SEC dominance, Pac-12 credibility lead 10 things we learned from college football’s first month

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The first month of college football is almost over. Before you know it, November comes, then December, then the college football playoffs, and then about eight months of boredom and loneliness without football.

What have we learned in the Bowl division?

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That Georgia is still good. So are the states of Alabama and Ohio.

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That the best teams in the country are led by the best quarterbacks in the country.

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It was in schools that it became convenient to fire coaches in September. Why wait three months when change is inevitable? (Why the admins even brought those coaches back for another season is another big question.)

That the SEC dominates. This Kansas is really good. (Yes, it’s true.) That Pac-12 isn’t terrible, and Clemson’s attack isn’t terrible.

These insights and more, including the country’s biggest surprises and disappointments, are the biggest takeaways from the first month of the 2022 season.

We were right about the first three

Alabama, Georgia and Ohio. Georgia, Alabama and Ohio. Ohio, Georgia and Alabama? No matter how you rank them, September confirmed what we all knew in preseason: FBS has three outstanding and potentially unbeatable teams: the #1 Bulldogs, #2 Crimson Tide, and #3 Buckeyes.

At this point in the regular season, no one else is in the same conversation.

Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh (6) scores a touchdown against Oregon in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh (6) scores a touchdown against Oregon in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

A year after winning the Big Ten, No. 4 Michigan played at a high level against superior non-conference opponents, but had to strike out a victory over Maryland in the conference opener. (In Michigan’s defense, the Terrapins are on the brink of the top 25.) Clemson #5 crime woke up against Wake Forestso now all eyes are on the struggling Tigers defense.

Although there are several early success stories top of the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll – A striking example is the 6th place in Southern California. Along with the Wolverines and Tigers, no team can smell this top three. A month from now, it seems clear that the national championship will go through one of the Bulldogs, Tide and Buckeyes.

CALM: Alabama and Clemson top most overreactions in week four

REPEAT RANK: Clemson leads the ranks and Oklahoma leads the acrobatic tournament this week by 1-131.

INDEX OF SUFFERING: Miami still mediocre despite huge investment in Cristobal

UPS AND DOWNS: Week 4 winners and losers led by Clemson, Tennessee

SEC continues to dominate

The SEC is ranked #1 and #2 in the Coaches Poll. Also No. 8 (Kentucky) and No. 9 (Tennessee). Plus No. 11 (Mississippi). And No. 17 (Texas A&M) and No. 19 (Arkansas). This is again the best conference in FBS and once again the only league guaranteed to have at least two teams in the college football playoffs in the middle of the regular season. The conference ended 37-5 in a non-conference game with four losses against teams currently in the top 25.

Pac-12 is good?

If it’s not as surprising as what’s going on in Kansas, the Pac-12 lived up to expectations as several teams moved up in the coaches’ poll. Earlier this month, that seemed unlikely after two closely watched failures against the SEC — Oregon lost to Georgia and Utah lost to Florida — made a stark statement about where the Pac-12 ranks among the Power Five leagues.

Since then, however, both the No. 13 Utes and the No. 15 Ducks have won three in a row, as evidenced by Oregon’s victory over No. 20 Brigham Young. The 18th Washington hit the ground running under new coach Culen DeBoer. And Southern California No. 6 got off to a quick start behind Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams, most recently with a tough win against a very good Oregon State team.

If Pac-12 can’t match the best of the SEC, it looks to be a lot deeper than it was originally supposed to be in the preseason.

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams (13) plays football against Stanford in the first quarter at Stanford Stadium.
Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams (13) plays football against Stanford in the first quarter at Stanford Stadium.

The training cycle is already in full swing

Three Power Five vacancies are already open, and about a dozen are expected to appear in the next few months.

Nebraska at last turned off Scott Frost after starting 1-2, graciously ending a tenure that had far outlived its expiration date. Arizona Herm Edwards experiment ended after a disgraceful loss at home to Eastern Michigan. Monday Georgia Institute of Technology left coach Jeff Collins with the Yellow Vests went another year to the bottom of the ACC.

All three schools put themselves at an advantage by going ahead of the coaching cycle. It is also unlikely that the three search terms for coaching will overlap in terms of which candidates will be considered. Nebraska, in particular, has a chance to establish a market by paying big bucks for either a current Power Five head coach or someone with recent Power Five experience.

