The college football season feels very volatile and uncertain after many years of a few teams – Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma – largely dominating the sport to varying degrees. There’s a lot to process from the past weekend of games.
Alabama Might Not Be What We Thought
The Alabama Crimson Tide were a heavy favorite against the Florida Gators. What made them a big favorite was not just their own reputation, but the fact that Florida quarterback Emory Jones was not that good a passer. Florida’s offense was very imbalanced between the run and the pass, giving Alabama a chance to put the Gators in predictable down-and-distance situations and then go in for the kill. Yet, what happened was that Florida was able to run the ball against Alabama even without the threat of a potent passing game. Florida rushed for nearly 300 yards even though the Gators have nothing comparable to their 2020 passing game with tight end Kyle Pitts, who is now with the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. Florida’s ability to consistently run the ball – it’s one of the rare times a Nick Saban defense has allowed over 250 yards in his long tenure at Alabama – enabled Florida to keep the ball away from the Crimson Tide’s offense. This game might have gone to overtime if Florida had not missed a PAT early in the game. Florida was down 31-29 late and had to go for two because of the missed extra point. The Gators’ two-point try failed and Alabama survived. It was not an impressive performance, and what’s alarming is that Alabama knew Florida was going to run the ball and it couldn’t stop it. That’s a big red flag, especially if you betonline.
There is a real feeling that Ole Miss might have a legitimately better offense than Alabama in the SEC. That is a possible upset alert waiting to happen. Alabama has a lot of work to do … but the Tide aren’t alone in this regard.
Clemson Might Not Be What We Thought
The Clemson Tigers scored just three points against Georgia in the season opener, but the Bulldogs have a legitimately great defense and physical players at every position. It was reasonable to think that result was more about Georgia being excellent than Clemson being bad … but that might not hold now.
Clemson scored only 14 points on Saturday against a bad Georgia Tech team which lost to Northern Illinois. Clemson’s offensive line is bad right now. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei is not in sync with his receivers and is not making big plays in the passing game. The Tigers aren’t hitting downfield shots. Their running back production has dropped off a lot since Travis Etienne left to go to the NFL. This offense is horrendous, and it is failing to make good use of a defense which has been doing its job. Clemson’s defense allowed just three points to Georgia – the Bulldogs scored their touchdown in that game on a pick-six – and eight to Georgia Tech. Yet, Clemson isn’t winning comfortably. That’s a real problem.
The Tigers and Alabama, though, aren’t the only elite teams to struggle. Careful laying big spreads versus the NCAA odds with them.
Ohio State Might Not Be What We Thought
This is getting very concerning for the Buckeyes. They led a bad Tulsa team by only seven points in the second half before winning 41-20. Ohio State has played poorly in all three games. The linebackers have been atrocious, the coaching is not improving or developing players or putting them in position to succeed. There isn’t Justin Fields around to mask the weaknesses and deficiencies of the rest of the roster. This is a deeply flawed team. The only solace for Ohio State right now is that the rest of the Big Ten also seems very flawed, with Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State all looking like slightly to moderately above-average teams with lots of limitations.
Oklahoma Might Not Be What We Thought
The Oklahoma Sooners were 22-point favorites against the Nebraska Cornhuskers and they barely won. Nebraska had the ball late with a chance to tie. The Sooners played down to their competition and were surprisingly flat for much of the game. They didn’t have answers on offense and didn’t make key adjustments. Nebraska is a mediocre team at best that lost to a bad Illinois team. What is also necessary to point out is that Nebraska’s offense didn’t play well. The Cornhuskers managed only 16 points and committed several 15-yard penalties during this game. Nebraska was not playing a high-level game; Oklahoma should blow out Nebraska if Nebraska is playing well below its capacity. Yet, the Sooners drifted through the game and had to sweat out the final few minutes. That’s an embarrassing offensive display from Oklahoma, which looks nothing like the team rated No. 2 in preseason rankings. Oklahoma would lose to a lot of top-10 teams if it had to play them today. Tread carefully using them for college football picks.
There is No Elite Team – Not Even Alabama
The start of the season is often volatile, but this one has been even more volatile. Alabama’s shaky performance indicates the Crimson Tide can’t automatically be assumed to be an elite team. Alabama will likely be in the national title hunt as it always is, but the journey isn’t going to be as easy. This feels like a season in which a lot of surprises are in store. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma are not the obvious four best teams in the country. That’s a big surprise early in the season.
Florida Could Beat Georgia in SEC East
The Georgia win over Clemson doesn’t seem quite as convincing now as it did two weeks ago. Florida, by playing Alabama on even terms, has given itself real hope that it can stand up to the Tide and other top teams in the country. Florida was not physically overpowered to the extent many people thought it would be.
Manny Diaz is Not the Man at Miami
The Miami Hurricanes brought back quarterback D’Eriq King, a Heisman candidate, with hopes of winning an ACC championship. While Miami has not yet played an ACC game, the Hurricanes are already 1-2 after a brutal 38-17 loss at home to Michigan State. This is a year in which coach Manny Diaz has to get big results. It looks like Miami will lose at least four games, if not five. That’s not a good result. He could be on the hot seat.
Florida State Remains Total Mess
The Seminoles are 0-3 after getting blasted by Wake Forest. This is a total nightmare for head coach Mike Norvell. The Seminoles have not addressed their core problems: the offensive line and their defensive front seven. This season could get worse before it gets better. The arrival of quarterback McKenzie Milton from UCF has not made that big a difference because the other problems are too glaring.
Pac-12 South is Awful
Arizona State lost to BYU. Utah lost to San Diego State. Arizona lost to Northern Arizona for the first time since 1932. Colorado got shut out at home by Minnesota. UCLA lost at home to Fresno State. The Pac-12 South went 1-5 and is a total disaster. Given that the Pac-12 North went 1-5 in Week 1, the Pac-12 is a miserable place to be with the sole exception of Oregon.
Oregon has Great Chance to Make Playoff
The struggles of Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Notre Dame all point to rough seasons for those schools. Oregon’s odds of getting to the playoff are growing by the day. The Ducks are very well positioned to make the playoff. They can probably get in with one loss. They don’t have to be perfect.