The majority of the nation has played three games; or a quarter of the regular season and while we can’t etch every teams fate in stone we do have a solid idea of what most teams, conferences and players are heading into the season’s second quarter. We know that Florida is not as invincible as they were at the start of the season. We know that Southern Cal has, yet again, fallen to an unranked Pac 10 team despite beating a more nationally revered program. We know that Michigan is on the way up and we know that guys like Dan Hawkins, Al Groh and Ralph Friedgen appear to be headed for the door.
With those in mind, we can take a look at College Football’s Good, Bad and Ugly at the Quarter Pole of the Season.
First on this list is the Alabama Crimson Tide. They’ve looked every bit as advertised this season, led by the stout play of their defense. Nick Saban’s crew has been rock solid against the run as well as the pass and they’ve lived up to their title as the nation’s best defense. Rolando McClain, with an apology to Brandon Spikes, is the country’s best linebacker, he swallows up run plays, is active against the pass and with Mount Cody in the middle to protect him he is unstoppable.
The biggest plus for the Tide has been Greg McElroy. He’s shown an ability to not only adequately fill in for John Parker Wilson but to exceed all expectations in his reliability. The inexperienced junior ranks 16th in the nation in passing efficiency and has been as reliable as any quarterback in the country and with the Tide riding McElroy they have the ability to be a true national title contender.
In keeping with the theme of efficient quarterback play we go to our next Good and that is Jacory Harris. The quarterback is the symbol for all that is right with the Hurricanes in this young 2009 season. He’s ranked third in the nation in passing efficiency and unlike most quarterbacks his success ratio increases tremendously when he’s throwing the football over thirty yards. Harris has “born leader” written all over his actions and on-field demeanor and he’s the Canes first legitimate quarterback since Ken Dorsey.
The Miami Hurricanes as a whole are a bright spot as they have crept into the top ten by being the only team to defeat two top 20 teams, and look quite impressive in doing so. Randy Shannon, once a coach on the hot seat, has taken a team predicted to have a 1-3 or 0-4 start with 2-2 being a wildly optimistic prediction and has them on the verge of a 3-1 or 4-0 season opening. The coach has resurrected a bit of “Da U” back to Coral Gables and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple is, right now, the toast of the assistant coaching community.
There have been some bad occurrences and performances in the college football world; one that has been widely discussed nationally is Notre Dame’s defense, or lack thereof. A team with a schedule that should have the Irish currently knocking on the door to the top 10-15 finds them unranked and having given up at least 30 points against inexperienced, unproven offenses from both Michigan and Michigan State. Yes the Irish smacked around Nevada 35-0 and yes the Irish schedule features current monuments of offensive ineptitude such as Purdue and Washington State. However, does their showing in their last two games give even the most ardent Irish fan anything more than a smattering of confidence in Jon Tenuta’s personnel?
Speaking of confidence, the The Bottom of the ACC deserves a nod for being awful to begin the season. Virginia has lost every game to open the season, headlined with dropping a game to FCS William & Mary. The good (bad) news is that the Wahoos are not alone in their awfulness; the Duke Blue Devils also dropped an FCS contest to Richmond to open the season. Both team lost home openers to FCS schools but, in my opinion still are battling a 1-3 Maryland team for the official cellar position.
The Terps suffered a blow out loss to the Cal Bears before needing a rally and overtime to beat FCS James Madison and then losing their third game of the season to Middle Tennessee State. The MTSU loss was the Terps second in as many years to the Blue Raiders from Murfreesboro and came at a time when the rest of the ACC decided to wake up and play football.
The ugliest part of this young season is the scheduling debacle that is the first several weeks of the year. Teams feasting on FCS opponents and lower level non-BCS teams to buy home games to increase revenue, pad schedules and boost rankings. While intra-conference games like USC-Ohio State, Virginia Tech-Alabama, Georgia-Okie State have peppered the early schedule the norm has been Florida-Charleston Southern, Ohio State-Toledo and Penn State-Temple.
Speaking of schedules something that could get increasingly ugly as the year progresses is “The Boise State Situation.” The only ranked opponent on the Broncos schedule came in week one as they beat an overrated Oregon squad on opening Thursday. The LeGarret Blount punch was ugly in its own right but the rest of Boise State’s schedule could make for an even uglier situation as the remainder of the schedule will see the Broncos favored in each game, heavily in most contests. This will be something to monitor as teams from BCS conferences and the MWC will play significantly tougher schedules and losses in the top ten might propel the Broncos closer and closer to the elusive national top five.
On a lighter not give a credit to Swine Flu for wreaking havoc on the national college football landscape. Stars of the game including Colt McCoy from Texas, Terrence Cody from Alabama and whole entire teams are facing “flu like symptoms” every week since the start of training camp. While the Arkansas outbreak was mildly comical the truth is each time a player falls ill with swine flu they are hurting a team that has a shot to make something happen. On the flipside, according to Lane Kiffin at least, swine flu has become a boxed excuse for production not being up to snuff. As the season progresses hopefully H1N1 will stop making headlines and teams can get back to full strength.