CFB Week 9 Reactions, Hot Takes and Observations

The noon window:

  • I’m impressed with Texas A&M right now. It’s 27-24 Florida, and UF is not a good team, but the sheer number of players A&M is missing right now due to a flu bug, they should be getting killed right now. And they’re competing. Respect.
    • Okay, yes, A&M eventually lost that game 41-24. A&M is a disaster this year. But I thought given how many players they were missing, they played well. Just look at this:
  • Alas, Texas A&M is now on pace for their first losing season since 2009. They are now 3-6 and unlikely to hit the 6 win mark to become bowl-eligible. They’re on a 5-game losing streak, which is something that hasn’t been seen in College Station in 42 years.
  • Jimbo Fisher’s buyout still currently stands at $95 million, and he is under contract through 2031. Enjoy!
  • I’m completely out on Ohio State. I know it’s windy and rainy as hell and the grass is tall and it’s a total slop fest. But they still cannot even pick up a single inch on the ground. They’ll end up winning this game just due to the sheer talent gap, but this is not a championship team. I’ve seen enough of Ohio State. They have zero chance of winning a national title. Ryan Day is just a finesse coach. His finesse DNA is embedded in that team. They have multiple NFL players on the offensive line and they can’t run the ball at all. They’re cooked. I’m out on them. They don’t play Big Ten football.
    • I see a lot of Ohio State fans talking about scheme and the other team’s gameplan. “Well Northwestern planned to load the box on us and sell out against the run…” That’s what was said about Penn State and Iowa, too. But that shouldn’t matter. You are Ohio State. Every team you play has a “gameplan” for how to stop you, but your vastly superior talent usually renders those silly little gameplans invalid. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Now we’re supposed to act like it’s okay that Ohio State has no run game because other teams made an effort to slow the run game down? You think Michigan and Georgia aren’t going to have a gameplan against you? This is idiotic.
    • Now, the one excuse I will buy is the ridiculous wind in that game. It was over 50mph and I think I saw at one point it got as fast as 80mph. No one can throw a football in that type of weather, but more than that, if that wind is coming at you, you cannot run the ball in it, either. I know people are talking about “JUST RUN THE BALL, THEN!” as if it were that simple. Have you ever tried to walk in 50+ mph winds? Plus rain? That’s not easy to do, either. So I will cut some slack for this game after thinking about it a bit
    • The bottom line is that what Georgia did to Tennessee, they’d do that to Ohio State, too. Maybe even worse, because Tennessee actually has a run game. Reality check, Ohio State fans: your team is not close to Georgia. That’s fine, because no one else is, either. It’s Georgia and then everybody else. But do not be under any illusions that you can win the National Championship this year, Ohio State fans. You thought there was a chance you’d be able to just air it out and get into a track meet and beat Georgia that way–no. That won’t happen. That was Tennessee’s game plan, too, and it was an utter failure. It will not work. Now, Ohio State probably has a better defense than Tennessee, but we actually don’t know that. It really hasn’t been tested all that much.
    • Not only do you stand no chance against Georgia, you are also on track to get pulverized by Michigan in the last game of the season. You have no run game, your run defense has been decent, but by no means great. Your defense just can’t tackle—they bounce off ball carriers consistently. Blocking and tackling are the fundamentals of football and it looks like they don’t teach that at Ohio State anymore.
    • The only way Ohio State beats Michigan is by jumping out to a 14-0 or 21-0 lead. And I just don’t see that happening. I think Michigan is more likely to win, and then I think you start to see the seat get hot for Ryan Day. Ohio State fans will begin clamoring for Luke Fickell, the Cincinnati head coach with lifelong Ohio State ties.

