2023-09-22 06:23

Still missing as conference previews are the BIG 12, the BIG10 and the SEC.

Somehow this season it takes more time to get all the stuff written, but I think I do write more, which is a bit concerning.
Maybe I'm getting old.

I apologize for the long text this week, but I wanted to get this done prior my vacation and then I had that crazy idea to do also the previews (a bit less than usual for week 5 and 6) for my vacation weeks, since I will not have a chance to work on those.

BIG 12

The BIG 12 was shocked by the departure announcement from Texas and Oklahoma, but right now it looks like the conference will at least survive and will keep a high profile, even maybe not the highest level. Last season the conference had 10 members, but 4 teams did join for this season, from the American Athletic came Cincinnati, Houston and UCF and BYU did give up their plans to become 'the Notre Dame of the West' as independent team and join also. Next season the conference will again look different, then Texas and Oklahoma will be gone to the SEC and the PAC-12 teams Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah will join (with Colorado rejoining). This season will be one of a kind in a conference in transition.

Last year did TCU turn heads and went to the playoffs, while Kansas State won the conference also by surprise.
The traditional contending teams of the BIG 12 did not play well enough, even with Texas getting better. Oklahoma did not fare well under their new HC and dropped deep.
And the usual last-place-team, Kansas, did rise in power and left the place for another team.
So, a lot of shake up, last year.

This year this will of course continue with 4 new teams in, with now too many teams inside the conference to play a complete round-robin-schedule, which leave room for weak and hard schedules, and of course changes in the field of coaching and rosters. Leading favorites to win the conference are Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and TCU.

Texas made good progress in Steve Sarkisians 2nd season last year and all signs to point towards another rise in production. The o-line stayed intact, the QB is good, the receivers on top level. The defense returns 6 starters and will likely become even stronger than last season. The opener was an OK win against Rice, but the stunning win against Alabama did put Texas already into a playoff spot they only have to defend from here onwards. The game against Wyoming on 3rd gameday was another win, but not that convincing.

My heart wants Kansas State here at 2nd, even they might not finish here. Chris Klieman is in his 5th season and did took the team from good to great in 4 seasons. That on a team, which is not known for winning and competing. The Wildcats won a share of the title in 2012 and another championship in 2003 and before that ... 1934! Those successful seasons in the past 20 season are all based on the hard work of 2 coaches, Bill Snyder and Klieman. The team looks strong, the lines amount the best, the QB very promising. Concerns are there for the defense backfield, but only time will tell, whether the good team of last year can be succeeded by an equal good unit this season. The opener was a good win against a FCS team, the win against Troy also good and the 3rd game against Missouri went not as good as possible and was a close loss.

So I put at 3rd Oklahoma, even they might play better and we see actually as last hooray on the BIG 12 a Texas - Oklahoma Championship game. The team was hit hard by the departure of their HC Lincoln Riley (to USC) last year and did hire Brent Venables, Clemsons DC for a long time and before that also Oklahomas DC. The 1st season was rocky, the team won 6 games, wnet to a bowl and lost. Not the standard in Sooners-Country. But they lost all short games, so improving the stamina and work on the believe in the team (and a bit of luck) should shift the record towards more wins. Also, the defense was improved by transfers big time, which should help to get the unit on top level again. The 1st game against Arkansas State was a slaughterhouse and the team did win against SMU in a good way, but not really convincing. The 3rd game was against Tulsa, which was a big win.

The Horned Frogs of TCU had one of their greatest seasons ever last year, the 1st under new HC Sonny Dykes. The team went unbeaten to the BIG 12 Championship game, lost that one, which is of course a dent in the season results, but went to the playoffs and to the national championship game, which they lost also. Still a great result. The team did lose most of their offense backfield and several key players on defense, but added some players by the transfer portal and has a good pool of talent. The offense might need time to get going, but it seems the defense, which was thought to be the main contributor in the early games, needs some adjustments, since the team lost against Colorado in a very high scoring game. The 2nd game was against a FCS team and a win, the 3rd was against Houston and another win. Overall the team will have a hard time to get back into any championship considerations, but that was also the expectation last year, so, who knows .... ?

Joey McGuire is in his 2nd year with Texas Tech and all signs do point towards a breakout season for that program this season. Last year they won 8 games, including a bowl win. This season we have a returning QB, some returners on the receiver squad, a returning o-line (which might need help), a good core of players on defense with 6 returning starters, including 2 strong d-liner and overall a team in the 2nd season of a new coach, which usually means the systems are digested and everyone can move forward. unfortune the team lost the opener against Wyoming and the next game against Oregon, both very close games. The 3rd was against a FCS team and cashed in the 1st win.

It looks like Kansas finally make a good hire at HC since several seasons. Lance Leipold did elevate the team from 2 wins in his 1st season to 6 wins last year. They lost the bowl game, but overall, the team did become much better compared to the teams of the past decade or so. 17 starters are back, main concern is, whether the defense will get better or not. Last season the unit was not the best in the BIG 12, which did cost the team a lot of games, this season we might see a change also here and the team can win much more games. So far they won the opener (FCS) and the 2nd game (Illinois) and also the 3rd against Nevada was a win.

In 2020 did Dave Aranda take over Baylor and got the team a conference championship in 2021. But last year the team went downhill and finished with 6-7, including a bowl loss. The coach is at least on a mild hot seat, since that kind of decline was not expected and of course not wanted. Likely the defense did cause a lot of those problems and the team did much worse on turnovers. The QB got challenged but won back his starting job this spring and the team did get some additions. If key problems get solved, the team might get back into championship considerations, but it will be a rocky road. Starting with non-conference losses to Texas State and Utah won't help to cool of the heated seat, the win against a FCS team will also not help much.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys are in the past few seasons never to be underestimated, but did most of the time lose stupid games, which did not help. Mike Gundy is in this 19th season and has seen with the team almost everything. Last year the team did only win 7 games after 12 in 2022, which brought them to the championship game. There are several question marks on the roster and most of those are just marked as 'will be OK' since Gundy usually gets his house in good shape for season. The schedule will help to get back to a bowl. I doubt they will get much further. They won the 1st 2 game (FCS and Arizona State), but those were no contest. The 3rd game was against South Alabama and that was a clear loss, which might be concerning.

