So we made a hubbub of not being able to contain ourselves until the start of the college football season last month, and now you’re telling me that a third of the season is already over? In the words of Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, “You gotta be bleeping me!”
But there’s no time to lament, as the start of the month of October takes us right into the meat of conference play, where even more separation between the College Football Playoff haves and have nots should take place. (Though don’t tell that to Auburn, who have already been exposed as a Playoff fraud after a Top 10 preseason ranking after just three weeks.) Also, the beginning of the new month lets us take a look back at some of the great performances in college football in the month of September. But with a little twist…
It would be easy to talk about the Leonard Fournettes, Jim Harbaughs and the UCLAs of the world and what great jobs they have done, but you’ve already seen and heard their exploits to the point of nausea. Well, let me amend that: there’s no way, outside of being a fan of War Eagle, you could get tired of seeing Fournette’s man-among-boys rushing performance against Auburn.
Here are A Lot of Sports Talk‘s “Best of the ‘Best of the Rest'” Awards of the month of September.
“Best of the ‘Best of the Rest'” Team of the Month: University of Toledo: The Rockets’ season was supposed to begin on a Thursday against FCS member Stony Brook, getting their feet and a full competitive game in before having to go on the road to supposedly take their medicine against a big, bad member of the Southeastern Conference nine days later. Mother Nature wreaked havoc on the schedule, though, with heavy rain and constant lightning in Northwest Ohio forcing the cancellation of the Stony Brook game. So, without that game under their belts, they went to Little Rock to face the 18th-ranked Razorbacks, a preseason sleeper to win the SEC Western Division.
Once again, things didn’t go according to the script: the University of Toledo was paid $1 million by Arkansas, compensation for making its football team look good while giving the appearance of a philanthrope to higher education in the Buckeye State. Toledo not only gladly accepted the Razorbacks’ largesse, they gave Arkansas something in return: a big fat “L.”
The Rockets held Bret Bielema’s squad to just 12 points, pulling off the upset of Week 2. For good measure, they defeated another Power Five Conference team the week after in an overtime affair against Iowa State at home in the Glass Bowl. Last week, they trounced Arkansas State by 30, a team that only lost to a ranked Missouri team by seven earlier in the month. In three games so far, the Rockets’ defense has only allowed 42 total points, and, in a league like the MAC, where high-scoring games are the norm, that stop unit might give them the edge to win the whole conference. Oh, and if you’re wondering which non Power Five team will make the New Years’ Six if Boise State and BYU aren’t able to step up to the plate, they might be it.
“Best of the ‘Best of the Rest'” Player of the Month: Jordan Howard, Indiana: What would be the prospects of a team that went 4-8 last season and lost their All-American player early to the NFL Draft afterward going into the following year? Continued irrelevance, you say? In most cases, that would be correct, but Jordan Howard is trying to singlehandedly prove that that projection is really folly.
Even playing on a team that has recorded only one winning season in the past two decades, most college football fans knew about junior running back Tevin Coleman in 2014. The Doak Walker Award finalist rushed for 2,036 yards, including 307 in a game against Rutgers that launched him into the national spotlight. That game also launched him squarely into the radar of NFL Draft scouts, and, by the time 2014 ended, Coleman announced he was foregoing his senior season. (He was taken in the third round by the Atlanta Falcons.)
In steps Jordan Howard, one of the former UAB players who found refuge after the school had initially made the decision to disband the football program after the 2014 season. He already proved himself at the FBS level, finishing 10th last year in rushing after a 1,587-yard season that included 13 touchdowns. Now he’ll the headache of Big Ten defenses, as the Hoosiers have ridden Howard, currently the nation’s leading rusher, to its first 4-0 start in a quarter century. The season opener saw him run for three touchdowns in a one-point win over Southern Illinois, and, two games later, he exploded for 203 yards in a win against one of the better non-Power Five teams in the country, Western Kentucky. Last week saw him scythe Wake Forest’s defense to the tune of 168 yards in Winston-Salem.
If you haven’t heard of him by now, that could very change by next week: the 4-0 Hoosiers host top-ranked Ohio State in Bloomington this weekend.
“Best of the ‘Best of the Rest'” Upset of the Month: James Madison over SMU: OK, so an FCS team defeating an FBS team that went 1-11 in 2014 shouldn’t be that much of a shocker. But here’s why it was an under-the-radar stunner.
SMU, now coached by former Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, played relatively well in its first three games despite going 1-2. The losses came to national championship hopefuls Baylor and TCU, with the Mustangs only trailing the Bears by seven at halftime and only trailing the Horned Frogs on the road by five midway through the fourth quarter before a couple of late TCU touchdowns created the misleading final score (56-37). Marked improvement was immediately evident, especially in the TCU game, and a matchup with FCS member James Madison the week after should have provided another opportunity to feel good about the direction of the program in Year One.
Final score: James Madison 48, SMU 45. Oops. Also, this game could have segued into a “Best of the ‘Best of the Rest'” Game of the Month segment, as former Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee churned out 565 total yards of offense for JMU, including an astounding 276 rushing yards on only 20 attempts.
We can’t wait until what October will bring, and if you miss something that goes under the radar, we’ll be sure to catch it for you when we recap the Best of the Best of the Rest of October.
We guarantee you that our pollsters on the A Lot of Sports Talk 2015 College Football Poll are the best of the best at what they do. As always, here are the seven people who combine to bring you our insightful aggregate poll: T.J. Basalla (super fan, marketing professional based in Ohio), Evie Van Pelt (managing editor at The Rebel Walk Magazine), Basil Mitchell (former TCU and Green Bay Packers RB), Sandy Weintraub (super fan, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards at the University of Oregon), Nick Mancuso (patent attorney who attended USC as an undergrad and Oregon for law school), Adesina Koiki (Football Writers Association of America member/voter, A Lot Of Sports Talk editor-in-chief) and an anonymous football staff member at a Division II school who once coached at the FBS level.