Georgia 27, Tennessee 13

  • Wow, was I wrong about this one. You can’t blame the heavy rain that started falling in the second half, because Tennessee’s offense had been shut down since the start of the game. Georgia just smothered that high-flying Tennessee offense. Tennessee added a sad touchdown late, and Georgia basically didn’t throw the ball the whole second half, opting to run the ball and bleed the clock to keep the ball out of Hooker’s hands.
  • Georgia held Tennessee to 289 yards. That is crazy! They average over 550 total yards on the season.
  • This game wasn’t as close as the score indicated, either. Georgia was winning 27-6 with 4 minutes to play. At no point in this game other than the first few minutes (after they forced that early fumble) did Tennessee ever have a chance to win. If you watched it, you understand what I mean. They were never really in it.
  • Tennessee forced a Georgia fumble really early in the game, recovered it around the Georgia 45, and I thought, “Wow, Tennessee is really about to win the National Championship. They’re going to strike early and go up 7-0 here and then they’ll be off to the races.” But they were held to a field goal. They couldn’t get much of anything going against that Georgia defense. Once they kicked that field goal, I immediately switched up. I knew this would not be like the Bama-UT game.
  • In my prediction post for this game, I looked at the numbers and saw Georgia ranked dead last in the SEC in sacks this season prior to yesterday with just 10. They had 6 in this game. Their pass rush came alive, and a lot of the sacks were coverage sacks. They just didn’t let any of the Tennessee receivers get open, Hooker had nowhere to go with the ball, and Georgia would bring him down.
  • How much of this result was due to the game being played in Athens, GA as opposed to Knoxville or a neutral site? We’ll never know unless both teams make the playoff, but it was a crazy environment up there. A few times in this game Hooker overthrew open receivers who had gotten past the secondary and would’ve scored TDs with accurate passes. There are at least 2 separate instances on different drives where that happened that I can recall.

I think we have to conclude here that right now, it looks like it’s Georgia and then everybody else. They are the clear-cut best team in college football after 9 weeks. They not only have the best win in college football (beating #1 Tennessee by 2 touchdowns) but they also have the second-best win in college football: beating Oregon 49-3.

Yes, Georgia has had some clunkers in between (Mizzou and Kent State) but I think the Tennessee and Oregon games more than offset those. Plus, every other team out there has had clunker games where they didn’t show up or didn’t play well.

It’s undeniable that Georgia is the best team in college football right now. And I think it’s a symptom of some broader trends that we may be witnessing here all across the sport.

Are defenses taking over in college football?

There was a period in the mid/late 2000s where the spread offense ruled the sport.

I personally think it started in the early 2000s in a few of those high profile National Championship games, where elite defenses consistently stifled high-flying offensive teams. It was a consistent theme, pretty much, and I can point to multiple examples of this at the highest level of the sport.

