With Tua Tagovailoa leading the offense, Alabama appears to the team to beat... again
This was an odd first month of the college football season. Not just because a bunch of odd things happened but also because there were five Saturdays in the month. If you think about that, it means that nearly half of the college football season is finished for teams that play 12 games. And October just now got here.
A lot has happened in this first month. Teams have come and gone. Players have come and gone. Games have come and gone. And in some cases, hopes have already come and gone. So what did we discover about college football in this raucous first month of the 2018 season?
1. Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and Ohio State are bound for the College Playoff Football
Yep, I’m calling my shot now. Even if each of these teams happens to lose a game, I still think they’ll make it. And the low-brow, big-money TV execs will be very happy about it.
2. Notre Dame has the best chance to crash the playoff party
Yeah I know, the Irish have negotiated the toughest part of their schedule. But with the Jekyll & Hyde type of play they’ve shown, I’m guessing they’ll get upset somewhere along the way and finish outside the final four.
3. Oh mercy, Alabama can actually outscore people now
This is a “sum of all fears” type of situation for the rest of college football. Bama has always been a lethal team, defensively. But now that Tua Tagovailoa has taken over the starting QB job and asserted himself, this Crimson Tide offense is nearly unstoppable. As the rest of college football says, “Great. Just great.”
4. The two worst offensive calls of the season
1) Penn State’s 4th-and-5 dive play that lost two yards in the final minutes vs. Ohio State.
2) Oregon’s “Miracle in the Meadowlands” call instead of taking a knee vs. Stanford.
Obviously both dubious play calls cost the Nittany Lions and Ducks chances for a win. I’m never one to say “Well those coaches earn a lot of money coaching football and I don’t.” Yet I know damn well if I was the head coach for both teams for just one play I would not have made those play calls and lost those games. And I believe you guys would too. Just sayin’.
5. Urban Meyer is the most polarizing figure in college football
No matter which if you believe the guy or not, it is difficult for anyone outside of Buckeye-land to side with him. Especially now that he is already back at his high-paying position and his team is unbeaten and squarely in the middle of the national championship talk.
6. The trend is to go back to pocket-passing QBs
Remember how dual-threat quarterbacks were all the rage? Everyone was looking for the next Vince Young or the next Cam Newton. But now we see those dual-threat dynamos are being replaced by field generals with the bigger arms, which is the case for Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Ohio State’s Dwyane Haskins, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Notre Dame’s Ian Book.
7. The four-game redshirt rule has unintended circumstances
Because the NCAA now allows players to redshirt even after playing in four games, we’ve seen an increase in players not just deciding to redshirt, but deciding to transfer to another program. Nowhere was that effect bigger than the imminent transfer of Clemson QB Kelly Bryant, who was replaced as the starter by Trevor Lawrence and subsequently quit the team. Additionally, Jalen McCleskey's decision to leave Oklahoma State has created a different situation for Mike Gundy and the Cowboys.
8. Clemson is hoping to kick Syracuse out of the ACC
Okay, that’s fake news. For sure. But to be honest, after losing to the Orange last year and nearly losing to them again this past weekend, don’t be shocked to see a slight shiver come over your nearest Tiger fan if you ask him if he wants an orange.
9. Kyler Murray must be one hell of a baseball player
The new Oklahoma quarterback is on loan from the Oakland A’s after getting drafted ninth overall in the MLB draft last summer. But man alive, this dude is going hyper-speed on the football field and looking like he is an all-world gridder instead. Are you SURE you don’t want to make your millions in the NFL, Mr. Murray? Geez.
10. The Heisman Trophy presentation will be with Tua Tagovailoa, Kyler Murray, Will Grier and Jonathan Taylor in attendance
Who else has a shot of joining them? Dwayne Haskins? Jake Fromm? Trace McSorley? How about Benny Snell Jr. of Kentucky? He’s been balling so far, averaging 133 rushing yards per game with eight TDs and is a main reason UK is still undefeated.
11. UCF could go unbeaten again… and still not play in the College Football Playoff
Last year, the Knights didn’t get into the playoff because of the quality of its schedule. After a 5-0 start in 2018 it looks likely that the boys from Disney-town could go 12-0 once again. But the bugaboo against them is still the same; the toughest remaining game is at Memphis on Oct. 13 and the Tigers have an FPI ranking of No. 48. That doesn’t bode well for their playoff hopes.
12. The Pac 12 is already out of the playoff… again
Not a good September for the occidental conference. Stanford and Washington are the highest ranked westerners and have the best chance at the playoff. But both programs already have a loss and those losses came in marquee matchups at Notre Dame and vs. Auburn in Atlanta, respectively. They play each other in November, but working their way back to the top four is going to be a Matterhorn-Like uphill climb. After all, Tony Kornheiser always brags that he goes to bed at 6 p.m. Pacific time, so the East Coast media members don’t see them play anyway.
13. The Mutombo-esque finger wag is becoming way too tired
Every defender who makes a routine tackle or pass breakup seems to get up waving his index finger. Even if it’s on a run for a first down. And no, I don’t expect this fad to go away in October either. Yawwwwwn.
14. Pass interference is getting called waaaaay too often
Is it just me or does it seem like p.i. is called on just about half of the incompletions thrown? Let’s hope that this calms down a little bit in October. But I fear it won’t.
15. TV reviews by the official in the replay booth are a complete crap-shoot
Most of the time I am left looking at the replay of a close or controversial play that is very blatantly obvious but still gets called the other way. I am left yelling at the screen “What the hell was the official in the booth looking at?”
Is there a way I can get the job of being the instant replay reviewer for each and every game? C’mon.
16. College football – thankfully – doesn’t have the same tackling restrictions as the NFL
We still have true, hard-hitting, tackle football in college. Sorry Clay Matthews.
17. The Odell Beckham-type one-hand catch is becoming fairly routine
In week five alone we saw four or five really high-quality, forehead-slapping, one-handed catches in ESPN's "Top 10 Plays" countdown. Does anybody catch the ball with two hands anymore? Asking for a friend.
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.