We’re now two full weeks into the college football season, two glorious Saturday’s full of upsets, crazy finishes, and Nick Saban sideline ass chewings (his words, not mine). To quote Jim Harbaugh, “who’s got it better than us” as college football fans? The answer: Nobody!
And with two full weeks now officially in the books, it’s time to do what we do best as college football fans: Overreact! That’s right, I broke out “Six gross overreactions to Week 1 of the college football season” last week and it did so well --- i.e., the overreaction to my overreaction was so great --- that it’s time to do it again.
College football is a sport built on hyperbole, and this article is no exception. Here are six gross overreactions to Week 2 of the college football season.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY SportsMarvin Gentry
Barring injury, Jalen Hurts will take every meaningful snap for Alabama the rest of the season
Lost on Nick Saban going nuclear on Lane Kiffin, and then nuclear on his entire team Saturday, is that well, Alabama actually looked pretty darn good against Western Kentucky. Sure, there were some things to clean up, but every team has things to clean up at this point in the year. At the same time, whenever you hold a team which averaged 43 points per game last year (good for third in the country) to 10, and win by four touchdowns, that’s never a bad thing.
So to be honest, Saban’s gross overreaction to the win (see what I did there?!?) didn’t bother me, especially when you consider that his message wasn’t so much about Saturday’s game, but instead, the opponent Alabama will play next week. It’s Ole Miss, a team that has beaten the Crimson Tide two straight times.
And if Saban wants to avoid losing for a third straight time, he’ll play Hurts and not look back.
Yes, Hurts is only a true freshman, but in just two games (and 30 some-odd practices before that) it is clear that he has established himself as the most dependable quarterback this team has. For one, there are the tangible stats; Hurts threw for 287 yards and two passing TD’s on Saturday, while his back-up Blake Barnett (who started in Week 1) completed just two of six total passes. Barnett hit a few deep balls, but didn’t look great otherwise.
And that last part is what separates Hurts from the pack: How the team looks when he is on the field. As I wrote last week, he simply adds another dimension to the offense, as a guy who cannot only pass, but run the ball from the quarterback position. Against teams with real defensive lines (like the Rebels next week) it is an invaluable tool to have as a way to both keep the opposing team honest on defense, and also create running lanes for your own backs.
Oh, and one more thought. Remember that year when Alabama played Ole Miss? And how Saban elected to yo-yo quarterbacks, starting Cooper Bateman before making the switch to Jacob Coker? Yes, Coker eventually won the job, and Alabama won the rest of their games. But that back-and-forth at quarterback may have cost the Crimson Tide that game against the Rebels.
Don’t expect Saban to do the same this year. Hurts is clearly the better quarterback and will start Saturday. Barring injury, he should and will, play every meaningful snap the rest of the season.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
Danny Etling will be firmly entrenched as LSU’s starter by the Auburn game two weeks from now
This headline should read “Danny Etling will take every meaningful snap at quarterback for LSU the rest of the season,” like it does for Hurts above. But Les Miles is so damn stubborn I wouldn’t be surprised if he gives Brandon Harris one final shot to keep the starting quarterback job next Saturday against Mississippi State.
Of course, therein lies the problem for Miles: Even in limited action Saturday, Etling proved he was the better quarterback for this team. He also proved that he should be the permanent starter going forward.
Why’s that? Well for those who weren’t watching LSU-Jacksonville State (which was probably most of you), the Tigers were simply electric when Etling was inserted into the lineup. A stagnant offense which hadn’t picked up a first down in the two series’ Harris played was all of a sudden explosive, scoring on three straight possessions. That included --- and, I know this is going to sound crazy --- but an actual, 46-yard touchdown pass on Etling’s first possession. I know LSU fans, wasn’t that crazy? Who knew they allowed forward passes in football? Not to mention that on the same possession Etling chucked a ball downfield that Malachi Dupre should have caught and ropped, meaning that basically, the Tigers are the 2008 New England Patriots reincarnated.
Ok, that’s a major exaggeration, but the point was this offense was in fact different with him in the lineup. Sure it was “only” Jacksonville State, but Harris got two possessions against the same defense, and couldn’t do anything. Shouldn’t Etling get credit for that?
He should, which is why he will be the starting quarterback going forward.
It probably won’t happen for another week, but when it does, watch out.
If LSU’s offense can even be half decent, that’s a scary proposition for the rest of college football.
Speaking of quarterbacks, the transfer quarterback will explode this off-season
I can’t lie, I don’t know if this is an ‘overreaction’ or not, but as I wrote the bullet points above on Hurts and Etling, I asked myself: How good will the transfer QB market be at the end of the regular season?
Think about it. Transfers have exploded in college football over the last few years, especially at the quarterback spot, where everyone from Coker to Trevor Knight to Kenny Hill have left one school for another, and found a landing spot as a starter. Obviously the graduates (like Coker and Knight) were able to play right away, while others like Hill had to sit. But the point remains, they are a huge part of college football right now.
Which also raises the question: Given what we’ve seen across the country, how many big-time quarterbacks could be on the market once this season ends?
Assuming Hurts keeps the starting job at Alabama, you’ve got three upperclassmen (Bateman, Barnett and David Cornwall) behind him. How many of them stick around, and for how long, if Hurts keeps the starting job going forward? Don’t all three (especially Bateman, who will only have one year of eligibility left) have to think about leaving? Especially when you remember that ‘Bama has two of the top quarterbacks in the country committed in their 2017 class?
