Can we exhale yet?
As usual, a ho-hum weekend of college football on paper turned upside-down in a hurry on Saturday. Shocking upsets, heart-stopping near-upsets, stunning blowouts, Kentucky doing something stupid…what more could you ask for?
We’re now four weeks into the season and only one team hasn’t shown any sign of weakness. Other than Alabama, every team in the country has shown at least a sliver of vulnerability. Even Clemson needed a fourth-quarter burst to pull out of a 7-7 tie with Boston College.
There’s a lot to talk about this week. Here are the biggest takeaways from a wacky – so in other words, a normal – college football Saturday.
And don’t forget to subscribe to the CFB Country podcast. There are some great guests coming this week.
Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, Mason Rudolph
Even as I watched Rudolph pick apart Pittsburgh last week like the Panthers were a junior college team, I got a weird feeling I was watching Geno Smith all over again. Smith set the world on fire in September 2012, starting 5-0 before losing five straight once conference play began. In no way do I think Oklahoma State is about to lose its next four games, but credit Gary Patterson and TCU for slowing down Mike Gundy yet again.
I wrote on Friday how Patterson’s defenses have notoriously held Oklahoma State WAY below its typical scoring pace, and they did it again on Saturday. The Cowboys came in averaging 54 points per game, but lost 44-31 at home to the Horned Frogs. The ‘Pokes turned it over four times, and TCU capitalized. With the way Oklahoma struggled with Baylor later Saturday night, the Big 12 is completely wide open. As many as five or six teams could win this league. As for Mason Rudolph…he’s got a steep hill to climb to make it back into the Heisman mix.
Saquon Barkley has taken the Heisman lead
I don’t know if there’s anyone to truly compare Barkley to. He’s got the wiggle that reminds you of Barry Sanders or Reggie Bush, but the power that makes you think he’s Ricky Williams. It’s honestly like watching Michael Vick in the open field. He zig-zagged, wove, and hurdled his way around the Iowa defense for 305 yards of total offense.
I mean look at this shit:
The Heisman race is going to have its fair share of twists and turns all season long, but Barkley took the lead on Saturday night. He can thank his quarterback Trace McSorley for bailing him out on a 12-play, 65-yard game-winning drive in the final two minutes. Penn State dominated the first three quarters against the Hawkeyes but couldn’t put the game away with touchdowns. Barkley’s brilliance, and the gutsy drive by McSorley kept Penn State’s undefeated season alive.
This is the most important Virginia Tech regular season game in 18 years
From the moment he was hired to replace Frank Beamer, it was only a matter of time before Justin Fuente had Virginia Tech back in the national conversation. I don’t think anyone thought it would happen this fast, though. It’s only 18 games into the Fuente Era and Virginia Tech is hosting College Gameday with Clemson coming to town. If the Hokies don’t come back to beat Notre Dame and Arkansas last season, and finish 8-6 instead of 10-4, I’m not sure Gameday’s in Blacksburg next week. If the Hokies don’t come within 20 yards of dashing Clemson’s national title dreams last season, I’m not sure Gameday’s in Blacksburg this week. If Fuente doesn’t guide a freshman quarterback in his first career start to a win over West Virginia earlier this month, I’m not sure Gameday’s in Blacksburg this week.
Simply put, Fuente is one of the four best hires in the country over the last five years. The other three are Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Chris Petersen (Washington), and James Franklin (Penn State). This is the most important regular season game in Blacksburg since the 1999 finale against Boston College, when a win meant the Hokies would play for the national championship. The 2007 Thursday night game against Boston College was huge, but a win would not have changed the fortunes of the Hokies’ season at all. They weren’t playing for a national title that season after losing 47-7 in Baton Rouge in Week 2, even if they’d beaten Boston College that night.
If the Hokies can somehow win next Saturday night (and this is a TALL….TALLLLLLL order…), the Hokies are suddenly relevant nationally again. A win would likely vault them close to, if not into the top five in both polls, and mark them as a legitimate CFB Playoff contender. It would serve notice to recruits around the country that Fuente is building something special in Blacksburg. It would instantly boost the program’s profile to a level it hasn’t been since the mid-2000’s. Do I think the Hokies will get to that point eventually under Fuente? I do, but if the Hokies can somehow shock the world next weekend, they’ll reach that point WAY ahead of schedule.
