10 things I learned during the first month of college football

Price1I’m hearing that Aerosmith jingle in the back of my head, “I’m back in the saddle again…!”

Fresh off a week-long trip with my kids to Disney World, it’s feels good to be back in the thick of things with the college football season now a month old. Especially with October football about to begin, which means no more cupcakes and the chance to finally see what some teams are made of after a month of directional schools and FCS opponents.

Since October is now here, what did we learn in the first month of the season? Well, an awful lot…here’s what I learned in the first-four weeks.

1. Nobody is going to go undefeated and win the national championship without a blemish in the loss column. We knew most every elite team had flaws before the season began and that hasn’t changed. This makes for an even more fun season, especially in the age of the CFB Playoff and publicly debating the four best teams on sports talk radio.

2. The toughest division in college football doesn’t belong to the SEC West. Hello Pac-12 South! I hear you angry SEC fans gnashing your teeth. Everybody ganged up on the Pac-12 after the second weekend of the season. But those naysayers are gone with the power out west, led by No. 7 UCLA and No. 10 Utah. Oregon is a shell of its former self, as the Utes went to Eugene and whipped the host Ducks up and down, all over the field. The Bruins have been impressive in every outing but big challenges await both teams moving forward.

3. Give me one running back in a deep national crop of outstanding players and I’ll take LSU’s Leonard Fournette without wasting a second. I’m sure most of you would to. Nick Chubb is a stud and you can’t go wrong with the Georgia sophomore, averaging over eight yards per carry (as does Fournette). The speed, power, inside-outside ability of the 6-foot-1 Fournette alone has me salivating and this doesn’t include his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and pass protect. He’ll continue putting up Heisman numbers until really being tested during LSU’s back-loaded November schedule.

4. Alabama won’t hit double digit, regular-season wins. I said it this summer, preseason and I’m sticking to it. Nick Saban’s talented level is clear, probably the most in the country besides Ohio State. Staying power is difficult at the highest levels of any sport and the continued attrition of players to the NFL had to catch up to the Tide eventually. A second loss could be coming Saturday in Athens and Bama still has road games at No. 14 Texas A&M,  No. 21 Mississippi State and the Iron Bowl plus No. 9 LSU at home.

5. I’m not picking on the state of Alabama but Auburn is a train wreck and we were all hoodwinked. I’m one of the many who was fooled, except my man Sturg who didn’t buy the Auburn hype before the season. Starting QB Jeremy Johnson has been a bust and Will Muschamp’s defense can’t stop anyone, including the above-mentioned Fournette (who has?) or even FCS Jacksonville State.

6. One final SEC item…Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema should once and for all keep his big mouth shut after another Razorback meltdown. Toledo upset the Hogs early but this time Texas A&M rallied past Bielema’s bunch in overtime. Instead of popping off about Ohio State’s weak schedule (no secret there) and chest beating about how difficult the SEC West is (heard that one before), Bielema should try focusing on what’s in front of his team like the Rockets and Aggies.

6. The ACC’s Coastal Division continues its time-honored tradition of annual surprises and disarray. Georgia Tech’s option couldn’t run past Notre Dame’s outstanding rush defense and then flopped to Duke in Durham. With the Jackets out of it, my attention now turns to the well-coached, David Cutcliffe led Blue Devils with their favorable schedule. Cutcliffe may have done the best coaching job of any head coach at any school over the last five years. My Al Golden fandom hasn’t waned and think Miami has confidence after surviving Nebraska’s rally but a brutal four-week stretch (at FSU, Virginia Tech, Clemson, at Duke) will make or break the Canes.

7. Is Clemson as good and is South Carolina as bad as perceived? Yes and no. The Tigers were criticized by some after a hard-fought 20-17 road win at Louisville in their first and only test of the season. Clemson isn’t national title or CFB Playoff good but they’re at the very top of the ACC title race with the No. 11 Seminoles. True freshman Lorenzo Nunez is Steve Spurrier’s best option at QB with Connor Mitch’s season-ending injury. Nunez’s arm strength is below average so the Gamecocks’ success depends on his legs and ability to take care of the football.

8. Biggest busts this season? Arkansas is a certain candidates and arguments can be made for Tennessee and South Carolina. Besides the Hogs I’d add Georgia Tech, Central Florida, Arizona State and Louisville. But the Auburn Tigers are the runaway winner here.

9. Not taking considering last season, the 2015 preseason rankings or how I think it’ll ultimately shake, my top-four teams in the country based on what they’ve done so far THIS season (in order): Ole Miss, UCLA, Utah, Michigan State. Ohio State and Notre Dame are my next two.

10. Which one team would I bet my hard-earned money makes the CFB Playoff at the end of the season? Ohio State.

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