College Football Pick’em
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Miami pulled off what was regarded by many as the coup of the century by stealing Mario Cristobal from Oregon after the Hurricanes alum won a pair of Pac-12 championships as coach of the Ducks. When Cristobal landed 11 highly touted transfers to join heralded quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, the hype train was primed and ready. The U was back. Then the season began.
Dropping the game against Texas A&M hurt, but losing to Middle Tennessee was inexplicable. In Week 8, things only got worse as Duke stomped Miami 45-21 to hand the Hurricanes their worst loss in the history of the matchup. Van Dyke went out and the Hurricanes responded with eight turnovers. Every week, Cristobal’s program seemingly springs a new leak somehow worse than the week before. A bowl game seems like a pipe dream at this point.
It’s one thing to lose games against talented teams that are deep in their development cycles. Texas A&M is five years into the Jimbo Fisher experiment. While Miami should never struggle against Middle Tennessee, coach Rick Stockstill has been there for 16 years. Losing against fellow first-year coach Mike Elko, however? That’s unacceptable. Cristobal had every single advantage against Elko, but silly, costly mistakes continue to doom this program. It’s Year 1, but frankly, that’s on coaching. For all the money boosters are paying Cristobal, the performance this season is a total failure.
Here are more winners, losers and overreactions from Week 8 around the college football world.
Oregon: The Ducks were relegated to the dustbin after losing 49-3 decision against No. 2 Georgia in the opener. After crushing No. 9 UCLA 45-30, it’s fair to dismiss that result as a first-game aberration. The Ducks have taken control of the Pac-12 title race with wins over UCLA and Washington State with No. 15 Utah standing as the only ranked team remaining on their schedule. Quarterback Bo Nix has generally stayed mistake-free over the past few weeks thanks to some nifty play-calling from offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham. Getting into Rose Bowl and playoff consideration in Year 1 is a great start for Dan Lanning in his first season.
LSU: Don’t look now, but the Tigers are secretly pretty impressive. No. 7 Ole Miss was likely buoyed by a bad schedule, but LSU ground them into dust a week after beating Florida by double-digits. A 15-point win over Mississippi State early in the year is aging gracefully. The only losses came in a one-point decision against Florida State swung by special teams and against No. 3 Tennessee. Brian Kelly was mocked for most of the offseason after he took the job in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but LSU has improved steadily every week. The Tigers should re-enter the AP Top 25 on Sunday, and even control their own path in the SEC West title race. Everything is on the table.
Texas: The hype train is officially off the rails after the Longhorns blew another second-half lead in a 41-34 loss on the road against No. 11 Oklahoma State. Texas was favored by nearly a touchdown against a banged up Cowboys squad, but Quinn Ewers picked a bad time to have a miserable game. Ewers completed just 38% of his passes with three interceptions in his first road start as the senior Spencer Sanders outplayed him in every facet. The Longhorns were held to just three points across the entire second half and gave up 17 unanswered points. They now enter a difficult final stretch with four losable games and two ranked opponents remaining. Steve Sarkisian has lost four games every year as a head coach, and the ‘Horns are right on track.
Syracuse: Frankly, the Orange wasted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on Saturday in Death Valley. Clemson entered the day with a 36-game home winning streak dating back to the 2016 season. The Tigers have won six of the past seven ACC championships. Syracuse has not won a conference title since 1998 as a member of the Big East. The Orange led 21-7 in the first half on the road and 21-10 entering the fourth quarter, and everything was lined up for the program to take control of the ACC Atlantic race. Unfortunately for Syracuse, Clemson backup quarterback Cade Klubnik came in the game and scored 17 unanswered points to pull away for the win. Syracuse had three separate drives to win the game and couldn’t deliver. The Orange are still having a historic season and should remain in the AP Top 25, but this loss will hurt for a while.
Iowa’s offense is an embarrassment: The Hawkeyes have never been a dynamic offensive team under Kirk Ferentz, but Iowa’s offensive performance against Ohio State belongs in the history books for all the wrong reasons as it mustered just 158 total yards on 2.7 yards per play with six turnovers.
But perhaps most pathetic: Iowa’s miserable offense actually screwed its hardworking defense on multiple occasions. Ohio State took a 33-10 lead over Iowa in the third quarter despite only one scoring drive over 24 yards. It took just 360 yards for the Buckeyes to hit 54 points because the Iowa offense was so historically inept that it effectively made Ohio State drives a chip-in.
We get it, Kirk, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is your son and you love him. The fact is that the manner in which Ferentz is handling this situation could legitimately tarnish the reputation of the longest-tenured coach in college football. With USC and UCLA set to join the Big Ten in 2024, Iowa as a program might need to ask some difficult questions about whether Ferentz’s program can compete when it doesn’t play in one of the worst divisions in major college football.
Injuries will decide the Big 12 race: No. 8 TCU pulled off yet another miraculous comeback, this time coming back from down 28-10 to beat No. 17 Kansas State 38-28 to take control of the Big 12 race. But while the Frogs moved to 7-0 with a fourth-straight victory over an AP Top 25 opponent, the story of the Big 12 race has also been about who has not been in the lineup.
Kansas State quarterback Adrian Martinez left after the first drive with an undisclosed injury while other defensive players were lost at various points. TCU also played against Kansas’ backup quarterback. In fact, six different Big 12 teams — including TCU — have started a backup quarterback at some point this season.
By many statistical models, the Big 12 is the deepest conference in college football this season. With no weeks off, injuries are starting to pile up. The Big 12 race could ultimately come down to which teams have built the best depth and can deal with injuries best. Through eight weeks, undefeated TCU stands apart.
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