Les Miles … won this week, but it wasn’t pretty. Every week is a must-win game for Miles, who is just “good enough” at this point. But when you have no margin for error, one little slip here or there can cost you the whole thing. This week at Auburn he’ll have to do it again, but it will be with a hostile crowd sitting in the stands, and with another coach who is facing the same situation, that being…
Gus Malzahn … who already has two losses in three weeks. Auburn was expected to win last week against Texas A&M, and now will likely be a slight underdog against LSU. If Malzahn and the Tigers have any hope of competing in the SEC West – and if Malzahn wants to add some exhibits to the “why I should be the coach at Auburn in 2017” file folder, he will absolutely have to find a way to be the winning Tigers team this Saturday.
Steve Addazio … wouldn’t know an offense if it walked up and introduced itself. Through three games, Boston College averages just 262.7 yards per game, and managed only 124 yards – and zero points – against Virginia Tech. Remember, this is a team that couldn’t even score a touchdown against itself in the Spring game. That’s not so good for a coach who was hired largely because of his offensive expertise. The only thing offensive about Addazio is his offense. With any more performances like this week’s loss, he might not even last until the end of the season.
Rod Carey … is a new addition to this list, but his 0-3 start warrants his inclusion. Northern Illinois was probably expected to be 1-2 at this point, but his loss in Week 1 to Wyoming definitely turned on the heat. The road to even six wins won’t be easy with games remaining against Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Toledo. Following last season’s 8-6 campaign, a break-even year might not go over too well in Year Five of Carey’s tenure.
Butch Jones … might seem like an odd inclusion on this list, but if you look at Tennessee’s season thus far, it’s not so unusual. Jones has been at Tennessee for four years now and hasn’t truly turned the corner. This year, Tennessee has been less than impressive against Appalachian State and Ohio, but did look pretty good against Virginia Tech. Still, Jones isn’t really in danger … unless he loses yet again to Florida next week. Then you’ll start to hear calls for his head. The best way to keep Jones in the driver seat at Tennessee is for him to end the 11-year drought against the Gators. Do that, and he might be able to be elected governor of the state.
- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Jr., Stanford (Last week: 1)
This week: 30 carries for 165 yards, 1 TD; 4 receptions for 73 yards, 1 TD
This season: 52 carries for 291 yards, 3 TDs; 11 receptions for 113 yards, 1 TD
Stanford (2-0), beat USC, 27-10
McCaffrey stays on top of the heap by starring in a major victory over USC – even though USC isn’t quite what it used to be. Opponents simply can’t overlook him for even one play, and doing so will often result in them chasing him into the end zone. (Next: at UCLA)
- J.T. Barrett, QB, Sr., Ohio State (Last week: 3)
This week: 14-of-20 for 152 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs; 17 carries for 74 yards
This season: 49-of-73 for 650 yards, 5 TD, 0 INTs; 39 carries for 159 yards, 3 TDs
Ohio State (3-0), beat Tulsa, 48-3
Barrett isn’t flashy – he just gets the job done, and he doesn’t make mistakes. At this point in the season, there almost isn’t another quarterback you’d want running your offense when the game is on the line. (Next week: Oct. 1 vs. Rutgers)
- Lamar Jackson, QB, Soph., Louisville (Last week: NR)
This week: 13-of-20 for 216 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 17 carries for 146 yards, 4 TDs
This season: 50-of-82 for 913 yards, 8 TDs, 2 INTs; 49 carries for 464 yards, 10 TDs
Houston (3-0), beat Florida State, 63-20
From not on the radar to dominating it, Jackson has taken the nation by storm with back-to-back explosive performances on national TV. There’s simply no way to contain him. The only person who might be able to stop Lamar Jackson is … Lamar Jackson. Short of an injury, I expect him to eventually take over the top spot. (Next week: at Marshall)
- Deshaun Watson, QB, Jr., Clemson (Last week: 2)
This week: 12-of-15 for 152 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs; 2 carries for 8 yards
This season: 58-of-102 for 692 yards, 7 TDs, 3 INTs; 23 carries for 84 yards
Clemson (3-0), beat South Carolina State, 59-0
Watson loses ground, not because he did poorly, but because someone else did so much better. He is no longer the undisputed, best dual-threat quarterback in the country, but will have a chance to show off his skills on a big stage against Louisville in two weeks. (Next week: Thursday at Georgia Tech)
- Greg Ward Jr., QB, Sr., Houston (Last week: 4)
This week: 24-of-36 for 273 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs; 26 carries for 73 yards, 2 TDs
This season: 47-of-76 for 594 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs; 44 carries for 74 yard, 2 TDs
Houston (3-0), beat Cincinnati, 40-16
