1. We’re three weeks in to the college football season, and I’m already shuddering in fear of what the College Football Playoff committee will have to do later this fall. It’s looking like the Pac-12 South won’t produce an undefeated team, with USC already losing to Boston College and either UCLA or Arizona State headed for a guaranteed loss on Sept. 25. Stanford has already lost, so unless you believe Oregon runs the table, the Pac-12 is producing a one-loss (or more) champion. The Big Ten will do the same, unless you believe Penn State (hi, Scott!) or Nebraska (hi, Faux Pelini!) can get it done. No team has made it through the Big 12 unscathed since Texas in 2009. Florida State has the greatest odds of any team to finish unscathed, but even this this team does not look like the heat-seeking missile that the 2013 bunch was. What happens if they drop a game? And then that leaves the SEC, with its five teams in the top 10 and eight in the top 18, a multi-car pileup waiting to happen. Good luck sorting all that out, folks.
2. This week’s coaching helmet sticker goes to Cincinnati passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw. In his first game action since 2011, all new Bearcats starter Gunner Kiel did was complete 25-0f-37 passes for 418 yards and six touchdowns while adding 24 rushing yards with zero turnovers. It’s (extreeeeeemly) early, but Kiel’s debut puts him at No. 1 in college football for passing efficiency.
3. Since we’re talking quarterbacks, I really, really loved this tweet from Baylor assistant director of football operations Austin Steele:
So is this good or nah? pic.twitter.com/SQGLyxqoMe
— Austin Steele (@AustinSteele) September 15, 2014
4. No official prognosis on Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly yet, but the scene on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of the Sun Devils’ 38-24 win over Colorado did not look promising. With UCLA, USC and Stanford coming up back-to-back-to-back (albeit spread over the next five weeks), offensive coordinator Mike Norvell may have his work cut out for him in Arizona State’s bid to repeat as Pac-12 South champs.
5. The numbers don’t bear it out yet, but Manny Diaz has done some great work with Louisiana Tech’s defense. The Bulldogs completely shut down North Texas in a 42-21 road win on Thursday night, limiting Mean Green starting quarterback Josh Greer to 2.9 yards per attempt on 27 passes and also bottling up the North Texas running game to an equally anemic 2.9 yards per carry on 36 attempts. This came one week after mauling a respectable Louisiana-Lafayette program 48-20. La Tech has been one of college football’s most pleasant surprises of September in year two under Skip Holtz and year one under the defensive direction of Diaz.
6. We’re deep enough into the season to say the West Virginia offense and Virginia defense are night and day better than where they were a year ago and, as such, have completely changed the outlook of their respective seasons. Virginia ranks eighth in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, jumped 24 spots in pass efficiency defense (including an impressive 5-to-2 interception-to-touchdown ratio), and moved 75th to 17th in rushing defense. An ambitious non-conference schedule pitting the Cavs against UCLA and BYU likely has Virginia at 2-2 after this week, but a schedule with Florida State representing the only ranked foe between now and the end of the season gives Mike London a great shot at returning to a bowl game for the first time since 2011.
In Morgantown, a healthy Clint Trickett has West Virginia at fifth nationally in passing offense after slinking all the way down to 34th a year ago. Similarly, the Mountaineers are up 50 spots in total offense and 39 spots in scoring. Suddenly, trips to Morgantown look like major roadblocks for Big 12 title hopefuls Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State.
7. You’ve got to feel for Georgia Southern today, who came out on the wrong end of a bad call that allowed Georgia Tech that allowed the Yellow Jackets an opportunity to notch a game-winning score with 23 seconds left in the game – an opportunity Mike Pereira says they should not have had. He explains here. Willie Fritz’s bunch was also right there in the opener, allowing an N.C. State touchdown pass with 1:37 remaining, shutting the door on a 24-23 loss.
8. Tip of the cap to 2013 FootballScoop FCS Coordinator of the Year Sterlin Gilbert (now offensive coordinator at Bowling Green), who shot off an absurd 113 plays (73 passes/40 rushes) for 571 yards and 39 first downs in a 45-42 win over Indiana. We now go to Randy Edsall for reaction.
9. It’s time Gary Pinkel, defensive coordinator Dave Steckel, and defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski get the credit they deserve as some of the best defensive line builders in college football. A year after losing two First Team All-SEC linemen, the Tigers are still stoning fools. The 38-10 win over Central Florida in which the Knights registered only 93 rushing yards on 39 carries is just the latest example. Overlook this team at your own peril.
10. The folks in Bristol will be very interested in what happens in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. An Alabama win over Florida means all Ole Miss must do is beat Memphis on Sept. 27 and the Grove is all but guaranteed its first College GameDay visit when the Tide comes to Oxford on Oct. 4. It seems impossible that college football’s preeminent pre-game show has not yet collided with college football’s preeminent pre-game scene, but that could change very soon.
11. Congratulations to Charlie Partridge and staff for earning their first win at Florida Atlantic. The Owls took it on the chin in their first two games with a 55-7 loss to Nebraska and a weather-shortened 41-0 setback at Alabama, so it had to feel extra nice to pay that forward in the form of a 50-21 shellacking of Tulsa.
12. While we’re handing out congratulations, a hearty slap on the back to Abilene Christian for earning its first FBS win in a 38-35 triumph over Troy.
13. This week’s results unfortunately show how far Tulsa and Troy, for years two of the most consistent mid-majors, have sunk. Troy is 0-3 this season, 1-6 in its last seven, and is working on its fourth straight non-bowl season after making four bowl trips in the previous five campaigns. Tulsa is 1-2 this season and just 4-11 after closing 2012 by defeating Central Florida in the Conference USA championship (the same UCF team that would go on to win the American and the Fiesta Bowl a year later) and Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl.
14. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to: Rick Neuheisel coaching his son Jerry on to victory from a television inside the Pac-12 Networks studios was the best coaching story of the weekend.
15. And finally, although they are clearly on the upswing, it really shows just how far Tennessee has fallen into the abyss when a 34-10 loss to Oklahoma is treated like this youngster in red here: