Halfway through the college football regular season, we’re here to share with you eight Best & Worst of random categories. From Heisman contenders to transferring players, from coaching jobs to high-scoring offenses, we present the good and bad of the 2019 season to date.
Best: Herm Edwards, Arizona State
The Sun Devils are 5–1 and maybe the favorites at this point to win the Pac-12 South division. They’re doing it all with a true freshman quarterback. They’re not winning pretty (19–7 over Sacramento and 10–7 at Michigan State), but they’re winning, and that’s all that really matters. The Herm Way is working—so far.
Worst: Chip Kelly, UCLA
Outside of an inexplicable second half in a 32-point comeback at Washington State, the Bruins have been, in a word, bad. They most recently lost by 17 points at home to an Oregon State team that had one win over FBS teams in its last 25 games. The Chip Kelly Experiment in LA is 4–14.
PRESEASON HEISMAN CONTENDERS
Best: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama quarterback
Tagovailoa and Lawrence were universally thought to be 1A and 1B among Heisman Trophy contenders entering the season. So far, between the two, it’s been all Tua. He’s thrown one interception to 27 touchdown passes and is averaging the third-most passing yards a game. His completion percentage is better than all but four QBs.
Worst: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson quarterback
Among college football talking heads, one of the bigger topics of discussion so far this year has been Trevor Lawrence’s sophomore slide. He’s thrown six interceptions through six games. That’s two more than he threw in 15 games last year as a true freshman. In the latest Heisman odds, Lawrence has nine players before him.
TRANSFER PORTAL PLAYERS
Best: Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma quarterback
The Sooners’ Heisman hopeful is in the top 15 in both passing (10) and rushing (15). Just how good is that? No other QB is in the top 50 in both. Hurts by himself is averaging more yards a game (398) than 54 FBS teams. There were other options for this category (UF DL Jonathan Greenard or K-State RB James Gilbert), but Hurts has been just too good.
Worst: Tate Martell, Miami quarterback
Is Martell really the “worst” of all the transferring players? Probably not. He’s at least seen the field, but the expectations heaped upon him are what really landed him here (and that’s not necessarily his fault). Martell transferred from Ohio State with many expecting him to win the starting gig. He finished third in the competition and moved to receiver.
PREDICTED PLAYOFF DARKHORSES
The Badgers started the preseason ranked No. 19. They’re now 6–0 and ranked sixth, the biggest jump of any preseason-ranked team. Wisconsin has gone from long shot to playoff contender. The Badgers are leaning on a defense that has shut out an incredible four opponents in six games.
Seven games into the season, the Huskies, a darkhorse playoff team at No. 13 in the preseason, already have two losses. They’ve been a tough team to identify. They lost at home to Cal and at a struggling Stanford team while bashing Arizona and BYU on the road. Either way, the Pac-12’s playoff hopes aren’t riding on Washington.
POWER 5 CONFERENCES
Best: Big Ten
The league has four undefeated teams. The next-best conference has two (the SEC), but that’s not the only reason the Big Ten is our No. 1. The league has legitimate playoff contenders in Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, and the conference has won 79% of its non-conference games, 8% better than the SEC.
There is one—one—ACC team in the latest top 25: Clemson. Twelve of the 14 teams in the league have already picked up their second loss, and the conference has losses to Boise State, Kansas, Appalachian State and The Citadel. The Tigers should have a cakewalk to a fifth straight ACC title. The conference has become a one-team league.
Best: Tulane’s fake kneel
Tied with Houston with 18 seconds left, Tulane QB Justin McMillan feigned a kneel down and then quietly slipped the ball to his running back, Amare Jones. The Green Wave picked up 18 yards to set up the next play: a 53-yard strike from McMillan to Jalen McClesky to lift Tulane to a 38–31 victory over the Cougars.
Worst: Pitt’s field goal attempt
In a game against Penn State, the Panthers found themselves down by a touchdown with 4:54 left facing fourth-and-goal at the Penn State 1. Coach Pat Narduzzi elected to kick a field goal, a somewhat confounding move. The decision was made even worse when kicker Alex Kessman missed the 19-yard attempt. Pitt lost 17–10.
This is not your grandfather, father or even older brother’s LSU offense. Within the span of a few months, the Tigers have overhauled their archaic system into a spread scheme that leads the nation in scoring (52 points a game) and is second in passing (395.5). Don’t sleep on the run game, either. LSU averages 4.77 yards a carry.
No offense is as bad statistically as Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are dead last, 130, in scoring and are 128 in yards per game. They average 11.8 points a game. That is nearly four points fewer than the next team, Akron. Rutgers has been shut out three times this season.
The Badgers have pitched four shutouts in their first six games, and are allowing 173.7 yards a game. That’s more than 50 yards better than second-place Ohio State. The Badgers have allowed just 15 third-down conversions all season out of 83 attempts. That 15.6 conversion rate is the best in the nation—by 5%.
Remember how we just told you that Rutgers’ offense was the worst? Well, Rutgers put up 48 points on the Minutemen. That should tell you everything you need to know about the UMass defense. Six of their seven opponents have scored at least 44 points. Teams are averaging an ungodly 7.7 yards a play against them.