John Clay: What we've learned early this college football season

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistSeptember 26, 2012 

Because we are in a "list" mood, 10 things we think we know after one third of college football's regular season.

1. Alabama is still really good. So Nick Saban lost great talent off his defense from last year. No problem. The Tide is still dominating opponents one stop at a time. Alabama has held each of its first four opponents under 270 yards of total offense, its last two (Arkansas and Florida Atlantic) under 138 yards.

2. Bobby Bowden successor Jimbo Fisher is a coach-in-waiting that has worked. Fisher has put his stamp on Florida State, which proved its worth by winning Saturday night's 49-37 shootout with Clemson.

We already knew that FSU had a stout defense, but now Fisher has the Seminoles' offense turbocharged as the home team piled up 667 total yards against Clemson.

3. Bill Snyder is the greatest coach ever. It's one thing for Snyder to build the once-lowly Wildcats into a consistent winner out of scratch. It's another thing entirely for the 72-year-old coach to come out of retirement and rebuild K-State all over again.

All Kansas State did was go to Norman, Okla., and beat the Sooners on Saturday. Snyder is the opposing argument to every school that wants the hot, young coach.

4. The Big Ten is awful. Louisiana Tech — with ex-UK grad assistant Donny Dykes as its head coach and ex-UK offensive coordinator Tony Franklin as its OC — whipped Illinois 52-24 on Saturday. Central Michigan beat Iowa. Michigan lost at Notre Dame after Michigan State lost to the Irish the week before, after Purdue lost to UND the week before that.

Indiana has lost to Ball State. Wisconsin has lost to Oregon State. Nebraska has lost to UCLA. The league has lost its way.

5. Notre Dame is back. See No. 4 for evidence. We admit that we liked Brian Kelly a lot when he was at Cincinnati. We admit that we soured on Kelly when he became one red-faced, sideline scream at South Bend. But Kelly seems the perfect fit for the Golden Domers, who needed a pugnacious, offensive-minded coach who would grab the program by the ear lobes and drag it into the 21st century.

6. Oregon has a defense. It's true. The Ducks proved it Saturday night, blanking Rich Rodriguez and Arizona 49-0. That's a scary thought, an honest-to-goodness defense to go with Chip Kelly's supersonic offensive attack.

Wouldn't an Alabama-Oregon BCS title game — old school Bama vs. futurama Nike U. — be straight out of a George Lucas film set?

7. Just because you once won a national title, don't expect any favors. Gene Chizik coached Auburn to the 2010 national title. Two years later, with his Tigers 1-3, its only win an overtime squeaker over Louisiana-Monroe, many on the Plains are ready to move Chizik out of town.

Come on, Cameron Newton won that BCS trophy, not Chizik, is the War (Eagle) cry. It's what have you done for me lately? Ask Tommy Tuberville.

8. We should pay attention to how Mitch Barnhart's old school does it. That would be Oregon State.

Mike Riley is on his second tour of duty at OSU and surely there were those who wanted to run Riley out of Corvallis after his teams went 5-7 and 3-9 the last two years while Oregon was rising to national recognition.

Instead, OSU stuck by its coach and the Beavers have opened 2012 with wins over Wisconsin and UCLA. Lesson: Patience is a virtue.

9. Brock Huard has a future in the booth. The former Washington quarterback replaced Bob Davie as Mark Jones' partner and we have to say we like the guy's style.

He's prepared, makes good points and could be a new star on the announcing horizon. Were I calling the ESPN shots, I'd put Huard on the fast track up the ladder.

10. Louisville could go undefeated. Who's going to beat the Cards? Pittsburgh did beat Virginia Tech and the game is at Pitt, but U of L should be favored on Oct. 13. Cincinnati could be a handful, but that game is at Papa John's on Oct. 26.

Going to Rutgers for the final game on Nov. 29 will be no garden party, even in the Garden State, but the Scarlet Knights may be all that stands between Teddy Bridgewater and perfection.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226Email: jclay@herald-leader.comTwitter: @johnclayivBlog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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