By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
The opening four weeks of the season certainly haven't disappointed have they? We've seen teams on the rise (Ole Miss), teams expected to be in the top 10 falling (Auburn), and welcomed old friends back into the polls (Florida and Michigan). As we get set for the first week of true conference games, let's take stock of where things stand with 4 takeaways from the opening weeks.
Injuries To Star Players
Notre Dame has already lost a starting QB, RB, DT, DB, and LB this season. TCU seemingly loses another defensive starter every time you open Twitter. Injuries are nothing new in college football, they happen to everybody and teams learn to adapt. This year, for whatever reason, it seems like more high profile players are getting injured and out for significant periods of time. Myles Jack, James Conner, Malik Zaire, Taysom Hill, Ed Davis, the list goes on and on. Just take a look at the "All-Injured" team list that ESPN compiled yesterday. Whatever the reason, it's unfortunate that we're being deprived of some of the biggest talents in the game on a week to week basis.
The Big-12 Is The Most Entertaining Conference To Watch
Notice the headline. "Most entertaining." I didn't say best. This is largely objective and may only apply to my viewing tastes but this conference has produced multiple memorable highlight reel games already this season. Texas Tech vs TCU last week is the most recent that comes to mind. If you didn't watch that game, just watch the highlights here.
By the way, that ending overshadowed another heartbreaking loss for Longhorns fans (sorry guys, but hey Tailgate Fan came to visit!). That loss followed the 'Horns previous defeat against Cal in which they missed a PAT following a furious comeback.
All of that is to say that the Big 12 just rolls up the offensive numbers. That's no surprise considering the majority of teams in the conference run up-tempo spread offense but the conference's teams are averaging, AVERAGING 40.7 PPG. I don't know about you, but these teams each getting to play each other once putting up those kind of numbers? I'm excited. Defensive struggles can be fun, but offensive explosions are infinitely more entertaining to me.
Games Are Really, Really Long
This has been written about already in a couple of places but the length of games is continuing to rise. While some will actually blame the up-tempo offenses for scoring more and creating more plays leading to longer game times, the biggest problem I see is two fold. One, there are too many plays that can be reviewed. This seems crazy because I generally in favor of instant replay. But, with college football we may have gone overboard. At least in terms of what is automatically reviewed. I'd be happy to take some plays from that category and go to an NFL style challenge system instead.
Secondly, this has bothered me for years, but the stopping of the clock for first downs has to go. If you want to run up-tempo that's fine, then what's the reasoning for continuing to have this rule? Again, adopt the NFL rule and just let the clock stop only on incompletions and players going out of bounds. Those are just my thoughts, happy to hear yours.
The Playoff Race Is Wide Open And That Makes The Season More Fun
This season seems to be more open than previous years. Part of that can be attributed to injuries to key guys that make their teams question marks when evaluating their talent, but another part is that the teams expected to be at the top haven't been overly convincing. TCU for example is suffering from both of those afflictions. Injuries have decimated their defense and they haven't been overly impressive in their wins. Ohio State seems to be sleep walking through their schedule (though with that out of conference schedule, can you blame them?). Baylor, Michigan State, Ole Miss, UCLA, Georgia, all look like contenders but still have huge tests ahead.
Point is, I can't confidently put together a top 4 and say these teams will definitely be in the playoff. To me, that has made the season more entertaining because you can argue all day long about which teams deserve/don't deserve to be in the playoff each week.
Saturday Viewing Guide
#23 West Virginia at #15 Oklahoma 12 pm Fox Sports 1- Remember what I said about the Big 12 being the most fun to watch? Yeah, check out this game in Norman featuring the Mountaineers (43.3 PPG) and the Sooners (41.3 PPG). Expect fireworks.
#13 Alabama at #8 Georgia 3:30 pm CBS- Alabama is an underdog for the first time in 70+ games. Just think about that for a second. The last time these two teams met was three years ago in the conference title game. This is going to be a brawl with Bama trying to save their season and Georgia looking to make a statement. Plus, Uncle Verne.
#3 Ole Miss at #25 Florida 7 pm ESPN- Welcome back to the Top 25 Florida! Your reward? The possible best team in the country coming to the Swamp looking to prove they're for real.
#6 Notre Dame at #12 Clemson 8 pm ABC- Might be time to put the picture in picture on your TV or get multiple screens going so you can take in the Rebels and Gators and still have this game on. The Irish have overcome a ton of injuries to remain 4-0 while Clemson and head coach Dabo Swinney will have had 16 days to prepare.
This is a perfect Saturday to get up early get your chores/errands done and reward yourself with 12 hours of uninterrupted college football viewing.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that's where you'll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email or tweet him.
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