Here are some random thoughts about Week 7 in college football…
- Losing to Syracuse, 27-24, on Friday night didn’t seriously jeopardize Clemson’s chances of defending their national championship title later this year. On the other hand, losing their starting quarterback, Kelly Bryant, who was injured Friday night, for any significant period of time, will eliminate any chance the Tigers have of qualifying for the college football playoffs.
- When Florida hired Jim McElwain from Colorado State to become their head football coach in 2015, they expected he would bring his high-powered offense to Gainesville. McElwain is now in his third year at Florida, and Gator fans are still waiting for his high scoring offense to arrive. In 2015 and 2016, the Gators averaged a little more than 23 points per game, and this year, through six games, they have only averaged 20.7 points per game. Florida was fortunate enough to play in a sub-par SEC East in 2015 and 2016 so their uninspired offense didn’t prevent them from playing in the SEC Championship game the last two seasons. This year, with Georgia leading the East as one of the top five teams in the country, Florida’s disappointing offensive output for the third consecutive season has them on the outside looking in when it comes to another SEC division title. McElwain has six more games this year to fix his ailing offense. Otherwise, he will start 2018 squarely on top of the head coach’s hot seat.
- There’s no question head coach Butch Jones is a dead man walking at Tennessee. It’s not a matter of if Jones is fired but rather when he’ll lose his job. And if the decision-makers in Knoxville are smart, they’ll wait unit the end of the season before pulling the plug. The short-term solution is to fire Jones now and replace him with an interim head coach. The problem with the immediate fix is that if the interim coach improves the team’s performance or turns things around in their remaining six games, the Tennessee administration is almost forced to remove the interim tag and make their short-term choice their permanent head coach. Ask the folks at LSU about how that has worked out with Ed “Sling Blade” Orgeron. The smart move is to let Jones finish an already lost season and conduct a nationwide search at the end of the season for his replacement.
- Wisconsin is the most over-rated remaining unbeaten team in the country. Yes, they’re 6-0 but their wins are against Utah State, Florida Atlantic, BYU, Northwestern and Purdue. Chances are they will finish the regular season undefeated since they don’t play Penn State or Ohio State and their toughest remaining opponent is at home against an under-achieving Michigan. Badger fans will start clamoring for a spot in the college football playoffs but don’t buy it. They simply haven’t and probably won’t play a strong opponent until the Big 10 Championship game.
- Auburn’s epic collapse at LSU on Saturday cost them any chance at a SEC Championship and a place in the college football playoffs. The Tigers blew a 20-0 second quarter lead, a 23-7 third quarter lead and a 23-14 fourth quarter lead before losing 27-23, and in the process, exposing head coach Gus Malzahn as someone who coaches poorly in tight spots.
- Let’s not get carried away with the notion that Ohio State has solved their early season offensive struggles. True, they have averaged 53.2 points per game since their loss to Oklahoma in week two. The reality, though, is the Buckeyes five-game offensive explosion has come at the expense of Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska. Let’s see how they perform in two weeks against Penn State before passing judgment on the rebirth of the Ohio State offense.
- There once was a time, boys and girls, when Nebraska was one of the premier football programs in the country. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Since they last appeared in the Big 10 Championship game in 2012, the Cornhuskers are a pedestrian 36-23 and an unacceptable to the team’s supporters, 18-15 since Mike Riley replaced Bo Pelini as the head coach in 2015. Nebraska fans don’t expect .500 records and don’t get excited about an invite to the Armed Forces Bowl. Instead, the home crowd in Lincoln expects championships and a bid to the college football playoffs. At the very least, they expect a New Year’s Day Six Bowl. That’s what makes Nebraska’s current state of affairs intolerable to the fan base. To make matters worse for Riley, the call for his head on a pike only increased Saturday night when the Cornhuskers were embarrassed at home, 56-14, by Ohio State, a currently elite college football program Nebraska once was. The fans and the administration demand they return to Ohio State’s level as soon as possible and Riley has five games left to prove he is the man to lead that charge back. Unfortunately, he probably has already run out of time.
- From top to bottom, the PAC-12 is the best overall conference in college football this year. But because the teams cannibalize one another on a weekly basis, their only hope of having a team in the college football playoffs is if one-loss USC wins the rest of their games, beginning with their game at Notre Dame this week. It’s a tall order since the Trojans have relied on quarterback Sam Darnold too much for their success, making their margin for error razor-thin. Unless USC can balance their offensive attack with the running game they showed against Stanford in week two, the PAC-12 will be the bridesmaid of the Power Five conferences come playoff selection Sunday.
- If someone would have told you at the end of the 2015 season that the University of Central Florida would be the second best college football team in the state of Florida in 2017, you would have escorted them to the front of the drug testing line. Eight games into the 2015 season, George O’Leary resigned from his head coaching position and the Knights finished the year 0-12. UCF hired Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost as their new head coach and in less than two seasons, he has indeed built a program that is the second best in the state of Florida. Last year, the Knights finished the year 6-7 and a berth in the AutoNation Cure Bowl. This year, UCF is 5-0, ranked 20th in the country and their 47.5 points per game leads the NCAA. The Knights are in line for a New Year’s Day Six bowl game as long as they can defeat Navy and arch rival South Florida. Meanwhile, Frost is at the top of the list of every Power Five school looking to replace their current head coach.
- The best comeback story in college football this season is the Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) football program. At the end of the 2014 season, the school, citing rapidly increasing costs, shut down the football program. Six months later, after much debate and contentious arguments from former players and alumni, UAB reversed their decision and announced they would reinstate the football program beginning in 2017. Despite not playing a down in two years, the Blazers are 4-2 so far this season and only one game behind North Texas in the Conference USA Western Division. If UAB wins two more games and qualifies for a bowl game, it will culminate one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college football history.