1. Top 10 defenses not in the top 10
At the end of 2016, some of the best teams in the league had top-ranked defenses, but at this point in the season, none of the teams in the top 10 of the AP Poll have a top 10 total defense. Perennial powerhouses among the top of the rankings like Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State (which all finished last season with top-ranked defenses) are now on the outside looking in, at least statistically. But watching a game with any of these teams in it would make you think otherwise. As teams start to get into their gritty in-conference schedules, it’ll be interesting to see if these are statistically anomalies or forecasts of the future.
And while there’s a defensive turnaround…
2. The Year of the Quarterback is in full swing
It’s safe to say that everyone knew there was great quarterback talent in college football right now, but just look at how well the top guys are playing right now. Josh Rosen (UCLA), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), Luke Falk (Washington State), Jake Browning (Washington), Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State), and Will Grier (West Virginia) are in either their junior or senior year – and have potential as quarterbacks in the pros. And that’s not even mentioning younger players Sam Darnold (USC), Justin Herbert (Oregon), and Shea Patterson (Ole Miss), who might be among the best in the country.
NFL teams are going to be salivating at their quarterback options in the draft both this year and next year. For the first time since maybe Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III came into the pros in 2012, there could be quarterbacks as the clear-cut best two or three prospects available. And they are all just so much fun to watch!
3. Some big names failing to impress
Enough of the impressive play – how about the prospects who have been failing to impress so far?
JT Barrett might be on the verge of breaking passing records for the Buckeyes, but so far this season he’s been unable to carry Ohio State. That’s partly due to a big loss in a supporting cast, but in Ohio State’s loss to Oklahoma Barrett looked much less dominant than last year.
And Wyoming’s Josh Allen has looked positively dreadful against Power Five conference teams. Scouts are thrilled by his physical talent, but the play hasn’t been there. He’s a little reminiscent of Christian Hackenberg, in that regard.
Other big names like Arden Key (LSU) have missed time to injury, but there’s been a shakeup in terms of the best of the best in each position, even this early in the season.
4. Stanford, Pittsburgh, Texas: shocking two-loss teams
There are plenty of teams that haven’t won a game yet – but for these teams, who were either projected to be “on the rise” or legitimate contenders before the season, things are already looking ugly. Stanford’s offense (outside of running back Bryce Love, who has been dominating) just looks ugly, and the defense hasn’t been able to plug holes like it used to against stiff competition. Pittsburgh has gone up against incredibly tough teams in Oklahoma State and Penn State, but for a lot of those games they hadn’t even looked competitive.
The Texas Longhorns have already dropped two games, and they haven’t even played highly-ranked teams Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and TCU – not to mention the tough challenge that West Virginia and Texas Tech can pose. The margin for error for all of these teams has become slim, and that doesn’t feel like an exaggeration right now.
5. SEC no longer looks like the dominant conference
Pop quiz – besides the Alabama Crimson Tide, name an SEC team that has a good shot at making the playoff. There a couple of “maybe” teams, but not many that are very realistic.
There are good teams in the SEC still, but looking at the rankings it’s pretty easy to see this as an “Alabama or bust” situation for the conference. Meanwhile, Big 12 teams Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are in prime positions, the Big Ten have Penn State and Michigan (and MAYBE Ohio State, but that’s a stretch), and the Pac-12 has Washington and USC as major threats.
That being said, I highly expect the Crimson Tide to make the playoff. But it only takes one flinch to fall, and the climb back up could be impossible.
What has surprised you through the early weeks of the season? Comment below!
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