So far none of the new teams did made the list, which is a bit surprising, but 1st of all the level of strength in the AAC is not the same as in the BIG 12 and 2nd the level of strength of the additions is not on their peak level. Central Florida is in the 3rd season of Gus Malzahn and so far he did bring the Golden Knights to 9 wins each, but last season also into the Championship game of the AAC, but lost that one and the bowl after that also. In his 1st year the team won the bowl game. Now they are in a stronger conference and even with their QB returning, the team will face off against teams with more talent than usual more often. The UCF o-line lost some starters and the defense might be the stronger unit overall with 6 returning starters. New coordinators on both sides will not hep immediately to adjust to the BIG 12. The team won against Kent State (big) and Boise State (close) and played a FCS team on 3rd day for another win.

I would not have guessed that Matt Campbell would stay for the past 7 seasons at Iowa State and is now in his 8th season. He did bring Iowa State on a good, if not great level and did only suffer last season the 1st losing season since his 1st year with the team. I thought he would be hired away to a better job after 3 to 5 seasons, but here he is. Their defense should be good this season, as last year, with 7 returning starters, the offense was more the concern last year and needs fixing. The QB is returning, the line needs rebuilding. Not a good mix, but that's how college football works. The opener was a win against a FCS team, the 2nd game was the lost rivalry game against Iowa. As 3rd game we had Ohio on the road and that was another loss, which makes me wonder, whether my position is OK .....

Next is BYU, the university from Utah, which tried in the past roughly decade to become 'the Notre Dame of the West', which would have meant, they could survive as independent competitive team. The team had good and bad seasons, but they never got a TV deal similar as Notre Dame has with NBC and they were also not that successful as the Irish. Hence, when the chance came up to join the BIG 12, which is am upgrade to their last conference, the Mountain West, they did say yes. The main problem of BYU will be their schedule, which feature a lot of tough teams, so getting into a bowl game will be a challenge. Offense should be OK, but not great, the defense will be likely better, since they return 7 starters. Good news is, the team started with 3 wins, but 2 of those were against former FCS or a FCS team. But that win against Arkansas last gameday on the road is promising.

Cincinnati that deep in the pit of the BIG 12, I must be crazy. Maybe. Let's face it, the team was one of the top teams of the AAC the past 5 seasons, won at least 9 games each year and the conference back to back the past 2 years. That did earn Luke Fickell a new job as HC of Wisconsin, which brings in the 1st crucial change for the Bearcats, the new HC Scott Satterfield, who came from Louisville, where he had OK results, but not great ones. Next obstacle for Cincinnati is the switch of the conference, which means, they will play much more quality teams than before. And as 3rd problem we have only 7 returning starters. Likely the defense will still be OK, maybe good. They have a massive transferring QB coming in, which can work out, or there is a reason he did not make it on the teams he was with so far. Receiver-squad is thin, o-line in rebuilding mode, or at least in reloading-mode. The team won against a FCS team and Pitt, but lost to Miami (OH) at home, which ended a 16-game-winning-streak on that rivalry. Not a good sign.

It's funny, how events sometime do turn out. Dana Holgorsen was the HC of West Virginia inside the BIG 12, where he had good, but never great results and did quit to get the job at Houston as HC (which in terms of money an upgrade, but in terms of strength and competition a downgrade) in the AAC and now, after 4 seasons in the AAC, the team is in the BIG 12 and Dana Holgorsen is back. And he does face a tough transition. Last year the team did dive to 8 wins from 12 the year before and the defense seems not to recover that fast. The d-line is good, the rest needs help. As many teams, the QB is a transfer and will likely start, another transfer will likely play RB as starter. Good news is, the receivers are good, but that only helps, if the line give the QB time. The team won against UTSA but lost to Rice and TCU. That's not good.

But maybe Holgorsen can at least top his former team, West Virginia, which I see as the last team inside the conference. Neal Brown is in his 5th season with the team and had so far OK result, but far from good, never more than 6 wins, only 2 bowl trips. The defense was a mess last year and it does not look like it will be much better this season, the offense has the chance to keep the Mountaineers in the game and hope the defense does not give up too many points. The o-line is almost intact, the QBs K, but no real starter did surface so far, the RBs OK. The team lost to Penn State in the opener, but won against a FCS team and Pitt. But the conference games will decide their fate.

Overall, the BIG 12 looks like fun in that constellation, we can hope for a big showdown and some surprises by teams, which had no say in the past few seasons.
Likely 2 to 3 teams will have a long time something to say for the playoffs, but of course, if any, only 1 team will eventually make it.


The BIG10 is the filled up with a lot of traditional teams and features the most wanted rivalry of all college football, THE GAME, between Michigan and Ohio State. The conference did lose a bit of connection to the SEC, but did gain some attention lately, when they did scoop out USC and UCLA from the PAC-12 and later than also Washington and Oregon. That move was the beginning of the end of the PAC-12 and it did guarantee the BIG10 to survive the competition within the conferences. I don't see them challenged to be less than TOP2.

