(Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Week one was the launchpad for so many of the narratives that will shape the entire college football season. There is only one place dedicated to tracking and analyzing all of the most important narratives filtering throughout college football: The College Football Narrative Watch.
Each week, the College Football Narrative Watch will list and track narratives permeating college football, and add new ones when they arise. Keep in mind, the Narrative Watch will neither attempt to create narratives, nor purport to agree with all of the narratives listed (it may agree with all or some) it is simply a list based on the study of reactions of fans, media, and players, from week-to-week, of prevailing thoughts flowing through the college football landscape. People may feel that some of the narratives are false. That is okay. Just like life, narratives are not always fair. Regardless of their veracity, they exist. (Check out last week’s preseason entry here)
On to the narratives:
COACH O AND LSU ARE SHOWING SIGNS OF LIFE, BUT NOT EVERYONE IS SOLD ON THEM
Last Week’s Narrative Watch presented a narrative that Ed Orgeron is in over his head as head coach of LSU. He took his first step in trying to flip that script with the Tigers’ impressive 33-17 win over #8 Miami Sunday night. A big win to open the season was like an injection of endorphins to a starving LSU fanbase who badly want to believe that the team has finally found its way. It was a great start for a team and coach who certainly needed it, but a closer look at the final stats have many giving warnings about anointing LSU contenders. Miami out-gained LSU on offense, and folks are quick to note that poor Miami special teams gifted the Tigers great field position throughout the first half. Further, the Tigers’ touchdowns were mostly the result of big plays, including a pick six.
Maybe pump the brakes on LSU a tad. Tigers averaged 4.5 yards per play – same as Temple (lost to Villanova) and UCLA (lost to Cincy). Its 296 yards of offense ranks 112th for the week and would've been it's 3rd lowest total of 2017. Just sayin'.
— Hi, I’m David (@ADavidHaleJoint) September 3, 2018
LSU had one big run, a defensive TD and a bunch of short fields because Miami couldn’t punt the ball properly. I still have big questions. https://t.co/sYrC4CBseo
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) September 3, 2018
If I had to guess which of this weekend's results will prove most deceiving for one or both teams, I'd have to go with the blowout that had this box score. pic.twitter.com/ZiDjqRSQPf
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) September 3, 2018
Teams who consistently win games like Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson are the ones that get the benefit of the doubt. Coach O still has work to do.
HERE COME THE JAMES FRANKLIN WHISPERS
Recently, a narrative about Penn State head coach James Franklin has been festering in the subterranean of the college football landscape waiting for the right time to explode. It is a theory that he does not belong on the level of the sport’s elite coaches. His success during the past few years is written off as having less to do with Franklin’s brilliance and more with the hiring of Joe Moorhead as Offensive Coordinator in 2016. Now that Moorhead left for Mississippi State, some believe that Penn State will struggle, and the entire nation will see that Franklin isn’t as special as he is given credit for. Losing Saquon Barkley to the NFL probably won’t help either.
“If Joe Moorhead hadn't coached at Penn State, James Franklin wouldn't still be the head coach. He saved Franklin's job."
Great talk with @Mark_Schlabach in the show today.#HailState #SEC #JOXCity @JOXRoundtable
— Jim Dunaway (@jimdunaway) May 3, 2018
Frankin did nothing Saturday night to help his cause as the Nittany Lions almost Michigan’d their opener against Appalachian State, barely squeaking out a win in overtime.
Fun fact about Penn State. Joe Moorhead and Saquon Barkley aren't there anymore. pic.twitter.com/vwgAyEYe7t
— Hi, I’m David (@ADavidHaleJoint) September 1, 2018
A few more losses would burst this narrative into the mainstream. The Narrative Watch will continue to track for the rest of the season.
ALABAMA FINALLY HAS A STAR QUARTERBACK AND ARE OFFICIALLY UNSTOPPABLE
Alabama’s seemingly faux quarterback “competition” dragged on until kickoff Saturday night and, as expected, 2018 College Football Championship Game hero Tua Tagovailoa got the nod over Jalen Hurts, and Tua put on a show the likes of which few have ever seen from an Alabama quarterback in the Saban era. Tua looked as comfortable as ever, going 12-for-16 with 227 yards and two touchdowns in a 51-14 rout over Louisville. Former Alabama quarterback, now ESPN analyst Greg McElroy described Tua’s performance as “flawless.” Now, the nation has begun to envision an Alabama team, that has dominated primarily with defense, boring ball control offenses, and unspectacular quarterbacks, with an exciting quarterback who can make plays on his own. Imaginations are running wild.
