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Taking the Temperature After Two Weeks: College Football Madness is Back

It only took two weeks for things to get crazy.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at Texas A&M Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson is 2-0 and already through 1/6th of their schedule. It’s crazy how fast it goes by and a reminder to enjoy the game at hand and try not to look forward to the “big one” too much. Those who were looking forward to the big Clemson at Notre Dame game are probably shocked to see that Notre Dame may be the fourth or fifth best team on the Tigers’ schedule and are ranked behind Miami (No. 13), NC State (No. 16), and Wake Forest (No. 19).

There’s a ton of fun stuff going on as approach the calendar’s best month (October) where we have the start of hockey season and the end of baseball season colliding during the heart of college football season.

Personally, you may have seen that my wife and I are expecting our first child! My wife has been a trooper and has made me incredibly proud with how she has battled through all the discomforts of pregnancy and done everything they tell you to help the baby’s health. Our Editor-in-Chief, Brian, and his wife are a few months ahead of us so there will be a few Tiger Cubs joining the STS family.

In the broader sports world outside of college football the Braves and Mets are in a back-and-forth battle for the NL East crown. Meanwhile the Yankees seem like they’ll stave off a historic collapse and barely win the AL East. The playoff has expanded to 12-teams which will be a lot of fun when October comes, but has also made the regular season a bit boring since the Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros all became playoff locks by the All-Star break.

We’ve only just finished week 2 of the college football season and things have already gotten pretty wild. Georgia Southern put up 45 points on Nebraska in Lincoln in an upset win over the Cornhuskers.

As fun as the upset was, I actually feel bad for Nebraska. They’re one of my favorite Big Ten schools, which perhaps isn’t saying much, but it would have been good for the sport to have their former QB bring them back to relevance. I went to the 2009 Gator Bowl and their fans were passionate, loud, gracious, and respectful.

Less than 24 hours after the loss to Georgia Southern, they announced Coach Frost’s dismissal. I imagine they’ll try to land a big name like Luke Fickell from Cincinnati (who I thought Notre Dame should have made a run at), Mark Stoops from Kentucky, or Urban Meyer, but I’d be surprised if they landed one of them. Matt Campbell from Iowa State could be a great fit. He seems like the most probable candidate and a good choice. Dan Mullen who is now broadcasting after coaching at Florida last season could be interesting. He had a lot of success at Mississippi State which could translate. I also think Lance Leipold from Kansas or Gary Patterson who had a long run at TCU and is now a special assistant at Texas could be good options.

After nearly knocking off North Carolina, the Appalachian State Mountaineers did even better and beat Texas A&M in College Station. The Aggies offense was awful and despite all the good recruiting, it seems Coach Fisher’s overly complex offenses that consistently fail to yield big plays, may need some changing.

The other big upset was Notre Dome falling to Marshall. They gave Ohio State a good battle in week one, but ultimately didn’t have the offense to beat the Buckeyes. It was surprising to see they also didn’t have the offense to beat the Marshall Thundering Herd. After falling 26-21 to Marshall, they’re now 0-2. They also lost their bowl game and are 0-3 under Marcus Freeman. I don’t think he is bad nor do I think they’re headed back to irrelevance, but they may simply be lacking at QB and WR and not have their customary excellent O-line to make up for it.

That leads us to Clemson. Coming into the year I opined that Clemson had one of their toughest schedules in years. A lot of the opponents no longer seem as daunting. Notre Dame is the most obvious of those. They play UNC, BYU, and Syracuse before hosting Clemson. All three of those games are away from South Bend, IN. There’s a good shot they’re 3-5 when the Tigers come rolling into town.

NC State nearly lost to ECU in Week 1. They seemed fine against Charleston Southern this past weekend, but they get a real test with Texas Tech coming to Raleigh on Saturday. It would be nice for the Wolfpack to be undefeated heading into Clemson, and they’re 9.5-point favorites against the Red Raiders so you’d think they will, but I don’t feel great about it. Boston College and South Carolina have also looked pretty bad through two weeks and don’t seem like teams that should give the No. 5 team in the country a serious scare.

On the flipside, Florida State seems to be on the upswing. They go to Louisville this Friday in a big Atlantic Division contest. If they win, they should get into the AP Poll for the first time in forever. Another future Clemson opponent on the upswing is Wake Forest. The Deacons were fortunate to get Sam Hartman back earlier than expected and are now 2-0. They face Liberty this weekend and should be 3-0 when they host Clemson.

Although the Tigers haven’t faced a tough opponent, we’ve learned a lot through two weeks. The defense was sloppy against Furman, but seems to have the pieces to be elite. I’m not overly concerned about their less-than-dominant performance, but I will be if it happens this Saturday against Louisiana Tech. On offense, it is a relief to see quality QB play. DJ is faster on his feet, but more importantly isn’t so hesitant to take off. That makes a huge difference.

The pieces around him on offense have been adequate, but haven’t really flashed yet. The running backs seem fine, but the O-line isn’t opening holes for them. Their pass blocking seems to be ahead of the run blocking. I’m really unsure why the staff was so effusive in their praise for the O-line during camp. Were they trying to build up their confidence or just overconfident in how they’d look? The staff elected to move two linemen into new positions and start a true freshman. It feels like the same decisions that didn’t work out in 2021 which is obviously very frustrating. Losing Mason Trotter and Hunter Rayburn really hurts and could be the difference between a 10-2 type season and a national championship one. I also hate that they were unable to land a big time grad transfer at an interior line position. Marcus Tate seems rock solid now, but it took him an entire freshman season and offseason to get there (which is relatively fast for the position). Hopefully, Blake Miller can progress faster.

The position that I felt was the biggest weakness on the team last season was wide receiver. They’re healthier and have been better, but are still a “work-in-progress” to use Coach Swinney’s own words. Beaux Collins has made some big plays, but also had a bad second half with some ugly drops against Georgia Tech. Joe Ngata has been solid, but not eye-popping. EJ Williams has struggled a lot. Dacari Collins has drawn some helpful PI flags, but hasn’t made a big splash. Brannon Spector and Antonio Williams have been good options in the slot and TE looks solid with Davis Allen and Jake Brinningstool. This is a group I’ve enjoyed watching each week to see how they improve from last year and who stands out. This week will be especially fun because they get a boost from a true freshman coming back early from a torn ACL.

If you needed reason to get excited about this weekend’s game, there you have it. Hopefully his debut is exciting and begins a Clemson wide receiver renaissance. After this weekend, Clemson will be 25% through the regular season. Don’t let it slip by without enjoying it!