  • 2002: Ohio State defeated Miami in the National Championship a double overtime classic. Yes, there was that questionable PI call that bailed out Ohio State and kept them alive in overtime, but Ohio State deserved to win that game overall. You had the Miami Hurricane with players like Willis McGahee, Andre Johnson and Kellen Winslow. Miami was 4th in the country in scoring and 22nd in defense. Ohio State was 41st in scoring and 2nd in defense. Defense won. Final was 31-24.
  • 2003: This was Nick Saban’s first Natty, when he was the coach of LSU. Seems kind of funny nowadays to think that Nick Saban once was the head coach at LSU, and that he won a National Championship while he was there. This year’s Championship Game should’ve been USC instead of Oklahoma playing LSU in this game. Oklahoma remained in the top-2 even after losing 35-7 to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship game. The BCS was wild, man.
    • Anyway, that season, LSU was #1 in defense that year while Oklahoma was #3 in offense. Oklahoma was also #5 in defense, and so it was a low-scoring Championship game, but LSU was just 19th in scoring that year. It was their defense that completely smothered the high flying Oklahoma offense and held them to just 14 points—their season average was 43ppg. The final score of the Championship game was 21-14 LSU. LSU held that Oklahoma offense to just 154 total yards. OU had the Heisman winner, Jason White, at QB. And he only managed 102 passing yards on just 13 of 37. Completely shut down. Defense beat offense again.
  • 2004: USC blasted Oklahoma in the National Championship game 55-19. People think of the Pete Carroll USC teams as all offense, glamor, speed and finesse, but they weren’t. They were elite on both offense and defense. In fact those Pete Carroll USC teams usually had ferocious, hard-hitting defenses. They would always have hulking monsters at linebacker like Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews.
  • 2006: This was the year everyone thought Ohio State would cruise to another Championship, but Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators absolutely blew the doors off the Buckeyes. Florida that year was only 24th in scoring offense, but they were 6th in scoring defense. They beat Ohio State 41-14. I’ve gone into detail about the various reasons this game played out the way it did (OSU had a 51 day layoff before the game, Troy Smith gained some weight, and basically the Buckeyes went down to Phoenix a week before the game and partied the whole time). But they still would’ve had a very tough task against Florida even if they were on point. Ohio State had the Heisman winner at quarterback, Troy Smith, as well as maybe the best receiver in the country not named Calvin Johnson, Ted Ginn Jr. Florida’s attacking defense held Ohio State to just 82 yards of total offense in the game. That isn’t a typo. Florida had 5 sacks, which is crazy because Troy Smith only had 14 pass attempts in the game. Ohio State’s Heisman-led offense just got wrecked. Defense wins out again.
  • 2008: This was the year where Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy were all competing for the Heisman. Bradford’s Oklahoma team set all kinds of records on offense that year, and he won the Heisman. In their final 5 games of the season prior to the National Championship, Oklahoma never scored fewer than 61 points, and they beat three ranked teams in that stretch including #2 ranked Texas Tech. 2008 Oklahoma was truly one of the great offenses the sport has ever seen, unfortunately we know how this story is going to end.
    • Oklahoma was #1 in points per game but just 58th in points allowed. Florida, their opponent in the National Championship game, was of course led by Tim Tebow, but those Urban Meyer Florida teams really had more of a defensive identity. They were 4th in points scored and 4th in points allowed—clearly a much stronger defense than Oklahoma. OU’s offense averaged over 51 points a game that season, but Florida’s defense held them to just 14 points in the National Championship game.
    • Florida won the game 24-14. It was a good game, and it was close the whole way until Tebow punched in a late TD to extend the lead to 10 and put it away, but Oklahoma’s record breaking offense didn’t come anywhere near its season averages. Oklahoma that year averaged 548 yards a game and 51.1 points per game on offense. Florida limited them to 363 yards in the Championship game.
    • Great defense wins out once again.
  • 2009: I’m not really going to count this National Championship game because Colt McCoy got knocked out of the game so early on, but you had the early Saban classic Bama formula: great defense and running the ball. Bama was #2 in scoring defense and just 22nd in scoring offense. That Texas team was 3rd in scoring offense and 12th in defense. Bama won 37-21 but I think honestly Texas would’ve won had McCoy not gotten knocked out of the game. I really do. They still almost came back and won with true freshman QB Garrett Gilbert.
    • The takeaway here is that Bama did not have an elite offense in 2009. Yes, they had the Heisman winner in Mark Ingram, but they were by no means some scoring machine. If you look at just their games against Power Five opponents that year–meaning you exclude the cupcake games against FIU, North Texas and Chattanooga–Bama never once scored more than 38 points in a game. They were a team built to suffocate you. They beat #20 Ole Miss 22-3, #22 South Carolina 20-6, #9 LSU 24-15. They beat Tebow’s Florida Gators in the SEC Championship 32-13. This was a very different Alabama team from the style the program has morphed into nowadays.
  • 2010: Cam Newton basically single-handedly carried Auburn to the National Title, so this is a unique situation, but I do want to just give some credit to the Auburn defense for really putting the clamps on that Oregon team in the National Championship game. This was during the Chip Kelly Oregon era where his offenses were the marvel of the sport. We thought he was revolutionary. Oregon was #1 in scoring offense and actually surprisingly #12 in defense. Auburn was 7th in scoring and just 53rd in defense, but they had Cam Newton and that’s what really tipped the scales in their favor. It was a low scoring game, with Auburn winning 22-19 on a last second field goal to win it. But that Oregon offense averaged 47 points a game that season. Somehow Auburn was able to hold them to just 19.

So this is what I’m talking about when I say defense reigned supreme during this era. It became a routine occurrence to see these spectacular offenses reach the national championship game only to get stuck in the mud after encountering an elite defense. You could have an offense that wasn’t elite and still win a National Title so long as your defense was. That 2006 Florida team only averaged like 29 points a game on offense. Their QB was Chris Leak.

In fact, let me rattle off some of the quarterbacks that won National Championships during the 2000s just to show you how things were: Craig Krenzel, 2002 Ohio State. Matt Mauck, 2003 LSU. Chris Leak, 2006 Florida. Matt Flynn, 2007 LSU. Greg McElroy, 2009 Alabama. Those guys are collectively the definition of game manager. You did not need a great quarterback to win a championship back in those days. You just needed to be able to run the ball and play defense, and have NFL players on the line of scrimmage.

