College Football Handicapping: Surprises and Disappointments
by Trevor Whenham - 10/2/2012
Now that the first full month of the college football season has passed, it’s a good time to look at what has happened so far and what we have learned. We come into each season full of expectations and opinions. By the time October rolls around, some of them stand strong and others are shattered.
Duke. The Blue Devils have already exceeded their three win total from last year, and they are well on their way to playing in their first bowl game since 1995. The remaining Duke football schedule gets tougher, but there are still a couple of potential wins on the slate.
Virginia Tech always seems to find a way to lose a game the Hokies should win at some point in each season. This year they managed it twice in September. Losing at Cincinnati was at least somewhat okay — the Bearcats are a decent team. Losing at Pitt, though, was inexcusable.
Miami. The Hurricane offense has been strong, and their late-game play has been heroic. Their schedule hasn’t been tough, though, and they were blown out by their only good opponent. I see at least three more losses on their schedule going forward.
Clemson. The Tigers have taken care of business against weak opponents, and they gave FSU a huge scare at home. At 150/1 to win the National Championship they are not getting the respect they deserve — at least not compared to several of the teams ahead of them.
Kansas State. We knew the Wildcats were going to be solid this year, but it comes as a surprise how strong Collin Klein and company have been. Their win at Oklahoma was proof that this team is for real.
Oklahoma. As good as Kansas State looked, it’s still a major disappointment that Oklahoma has, yet again, found a way to fail to live up to major expectations. You have to wonder at this point if Bob Stoops will ever return to the promised land.
West Virginia. Geno Smith has been beyond incredible, and the offense is potent. The Mountaineer defense, though, is completely awful. Really bad. I find it very hard to believe that they are going to be able to outscore every team they play, so I find it hard to believe that they are the BCS National Championship contenders people are rushing to call them.
TCU. The back half of the TCU football schedule is absolutely brutal, but this team has shown that they might just be up for it. At worst they will give their opponents a tough road given how strong their defense has been.
Rutgers. New Coach, new philosophy — this was supposed to be a transitional year. It still may turn out that way, but the Scarlet Knights have played three road games, and they have won all of them. They are going to be more of a factor in this pathetic conference than most thought.
None. It’s hard to be disappointed when you expect so little in the first place. Louisville is the only team that could have disappointed me, and so far they have been all they should have been.
Cincinnati. The Bearcats win last weekend over Virginia Tech got them a lot of buzz. Don’t be fooled just yet, though. Cincinnati barely beat a troubled Virginia Tech team. Their first five are at home, so they will have an inflated record before things get tougher. This team is solid but not as special as some are thinking.
None. There is one pretty good team, a couple of overachievers, and the rest are varying degrees of bad. This is really a bad league.
Ohio State. Urban Meyer’s transition took about half a game. By the second half of the Buckeye’s opener Braxton Miller looked like a whole new QB, and the team was established as the class of the Big Ten. They can’t win anything this year, but they are clearly ahead of schedule.
Michigan. The Wolverines have played two games against teams that matter. They were no match for Alabama. They threw away a very winnable game against an overrated Notre Dame squad because Denard Robinson threw the ball to an Irish defender every chance he got. They still have the game to win the Big Ten, but their focus and game calling just aren’t there yet.
Nebraska. I keep hearing that the Huskers are the favorites to win the league since Ohio State can’t, but I’m just not buying it. They have played two real opponents. They lost to UCLA and barely beat a very troubled Wisconsin team. Taylor Martinez is playing his best football, but four tough road games and Michigan at home are going to prove to be too much for this squad.
Purdue. It’s too easy to overlook this team. Their offense has been very good, and it has dealt with injuries very well. The defense is inconsistent but can be good. The Boilers are a fearless team that will do some damage, and no one cares about them. They are 3-1 ATS so far, and they’ll keep covering spreads.
Oregon State. It’s not just that the Beavers are beating pretty good teams. It’s that they are looking good doing it. Sean Mannion has been a revelation so far, and it looks sustainable. This team has the ability to win 10 games given their schedule. Who saw that coming?
USC. To be fair, though, how can you really let yourself be disappointed by a Lane Kiffin-led team. The Trojans supposedly potent offense has been a disappointment, and Kiffin seems to have a bare grasp on sanity.
Arizona State. Given the misstep by the Trojans I have heard people talk about the Sun Devils as a potential winner of the South Division. Ridiculous. They lost to Missouri, and we have seen that the Tigers aren’t that good. The reasonably weak Arizona State football schedule is about to get tougher, and they will crash back to earth. They will lose a minimum of three conference games.
Washington. They register at just 250/1 to win the BCS Championship. I clearly don’t think that they are a real contender, but you can use those futures odds to compare how they are respected against other teams, and Washington doesn’t get the credit they deserve. Keith Price will only get better, and the defense is sound when not playing LSU.
Alabama. I obviously knew the Crimson Tide were going to be good. I’m surprised, though, by just how much better than everyone else they have appeared. They have been on a totally different level to the rest of the teams in the conference — even though Georgia, Florida and South Carolina have all impressed. I don’t remember one team being as dominant as this team appears. Of course, given that this is college football that probably means they will get blown out next week.
Arkansas. We knew the Petrino fiasco would have a negative impact, but it was hard to predict that it would torpedo the team like it has. This is ridiculously ugly. Until the Razorbacks prove to have even an ounce of character on their team, they are an easy and automatic play-against.
LSU. I had doubts that the Tigers belonged in the same conversation with the very best teams in the country heading into the season, and so far I have been proven right. Their win over Washington was very impressive, but that killer instinct and relentless focus has been sorely lacking elsewhere. You could argue that they have played down to their opponents, but I never buy that — great teams don’t do that. I think they are going to lose twice.
Ole Miss. No one is paying attention to the Rebels, but they are quietly at 4-1 ATS. They played Alabama tougher than any team has so far, and very easily covered the spread. I don’t think they will be relevant in the SEC, but they will be better than the public thinks, and they will continue to shine against the spread.
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