I'm worried about Georgia. OK, so maybe worried is a bit strong. I'm better off saying I'm suspicious of Georgia or perhaps skeptical.
The last team to win three straight national championships was Minnesota all the way back from 1934-36, and we come up with the oddest reasons to explain why it's been nearly a century since it's happened.
Complacency and hunger are the two words bandied about the most often. As if winning a national title is like riding a roller coaster at Six Flags. No matter how exciting or fun the coaster is, you're probably not going to ride it three consecutive times. The appeal fades. However, this principle conveniently ignores a few things when it comes to winning a national title.
The biggest is that teams change, and rosters turn over. The team that won the national title in 2021 is a lot different than the roster comprising the 2023 Georgia Bulldogs. Is Carson Beck tired of winning national titles? I doubt it. No, I'm starting to suspect that a team hasn't won three straight nattys in nearly a century because winning one is extremely hard to do. Two straight, even more so. Three just might be damn near impossible.
I was willing to entertain the complacency idea a bit longer, though, when it came to these Dawgs. This team had been so dominant over the last two seasons that the sluggish start to 2023 seemed entirely out of character. I told myself that if there was a game in which Georgia would come out with its foot fully on the accelerator, it would've been Saturday's Auburn game.
A road game against a fierce rival? Surely, there's no complacency in this spot! The hunger must be there! But then the game started, and Georgia found itself down 10-0 after the first quarter. The score was knotted 10-10 at halftime despite Auburn having passed for a grand total of 28 yards.
The second half wasn't much better, though Georgia would win 27-20 thanks to the brilliant innovation of getting the ball to its best player, Brock Bowers. Still, I'm no longer buying the complacency angle. No, I'm starting to wonder if Georgia just isn't as good this year as it has been the last few years. Kirby Smart certainly sounds like a coach wondering the same thing to himself.
"I don't know how good a team we've got. I really don't," Smart following the Auburn game. "I don't sit here and proclaim that we've got some unbelievable team. But I do think our team believes in each other. We connect. We step up when we need to step up."
The statistics support the idea that this team isn't unbelievable as well, or at least that the rest of the country is catching up.
|Stat||2021 (Rank)||2022 (Rank)||2023 (Rank)|
Points per Drive
Off. Success Rate
Explosive Play Rate
Off. EPA per Snap
Points Allowed per Drive
Def. Success Rate
Expl. Play Rate Allowed
Def. EPA per Snap
We've seen a run of elite programs in college football over the last decade that perhaps we've begun to take elite for granted. The 2023 Bulldogs are being held to a standard few teams in history have ever been capable of meeting.
Maybe it's time we look at No. 1 Georgia in a different light. Sure, there's still plenty of time left in the season for the "a-ha!" moment that leads to the Dawgs flipping the switch and going on a rampage, but I don't think that's who this team is right now. Which isn't to say the Dawgs can't win that third straight title.
They can, and they might.
But the Georgia team that won its regular season SEC games by an average of 28.7 points per game over the last two years has beaten South Carolina and Auburn (who are a combined 5-5) by 17 points total in 2023. This isn't an elite team; it's simply a very good one. Maybe this year, that'll prove to be enough.
Same Old Story of the Week
While Georgia seems to be changing, at least one thing remains the same. Lincoln Riley has an incredible quarterback and a practically unstoppable offense, but it feels like his defense will eventually ruin it.
A week after Oregon smothered Colorado with a pillow, beating it 42-6, it looked as if USC might follow suit. Instead, after building a big lead, the Trojans let Colorado creep back into the game and had to hold on for a 48-41 win. Now, Colorado deserves some credit here. Shedeur Sanders threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns, and an offense that had run the ball so ineffectively this season that it seemingly abandoned it altogether figured out a way to rush for 193 yards against the Trojans.
I'd give Colorado a lot more credit for this if USC hadn't allowed Stanford to run for 209 yards against it or San Jose State to rush for 198. On the one hand, you can argue that USC allows teams to run the ball against it because it's hard to keep pace with the Trojans' offense by handing the ball off. On the other hand, USC still can't tackle (its 15.6% missed tackle rate ranks 102nd nationally) or stop giving up big plays (77th in explosive play rate at 12.26%), which is a shame because this team has genuinely improved on a down-to-down basis. Its defensive success rate of 61% ranks 52nd nationally. That's far from elite, but it's a massive step forward when you consider the Trojans ranked 126th (53%) in 2022 and 109th (54.6%) in 2021.