I think this era of defense sort of crested, or I guess ended, after Ohio State beat Oregon in the National Championship in 2014. I mean, you had Ohio State winning a national championship with their third string QB, Cardale Jones, and the Oregon team they beat in the championship game had the Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota. But the difference was that Ohio State had Zeke Elliott running the ball, multiple NFL guys on the offensive line, and a defense that eventually sent 11 guys to the NFL including Joey Bosa, Vonn Bell, Darron Lee, Raekwon McMillan and Eli Apple.

For years that Oregon offense was the marvel of the country with how many points they scored, how quickly they ran plays, and just how efficient they were on offense. There was a while there where I really thought they were unstoppable. I thought they had broken the sport and could destroy anybody. But I was holding out to wait and see Alabama play them, which I thought would happen in 2014. I figured if anybody could stop them it would be Alabama.

We never got to see that matchup–the “warp speed” Chip Kelly Oregon offense vs. peak Saban Bama defense–but Ohio State pretty much man-handled Oregon in the National Championship after beating Bama in the semifinal. So it was good enough to kind of settle things: Oregon’s up-tempo offense was not unstoppable, in fact it was very stoppable.

I think that was the peak of the “defense beats offense” era in college football, at least for a little while.

The next year, Alabama won the National Championship over Clemson 45-40, and Clemson’s DeShaun Watson shredded the Bama defense for like 400+ yards through the air. Saban hired Lane Kiffin as his offensive coordinator that year and re-tooled the Bama system towards offense. It was kind of jarring to see Bama’s defense let up so many points and yards, but they won that game in a shootout.

It feels like since 2015, the sport has been all about offense. That offensive obsession probably peaked out with LSU in 2019, which was arguably the best offense in college football history. 2020 Alabama gives them a run for their money. 2019 LSU and 2020 Bama represented the peak of the offensive movement in college football–the “Big 12-ification” of the sport, if you will.

I think Georgia is bringing defense back now. What I mean by that is, we’re starting to get back to a point–if we’re not already there–where great defenses beat great offenses consistently. The high flying offenses will run into a brick wall when they play an elite defensive team like Georgia.

People were saying this year that Tennessee was just like LSU in 2019–transfer senior quarterback, prolific, high-flying offense that could drop 50 on anyone, not a whole lot of emphasis on defense, beat Bama in a crazy shootout, took the nation by storm, etc. On the surface, it seems true. 2019 was all about LSU and Joe Burrow; they were THE story that year. That’s how Tennessee kind of is this year–it’s all about them and Hendon Hooker winning the Heisman.

But obviously this Tennessee team isn’t nearly as good as 2019 LSU. And now after Saturday, those comparisons will stop. Because 2019 LSU didn’t lose a game to anyone.

Maybe it was Georgia’s superior talent that won the day over Tennessee, combined with home field advantage.

Or maybe it was a signal of a larger trend in the sport, as Josh from College Football Nerds suggested in last night’s livestream, that defenses have finally caught up to offenses in college football:

The conversation about defenses catching up to offenses starts around the 29:50 mark. His main arguments are as follows:

“I think defenses have caught up to offenses to a large degree. They’ve figured out some of those RPO concepts and how to play them. And we’re kind of getting back to what the reality of this sport is, which is a spotty sport; teams have on days and off days offensively, and some teams are on and off defensively, and it’s more emotionally driven. We’ve been used to this world where more talented teams can score billions of points and win on a really consistent basis.”

I think he’s right on the money here. It might be a long time before we see another 2019 LSU team–completely matchup proof, able to hang 50+ on literally anybody, and the only difference between them playing a bad team and a good team is that they’ll beat the bad teams 66-10 and the good teams 52-30.

It’s also true that “styles make fights.” You see it in UFC all the time: you’ll have a stand-up boxer vs. a wrestler, and if the wrestler can get the stand-up boxer to the ground, it’s pretty much over. But if he can’t get him to the ground, he’s going to be eating punches and probably lose. Matchups play a huge role in college football, and I don’t think most fans fully get this. They just look at it as, “Team X has more talent than Team Y, so Team X is going to win big.” But it doesn’t always work out that way. Styles make fights. You saw Michigan thrash Penn State earlier in the year because Michigan is a run team and Penn State isn’t really great against the run. Penn State was far more competitive with Ohio State, because Ohio State is a passing team and Penn State’s strength is their secondary.

