College Football Thoughts & Hot Takes, Week 4: Everyone Is Flawed

Georgia, who we all previously thought to be on a completely different level than everyone else, and in the process of waltzing back to the National Championship Game, surprisingly had some difficulty dispatching of… Kent State?

The final score was 39-22. Three turnovers by Georgia certainly gave Kent State some easy points, but they’re not supposed to be able to score on Georgia at all. And Georgia isn’t supposed to turn the ball over against a team like Kent State.

Georgia was this leading game by just 10 points with less than 6 minutes to play in regulation.

Kent State scored a TD early in the 4th quarter to make it 32-22. Their 2-point conversion attempt failed, but had it succeeded, Kent State would’ve been in a one-possession game with Georgia in the 4th quarter. That’s a big deal.

That shouldn’t happen.

On YouTube, I follow this guy named UncleLou, and he’s a big Georgia fan. He posts reaction videos to every game and all that good stuff. His video from yesterday was “Georgia should’ve lost to Kent State.” Bulldog nation is kind of panicking right now:

The key line: “The overall amount of talent Georgia has is the only reason Georgia won this game. It wasn’t preparation, or scheme, or philosophy, or execution, or play-calling, or anything like that.”

Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Uncle Lou says this was the worst game Georgia has played since the 2019 South Carolina game.

Georgia did not have a game this bad last year. Not even close.

You know, when Georgia beat Samford 33-0 a couple weeks back, I didn’t say anything. Nobody in the mainstream sports media did, actually. Because at face value, it was a shutout win, Georgia was up 30-0 at halftime, and they just packed it in for the second half. They didn’t want to pile on. Understandable.

But in the back of my mind, I had this little thought, like, “Is this a minor cause for concern?”

Again, I didn’t even say anything at the time. Nobody in the sports media made anything of it. Nobody that I can recall was saying, “Georgia only beat Samford 33-0?!?!?” It would’ve been silly to do so. But it was at least something I took note of–like maybe Georgia isn’t this invincible juggernaut with zero flaws.

And people in Dawg Nation were kind of panicking after the Samford game.

Scoring 33 points means you had 3 touchdowns and 4 field goals (assuming there are no safeties in the game, which there weren’t and usually aren’t.) So that means Samford, an FCS school, held Georgia to 4 field goals. Ultimately, we’re nitpicking the Mona Lisa here, and I get that. But Georgia was favored by 53 points over Samford in that game, and they only won by 33. I’m going to reiterate again, it was not like I was seriously alarmed by that final score and immediately put Georgia on FRAUD WATCH.

But it was a little bit interesting that Georgia “only” beat Samford 33-0.

And now we have Georgia legitimately struggling with Kent State.

Again, Georgia turned the ball over 3 times and Kent State successfully converted a fake punt. Kirby Smart said after the game allowing a fake punt is like a 4th turnover, and that’s true. Georgia still outgained Kent State 529 to 281. They won time of possession 37 minutes to 23. Georgia dominated the game in everything but the score. Kent State had 30 carries for 93 yards, which is 3.1 YPC. That’s pretty much going nowhere on the ground. It’s not like Georgia was getting gashed on the ground.

If there is any place you could say Kent State was having success against the Georgia defense, it would be in the passing game. Kent State averaged 8.5 yards per attempt, which is pretty decent when you’re going up against a team like Georgia. Georgia only averaged 7.6 YPA through the air when they were on offense. But Kent State only had 188 passing yards (15-22 passing overall). They were passing the ball fairly well but didn’t really pass the ball a lot.


I’m not ready to say that. I don’t think Georgia got Exposed™ or anything here. I think they just had a bad game. But it is fair to ask the question: if they played Ohio State or Alabama right now, would they win? I don’t know if they would.

I think there may just be some complacency setting in with Georgia. They won their first National Championship since 1980 last season. This is not a program used to success, or that has experience in dealing with success. It’s not easy to do. You’re susceptible to buying into your own hype and losing your competitive edge. You lose that hunger you once had. There’s no way this Georgia team didn’t hear what people have been saying about them–that they’re in a class of their own, they’re unstoppable, etc.

I wouldn’t be shocked if they bought into their own hype; maybe got a little complacent, maybe didn’t practice as hard. I don’t know. It’s my only real explanation for why they were so sloppy. They play Mizzou next week; it’s not like they were looking ahead to a big game.

This is where we find out if Kirby Smart is an all-time great coach, or just a really good coach.

There have been a lot of coaches that have won a single national championship. Very few of them were able to repeat, or maintain that elite level of success over a long period of time.

It is so damn hard to sustain success, especially in college football. Even though college football is the one sport where, more than any other sport, success can breed success (in the sense that top recruits want to play for the top programs). And yet at the same time, the obstacles that come with success are perhaps greater than in any other sport. When you win a National Championship, you will lose a lot of guys to the NFL. That’s just baked into the cake. Georgia had FIFTEEN players drafted in May. That is a massive amount of outgoing talent to replace.

