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Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
Preseason expectations don’t always pan out, but some predictions can rapidly turn sour in a matter of weeks.
One month into the 2020 college football season, for example, several top-ranked teams have endured an upset. While that’s no different than usual, the losses are magnified when about 40 percent of the Football Bowl Subdivision isn’t even playing.
Disappointment is not limited to national title contenders or teams hoping to reach that level, either. Programs simply looking to compete in their own conference can fall short, too.
It’s still early, and a few of the teams highlighted might end the season on a positive note. But the first weeks haven’t been kind.
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Barry Reeger/Associated Press
To be perfectly honest, I’m not interested in the “whether it was a good decision” discussion. Four conferences—the Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and MAC—postponed the fall season in August. About a month later, they all reversed course.
Strictly on that knowledge, it’s disappointing not to have the quartet playing as close to a full schedule as possible.
Instead, each conference is slated for six to eight games—though the Big Ten has built in a special weekend to include a ninth contest. For comparison’s sake, the ACC intends to play 11 with the Big 12 and SEC both aiming for a 10-game schedule.
Again, if this is what the leagues deemed safe, great! It’s still OK to be frustrated there isn’t more.
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Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
This is mostly a nod to anyone who anticipated—hoped?—Les Miles would turn around a disastrous Kansas program.
Last season, the Jayhawks opened the year 2-1 and snapped an 11-year streak of failing to beat a power-conference team on the road. Kansas trudged to a 3-9 overall record—which, on the other hand, matched the program’s most wins in a decade.
But it’s not getting any better in 2020.
Coastal Carolina smacked Kansas 38-23 in the opener before Baylor rolled to a 47-14 blowout win. And on Saturday, Oklahoma State crushed the Jayhawks 47-7. Simply put, Kansas continues to look helpless on both sides of the ball.
Perhaps you think Miles merely needs more time. If you feel his tenure is ill-fated, though, I can’t argue with that.
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Florida State trailed Miami 38-3 at halftime. That should be enough to explain the tenor of the Seminoles’ season so far.
During the opening game, Georgia Tech stunned the hometown crowd with a 16-13 upset. While that result was a letdown, Miami scored 52 points—the most ever in the rivalry’s history. Though first-year coach Mike Norvell missed the game while quarantining, it was an embarrassing showing for FSU.
Heading into Week 5, the ‘Noles benched quarterback James Blackman and turned to Tate Rodemaker against Jacksonville State. He lasted four scoreless series and a 14-0 deficit before Jordan Travis replaced him and guided FSU to a frustrating win.
Few people, if anyone, expected Florida State to compete in the ACC this season. Yet this 1-2 start is about as rough as Norvell’s debut year could’ve begun.
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Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
Three years ago, UCF finished 13-0 and claimed a national title despite not appearing in the College Football Playoff. Because of 2020’s unfortunate circumstances, the Knights actually had a fighting chance to be in the conversation this season.
Not anymore, however.
The Knights squandered an 18-point lead, scoring only three points in the second half of a 34-26 loss to Tulsa. It was a night of mistakes for UCF, which gave up a safety, missed a field goal, had three turnovers and committed a staggering 18 penalties.
Look, it’s unlikely UCF would’ve been in the CFP. But to already have a loss by the first weekend of October is incredibly anticlimactic.
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Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
What has made Clemson and Alabama so great is their ability to overcome any amount of transition to challenge for a national title. LSU hoped to prove it could do the same in 2020, but a season-opening loss to Mississippi State sure complicated that effort.
Mississippi State racked up 632 yards of offense in Mike Leach’s debut, including an SEC single-game record 623 passing yards from Stanford transfer K.J. Costello. LSU had no answers for the Bulldogs, who celebrated a 44-34 victory in Baton Rouge.
Not what we anticipated, to say the least.
LSU bounced back with a comfortable win at Vanderbilt, but showdowns with the explosive offenses of Florida (Oct. 17) and Alabama (Nov. 14) look awfully dangerous for the reigning champ.
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Mark Rogers/Associated Press
Iowa State failed to outlast Louisiana. Oklahoma lost to Kansas State, which dropped the opener to Arkansas State. Texas escaped Texas Tech but fumbled away a chance to survive TCU. Oklahoma lost to Iowa State, falling in consecutive regular-season games for the first time this millennium.
As if that’s not bad enough, every Big 12 team but Oklahoma State already has a loss—and even the Pokes needed a fourth-quarter comeback to put away Tulsa. Already, the conference has zero margin for error in the College Football Playoff race.
Sure, Oklahoma State probably has its best defense in the Mike Gundy era, and quarterback Spencer Sanders will be healthy soon. The Big 12 isn’t completely out of the playoff picture.
Given what the league has shown after three weeks, however, it’s not safe to expect an elite Big 12 team.