The fun in a college football season does not really start until there is big upset, a Top Ten team losing to an unranked team.
BYU provided the season’s first shocker, one that could reset the College Football Playoff race and have long-term ramifications for the Big Ten. The Cougars knocked off No. 6 Wisconsin as a three-touchdown underdog.
The Badgers were a popular playoff pick, the overwhelming favorites in the Big Ten West and part of a group of five Big Ten teams that began the season ranked in the top-15. Three have already lost, with Wisconsin joining No. 19 Michigan and No. 25 Michigan State.
It was a lousy day overall for the Big Ten . Nebraska fell to 0-2 under Scott Frost, falling to Troy while playing a walk-on quarterback. Northwestern lost to Akron, which had not beat a Big Ten member since 1894. Purdue lost on a last-second field goal to Missouri. The Boilermakers might be the best 0-3 team in the country, for whatever that’s worth.
Plus, the conference’s lower-level teams looked awful with Rutgers getting pounded by Kansas, Maryland losing at home to Temple and Illinois blowing a lead to USF .
No. 4 Ohio State saved the day for the Big Ten, using a second-half avalanche to beat No. 15 TCU. The Buckeyes trip to No. 11 Penn State in two weeks sets up as a huge game, with both still unbeaten.
As for Saturday’s sadness, Wisconsin’s flop was the worst. The Badgers had won 41 straight nonconference home games, the longest streak in the country, and BYU lost at home to California last week. It was a weird game for Wisconsin. The Badgers outgained the Cougars, held the ball for 34 minutes, turned the ball over just once, but had no takeaways.
One loss, especially in September won’t eliminate a team or conference — at least not a Power Five conference — from playoff contention. But the Big Ten has been badly damaged this month. The concern for the conference is that its best teams will rough each other up and, like last year, its champion will emerge with two losses. Wisconsin still has road games against Iowa, Michigan and Penn State to come. And of course, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan go round-robin.
Taking a loss at home to BYU into conference play was not in the plan for Wisconsin and the Big Ten. But when the season goes off script, that’s when things get interesting.
No. 17 Boise State’s hopes of forcing its way into the College Football Playoff conversation were buried by No. 23 Oklahoma State . It was fun to consider what the selection committee would do with an unbeaten Boise State come November.
If nothing else it probably would have rekindled the debates sparked by UCF last year about whether the playoff system is fair to teams from outside the Power Five. And the Broncos would have had the potential for the noteworthy nonconference victories that UCF lacked.
Now, that’s over. Instead, we should be talking more Oklahoma State and the job coach Mike Gundy does of consistently rolling out high level teams and developing productive quarterbacks. The Cowboys have had three straight 10-3 seasons and six double-digit win seasons in the last eight years.
It seemed this might be a bit of a rebuilding year in Stillwater, with a new quarterback and top receivers to break in. Instead, Taylor Cornelius has picked up nicely at quarterback for Mason Rudolph and Gundy has another team that should make some noise in the Big 12.
Willie Taggart’s tenure at Florida State has started so poorly the new Seminoles coach is already facing something of a crisis. Florida State has not merely lost two of its first three games in year one for Taggart in Tallassee. Florida State has scored a total of 10 points in a couple lopsided Atlantic Coast Conference losses and needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat FCS Samford in between.
Florida State was hideous, disorganized and pushed around at Syracuse . That’s a Syracuse program coming off four straight losing seasons and with no victories against Florida State since it joined the ACC in 2013.
Florida State started the season ranked No. 19. The narrative was last season’s 7-6 was an aberration and Jimbo Fisher left enough players behind for Taggart to get Florida State to eight or nine wins this season. Negative. Either Fisher did a bad job of recruiting and developing or Taggart is doing a bad job of coaching. Probably a little bit of each. Florida State offensively under coordinator Walt Bell, who left Maryland to join Taggart, looks lost.
In case you’re wondering it would cost Florida State $21 million to fire Taggart after one season. That seems pretty much unfathomable. Also, Florida State currently does not have a permanent athletic director.
Deep breath, ‘Noles fans. This could all turn out just fine. The fear at Florida State if you are Taggart is that the tenure gets off to such a bad start that it gets swallowed up by negativity. This happened to Rich Rodriguez at Michigan and Charlie Strong at Texas. That’s not excusing those coaches for having losing records at two of the winningest programs in history, but both made terrible first impressions, lost the faith of many fans early, and never were able to change the perception and trajectory of the teams.
Bad starts by notable new coaches ranked from worst to less worse.
1. Kevin Sumlin, Arizona (1-2, 0-2 FBS).
2. Taggart (1-2, 0-2 FBS).
3. Chad Morris, Arkansas (1-2, 0-2 FBS).
4. Chip Kelly, UCLA (0-3). The Bruins have lost the first three for the first time since 1971.
5. Dan Mullen, Florida (2-1, 1-1 FBS).
6. Frost (0-2). Nebraska lost its first two of the season for the first time since 1957.
AROUND THE COUNTRY: No. 22 USC lost to Texas , which lost to Maryland, which lost on Saturday to Temple, which opened its season losing to FCS Villanova. …. There is usually one high-profile job that comes open unexpectedly, after a season goes sideways. The USC situation with coach Clay Helton is probably worth monitoring. … LSU rallied from behind to beat Auburn . That gives the 12th-ranked Tigers two high-quality victories — No. 7 Auburn and No. 21 Miami — away from home before in September. Grad transfer quarterback Joe Burrow got the headlines for the Tigers, but grad transfer kicker Cole Tracy from Division II Assumption College in Massachusetts was the hero on Saturday. Maybe it’s time to get off coach Ed Orgeron’s back? The Tigers are 9-2 since that ugly loss to Troy last season. … Is losing to Troy so bad? Trojans coach Neal Brown, 38, now has marquee victories against two Power Five blue bloods on his impressive resume. … Kansas has a two-game winning streak against FBS teams for the first time since 2009.
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