This season the conference stays as it was the past few years, the additions will come later.
Last year did Michigan again get every piece needed together and did not overcome Ohio State the 2nd time in a row, they did also win the Conference, again, and made it to the playoffs. They did then lose against TCU in the Semi-Finale (again, even the year before was against Georgia), but there is always something to be unhappy about, right?
Surprisingly did last year Purdue win the other conference, not because they were so good, more because all other teams did have a slump at some time in the season and Purdue was the lucky team lose not as many games as the others.

This season it does not look much different, the West still seems to be a bit away from the East, where again the big 3 teams seem to battle it out and some other teams might have a surprising season, or not. Therefore Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State are favored to win the conference ahead of Wisconsin or Iowa.

Let's start in the East with Michigan. Last year was a good one for Wolverine-Fans, winning again against Ohio State, getting the conference, and losing in the playoffs. Ok, the last one was of course not the aimed goal, but it took the team 7 years under Jim Harbaugh to win it all and 8 to win back-to-back, and now in the 9th season, expectations are high to win another one and get that damn national championship on top. The team did lose some people, but not the crucial ones as QB and RBs are back, and the line is almost intact. Defense is a bit more stripped, but the talent pool is deep. As the past years, the season is likely on the line when Ohio State does face Michigan and the winner progresses forward, the loser can likely concentrate on a high values bowl. Chances are good Michigan can play further, but of course this is just a prediction. Needless to say, the team started with 3 wins, but none was against a strong team.

Ohio State got bested in the past 2 season by Michigan and that is a sting in Buckeye’s country. Ryan Day took over in 2018 during the season, won back-to-back conference championships in his 1st 2 full seasons and then lost the next 2. Now, in his 5th full season the Buckeyes have to get back into the position to leapfrog Michigan, while keeping Penn State and the others away. Not easy. The start QB is gone, the line a piece of work, but as usual, the talent level is deep in Columbus. The likely already in championship format acting unit is the defense, which is loaded. They won the 1st 3 games, none was really hard, so the test against Notre Dame the upcoming weekend will show better the pros and cons.

James Franklin is in his 10th season at Penn State already and if you are hard on him and the program, his results are not the best. The team won the conference last in 2016. Since then, many wins, only 1 losing season, but always behind Ohio State and Michigan. Sure, the teams are good and the programs are hard to overcome, but please, this is Penn State, not Kent State, so the conditions are almost the same and it's up to the coaches to make it happen. Franklin did bring in a good attitude to the program and he is for sure not on a hot seat, but I guess some fans would love to see the team winning it all again, since that did not happen for a long time. The offense might have a receiver problem, the rest should be fine. The defense is fine and has some future stars, so all the team has to do is win. They started with 3 wins, but maybe only the Illinois game has some meaning.

When you are in the East of the BIG10, the 4th place is already an accomplishment, if your name is not one of those I did present before. The level of contention is so high, breaking into the top 3, at least the past few seasons, is hard and this year Mike Locksley (5th season) might bring Maryland to the point to crash into the TOP3, but more likely they will end up at 4th place. The offense line is a rebuilding project, so even the return of Taulia Tagovailoa, brother of Tua, does not help much, if that QB has to scramble all the time. D-line is also a slightly concern, but the HC did prove he can handle this situation and we might see the team matching last seasons results and more. They started with 3 wins against weak teams, but the test will come in October.

Now we get to start the decent to the pit of the East. I pick Rutgers as the next in line at 5th, since Indiana seems weaker, and Michigan State has a big problem with the coach. Greg Schiano did return to Rutgers after some time in the NFL and as OC at OSU. He did coach Rutgers before (11 seasons) and is now in the 4th of his 2nd stint. So far his results are mediocre at best, 5 wins in his 2nd season was the best, 4 last year. The defense might grow up a bit with 7 returning starters, but the offense is still a project. Transfers are supposed to raise the level, it is open that did happen. But the team won 3 games already, including 1 conference game, so maybe we will see a bowl season this year.

Indiana under Tom Allen did fly in his 3rd season with 8 wins, including a bowl loss and all hopes were there, Indiana would establish himself higher in the BIG10. But the team did take a nosedive in 2021 (2 wins) and recovered poorly last year (4 wins). The team did bring in a lot of transfers to fix issues right away, so we might see a different team than last year. Unfortune the team did lose 2 out of 3 since the start, but those losses were against Ohio State and Louisville, so we might see some more wins a bit later. Bad luck for them, they did get Wisconsin of the West, which will not help. I think the coach is a bit on a hot seat, but likely not THAT hot to get fired during the season.

Oh damn it, Michigan State was THE story in 2021, when Mel Tucker did elevate the team in his 2nd season from 2 wins to 11 wins a year later. He did that by adding a lot of transfers and he was some sort of THAT'S HOW IT GOES IN MODERN DAYS template to have success instantly. It did earn him a 10-year contract with 95 million dollars guaranteed. Well, the team did collapse in 2022 to 5 wins and this season it all went to shit before the show started. Beginning of September sexual harassment allegations were made and the case sounds so weird that I will not comment it. Fact is, the university did initiate the termination of his contract for cause (and Tucker will fight that, since he might lose tens of million dollars) and Harlon Barnett, the DB coach, was named interims HC. The team did so far play 3 games and won 2, but that 3rd was crucial on strength and the 1st without Tucker and a big loss. Can the team recover? I don't know. Such stuff like this can de-rail a team easily and inside this division, if you are not focused, you are toast.

