Luicci's College Football Plus: Week 2
Q. Let’s see if we have this right: The good folks at Nebraska whined and kicked and screamed when there was no Big Ten football, threatening to go rogue on the league. Now that there is going to be Big Ten football they’re whining, kicking and screaming about the bad scheduling hand they feel they were dealt?
The Children of the Corn are apparently unhappy because their team has to open at Ohio State and then host Wisconsin in its first two games. This is not the old Big 12/Big 8/Southwest Conference, when Nebraska could sleepwalk through most of its conference schedule before showdowns with Oklahoma and Texas. It’s also not the Big Ten’s fault that Nebraska has had three straight losing seasons and isn’t quite up to Big Ten quality yet.
Something to note, Nebraska fans: Wake Forest opened with Clemson, then had to go to N.C. State and now plays Notre Dame in its first three games. And yet, no whining from Winston-Salem.
Q. Doesn’t college football need to come up with some uniform reporting procedure when it comes to players being held out due to COVID-19?
The coaches want it kept a secret until kickoff because of a “competitive disadvantage.” Whatever. The bigger issue is a potential gambling scandal, especially now that sports betting is legal across the country. What if someone close to say, the Georgia Tech program, had information in advance that the Yellow Jackets were holding out six key players, including their leading rusher, starting corner and starting linebacker, from last Saturday’s game against UCF for “undisclosed reasons?” They would have taken UCF minus-7 faster than you can say DraftKings. Wouldn’t you have wanted to know well in advance that defensive leader and LB Joe Dillon was held out of Saturday’s 34-31 OT victory over Georgia State due to “an illness?” Those are just two isolated examples out of many after three weeks of games.
In the interest of transparency, how difficult is it to announce COVID-19 absences the day before a game? Injuries are made available. Why not players held out due to COVID-19 concerns? We’re open to suggestions on how it should be reported. But keeping key information like that from the betting public is inviting a potential gambling scandal.
Q. Is Miami really – and finally – back?
As impressive as the victory at Louisville was, let’s tap the brakes on talk of Miami’s return to national prominence. Yes, the Hurricanes finally have a reliable quarterback again (D’Eriq King), a dominant running game, a solid offensive line and a phenomenal kicker. There’s plenty of talent throughout the roster. But Louisville has turned out to be a fraud two games into the season – the Western Kentucky team the Cards beat to open the year is now 0-2 – and their defense apparently watched Saturday’s game from stands. That’s not to say this Miami team isn’t capable of a breakout-type season. But can we just wait until an Oct. 16 trip to Clemson before making any declarations about the Hurricanes?
Q. Was there a better feel-good story on Saturday than Navy’s historic comeback victory against Tulane?
This is what is known as an indomitable spirit. After losing its opener 55-3 to BYU and looking pretty much like a shipwreck, Navy trailed 24-0 at halftime at Tulane on Saturday, having run two plays in Green Wave territory through the first two quarters. Then the Midshipmen proceeded to stage the greatest comeback in program history, pulling out a 27-24 victory on Bryan Nichols’ 33-yard field goal as time expired.
Ah, but a side note that aided the comeback. Tulane coach Willie “On The” Fritz made a bizarre play call in a 24-24 game on fourth and three at the Navy 32 yard line late in the fourth-quarter. The run-oriented Green Wave went with a deep post that was incomplete and led to the game-winning field goal. Sometimes coaches get too cute in key game situations.
Q. What are the chances of the SEC and Big Ten playing a “full” conference schedule when the leagues finally get started?
Scheduled games just from last Saturday that were postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19: BYU-Army, Houston-Baylor, FAU-Georgia Southern, Charlotte-North Carolina and Houston-Memphis. That’s just from one abbreviated schedule day. Memphis-UTSA, scheduled for this week, has already been postponed.
It’s hard to believe the Big Ten will be able to get eight games in over eight weeks without any disruptions or postponements. Same with the SEC. That may make for a lot of uneven number of games played by prominent teams. And that’s going to lead to some messy debates at the end of the year. But here’s hoping it all goes smoothly for both leagues after 16 games have been postponed or canceled the first three weeks.
On the rise
Boston College (1-0)
Yeah, yeah, it’s just one game. But how refreshing must it be in Chestnut Hill to finally have an adult running the program? Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec was impressive in his QB debut for the Eagles, throwing for 300 yards and two TDs in the 26-6 victory at Duke.
Thundering Herd’s 17-7 victory over No. 23 Appalachian State marked their first over a ranked opponent since 2003 and first over a ranked opponent at home since 1976. Doc Holliday remains an under-appreciated coach nationally.
As great as the historic comeback victory at Tulane was, it was accomplished with previously-benched QB Dalen Morris back at the helm and directing an offense that went for 27 second-half points in a 27-24 victory. A good story made better.
On the decline
Let’s start calling them the Carinals. Because there’s clearly no D. How do you allow consecutive 75-yard touchdown plays the way this Efense did? Embarrassing stuff.
Hard to believe the program has sunk this low. Maybe Dino Babers isn’t the answer? The offense has allowed 14 sacks in two games while scoring 16 points. Pitt is good defensively but not this good: The Orange totaled 171 yards, 69 on one play.
Austin Peay (0-3)
That’s it for the Governors’ season. So what did they accomplish by going 0-3 and losing their final two games by a combined 110-20? Now they go home and wait to see if they can play a seven-game spring schedule. Just weird.
Elijah Mitchell, RB Louisiana-Lafayette
The senior made sure the Ragin’ Cajuns’ first game as a ranked team since 1943 wasn’t a flop, rushing for 164 yards and two TDs, including a 12-yard score that was the game-winner in OT of a 34-31 victory.
Dillon Gabriel, QB, UCF
The lefty from Hawaii put on a show in the 49-21 rout of Georgia Tech, throwing for 417 yards and four TDs while rushing for 30 yards. Knights gained 643 yards overall.
Jose Borregales, PK, Miami
The FIU transfer and Miami native kicked four field goals in the 47-34 victory at Louisville, highlighted by a 57-yarder that was the longest by an opponent in Cardinal Stadium history. The Hurricanes no longer have to worry about their kicking game in close games.
Jeff Sims, QB, Georgia Tech
The true freshman is plenty talented. And he looks to be a future star. But right now he is mistake prone, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble in the loss to UCF. The Yellow Jackets will have to live with the growing pains but the benefits of sticking with Sims will be evident soon enough.
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma
The nation’s leading rusher from a year ago was mediocre in his 2020 debut, rushing for 93 yards on 27 carries against Tulsa. That snapped a streak of 11 straight games of 100 rushing yards or more.
Bryan Brown, Defensive Coordinator, Louisville
When there are a limited number of games and you’re in the prime time game at night your defense can’t be a total embarrassment. Brown’s was against Miami.
Playing it forward
The top games of the coming week (all times Eastern)
Kansas State at Oklahoma, noon, FOX
Just want to see Sooners’ QB Spencer Rattler in action again – this time against a conference opponent.
West Virginia at Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m., ABC
A couple of Big 12 title contender wannabes square off here. The loser slinks back into after-thought status.
Mississippi State at LSU, 3:30, CBS
The defending national champions – albeit an entirely different team – finally get started. It will be interesting to see what they’re about this year. No one really knows yet.
Alabama at Missouri, 7 p.m., ESPN
The Crimson Tide makes its season debut – and that alone makes it worth watching.
Tom Luicci was the national college football and basketball writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. from 1979-2014.