And while Georgia still boasts an incredible amount of talent, you’ve got young guys filling the roles left by the guys who graduated or went to the league. That’s an obstacle. These are 18-22 year old kids. And then the players who were on the Championship team that are still there are naturally going to start buying into their own hype; they can get complacent. They get these big NIL deals; everyone around them is telling them they’re the shit.

On top of this, you have coaching staff turnover. Georgia lost their defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, who took the Oregon job. Coordinator turnover is one of the biggest hidden reasons college football teams change so much from season to season.

The point is, it’s very hard to sustain success in college football. That’s why what Nick Saban has done over the past 13 years or so has been so incredible to witness. In a sport with so much turnover baked into the cake, Alabama just reloads every year and keeps on winning. Nick Saban is the only constant. (Without getting too political, this is why I think Nick Saban should be President of the United States, by the way: because America is a nation that has already reached the mountaintop, so to speak, but we are having trouble maintaining our status as the best country in the world.)

And that’s the reality of being a college football coach: you are the only constant. You and the athletic director, pretty much (and maybe the strength and conditioning coach–those guys tend to stick around if they’re at elite programs). Your players will only be with you for 4 years, 5 years max. And your best players will be gone after three years. Your coordinators, if they’re good, will only be around a 2-3 years at most. Then you’ll have to find new ones to replace them.

Not only do you have to continually maintain this standard of excellence, gameplan, get your team in the right frame of mind, and develop talent, you have to recruit the whole time, too. And recruiting is a year-round job in this day and age. It’s exhausting for coaches. And it gets even harder to find that motivation to do all of that stuff when you have already reached the mountaintop. It’s harder to stay on the mountaintop than it is to get up there.

When I think of teams that have trouble repeating as National Champions, I think of teams like 2014 Florida State. They brought back Jameis Winston, the Heisman winner, and lots of other guys who were on the 2013 Championship team. But they were in so many close games in 2014. They were an accident waiting to happen all year. They were talented, but they were no longer dominant. They weren’t hungry anymore. They went 13-0 in the regular season but got massacred in the playoff by Oregon, 59-20.

Georgia now has the target on their back. They’re getting all the attention and hype. People are even saying they’ve surpassed Bama as a program. It’s hard not to buy into all that.

We already know Kirby Smart is a Championship-caliber coach, but now we’re going to see if he’s good enough to sustain that excellence. It’s going to be difficult. A coach can kind of lose control of his program after winning a National Championship. I think Jimbo Fisher did after 2013. Ed Orgeron did after 2019. Even Urban Meyer could not get back to the National Championship while he was at Ohio State after 2014. If you would’ve told me after 2014 that Urban Meyer wouldn’t win another National Title at Ohio State, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it’s incredibly difficult to repeat.

Paradoxically, when you win a Championship, standards have a way of actually falling, not rising. And it’s because of complacency and satisfaction replacing that hunger to reach the mountaintop.

I think it’s possible we’re already seeing the subtle signs of complacency-driven regression at Georgia. History would suggest that’s the case, as very few coaches are able to sustain excellence over time. There’s a lot of Phil Fulmers and Steve Spurriers and Ed Orgerons and Jimbo Fishers out there, but there’s not a lot of Nick Sabans and Bear Bryants and Woody Hayes(es).

But the good news is that Georgia has a ton of talent–an absolutely loaded roster–and they’ve got 1 maybe 2 difficult but very beatable teams on their schedule (Tennessee and Kentucky) standing between themselves and the SEC Championship.

I still think Georgia should finish 12-0 or 11-1 at worst. I do not see them losing more than 1 game in the regular season. They could lose to either Tennessee or Kentucky, but not both.

I would be shocked if Georgia goes 10-2 this year. Then it would really be time to hit the panic button.

One last point about Georgia that I brought up last week is just kind of fun trivia, but it’s Stetson Bennett’s age. I was surprised to find out last week that he’s turning 25 in a month’s time. So this week I did a little research to see just how many current NFL starting QBs he’s older than. You might find this interesting; I think it is.

NFL QBs that Stetson Bennett (born 10/28/1997) is older than:

  • Tua Tagovailoa (3/2/1998)
  • Justin Herbert (3/10/1998)
  • Kenny Pickett (6/6/1998)
  • Jalen Hurts (8/7/1998)
  • Mac Jones (9/5/1998)
  • Davis Mills (10/21/1998)
  • Justin Fields (3/5/1999)
  • Trevor Lawrence (10/6/1999)

Here’s the wildest thing: Stetson Bennett is only 10 months younger than Lamar Jackson, who has been in the NFL since 2018 and won league MVP in 2019.

Bennett is only two months younger than Kyler Murray (born 8/7/1997).

