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Week three produced a bunch of storylines in college football. The Narrative Watch is back to fill you in.
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 the week 2 Narrative Watch here)
THE SEC IS CLEARLY THE BEST CONFERENCE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND SUPERIOR TO THE BIG TEN
The SEC has come out guns a-blazing to start the season. Auburn, LSU, Alabama, and Ole Miss all had nice out of conference wins in Week 1, and save for Arkansas’ terrible losses, the remaining teams have run through most of their out-of-conference schedules rather smoothly. The Big Ten, on the other hand, hasn’t had the same luck. While Ohio State looks strong, many of the conference’s other schools aren’t carrying their weight. In week one, Michigan State lost on the road to Arizona State and Michigan did the same at Notre Dame. The next two weeks were worse. Nebraska lost their first two games at home to Colorado and Troy. Purdue is also winless, suffering non-conference defeats to Eastern Michigan and Missouri. Akron upset Northwestern in Evanston, Rutgers were pummeled by lowly Kansas, Purdue lost to Eastern Michigan and Missouri, Maryland (who did have a nice victory over Texas in week 1) was destroyed by Temple, and Wisconsin was zinged at home to BYU. With the ACC (besides Clemson) looking down, Alabama and Georgia playing like world beaters, LSU on the brink of rebirth, and Auburn and Mississippi State playing solid ball, the SEC seemingly has little competition at the top this year.
Conference supremacy has always been an ancillary competition among college football fans that never awards a winner, but produces loads of takes and animosity. It is kind of like political elections. During a primary election, party members will furiously argue the flaws of all the candidates they don’t support. But once the general election comes around, everyone rallies around the individual party’s candidate. This is no different with fans when conference rivals play non-conference games.
The narrative that the SEC is college football’s most dominant conference has long been perpetuated by many. But prior to this season, the tenor around the country was that the Big Ten had been catching up, and to some, had surpassed the SEC.
The Big Ten is the best conference in college football. Again. #MidwestIsBest
— Benji Backer (@BenjiBacker) December 31, 2017
Wisconsin does it again, B1G best conference in football
— Josh Mitchell (@J_Mitch05) December 31, 2017
— Ron Clements (@Ron_Clements) December 30, 2017
Last October, Colin Cowherd, who was a staunch SEC supporter up until about three years ago, is now one of the main leaders of the Big Ten Supremacy campaign. Here’s Colin from last August:
"The reign of dominance in the SEC is over." – @ColinCowherd
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) August 15, 2017
Among Cowherd’s comments from the above clip: “Until the SEC decides to go back and hire world class football coaches, Vegas is telling you the reign of dominance in the SEC is over.” By the way, Kirby Smart was once one of these “coordinators disguised as coaches.”
In January, Cowherd again went in on the Big Ten’s dominance:
The SEC might have the best team, but the Big Ten is the best conference in college football pic.twitter.com/mh2ghAnrjQ
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) January 1, 2018
Other experts were touting the Big Ten in August just before this season started. Among them, USA TODAY’s Paul Myerberg, who declared the Big Ten the best conference, citing it’s “unparalleled depth,” and Fox Sports’ Joel Klatt, who echoed the same sentiment calling the B1G the “best and deepest” conference.
At this moment, it is difficult to argue that the Big Ten reigns supreme, but the Narrative Watch will be tracking this all season.
WILLIE TAGGART IS OUT OF HIS LEAGUE AT FLORIDA STATE
Last week’s Narrative Watch broached the swirling idea that new Florida State head coach Willie Taggart is out of his league in Tallahassee. His first two games, both at home, were a disaster. The Seminoles were blown out by Virginia Tech on Labor Day, and then barely eeked out a win over Samford, an FCS team, in a game where they didn’t even have a lead until the fourth quarter. Those games may have been bad, but they were tame compared to the disastrous 30-7 thrashing FSU suffered at the hands of perennial bottom-tier ACC afterthought Syracuse in the Carrier Dome Saturday. It was a nightmare and it only fueled the aformentioned narrative.
