When I fell in love with college football, a few things became apparent from the onset. Chaos flows freely, the college environment is unmatched and certain teams are simply better than others year after year.
Not terribly long ago, Miami and Texas were at the top of the mountain. They were those teams. They were what others aspired to be.
Things change, of course. Coaches move on, and programs evolve or devolve. But certain schools are simply equipped with more resources and tend to stay better for a prolonged period of time.
On Saturday, Miami lost to Middle Tennessee State as a 25.5-point favorite. The Hurricanes didn’t just lose; they allowed 45 points while giving up pass plays of 98, 89, 71 and 69 yards. Oof.
New coach Mario Cristobal benched his starting QB, and a team that I liked a great deal heading into the year lost at home by 14 points. There are bad losses, and then there is whatever this was.
As for Texas, well, the Longhorns lost to Texas Tech, a team they shouldn’t lose to. Yes, the Red Raiders dramatically improved, and the line was only 7. But this was the eighth time Texas has lost in the last 11 games.
Sure, the team is without starting QB Quinn Ewers. Sure, it did deliver a heck of a game against Alabama a few weeks ago. But … eight losses in 11 games. It doesn’t matter who is coaching the program; this simply doesn’t happen.
It’s hard to put a finger on how programs with such history and advantages have fallen so far. It doesn’t happen quickly; it takes many years for this transformation to occur. Well, except for Boise State. After being blown out by UTEP on Friday night, that collapse is happening a lot faster.
All is not lost for Miami or Texas. Better days are ahead. The resources haven’t just dried up. But what became clear on Saturday, as both teams suffered unique collapses, is that things are simply not what they used to be.
The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations
1. Georgia beat Kent State, which was an inevitability of sorts. That’s not the surprising part. The score, however, was. Kirby Smart’s team was favored by 45.5 points, and it won 39-22. The margin was much closer throughout most of the game. What does it mean? Time will tell, although it’s certainly noteworthy. Last season, the Bulldogs didn’t allow 22 points in a game until the national championship. Heck, the defense allowed 23 combined points through the first five games last year. No time to panic, but it is worth noting.
2. The Bo Nix Experience is unlike anything in college football. We’ve seen the bad against Georgia, and we saw it again in the first half against Washington State on Saturday. Then, Nix and the Ducks turned it on. He finished the game with 428 passing yards and three touchdowns, leading Oregon back from the dead. As a whole, this was a wild game to have a side in. As a 6-point underdog, Wazzu led by 12 points deep into the third quarter. Oregon came back, took the lead and intercepted a pass late, which felt like a horrific beat for Washington State backers. Then, Wazzu scored a TD with one second left to bring the score to 44-41. What a weird ride.
3. Missouri’s loss to Auburn might be one of the more brutal ways to lose a football game, non-Hail Mary division, in recent memory. Yes, the Tigers (Missouri variety) covered the 7.5-point spread. That’s the good news. Along the way, however, Missouri missed a 26-yard field goal that would have won it on the last play of regulation, jumped offsides on an Auburn field-goal attempt in overtime that gave its opponent a second (successful) chance and fumbled on the 1-inch line on what looked like a surefire walk-off touchdown to lose. If you had Missouri on the money line, I just want to apologize. Horrific.
4. Washington is a completely different football team. That much is clear. While beating Michigan State a week ago was impressive, it was encouraging to see the Huskies avoid a hangover against Stanford. They comfortably covered the 14-point spread against the Cardinal, and they’re 4-0 with Pac-12 play heating up. When you look at the schedule, there’s a clear path to an excellent season. Also, huge game coming up this week. More on that in a moment.
5. USC’s close, ugly win against Oregon State might be a good thing. The Trojans didn’t cover the 5.5-point spread against the Beavers, although we saw the USC defense step up in a way we haven’t yet. The Trojans lead the nation in interceptions (11), which is a very good sign. While the offense struggled for the first time this year, winning ugly is a necessary part of every season. If I am Lincoln Riley, or someone sitting on any sort of USC futures bet, I am thrilled with this development. (The offense, by the way, will be fine.)