But I do think that there’s an ebb and flow to the sport of college football where in some years offenses are dominating, and in other years, defenses are dominating. Across the board over the past 5-10 years, there has been a massive improvement in overall passing competency and ability at all levels of football. You have high school quarterbacks nowadays who are better than 90% of the college football quarterbacks from the early/mid 2000s. Did you ever see Quinn Ewers in high school? Dude was unbelievable. With the way the rules are geared more towards offense nowadays, and with the proliferation of all these elite passing academies and 7 on 7 camps, these quarterbacks are better than ever.

This is a big part of the reason you saw offenses dominate college football from about 2015-2020.

But eventually, the defenses catch up. Eventually they figure out the schemes and concepts that these offenses are running. The spread, the air raid, the RPO, tempo–eventually defenses figure out how to counter these new offensive innovations.

It’s even happening in the NFL. You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about how scoring in the league is down this season, and it is: after week 7, the average combined point total for an NFL game this season was 43.4 points, the lowest since 2010. The Sunday Night Football game between the Titans and the Chiefs, I was amazed at how great the Titans defense held up against the Chiefs offense. That game was 17-9 Tennessee well into the 4th quarter. The Chiefs eventually broke through and won thanks to the refs and thanks to the fact that the Titans had a very inexperienced rookie QB, Malik Willis, under center, but the takeaway was just how well Tennessee’s defense handled that Chiefs offense. You don’t often see the Chiefs embroiled in a punt fest. Defenses are even starting to take over at the NFL level.

Look, in a sport where most teams have been “Big 12-ified,” Georgia is the one team that hasn’t been. Tennessee is a Big 12 team playing in the SEC (that is Josh Heupel’s background, after all). Alabama has even become Big 12-ified to a large extent. Bama’s defense could not stop Tennessee—they couldn’t even slow Tennessee down. But Georgia completely stonewalled Tennessee‘s supposedly unstoppable offense. Just sat on them.

Basically Georgia and Michigan are the only teams that haven’t been Big 12-ified in major college football. And Michigan is just a poor man’s version of Georgia.

It’s now looking like defense is king again, and Kirby is the best defensive mind in the sport–thus, Georgia is the team to beat.

This is why Georgia is favored to repeat. Who is going to stop them? Bama is already out of it. We know Michigan doesn’t stand a chance. Georgia held Tennessee to 2.2 yards per carry and that’s with the threat of Tennessee throwing the ball. So Georgia really couldn’t load the box against the run against Tennessee. Against Michigan, they would be able to do that–they wouldn’t worry about JJ McCarthy’s arm at all. Ohio State probably won’t even get the opportunity to play Georgia because I think Michigan has their number. USC would get beat worse than Tennessee did. TCU is another all-offense, no-defense Big 12 team.

None of the contenders right now stand much of a chance against Georgia as I see it. Maybe a team like Ohio State or USC or TCU would fare better on a neutral field, without any rain, but I don’t really think so. I think the Tennessee game was a good example of what would happen to the other high-flying offenses if they played Georgia.

Georgia is built like a 2000s SEC team. They are one of the few teams in the conference today that has not been Big 12-ified. Ole Miss has been—they’re all offense, no defense. Mississippi State’s coach is the freaking inventor of the air raid offense. The only other team in the SEC that is built in the old school style is Kentucky, but Kentucky is very limited. Texas A&M is I guess a team built around defense, but that’s not by choice. They’re just incompetent on offense. If they could play a different way they would, but they just can’t.

LSU is the only other high-quality team in the conference that is built in the old school style, but I just don’t know if they have a realistic shot at beating Georgia yet. Tennessee showed us that just because you can beat this deeply flawed Alabama team, does not mean you can beat Georgia. Georgia is on another level.

