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With week 4 in the books, let’s fire up the college football narratives!
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 3 Narrative Watch here)
ALABAMA IS UNSTOPPABLE
Alabama tends to generate extreme opinions from the college football world. At the the beginning of each season, when the Tide is untested and undefeated, an aura of invincibility formulates over them. It is an annual phenomenon. However, at least in the past, the Crimson Tide did not usually have an explosive offense. Most of their previous quarterbacks under Nick Saban were seen to have had certain deficiencies and categorized as “game managers.” But now, with Tua Tagovailoa taking the snaps, the offense is thriving in manner we haven’t seen, giving Bama an extra layer of strength to their armor and making them appear even MORE invincible. After Saturday’s 45-23 win over Texas A&M, Alabama is 4-0, and have scored no less than 45 points in each game. At this point, many are wondering: why we don’t just end the season now because the Crimson Tide are that good. Alabama with a strong offense? Who is going to beat them?
Nobody’s beating Alabama this year.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) September 22, 2018
Cancel the rest of the season and give Alabama the trophy. We’re wasting our time.
— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) September 22, 2018
Just go on and give Alabama the National Championship Trophy. ??♂️
— Nate Wimberly WBTV (@NateWimberly) September 22, 2018
— Larry Beil (@LarryBeilABC7) September 22, 2018
But this type of sentiment is floated around every year, and Alabama loses at least one game almost every season. For instance, last year, when they lost to Auburn in November before sneaking into the playoffs and going on to win the national championship, there were a few who thought they were unbeatable:
Nobody’s. Beating. Alabama.
— Jeff Reinhart LNP (@JeffReinhart77) October 21, 2017
I think this is Saban's best and deepest Bama team so far. Second team would be top ten in country.
In 2016, before Alabama lost to Clemson in the national championship game, the unbeatable sentiment was palpable throughout the season:
I agree, OSU not built to come back! Huge win! Nobody is beating Bama this yr tjough!!
— Seth Joyner (@sethjoyner) November 26, 2016
LOL. No one is beating Alabama this year, so that one's out and again, UCLA is at bottom of league and A&M barely beat them.
— Kate Scott (@katetscott) November 2, 2016
See, there is always hope for other teams. Just on precedent alone, there is a good chance that the Tide suffers at least one loss this year.
KENTUCKY IS ACTUALLY GOOD
For five seasons, University of Kentucky football fans (and yes there are many UK fans who really care about this team despite the overwhelming support for the school’s storied basketball program) have been waiting for a breakthrough under head coach Mark Stoops. There have been some moments where they were on the cusp of becoming more than just an afterthought in the SEC, but they never fully materialized. Stoops’ tenure has been like a person testing out a bumper car that starts and stops quickly, then accidentally presses reverse, then starts and stops again. At one point, after then Cats lost their 30th straight game against UF in 2016, Outkick’s Clay Travis called Stoops a “dead coach walking” and suggested AD Mitch Barnhart to fire Mark Stoops and hire Art Briles. Yes, that Art Briles:
Kentucky needs to fire Mark Stoops and hire Art Briles. https://t.co/HA7b02ADgB
The fans seemed to be getting tired of the Stoops era as well:
Crowd during the anthem pic.twitter.com/sShvvbwImG
— Jon Hale (@JonHale_CJ) September 17, 2016
Even during the moments during Stoops’ tenure when Kentucky had spots of brief success, there was never really a time where a consensus took Kentucky seriously as a football team. But now, it looks like they may have actually arrived. After snapping the 31-game losing streak against Florida in week 2, and handily beating 14th ranked Mississippi State in Lexington Saturday, the Wildcats have the nation on notice. Benny Snell has been an absolute beast and looks like the best running back in the conference. Kentucky didn’t just win these games, they controlled the line of scrimmage in both of them. The Cats are now ranked 17 and the prevailing thought is that Kentucky is a legit football team. While they are not considered a contender for a national championship, and probably won’t topple Georgia and win the SEC East, they are gaining a certain level of respect they have never had under coach Stoops.
INSTANT ANALYSIS: Kentucky's 28-7 domination of Mississippi State was the culmination of a long and sometimes ugly process, but it's now clear Mark Stoops has taken UK football to a place it hasn't been in a very long time https://t.co/cq9k60pWJW
— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) September 23, 2018
How good is Kentucky? Sports Illustrated says the Cats are a top 10 team https://t.co/yNGeC58xf1
— Kentucky #BBN (@BBN) September 23, 2018
The Wildcats next challenge comes this week against South Carolina, the team that most believed was the second best team in the SEC East before the season. UK has owned the Gamecocks in this series as of late.
SCOTT FROST’S REBUILDING JOB AT NEBRASKA WILL TAKE LONGER THAN EXPECTED
Week 1’s Narrative Watch highlighted the fact that despite Nebraska’s opening day loss to Colorado, the feeling surrounding the country was that Scott Frost would have the program up and running pretty soon.
Get your licks in on the Huskers now. Won’t last long. pic.twitter.com/m6xBZ0fHGm
— Colin Cowherd (@ColinCowherd) September 8, 2018
The hype surrounding Frost, a Nebraska alum and native son when he was hired back in April was off the charts. Even athletic director Bill Moos couldn’t help but poke the Big Ten bears:
New Nebraska AD Bill Moos on #Huskers in the #B1G: "You’ve got Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh thinking, ‘We better put a little more into that Nebraska game coming up.’ And that's the way we want it. They're running a little bit scared right now."