The West division does this season not look like a ALL-FOR-GRAB-division, like last season, more is Wisconsin the team to beat and then do come the others. Luke Fickell came in as new HC from Cincinnati and is supposed to lead the Badgers back to the top. Paul Chryst, the former HC, did lead the Badgers to several division titles, but never won the conference and this and a bad start last year did lead to a pink slip. The team finished 7-6, including a bowl win, but overall did the team look for a coach to win the conference. The last won doing this (3 times in a row) was Bret Bielema in 2010 to 2012, which did earn him a better paid job at Arkansas. So the expectations are high on the Badgers to get things going. The good news is, the defense will return 7 starters and will be likely good, the offense will have a major shift from ground-oriented to pass-oriented and that needs likely time. A tough schedule will eventually destroy the division title hopes, but Wisconsin is tough, too, and the competitors have to win against the Badgers 1st. They did win 2 games so far, the loss against Washington State is a bit concerning, but there is time to recover, and the loss does not count against the conference.

Iowa is likely the most likely contender next to Wisconsin for the West. Kirk Ferentz is the longest acting HC for one team in the FBS, now in his 25th season. His record is mixed, but granted he did win a lot of games, won 2 conference titles so far and 2 times at least the division. The Hawkeyes are not a team you like to play especially not on the road, when you have to dress up in this ALL-PINK-LOCKER-ROOM of the guests and then facing this crowd outside. But the team has to do their homework, if they want to win. The offense is a mess, the defense kept them in the games last year and will do again this season. The results so far do not point towards a great offense explosion, but they did all 3 games so far and minimalism is Hawkeyes specialty. They often do adjust to the opponent’s strength and do what needed, but not much more. The team is as always, a mystery, but don't count them out.

P. J. Fleck is in his 7th season with Minnesota and can present good results, compared to the programs history in recent years. The team did win the division once, did win a lot of games and ALL bowls they went to. The offense will be likely good, only the o-line needs some additions, since they lost some starters here. The defense does only return 5 starters and needs replacements. The toughest inter-division-schedule with Michigan and Ohio State will likely cost the team again the division contention. So far, they won 2 out of 3, with the 3rd being a loss to UNC, which was OK, I guess.

A team which might be massive underestimated is Illinois. They did win last season 8 games, including a bowl loss. That was the most wins since 2007. Bret Bielema took over the team 2 seasons ago and did recreate the team into a winning team. Unfortune is, that team does face a major reload season, with key starters gone, like the QB, the RB, several in the defense backfield and on top there is the departure of the DC, who had the squad build into one of the top units inside the BIG10. The team did win the 1st game but lost against Kansas and Penn State. More fluffier games will come, they avoid the big shots from the East, hence, a bowl season could happen, exceeding the 8 wins of last year ... I doubt it.

Who is left for the pit of the West? It's more or less a coin toss of 5th and 6th place. Let's be progressive and take Nebraska as the 5th. Matt Rhule, the former HC of the Carolina Panthers and Baylor Bears, was hired as the guy to turn the ship around, finally. That The-savior-comes-from-our-past-experiment with Scott Frost did end last year in his 5th season after 3 games. 16-31 is his record with the team, lost reputation and it did cost a lot of money also. Will Rhule turn the ship around? Nobody knows. It seems Nebraska has some substantial deficits outside the football field and whether the new coach can mitigate those, is open. He did win with Baylor, which was a losing team in the BIG-12, so maybe he CAN do stuff here. The roster needs a makeover, he did hit the portal and looked for help, but I think there is not much to expect in the 1st season, beside maybe some attitude change. The team lost 2 of the 3 games so far. But Minnesota and Colorado are no pushovers, so that went more or less as expected. I do not expect a bowl season, but maybe the team can win 4 games, like last year, or a bit more.

That leaves at 6th place Purdue. The Boilermakers did lose their 6-season lasting HC Jeff Brohm to Louisville and selected Ryan Walters, former DC of Illinois, as new HC. He does inherit a winning team, which won 8 regular season games the past 2 seasons and 1 bowl in 2021. Unfortune the QB and the top WR is gone, the defense returns only 4 starters, and they face Ohio State and Michigan from the East. Not the best circumstances to get back into the championship game, where they were last season. More likely the team will lose more games than they will win. They lost to Fresno State and Syracuse and won against Virginia Tech. This kind of mix will likely continue, but that would mean, likely, only 4 wins and no bowl.

And at last place I have Northwestern. Pat Fitzgerald had it all at the campus, since 17+ seasons, there was basically almost nothing he could have done to get fired, except you do something stupid. As it seems now, he did tolerate an atmosphere of harassment, including mental-sexual-harassment, inside the team to get the players in line. Like the stupid mental-mind-fuck-stuff military groups do come up with to punish errors and shortcomings. You can read this in the internet, if you like, but bottom line is, in Summer he was fired because of this and now the team has to deal with the fallout in the press and they have an interims coach HC. The did promote the new arrival at DC David Braun, former DC of North Dakota State (FCS) as interims HC, which is a smart move, since he is new and was likely not involved in the system. A big chance for him. How the team will react, is open. The offense was a mess and is still a mess, the defense more or less the same. I don't expect a major increase in performance (last year just 1 win) but changes can do wonders and that 1 win of last season is already matched, while they also have 2 losses already.

Right now the BIG10 looks a bit static with the West doing some waves of becoming the next team to be beaten in the championship game, while the East is dominated by the top 3 teams and the rest is a matter of luck. Next season will the mixture of team change, the structure and also the quality of teams. This season, we get more of the usual, which is not bad, for some maybe just boring.

Southeastern Conference

I did overtime to get the previews done this week for 2 reasons. The 1st is, I will go on vacation soon and it's hard to write there. So writing that much text would be tough to impossible.
The 2nd reason is, postponing the last preview to week 5 would mean that a lot of games would already happen and it's getting harder to write a preview. It's more a mid-season summery.