LSU 32, Bama 31

  • Once again, like I’ve been saying all year, Bama would be nothing without Bryce Young. Their normal offense barely even works; it’s like the only time they can actually move the ball is when the play breaks down and Bryce Young has to improvise. I swear that’s the only way they actually gain yards.
  • It’s just Bryce Young and Jahmyr Gibbs out there. That’s it. At one point late in the game the broadcast ran a graphic that Gibbs was leading the team in both rushing and receiving, which is something that hadn’t been done by one player at Bama since 1987. Ja’Corey Brooks finished the game with more receiving yards than Gibbs (97 to 64) but Gibbs had 8 receptions, more than anyone else on the team.
  • The box score shows that Bama had 137 rushing yards on 30 attempts, but I don’t care: I saw what I saw. Bama cannot run the ball. They could not run it when it mattered. They were getting consistently stuffed for 1-3 yards in the second half.
  • How fucked is Bama after this year? Bryce Young, Jahmyr Gibbs, Will Anderson, Eli Ricks and plenty of other players are going pro. I know Bama is going to have talent all over the place on their roster next year, but they have that this year, too. And they still basically can’t do anything other than Bryce Young improvising once the play breaks down.
  • What is Bama going to do without Bryce Young? Without him a few weeks ago they almost lost to a terrible Texas A&M team at home. Bama has become a team that is heavily reliant on the transfer portal. That’s where they got Gibbs and Ricks.
  • Everyone is saying it was a ballsy call for Brian Kelly to go for two in overtime for the win. I’m not disagreeing, but more than anything I thought it was the correct call either way. It was a no-brainer; it was a logical choice.
  • In fact it was even riskier to just kick the extra point and give the ball back to Bryce Young. You are 3 yards away from beating Bama without Bryce ever stepping foot on the field, why would you not go for that? Alabama is like Michael Myers–they’re unkillable. They’re the villain that’s never truly dead, they always keep coming back at you, or pulling some rabbit out of their hat somehow. You get them to third down and Bryce will just scramble and avoid like 6 sacks, roll out of the pocket and find somebody wide open for a first down. And if that fails, the refs will flag you for DPI or roughing the passer or holding or something to keep the Bama drive alive. They are unkillable. You have to beat them in a situation like LSU just did: going for 2 in OT, or like Tennessee where they kicked a field goal as time expired (of course after Bama missed their field goal).
  • I knew Kelly would go for 2 in OT. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. I mean, you give a team the chance to beat Bama without having to try to stop Bryce Young at all? That’s a no-brainer. If you kick the extra point, you (LSU) get the ball back, and you are now under pressure to score another touchdown and then play defense against Bryce Young in order to win. So if you kick the extra point, you need a touchdown PLUS you then have to stop Bama on four downs and keep them out of the endzone. And then even if you score, and you allow Bama to score, they can go for 2 and the win.
  • Just get it over with. Do or die. No more of this “let’s just hold serve and hope the other team screws up” pussyfooting around. It’s probably riskier to let Bryce Young get the ball back, honestly. I love Kelly’s decision there–we’re not going to let this go to another OT period. I think more teams should do that. Kelly had his guys line up, then called his timeout once he saw what defensive formation Bama was in. I thought it was perfectly played by Kelly.
  • As much as I may think Kelly is a dickhead, he’s a really good coach. He knows what he’s doing, and he’s probably going to make the right decision 9 times out of 10 at least. Very polished, very buttoned-down–he’s just a really good football coach. He’s going to maximize his team’s talent–you’re never going to feel like his teams are underperforming or not executing (unlike some teams, for example… BAMA, and OHIO STATE).

Now the question becomes: Is Nick Saban washed?

Uncle Lou on YouTube was basically trying say Nick Saban is a doddering old man who needs help to even understand reporters’ questions nowadays. Starts around the 56:45 mark here:

I don’t know, man.

But I went through JoePa and Bobby Bowden’s season-by-season results and it was right around 71-72 that they started falling off. Nick Saban just turned 71. It’s going to happen eventually. It might be happening now.