Here is ALOST‘s 2015 College Football Top 25 for Week 3. If you have any comments and/or complaints, write them below on the Facebook window or email us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you.
The Buckeyes visit Bloomington for a huge conference game against Indiana this Saturday. Surprisingly enough, I say that and I’m not even referring to college basketball season. (Adesina Koiki)
Not only has Connor Cook capably filled the shoes of current NFL starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, he now is tied with Cousins for the school record in victories (27). Cook should set the new mark tomorrow against Purdue. (Adesina)
After that ending in Lubbock last week, all I have to say is, “Holy Horned Frog!” (Adesina)
The Rebels’ last away game was one where they proved that they’re national title contenders again. In their upcoming road game (Florida), they’re looking to prove that they can handle prosperity in a game they’re favored to win. Lots of times, the latter is harder to execute than the former. (Adesina)
The over/under for the Bears’ game vs. Texas Tech in Arlington on Saturday is currently set at 90.5. Raise your hand if you’re taking the under. I’m not. (Adesina)
Starting a freshman quarterback is usually a huge risk. However, that is a lot easier when your freshman QB has the poise of Josh Rosen and is aided by a great running attack. UCLA looked outstanding in a hostile road environment in Tucson. (T.J. Basalla)
Nick Chubb has been somewhat on the fringes of the Heisman Trophy discussion, but that will change immediately with a huge performance against the Crimson Tide. (Adesina)
Leonard Fournette leads the FBS with 210.3 rushing yards per game. Eastern Michigan, LSU’s next opponent, is last in the FBS in rushing defense, allowing 373.3 yards per game. Can someone say, “Uh oh?!” (T.J.)
Could you ask for a better weekend if you’re a Ute fan? You utterly destroy Oregon in Eugene while your rival gets run out of Ann Arbor. Not bad. (T.J.)
The last Notre Dame teams to start back-to-back seasons at 5-0? Back in 1988 and 1989. A win tomorrow would rewrite that history… (Adesina)
…and here’s the team tasked to prevent Notre Dame from achieving that feat. Clemson is also coming in to Saturday night trying to extend an 11-game home winning streak at Death Valley. (Adesina)
In FSU’s three-game winning streak vs. Wake Forest, they have outscored the Demon Deacons 154-6. Should be more of the same domination over the weekend. (Adesina)
The Sooners’ passing offense has looked great, but it might have come at the expense of running back Samaje Perine. Though he rushed for 152 yards two weeks ago vs. Tulsa, he only gained 33 against Akron in the season opener and 78 the following weekend in the overtime win in Knoxville. (Adesina)
Jake Coker has another chance to prove he can win a big game for Alabama, but it’s on the road against Georgia, a team they haven’t met in the regular season since 2008. (Adesina)
Do you remember the last time the Aggies started back-to-back seasons 5-0? Probably not, since that happened last in 1940 and 1941. But that would change with a win at home vs. Mississippi State. Oh, and if you can remember the last time A&M pulled that off, we’re glad we have viewers of our site in the golden years of their lives!! (Adesina)
If defense does indeed win championships, then the Wildcats allowing only 8.8 points per game so far this season – third in the FBS – could definitely lead to a Big Ten West championship. (Adesina)
Defense still very suspect, but Adoree’ Jackson proved he should be in on offense much, MUCH more. (Nick Mancuso)
Are they now the favorites in the Pac-12 North? (Nick)
OK State is looking for its first 5-0 start since that magical season of 2011, where they were a missed field goal against Iowa State away from possibly competing for a national championship . (Adesina)
How good is West Virginia’s defense? Well, they do lead the FBS in points allowed (7.7) and turnover margin (plus-9). Then again, they haven’t faced an offense the caliber of Oklahoma, something they’ll do in Norman on Saturday. (Adesina)
Bears likely will be 5-0 before they go through murderers’ row of Utah (road)-UCLA (road)-USC (home)-Oregon (road). Yikes! (Nick)
I had the pleasure of watching Michigan demolish BYU in person. Michigan’s offensive line opened tons of holes for its array of running backs. Jake Rudock did a solid job. And the defense? Hoo boy. If Harbaugh’s defense continues to play at that level, they can beat any team in America this season. And yes, that includes Michigan State and Ohio State. (T.J.)
Florida needed a late defensive stand to survive East Carolina, bad QB play to survive Kentucky and a complete coaching meltdown to beat Tennessee. They’re living right so far this season. (T.J.)
The Badgers’ rushing attack goes up against one of the two FBS schools that hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown this season, the Iowa Hawkeyes. If you’re wondering about the other FBS team, it’s Navy. (Adesina)
One of the biggest games in school history turned out to be a total dud as UCLA rolled the Wildcats from the start. If they’re not ready to play on The Farm this weekend, Stanford might inflict the same amount of punishment. (Adesina)
Others receiving votes:
Temple (8 points), Toledo (8), Miami (8), Mississippi State (7), Houston (7), Memphis (6), Arizona State (5), Minnesota (2), Oregon (1)
* – To break ties, we used a three-step criteria; 1) higher number of first-place votes, 2) higher number of ballots (out of six) the teams appeared in, 3) highest single ranking by an individual pollster (e.g. if Team A and Team B are tied cumulatively and appeared in all six polls, but Team A’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 7 and Team B’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 9, Team A wins tiebreaker)
[Cover photo (Vad Lee) courtesy of G Fiume/Getty Images]