The curse and beauty of college football is no rewind button exists. Oh, the do-overs that refs, coaches, players and fans would love after Week 2.
No one in college football is truly safe, not even fans.
And you thought it was OK to tune out of Week 2. After all, it was the first week since Sept. 8, 2012, without any game featuring two ranked teams.
We’re now two weeks into the season and six of the top 16 teams in the preseason AP Top 25 poll have lost: Oklahoma Sooners , LSU, Notre Dame Fighting Irish , Ole Miss, TCU Horned Frogs , and UCLA Bruins . The Big 12’s top three preseason teams — Oklahoma, TCU and Oklahoma State Cowboys — each have a loss.
Safe? Nothing is safe, not even after TCU quarterback Kenny Hill leads three fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally ahead of Arkansas Razorbacks . Hill butchered the comeback after a stupid throat slash penalty up 28-20 with 2:05 left, giving the Razorbacks good field position for the tying-touchdown drive.
What’s not safe about a 28-yard chip shot field goal for a TCU win with 16 seconds left? Danger lurked because Bret Bielema used a monster human being named Dan Skipper — a 6-foot-10 left tackle — to block Ryan Graf’s field goal and force overtime for an Arkansas win.
After beating North Carolina Tar Heels in Week 1, Georgia Bulldogs figured it was safe to start freshman quarterback Jacob Eason against 55-point underdog Nicholls. But the Bulldogs’ offensive line was miserable in opening running lanes, Eason threw a huge interception in the red zone, and backup Grayson Lambert had to finish Georgia’s way-too-close 26-24 victory.
Florida State Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher oddly gambled by keeping star safety Derwin James in the game with a 42-6 lead over Charleston Southern. James injured his knee and was carted off the field, and the severity of his injury isn’t known one week before the Seminoles face a huge road test against red-hot Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson . It’s not an overstatement to say the health of James could impact the College Football Playoff picture.
“You can second guess yourself all day, and I’m sad it happened,” Fisher told reporters.
Connecticut Huskies players looked like they felt safe with all the time in the world. The Huskies trailed Navy Midshipmen 28-24 with no timeouts, 17 seconds remaining and the ball at the Navy 1. The Midshipmen stuffed a UConn run and the clock kept going and going and going. Huskies players showed no urgency to get lined up and time ran out. “I take full accountability,” UConn coach Bob Diaco said. “It’s a very, crushing, crushing game.”
When Virginia Tech Hokies took a 14-0 lead, Hokies fans probably felt safe they would get their money’s worth while braving the mass of humanity at the Battle at Bristol. Tennessee Volunteers scored 31 straight points and won in a rout, proving that while it may not be safe to totally trust the Vols again, they won’t implode on a race track in early September.
Clemson Tigers ‘s Ray Ray McCloud thought he was safe to drop the ball as he crossed the goal line on a would-be, 75-yard punt return touchdown. Instead, he became the latest DeSean Jackson and let go of the ball too soon for a turnover. Is it that hard to run a couple extra yards? The time has come for a Twitter movement: #HandItToTheRef.
But what if you’re not even safe handing the rulebook to officials from two different conferences? Sorry, Oklahoma State. The Hail Mary Lateral still counts no matter how much officials the officials screwed up.
Kudos to Central Michigan Chippewas , but the play never should have happened. Oklahoma State led with four seconds left when its quarterback, Mason Rudolph , heaved the ball far out of bounds to let the clock expire. He was called for intentional grounding because he was still in the pocket.
Officials gave Central Michigan the ball at the Oklahoma State 49 for one untimed down, completely contradicting the rulebook because the Cowboys’ penalty resulted in a loss of downs. In the 40-plus years national officiating coordinator Roger Redding has spent in football, “I’ve never seen an ending like that,” he said.
The referee from the MAC admitted he misapplied the rule. The Big 12 acknowledged its replay crew could have spoken up to save one of its teams. (Dear Big 12: Forget expansion and work on officiating. That’s two high-profile mistakes by Big 12 replay officials in two weeks after they missed a targeting penalty on Texas Longhorns vs. Notre Dame in Week 1.)
“In my mind, it is incomprehensible that a mistake made after time had expired cannot be corrected,” Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said in a statement.
It stinks for the Cowboys, but they could have saved themselves by not going 1-of-11 on third downs, possessing the ball for 11 fewer minutes and defending better on the final play. Enough with the talk about correcting final scores after the fact. Trust me, you don’t want that slippery slope. How many other misapplied rules in a game do you then revisit?
“It’s probably perceived to be unfair, but it’s part of the culture that once the game is over it’s over,” Redding said. “Think of the Fifth Down play [between Missouri Tigers and Colorado Buffaloes in 1990]. It only came to light after the game was over and there’s no going back. It’s unfortunate. You can’t go back and rewind.”
No, you can’t. After experiencing college football heartache, the best you can hope for is hitting the pause button on the season. The worst-case scenario? Your season crawls to a stop like a Bristol traffic jam with 156,990 of your closest friends.
