Coast to Coast: College Football’s Unexpected Undefeated

Four weeks into the 2022-23 college football season, 21 teams remain undefeated. Traditional football powerhouses like the University of Alabama, Ohio State, University of Georgia, University of Kansas and USC have taken the lead with dominant wins and a few close encounters. But one of them is not like the others. You may be thinking, “Did I fall asleep in August and wake up at the start of basketball season? Surely the Kansas football team isn’t unbeaten, is it? Not the Kansas?” Incredibly, the Kansas Jayhawks remain undefeated in college football, along with a few other sleeping giants like the Syracuse Orange and the Washington Huskies.

Syracuse Orange

Four Power Five teams played around and found out what head coach Dino Babers is cooking in upstate New York. A 31-7 bombardment from perennial enemies Louisville should have been a warning to the University of Connecticut, who were privileged to suffer a 48-14 hit on their home turf. With a five-point aggregate lead over the University of Virginia and Purdue University, the Oranges proved their mettle at home.

What’s fueling Syracuse’s rapid launch out of the gate? Junior quarterback Garrett Shrader was effective on the spot and sat 7th in the country in expected points added by run. On the other side of the ball, defenseman Garrett Williams is tied with two more interceptions for the country No. 9. This week, Williams was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Defensive Back of the Week after forcing a fumble and recovering to come along with an interception.

Washington Huskies

The Huskies rumbled to 8 sacks in a display of defense strength in a home win over Stanford last week. 15 total sacks puts the defense unit at No. 4 in the nation and No. 1 in the Pac-12, just ahead of USC’s 14. Sophomore edge rusher Bralen Trice can claim 4.5 of those sacks as he’s second in the conference on the year . Trice anchors an imposing edge-rushing group that managed 20 pressures against Stanford and will look to repeat that feat at UCLA this week.

You can’t talk about the Huskies without talking about their quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who is rushing through the country for 1,388 yards. He’s averaging 9.7 yards per attempt for the No. 4 swashbuckling offense in the country.

Kansas Jayhawks

Does Kansas Have a Legitimate Heisman Candidate? Is wheat yellow? Their quarterback Jalon Daniels is currently on track for the highest quarterback rating of any quarterback in the country in the past 18 years. In the last two games that the Jayhawks have played, Daniels has totaled 688 yards of offense and 10(!) touchdowns. The 19-year-old true junior burned his red shirt after throwing three touchdowns in overtime against the University of Texas at Austin last season, and he hasn’t looked back since.

After the Hawks started 4-0, head coach Lance Leipold is the hottest name on the coaching market. Nebraska sees him as a worthy replacement for Scott Frost, Georgia Tech is snooping around and Arizona State needs a new coach to take them to the promised land. Offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki has helped him play some of the country’s most innovative plays and also made his mark as a head coach. Against Houston, Kansas ran a two-quarterback look at one point, with the ball ending up in the hands of former walk-on tight end Jared Casey.

Look past the fickle quarterback play and cunning play-calling and you’ll see an incredible program reversal. Kansas’ sell-off to Duke was only the second sell-off in the past 13 years, a sign that fans are getting on board with this team. It’s been a rough decade in the wilds for this team, with Kansas not hitting the four-win plateau once since 2009. In fact, the Jayhawks’ four straight wins this year mark only the third time in Big 12 history for the team to have started the year 4-0. Since the halcyon days of Mark Mangino, Lawrence, Kan. hasn’t seen a football team do anywhere better than utterly inept. Can Lance Leipold bring back those good old days and win Jayhawks bowling by surviving a tough conference gauntlet? That remains to be seen, but rest assured America is watching.

Yoav Gillath is a sophomore and writes about professional and college sports. His “Coast to Coast” column appears every other Thursday.

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