The SEC will have a last season as we know it this year and then they will get Oklahoma and Texas. How this will look then, scheduling etc. is open. But for sure another 2 quality teams will join and will make the conference stronger. This season we still have the good old SEC, which was won last year by Georgia, who later became also National Champion, back-to-back to 2021. It will be tough for them to win 3 times in a row. in fact, no team has won in modern days 3 times in a row, except Minnesota 1934, 1935 and 1936, but at that time it was always a split with other teams. So, the odds are not good for Georgia to Three-peat.

Still Georgia is favored to win the East behind Tennessee and in the West it's again Alabama before LSU, the rest is already a bit apart. But those predictions do get caught be the reality, that's why prolonging those previews makes no sense.

Let's start with the West, where Alabama under Nick Saban enjoys one of the best periods of time ever. it's his 17th season, he never had a losing season and since year 2 of his reign the team is a contender, won 6 National Championships with Alabama (and one with LSU) and got again one of the best, if not THE best recruiting class of the year. No wonder they are favored to win. The only obstacles Alabama faces every season is, who out of the deep talent pool will start and will lead. And how do I substitute the loss of coordinators. This season a new OC came in, the former Notre Dame QB and a bit later OC of Notre Dame Tommy Rees. This is a quite unusual change, since in the past Saban did s e l e c t as OC most of the time former HCs, but either Rees did impress him, or he was sick of the fast switches. Anyhow, most concerning is likely the QB battle, which might take some time. The team did win 2 games so far, against weak teams, but lost also against Texas surprisingly. This raises some eyebrows, but the season has not started inside the conference, so everything is open.

Next is LSU, who did win (at least for me surprisingly) last season the division under new HC Brian Kelly. Kelly had successful seasons at Notre Dame but was never able to get the team a National Championship. He will likely be remembered as one of the most winning coaches of the program, never winning it all. So, he did put on purple and gold and won against Alabama and did almost win the SEC. Expectations are high this season, for sure. All units are likely better than last year, except maybe the defense backfield. They play Alabama on the road, which might decide the division. They do also (like Alabama) avoid Georgia from the East. The Tigers did, like Alabama, show vulnerability by losing against Florida State on opener, but won 2 against a FCS team and Mississippi State.

Many do see Texas A&M as 3rd, but I personally think Ole Miss will outperform them. Ole Miss under Lane Kiffin did resurface as winning team, which is maybe 1 step behind to win the division or more. Kiffin is in his 4th season and did so far have his best season in 2021 with 10 wins, including a bowl loss, but had always a bowl season. The team should rebound from the 8 win season last year by having several key starters back, having the coordinators in their 2nd season and having some key additions also. Offense should be OK or even better, the defense was the main factor for the drop last year and it should be better this season. They might challenge Alabama and/or LSU, but they might also just miss 1 step. The team won 3 times so far, but the best team was Tulane. They have to play Georgia on the road, which might be a missing win Alabama and LSU do not miss.

OK, here now Texas A&M. With a killer-contract Jeff Fisher is as save as you can be inside that crazy system called College Football. The pink slip would cost the Aggies many many million dollars in dead money, but when the results are not OK, we might see that happen. He is in his 6th season of a 10-year contract and the team’s performance did dive to a 5-7 record last year. Fisher was hired with that crazy contract to fulfil ONE goal, win a national championship and so far he did not even win a division. He did hire Bobby Petrino, the former HC of Arkansas and Louisville, as OC to fix the biggest problem. The defense was also not the best against the run last year, but experience should help here and overall was the defense not bad. So far the team did win 2 games against weak teams, but lost against Miami.

Sam Pittman did take over Arkansas 4 seasons ago and the team peaked in his 2nd year with 9 wins, including a bowl win. Last year there was a setback to 7, but this season the team does feature a quite good situation on offense with several key players returning, the defense still needs work. They did bring in many transfer players to get this done, the results have to be judged after the season. So far did the team win 2 cupcake games and lost to BYU.

It's always tough to lose the HC by death, and Mike Leach was for sure a very much liked coach at the program and many others in his career. Zach Arnett was named interims coach for the bowl game and then was promoted to regular HC for this season onwards. He did change a system a bit, Air Raid on offense will be shifted to a more balanced attack, but the QB is destined to throw, so expect no decline in production with the QB returning. The defense has a great LB unit and was strong last season. The program itself did always roam in the shadows of the bigger programs, the coaches always had to get the best out of the talent willing to play here and that is open, whether Arnett can do this. They won against a FCS team and Arizona (in OT), but lost clearly against LSU. Not sure they will get back to a bowl, likely not.

That leaves Auburn as last team in the West, which did change their HC again and hired former Ole Miss and Liberty HC Hugh Freeze as new man at the helm. Auburn has all the tools to win games, they just have to get that on the field. They lost several starters, but what did remain would start on almost every SEC team, so if Freeze and his staff get the units work together and find the replacements needed, the team will beat last season’s 5 wins. So far, they did win 3 games, the toughest was against Cal, which was close. The SEC schedule is hard, but they did avoid 2 tough teams from the East, haha.

The East is of course lead by the reigning National Champion Georgia, who are already in Kirby Smarts 8th season. He has transformed the program into a winning machine, and the 2 National Championships in a row so far did prove the team is at its peak. As said, no team in recent years did win 3 in a row, so Georgia does face an uphill battle. Like Alabama the team is loaded with talent and if some do not turn out to be imposters, the units, even with the departures after last season’s wins, will be among the best in the SEC. A new QB has to be found and a new OC has to be accepted, but all signs do right now point towards the SEC Championship game and beyond. The 1st 3 games were wins. But the close game against South Carolina did at least raise an eyebrow, maybe the team will lose at some point, this season?