Beyond that, if Etling (who is a junior) wins the job outright at LSU, Harris has to think about transferring too, doesn’t he? Same with Malik Zaire at Notre Dame if DeShone Kizer continues to pull away in the QB battle there too (although admittedly, Zaire did look much better against Nevada Saturday).
Point being, if your team needs a QB --- and even if it doesn’t --- there could be some very interesting options this December.
Now, back to the on-the-field stuff.
We’re going to laugh about James Franklin’s ‘hot seat’ status by the end of the year
It’s funny really, because it was right around the mid-way point of the second quarter of Pitt-Penn State Saturday that I came to a sad realization: I was going to have to write about Franklin’s hot seat status. I didn’t want to, and have always believed in Franklin. But after the first 20 or so minutes of play against Pitt, I had no choice. His team looked that bad, and that lost.
But then a funny thing happened: Everything that I’d been waiting to see from Franklin’s teams at Penn State came to fruition over the last two-and-a-half quarters in the game. No, they didn’t win, but man, did they play hard. And given the competition, and given that it was a road game, I think you could argue it was the best performance Penn State has had since Franklin arrived prior to the 2014 season.
For starters, I think we can all agree that the Nittany Lions have found their answer at quarterback. After two years of watching Christian Hackenberg throw catchable balls at the feet of his wide receivers, Trace McSorely showed on Saturday that yes, Penn State can have a vertical passing game. While McSorely had a disappointing end to the game, he was mostly brilliant otherwise, throwing for 332 yards and a touchdown. Saquon Barkley went from “under the radar nationally” to a bona-fide star after totaling five touchdowns.
But more than just the numbers, was the attitude the Nittany Lions played with. After they fell down 28-7 in the second half it would have been easy for them to quit, to say “here we go again” and lay down. Instead, it was the exact opposite: They played with more fire than they ever have under Franklin.
And understand that isn’t just hyperbole, and it isn’t just me saying that. Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki actually said the exact same thing following the game, with a brilliant quote that can be read here.
So yeah, that made me feel a lot better about Penn State in the big picture, and it really did make me feel like this team is taking steps in the right direction.
With four out of their next five games at home. Will they beat Ohio State and Michigan? Probably not yet. But I do think they will spend the rest of the season showing tangible improvement and should end the year with eight or nine wins.
In the process, by mid-December we’ll all laugh at the idea that we ever thought James Franklin was on the hot seat earlier in the season.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsCharles LeClaire
It’s over for Baylor. They will finish with at least four regular season losses
Football’s a funny sport. For example, let’s say you didn’t watch Baylor on Saturday (like I’m sure many of you didn’t), and only saw the final score. You’d see that the Bears beat SMU 40-13, and thought “Same old Baylor.” Except for those of us who watched closely, we saw something else altogether. We say that this simply isn’t the same team as year’s past.
Don’t believe me? Here is how Baylor’s seven drives went in the first half Saturday against SMU: Punt, punt, field goal, punt, interception, fumble and field goal. That’s six points, three punts, two turnovers and zero touchdowns. Does that sound like the Baylor we’ve all watched the last few years? Of course not.
It also raises the sad reality of life as a Baylor fan: Art Briles had to go, no question. But this program just isn’t the same (and won’t be the same) without him. Now look, we can sit here and say what we want about Briles “the guy.” It’s all totally justified, and it’s obvious that he absolutely had to be let go as the school’s head coach. At the same time, in terms of actual “coaching” he was brilliant, a guy capable of getting the most out of every single guy on the field. Jim Grobe on the other hand? He seems more like a substitute teacher to me, the guy who is hoping to do just enough to keep this job beyond this December (by the way, did anyone else notice that in the first game, Baylor’s starters actually came out of the locker room without their pads at halftime? If that doesn’t scream “substitute teacher,” I don’t know what does).
And really, that’s my biggest concern with the Bears: Yes, the talent is there, but I don’t know if the edge is there that they played with under Briles. Little mistakes that they would have never made in years past seemed to be commonplace on Saturday. And it led me to wonder: If Baylor struggled that much in a home game against SMU, how will they handle things when they hit the road in the Big 12?
I don’t expect it to be good, and I see this team losing several times before the end of the season.
Speaking of the Big 12…
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsJerome Miron
The Big 12 will be left out of the College Football Playoff
Yes, it’s early. But as best I can tell, the conference has nothing close to a dominant team.
I just made the case for why I think Baylor will struggle, and I think we can safely remove Oklahoma State out of the playoff equation after Saturday’s stunning loss (even if it really shouldn’t have been a loss). TCU can’t stop anything on defense, which is the new, scary reality in Ft. Worth (Kenny Hill and the offense didn’t look all too great for most of last night either). Oklahoma has major issues on their defense (issues they can quiet with a good game against Ohio State this weekend), and Texas, well, I buy them as a Big 12 title contender. But I still think they’re a year away from making a serious run at the playoff.
The point being, I don’t see one dominant team, something that I see in every other conference. The SEC has Alabama. Florida State appears to be head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the ACC (and right now, Louisville isn’t far behind). Michigan looks great in the Big Ten. Washington and Stanford have looked solid so far in the Pac-12.
Yes it’s still early, but right now the Big 12 looks like a jumbled group of good, but not great 2-3 loss teams.
For the second time in three years, I expect it to cost them a playoff spot come December.
Aaron Torres covers college football for Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or ATorres00@gmail.com.