After a week off to recover from a shoulder injury, Ward was back on, but was more effective with his legs than with his arm. He still is the heart and soul of the Cougar offense, but the relative weakness of his schedule may serve to fuel detractors, who may see his road to the Heisman as too easy. (Next week: at Texas State)
- Leonard Fournette, RB, Jr., LSU (Last week: 6)
This week: 28 carries for 147 yards, 2 TDs; 4 receptions for 27 yards, 0 TDs
This season: 51 carries for 285 yards, 2 TDs; 7 receptions for 65 yards, 0 TDs
LSU (2-1), beat Mississippi State, 23-20
Welcome back, Mr. Fournette. Though the performance wasn’t exactly dominant, Fournette definitely led the Tigers in their win over Mississippi State. The problem is, another running back and at least a few quarterbacks have moved ahead of him on most Heisman lists. (Next week: at Auburn)
- Jalen Hurts, QB, Sr., Ole Miss (Last week: 10)
This week: 19-of-31 for 158 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 18 carries for 146 yards, 0 TDs
This season: 48-of-78 for 563 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT; 38 carries for 197 yards, 2 TDs
Alabama (3-0), beat Ole Miss, 48-43
Hurts is officially the freshman quarterback to watch after using his arm and legs to outscore Ole Miss. With the poise of a seasoned veteran, Hurts has become the field general of an Alabama team that . (Next week: vs. Kent State)
- Baker Mayfield, QB, Sr., Oklahoma (Last week: 5)
This week: 17-of-32 for 226 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs; 8 carries for 5 yards
This season: 55-of-85 for 793 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs; 21 carries for 4 yards
Oklahoma (1-2), lost to Ohio State, 45-24
This Heisman candidacy is on life support. Mayfield is playing pretty well and is definitely one of the better quarterbacks in the nation, but there are two things he and the Sooners haven’t done – score enough points and win. If he wants to even get on the podium, he’ll have to blow up against TCU in two weeks. (Next week: Oct. 1 at TCU)
- Nick Chubb, RB, Jr., Georgia (Last week: 7)
This week: 19 carries for 63 yards, 0 TDs
This season: 71 carries for 365 yards, 3 TDs
Georgia (3-0), beat Missouri, 28-27
Chubb is barely hanging on after a sub-par performance at Missouri. Georgia could barely manage a running game against the Tigers, picking up just 101 yards as a team. The road ahead will only get tougher with defenses like Auburn and Florida waiting to greet Chubb and the Dawgs. (Next week: at Mississippi)
Falling off: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State; Chad Kelly, QB, Mississippi
On the bubble: Seth Russell, QB, Sr., Baylor
Look who’s still undefeated… There are 37 teams that remain unbeaten, and 29 that are sitting at 3-0. While you would expect to see teams like Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson up there, you might be surprised to see Akron, Maryland, Wake Forest and Army among the unbeatens. It’s also interesting to see teams like Miami and Nebraska still at the top of the win list, as they continue to edge back toward their programs’ former glory days. Each week, that list will quickly pare down, especially as teams with perfect records face off against each other (like Tennessee and Florida this Saturday).
…And look who hasn’t won yet. By comparison, there are only nine winless teams. Among them are four teams I projected for bowl games – Northern Illinois, Arka vnsas State, Rice and Georgia State. None of those would be considered “power teams,” but Northern Illinois and Arkansas State were both projected to contend for their conference titles. While that’s still possible, given that the bulk of conference schedules haven’t started yet, they still face an uphill climb for the remainder of the season.
You simply can’t overlook the FCS. In each of the first three weeks of the season, Football Championship Subdivision teams have staged upsets of their FBS big brothers. The most recent victim was Iowa, which was taken down by reigning FCS champion North Dakota State. To be fair, the Bison are essentially an FBS program playing at the lower level. But they were still a team that Iowa should have beaten, but didn’t. The sad thing about these games is that if you win, you get no credit because you were expected to win. But if you lose the game, you also lose tons of respect for dropping a game to a perceived weakling.
Some teams say goodbye to the CFP. It’s hard to completely write off teams so early in the season, but this week’s games probably at least put a couple of nails in some college playoff coffins. Oklahoma’s second loss of the season will likely place the Sooners too far away from the playoff, even if they run the table for the rest of the season. Florida State’s loss to Louisville was so massive that it’s hard to imagine a playoff committee being able to justify the Seminoles’ inclusion, unless they are completely impressive in the next couple of months. And Notre Dame seemed overrated at the start of the season. Now that the Irish have lost twice (to Texas and Michigan State), they will likely be playing for a solid bowl game, at best.
Copyright © 2016 Doug DeBolt