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September was all us college football fans could have asked for, and then some. We saw a ton of FCS schools upsetting FBS teams, and even some usual superpowers fall. We’ve even had some surprise candidates rise up the ranks, and some “not so” surprise teams fall flat.
With this piece, I’ll review some of my preseason predictions that were right on the money. Also, we’ll visit some general headlines and highlight some elite performers. Let’s get right into it:
Fresno State Bulldogs Rise Every Decade
It seems that roughly once every 10 years, Fresno State has a resurgent climb up the AP top 25 rankings. This time however, it wasn’t behind the arm of a Carr brother at quarterback. Derek Carr and Davante Adams led the Bulldogs to as high as #15 in 2013, while David Carr guided the Bulldogs to #8 in 2001.
This installment is led by the ultra successful quarterback Jake Haener, and his favorite weapon and FBS leader in receiving TDs, Jalen Cropper. The Bulldogs are currently at #18, and if it wasn’t for letting Oregon off the hook in week two, they could potentially be inside the top five. No reason they don’t run the table the rest of the way with a conference only schedule, and possibly find their way into the top 10.
Oregon Ducks Preserving PAC-12
The PAC-12 has been left out of the College Football Playoffs since 2016, but Oregon may be on the fast track to return. Their huge week two win over Ohio State has lifted them to #3 in the latest rankings, trailing only Alabama and Georgia. Their offense has sputtered at times but their run game is solid.
Head coach Mario Cristobal has the Ducks flying around on defense, setting the tone for this squad. Oregon only has conference games remaining, but should be heavily favored in each contest. Oregon State looks to be on the rise, but I would say their toughest test will be in the Rose Bowl against UCLA on October 23rd.
Clemson Tigers Struggling
Could it be? The unstoppable force of the ACC seems to finally have slowed down. With Trevor Lawrence off to the NFL, along with four other players drafted on the offensive side of the ball, that unit looks historically stagnant for Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Tony Elliot. Also, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei looks completely uncomfortable in the scheme that has worked for seemingly every one of his predecessors at Clemson.
The defensive side of the ball has held up their end of the deal, absorbing shot after shot. They’ve only given up more than 10 points one time so far in regulation, and that was the 14 given up to NC State in their second loss of the season this past weekend. Presumed All-American defensive lineman Bryan Bresee did suffer a season ending injury against NC State, but this unit should still play incredible football in trying to keep Clemson from falling out of the rankings completely.
Iowa State Indeed A Pretender
In my preseason piece where I highlighted trends of college football, I looked at who would continue the streak of going from top 10 to unranked. I’ll admit when I’m wrong, and I honestly didn’t see North Carolina’s fall coming. However, of the three teams I picked, Iowa State was indeed my second team tabbed to go from top 10 to unranked, along with Notre Dame who is surviving every week, and Texas A&M who could very well reach the unranked territory.
Their playmakers just aren’t elite outside of running back Breece Hall and tight end Charlie Kolar. The defense hasn’t played up to the level they would have hoped, either. Head coach Matt Campbell thought this was going to a great opportunity for his team starting inside the top 10, but it’s all but turned into a nightmarish start. The rumors of him going to USC may come in hot and heavy as well.
Iowa A Contender
Staying in Iowa, we travel down to Iowa City where we find the highest ranked team in the Big Ten at #5, the Iowa Hawkeyes. Head coach Kirk Ferentz has to love what he sees from his squad, as they came out making a statement in week one with their defense. Their 4-0 start will face a real test against the dangerous passing attack of Maryland, but I like their chances.
The formula for a championship is there, and that is the ground attack and defense show up every game. They always boast NFL level offensive lineman, like center Tyler Linderbaum, along with tight end play to lean on when possessing the ball. They also have elite defenders in the trench, such as my standout pick for Iowa in the preseason, defensive end Zach VanValkenburg.
Sean Tucker Is For Real
One of my sophomore standouts on offense was Syracuse running back Sean Tucker, and he has been electric. Through four games he’s averaging 6.5 yards per carry, totaling 536 yards and seven TDs. His postgame tweets are also fantastic, as he talks about his game and how he’s going to get better every week. Tucker will be playing on Sundays in the near future.
Rattler Looks Rattled
Chants of “we want Caleb” rained down in Norman on Saturday as quarterback Spencer Rattler yet again played subpar to the lofty standard. The fans of course were signaling for highly touted backup, Caleb Williams, to replace their beloved but albeit cocky superstar. Rattler is the first product completely groomed under Lincoln Riley (non-transfer), and after watching his QB1 season when he was in high school at Pinnacle in Arizona, it’s really hard to cheer for the guy.
In this age of NIL where players are now getting paid, I believe it’ll be even harder to bench players, especially one of Rattler’s prestige. I imagine his deals are making him near seven figures. If he continues to make careless mistakes, he should be treated as a pro, being paid as a pro and get benched.
The biggest surprise has to be the Arkansas Razorbacks, and it’s not even close. They weren’t one of my picks to rise from unranked to top 10, but they did just that. Even though they have a tough matchup in Athens against #2 Georgia this weekend, you have to respect their rise.
Wide receiver Treylon Burks has shown why he’s been regarded as a top five wideout in the class. Quarterback KJ Jefferson doesn’t have flashy numbers by any means, but his ability to create with his legs and take care of the ball is undervalued. The Razorback defense is the glue, allowing only 265.2 yards per game for 12th best in the country.
The Wisconsin Badgers who started at #12, and even inside the top 10 on some people’s boards, have been a total bust. Their fourth quarter collapse where they gave up 31 points to Notre Dame, pretty much sums up their entire season. Of those points, two scores came off pick sixes thrown by Badger quarterback Graham Mertz.
Mertz totally fooled everyone on what his capabilities really were. In his first start for the Badgers, he went 20-21 throwing the ball and threw five TDs. In his nine starts since over the past two seasons, Mertz has only thrown five more TDs, which is unacceptable.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard really has to be scratching his head because his unit is doing everything they can. His defense is only allowing 210.3 yards per game, having played Penn State, Eastern Michigan, and of course Notre Dame. If Wisconsin wants to get their season back on track, it can start this Saturday at home against the run-happy #14 Michigan Wolverines.