The college football season is long. Memories, however, can be short.
The Oregon Ducks, fresh off a dominating performance against UCLA, are a perfect example. The Ducks easily covered a spread that grew to a touchdown by kickoff, handling former head coach Chip Kelly and an offense ripe with weapons.
It was a season-changing performance for a team that has quietly marched up the AP Poll over the past two months. (They checked in at No. 8 on Sunday.) As if you needed a reminder that early conclusions can be dangerous, this was yet another reminder.
In Week 1, the Ducks were helpless against Georgia. A trendy 16-point underdog against a team rebooting much of its roster, Oregon was throttled 49-3 by the defending national champions. Quarterback Bo Nix, fresh off his transfer from Auburn, threw two dreadful interceptions.
The season felt lost shortly after it started.
Fast forward to Saturday. Nix, fresh off another five-touchdown game, is now 30/1 to win the Heisman and has a realistic shot at being a finalist. I am floored at how much better he has looked, and his numbers (25 TDs, 3 INTs) stack up with other quarterbacks currently under consideration.
As for Oregon, well, things are different now. Since that loss, Oregon has covered the spread in all but one football game. After scoring only three points in the opener, the offense has scored at least 40 points in every game since.
Oregon’s national championship odds are now 40/1, ahead of USC (50/1) and behind very few.
What does it all mean? We’ll find out. But with such a small sample size of games, it can be easy to overreact to 60 minutes of football -- especially the first 60 minutes.
We have largely ignored this team since then, and Oregon probably isn’t the least bit concerned about that. Flying under the radar in September and October is perfectly fine.
But that won’t be the case now. This team has juice. With games against Cal and Colorado, it will likely keep that juice (albeit with some bigger point spreads).
Don’t crown a team in Week 1 -- don’t bury it, either. The Ducks are alive and well.
The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations
1. We have a QB situation brewing at Clemson, which should come as no surprise
Well, sort of. After Week 1, DJ Uiagalelei looked in trouble. It felt like a matter of time before freshman Cade Klubnik won the job. Since then, Uiagalelei had played well … until he was benched on Saturday against Syracuse. Klubnik finished, performed so-so and the Tigers won. While Dabo Swinney attempted to cool any thoughts of a QB controversy after the game, it’s hard not to connect the pieces at this point. We aren’t done here. As for the Heisman impact, Uiagalelei’s odds went from 22/1 to 90/1 in one week.
2. TCU is a glorious zombie football team
Once again, the Horned Frogs fell behind against Kansas State. Once again, TCU came back and won. This time they managed to cover a spread that got down to three at kickoff. The Horned Frogs are 7-0 and have games against West Virginia and Texas Tech on tap before a massive road game at Texas. I wonder whether the slow starts will eventually cost this team, but this playoff run feels very real.
3. I bet Bryce Young to win the Heisman last week, and I still feel good about it
I grabbed him at 18/1, knowing it will be an uphill climb for a few reasons. He was 22/1 on Sunday morning. He missed a few games and losing to Tennessee certainly hurts. Oh, and he won the dang award last year. Still, I am in awe watching him play these days, and we saw more of that on Saturday against Mississippi State. Here's why I think he could make some noise: Alabama plays at LSU, at Ole Miss and potentially Georgia or Tennessee if things go well. If he produces -- and he should -- he'll have a shot.
4. I bet Miami this weekend, and I am ashamed
Oops, I did it again. I backed the Hurricanes against Duke early in the week, and they closed as a 10-point favorite. They proceeded to lose 45-21 to Duke thanks in large part to EIGHT turnovers. Goodness. This was a team I thought would be vastly improved under Mario Cristobal, although that couldn’t be more wrong. Miami has losses against Middle Tennessee, UNC and now Duke this year. Oof.
5. On the topic of shame, let’s talk about Iowa
It’s hard to find ways to describe this offense at this point. “Dreadful” doesn’t quite cut it. As a 30-point underdog against Ohio State, Iowa responded, well, how you might expect. The defense played well early on, but the offense, which is the worst in the sport, totaled 158 yards and turned the ball over six times. It’s time for a change in Iowa City. It cannot possibly go on like this. Don't worry; we have more Iowa football talk below. (I know you want more.)
6. Fine, one more bummer section. We need to talk about Texas A&M (again)
Jimbo Fisher’s team, powered by one of the greatest recruiting classes the sport has ever seen, is now under .500. The Aggies lost outright as a 3-point favorite to South Carolina to move to 3-4. There are a slew of stats and takeaways from this game, but the fact that A&M has cracked 30 points just once this year is startling. It came in Week 1 against Sam Houston. Oh, and the head coach has a fully guaranteed contract, and he’s owed a cool $90 million or so.