That’s 10 NFL QBs that Stetson Bennett is either older than or barely younger than. Crazy.

Ohio State had the most impressive win of the weekend

I did not think Ohio State would be this dominant against Wisconsin. My prediction was 35-20 Ohio State wins. I thought it would be like 21-10 at halftime, and then Ohio State would pull away in the second half, hold on to like a 35-13 lead in the 4th quarter, and then Wisco would get a late garbage time TD. That’s how I envisioned this game going. I thought it was unlikely Ohio State came out and just boatraced Jim Leonhard’s defense that early. But they did it. They made Wisconsin look like Rutgers.

To give you a sense of how little Ohio State was sweating this game, Marvin Harrison Jr. was wearing an Apple Watch and Louis Vuitton cleats during the game:

Just clowning Wisco.

Yet isn’t it kind of weird that Ohio State just thrashed Wisconsin, traditionally one of the strongest programs in the Big Ten and a staple in the top-15 in the country, often the top-10, and it’s not even really a big deal? Like it was just expected?

I know a lot of the luster got wiped away from this game when Wisconsin lost at home to Washington State a few weeks ago. This would’ve been a ranked matchup had Wisconsin been able to win that game. But my power ratings had Wisconsin as the 7th-best team in the country. I only had Ohio State as about a 10-point favorite before this game, much less than the 19 point line Ohio State had going into this game according to Vegas. Obviously Wisconsin will fall in my ratings after the blasting they took on Saturday night, but through 3 games they were one of the strongest teams in the country from a statistical perspective.

As a quick side note, if you’re wondering how I could’ve had Wisconsin #7 in the nation even though they lost to Washington State, it’s because my power ratings don’t work like the AP Poll and the CFP Rankings. In those rankings, if you lose, you go down, if you win, you go up. They’re based on little more than wins and losses.

There are a lot of silly “rules”–or maybe “traditions” is a better way of putting it–that govern the rankings–like the fact that Wake Forest lost in double overtime to Clemson and went down in the rankings. How is that justified? Wake Forest was #21 before this weekend, now they’re #22. They took the #5 team in the country to the wire–pushed them to the brink–and we think less of them now? No, if anything, Wake Forest should’ve gone up a little bit in the rankings after playing so close to the #5 team in the country.

The AP rankings are not the same as power ratings. Power ratings are supposed to be predictive, and wins and losses are often based on unpredictable things, so we don’t use wins and losses in our system. We don’t measure outcomes, we only measure the things that go into determining the outcomes.

Bill Connelly of ESPN puts it thusly with his SP+ ratings: “SP+ is intended to be predictive and forward-facing. It is not a résumé ranking that gives credit for big wins or particularly brave scheduling — no good predictive system is. It is simply a measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football. If you’re lucky or unimpressive in a win, your rating will probably fall. If you’re strong and unlucky in a loss, it will probably rise.” He writes this almost every week, verbatim.

A close game can be decided by a fluky turnover, or a questionable flag. Because of the “Any Given Sunday/Saturday” aspect of football, it’s a strange thing to say, but sometimes beating a team does not prove you’re better than them. They say in the NBA playoffs, the better team pretty much always wins because talent wins out. Over the course of a 7-game series, it’s very, very unlikely that the lesser team wins 4 of the 7 games. It rarely happens. But if they only have to win one game, well then that’s very possible. Football is “single elimination” in the sense that teams only play once or twice, or three times at most if division rivals meet in the playoffs. And it’s very common for the team that lost the regular season matchup to win the playoff matchup, because wins and losses in football are often decided on a knife’s edge, and are based so much on “random chance,” i.e. things like timely flags, funny bounces, untimely turnovers, boneheaded mistakes, injuries, and plain luck.

To give an example of what I’m talking about, probably if Wisconsin played Washington State in Madison, WI ten times in a row, Wisconsin would win 7 or 8 of those games. Well, the one game they actually did play, Wazzu won. But now people think that means Wisconsin sucks and Washington State is better than them. No, it just means Wazzu was better than Wisconsin on that day they played.

So this is why I go by stats–in other words, the things that underlie wins and losses. If you have the best yards per play differential in the country, you are probably going to be a very good team that wins a lot of games. That’s a predictive stat. You may lose a game or two based on bad luck, however, so I’m not going to take that into account in my ratings.

Now, there are some games where you can accurately judge teams based on the final score, like Ohio State vs. Wisconsin. There ain’t no doubt Ohio State is better than Wisconsin. There was nothing fluky about that game. When you beat a team by 31 points, it’s pretty much settled. That game didn’t come down just to a few plays that could’ve gone either way. Nope, that game was never really in doubt.

Ohio State was up 28-0 on Wisco early in the second quarter. The game was over at that point. It was probably over when Ohio State went up 14-0, to be honest, because Wisconsin is not a team built to come back from a large deficit. They’re built to grind you down with their run game; they’re built to bulldoze you with their run game and suffocate you with their defense. But if they start off at a 14 point deficit, you can’t really run, can you? Wisconsin had to keep pace with Ohio State and they just couldn’t.

