We’re three weeks into the college football season and already it’s upside down in many ways.
But this is why the game is so wonderfully unpredictable and delightful.
Perception means nothing.
Three of the top five ranked teams this week (TCU, Ole Miss and Baylor) are not bluebloods. But they are part the new blood.
Baylor went 15 years (1995-2010) without a winning season. TCU’s two national titles were 1935 and ‘38. Ole Miss went 2-10 four years ago.
They are part of significant change. Together they have scored 463 points. The scholarship limits are one factor evening a playing field that is weighted by the Power Five conferences.
But another, maybe even greater factor, is how teams are constantly evolving and creating on offense. Spread formations, no huddle, rapid tempo, trick plays. This is no longer your grandfather’s college football. Everybody looks for an edge.
“The thing I think has changed…and I’m not sure where it started… is people are not scared to try anything nowadays,” said South Alabama coach Joey Jones, whose team has one of its bigger home games Saturday vs. N.C. State in its three-year existence as a full Division I program.
“Everybody tries to be very innovative every year,” said Jones, the only coach in USA’s seven-year history. “It’s almost like now, everybody is trying to be the first ones to do something new.
“Where (game) was in the past was, hey, let’s play sound football. Let’s line up, let’s block people and now, my goodness, they’re trying to expose more people with athletes. It’s become more of a basketball game now.”
Just like March Madness, anything is possible. What’s assumed means nothing.
We started the season with Auburn forecast for the playoffs and quarterback Jeremy Johnson for the Heisman Trophy. One reason was a favorable schedule (Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama all coming to The Plains) and the buzz about Johnson.
Uh, not now. He’s benched for Saturday. He’s not the second coming of Cam Newton. The Tigers are likely toast unless they win out and if you’re taking odds on that happening, you can start in triple digits.
First, they have to get past Mississippi State and Dak Prescott.
Alabama scored 37 points Saturday … and lost. You know the last time Ole Miss beat Bama in consecutive seasons? Try never. They started playing in 1894, by the way.
It’s another hotty toddy time for the Rebels, who are this week’s Sports Illustrated cover story (available today). They merely affirmed in Tuscaloosa that last year’s wild, Katy Perry in-the-stands and rushing the field upset of the Tide was no aberration.
If you’re an Ole Miss fan, just wondering if you ever imagined a day the Rebels would be spurred by one guy who grew up in Kansas (athletic director Ross Bjork) and a quarterback (Chad Kelly) who grew up in Buffalo.
Florida State is off this week. The Seminoles have basically two weeks to sort out their offense. Their defense scored as many points (7) as the ball carriers did against Boston College. And those offensive points were on the first drive.
But ultimately the Seminoles pitched a road shutout and won by two touchdowns. They visit Wake Forest on Oct. 3, but the rest of the month includes Miami and two opponents (Louisville and Syracuse) that FSU QB Everett Golson faced last year as Notre Dame’s quarterback.
It can’t get much stranger.
The Florida Gators will learn more about their future Saturday when Tennessee visits in a rivalry the Gators have owned since 2004. There remains uncertainty at quarterback between Will Grier and Treon Harris and that’s a common quandary in today’s college football.
Quarterbacks get the most love by all these legions of recruiting analysts. So it’s a lot harder to check egos, keep them all happy and be the best fit for the current team.
Ohio State suddenly finds itself in that position after Cardale Jones struggled to begin the season. The Buckeyes may still roll toward the end of the season, but it’s not as definite as it looked. Under Urban Meyer there have been seismic shifts in philosophy.
“You look at them and now they are in the spread,” Jones said. “You look at Oregon and what they’ve done. They haven’t won a national championship yet, but I would venture to say if they were in the I (formation) you would not have the Oregon we have now.
“They would not be a known factor. But because they have gone to that spread offense and they are great at it, then it gives them a chance. People are trying things and it’s given underdogs a chance.”
It’s also made a national title chase devoid of a clear favorite.