The 2015 college football season is ___________.
Pick an adjective and it might just apply to this first month of the 2015 FBS season.
How else to explain the quarterback controversy for the defending champs who still happen to be the #1 team in the country?
How else to explain the downward spiral that is happening in Eugene?
How else to explain what is happening in the world of Longhorns?
How else to explain the discontent that is rising in Fayetteville?
How else to explain the Noles, Canes and Gators are all undefeated?
Did I mention that Northwestern, Indiana, Temple and NC State (a combined 23-26 in 2014) are also undefeated? Or, that Illinois, after firing their coach right before the start of the season, is 3-1?
Yes, 2015 is (so far) unpredictable.
As the 2014-15 national champ, Ohio State had the target on their backs heading into this season. That, in itself, can be a distraction alone. But, Cardale Jones, JT Barrett and Braxton Miller as your top three quarterbacks – which one do you choose? Not even Coach Urban Meyer knows the complete answer. Miller has moved to a halfback-quarterback hybrid (officially), although the quarterback part of that is debatable. Jones and Barrett continue to run the Buckeyes offense, but having Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield helps.
The Buckeyes have struggled to put opponents away early on, but they remain undefeated in a highly competitive Big 10 conference. Michigan State, Indiana, Iowa and Northwestern join OSU in the undefeated ranks of the B1G. Wisconsin’s only loss on the season was to SEC powerhouse, Alabama. Only Purdue at 1-3 is a sub-.500 team.
The B1G conference will begin weeding out the pretenders this coming week as Ohio State visits Indiana, Northwestern hosts 3-1 Minnesota and Iowa visits Wisconsin. Sparty should not have any trouble hosting Purdue. Michigan looks to be on the upswing at 3-1 heading toward their showdown with Sparty on October 17th.
Oregon was in the first ever College Football Playoff back in January.
With 14 returning starters from that team, not including Heisman-winner Marcus Mariota, the Ducks were expected to contend not only for the conference title but a playoff spot again.
Mariota is gone and only two starters from his offensive line returned to protect newcomer Vernon Adams, Jr and Mariota’s back-up, Jeff Lockie. All of which adds up to a struggling Ducks offense combined with a young defense – the Ducks, a preseason top 10 have fallen from their Pac-12 perch and sit at 2-2 overall.
One of those losses was a beatdown suffered at the hands of the Utah Utes. After Utah’s win in Eugene, they look to be the team to beat after September.
Heading into the season, the Pac-12 South looked to be a brutal grind. All but Colorado had the opportunity to win the division. ASU looks pedestrian, Arizona was humbled by UCLA leaving the battle to the L.A. schools and Utah.
With Oregon tumbling back to earth, Cal (4-0) has risen in its place. The “Big Game” with Stanford could be the decider for the North division, but in this topsy-turvy conference without a standout team, that seems like a long way off.
Six teams undefeated.
That sounds about right for the Big 12 in September. Late October and November tends to be their kryptonite. For now, though, they’ll enjoy Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
The Mountaineers are interesting as they rank in the top 10 in total defense. A nice win this past Saturday over B1G’s middling-Maryland team could be a big springboard for their showdown with Oklahoma on October 3rd. They’ll need all the spring they can get as the Sooners were idle this final Saturday in September.
Bill Snyder’s KSU Wildcats are a model of consistency. Always a challenger for the conference title, the Cats sit at 3-0 as they head into a whale of an October schedule. They’ll visit the OSU Cowboys before hosting TCU and Oklahoma back-to-back. They finish with a competitive, albeit inconsistent, Texas team.
Hard not to discuss the Big 12 without TCU and Baylor. The two high-powered teams have seemed vulnerable at times already this season. But, they continue to escape despite defenses ranked in the plus-100’s in FBS. The meat of Baylor’s schedule is mostly in November, while TCU has a solid mix of tough home-road games in the next two months.
SEC is the premier conference in the country.
Or, so the pundits say.
Thankfully, the final say happens on the field. And, it’s either the SEC has come back down to earth OR the rest of the country has caught up to the SEC. The SEC of past years isn’t as dominant as it used to be.
Alabama is still Alabama. Well, with the exception of last week’s loss to Ole Miss.
Maybe that should read Alabama is new Alabama. Occasional losses here and there, but they still find their way into top 10 rankings on a routine basis.
Ole Miss, after their upset win in Tuscaloosa, is crashing the top 5 party with LSU knocking on the door behind early-Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette (631 yards on 71 carries, 8 TDs, 8.6 avg).
Georgia is doing its September thing of being undefeated…and untested. They hype machine is always in full effect for the Bulldogs early on, as it is this year. They have a favorable schedule the rest of the way – their biggest test could be this coming weekend’s home game against Bama.
Auburn (2-2) and Arkansas (1-3) are struggling while Florida (4-0) and Kentucky (3-1) are rising. Missouri’s 3-1 record is misleading as they’ve struggled in nearly all of their games.
Good thing it’s decided on the field and not in the polls.
Or, by pundits.
Gone is Jameis Winston, but the Seminoles are still the cream of the ACC crop. Well, in record only.
The Noles were so much more than Winston, despite his leading them to the promised land in 2014 and the playoff semi-final in 2015. 11 Seminoles were drafted in the 2015 NFL Draft equaling their 2013 total.
FSU is 3-0 which includes a decent 14-0 win at Boston College. 10/10 might be circled on their calendar, however, when they face in-state rival Miami. The Hurricanes have started off the season 3-0, including a surprising 36-33 win over Nebraska this past weekend.
The Canes aren’t alone – NC State and Clemson are also part of the undefeated ranks. The Tigers are an interesting case at 3-0. They have a great 20-17 win against Louisville, but top 10-ranked Notre Dame comes calling on October 3.
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack and their top-10 ranked defense could be the surprise of the conference. Louisville, Virginia Tech and Clemson loom large in three of their next four games. We’ll know plenty more about them and the entire ACC in these next few weeks.
BEST OF THE REST
The cream of the crop is Notre Dame. The top-10 ranked Fighting Irish sit at 4-0 and are averaging 41 points per game. But, the Irish have Clemson, Navy, USC and Stanford ahead of them – not an easy road by any means.
Not too far behind ND is the American Athletic Conference’s Memphis Tigers. But, are they contenders or pretenders? Dates with Ole Miss, Tulsa and Temple will tell us if the Tigers are for real or not.
With wins over power-5 conference schools Washington and Virginia, Boise State is once again in the national conversation. Their only blemish is a last second Hail Mary pass against BYU.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Weird might be an understatement. And, contrary to what Frank Beamer thinks,
this isn’t the NFL. August and September games count. They count in the standings and with those involved in college polls. If you have national title aspirations, they matter. If not, then enjoy your conference title chase and your non-prominent bowl.
Coaches often say things, like Beamer did, that they don’t really mean. Of course they all matter. This isn’t the NFL where you can win your division with a sub-.500 record and make the playoffs. There are no wild cards in the business of college football.
That’s exactly what it is – a business. Multi-million dollar businesses.Last time I checked, there are no guarantees in a multi-million dollar business. No guarantees other than unpredictability.
The 2015 college football season is predictably unpredictable.
Just the way we like it.