Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where Kansas State is now the only Big 12 team that Texas has beaten more than once in a row:
September in Review
We turn the page to October on Saturday, leaving behind a fabulously chaotic opening month of the season. It’s time to review all that transpired—to laud the winners and lambaste the losers, to celebrate the weird and figure out how we got here.
Heisman Race Through September (21): Hendon Hooker, Tennessee quarterback. The Volunteers are 4-0 for the first time since 2016, have their highest AP ranking since 2006—and have their first live Heisman candidate since Peyton Manning was the runner-up in 1997. Hooker is eighth nationally in pass efficiency, fifth in total offense, and has produced his two highest-yardage games against the best competition (Pittsburgh and Florida). The latter came without leading receiver Cedric Tillman, who was out with an injury. Hooker also reminded everyone of his running ability against the Gators with 112 rushing yards on 13 carries, in addition to throwing for 349. Credit for Tennessee’s fast start begins at the top, with second-year coach Josh Heupel, but the player making it go is Hooker.
Hooker’s top pursuers, more or less in order: C.J Stroud, Ohio State QB; Michael Penix, Washington QB; Jalon Daniels, Kansas QB; Caleb Williams, USC QB; Bryce Young, Alabama QB; Stetson Bennett, Georgia QB; Brock Bowers, Georgia TE; Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota RB; Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State QB.
Cold-Blooded Firing of the Month (22): Arizona State either terminating Herm Edwards or making him aware of a meeting to terminate him while he was still on the field immediately after losing to Eastern Michigan. This might have been the first on-field dismissal since Bret Bielema at Arkansas in 2017, but at least then he got to finish the season. Edwards was fired after three games (although, it could easily be argued, he should have been gone before the season began).
Arizona State is no stranger to an abrupt in-season firing. The school got rid of legendary coach Frank Kush the day before a game in October 1979, stemming in part from allegations of player abuse. And ASU was on the administering end to USC’s Whack on the Tarmac, when Pat Haden fired Lane Kiffin when the coach got off the plane following a loss to the Sun Devils in 2013.
Miracle of the Month: Kansas (23) is 4-0. And it isn’t even a flukey 4-0. The Jayhawks have yet to trail in the fourth quarter this season, haven’t lucked into a spate of fortuitous turnovers, and are outgaining their opponents by 2.19 yards per play. They are objectively fun to watch, averaging 48.5 points per game. The level of competition, other than the opener, has been legitimate. Yet for some reason, Kansas isn’t ranked. Poll voters need to stop rearranging the usual suspects and make room for the Jayhawks if they beat Iowa State on Saturday.
Bottom line: Lance Leipold is the runaway early leader for national Coach of the Year.
Smoldering Dumpster Fire of the Month: Miami (24). The Hurricanes narrowly edge out Michigan State, Wisconsin and other assorted dysfunctional programs. While the Spartans have been throttled twice in a row, both opponents are undefeated. Miami followed its no-touchdown loss to Texas A&M by no-showing against mighty Middle Tennessee State on Saturday to drop to 2-2. Middle’s 45 points were the most scored against The U since 2015 and most by a non-Power conference opponent since before power conferences began. The last surrendering of that many points to an opponent of comparable level would probably be a 48-2 loss to Tulsa in … 1944. Mario Cristobal isn’t being paid $8 million to give up 507 total yards and three touchdown passes of 69 yards or longer to Middle Freakin’ Tennessee.
Lopsided Team of the Month: Iowa (25). The defense is a work of art, leading the nation in fewest points allowed (5.8) and fewest yards per pass attempt (4.6). The offense, meanwhile, is a crime against football—last in the nation in yards per game (232.5) and 120th in scoring, but that scoring average is helped by the 16 points scored by the defense. Remove those from the equation and Iowa’s offense is producing just 13 points per game. There will be a need for some semblance of balance against Michigan on Saturday.
News of the Weird Team of the Month: Utah (26). Strange things just keep happening around the 2022 Utes. There was the flight issue leaving the home opener against Florida that resulted in the team being stuck in Gainesville and getting back to campus more than 24 hours after the game had kicked off the night before. There were the women who wore nothing but body paint on their upper bodies to the home game against Southern Utah, creating a commotion that led to a school investigation. And there was the female engineering student who went on the social media platform YikYak (it’s a thing, apparently) and threatened to blow up the school’s nuclear reactor if the Utes lost to San Diego State. Utah won and the campus was spared.
(If you’re curious which other campuses could be susceptible to nuclear threats on YikYak related to football performance, here is a list of potential candidates.)
The Utes have some big games coming; stay alert, everyone.
Self-Sabotage of the Month: Missouri (27) added to its vivid history of calamitous losses with a trifecta of disasters that each directly contributed to a 17-14 defeat at Auburn on Saturday. The rundown: a missed 26-yard field goal on the last play of regulation for the win from kicker Harrison Mevis, who has made 45 career field goals; an offsides penalty that gave Auburn a second chance at an overtime field goal for the lead after the first one was missed; and a fumble into the end zone by Nathaniel Peat when he reached forward with the ball and simply dropped it inches before the pylon, ending the game.
Even by Mizzou standards, that’s an all-time pileup of errors.
Radio Call of the Month: The Appalachian State (28) Hail Mary to beat Troy is just a cacophony of unintelligible joy that meets the moment.
Miserable Fan Base of the Month: Oklahoma (29). Plenty of candidates here as well, but the double whammy that hit Sooner Nation on Saturday night was powerful. First, Oklahoma was stunned at home by Kansas State (which has the Sooners’ number to an eerie extent, having beaten them three times in four years as a heavy underdog each time). Then, fans couldn’t even enjoy hate-watching USC and former coach Lincoln Riley against Oregon State after the Trojans rallied for a fourth-quarter victory. Now, USC is 4-0 after going 4-8 last season. Oklahoma, meanwhile, is 3-1 under new coach Brent Venables. And the presumed defensive savior who would toughen up the team after Riley was left having to explain why K-State scored its most points ever (41) in Norman.
Miserable State of the Month: Colorado (30). There are only three winless teams left among the 131 in FBS, and two of them are from the same state. The Buffaloes are 0-4 with their smallest margin of defeat being 25 points. The Rams are 0-4 with their smallest margin of defeat being 15 points, and with a 31-point loss to an FCS program on the ledger of shame as well. Too bad Colorado and CSU stopped scheduling each other, because one of them would have a win by now. Air Force, with its 3-1 record, is carrying the state’s tattered banner for now.