That’s what makes Ohio State such a difficult matchup for many Big Ten teams in particular (in addition to the massive talent and wealth disparity): because so many of them are built on running the ball, if Ohio State gets up on them, they can’t come back because most of them can’t throw their way back into a game. They’re toast once they fall behind 14 points. Ohio State is built to score points quickly and stop the run–and that usually guarantees success against most Big Ten teams. Because most of those teams are built to run the ball and sit on a lead, not get into shootouts.

But the issue here, and maybe I am nitpicking or overreacting to last season, is that this approach for Ohio State can cover up some flaws. Let me give an example. Last season, Michigan State was a team built to run the ball. They had Kenneth Walker, and he was excellent, and he won them a ton of games. But they weren’t a great passing team (on top of that they had the worst pass defense in the FBS). So when they played Ohio State, Ohio State scored quickly and often–they were up 21-0 in the first quarter. At that point, Michigan State was done. Their strength was their running game, and Ohio State last year was weak against the run, but Michigan State never got to run it against them because they were so far behind from the start. Ohio State forced Michigan State to become a passing team, which is not what Michigan State was built to do.

However, if Michigan State had been able to run the ball, it might have been a different game. If Kenneth Walker was able to get going, maybe he would’ve been gashing Ohio State on the ground the way Michigan’s run game did a week later. Maybe Kenneth Walker would’ve enabled Sparty to control the clock and keep Ohio State’s offense off the field. Maybe that game would’ve been different.

Now, of course, Ohio State won it 56-7, so it probably wouldn’t have been too different, but my point is that Ohio State’s current system is meant to snowball into situations like that Michigan State game from 2021. Ohio State’s plan is to score quickly on you and force you to throw the ball, which they are betting that most teams cannot do. They want to take you out of your element and make you abandon your gameplan. Take you out of your comfort zone. And so that’s why for a good chunk of that season, it seemed like they had fixed their broken run defense that was exposed against Oregon. It hadn’t been fixed, it only seemed like it had because no team in the Big Ten was able to really test it. Michigan State couldn’t test it because they were down 21-0 in the blink of an eye. Michigan was able to test it–and break it–because Ohio State’s offense was not able to get off to a hot start (and I keep saying it: maybe the snow had something to do with that, as a lot of Ohio State’s offensive players come from Texas/Florida/California).

But that’s Ohio State’s approach: score early and often and force the other team to abandon the run. If they are able to do that, the game can get out of control in a hurry. But if not, you have a chance to beat them because their offense actually covered up a lot of their flaws on defense.

You can tell very early on if this is going to happen in an Ohio State game. Basically if you see them up 14-0 in the first quarter, it’s over. Their offense is rolling, and they’re just going to avalanche you with points. You have no chance. You will be down by 28-0 before you even know what hit you.

But if Ohio State fails to score in the first quarter, or they’re tied, or down, you might be able to force them to play a grind-it-out type of game. And that’s what teams figured out last year. That’s what Oregon figured out early on, and Michigan exploited later in the year. If you make Ohio State play a physical, methodical and slow-paced brand of football, they can’t do it. That’s how they were built last year. They struggled whenever they were unable to get up early on opposing teams and force them to abandon the run.

They were embroiled in some close, tough-fought games, such as the Penn State game and the Nebraska game, in addition to Oregon and Michigan. Also the Rose Bowl game against Utah. And it turned out they were iffy at winning those games. They were beatable. Because it turned out their defense wasn’t very good against the run, so if you were able to just keep the game in reach to where you could still run it, you could score points on them and force them into a situation where they had to play perfectly on offense in order to win. You could put all the pressure on to them, instead of the other way around. Sometimes they’d win, because of their massive advantage in overall talent, but again, it required CJ Stroud and that offense to be essentially perfect.

In other words, against good teams, last year’s Ohio State team really only had one way to win, and if they couldn’t play that way, they were in serious trouble.

The difference between this year’s Ohio State team and last year’s is that this year’s team is actually capable of winning grinder games. If their offense isn’t firing on all cylinders and scoring 21 points a quarter, they can still win those games. They showed it against Notre Dame–their defense kept them in that game when their offense was not clicking. Their offense eventually came around and started firing on all cylinders by the second half, but they only had the leeway to make offensive adjustments because their defense bought them time to do so. They were able to trade punts because…

This year’s version of Ohio State can actually force punts. They don’t rely on turnovers to get stops (which is something USC does and is a significant red flag). They can blitzkrieg you with points with their offense (which is still not even fully healthy as JSN has missed most of the season), but they can also shut you down with their defense.