Syracuse’s defense came into Saturday’s game as one of the worst in the country and FSU could barely move the ball. The first inclination when a new coach struggles is to rationalize that this is his first year and rebuilding a program is a process. Everything takes time. Nick Saban lost to Louisiana-Monroe during his first season at Alabama and Kirby Smart lost to Vandy at home his first season at Georgia. But FSU start has been so bad, that many are not sympathizing with Taggart. It is not good. The FSU fans and alumni have officially been thrusted into panic mode. Look at this compilation of message board thread titles from Saturday during the game:
— TexAgs (@TexAgs) September 15, 2018
Also, numerous GoFundMe accounts have been created for the purpose of raising money for Taggart’s buyout. Taggart came into FSU touting his high powered offense which is titled “lethal simplicity.” So far it has neither been lethal, nor simple. The Seminoles are ranked last in the FBS team in first downs, 129th in the country in red zone efficiency, and have scored a total of 10 points in two ACC games. The team is a mess. Jimbo Fisher left the program with a much bigger personnel deficiencies than many realized, especially on the offensive line, which is abysmal and can’t block anyone. Regardless, narratives tend to overlook these roadblocks. Taggart’s buyout this year is $21 million so he wont be fired. But it just feels like a long season in Tallahassee, and the longer the distress, the harder the reparation.
ED ORGERON IS PROVING HIS WORTH AT LSU
The Narrative Watch has been tracking the Coach O narratives which have fluctuated quickly in the first three weeks. Before the season, the tenor around the country was that Coach O was in over his head. But after the Tigers’ impressive opener, a dominant win over Miami in Dallas, Coach O opened a few eyes. On Saturday, Orgeron officially flipped the script on the haters as LSU went into Jordan Hare Stadium as 10-point underdogs and beat Auburn on last second field goal. Now, the narrative has completely shifted. Remember last year after when LSU lost at home to Troy:
— KTBS (@KTBS) October 2, 2017
Yesterday a CFB coaches agent called me. All he said was "LSU hired Ed Orgeron." We laughed for a few minutes.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 1, 2017
Coach O turned LSU into Ole Miss
— Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) October 1, 2017
Now, many are eating crow and praising Coach O. Even Outkick’s own Clay Travis admitted he was wrong:
"LSU fans, I apologize to all of you. I was wrong about Coach O at LSU. Coach O has dunked on me and hung on the rim all balls-in-the-face style for a couple years now." — @ClayTravis pic.twitter.com/znJRRsRdNn
Coach O and LSU fans deserve to enjoy this moment. But I can’t help but wonder, how long will it last? Despite two tough games to start, LSU’s remaining schedule is still brutal. The Tigers still have home games against Georgia, Mississippi State, and Alabama, and travel to Florida. They will probably be underdogs in at least two of those four. Imagine if they lost three games this season. Is that acceptable? Would a 10-3 record leave a great taste in the mouths of the LSU faithful? Do LSU fans feel comfortable that Coach O is on track to build a program that can compete with Alabama? Coach O may be the hero now, but as the Narrative Watch has discussed before, it still feels like a daunting task for him to remain in favor at a place that is tired of being second fiddle. Even with a couple of nice wins, if the Tigers can’t compete with Bama, the excitement will fade fast. Narratives aren’t always fair. Will Coach O be able to keep this one going?
CLAY HELTON IS NO MORE THAN A GLORIFIED ASSISTANT COACH WHO WAS PROPPED UP BY SAM DARNOLD
USC head coach Clay Helton looks to be in the position Coach O was in last year. A year and a half ago, Helton was flying high after a 12-2 season, incredible Rose Bowl win over Penn State. The season was Helton’s validation, proving to naysayers that his promotion to head coach before the 2016 season was not a mistake.
Clay Helton is a really likable coach and Sam Darnold is a rising star. The Trojans are back.
— Joe Mussatto (@joe_mussatto) January 3, 2017
Hell of a season for Clay Helton and the Trojans, who were written off after early losses and have finished with this masterpiece
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) January 3, 2017
With star quarterback Sam Darnold returning in 2017, Helton and the Trojans looked to contend for a title. They stumbled early, but still were able to salvage a Pac 12 Championship and a Sugar Bowl berth. Nevertheless, the season was deemed a small disappointment, and Helton has never really garnered the full respect and confidence as the head man. Now, Darnold is gone and the Trojans have taken a step back. In losses to Stanford and Texas, the Trojans offense looked bleak. Not only does this confirm some people’s suspicions that Helton is not worthy of running a program like USC, that Darnold covered up Helton’s flaws and now that he is gone, Helton is nothing but an assistant who is in over his head.
With a raw, true freshman quarterback, and an obvious rebuild on his hands, one would guess Helton is on thin ice right now.
