemson (-12) at Texas A&M The atmosphere at Kyle Field will be electric, but energy can only get you so far against a team as stacked as the Tigers. Regardless of how long the Aggies stick around, Dabo Swinney can and probably will run out 2 different QBs in last year’s starter Kelly Bryant and this year’s highly-touted freshman Trevor Lawrence. Either guy can win this game, but Swinney should think about just going with Lawrence full-time, because like Tagovailoa for Alabama, the kid might give the Tigers an added explosiveness at QB they lacked last season. Clemson 35, Texas A&M 20