What was that about Saturday's college football slate looking dull? If there's one thing we know, it's that you should never rely on 18-to-23-year olds. Or, maybe just as importantly, don't be on them, either. Saturday's action was full of wild finishes, from No. 9 Florida's come-from-behind victory to BYU's second overtime thriller in as many weeks. Understandably, there's a lot to digest.
And it's OK to admit it. We are creatures of the moment. And so, overreactions are as just as much a part of the game as touchdowns. So with Saturday's action mostly in the books, let's look at the biggest overreactions from the action and how absurd -- or completely warranted -- they might be.
Trevor Lawrence was overhyped: This is true to a degree, but that's not Lawrence's fault. It's not like he spent an entire offseason telling people he should play in the NFL after just two years in college or that he should sit out for the next two seasons. He had a tremendous freshman season and the end result was a national title win. But coming into 2019, it's easy to forget that he was still about to start just his 12th game. Viewing it another way, by full-time starting experience, he'd still be a freshman. So it's not a major surprise that Lawrence has been uneven through three games. He's thrown more picks (five) than all of last year (four), and yeah, most of them have been of his doing. His two picks in a 41-6 win vs. Syracuse were rough. (Amazingly, Clemson's defense hasn't made the team pay for them.)
However, the big-picture problem isn't necessarily that he's mixing bad throws with his good ones. The problem is he was placed on such a high pedestal that it left no room for growth. Lawrence does some amazing things with the football. He's also 19 years old. He's a tremendous talent and will no doubt earn high praise come draft time. He may even go on to have a great NFL career. But, for now, let him play. Let him make mistakes without overthinking it. Let him become a better player. It's a good practice anyway for the rest of us to enjoy the ride.
Alabama has too many weapons for anyone to keep up: I'd argue LSU has the best chance of any SEC West team to go toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide given how the Tigers performed at Texas. That might have to be the case again on Nov. 9 when they travel to Alabama. Scoring in bunches is how Alabama wins now. If a 47-23 win at South Carolina showed us anything, it's that the. Tua Tagovailoa tossed 444 yards and five touchdowns. Leading wideout Jerry Jeudy was good (six catches for 68 yards) but not the primary target. And Najee Harris did this on an underneath route out of the backfield:
Where do you start in defending against this team? It's not even like keeping everything in front of you is an option as Alabama's yards after catch are insane. The only hope is moving the ball on Alabama yourself, which South Carolina proved is possible. Otherwise, there's too much speed to defend to actually shut this group down. Nick Saban has built this type of offense for a few years now; this particular group just happens to be its most terrifying installment.
Chris Creighton will be a Power Five coach soon: Hard "yes" from me. Creighton might be the most underrated coach in the FBS. Eastern Michigan was nothing when he took over and all he's done in the past three-plus seasons is go 21-20. (Yes, that's impressive.) Among those wins are three against Big Ten opponents: Rutgers (2017), Purdue (2018) and now Illinois. No one is confusing those opponents for world-beaters, but it does show that for a game, Creighton can get his teams to punch above their weight. Surely, some power program can use that.
BYU QB Zach Wilson is must-see TV: If you haven't seen the so-called "Mormon Manziel," do yourself a favor and check out Wilson's next game against No. 23 Washington in Week 4. Wilson came up huge again in BYU's 30-27 overtime win over No. 24 USC, making a big-time throw and then scoring a go-ahead touchdown with his legs in regulation. His pocket presence and ability to extend plays with his feet make him truly one of the most entertaining players in college football at the moment.
Stanford is a shell of its former self: The Cardinal deserve credit for at least making things interesting for a minute during the fourth quarter of a 45-27 loss to No. 17 UCF. That aside, UCF outplayed them thoroughly. That in and of itself isn't all that surprising. Group of Five, Power Five or the Jackson Five, the Knights are good. They have speed all over the field and produce dime-dropping quarterbacks at an alarming rate. Still, it's surreal to see Stanford get blown off the ball and throttled on defense for 545 yards. That used to be a calling card for this program not that long ago. And the once-strong running game is average at best. That's not to say Stanford must win through defense and a ground-and-pound offense. Teams change with their strengths, but right now Stanford doesn't have many of those. This is looking like a "coach 'em up" type of season for David Shaw, or make offseason changes. Probably both.
Pat Narduzzi's failed field goal attempt is a fireable offense: Boiling a coach's tenure down to one moment can be myopic, but you're not going to find many people (anyone?) who will defend Narduzzi's decision to kick a 19-yard field goal down 17-10 to No. 13 Penn State with 4:54 remaining in the game. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, the kick missed spectacularly. Afterward, Narduzzi explained the rationale:
Pat Narduzzi on why he opted for a field goal with a fourth and one with five minutes left, down seven— Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG) September 14, 2019
‘Because you need two scores to win the football game.’
He added that he doesn’t question that decision ‘at all’
Technically, Narduzzi is right unless he planned on going for two after a touchdown. But that's almost more annoying because of the cognitive dissonance. Whether you make the field goal or not, what matters is the touchdown. You are more likely to get it one yard out than at any other spot on the field. Narduzzi did not make the more aggressive call; he made the safe call, which was the wrong call, and it failed.
Speaking of which, playing not to lose is a surefire way to lose: Kentucky has to be sick after its Kyle Trask did a great job coming in for an injured Feleipe Franks to lead his team to 19 unanswered points, but Kentucky could have sealed the game plenty of times. It does start with the defense, but the offense had a say, too. After a failed fourth-down attempt early in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats' offense wasn't the same. The next possession was a three-and-out and the drive after that ended in a brutal Sawyer Smith interception. When Kentucky finally needed a score, they played for a field goal, which sailed wide right. Kentucky is a much better program under Mark Stoops, but this was a gut-wrenching way to lose.to No. 9 Florida. The Wildcats had control of that game for three quarters and yaked it up. Yes, Gators quarterback
Iowa State might actually be cursed: Losing on a muffed punt to your biggest in-state rival by a perfectly Iowa score of 18-17 might be the most Cy-Hawk thing to ever happen to the Cyclones. There's not much of a take here except this is as brutal of a way to lose as it is original.
Maryland's offense was a paper tiger: Look, at some point, Maryland's FBS-leading 71 points per game was going to come way down. But, good grief, the Terps' 20-17 loss to Temple wasn't just a regression to the mean -- it regressed right past it. Maryland had plenty of opportunities to put points on the board and came up empty almost every time. Temple had not one, not two, but three goal line stands, plus Maryland turned the ball over on downs a fourth time in the red zone. The Terps also missed a field goal after getting a short field on a safety and were 6 for 27 on third and fourth-down attempts. So, yeah, Maryland came back down to Earth hard.