The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend
1. No. 2 Ohio State (-15.5, 61) at No. 13 Penn State
Penn State has not won this football game since 2016, although that stretch needs context. The Buckeyes indeed have a long winning stretch heading into this year’s road trip, but Penn State has competed in this matchup. Games have been competitive even through one-sided results, and the Nittany Lions certainly have a defense and home field that can challenge the Buckeyes. But what about the offense? After a slow start, PSU’s offense found itself against Minnesota, and the Nittany Lions easily covered the 5.5-point spread. The Buckeyes, after sputtering at first, covered the 30-point spread against Iowa. Above anything, this feels like an under game in the making. Both of these defenses can really play.
2. No.3 Tennessee (-13, 63) vs. No. 19 Kentucky
The Vols showed zero signs of a hangover against UT Martin last week, moving to 6-1 ATS on the season after covering the 38.5-point spread. This particular matchup is interesting for a few reasons. For starters, Mark Stoops can really coach. The Wildcats are 5-2 ATS this season, and they could present an interesting obstacle on the other side. The timing of this game, however, is what’s worth contemplating. Next week, Tennessee will head to Athens to take on Georgia in one of the biggest football games of the year. This has serious look-ahead potential, although the Vols might be too explosive on offense to have that matter. Tricky spot.
3. No. 22 Kansas State (PK, 58.5) vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State
In many ways, these two Big 12 schools experienced the exact opposite outcomes last week. Kansas State built up a big lead against TCU as a 3.5-point favorite, only to give the lead away in the last 35 minutes. Injuries to quarterbacks Adrian Martinez and backup Will Howard certainly didn’t help. On the OK State side, the Pokes, down by double digits in this game, mounted a comeback against Texas. Oklahoma State won outright as a 6.5-point favorite, which also generated plenty of Texas dialogue on social media. As for this game, we need to know more about the status of the QBs before we dive in. The line says things are probably fine on that front, but we shall see.
4. No. 1 Georgia (-22, 56) vs. Florida
It’s likely that this will not be a competitive football game. Let’s get that out of the way right now. Georgia is a much better team than Florida in pretty much every way, hence the point spread on a football game that is normally appointment viewing. That is up for debate this year, although watching Florida QB Anthony Richardson try to navigate this Georgia defense will certainly be worth checking in on. After a sleepy stretch, the Bulldogs blasted Vanderbilt and Auburn, covering both spreads. Florida is now 3-4 ATS the spread this year, and the last two games (Missouri and LSU) weren’t great. If you still have doubts that Georgia is an elite team, this could be an interesting spot to take a stand. I’m not quite there, though.
5. No. 16 Syracuse (-2, 46) vs. Notre Dame
It’s an odd yet intriguing matchup in so many ways, although it’s hard not to acknowledge how different this season has been for both teams. Syracuse wasn’t supposed to be in this position, and the Orange let a two-touchdown lead slip away at Clemson on Saturday. Syracuse comfortably covered the 14-point spread, although this still must be a tough outcome to swallow. Notre Dame’s season has been nothing short of bizarre, and "bizarre" is not a compliment. The Irish are 4-3 outright and 3-4 against the spread. They lost to Marshall and Stanford. They also beat UNC. Last week, Notre Dame beat UNLV although fell short of covering the 25-point number. While Syracuse has lost just one game ATS this year, I’m awfully tempted to back the Irish. I might talk myself out of it throughout the week, although I have an early ND lean.
Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note
UCF (-1, 56) vs. No. 20 Cincinnati
It’s still a big game, although it’s not as big after UCF lost outright as a 5.5-point favorite to East Carolina. Cincinnati has done an unbelievable job, but this road trip has some teeth to it despite last week’s results.
No. 15 Ole Miss (-2.5, 53.5) at Texas A&M
It’s going to be fascinating to see where this line goes throughout the week. Yes, A&M is dreadful. But the defense can really play, and Ole Miss’ one-dimensional nature hurt them a lot last week.
Iowa (-10.5, 35) vs. Northwestern
Why include this game, you ask? BECAUSE LOOK AT THIS TOTAL. It’s ticked up a bit, but opened at 31.5. I don’t know what to do with a football game this grim, but I do know I want to be invested in it one way or another.