The new college football season is already a month old, if you can believe it. The early action has led to some big surprises, along with major disappointments.
Which players and programs have failed to live up to expectations? Which coaches have us thinking they’re not long for their current positions?
That’s what we’re diving into here today.
Nebraska on shaky ground
There are some positive things happening for Scott Frost’s program. The 3-1 record is nice. Adrian Martinez appears to be taking a nice step in his development. Yet underneath the team’s positive start in the standings lurk some troublesome issues that could come home to roost in a big way later this season, starting with the program’s home game against Ohio State on Saturday.
Discipline has been a problem. As a prime example, during the team’s narrow win over Illinois in Week 4, Nebraska incurred 10 penalties and lost four fumbles. On the season, the Cornhuskers have lost 11 turnovers, which ranks second-worst in all of college football. So, while the 3-1 record looks fantastic, it appears to be a mirage.
Stanford doesn’t look like Stanford
The last time Stanford had a losing season was way back in 2008 before Jim Harbaugh turned the Cardinal into a national powerhouse. Since David Shaw took over in 2011, the program finished with double-digit wins five times and never won less than eight games in a season. The Cardinal pummeled opponents with a potent blend of brute force on offense and a stifling defense.
That formula has been stunningly replaced by a rushing offense that ranks 109th in the nation, and a defense that can’t stop anyone. Since eking out a 17-7 win over Northwestern in Week 1, Stanford has been outscored 111-53. Now at 1-3 on the season, it seems inevitable that the Cardinal will finish the season with a losing record for the first time in Shaw’s tenure.
Longhorns are a disaster on defense
Texas may appear to be “back” after going 3-1 to open the season, sitting atop the Big 12 with a conference record of 1-0. The offense is awesome, and watching Sam Ehlinger sling the pigskin around has been a ton of fun to watch.
The big problem is that Texas has been atrocious on defense. The Longhorns rank 122nd in the nation (out of 130 teams) allowing 314.5 passing yards per game. The secondary is allowing opposing offenses to gain nearly 13 yards every time someone catches a ball. The prime example of why this defense is a huge liability is the LSU game. Joe Burrow went off to the tune of 471 yards and four touchdowns to beat the Longhorns.
With upcoming games against Oklahoma, TCU, Iowa State and Texas Tech, this defense could end up dooming Texas’ playoff aspirations in 2019.
The ACC stinks
At this point, it’s pretty clear Clemson could sleepwalk through the remaining schedule and still come out of the 2019 regular season undefeated. The Tigers have absolutely zero competition in the ACC. The conference stinks.
Syracuse was supposed to be the team’s biggest competition in 2019. Yet the Orange quickly proved they were not going to come close to challenging the Tigers and ended up getting run out of their own building.
Sure, Virginia is 4-0 right now, as is Wake Forest. But neither of these programs threaten Clemson in any way. The conference stinks. And that’s a shame because it means we won’t see the nation’s top team face any meaningful competition until the playoff.
Hunter Johnson hasn’t lived up to the hype
When Hunter Johnson committed to Clemson he was one of the best prospects in the nation. The five-star quarterback ultimately transferred away from the program thanks to the rise of Trevor Lawrence. And with Clayton Thorson leaving after last year, this season was Johnson’s chance to prove he was worthy of all the hype.
The early returns have been downright ugly. Johnson has completed just 48.5% of his passes this season, throwing for 308 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. His Wildcats rank 121st in total offense, and the team’s average of 15.7 points per game is second-worst in the nation. Talk about disappointing.
The Vols are a sad, pathetic mess
For one brief moment after Tennessee laid waste to Chattanooga in Week 3, there was some hope in Knoxville that maybe the worst was finally over. Then reality set in as the Vols backslid into their old habit of shooting themselves in the foot — repeatedly — on the road against Florida on Saturday.
In his second season, Jeremy Pruitt is nowhere closer to turning this program around than he was when he first arrived.
Losing to Georgia State in Week 1 was the first clue. Getting outclassed in epic fashion by BYU in Week 2 was the second brutal reminder, and then last weekend’s debacle at The Swamp nailed this home in dramatic fashion. There are no quick fixes. The program is up to its neck in putrescence, and it’s going to take a long time to get the stink out.
Chad Morris has Arkansas headed in the wrong direction
Remember how happy Arkansas fans were when the university bought out Bret Bielema’s expensive contract and hired Chad Morris to turn the ship around? Less than two years later, and things are no better in Fayetteville.
The team’s loss to San Jose State in Week 4 was a brutal example that hammered that point home with savage ferocity. Favored to win by nearly three touchdowns, the Razorbacks were run out of their own building as their defense gave up over 500 yards and quarterback Nick Starkel imploded with five interceptions.
Now headed to Arlington for a matchup with a ticked-off Texas A&M squad and the toughest portion of the schedule coming afterward, things are only going to get worse.
Houston, we have a problem
The arrival of Dana Holgorsen was supposed to be a boon for D’Eriq King and the Houston offense. That hasn’t been the case. King continued to shine when he could. But he wasn’t putting up the same type of numbers he did last year playing for Major Applewhite, averaging 2.6 yards per attempt less than he did in 2018. Houston is also averaging more than 13 points per game less than it did a year ago.
Now King is out of the program after making the decision to sit out the rest of the season.
Compounding issues is the simple fact that Houston’s defense is awful. The Cougars have allowed 33.8 points (107th in the nation) and 501 yards (123rd) per game. The Cougars are going to struggle to reach a bowl game, putting it mildly.
Gamecocks struggling to compete
Alarm bells started ringing in Columbia when South Carolina lost to North Carolina to open the season. Given the brutal schedule facing the Gamecocks in the middle of the season, it was a game they absolutely had to win.
Losing to Alabama was a given, but then South Carolina was completely outclassed by Missouri this past weekend, and that’s a problem.
With home games against Kentucky and Florida sandwiching a road game against Georgia in the next three contests, the Gamecocks are staring a 1-6 start straight in the face.
Jim Harbaugh continues to fail where it matters most
The Michigan Wolverines have not done well in big games since Jim Harbaugh took over five years ago. The stats on these games are quite simply staggering.
An offensive-minded head coach with an old-school approach, Harbaugh continues to fail at the task of adapting to the new-school offensive athlete. Shea Patterson has struggled mightily this year, and star receiver Nico Collins has gotten sick and tired of being neglected.
Given the way Michigan has played so far this year, barring swift fixes this team could have its worst season under Harbaugh. With upcoming games against Iowa, Penn State, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State, we could soon see the end of the Harbaugh era in Ann Arbor.