— Sam McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) April 24, 2018
But despite the excitement, Nebraska’s season has been a huge disappointment thus far. After the Colorado loss, the Huskers lost to Troy at home, and then, last Saturday got absolutely bludgeoned in Ann Arbor by Michigan in a game that saw the Wolverines lead 39-0 in the 2nd quarter! Frost is not at UCF anymore, and the honeymoon is just about over for him in Lincoln. After the humbling by the Wolverines, all the talk about Nebraska has shifted, from soon-to-be threat, to long rebuild.
— Athlon Sports (@AthlonSports) September 26, 2018
— World-Herald Big Red (@OWHbigred) September 26, 2018
Frost will have plenty of time to prove his worth, but the excitement has certainly fizzled.
THE ACC STINKS AND WAS A FLASH-IN-THE-PAN A FEW YEARS AGO
Before last season, the ACC was on par with, and thought by some to be, the best conference in college football.
Andy Staples tells Rich Eisen the ACC is the best conference because it's stacked at the top.
Big Ten has 4 teams in the top 10 though
— Patrick Schmidt (@PatrickASchmidt) September 7, 2017
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) August 28, 2017
The ACC is sooo deep. Best conference in college football and it's not even close.
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) October 14, 2017
Miami was up-and-coming, Clemson had come off a national championship, Florida State was a national title contender, and Louisville was strong. Since then, besides Clemson, the wheels have completely come off for the conference elite. After a great start to 2017, Miami lost four straight games including their first one this year. Louisville looks terrible, and their offense without Lamar Jackson is atrocious. Florida State has been a mess so far under new coach Willie Taggart, as were destroyed by Virginia Tech and Syracuse and barely beat Samford. Even Virginia Tech was somehow beaten Saturday in Norfolk by Old Dominion, who was 0-3 going into the game! The feeling across the country at this point is that the ACC stinks, and it doesn’t appear debatable.
Pitt, BC and VT were 7-1 entering today. They all lost. To teams that were a combined 0-8. ???
— Hi, I’m David (@ADavidHaleJoint) September 22, 2018
Just soaked in the day in the ACC. Man, it that a bad conference
— Tom D'Angelo (@tomdangelo44) September 23, 2018
QUARTERBACK DEPTH IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO BE A HUGE CONCERN FOR COACHES
When the NCAA implemented the graduate transfer rule allowing players who have graduated at a school to be able to transfer without sitting out a season, it was just the first step toward the eradication of quarterback depth in college football. Slowly but surely, more and more backup quarterbacks have been graduating early and transferring to a place where they could compete for a starting job. This offseason seemed to be especially active. Ohio State’s Joe Burrow transferred to LSU after spring practices. Stanford QB Kellen Chryst transferred to Tennessee after losing the starting job at Stanford to KJ Costello. Nebraska saw both its backup quarterbacks leave when freshman Adrian Martinez was named the starter, causing the Huskers to have to play a freshman freshman walk-on for a few games when Martinez was injured in the middle of Nebraska’s opener. Those are just a few examples.
Before this season, the NCAA added another player-friendly transfer rule which allows players to play four games before losing a year of eligibility. Now, quarterbacks, especially upperclassmen who are trying to salvage eligibility, will be on rosters with the clear desire to avoid playing four games. This means coaches will especially have to tread lightly because their decisions will be heavily scrutinized by the media depending on whether if they do not appear to do what is in the best interest of the player.
As if the transfer situation was not complicated enough, Wednesday’s announcement that senior Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant will transfer from the program added another layer of future uncertainty. Bryant, who has started 18 games during his Clemson career, started the first four games this season until Dabo Swinney handed the reigns to touted freshman Trevor Lawrence earlier this week. Bryant’s transfer sent notice to college football programs that now, more than ever, it will be very difficult to keep two experienced quarterbacks on a roster; even during the season.
The old adage is 'if you have two quarterbacks, you have none.'
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 27, 2018
Younger quarterbacks who are less concerned about their eligibility are going to be relied upon more and more to fill the backup quarterback roles.
TEXAS MAY NOT BE “NOT BACK”
During the first four weeks of the season the Narrative Watch has been closely tracking Texas’ journey to attempt to spring itself “back” to prominence. After a week 1 loss to Maryland, questions about head coach Tom Herman were starting to slowly make their way up to surface temperature. After Texas went 7-6 in Herman’s first season, significant improvement is expected in 2018 An opening game loss to Maryland was not the best way to show progress. The narratives were not friendly.
Texas is … not back.
— OU Daily Sports (@OUDailySports) September 1, 2018
When will people learn that Texas is indeed NOT back. Stop ranking them in the preseason Top 25.
— Josh Furlong (@JFurKSL) September 1, 2018
But, as the jokes about Texas’ status continued to pile up, the Longhorns have rather quietly turned things around. In week 3 they thoroughly beating USC 37-14, avenging a heartbreaking loss last year in LA. The Longhorns followed up the TCU win with a huge win over TCU Saturday snapping a four game losing streak to the Horned Frogs. Now the narrrative is slowly shifting, Texas is moving toward eliminating the “not back” stigma, and shifting closer to being “back.” They aren’t there yet, but at least they can feel it trending forward, rather than backwards.
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.