As next contender for sure Tennessee is the team to beat. Last year they had issues to overcome the last deficits and to beat Georgia 8and South Carolina). The truth is the success last year was a small surprise. Josh Heupel is now in his 3rd season and of course the expectations are high. The team needs to find a new starting QB and also the Vols did lose several starters, so on other positions the talent pool has to deliver the next coming star player. Also, a new OC is on board, but he was promoted from within, so expectation here is, it will be smooth. The schedule is tough, 1st SEC game lost (against Florida), means, likely the team will again lack something to beat Georgia, maybe they will even not be able to win 2nd place.

As third team Kentucky is likely the best choice in Mark Stoops 11th season. He has Kentucky build into a winner, but last season the team did take a step back and won only 7 games. Especially the offense was bad last year and he did get his former OC, who did leave for the LA Rams for 2022, back to Lexington. And 2021 were the Wildcats sharper and had 10 wins. So, hope is, this will change things. The 1st 3 games were all wins, but only against cupcakes.

I put Billy Napiers Florida as 4th into the list, since it seems they are on a good way to reestablish the team in the top. Napier is in his 2nd year and Florida did look a bit better even last year, won 6 games, but lost in a bowl. This season the aim is higher, it's just unclear whether expectations and results will fit. The star QB is gone, the team will likely rely more in the RBs this season. Defense was not really good, so a new Coordinator was brought in and he has to rebuild it, with only 4 starters returning. The team started with a loss against Utah, but won last week against Tennessee, which not many had on the screen. A FCS team did provide the 2nd win so far. I think they will get to a bowl, whether it will be more and how much is open.

South Carolina under Shane Beamer in his 3rd year is facing eventually a down year. The QB is a mystery, sometimes a magician, sometimes a joker, the backfield thin, the o-line a project. The defense has also to become better against the run. The good news is, they do have a quite soft West-Schedule with A&M and the Bulldogs only, but the fate will be decided inside the East and so far, it does not look good, even they did so far only play Georgia (a loss). But they lost to rival North Carolina and only got a win against a FCS team. The past 2 seasons did the team exceed the expectations, but this season I expect them no miss a bowl. Let's see.

Eliah Drinkwitz is at least on a semi-warm seat, since in the 3 seasons so far he did win 5, 6 and 6 games. No bowl win. That's not the expectation of the Tigers program. The team night skyrocket this season, if the pieces start to click. But that means the lines have to work better, the QB has to be healthy, and the defense needs to take advantage of 8 returning starters. So far did the team win all 3 games, but 2 were against weak teams and the last was at home against Kansas State in a close game. They can build on that win, but the real tests will come soon. They could land in a bowl, but only if they finally make things happen, consistently. If they don't make a bowl, not sure what the fate of the coach will be.

And as lasts team, almost traditionally, Vanderbilt. The team under Clark Lea in his 3rd season was not bad last year, winning 5 games. That's almost as good as it can get on that field. The program has one problem, since ages. Either they find a HC who is good, means the team wins games, goes to bowl, then the HC does leave, fast. Other teams do pay more, have better resources, more chances to win more games. Those coaches stay 2-4 years, max. Or they find the other coach, who do not win regularly and then the coach might stay longer (the really bad ones are fires as at any other school) and the team does find some sort of piece at .500 in average (which is better than the overall record of the program). Lea has taken over from a bad coach and did raise the level from 2 wins in his 1st year to 5 last year. This season the team does return several starters in both sides, it will depend on how they do develop and how the defense as a unit will overcome being the worst of the SEC. No progress on defense will mean no bowl. The team has already 4 games in the book, thanks to a game against Hawaii on week zero, but did win 2 (Hawaii and a FCS team) and lost 2 (Wake Forest and UNLV). The results do not look good, the remaining schedule is SEC mid-level compared to other SEC teams, but I think the team would need the fluffy version to get to a bow.

So, same-same-but-different in this final season with 14 teams. Likely we will see against Georgia against Alabama or LSU in the Championship game and from here, the road for SEC tams is then as open as it can get for a National Championship. Whether that will be Georgia ... we will see.

Now let's have a look at the results of the 'boring week'.
As usually, some results came in as expected, some were big surprises.
Only 2 ranked teams did fall, most significant likely the loss of Tennessee to Florida, which might end their season goals already before the season did really start.
Kansas States loss to Missouri is not good for their win total but has no conference impact and would only hurt their playoff chances, which were slim anyway.
I don't expect a fired HC this weekend, but the week is young.


Fri. Sep 15
Utah State @ Air Force
Air Force used a strong 1st quarter with 2 Utah State turnovers for a good lead and after that they did manage the lead over the time to secure a win.
Never there was a slightest idea that Utah State would really come back in this game.
For Air Force this game means a 3-0 start overall and a 1-0 start inside the conference.
For Utah State it's a setback inside the conference and so far a 1-2 start overall.
Utah State 21 @ Air Force 39 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 6-4

Sat. Sep 16
#15 Kansas State @ Missouri
A very open game, a nailbiter.
Both teams made errors, had turnovers, but stayed in the game.
Missouri did lead at the half by 3, 17:14.
Kansas State did look like they would turn the game in the 3rd quarter and led starting of the 4th by 7, 24:17.
Then Missouri started to limit the Wildcats offense and scored 10 unanswered points, leading 27:24.
KSU did recover, a bit, and tied the game with a field goal.
The Tigers got nothing afterwards, so did KSU.
Mizzou did get the ball with 1:25 left and marched a bit over the field, but was stopped at the KSU 39-yard line, got a delay of game penalty, now on the 44 yard line and did then the 61-yarder for the win with time running out.
My bad I did pick the Wildcats.
#15 Kansas State 27 @ Missouri 30 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 6-5