I am aroused.
Jake Fromm has won the QB1 job at Georgia
That’s it. This is Jake Fromm’s team. This is Jake Fromm’s program. The true freshman has done more than enough to keep the starting quarterback job no matter when Jacob Eason comes back from injury. He completed 9-of-12 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns against a red-hot Mississippi State defense, and Georgia rushed for 203 yards on 42 carries as they dominated the visiting Bulldogs 31-3.
Jacob Eason was the top-ranked pocket passers in the country two years ago out of high school. I don’t care. Kirby Smart has Georgia looking like the only real threat to Alabama in the entire SEC. He’s done it with Jake Fromm under center. You can’t mess with that now. I hope this doesn’t drag out into a controversy. If I’m Kirby Smart I come out this week and squash any rumors that Eason might keep the job once he’s back.
Of course, if Georgia’s defense plays this way all season, Smart himself could probably take some snaps and the ‘Dawgs would be just fine. It doesn’t show up in the box score, but Georgia has the best open-field tackling of anyone in college football, and their secondary has some of the best ball skills I’ve seen in a college team in a while. There’s no weak link anywhere on the defense. Georgia’s for real.
Of all the SEC coaches on the hot seat, Barry Odom’s should be the hottest
There’s no reason for Missouri to drag this out any longer. It’s time to put Odom, the players, the fans, and anyone who’s had the pain of watching Tiger football this season out of their misery. It’s blatantly obvious Odom’s team has quit on him. It started with a 35-3 loss to Purdue and nothing changed this week in a 51-14 rout against Auburn – BOTH at home.
After a tumultuous ending to the Gary Pinkel era, Missouri made the safe, comfortable hire in Odom. It’s been a disaster, and it’s time to move on. Time to start courting the likes of PJ Fleck, Jeff Brohm, and Jay Norvell. Ordinarily I don’t support the idea of firing a coach mid-season, but when a team has given up like this, what choice do you have?
USC is on high upset alert next week
Not only are the Trojans heavily overrated to begin with, but they are battling a boatload of injuries and have no bye weeks all season to try and heal up. Star running back Ronald Jones was one of several starters to not make the trip to Cal, which USC barely survived 30-20.
Now the Trojans face Washington State on the road on a short week. This is an EXTREMELY tough spot for USC, whose offense hasn’t seemed to find the right gear yet this season. There’s so much talent, but they’ve turned it over eight times in four games. Those sort of mistakes will catch up to you eventually. I’m not ready to call the upset quite yet…but I’m leaning that way on Friday night. The Trojans will lose a game sooner or later. Or more.
Kentucky should drop football
I mean, what the hell are we doing here, Kentucky.
This was on the game-deciding play. This was the second time Kentucky just straight-up didn’t guard a Florida wide receiver in the second half. Mark Stoops admitted after the game he was caught trying to switch personnel. He HAD TIMEOUTS LEFT!
This is the most inexcusable way to lose a game, I’m sorry. Just when you thought Butch Jones had set the bar for worst possible coaching job in the final minute of a football game, Mark Stoops comes in screaming “HOLD MY BEER.” Kentucky led 27-14 with just over eight minutes left, and blew it in hilariously awful fashion. That’s now 31 straight losses to Florida. Those are the kind of losses that can send your season into a tailspin. The Wildcats needed this win to validate the rebuilding job Stoops had worked on for years. Instead, same old shit in Lexington. At least Big Blue Madness is only a few weeks away.
THE JP TOP 10
I’ll have my full top 25 on Monday, with a breakdown of each team. But for now, here are the 10 teams who have impressed me the most this season. Are they the 10 best teams? Not necessarily…but for my money, these are the 10 best resumes in college football.
- Penn State
- Virginia Tech
- Notre Dame
See you Monday. Subscribe to the College Football Country podcast now!