Welcome to the Tua Tagovailoa version of Alabama: A college football super team https://t.co/Ff7eISzb1O
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) September 2, 2018
Alabama with Tua is like if the Warriors signed Durant and Boogie and a meticulously disciplined army of grizzly bears to come off the bench
— Michael Weinreb (@MichaelWeinreb) September 2, 2018
Okay, it's not fair for Alabama to have a qb like Tua. Just not fair.
— Tim Kephart (@timkephart33) September 2, 2018
Scary to think about. If it were up to some, we should just cancel the season and give Bama the title. While the Crimson Tide is certainly the clear favorite at the moment, maybe we should tread lightly. The Narrative Watch prescribes to the theory that one result may shape a narrative, but it does not have the power to further continue it. Sometimes, our minds tend to convince us that the way a team performs in one single game will translate into how it will perform in the remainder of them. In doing so, we sometimes forget that rough patches are inevitable and struggling is possible. Lucky for Alabama, I doubt Nick Saban is convinced of much of anything right now.
CLEMSON HAS A CAKEWALK TO THE ACC CHAMPIONSHIP
After watching Florida State lay an egg in its opener against Virginia Tech Monday night, few believe that the Seminoles have a legitimate chance to unseat Clemson as the ACC Atlantic Division champions and prevent the Tigers from winning their fourth straight ACC Championship. If not FSU, then whom? The answer, according to almost everyone: nobody.
Clemson’s path through the ACC right now. pic.twitter.com/oixqLmD5BJ
— Peter Burns (@PeterBurnsESPN) September 4, 2018
Based on last night and tonight, this might be Clemson's easiest ACC title ever.
— Nick Tylwalk (@Nick_Tylwalk) September 4, 2018
Congrats to the 2018 ACC Champion Clemson Tigers.
— Ryan Brown (@RyanBrownWJOX) September 4, 2018
Man… Clemson is just going to Amtrak the rest of the ACC this year.
— Anish Shroff (@AnishESPN) September 4, 2018
The Narrative Watch can’t argue with this sentiment. However, watch out for Virginia Tech.
JIM HARBAUGH IS STILL OVERRATED
Last week’s Narrative Watch introduced the prevailing narrative that Jim Harbaugh is not worth his pay grade. Michigan’s lackluster 24-10 loss at Notre Dame Saturday added fuel to the fire. The Wolverines have now lost 9 of their last 18 games, and the rumblings persist.
Nothing makes an anxious fanbases more frustrated than losing a big game with a inefficient offense and boring play-calling, especially in the first game. That is precisely what Michigan did Saturday night. It was another big game with a new quarterback,Shea Patterson, but the same result. Michigan is now 1-6 against big rivals (Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame) Conservative play-calling has been one of many criticisms of the Wolverines during the Harbaugh era, and few feel anything changed Saturday night:
Agreed. Shocking to see how unprepared the Michigan offense looked all night. Play calling and clock management were the worst I’ve seen from Harbaugh. Four years in that isn’t a good sign. Defense gave Michigan chance to win in second half. https://t.co/m3W4fvQlAO
— HUGE (@Hugeshow) September 2, 2018
3 Up and 3 Down from CFB Week 1 (so far)
UP – Oklahoma looks better than last year…Notre Dame played fantastic on D…Auburn pulled out a gritty win
Down – Texas laid an enormous egg (again)…Michigan is not any better…Play calling in general is awful
— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) September 2, 2018
Harbaugh has to beat rivals and win big games if he is going to silence the narrative that he is overrated. Saturday night’s game was a setback in his campaign.