The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend
1. No. 10 NC State at No. 5 Clemson (-7, 46)
We circled this particular game many months ago, and it’s plenty interesting now. For Clemson, Saturday’s win over Wake Forest featured a mix of good and bad. The good was the offense, which finally shined. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei played his best game of the season at a time when the Tigers were desperate. The defense, however, really struggled, especially the pass defense. Whether NC State can take advantage is another story entirely. The Wolfpack failed to cover the 38-point spread against UConn, although not by much. If NC State is to pull off the upset on the road, it needs QB Devin Leary to be brilliant. This total speaks to the kind of game we might get, which could be the opposite of Clemson's game in Week 4.
2. No. 2 Alabama (-15.5, 61.5) at No. 20 Arkansas
This will certainly be a test for Alabama, and it’s the first of a handful on the horizon. After coming back against Texas, Nick Saban’s team demolished both UL Monroe and Vanderbilt, as expected. In fact, Alabama has covered three spreads of 40 or more points this year. But Arkansas can play, and this road trip certainly has teeth. The Hogs let one slip away against Texas A&M on Saturday, and one can’t help but wonder if the mistakes that ultimately brought them down will linger. Either way, I expect QB K.J. Jefferson to push a secondary that has struggled at times this year. Alabama is the better overall team, although I’m a little wary after seeing how Texas was able to pinpoint holes. We’ll see if Arkansas can do the same.
3. No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 16 Baylor (-2, 55)
The last time these teams met, they delivered. Simple as that. In the Big 12 championship game, Oklahoma State fell a foot short of missing the College Football Playoff. The Bears prevailed, and here we are many months later. To date, we’re still trying to figure out who exactly OK State is. The Pokes played three games against inferior opponents before a bye last week. QB Spencer Sanders has been electric, although the defense has taken a step back. The same can be said for a Baylor team that lost a ton of really good players in the offseason. Still, the Bears are 3-1, and they’re coming off a nice win as an underdog at Iowa State. While this is a tricky side to take, the Under looks pretty juicy early on.
4. No. 7 Kentucky at No. 14 Ole Miss (-5.5, 55.5)
Neither team looked all that interested in looking dominant last weekend. Let’s begin there. Kentucky was favored by 27 points over Northern Illinois. The Wildcats only won by eight. Ole Miss used a 28-point second quarter to help catapult by Tulsa 35-27, although the Rebels were three-touchdown favorites. Could both teams have been looking ahead? Without question. Although given the limited sample size of games, the performances are notable. Having this game in Oxford will help the Fighting Lane Kiffins, although Kentucky is well coached and should be up for this. I’m just not sure the Wildcats have the necessary firepower to keep up.
5. No. 15 Washington (-2.5, 65) at UCLA
As referenced above, Washington has been unbelievably impressive thus far. The Huskies have been both balanced and explosive, and they have shot up the rankings as a result. But this feels like a legitimate test, and the point spread will raise some eyebrows. While UCLA is unbeaten, it’s a relatively “meh” unbeaten. The Bruins nearly lost to South Alabama a few weeks ago as more than two-touchdown favorites. They parlayed that close call into a 45-17 win (and cover) over Colorado. These road games in the Pac-12 can be tricky, especially ones played late on a Friday night. I love what I’ve seen from Washington, but this one has a very odd vibe about it.
Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note
No. 22 Wake Forest at No. 23 Florida State (-6, 66)
At last, Florida State is ranked. The Seminoles also play Wake Forest at the right time given how last week ended for the Demon Deacons. An early FSU lean for me.
No. 18 Oklahoma (-4.5, 67.5) at TCU
Well, the Sooners lost, and it doesn’t get much easier. TCU is a dangerous team under Sonny Dykes, and the Horned Frogs are primed. There will be plenty of points scored here.
No. 4 Michigan (-10.5, 43.5) at Iowa
It could be ugly, although the game still has intrigue. Iowa has the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense, which is good. It just needs to figure out how to score against Michigan. (That part isn’t good.)
Texas Tech at No. 25 Kansas State
These teams toppled Texas and Oklahoma on Saturday, and this one should have plenty of juice as a result. If Adrian Martinez plays anything close to how he played against the Sooners, K-State could be an issue in this game and beyond.