Wisconsin’s first nine possessions went as follows: interception, punt, punt, Touchdown, punt, downs, punt, punt, punt. By their 10th possession, it was 45-7. Sure, Wisconsin started scoring some points after that point, but who cares? The game was already over; Ohio State was pulling most of its starters, and teams just naturally let up off the gas when they’re up 38. By that point, Ohio State had only let Wisconsin gain 117 yards of offense. Yeah, sure, Braelon Allen finished with 23 carries for 165 yards, but he only had 45 yards rushing at the time the game was 45-7. He broke off a 75 yard run against Ohio State’s backups in the 4th quarter. Most of his rushing yards came after the game was already well in hand. And obviously Wisconsin wasn’t doing a thing through the air with Graham Mertz.

The point I’m making here is that Ohio State won this game not just with overwhelming offense, but with stifling defense as well. Wisconsin couldn’t stop Ohio State’s offense, nor could they run on Ohio State’s defense effectively.

I think Ohio State’s defense is still a work in progress. The run defense isn’t quite as good as it can be. Jim Knowles is still revamping the culture and implementing his system. But it’s going pretty well so far.

Another point about Ohio State in this game, as if I hadn’t heaped enough praise on them already: they were missing quite a few starters due to injury. JSN was out. Both their starting cornerbacks were out, as was their #3 cornerback Jordan Hancock.

All of last season, I was just thinking, “Man, if Ohio State actually gets it figured out on defense, watch out.” Because Ryan Day is going to have that offense playing at an elite level no matter what. He is going to have a top-3 offense in the country because he is a top-3 offensive mind/playcaller (and recruiter, and QB developer) in the country. But Ryan Day doesn’t really do defense. He just doesn’t. It’s not his forte.

But if he can get a defense even in the top-15 or top-20, it’s over. It’s just over. They will become 2019 LSU or 2020 Bama. Nobody but Georgia or Alabama will even have a sliver of hope against them.

They look like they might be at that point with Jim Knowles. Ryan Day handles the offense, Jim Knowles handles the defense–the plan is working.

Okay, I know people might be saying, “Well Wisconsin friggin’ sucks, man! They lost to Wazzu!” Maybe the case. My power ratings think Wisconsin is actually pretty good this year. But if you don’t believe me, then consider that Wisconsin does not usually get beaten like this. It rarely happens. Wisconsin is a proud program, they have a good coaching staff, and they are usually pretty damn good on defense under Jim Leonhard. They rarely ever allow 50+ points in a game. In fact, let’s go back to 2010 and look at Wisconsin’s biggest margin of defeat and most points allowed by season:

  • 2022: -31 points, at Ohio State (52-21)
  • 2021: -28 points, vs. Notre Dame at neutral site (41-13)
  • 2020: -21 points, at Iowa (28-7)
  • 2019: -31 points, at Ohio State (38-7)
  • 2018: -25 points, at Michigan (38-13)
  • 2017: -6 points, vs. Ohio State in B1G CG (27-21)
  • 2016: -7 points, vs. Penn State in B1G CG (38-31)
  • 2015: -18 points, vs. Alabama at neutral site (35-17)
  • 2014: -59 points, vs. Ohio State in B1G CG (59-0)
  • 2013: -10 points, vs. South Carolina in bowl game (34-24)
  • 2012: -7 points, vs. Ohio State (21-14, OT).
    • Most points allowed that season was in a 30-27 loss at Nebraska
  • 2011: -7 points, vs. Oregon in bowl game (45-38)
  • 2010: -10 points, at Michigan State (34-24)

Wisconsin does not get 50-burgers hung on them often. The last time it happened was when they lost 59-0 in the 2014 Big Ten Championship game, also against Ohio State. That was the year Ohio State won the National Championship.

And that Notre Dame game from 2021 was a bit misleading. It only turned into a blowout late. Wisconsin was actually leading that game 13-10 early in the fourth quarter, but Notre Dame got a kick return TD, and then two pick-sixes in the final two minutes of the game to really make it look like a beatdown.

In the Paul Chryst era, since 2015, Wisconsin’s defense has averaged the following in points against (national ranks):

  • 2021: 16.2 (4th)
  • 2020: 17.4 (9th)
  • 2019: 16.4 (10th)
  • 2018: 22.6 (34th)
  • 2017: 13.9 (3rd)
  • 2016: 15.6 (4th)
  • 2015: 13.7 (1st)

Wisconsin is perennially a top-10 scoring defense in the nation, and Ohio State made them look like a Group of Five school.

Ohio State might finally have reached the “fully operational Death Star” level. The offense has been there for a while now, but it looks as if the defense is coming around, too.

