Overreaction Distraction: Debunking first-week myths

By MIKE HERNDON

There’s no better time than the week after the first games of the college football season for knee-jerk overreactions. We can fight that urge and say “the jury is still out” or “let’s wait until the conference schedule” like a sane person, or we can give in to the impulse like the football junkies we are and ride the wave.

So let’s ride, and slap a few down along the way:

  1. The SEC sucks.

Tennessee lost to Georgia State. Missouri lost to Wyoming. Ole Miss lost to Memphis. South Carolina lost to North Carolina and an elderly man who looks like he’s having a seizure when he dances.

All jokes aside, you have to love seeing video of coaches celebrating with their players like that. Let’s just hope Mack Brown didn’t throw out a hip.

Isn’t all this more than enough evidence to prove the SEC actually sucks, you say? No, it proves the bottom of the SEC sucks. The ship has long since sailed on the old, trusty “top-to-bottom” argument for SEC superiority (thanks, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee). But the top of the conference is still as strong or stronger than any other conference in the nation, and that is how conference strength is really judged. Alabama and Georgia will be playoff contenders. LSU may have its strongest team in several years. Auburn has an exciting new quarterback and a very good defense. And if Florida can cut out some of the penalties and keep its quarterback focused, it might not be bad either.

And they just threw another pass interference flag on the Gators in Orlando.

It wasn’t like the SEC cornered the market on embarrassment. Purdue lost to Nevada. Arizona lost to Hawaii and UCLA lost to Cincinnati. Florida State blew a 31-19 halftime lead and lost to Boise State. Iowa State needed overtime to get past Northern Iowa.

If the SEC really wanted to be accurate, however, it’d extend its “It Just Means More” slogan to include: “… to the top half of the conference.”

  • Auburn has found its next championship quarterback.

When a Gus Malzahn-led Auburn offense has led the Tigers to the national championship game, it’s been because it had a strong hand at the controls at quarterback. Now comes freshman Bo Nix, who provided perhaps the most exciting finish of the week, throwing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Seth Williams for the winning points in a 27-21 comeback victory over Oregon.

It was a play eerily reminiscent of a fourth-down TD pass thrown by his dad, Patrick Nix, in a win over Alabama in 1993, and it immediately pushed the Tigers’ Vegas odds to win the national title from 50/1 to 25/1.

Now for the bad part: Nix completed fewer than half his passes and threw for just 177 yards and two picks.

He’s a true freshman, and he’s going to make mistakes. This time last year, he was trying to beat Oxford and Clay-Chalkville. But he’s got an arm, and he definitely showed the stage isn’t too big for him. Good times are ahead, but give the kid time.

  • Nick Saban will regret choosing Tua Tagovailoa over Jalen Hurts.

To be fair, this isn’t really an overreaction – just a Skip Bayless troll job. I know, I should stop reading his tweets. I should stop a lot of things that aren’t good for my sanity.

Hurts rolled up 508 yards of total offense and six touchdowns with only three incompletions in a 49-31 win over Houston. But Tagovailoa threw for 336 and four scores, with only five incompletions, in a 42-3 win over Duke. And if you’re feeling the urge to argue about the relative strengths of the Houston and Duke defenses, maybe just take another shot of Jager instead. One more can’t hurt at this point.

Let’s give Skip his due, however. Another of his takes from Sunday wasn’t so crazy: that Hurts could win the Heisman. Playing in that offense against Big 12 defenses, Hurts is going to put up monster numbers.

Does that mean Saban will regret his decision? This isn’t Drew Brees and Daunte Culpepper. Tagovailoa is still a better passer than Hurts and Saban will take a berth in the national title game over a Heisman all day and twice on Sunday. It could, however, mean he’ll have to beat his old quarterback to do it.

For the record, I think he probably will. My prediction for our four College Football Playoff teams this year is: Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State.

  • With Oregon’s loss to Auburn, the Pac-12’s season is over.

A prominent storyline heading into Week One was that the Pac-12, as a conference, needed Oregon to beat Auburn or it might as well bag up the footballs and turn out the lights on the season. If a team expected to be one of the top contenders in the Pac-12 couldn’t beat a middle-of-the-pack SEC team at a neutral site, the thinking went, the perception of the conference would leave it at such a disadvantage in any strength-of-schedule arguments that it would have virtually no shot at the playoff, as its nine-game conference schedule makes it highly unlikely any of its teams will skate through undefeated.

Lackluster performances by Stanford and USC and ugly losses by Arizona and UCLA didn’t help the conference’s case.

But “highly unlikely” doesn’t equal impossible. Washington and Washington State both opened with properly lopsided wins. After a sluggish start, Utah cruised past BYU. Each of these teams controls its own destiny, and there are plenty of teams in other conferences that are going to have strength-of-schedule drawbacks if it comes down to a tie-breaker with the selection committee. If the Pac-12 gets shut out of the playoff again, it won’t be Oregon’s fault.

  • Hugh Freeze has already given us the craziest moment of 2019.

Freeze coaching from a hospital bed in coaches’ box during Liberty’s 24-0 loss to Syracuse wasn’t even the craziest thing that night. He also held the postgame presser from the same bed with a cold one in hand.

But once again, the season’s only a week old. I’m sure somebody will get caught with an escort service’s number in his school-issued phone before it’s over. Hold on, being told that Freeze already did that too.

Besides, this week he’s upping the ante — from hospital bed to dentist’s chair. Next week: a chaise lounge.

  • The Sooner Schooner is the best tradition in college football.

This one was a Sports Illustrated listicle shared by Paul Finebaum to get the rage-callers riled up in the SEC. But the most egregious omission was from far outside the Southeast. The Kinnick Wave to the patients at the children’s hospital outside the stadium in Iowa is the best tradition in college sports. It doesn’t matter that it’s not a long tradition. You’re not topping this:

I’ll take that over a rickety old wagon being dragged across the field any day of the week.

(Photo from Twitter/@PShuck)



Categories: College football

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