College football midseason: Ten biggest disappointments of first half
South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, North Carolina, Big Ten quarterbacks and more top our list of college football's biggest disappointments so far.
There's a lot to like about this college football season through the midway point. There's also plenty of room to get better. Below are 10 of the biggest disappointments of the year.
Big Ten quarterbacks: This is a league of trust issues between quarterbacks and head coaches. Devin Gardner makes Brady Hoke want to handoff, punt and kick. Urban Meyer nearly benched Braxton Miller against Northwestern Wildcats . Nebraska Cornhuskers isn’t exactly rushing Taylor Martinez back from turf toe. Who’s carrying the league into this century? The answer: Youth. Penn State Nittany Lions frosh Christian Hackenberg has two games of at least 300 yards and three passing touchdowns. Tommy Armstrong Jr. has has been poised for Nebraska. Michigan Wolverines State’s Connor Cook looked convincing against Indiana Hoosiers , though that’s not a rarity against the Hoosiers.
UNC: On the surface, the Tar Heels had the makings of a solid season, maybe not as a championship contender, but a nine-win team. Second year in Larry Fedora’s offense, emergence of Bryn Renner , good offensive weapons – then it all derailed. Giving up 55 to ECU is head-shaking for any team in the ACC, especially one that many expected to contend with Miami and Virginia Cavaliers Tech in the Coastal Division. To understand UNC’s 1-4 start, look no further than its 114th national ranking in rushing yards and 95th ranking in scoring defense.
USC's 'State of Football': Pat Haden’s a sharp AD who will hit a home run with his USC coaching search. So maybe this shouldn’t bug me, since firing Lane Kiffin is the right move, but this 'State of Football' infomercial from Haden in late July was unnecessary. Why go out of your way to support Kiffin, only to drop him on the Tarmac five games in? Haden pumped up Kiffin all offseason, too. Giving public support of a lame-duck coach is part of the process. There’s only so much honesty an athletic director can give. But Haden praised Kiffin for months and didn't need to.
Accuracy on targeting calls: This year’s new targeting punishment, which ejects players who blatantly take shots above the shoulders, seems to be improving health. But entering last week, officials were getting 75 percent of these calls right based on post-game reviews, according to the NCAA. That needs to improve. It’s becoming difficult to decipher what the officials are seeing and how calls should be made – or not made. This plan can work, but officials can’t drop calls when questionable hits happen at least every 10th game on average.
Texas Longhorns : The Longhorns’ resounding Red River win nearly pushes them off this list, but the curious defensive performances in losses to BYU and Ole Miss Rebels can’t be overlooked. They shouldn’t have happened. The Longhorns D was basically allergic to the read option in the first month. A 3-0 Big 12 start is helping Texas redirect the fire-Mack narrative, at least for now, but will they utilize their talent for a full season?
Jadeveon Clowney : This isn’t just about his two sacks. Playing defensive line entails much more. This isn’t about Spurrier calling out Clowney or his NFL stock or even the Michigan hit that was replayed all offseason. If we’re judging a great player by his body of work in five college games, Clowney’s been good, not great this season. That makes him a disappointment. Yes, he’s had nagging injuries. Yes, he forces defenses to scheme away from him and affects everything around him. But is anybody debating he couldn’t do more to help his team? Great defensive ends can get their teams more than 13 tackles and two sacks through five games of double teams and sore feet. Time to stop making excuses.
The body: Bodies are breaking down everywhere. The Florida Gators - Georgia Bulldogs injury list is star-studded and probably could go 10-2 as a stand-alone team. It includes Todd Gurley , defensive tackle Dominique Easley and quarterback Jeff Driskel , to name a few. James Franklin ’s shoulder could rob Mizzou of a magical season. Cal lost seven defensive starters in the first month of the season. Texas’ David Ash . Oregon Ducks ’s De’Anthony Thomas. Martinez. List goes on.
Virginia: Why doesn’t Virginia make a jump? Shouldn’t Virginia be a decent team? The Cavs have recruited pretty well in the north. The ACC schedule isn’t crippling. But Virginia has been stagnate under Mike London, who’s 18-25 in his fourth season. Virginia has lost three straight and hasn’t touched the tough stretch of the ACC schedule yet. Virginia is 12th in the ACC in scoring defense, failing to capitalize on an season-opening win over BYU.
Texas A&M, Georgia defenses: The Aggies and Bulldogs lost several key defensive players from a year ago, but despite the youth it’s hard to escape national rankings of 96th and 105th in scoring defense, respectively. Georgia is struggling particularly on third down, allowing conversions 43.68 percent of the time. A&M is giving up nearly 500 yards per game. Both teams have championship-level offenses but are held back at times by their D.
West Virginia Mountaineers ’s offense: A reasonable offensive dropoff was expected after losing Geno Smith , Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. But who thought Dana Holgorsen’s offense would look average, sometimes confused? The Paul Millard - Clint Trickett - Ford Childress combo is averaging 245 passing yards a game along with seven interceptions. No quarterback has thrown more than 80 passes. The Mountaineers don’t have a receiver on pace for more than 700 yards.
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