Big win for the Buckeyes. Big loss for the Badgers–the biggest loss in 8 years, to be precise. The grumbling in Bader Nation against Paul Chryst is already starting. Wisconsin fans are starting to wonder if maybe it’s time for a change at head coach. Paul Chryst has been there a long time–since 2015. I remember hearing somewhere that after 8 years, it’s generally time for a change at most college football programs in terms of the head coach. Obviously there are exceptions, like Saban at Alabama (obviously), Kirk Ferentz who has been coaching Iowa since 1999 (although I think it’s definitely time for a change there–just look at my Twitter page), and Kyle Whittingham at Utah. But basically the idea is that most coaches start to stagnate after about 7-8 years. Maybe it’s time for a change at Wisconsin.

Michigan Struggles With Maryland

  • Sports media spent the past few weeks absolutely gushing over Michigan. “Oh they’re even better than last year!” “Where are all the Harbaugh critics now?” “JJ McCarthy!!”
  • We still feeling the same way, people?
  • Michigan won the game 34-27. I want to say the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated, given that Michigan was up 34-19 before Maryland had a late TD and two-point conversion with about a minute to go, but then again, Michigan probably shouldn’t have had that many points to begin with.
  • Maryland put up 397 yards of offense vs. 463 for Michigan. They allowed 5.4 yards per play to the Maryland offense. They picked up 7.01 themselves, which is pretty good, but this game really just came down to turnovers.
  • Maryland had 3 turnovers, Michigan had 1. That was the difference in my view. In fact, I don’t see how you could draw any other conclusion.
  • The first turnover for Maryland came on literally the first play of the game; Maryland’s kick returner just let the ball bonk off his head and Michigan jumped on it, getting the ball at like the Maryland 10. It was pretty much free points for Michigan at the very start of the game–they got a TD out of it. So Maryland spotted Michigan a TD to start this game off, and Michigan won by 7 ultimately. Make of that what you will.
  • Maryland’s next turnover was a pick thrown by Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua’s little brother, and it was in Michigan territory. There was about 8:45 on the clock in the first half and Maryland was leading 13-10 and driving. They had already gained 51 yards on the drive. That could’ve been an opportunity for Maryland to extend their lead.
  • Michigan did cough up a fumble towards the end of the first half while they were on the verge of the red zone, so this one probably cancels out Taulia’s first pick.
  • Altogether, Michigan had 10 points off turnovers, Maryland had 3.
  • But Michigan also saw McCarthy fumble the ball twice only for it to be safely recovered by the Wolverines. If Maryland had pounced on those fumbles, we might be talking about a completely different football game.
  • This was a game Michigan led 24-19 with just 9 minutes remaining. Not only that, but Taulia was knocked from the game late in the 4th quarter due to injury, so Maryland was down to their backup QB. He was still able to lead Maryland to a TD and a 2 point conversion late.
  • Michigan allowed Maryland drives of the following length in the game:
    • 8 plays, 40 yards (field goal)
    • 13 plays, 75 yards (TD)
    • 6 plays, 39 yards (field goal)
    • 5 plays, 51 yards (interception)
    • 10 plays, 75 yards (TD)
    • 14 plays, 75 yards (TD)
  • So it’s not like Maryland was scoring on fluke plays or getting lucky. They were moving the ball on Michigan’s defense pretty consistently. Maryland only punted 3 times. Maryland actually picked up more first downs than Michigan did, 23 to 22. Maryland was 6-14 on third down while Michigan was 5-12.
  • Michigan allowed Maryland to go 3-3 on fourth down conversions. Two of those were late in the game when Maryland was rushing down the field to draw within a score.
  • Interesting stat: only 2 penalties total in the whole game. Maryland had 1 for 5 yards, Michigan had 1 for 15 yards. Love to see that.
  • Now, in Michigan’s defense, Maryland is a real team. They’re not just some Big Ten bottom feeder this year; they’ve got a squad. Mike Locksley can recruit, and Maryland has dudes. ESPN FPI has Maryland as the 24th best team in the country as of today, while my power ratings had Maryland as the 24th best team in the country going into the weekend (I still haven’t updated them for this week yet). So Maryland is not just some cupcake.
  • But Michigan’s offense was not all that impressive, I thought. Sure, Blake Corum ran for a bunch of yards, but the plays that Michigan actually scored on were not all that impressive. There was a 4th and short from the Maryland 33 with about 35 seconds to play in the first half. Maryland collapsed the line of scrimmage into a huge scrum, and Corum just bounced it outside, sidestepped the pile and ran it in for a touchdown to make it 17-13 Michigan at the very end of the half. That was Michigan’s only real touchdown of the first half besides the one they got at the very beginning after the ball bounced off the Maryland kick returner’s face.
  • I was not all that impressed with McCarthy, either. He’s good at running around and keeping the play alive with his feet, but he also has a tendency to hold on to the ball for way too long. His pocket awareness is good at times and terrible at others. He got a lot of time to throw thanks to his offensive line, but a lot of times his receivers weren’t consistently getting open. I really was not very impressed by Michigan’s offense.
  • If you’re Michigan, and you fancy yourself as The Best Program In The Big Ten, this one has to hurt the ego a bit. Especially on the same day that Ohio State just pulverized Wisconsin. Michigan is always looking over their shoulder to see what Ohio State is doing, and so there’s no way Michigan fans are unaware of the contrast between the two teams that was on display Saturday. Michigan got Maryland and home and barely scraped out a win, Ohio State got Wisconsin–a better team than Maryland–at home and basically had the game won in the first quarter.
  • Michigan will now travel to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes in what will be the first road game of the season (both Michigan and Ohio State have laughable schedules in terms of home field advantage. Ohio State doesn’t go on the road until week 6). Michigan will beat Iowa because Iowa has the worst offense in America. Iowa might not even score a single point. But the real matchup will be, early on, the Michigan offense against the Iowa defense, which is one of the best in the nation right now. I think Michigan will eventually start scoring some points on Iowa just because the Iowa defense will get tired after their offense goes 3 and out for the 8th time in a row, but it might be like a 10-0 or 10-3 or 7-3 lead for Michigan well into the second half.
  • I will be watching Michigan’s offense carefully in that game to see how they hold up against Iowa’s defense. Iowa’s defense is much better than Maryland’s, and they force A LOT of turnovers.

