Remarkably, even though hurricane season is still not over, the college football season has reached the month of November. It is difficult to believe that it wasn’t that long ago that Matt Barkley was considered a lock for the Heisman Trophy and Florida State was a candidate to play in the national championship game.
Barkley wasn’t even the best quarterback named Matt on the field Saturday (Arizona’s Matt Scott was) as USC lost for a second time. Florida State will continue to crush mediocre ACC teams the way it crushed Duke on Saturday and it will mean nothing because the Seminoles couldn’t hold a 16-0 lead against a North Carolina State team that probably should have lost to Maryland a week ago.
Many questions have been answered during the season’s first nine weeks, but many remain. Here are 20 questions worth pondering based on what we have seen so far.
Question 1: Is Notre Dame, 8-0 after winning 30-13 at Oklahoma on Saturday night, for real?
Answer: Absolutely. This is a truly great defense and the offense does what it has to do to win. The Irish are almost certain to finish undefeated. They have three virtual walkover games against future ACC brethren Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest (no wonder they wanted to join the league) before finishing at USC, which has been exposed as a pretty team with little soul.
Question 2: Will Bob Stoops ever win another important game?
Answer: Does Texas count? The guy they used to call, “Big Game Bob” is now 17-14 the last eight years in games against ranked teams. He won a national championship when he was 40; at 52, his teams beat up on bad teams (like Texas this year) and disappear down the rabbit hole against good ones. The Sooners have gone from playing national title games to playing The Sun Bowl. Yikes.
Question 3: Is Randy Edsall doing a better job at Maryland this season than last season.
Answer: Yes. It would be impossible to be as bad as he was in 2011, and the presence of Stefon Diggs while playing a second-rate schedule would make anyone look like a reasonably good coach.
Question 4: Should anyone other than Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o be considered for the Heisman Trophy at this point?
Answer: No. They shouldn’t even invite a third player to New York.
Question 5: Did Oregon run up the score in a 70-14 rout of Colorado on Saturday?
Answer: No. Oregon ran down the score. It was 56-0 at halftime and the Ducks could have scored 100 against a truly god-awful team. They did everything but kneel down throughout the second half.
Question 6: Is it possible the season could end with four unbeaten teams?
Answer: What could be better than watching the BCS twits and apologists explain to the players from the two teams left out why a computer and a bunch of football fans (see the Harris poll) decided their undefeated season didn’t rate a shot to play for the title? Sadly, two of the four will probably go down: Oregon and Kansas State still have very tough schedules. Alabama and Notre Dame are more likely to win out. (Note to Louisville: Yes, we know you’re unbeaten but check your schedule).
Question 7: Should Penn State’s Bill O’Brien be a candidate for national coach-of-the-year?
Answer: If Penn State had beaten Ohio State Saturday in The Probation Bowl, he would be the leader in the clubhouse. As it is, keeping that team together after the way the school was rocked in July; nine players leaving in August; and an 0-2 start has been amazing.
Question 8: One more coach-of-the-year question: Who should be ACC coach-of-the-year?
Answer: Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly. Seriously, who among those currently in the league has done anything even a little bit special this season? You might have said Duke’s David Cutcliffe for winning six games but the Blue Devils were badly exposed on Saturday.
Question 9: Navy has bounced back from a 1-3 start and is 5-3 and could win out. Who deserves credit for the turnaround?
Answer: Freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds for engineering the comeback at Air Force that turned the season around; Coach Ken Niumatalolo, who never panics and Athletic Director Chet Gladchuck for a remarkably soft schedule after the first two games. That kind of schedule will not be available when Navy joins the Big East in three years.
Question 10: What was the most stunning upset this past Saturday?
Easy: Columbia rallying late (Columbia never rallies late) to beat Yale. Kent State over Rutgers — at Rutgers — deserves mention.
Question 11: With all the glorifying of Notre Dame to come this month, should Declan Sullivan’s death two years ago this past week, be completely forgotten?
Answer: Absolutely not. He never should have been in the video tower and the excuse-making that came out of Notre Dame in the aftermath was sickening, most notably Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick claiming conditions felt “normal” to him just before the tower collapsed.
Question 12: We know the ACC is bad, but just how bad is the Big Ten?
Answer: Very. It is actually possible that a five-loss team will represent the league in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State, which is ineligible for postseason, will likely go 12-0 without having beaten anyone that really matters. The Buckeyes played a murderer’s row nonconference schedule of Miami (Ohio); Central Florida; UAB and California — all at home of course — before taking on Mediocrity Row in the Big Ten. Talk about Little Sisters of the Poor!
Question 13: If Nick Saban wins another national championship at Alabama will he be tempted by a huge NFL contract to try that level again?
Answer: Probably not. Saban’s remarkable ego did him in at Miami and he’s not likely to leave a place where they will probably build a second statue to him sometime soon.
Question 14: Can anyone beat Alabama?
Answer: Notre Dame has the best chance.
Question 15: Will any of the following SEC coaches survive: Tennessee’s Derek Dooley; Arkansas’ John L. Smith; Auburn’s Gene Chizik?
Answer: Not likely. Dooley probably deserves at least another year but this is the SEC and he is 4-17 in conference games in three seasons. Smith was an interim to begin with and will be lucky to make it through the season. Chizik won a national championship two years ago but people have noticed that when Cam Newton isn’t his quarterback his overall record as a head coach is 22-36, including 1-7 this year.
Question 16: Who is the best unnoticed team in the country?
Answer: Before yesterday’s loss to Miami (Ohio), it was Ohio. Now? It could be another MAC school, Northern Illinois, which is 8-1 — the only loss on opening day at Iowa, 18-17.
Question 17: What is the most fun conference in the country to watch?
Answer: The CAA. It is full of good FCS teams and everyone scores at least 30 every week.
Question 18: Who is the national coach of the year right now?
Answer: Many will say Kelly, but how can you possibly go undefeated at Kansas State? It has to be Bill Snyder.
Question 19: Best place in the country to watch a football game?
Answer: Still Michie Stadium at Army, hands down, even when Army (1-7) is as bad as it is this season.
Question 20: Worst place in the country to watch a football game?
Answer: Anyplace where two ACC teams or two Big Ten teams are playing one another.
For more by the author, visit his blog at feinsteinonthebrink.com. To read his previous columns for The Washington Post, go to washingtonpost.com/feinstein.