Patience is usually the smart way to go about things in College Football, especially when the end game isn’t always about winning right now and this season. However, two games into the 2014 campaign, programs like Texas, Michigan, Ohio State and even the 2-0 UCLA should be concerned about how this season is shaping up to be very different from their expectations.
Unlike the three first programs we mentioned, UCLA haven’t lost yet. But they are in the top 15 and the feeling around the program that this was going to be a season of moving another step forward, which means winning the conference and maybe finding a spot in the playoffs. So far it hasn’t looked like they’re good enough.
Texas is a massive football program in terms of influence, money and history (well maybe not that massive) but the present is bleak and almost depressing. The 41-7 loss to BYU didn’t change the minds of those who think Charlie Strong can turn things around and make it a national powerhouse in due time, like it was from 2005 to 2009 more or less, but the home defeat showed how deep and serious the problems are. With a home game against ranked UCLA, followed by a hellish October against Baylor, Oklahoma and at Kansas State, it’s hard to see this as the season in which the Longhorns bounce buck from their relative slump in recent years.
One thing Michigan can hold on to? Last year Michigan State lost to Notre Dame early in the season. That turned out to be their only loss of 2013, and they went on to win the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl. But that’s enough of fantasy. The current state of thought at Ann Arbor is that Brady Hoke is riding on the last fumes of Rich Rodriguez recruiting. Remember, while Rodriguez and his attempt to change things at once aren’t remembered fondly, his record did improve from season to season. Hoke? It’s getting worse, as the offensive line looked like a mess in its attempts to protect Gardner, turning into another version of Denard Robinson. This isn’t going to be 2011, but the only thing the Wolverines can feel good about is how bad it might turn out to be for Ohio State.
While some are trying to blame LeBron James for the loss, this is a case of bad luck, and maybe some bad playcalling and preparation. J.T. Barrett didn’t ask to be thrust too soon into the role of the most important quarterback in the state of Ohio. However, he’s there, and he’s struggling with interceptions and bad throws. From national title hopefuls Ohio State now need to start worrying about not letting this home loss to the Hokies turn into a slide they can’t bounce back from. Games against Kent State and Cincinnati should make the pill about easier to swallow before things should get slightly more difficult.
What? A 2-0 team needs to worry? Yes. Just like Rugby, American’s football big, more globally popular brother, seeing for how long a game was close is a far better testament to the quality and actually parity of the contest than the end result. That’s why Michigan State shouldn’t be too worried about losing in Oregon to a Ducks team that’s always one big run around the edges from exploding. But the Bruins? They had hopes of contending for the Pac-12 title. So far they’ve managed to avoid defeat against the unimpressive Virginia (on the road) and Memphis (at home), both games being very close in the final quarter as well. With a tough schedule waiting for them, this kind of defense won’t keep UCLA in contention for the South division with both USC and Arizona State lurking.
There were no expectations from the Commodores this season. Not after James Franklin left town, took some recruits with him and also caused others to de-commit. However, losing to Temple 37-3 and then followed by a 41-3 loss to Ole Miss, both happening at home, was not in the cards. Vanderbilt finished the last two seasons in the top 25. Now? They’re 114th in passing yards, 119th in rushing, 125th in scoring and have a defense that’s 117th in the nation. This seems like a case of Colorado 2.0.