James Madison @ Troy
A very defense driven game, but James Madison was the better team for most of the game.
They did lead at the half 13:7, blanked Troy 3:0 in the 3rd quarter, and then Troy scored a TD early in the 4th to open up the game again.
The 2 teams did then battle hard, Troy had a scoring chance, but missed a field goal from 49 yards with roughly 5:30 left in the game, and JMU did then manage to secure the win with their defense.
Not my cup of team as game type, but who likes defense battle, this was likely worth a watch.
James Madison 16 @ Troy 14 -> Jacks TOP GAMES Score: 7-5

And some other interesting games:

Fri. Sep 15
Army @ UTSA
A big win for Army with that 37:29 win against UTSA.
UTSA never had a chance, did play catchup the whole game and never did let the Roadrunners back into the game.
For me, very surprising, especially by that margin and the number of points scored by Army.
Jacks interesting games Score: 5-6

Sat. Sep 16
Minnesota @ #20 North Carolina
A never challenged win by UNC, winning 31:13.
Minnesota was able to score, but way too less to counter the often-scoring Tar Heels.
This does not look good for the Gophers this season.
Jacks interesting games Score: 6-6

#11 Tennessee @ Florida
The biggest surprise for me this weekend.
Florida won 29:16 and that by a great 2nd quarter, where Tennessee was just not able to do anything.
The rest of the game was more or less defense driven and 2nd half was more bend-but-not-break-strategy by Florida to secure the win.
This means likely Tennessee season goal to challenge Georgia for the division is eventually already on the line.
Jacks interesting games Score: 6-7

New Mexico State @ New Mexico
New Mexico State did play a good game against the rival and won 27:17.
A good 2nd quarter did bring them the lead and they did never give it back.
Jacks interesting games Score: 7-7

What else? (Only the 'odd' results)

Highly ranked FSU had their problems with Boston College but won 31:29. Since BC seems to be not so tough, does this mean FSU is not so good, or is BC better than anticipated?
Colorado needed 2 OT to beat rival Colorado State 43:35. The Hype continues, but CSU is not a killer team, so was that just the intensity of the rivalry, or will the hype end soon?
Liberty had beaten Buffalo 55:27. Liberty with a 3:0 start under new management; Buffalo is 0-3 so far.
Wake Forest did almost lose against Old Dominion but won 27:24. Old Dominion had a rough start so far, but won at least they won so far the conference game.
Ohio did win against Iowa State 10:7. I'm quite concerned about Iowa State, this does not look good for the season.
Florida International did win against UConn 24:17. FIU started 3-1 so far, which is a surprise.
UNLV won against Vanderbilt 40:37. Vanderbilt does start really bad so far into the season.
Miami (OH) did win against Cincinnati 31:24 in OT. The Bearcats did not lose this rivalry game since 2005, when Miami won last (beside this season). That ended the longest win-streak of that series, ever and did also tie the series 60-60-7.
South Alabama did prove they will have a say inside the Sun Belt, since they won against Oklahoma State 33:7. OSU really bad, almost no offense. And the Jaguars did prove they can score.
BYU did beat Arkansas 38:31. This looks promising for BYU, since Arkansas as SEC team has some strength.
Sacramento State (FCS) won against Stanford 30:23. Oh man, Stanford really is in rebuilding mode.
Fresno State did blank Arizona State 29:0. It is really strange what happens in the desert.

The 4th gameday is coming. And that one is a killer matchup week, it features a lot of ranked vs ranked games and this will shake up the ranks and also the conferences a lot.
I did pick again 1 additional game for preview, because I could not decide which to leave out.


Sat. Sep 23
#15 Ole Miss @ #13 Alabama
This seems to become a classic since 4 seasons. Lane Kiffin, the HC of Ole Miss, was the OC of Alabama under Nick Saban some seasons ago and since then do the 2 teams clash every season and of the so far 3 meetings did Kiffin win none. But each season did the margin shrink, last year it was only a score difference.
Overall is Alabama driving a 7 game winning streak on this rivalry and lead the series 54–10–2, while 4 meetings got nullified by NCAA sanctions.
This season is Alabama favored by 7.0 points, quite fair at home, but the Tide did show dents in their image of being almost unbeatable.
They lost against Texas by some strange events and the 2 wins were against not-so-good-teams, and especially last week was not very convincing.
Ole Miss on the other hand won all 3 games, but their only quality win was against Tulane, which is also not on the level of a SEC team.
We might see a Rebels win here, but I'm so far not willing to give up the Tide at home against a rival, therefore ....
Crimson Tide win.

#6 Ohio State @ #9 Notre Dame
When I heard that Ohio State plays Notre Dame this season at South Bend I thought 'Oh, this could become a close game'.
Ohio State will content for every title available for them, again, but they are not the favorite to win them.
That starts with their division, the conference (even though, if they win the division, they likely will win the conference also) and also not the any playoff spot.
But the team will be tough to beat, for sure.
Same is true for Notre Dame, they will likely also win a lot of games, but I did in my preview doubt a playoff spot.
The irony could be, that this game here might elevate the winner closer to a playoff spot, even might help to get a spot, while both teams should not get one.
The mechanics for the spot says, if you beat a quality team, you rise, if you lose you fall.
Sure, at the end, the whole season counts, but of both teams do win say 10 games, this game here is an elevator. But 10 games won't be enough likely ....
Anyway ...OSU is favored by 3.5 points, which is not much, but bold as road game for a team which did so far win only against cupcake teams and Indiana.
Notre Dame did win 4 games (including the trip to Ireland against Navy on week zero) and their best win was against NC State on the road.
Not sure what to make out of this, Notre Dame has a real chance, at home, against an OSU team, which is likely not TOP.
Enough to get this done? I don't know. Let's be bold ...
Fighting Irish win.