What we learned
1. TCU’s loss to Arkansas may haunt the Big 12: First thing’s first. That TCU-Arkansas fourth quarter and overtime was off the charts with incredible plays. That’s as fun a finish as you’ll see. But here’s the harsh reality of the result: The Big 12 really didn’t need TCU losing at home to what looks like a middle-tier SEC team. It’s a long season, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion we’ll be talking about this TCU-Arkansas result months from now during playoff discussion.
Oklahoma lost to Houston Cougars . Oklahoma State fell to Central Michigan. TCU got beat by Arkansas. The Big 12’s lack of a championship game is controversial enough at the end of the season. Now the Big 12 is sputtering at the start. If Ohio State Buckeyes beats Oklahoma next week, the Big 12’s playoff hopes may become Texas or bust. These are the only “high-profile” nonconference games left for the Big 12: Brigham Young Cougars at West Virginia Mountaineers , Texas at Cal, Pittsburgh Panthers at Oklahoma State, and Ohio State at Oklahoma. Is it too late to invite Houston for 2016 and immediately introduce Tom Herman into the Big 12?
2. Clemson’s offense has concerns: It’s not too soon to be concerned about the Tigers’ offense after their second straight sloppy performance. Clemson gained 223 rushing yards per game in 2015, but its average is at 136.5 yards after facing Auburn Tigers and Troy Trojans . Deshaun Watson had to throw 53 passes to accumulate 292 yards against Troy. His receivers didn’t help with key drops. The Tigers’ offense was so stagnant that they might not have won if Watson hadn’t rushed for 55 yards on 10 carries — far more rushing attempts than Clemson probably wanted for their star vs. Troy.
Clemson started slowly on offense in 2015 before putting up video-game numbers. So this could be a blip. But it’s worth watching as the expectations for this program got raised. It’s easier to chase the prize; it’s harder to be the hunted. Dabo Swinney told reporters the Troy game better be a wake-up call “or it’s going to be a long season.”
3. James Franklin missed a win he could have used: Pitt 42, Penn State Nittany Lions 39 isn’t as bad as it could have been for Franklin after an early 21-point deficit. But that’s a game Franklin really could have used to appease his fan base. Franklin came to Penn State saying he would dominate the state, and now he has losses to Temple Owls and Pitt in consecutive seasons.
Pitt is a sneaky candidate to potentially win the ACC Coastal Division. (OK, who isn’t a candidate to win that division?) Penn State-Pitt drew a crowd of 69,983, making it the highest-attended sporting event in the city of Pittsburgh history. That’s impressive given all the great Steelers games in Pittsburgh history. Never forget: The best rivalries are regional.
4. LSU Tigers may have found a QB: OK, the opponent was Jacksonville State. But given LSU’s awful quarterback play in recent years, any spark is viewed like a hidden diamond. After LSU had two three-and-outs to start the game with Brandon Harris , Danny Etling led the Tigers to touchdowns on his first two drives.
LSU fans seemed shocked to see a quarterback actually hitting receivers in stride. Etling went 6 of 14 for 100 yards. I’m not sure what it says that it took an ex-Purdue quarterback to spark LSU, but it says something.
5. Tennessee showed heart: That’s not a small thing, even if the opponent was Virginia Tech in Justin Fuente’s first season. Down 14-0, the Vols looked like they were on the verge of being embarrassed on the heels of an underwhelming Week 1 win over Appalachian State Mountaineers . A huge turnover by the Hokies swung the game.
To the Vols’ credit, they recovered and dominated a team that has less talent. Josh Dobbs ran for 105 yards, Jalen Hurd added 99 and the defense forced five turnovers. I still question Dobbs as a passer for this to be an elite team. But his feet returned this week, and that’s a good sign for Tennessee as the Florida Gators and Georgia games loom on Sept. 24 and Oct. 1.
Score of the day
Illinois State 9, Northwestern Wildcats 7. The Redbirds could again be one of the better FCS teams. Still, this was a bad loss for Northwestern, a 10-win team in 2015 that’s now 0-2 in 2016 with losses to Western Michigan Broncos and Illinois State.
Stat of the day
For the first time since 1996, the service academies have all started the season 2-0. On Saturday, Air Force Falcons beat Georgia State Panthers , Army knocked off Rice Owls and Navy edged Connecticut.
What was he thinking?
BYU coach Kalani Sitake made the boldest call of Week 2 by going for the win while down one against his former boss, Utah Utes ‘s Kyle Whittingham. The Utes snuffed out the two-point conversion on Taysom Hill ‘s draw play. The play failed, but the gamble symbolized BYU fans’ love affair already with Sitake. He may shown more emotion in one game than Bronco Mendenhall did in his entire BYU career.
Quote of the week
“We came in here and outhit those guys today. There’s no doubt which team was hitting harder.” — UCF Knights coach Scott Frost
That’s one way to spin a 51-14 loss to Michigan Wolverines .
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / What we learned in Week 2: No one in college football is ever truly safe