In the game of football, there’s value in changing things up.
After you’ve pounded the run for a few plays in a row, throw in a play-action pass in a short-yardage situation when the defense least expects it. Defensively, if you’ve been sitting in a Cover 2 for most of the game, switch it up third down and go man-to-man. Chances are, the offense will call a time-out to talk it over.
Changing things up every now and then is a great strategy in football, and the same can be said for what we do here at Today’s U.
We’ve got to keep things fresh, so what do we do? Change it up.
With that in mind, we’ve asked five of our brightest college football writers to answer a few pressing questions as we head into this next week of action. This is the first ever Today’s U Roundtable.
The results are below:
1. Which college football storyline so far (and there have been many great ones) has caught your attention and why?
Rich Thomaselli: Clemson — The Tigers have had a long, unfortunate history of folding up shop and losing to a subpar team after a big win. It didn’t happen after Notre Dame, then they went and beat Miami on the road (not terribly impressive, i know, but the kind of game they used to lose before) and can run the table if they beat Florida State at home.
Adam Biggers: Other than Jim Harbaugh’s quick success at Michigan, the continuous crumbling of Miami Hurricanes football has caught my attention. Seeing former players such as Ed Reed and Warren Sapp express their dissatisfaction with former coach Al Golden via social media was the ultimate “he needs to go” moment–at least in recent memory.
Kyle Kensing: Two years ago, winless Grambling made national headlines when it boycotted a midseason game. The school’s athletic facilities were badly dilapidated, but the boycott also brought attention to the severe budget cuts primarily impacting the state of Louisiana’s HBC universities. Fast forward two years and while Grambling is still fighting the uphill climb with its overall budget, the football program is winning. The Tigers are 6-2 and in control of the SWAC West division. They won a game over East-leading Alcorn State in one of the most dramatic finishes and the season, and have the inside track to the conference championship.
Sami Harb: The class and sportsmanship showed by the LSU program in welcoming the South Carolina Gamecocks after their game had to be moved from Colombia due to the storms in South Carolina. The intensity of college football, especially in the SEC, can often bring out the worst in fans. But considering LSU’s fanbase knows better than anyone what the natives from South Carolina had to go through, the coaches, players and fans of the Tigers could not have handled that situation any better. From fans donating hotel rooms to Leonard Fournette auctioning off his jersey, it was just a first-class display by the LSU family and a great example of how sports can bring people together in times of hardship.
Andrew Kulha: I’ve always been big on football clichés, which is probably the coach inside of me. If there’s anything a football coach loves more than the game, it’s a good football cliché. With that in mind, what has stood out so far to me this season has been the two huge special teams plays that have won games. “They” always say special teams wins ball games, and we saw examples of that from both Michigan State and Georgia Tech in two huge wins. On one hand, Michigan and Florida State demonstrated terrible special teams play, and it cost them. On the other, MSU’s punt block team and GT’s field goal block team came up clutch in the biggest moment of the game. Some may not realize how improbable it was for both teams to not only block their respective kicks, but also run them back to the house for the win. Those were two truly unforgettable moments.
2. Which college football player do you feel deserves more national attention for the job he’s done so far this season?
Rich Thomaselli: Paxton Lynch, Memphis — Nobody knows about him and they won’t because it’s not exactly like Memphis football is top of mind. But this dude is the real deal — 17 TDs, 1 INT, 71% completion rate. Kid can play.
Adam Biggers: Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge has been one of the best safety blankets, possession-guys, big-play guys… take your pick. The Spartans senior is a big reason why quarterback Connor Cook has had Heisman flashes this season.
Kyle Kensing: Two weeks ago, I would have written Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, but the tide’s turning in his favor. I’ll stay in the Bay Area and nominate San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin. Ervin’s a Jack-of-all-trades, functioning as the Spartans’ primary ball-carrier, but a season ago he was the top receiver and can still operate effectively in that capacity. Ervin’s also explosive in special teams. For those who remember Kent State’s Dri Archer a few seasons ago, Ervin’s play is similar.
Sami Harb: Christian McCaffrey from Stanford has picked up some notoriety in the past few weeks, but still not enough in my opinion. McCaffrey has done it all for the Cardinal this season and is on pace to break Barry Sanders’ single-season all-purpose yardage record that has stood for nearly thirty years. No doubt Leonard Fournette is the Heisman front-runner right now, but McCaffrey would be the guy I’d put behind him. He’s also leading a Stanford team that is playing as well as any team in the country.
Andrew Kulha: I have to give Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard the nod here. Am I slightly biased because I was a Hawkeye beat writer before coming to Today’s U? Sure. I’m fine with that, though, because Beathard (and Iowa while we’re at it) is not getting enough credit. How many people nationally realize how significant it is that Iowa is 7-0 right now and ranked No. 10 in the most recent AP Top 25? This was a team that many thought would struggle heading into this season. Kirk Ferentz was on the hot seat, the defense was young, the offense was breaking in new linemen and oh, Beathard took over the show with only one career start under his belt. He showed signs of potential in 2014, but his true ability to be QB1 was still a question mark heading into this season. Now, he hasn’t been perfect, and neither has Iowa, but he’s been a huge step up for the Hawkeyes this season. He’s got a big arm, which has made Iowa’s offense more dynamic, and can also make plays with his legs. Those are two things Jake Rudock didn’t necessarily bring to the table for Iowa in 2014. Take all that away, and Beathard has still shown some tremendous heart and leadership as a quarterback, and you can tell that the Hawkeyes are a different team because he’s at the helm. A better team.
3. If you could only sit down and watch one game from this week, which one would it be and why?
Rich Thomaselli: Notre Dame-Temple — Kinda want to see if both teams are for real.
Adam Biggers: No. 9 Notre Dame vs. No. 21 Temple. It should be a great test for both sides. At 6-1, Notre Dame’s hoping to somehow get into the CFB Playoffs. At 7-0, Temple is hoping to keep alive this dream season. That’s an interesting story.
Kyle Kensing: If Temple beats Notre Dame — and that’s a huge if — it’s time the sport’s opinion-makers start having a very serious discussion centered on the Owls’ place in the Playoff scheme. They’d still have to navigate the remainder of their American slate, which includes a road trip to USF (much improved this season); the regular-season finale against UConn, which has put a scare into some opponents; and the marquee matchup with Memphis. And that doesn’t include a hypothetical AAC title game, likely against Memphis or Houston (though Navy lingers with a perfect conference record in the West, too). Were Temple to run the table, it would have a resume comparable to a Power Five champion’s. Of course, that’s predicated on winning this next one against Notre Dame.
Sami Harb: Sticking with the consensus, its gotta be Notre Dame vs. Temple. If someone had told me before the season that this matchup would carry playoff implications for both teams, I would have laughed in that person’s face. But that’s the reality of this situation. Notre Dame can’t afford to drop another loss and have a chance at making the final four. Meanwhile, a win for Temple would force the selection committee to start thinking about what to do with an undefeated American team with several nice wins against Power 5 programs.