— CBS Sports Radio (@CBSSportsRadio) September 2, 2018
Jim Harbaugh is 9-9 in the past 18 games. Nick Saban has lost nine games in his past seven years. Yet they are paid similarly. That's why Jim Harbaugh is the most overrated coach in college football history: https://t.co/7DyEfuyxgp
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 2, 2018
Harbaugh is 8-8 last 16 games=overrated
— Cris Carter (@criscarter80) September 2, 2018
TEXAS IS STILL NOT BACK
Last week’s Narrative Watch discussed the Narrative that Texas has not reached the “back” status that people jokingly bring up during and after every Longhorn game. After losing its second straight season opener Saturday to Maryland all but confirms the narrarative. So much for Fox Sports’ Robert Smith’s Texas-to-playoff prediction. Tom Herman’s campaign to bring Texas to a level of sufficient backness cannot move forward with losses to mid-tier Big Ten team with an interim coach, whose program is in complete disarray because they are in the midst of a scandal in which they admitted to negligence that caused a players death. Sheesh, Texas. Not back.
McKENZIE MILTON SOLIDIFIED HIS SPOT IN THE HEISMAN “CONVERSATION”
There is a new coaching staff in Orlando, but Thursday night, Central Florida QB McKenzie Milton picked up where he left off last season with a dominant performance lead the Knights high powered offense to a 56-17 victory over an outmatched UConn. As the week’s the opening game, there were significantly more eyeballs on Central Florida than usual, helping to project Milton into the Heisman “conversation.”
— Charles Davis (@CFD22) August 30, 2018
Milton’s thrust into the conversation serves as an opportunity for UCF, the self-proclaimed 2017 National Champions, and their fanbase, who have chips on their shoulders the size of boulders, to launch an all-out promotional onslaught on the college football world promoting their star QB. Milton is an intriguing candidate, but I subject he will have little margin of error. The Power-5 friendly voters won’t be forgiving if UCF slips up against an AAC foe and they don’t have any big wins to cancel it out.
LANE KIFFIN AND FAU CAN’T HANG WITH THE BIG BOYS
“I think it’s going to be close…I think [Lane Kiffin] has something up his sleeve.“- Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports
“[FAU] can certainly give the Sooners a scare for three quarters.”- Stewart Mandel, The Athletic
“FAU could upset Oklahoma…and Lane Kiffin is going to have them believing that they could do it.“- Joel Klatt, Fox Sports.
These were just a few thoughts from some of college football’s leading experts before Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic Owls were destroyed by Oklahoma 63-14 in Norman. After FAU won nine straight games to close out 2017 in Kiffin’s first season, many categorized the Owls as a “sleeper” that has the ability to play with anyone. Instead, they looked like a run-of-the-mill opening game cupcake. This game wasn’t even close. It was 42-0 at halftime. Kiffin was always playing with house money with this game. The Owls were expected to lose. However, any thought that FAU was approaching the level of a Power 5 team a la UCF last season, was extinguished after Saturday. Lane has a nice thing going on in Boca, but FAU is no powerhouse.
MIAMI WAS OVERHYPED LAST YEAR AND OVERRATED THIS YEAR
After Miami destroyed Notre Dame 41-8 at a packed house at Dolphins Stadium in mid-November 2017, they were 9-0 and the darlings of the college football world. The “Turnover Chain” was a phenomenon across the country. Mark Richt was rejuvenated and found his home at his alma mater. “The U” was back.
— Outside The Lines (@OTLonESPN) November 13, 2017
— FOX Sports Radio (@FoxSportsRadio) November 14, 2017
— Bill Bender (@BillBender92) November 13, 2017
— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) November 12, 2017
Since that game, pretty much nothing has gone right for the Hurricanes. They lost their last three games last season and lost their season opener Sunday night to LSU 33-17. None of these games have even been all that close:
Since the day after last Thanksgiving, Miami fans haven't had a lot to be thankful for. #TheU
24-14 L to Pittsburgh
38-3 L to Clemson
34-24 L to Wisconsin
33-17 L to LSU pic.twitter.com/MwSA76zDdc
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) September 3, 2018
People can’t help but wonder whether the Canes run last season was a bit fraudulent with more luck than people realized. The Canes need to pick it back up. The problem is that, throughout this losing streak, their offense has been inconsistent and their quarterback, Malik Rosier has not looked competent enough to lead the Hurricanes past a strong opponent. Could there be some anxiety in Coral Gables?
Fred Segal is an attorney from West Palm Beach, FL. He operates the popular Freezing Cold Takes twitter account (@OldTakesExposed) which highlights, among other things, hilarious unprophetic and inaccurate takes and predictions.