Home Correction journal Mid-season analysis: Buckeyes, Tide on paths to title game

Mid-season analysis: Buckeyes, Tide on paths to title game

0

The first half of the college football season has been defined by coaching changes, downtrodden programs that are successful, and several traditional powerhouses with high preseason expectations that have gone off the rails.

Scott Frost, Herm Edwards and Geoff Collins did not survive September with their jobs.

No. 14 Syracuse, No. 18 Illinois, No. 25 Tulane and Kansas are a combined 23-4.

Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Miami and Wisconsin, all ranked in the AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank at the start of the season, are combined 12-13.

A college football season doesn’t seem to officially start these days until Alabama loses and Tennessee deals with it on the seventh weekend of the 14-week march to the playoff selection of college football on Sunday.

Over the next seven weeks, there will be more head coaches fired and at least a few hired. Expect more upsets that alter the season, and for the Heisman Trophy race to be decided on conference championship weekend, because that’s usually how it works these days.

It’s time to think about what could happen to us.

MOST SURPRISING TEAM

No. 3 Tennessee

The Orange, Illini, Green Wave and Jayhawks have all been pleasant surprises after losing seasons. Illinois, Kansas and Tulane all reached the Top 25 this season for the first time in more than a decade. No. 8 TCU and No. 9 UCLA went from unranked to top 10.

Tennessee, however, made the biggest and toughest leap, going from Top 25 margins to a legitimate national championship contender. We’ll see if Coach Josh Heupel’s volunteers can stay in that conversation in back-to-back games against No. 19 Kentucky and No. 1 Georgia in a few weeks.

“From the inside, looking to the future, we have a lot of things where we have the opportunity to improve a lot and the challenge for us is to become our best. We are in the early stages,” Heupel said. to reporters on Monday.

So far, no team has exceeded expectations.

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM

our Lady

Plenty of strong candidates here as four preseason top-10 teams are already unseeded with three losses, but Marcus Freeman’s first season as Notre Dame coach was particularly bad.

Even admitting the Fighting Irish (3-3) were upgraded to No. 5 preseason with a new coach and starting quarterback, losses to Marshall and Stanford at home were among the most baffling of the season .

The Thundering Herd and Cardinal were both more than a two-touchdown underdog and neither beat another FBS team outside of the Fighting Irish.

“The minute you start pointing fingers at players, you will lose them. As soon as you start blaming the coaches, you lose them,” Freeman told reporters.

The only good news is that recruiting still seems to be going well for Freeman and Notre Dame.

FIRST HALF COACH

Lance Leipold, Kansas

Coaching awards tend to go to the leading teams that exceed expectations, which often leaves those leading the excellent programs constantly unrecognized. It’s strange.

Cases can be made for Georgia’s Kirby Smart for having the defending national champions positioned to win another one and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney for course-correcting after a glitchy 2021 for the Tigers.

But in this case, the formula of exceeding expectations is worth honoring.

Leipold performed a minor miracle in his second season by making the Jayhawks (5-2) competitive and fun after 12 miserable seasons never better than 3-9.

HEISMAN HALFWAY

Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee

As Johnny Manziel and Joe Burrow have shown, beating Alabama is a nice line to have on a Heisman resume.

Hooker, the transfer from Virginia Tech, has been excellent so far, with the second-best passer rating (187.7) in the nation with 18 touchdowns and just one interception.

A batch of quarterbacks have both the talent and the opportunity to pass Hooker, from Ohio State’s CJ Stroud to the Los Angeles duo of UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson and USC’s Caleb Williams. to defending Heisman winner Bryce Young of Alabama.

But Hooker was the star of the first half and also leads the AP All-America midseason team.

MOST STUNNING

Middle Tennessee 45, Miami 31

The Sun Belt has had a few upsets this season, including Appalachia State’s win at Texas A&M, but no result has been more disconcerting than what the Blue Raiders did to the Hurricanes.

Middle Tennessee, currently 0-3 in Conference USA, cruised through Miami for touchdown passes for 69, 71 and 98 yards. The Blue Raiders averaged 8.3 yards per game against Miami and still average just 4.98 this season, second-to-last in C-USA.

CRYSTAL BALL

Before the season, we predicted an Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Oregon playoff, with the Buckeyes winning it all and USC QB Caleb Williams taking the Heisman.

This is all still in play to varying degrees (sorry, Oregon), but with a few tweaks:

HEISMAN TROPHY

Stroud lights up the Big Ten while Hooker stumbles just enough in the Southeastern Conference stretch for the Buckeyes quarterback to take the bronze statue in December.

NEW YEAR’S SIX

Rose Bowl – Michigan vs. Oregon.

Sugar Bowl – Tennessee vs. Texas.

Cotton Bowl – UCF vs. USC.

Orange Bowl – Wake Forest vs. Mississippi.

Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semifinal) – #1 Ohio State vs. #4 Georgia.

Peach Bowl (CFP Semifinal) – No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Alabama.

Championship game – Ohio State vs. Alabama.

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the PA College Football Newsletter: https://bit.ly/3pqZVaF

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) walks off the field after his team defeated Alabama 52-49 in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/ Wade Payne)

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold before the start of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma on Saturday October 15, 2022 in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman looks at the scoreboard during the first half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Stanford in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y.Huh)