I said this wasn’t going to be a great slate of games…but I did warn that college football is notorious for having a weekend that looks like it will be boring or blah and it winds up amazing. Well…about that…it was an amazing and disruptive Saturday.
First, let’s look at the Three Top Coaching Performances of Week 1:
Mario Cristobal - Oregon: Without their two best players on defense, the Ducks walked into the Horseshoe and beat Ohio State straight up. It was no fluke, they had a great plan on offense and defense and kept the pressure on. Cristobal said after the game that it’s all apart of the building process to get to a point where they could win games like that. Oregon is very much in the hunt for the College Football Playoff now and the offense seems to be rounding into form.
Sam Pittman - Arkansas: In Year 2 of what was and is still a significant rebuild, Arkansas beat Texas – supposedly a top 20 team that is clearly more talented on paper – like a rented mule, 40-21…and it wasn’t that close. Arkansas owned the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and never really let Texas into the game. We’ll see if Arkansas can make some noise in the SEC West – Pittman should be SEC coach of the year candidate if they win 7-8 games.
Kalani Sitake – BYU: Ending a nine game losing streak to their in-state rival Utah, the Cougars flexed their muscles and showed that – even with the loss of Zach Wilson and other great players from last year’s team – this program has developed staying power. It was a great week for BYU, an invite to the Big 12 and this huge win.
Honorable mention: Mike Leach, Mississippi State
Second, the Three Worst:
Mike Norvell – Florida State: Losing to an FCS team is unacceptable at Florida State – Norvell said as much in his postgame interview but what was worse is a defensive call in a borderline last play situation that left basically only two secondary members back deep. Yes, Jax State could have technically thrown a 20 yard pass or so and called timeout before a LONG field goal but this was a brain cramp, or overthinking by the FSU staff…perhaps the second in as many weeks depending on who you talk to.
Dave Doeren – N.C. State: I was ready to make Doeren number one until the FSU-Jax State ending. Every couple of years it seems like “THIS” will be the year that the Wolfpack become a really good team that could threaten Clemson. They couldn’t even compete with Mississippi State on the road. This game was over in the third quarter – the Pack couldn’t consistently stop the Bulldogs or move the ball. N.C. State will probably still win 8 games this year – but it’s ringing hollow with a lot of their fans. Doeren isn’t bad…but it seems clear he’s not going to get the Pack from good to great.
Clay Helton - USC: Bad bad loss at home to Stanford for Helton. It will get the firing rumors stoked to about as high as they can get. The Trojans were down 42-13 before a couple of late, garbage time touchdowns. This is not a good Cardinal team that they lost to either. It seems more than ever that it’s time for a change in L.A. UCLA’s resurgence just makes it even worse.
Dishonorable Mention: Steve Sarkisian, Texas
Finally – main storylines from Week 2 -
Another Week, More Shockers (and near-Shockers):
In addition to Ohio State losing – which was a reasonable loss to a very good team but still surprising – we had another FCS upset (Jacksonville State in an amazing finish against Florida State), Arkansas and Mississippi State thumping favored visitors, Stanford beating #15 USC and near upsets by Colorado over Texas A&M and Appalachian State over Miami. Lots of fun even for what looked like a dull week.
ACC Still in Trouble - PAC 12 gets huge win but…
Week 2 was same story for ACC, an underwhelming performance generally with Miami barely winning, N.C. State losing on the road to Mississippi State, Syracuse going down to Rutgers and Florida State losing in embarrassing fashion to FCS Jacksonville State. While Virginia and Pittsburgh won in non-conference, it was not a great week. ACC looks very week. The PAC 12 had the biggest win of the week (and probably the season so far) with Oregon beating Ohio State on the road but Colorado missed out on a golden opportunity for an upset, Cal blew a large lead to TCU, Utah lost to BYU and Washington was smoked by Michigan. Then USC lost badly to underdog Stanford leaving the PAC 12 with really just two (or maybe 3) teams that have any sort of real national aspirations – Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State – the Sun Devils are untested so far.
What Happened at the Top (cont.)?
Clemson and Ohio State have both lost. Texas A&M barely avoided a huge upset to Colorado. LSU looks like they haven’t recovered from last year’s debacle. Notre Dame has nearly lost twice to inferior competition. Wisconsin, Texas and North Carolina – all programs with at least some shot at being top 10 have lost. Even Alabama looked wonky and weird in their Week 2 matchup against Mercer. It’s clear that parity and also good old-fashioned complacency have impacted the top teams. One other thing – a lot of these elite teams lost great players to the draft while G5, FCS and lower-level power conference teams had most of their production from 2020 come back for another year due to COVID. Think about how senior-laden mid-major teams go on runs in the NCAA Basketball Tournament every March. We’ll see if this evens out – but I expect it will continue in some capacity for the rest of the year.
Stay tuned for Week 3’s “Most Meaningful Matchups” coming later this week. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @ReadyCFB to argue or agree and see my takes throughout the week – especially on Saturday for the college football Symphony!