#24 Iowa @ #7 Penn State
A nice matchup, which might become a one-sided game.
Penn State is against the 3rd competitor inside their division (behind Michigan and Ohio State) and the past few seasons, that was their fate, they never DID it.
I don't know, whether they can DO it this season, but a win against one of the favorites, if not THE favorite to win the OTHER division, would help to stay in touch with the 2 other teams, their names we do no longer name in this short text.
Penn State had so far OK win, but nothing spectacular, Iowa had also 3 wins, but that game against Iowa State, as low scoring is it was, still bugs me.
I have doubts regarding their offense against quality defenses, and Penn State will field one, for sure.
No wonder Penn State is favored by 14.5 points at home, which indicates that many do share my concerns.
Nittany Lions win.

And some other interesting games:

Sat. Sep 23
#4 Florida State @ Clemson
Is this the change of domination inside the ACC.
Clemson did emerge the past decade to become THE force inside the ACC and Florida State did dive deep into the field of self-pity and mediocre football, until they started to re-appear last season. This season they have all the tools to win against Clemson and to win the ACC. But they need to win here, at Clemson, first and maybe we get a rematch in the ACC Championship game. For Clemson, if they want a rematch, they need to win here, since they already have a conference loss (against Duke) and it's unclear, whether a 2-loss team will make it to the game. FSU has won all games so far, a signature win against LSU included and a strange close win against BC last week. Clemson won 2 games, but both were against no-so-good-teams, and they have that Duke loss on opener. FSU is favored by 2.0 points, which shows that there is doubt on the Tigers strength this season. I'm torn between the home advantage and the coach which did bring the team 2 national championships and against a upcoming Seminoles team, which might win the ACC, but which did also not show championship caliber performance regularly.
Clemson is riding a 7-game-winning-streak in this rivalry, and I think it will break this season.
Seminoles win.

#19 Colorado @ #10 Oregon
The hype vs the Quak-Attack?
Last week’s result of the Buffs in the rivalry against Colorado State was a sign, that this team has still room for improvements.
Oregon at home is a force and they have all the offense power to overcome Colorado and the defense to suppress the Buffalos offense often enough to win here.
Oregon is favored by 21.0 points, I think it will be close, but not much.
Ducks win.

#22 UCLA @ #11 Utah
UCLA is the underdog in this game, where Utah has a line of -4.5, which is not much.
Utah did win all games so far, also against some better teams, but not with high margins, while UCLA did do the same, but with a bit less quality teams.
Playing Utah at home will be tough, it will come down to the Utes offense, which has to step up and score a bit more often than they did so far.
I think they can do it.
Utes win.

#14 Oregon State @ #21 Washington State
Here we have 2 emerging teams, battling it out. Both teams had some great wins so far, I would say Wazzu a bit better quality that the Beavers.
But Oregon State is likely the better team, at least on paper, so no wonder they are favored by 3.0 points on the road.
I think it will be a close game, likely high scoring.
Beavers win.

Since I will be on vacation for 2 weeks, I thought I will do 3 games per week for those 2 weeks to not having the same situation as last year only recapping the weeks results and you might have missed some great games.
The games are too far in the future to have serious betting lines, so it's just my gut feeling here.
I will u p d a t e the ranking-numbers afterwards, those are just the current ones.


Fri. Sep 29
#10 Utah @ #19 Oregon State
The Beavers have the chance to actually win here and take Utah a step away from the Championship game.
Utah is a quality team, no doubt, but the Beavers were built to win and they have the tools likely now.
Home field should help, key to the game will be, whether they can find cracks in the Utah defense and exploit that.
Beavers win.

Sat. Sep 30
#8 USC @ Colorado
The hype train of Colorado might come crashing fast, once they do lose a few games. But regardless, the team does look much more interesting than in the last decade.
Playing USC, even at home, will be a very tough game and the community sees 90% USC winning this, which is realistic.
The talent is deeper and even Colorado is playing with a lot of heart, Colorado State was able to score a lot of points against the Buffs and USC is double as dangerous, if not more.
Trojans win.

#13 LSU @ #20 Ole Miss
The other crucial match in the West of the SEC this season.
Kiffin vs Kelly will be interesting, and Ole Miss gets the home field, which might open up the game a lot.
My gut feeling says that the should be quite on the same level, but LSU having a small edge.
Since LSU did show some errors in the 1st game, I think Ole Miss has a good chance and I go with the Rebels.
Rebels win.


Sat. Oct 7
#12 Oklahoma vs #3 Texas
The Red River Showdown between (since way in the future likely) 2 ranked teams on traditional neutral site in Dallas. Texas leads the series 63–50–5 and won last season to stop a 4-game-winning-streak of Oklahoma. This season the Longhorns do look a bit more transformed to the better than Oklahoma, so for sure Texas is favored.
For Oklahoma this game will likely be the 1st REAL test of the team’s strength and we might see a close game (likely) or a meltdown by Oklahoma, I think.
Because Texas did prove they do stand their ground against a quality team already and won (against Alabama), so I think unless they do party all night with Bevo (The mascot of Texas) prior the game, Texas will be focused and will not give up.
Longhorns win.

#11 Alabama @ Texas A&M
This could become great or a simple stepstone for Alabama. If Texas A&M gets his stuff together, they are a force at home and would challenge Alabama.
But my take here is, Texas A&M does not get the stuff in line 100% and then Alabama will have a lot of weak spots to exploit.
Crimson Tide win.

#13 Washington State @ UCLA
I expect a fun, high scoring, game here. The 2 teams will likely have no offense problem, more a defense problem and therefore, whoever makes more errors, will likely be the loser. There is no high margin to overcome errors here and overall, I do see UCLA a bit better fitted at home then Washington State. Therefore ...
Bruins win.

So, I'm off for 2 weeks, no postings for that period of time.

'Til next time

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