Clemson is Fraudulent

  • They escaped with the win in double overtime, but I tried telling you: this Clemson team is fraudulent. They are not an elite team.
  • People are talking about how good their offense was, how DJU finally had over 300 yards passing for the first time since the Notre Dame game in 2020 when he had to step in for Trevor Lawrence who was out with Covid.
  • Dude: Clemson’s defense is supposed to be elite. They gave up 447 yards of offense and 28 first downs to Wake Forest. Wake averaged 6.57 yards per play in the game.
  • Joel Klatt, who I otherwise think is the best in the business and who I cannot say enough nice things about, was saying that Wake Forest always puts up points on Clemson’s defense, but that’s not the case:
  • Wake had 27 last year. That’s not what I’d consider putting up a lot of points. And 14 of those points were in the 4th quarter when the score was already 38-13 Clemson. Last year’s game against Wake Forest was nothing like this year’s.
  • Clemson was in a legitimate dog fight with Wake Forest. That is not typical of Clemson football over the past 10 years.
  • I’ve been telling you: they are really going to notice the departure of Brent Venables when it comes to their defense. And we’re already seeing the regression. Venables is not letting Wake Forest pick up 6.6 yards per play against him.
  • Celebrate your win now over a “ranked” team, Clemson. Because you will not have much to celebrate this year. Wake Forest is not a good team. I watched them almost lose to Liberty a couple weeks ago.
  • I have Clemson as the 22nd best team in the country and a 28 point dog to Alabama on a neutral site. Ohio State would be favored by 23 and Georgia by 22. Clemson is not elite. They have no business being in the top-5 much less the top-10. They are going to lose to somebody sooner or later. The question is, who?
  • This is an absolute joke of a schedule. FSU will be far and away the toughest team they face this year. That’s probably a loss for Clemson because it’s on the road. But FSU is not some elite team. They’re good but they’re not like scary good.
  • Syracuse may beat Clemson, I wouldn’t rule it out. Syracuse is not bad.
  • Notre Dame is not good. They’ve renounced a bit since their 0-2 start, and actually thumped UNC pretty good, but Notre Dame is still probably a 6-7 win team at most. They might be able to beat Clemson because the game is in South Bend, but I still think Clemson is the better team.
  • As for this weekend’s primetime clash with #10 NC State, it’s a tossup in my view. Yes, Clemson is fraudulent, but so is the Wolfpack. I have Clemson ranked 22 and NC State ranked 28. My ratings say Clemson should be favored by 3 on a neutral field, but this game is being played in Clemson. So Clemson should probably be about a 7-9 point favorite. Vegas has it at 6.5. However, both these teams have played such pathetically easy schedules we don’t really have much to latch on to. I guess NC State’s 27-14 home win over Texas Tech looks a bit more impressive now that Tech beat Texas. But that was Texas without Ewers.
  • Honestly, I hope Clemson somehow goes undefeated and makes it to the playoff. They have the brand name recognition where they would absolutely get in. Nobody in the Big 12 is going undefeated now that Oklahoma has lost, and once USC loses a game sooner or later that means it’s down to Washington in the PAC 12. Clemson should get a playoff berth if they win their conference with no losses. I really do hope this happens so we can watch the smug, smirking, sprinting cornball Dabo get embarrassed on the big stage. He’s the absolute worst. By the way, we’re all still waiting for Dabo to quit now that players can get paid for NIL.
  • Dabo just signed a 10 year, $115 million extension. But let’s listen what he has to say about other people being entitled.