Notre Dame 35, Clemson 14

  • This was the easiest upset to call this weekend. The LSU-Bama game I wasn’t so sure about, but this one I was confident that Notre Dame would win. Clemson has been begging to be exposed all season long. They just hadn’t played a team with enough talent to do it. Notre Dame was that team.
  • This was just domination. Notre Dame was up 14-0 at halftime, and when the second half started, I was shocked that DJU was still in the game at QB for Clemson. Dabo eventually did bench him later in the game for Klubnik, but Klubnik promptly threw a pick deep in Clemson territory that led to a Notre Dame touchdown and Klubnik got yanked. Back in went DJU. What a trainwreck on offense. Now, both of Dabo’s quarterbacks have confidence issues!
  • I tried to warn you all that Clemson was not going to be the same after they lost Trevor Lawrence. And now you’re seeing that. Clemson is a B+ to A- football program that can sometimes rise to an A to A+ level if they have a generational quarterback like Trevor Lawrence or DeShaun Watson. But they don’t have that anymore, and so they’re nowhere near the level we saw them playing at from about 2015-2020.
  • I predicted a 17-14 final score, and the actual result at first glance seems way off. But don’t forget: Notre Dame took a blocked punt back for a touchdown, and then had a pick six in the second half. So without those two plays, it would’ve been a 21-14 Notre Dame win, which is pretty close to what I predicted. Not to toot my own horn or anything.
  • Notre Dame is still a flawed team with two terrible losses on their schedule–Marshall and Stanford. But they look to be trending in the right direction now. Marcus Freeman has a win over a top-5 team in his first season. I don’t think Brian Kelly ever did that once at Notre Dame other than the Clemson regular season game in 2020 where Trevor Lawrence was out with Covid. Pretty crazy.
  • Now I actually think Notre Dame has a decent shot to go into LA and beat USC at the end of the year. That’s very much in the cards right now. Winning that game completely salvages Notre Dame’s season and puts them on a great track going into next year. They would build up a lot of positive momentum if they can do that.

Next Week

Unfortunately, there are not many great matchups in college football for week 10. There are some, however:

  • Purdue at Illinois, noon on ESPN2. Big Ten West implications here! Illinois favored by 6.5.
  • Alabama at Ole Miss, 3:30pm on CBS. Will the Tide drop ANOTHER game? If Ole Miss beats Alabama, hoooo boy. And you know Lane Kiffin is licking his chops. Bama doesn’t play well on the road. I think Bama will pull it out, but it’s not any sort of guarantee. Bama -12. You know Bama was -13.5 at LSU, right? Very interesting.
  • Maryland at Penn State, 3:30pm on Fox. Maryland is underrated. They might win this one. 10.5 point road dogs? Wow. Normally Maryland is like a 20 point dog to Penn State.
  • UCF at Tulane: The AAC’s two best teams go head to head in a ranked matchup. Tulane favored by 2.
  • Georgia at Mississippi State, 7pm on ESPN. Will Georgia have a letdown game after the big win over Tennessee? Will those cowbells down in Starkville cause an upset? This feels kind of like a trap game, although I fully expect the Dawgs to win it. They’re -16.5. But remember: the Mizzou game was on the road and at night. Things could get interesting…
  • TCU at Texas, 7:30pm on ABC: This is the big one. TCU’s undefeated season is on the line, and Texas is looking for that big signature win (other than the Oklahoma game). Vegas has Texas -7, which is basically saying these two teams would be equals on a neutral field. I don’t think TCU escapes Austin undefeated.

Also, some additional tidbits from week 9 that I forgot to mention:

  • Liberty beat Arkansas. Liberty is now ranked in the AP poll. We know Arkansas isn’t very good. But is Liberty actually a really good team? They do have Hugh Freeze as their head coach. They almost beat Wake Forest on the road. Schedule Liberty at your own peril, folks.
  • Michigan was losing 17-14 to Rutgers at halftime on Saturday night. They won 52-17, but just an FYI.
  • USC almost blew a 34-14 lead in the 4th quarter to Cal on Saturday night. I fell asleep before the game ended, but I think the last I remember of it, it was like 27-7 USC or something like that. Final was 41-35. Wow.
  • Michigan State beat Illinois on the road. Is Illinois bad? Is Michigan State actually getting better? Are they both bad? I have no idea. The Big Ten is so confusing.
  • Kansas got their first ranked win since I believe 2008, beating Oklahoma State 37-16. What has happened to Oklahoma State these past few weeks? They lost 48-0 to K-State last week, and now Kansas just puts them in a body bag. Collapse.

Power ratings, predictions and gambling picks coming later in the week.

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