Seven biggest disappointments from the first half of the college football season
While Mother Nature has wreaked havoc, some teams have been just plain bad so far this season
We're halfway through the college football season and some, but that's not what I'm here for. As is the same with Newton's Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Every surprise necessitates a disappointment. Every breakthrough player has his underperforming counterpart. These are the stories through the first half of the 2017 that have left us dissatisfied.
1. Florida State: The team that was a consensus pick to reach the playoffs in the preseason and a trendy national champion pick is sitting at 2-3 and hasn't been more than one touchdown better than anybody they've played to date. Sometimes it's just not your year. The injury bug bites you. The ball bounces the wrong way. The off-field troubles hit. But that's not the case with Florida State. As devastating as starting quarterback Deondre Francois' injury seemed at the time, James Blackman has played well enough to win and there haven't been significant injuries or roster attrition to think otherwise. The roster is full and the pieces are in place. Florida State just hasn't lived up to the expectations.
2. The Year of the Quarterback: Heading into the 2017 season, the No. 1 NFL Draft pick seemed to be already penciled in as either Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Josh Allen, the Heisman Trophy winner was back in Lamar Jackson and we all felt like we were in for a show at the quarterback position. Mason Rudolph, Baker Mayfield, Will Grier and others have provided some fireworks but the 'Year of the Quarterback' has generally underperformed. Darnold has 14 turnovers to only 15 touchdowns. Rosen has been brilliant at times, but has seven interceptions in three losses. Allen has put up dud performances in his only Power Five showcases. Jackson has been overshadowed by a mediocre team. At the season's midpoint, only Mayfield looks poised for a legitimate Heisman run. It's a deep year at the position, but the spectacle has failed to materialize.
3. Derrius Guice vs. Saquon Barkley: Back in August there were only five names with better odds to win the Heisman Trophy than Derrius Guice. Among them, Saquon Barkley was the only non-quarterback. It was a two-man throne atop college football's running back kingdom and it belonged to Guice and Barkley. Non-SEC fans may not remember that Guice, in only six starts last fall, led the SEC in rushing with 1,387 yards, set the LSU single-game rushing mark with 285 yards against Texas A&M, also rushed for 252 yards against Arkansas and set the LSU record for longest run with 96 yards. He was electric, but injuries have slowed the junior this fall and he has gone four straight games without topping 100 yards. Barkley has done his part and has emerged as the Heisman front-runner but it sure would be fun to see Guice matching him yard for yard. At least we've got Bryce Love.
4. Michigan's quarterback development: Jim Harbaugh has had excellent quarterback play at every stop of his college coaching career dating all the way back to Josh Johnson at the University of San Diego. From Johnson to Andrew Luck to Collin Kaepernick to Jake Rudock, the former NFL quarterback was batting nearly 1.000 at developing and recruiting the position. So last year, when Wilton Speight won the starting job and looked mediocre, it was easy to overlook. This year, Harbaugh trotted Speight out again and he's looked like the same guy that limited the Michigan offense in 2016, throwing for 581 yards in four games. When he went down to injury, senior backup John O'Korn didn't looked much better. With a talented but young roster, anything we get this year out of Michigan is a bonus, but as dominant as Don Brown's defense has been, a little improvement at quarterback would go a long way.
5. UCLA's defense: Watch UCLA this fall and you'd think you were watching a program with a systemic cultural repulsion to playing good defense. Think Texas Tech, Cal or Oregon -- spread teams that have a hard time instilling a physical mindset while practicing against pass-happy spread teams during the week. The Bruins are 123rd out of 130 in yards per play allowed defensively and 129th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game. This a program with a pro-style scheme behind offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, a defensive-minded coach in Jim Mora Jr. and with a proud recent tradition. Just last year, UCLA was 15th in yards per play defensively. The last time it finished outside the top 40 in that category was 2012. Given Josh Rosen's proficiency on an offense averaging nearly 40 points per game, UCLA is a decent defense away from undefeated. Instead it sits at 3-3.
6. BYU: During the summer, Las Vegas released win total over/unders for every FBS team and tagged BYU with a respectable 8.5. That number was more than the likes of Notre Dame (7.5), TCU (7.5), and NC State (7.5). If you took that BYU under, you've been feeling good since around week 2. Since 2006 (Bronco Mendenhall's second year at BYU), the Cougars averaged 9.2 wins per season with 7-6 being its worst effort in 2010. In Kilani Sitaki's second year as coach, BYU is 1-6, without a win over an FBS program and 129th in the country in total offense. The bottom has dropped off and while the schedule the rest of the way is much easier, BYU looks like a totally different team than we're used to seeing in Provo.
7. Weather: It started in Week 1 when three lightning delays necessitated almost six hours to complete Navy's 42-19 blowout win over Florida Atlantic. Lane Kiffin milked every second out of those six hours, but others haven't been as welcoming. UCF and Cincinnati called their game in the third quarter of a 51-23 blowout that had been suspended because of weather. Kansas State and TCU endured a 3-hour weather delay last weekend while Western Michigan and Akron had to move their game to Sunday because of field flooding. Hurricanes in Florida and Texas threw lives into upheaval, displaced coaches and families and forced cancellations of some otherwise compelling games like UCF-Georgia Tech, Houston-UTSA and the rescheduling of Miami-Florida State. For everyone's sake, let's hope for a more subdued Mother Nature in the second half of the season.
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