But the bad parts are still so bad, and the offenses the Trojans will have to get through to win the Pac-12 are still so good that you can't help but believe it will all end the same way it always does. In a 55-52 shootout loss, we'll all enjoy watching, but will ultimately result in Lincoln Riley only getting angrier when people ask him about his team's defense.
Catch of the Week
We're becoming somewhat immune to one-handed catches in football since we see so many of them every week, but Bowling Green's Finn Hogan took things to another level with this one. This touchdown catch helped Bowling Green pull off a stunning 38-27 upset of Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
One-Man Wrecking Crew of the Week
Kentucky is the third school Ray Davis has played for in his college career. He began at Temple in 2019 when he was still going by Re'Mahn Davis before transferring to Vanderbilt, where he rushed for 129 yards for the Commodores in a 24-21 win against Kentucky last year. Still, while he had some success at both places, he never accomplished anything close to what he did with the Wildcats on Saturday.
Davis ran over, around, and through the Gator defense, finishing with 280 yards and three touchdowns in UK's 33-14 victory vs. Florida. It's the third-highest single-game rushing total in Kentucky history.
Whoopsy Daisy Rate Update of the Week
2. Drew Allar
4. Bo Nix
6. Shedeur Sanders
7. Sam Hartman
8. Brady Cook
8. Braydon Fowler-Nicolosi
9. Quinn Ewers
9. Grant Wilson
10. Austin Reed
10. K.J. Jefferson
If you still aren't hip to the hottest new advanced analytic in the college football streets, Whoopsy Daisy Rate takes the combined interceptions thrown and fumbles by a quarterback and divides them by snaps played. West Virginia's Garrett Greene is the only qualified QB in the country without a Whoopsy Daisy this season, while FAU's Casey Thompson and Virginia's Anthony Colandrea remain on the other end of the spectrum for at least one more week before no longer being eligible. Will anybody catch Ball State's Kadin Semonza? That's a commanding lead he has.
The Other Catch of the Week
No. 2 Michigan continues to dominate games. Plenty of people point to the schedule the Wolverines have played, but I'm past that. First of all, the Bowling Green team Michigan beat just beat Georgia Tech. Also, the UNLV squad the Wolverines dominated looks to be one of the better teams in the Mountain West. Not to mention, it's high time we all sat down and discussed the fact that Rutgers might be pretty OK itself.
Either way, we need to spend less time worrying about who teams have played and more time considering how they've played. Here are a couple ridiculous stats to contemplate about this Michigan squad.
First, the Michigan defense is yet to take a snap inside its 10-yard line this year. That's right. None of its opponents has been in a 1st-and-goal situation.
Second, Michigan has been ahead by 14 points or more for 62.17%% of its snaps played this year. That ranks third nationally, behind Washington (64.23%) and USC (62.65). Oh, and Rutgers ranks 26th nationally at 37.32%, just ahead of Notre Dame, Ohio State and Clemson. Seriously, you guys, Rutgers might be good this year. I know, I'm scared too.
Ice Cold Seat of the Week
West Virginia plays Houston this weekend, but the game will have a much different atmosphere than most anticipated. My co-hosts and I took to calling the game "The Buyout Bowl" during the offseason because we figured West Virginia's Neal Brown and Houston's Dana Holgorsen would both enter the game on hot seats with the loser in serious jeopardy of getting canned afterward.
Well, Holgorsen might be, but Brown is sitting pretty at the moment. The Mountaineers beat TCU 24-21 on Saturday night to improve to 4-1. They sit alongside Texas and Oklahoma as the only 2-0 teams in Big 12 play, and when you look at the rest of the schedule, Oklahoma is the only game left where you wouldn't expect the 'Eers to have a legit shot of winning. Texas isn't on the schedule, nor is Kansas State or Kansas. West Virginia is 4-1 this season despite never being the first team to score in any of its games. FBS teams as a whole have a winning percentage of .361 when allowing their opponent to score first this season.
There is a much higher likelihood West Virginia will reach the Big 12 Championship Game than you realize.
Hand Signal of the Week
I'm going to move on quickly before I get myself in trouble with this one.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
Until the next Monday After!