UCLA’S TERRIBLE START UNDER CHIP KELLY IS CONCERNING
Chip Kelly’s first season as head coach at UCLA has been about as bad as it could possibly be. The Bruins are 0-3, including losses to Cincinnati and Fresno State at home. The father of freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who was thrust into action after an injury to grad transfer Wilton Speight, is already criticizing Kelly. While UCLA was expected to struggle, are folks starting to become concerned?
— Jorge Luis Lopez Esq (@lopezgovlaw) September 18, 2018
UCLA Quarterback's Father Blasts Chip Kelly on Twitter https://t.co/eZCqVHnBcV
— The Big Lead (@thebiglead) September 18, 2018
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) September 17, 2018
Progress can't come soon enough for Chip Kelly and his Bruins https://t.co/Afcn7eumNY
— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) September 16, 2018
Chip Kelly lost 38-14 at home to Fresno? I get that UCLA isn’t going to be full bore in the first month of his first season, but come on.
— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) September 16, 2018
Another potential problem for UCLA is tat Chip Kelly is the type of coach that needs to have his own personnel to succeed, but UCLA hasn’t been able to pick up much momentum on the recruiting trail so far this cycle.
One question worth pondering, why is Chip Kelly receiving significantly less heat than Willie Taggart when UCLA’s start to the season is almost as pathetic as Florida State’s? For one, it might be because the talent gap between UCLA’s current squad and FSU’s is viewed as significantly worse. Also, Chip has proven the ability to build a program in a power 5 conference that consistently could contend for titles, while Taggart has not yet had that chance. Additionally, UCLA’s fanbase is significantly more patient than FSU’s, who has become accustomed to winning and hasn’t faced this type of adversity in years. How long can UCLA keep losing before Kelly starts feeling real pressure? The Narrative Watch will be monitoring the situation.
DWAYNE HASKINS, JR MAKES OHIO STATE’S OFFENSE MORE EXPLOSIVE THAN JT BARRETT EVER DID
Coming into the season, there was a question mark about Ohio State’s quarterback situation. It wasn’t the biggest of their concerns but it was intriguing as to how the offense with new starter, redshirt sophomore, Dwayne Haskins, Jr. would run Ohio State’s offense. Unlike four-year starter, JT Barrett, Haskins does not have the same mobility, but is more of a drop-back passer. It is safe to say that in his first three games, Haskins as erased all doubts. He has been dominant and as made his way into the early Heisman conversation. Haskins has accounted for 12 touchdowns and 913 yards of total offense. He looked particularly poised in in the Buckeye’s big win over TCU in Arlington Saturday night. In fact, Haskins has looked so good, that there is a strong belief forming that the OSU offense led by Haskins will be better and more prolific than it was under Barrett, who battled accuracy issues throughout his career.
— Chris Hummer (@chris_hummer) September 17, 2018
Dwayne Haskins is the best OSU QB I’ve seen in quite some time
— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) September 16, 2018
Ohio State fans better enjoy Haskins while they can, as it would be an upset if he did not declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.
URBAN MEYER CONTINUES TO LOOK LIKE A SCUMBAG, AND HAS MADE HIMSELF LOOK WORSE DURING THE PAST WEEK
The inaugural Narrative Watch wrote about Urban Meyer, and the his character being raked through the coals by the sports world for the manner in which he handled recently fired and disgraced Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith and the disputes between his wife Courtney when Smith was on Meyer’s staff at both Florida and OSU, including allegations of domestic violence. Even thought the three game suspension handed to him by Ohio State has ended, the narrative attached to Meyer before he was suspended, that he is a slimy college football coach with little morals only concerned with winning, is flaming. Since Saturday, Meyer has had a sit down conversation with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi that aired on College Gameday, given a press conference, and released a follow-up statement all in which seems to be determined to have the last word, minimize his culpability, and make clear that he opposes, and did not enable or “turn a blind eye to”, domestic violence. The basic crux of Meyer’s position is that he exercised bad judgment in his handling of Smith’s employment and for making “misstatements” at Big 10 Media Days in July about his knowledge of specific allegations against Smith that had come to light, but he had followed university protocol regarding the situations. All the while, his answers when questioned about Courtney Smith’s allegations have been vague and critical, giving the impression, fair or not, that he doesn’t really believe them.
Urban Meyer can coach Ohio State again, so why won't he just shut up and coach? https://t.co/e6gh9mEPSG
— David Jones (@djoneshoop) September 18, 2018
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) September 18, 2018
It seems that the Urban talks, the more he is fueling the unfavorable narrative about his character. Whether Urban cares? That’s a different story.
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.