Bama Houses Vanderbilt

  • I did not watch this one. I was at a wedding that night and was focused mainly on the Ohio State game whenever possible. I’m not going to really go out of my way to watch Alabama play Vanderbilt.
  • Bama won 55-3. I am just going off of the box score here, as I have no real interest in even watching the highlights of this game. If there was some crazy play that happened, please let me know and I’ll go check it out.
  • What I see here that stands out to me is that Bryce Young went for 385 yards passing and threw 4 touchdowns. I had been concerned about Alabama’s lack of explosiveness on offense and their relative dearth of weapons compared to past Alabama teams, but it seems like Bama was able to get their skill players going in this one.
  • It’s Vanderbilt, so it really doesn’t tell us much, but Bryce Young’s passing yardage in the prior three games this season was as follows: 195 against Utah State, 213 against Texas and 236 against UL Monroe. He went for 385 against Vandy. So it’s an encouraging sign that the Alabama passing game seems to be improving. That’s about all I got.

Odds and Ends

  • Kansas beat Duke and is now 4-0. Somehow, Kansas is not ranked. This is purely because Kansas is a bad brand for football. The pollsters don’t respect them, and probably don’t watch Kansas’s games. But while the message boards and College Football Twitter people are fake mad about Kansas not being ranked, you look at the top-25, and who would you take out for Kansas?
  • You can’t take out Kansas State even though they have a loss. Kansas State just beat Oklahoma. They absolutely deserve to be ahead of KU. Pitt? Maybe. But Pitt lost to Tennessee by a touchdown in overtime. I don’t think KU would fare as well as Pitt did against Tennessee. Tennessee is ranked #8 in the country right now. That’s not a bad loss for Pitt. Pitt and KU have common wins over West Virginia, and admittedly KU’s was more impressive. KU won 55-42 on the road (in OT), while Pitt won 38-31 at home. So you could possibly give Pitt the boot in favor of Kansas. But it’s not like it’s a no-brainer decision.
    • FSU is undefeated and has a better resume than KU does. Plus I have FSU ranked, shockingly, 6th in the country in my power ratings.
    • Wake Forest’s claim to fame is that they almost beat Clemson. But they also almost lost to Liberty at home, so Wake is a possible contender for replacement by Kansas.
    • Look, I respect Kansas and I think it’s awesome that they’re good after being bad for so, so long, but I don’t see any obvious team to kick out of the top-25 to squeeze Kansas in.
  • I want to write something about Oklahoma losing, but the truth is I was at a wedding that night and really didn’t get to watch most of the game. It was an outdoor wedding and I only really caught the very end of the game. I was mainly watching Ohio State-Wisconsin on my phone during the wedding. I will just say that the expectations for Oklahoma this season should never have been that high as it’s the first year under a new head coach. Sure, they should be good because they’re Oklahoma, but they’re not going to seriously compete for a Natty yet. I expected them to lose 2-3 games this year and they’re on pace for that.
    • Sure, OU beat the dogsh*t out of Nebraska, but Nebraska is terrible. I mean just horrifically awful. That win over Nebraska did not prove that Oklahoma was an elite team or anything. Nebraska was coming off a loss to Georgia Southern, for Pete’s sake. Oklahoma is good, they’ll probably lose 2-3 games this year, but they should still challenge for a Big 12 championship. That would be a fine first year for Brent Venables. I know it’s not what OU fans want to hear, but I’m long-term bullish on Venables. I really am. I think in a few years he will have that team in a better position to compete with the Bamas and Georgias and Ohio States than Lincoln Riley did. And it’s because Venables will turn them into an elite defense. This loss was part of the growing pains process, I think.
  • USC barely scraped by Oregon State on the road. Score: 17-14. So the high-flying Lincoln Riley offense is finally slowed down, but they were still able to get the win anyway. USC really needed a win like that, I think. They need to be able to win games 17-14 instead of winning every game 45-27.
    • However, it’s not all good news for USC. Because while they did win a low-scoring game for once, they did so because Oregon State had 4 turnovers and USC had zero. And so from that perspective, being +4 in the turnover margin, only scoring 17 points and only winning by 3 points–that’s a little concerning. USC needed a late 4th quarter touchdown drive to take the lead for good even though they’d already gotten three takeaways in the game (they got their 4th on Oregon State’s final desperation drive with under a minute on the clock, a pick).
    • USC has been way too reliant on turnovers. They lead the country in turnover margin by a significant number, and that is probably not sustainable. In other words, they are substituting defense with takeaways. And takeaways are good–I’m not arguing otherwise. But I like teams that can get stops and force punts consistently. I don’t like teams that need to pick you off or force a fumble to get a stop. That masks the fact that they have a bad defense. I’ve seen it happen a lot of times with teams, where they’re giving up yards but not points because they seem to come up with timely takeaways. Well, that’s not something you can count on consistently. You have to be able to force three-and-outs.

So that’s what I’ve got for week 3. This post is already way too long so I’m going to stop it here. Power ratings will be dropped in the next day or two.

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