Who is the next coach to be fired?

Auburn’s Brian Harsin could buy some time with Stunning overtime victory over Missouri on Saturday. He is still the most likely Power Five coach to receive a regular season notice of dismissal. Others under fire include Carl Dorrell of Colorado, Neil Brown of West Virginia and Scott Satterfield of Louisville.

Kansas… good?

Not one step above embarrassment. Not just “better than they were”, although that’s technically true. Not just average. Kansas is good. Maybe even a little better than good. The Jayhawks put up a shocking 4-0 record and battle for a top 25 spot in Coach Lance Leipold’s second season, overcoming more than a decade of futility and a well-deserved reputation as the worst program in the Power Five.

Two things make this leap remarkable. First, how bad Kansas has been since 2010, when the program canceled a great job under former coach Mark Mangino with a string of bad hires. Second, Leipold didn’t even come to campus last year until former coach Les Miles was fired in March, leaving him far behind. Jayhawks’ incredible improvement put the program back on the map and greatly increased Leipold’s national profile.

Clemson’s Attack Improves

The breakthrough finally came, and with a bang, Clemson scored over 500 yards on offense last Saturday in a win over the No. 21 Deacons’ Demons. show your growth as a second year player.

If Dabo Sweeney is no longer a concern, the Tigers are still missing a receiver to help take Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence’s attacks to even greater heights. In other words: Clemson’s offense is better, but it’s still a work in progress.

First-year coaches go to starts at random

Twenty-nine new head coaches fill the FBS, not counting interims at Nebraska, Arizona, and Georgia Tech. Some were successful immediately, including Riley, DeBoer, and Sonny Dykes of TCU. However, it was a mixed bag for some high-profile employees, including:

  • Notre Dame’s Marcus Freeman lost his first two games of the year – and three in a row to start overall, counting last year’s Fiesta Bowl – before leading the Irish to victories over California and North Carolina.

  • Former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly leads LSU 3-1 after losing a horribly ugly debut in Florida State to win over Southern State, Mississippi State and New Mexico.

  • Miami-based coach Mario Cristobal’s popularity has plummeted in recent weeks as the Hurricanes dropped to No. 17 in Texas A&M and Middle Tennessee State twice in a row.

  • Former Southern California coach Clay Helton starts 3-1 in Georgia South, which was selected to finish in the bottom of the Sun Belt but already had a good upset against Nebraska.

  • No. 16 Oklahoma’s Brent Venables lost his first game last Saturday to Kansas State, revealing potential offensive problems and a holey defense.

  • And longtime Texas high school coach Joey McGuire made a huge impact in his freshman year at Texas Tech, most recently leading the Red Raiders to a 3-1 overtime win over Texas.

Overall, these freshmen are 60-58, with four teams in the top 25.

Transient offenses continue to reign

Within one month, fouls average 243.6 passing yards per game and 7.7 yards per attempt on 62.5% of shots. If these numbers hold up, all three averages would represent new single-season FBS records. Even though these numbers are somewhat inflated due to out-of-conference play, they are still ahead of the pace set during the same period last season when new estimates for completion percentage and yards per try were set.

Even the usually conservative Georgia is getting involved. The Bulldogs opened up a relationship with Stetson Bennett, making the elder the centerpiece of an offense that focuses more on passing. Overall, teams in the top 25 have thrown 248 touchdowns this week against just 39 interceptions.

The biggest surprises and disappointments

We have already mentioned Kansas. A few more pleasant surprises:

  • James Madison won his first three games as a member of the FBS, the last of which upset the Sun Belt favorite in Appalachia State 32-28.

  • After going 0-4 to open last season, No. 21 Florida State is 4-0 under coach Mike Norvell and locking out to finally return to bowl right.

  • Minnesota No. 23 is the only unbeaten in the West’s Big Ten and a contender for the New Year’s Six after beating Michigan State 34-7.

  • One of the worst Power Five teams in consecutive years, Arizona found new life under sophomore coach Jedd Fish. At 2-2 with good wins over San Diego State and a juggernaut from the championship division of North Dakota State, the Wildcats could take the lead in bowling…


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