With just about a third of the college football season in the books, there are a few things we’ve learned over the past month. There’s also a whole lot we have yet to discover about a lot of teams.
Of course, that doesn’t stop game watchers from trying to extrapolate from the results we do have. Some conclusions might prove correct, while others won’t hold up so well as the temperature drops.
Here are the top five overreactions from Week 4, in which we look in on a couple of perennial College Football Playoff participants and take the pulse of a few more programs hoping to crash the postseason’s biggest party.
Alabama’s offense is totally fixed
The recent versions of the Crimson Tide set a standard that will be hard to match in any year. Bryce Young and Co., did pretty much whatever they wanted in Alabama’s SEC opener against Vanderbilt, but even so this season’s group doesn’t have that kind of talent across the board. That was shown in the grind-it out win at Texas in Week 2.
Alabama is likely going to have to find different ways to win over the next three weeks when the schedule gets much more difficult. The next two dates with Arkansas and Texas A&M figure to be low-scoring affairs, while the Oct. 15 tilt with resurgent Tennessee has track meet potential. In all those games, the offense is going to be stressed to put up points. We’ll see how it works out.
MISERY INDEX:Miami still mediocre despite massive investment in Cristobal
HIGHS AND LOWS:Week 4 winners and losers led by Clemson, Tennessee
WHAT YOU MISSED:Texas A&M, Kansas State top the five biggest things
LETTER GRADES:This week’s report card hits Aaron Judge, announcer calls
Clemson’s offense is totally fixed
QB DJ Uiagalelei turned in his best performance since becoming Clemson’s full-time starter, outdueling Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman in Saturday’s shootout victory as the Tigers put up offensive numbers that resembled those of the elite units that won national championships. But it might be too early to know if that success can be replicated when Clemson encounters some more accomplished defenses, starting Saturday against North Carolina State. Even as Wake was setting a program record winning 11 games and playing for the ACC title a year ago, the defense was not exactly the team’s strong suit. This year’s group compensated a bit forcing eight turnovers through the Deacons’ first three games, but the Tigers committed no miscues and went 16-for-23 on third-down conversions, enabling Clemson to dominate possession time by more than 15 minutes. Uiagalelei was terrific, and he needed to be once Wake’s offense got going, but Clemson almost certainly be tested again
Southern California is not a playoff team
We warned Trojans’ fans not to get too far over their skis a couple of weeks ago in this space when the new-look offense was humming. We now caution everyone that the hard-fought road win at Oregon State in which points were hard to come by wasn’t necessarily cause for alarm. On the contrary, one could make the case that USC needed to show they could win just such a game when the offense struggled. Mission accomplished.
The USC defense has been opportunistic all season. That trend continued as they snagged four interceptions against the Beavers, and Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison finally connected for the go-ahead score. For his own part, Williams kept his offense turnover free even when moving the ball was a challenge. Again, we’re not saying USC will run away with the Pac-12 – there’s still that trip to Utah and several other challenges ahead remember – but the close win in Corvallis did nothing to damage the Trojans’ prospects.
The Big 12 champion will come from the Sunflower State
Yes, Kansas and Kansas State have done some impressive things thus far. We’ll save the discussion about whether either or both should be ranked for another day – that will certainly take care of itself if they keep winning.
But can they? We’ve seen Kansas State have success against Oklahoma before, but that formula hasn’t translated through the rest of the conference. The Jayhawks are even more of a wildcard, 4-0 for the first time since 2009 in Lance Leipold’s second season in Lawrence. There’s a long way to go, of course, but we’ll say this much. If KU’s Jalon Daniels and K-State’s Adrian Martinez continue their strong quarterbacking, the Big 12 title might indeed find a home on the range.
Minnesota is the best team in the Big Ten West
Actually, this might not be an overreaction. What seems sure is that the Golden Gophers appear to be the only team in the division with a functional offense. OK, functional isn’t giving them enough credit. Mo Ibrahim might be the nation’s best running back, averaging 141.8 yards a game, and veteran QB Tanner Morgan exploited the leaky Michigan State pass defense in Minnesota’s first real test of the season.
With winnable games against Purdue and Illinois coming up with an open date in between, the Gophers have an excellent chance to be 6-0 heading into their Oct. 22 trip to Penn State. As for the West, it will likely come down to season-ending trophy games against Iowa and Wisconsin, both of whom have major flaws on offense.