Week 4 College Football Preview, Heisman Watch

What’s a 21st-century college football season without someone pouring it out for a rivalry that’s about to leave the scene?

And so it happened this week for the Bedlam series, a foundational game for Oklahoma and the state of Oklahoma before Oklahoma was even a state. (The schools met three times prior to the incorporation of the Sooner State on November 16, 1907).

Weft: A report from Action Network’s Brett McMurphy that a series that has played continuously since 1910 — and survived multiple pandemics and world wars — will grind to a halt when Oklahoma enters the SEC in 2025.

Chaser: Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy calls things like they are as he reads from prepared notes.

“Bedlam is history,” Gundy told reporters. “We all know that. We knew that. Because OU decided to follow Texas and the money to the SEC. It’s okay.”

Gundy was a bit selfish about his delivery, but his overall point stands: Oklahoma took the money and ran. Another truth remains unspoken: the state of Oklahoma would certainly have done the same had the opportunity presented itself.

Two things are worth noting here. One is that there is both Oklahoma and the state of Oklahoma Yes, really Once committed to the series, they could cast aside planning philosophies, cancel contracts with other schools, and play the game every September if they wanted. Of course, they’re not the first schools to opt out of an ongoing rivalry.

In fact, McMurphy snagged a few, a group that included Texas-Arkansas (an old Southwest Conference rivalry) and Texas-Texas A&M (a much-lamented Lone Star State rivalry that has been on hiatus since 2011). Both are good bets to resume immediately when the Longhorns move to the SEC with Oklahoma in 2025.

All of which means there is some hope for Bedlam. It’s just a conference train away from the resumption. It might be a decade or three away, but college sports’ ever-shifting tectonic plates could eventually bring them back together. One thing is certain: money, not logic, will spur the reunion.

After promising to employ a “new leadership model” that always seemed more appropriate for an MBA candidate than an NFL prospect, getting into hot water with the NCAA during the pandemic and seeing a coaching staff experience massive turnover, parted ways Arizona State by Herm Edwards Sunday for the mortal sin of losing to Eastern Michigan.

This development is about the least strange thing that happened during Edwards’ tenure, which from the outset looked more like a curious laboratory experiment whose main benefit was that it had never been attempted before than a truly logical approach.

But don’t take my word for it in 2022. From 2018, take my word for it.

Ignoring the business jargon-strewn press releases, we get the basics about Herm Edwards’ hiring: He’s a 64-year-old who hasn’t trained anywhere since 2008 and hasn’t worked in collegiate sports since 1989. “Innovative” is the optimistic spin on rental. (Okay, I couldn’t avoid the business jargon entirely.) “Unconventional” is probably the fairest assessment.

However, the Sun Devils are 67-60 over the past decade and they have regressed after back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2013 and 2014. Sure, it’s a risk. But sometimes a risk is necessary for a program that probably needs to be a little different in order to achieve lasting high-end success.

Arizona State has gone 6-7, 5-7, and 7-6 for the past three seasons. It would be amusing – and plausible – if the Sun Devils landed in this neighborhood again in Edwards’ first season.

Well, Edwards rattled a 7-6 out of the chute and then assembled a pair of 8-5s around a 2-2 pandemic season. The Sun Devils went 4-0 against Arizona (which is good) and 22-20 against everyone else (which can be forgotten and includes a 1-2 start this year).

Kansas is 3-0. Yes, Kansas is 3-0. That’s right, Kansas is 3-0.

It really fits. Arizona State is a program that’s been the definition of low profile since Jake Plummer’s college career ended. The Sun Devils have earned four top-25 Associated Press polls in the past 24 seasons. They have finished in the top 10 exactly once in the last 15 years, on the week of November 9, 2014.

Yes, there was a 9-3 in 2004, a 10-3 in 2007, and a consecutive 10-win season in 2013-2014. The sun devils have seldom flirted with being terrible in the last quarter century; Ebbe was a 4-8 run in 2009. But they have also rarely proved so interesting.

The mystery is why. It’s not as if Arizona State lost football history, even if its best days were prior to joining Pac-10/Pac-12. It might not have the immediate access to talent that Southern California does, but it’s in a major metropolitan area (Phoenix) in a fast-growing state (though not as fast in the last decade).

Yes, college football is a zero-sum game, but the Sun Devils should probably have some higher — and more sustained — highlights than they’ve enjoyed. You don’t need a business school textbook to figure that out.

But whoever comes next faces a hole. NCAA penalties are likely to come. Edwards went all-in amid the tumult of the program on the transfer portal, so the current foundation is shaky. The same could be said of the Pac-12-Soon-To-Be-Minus-Two.

Arizona’s “new leadership model” is history. His penchant for fighting for traction in football probably isn’t. The Sun Devils would still do well to be a little different going forward. Simply not the different.

Five where the stakes are the highest

A look at some teams with a chance to prove a lot in Week 4.

1. Tennessee. The no. 11 Volunteers (3-0) are the only team in the SEC to play Alabama, Florida and Georgia every season, and they’ve dropped 16 total in a row to those three since 2016. The first step for them towards being taken seriously is to beat everyone in this group. No. 20 Florida (2-1, 0-1 SEC) rolls into Knoxville this week for the opener of the Tennessee conference.

2. Weckwald. Way back in 2008, the Demon Deacons defeated Clemson 12-7 on a Thursday night in what turned out to be Tommy Bowden’s last game in charge of the Tigers. Since then, Wake Forest has been 0 for Dabo. It’s no secret that the ACC’s final Atlantic Division title will go to No. 5 Clemson. The No. 21 Demon Deacons (3-0) held off Liberty last week and need to improve to establish a strong position for a second straight Atlantic crown.

College football best bets: Clemson will be too much for Wake Forest

3. Arkansas. The No. 10 Razorbacks weren’t particularly sharp against old friend Bobby Petrino and Missouri State last week. But they’re still 3-0 up from their annual date with No. 23 Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas. The Hogs play four of their next five away against Fayetteville and deciphering the Aggies’ defense would be a welcome sign of a tough October.

4a. Southern California and 4b. Oregon State. The No. 7 Trojans heads to Corvallis to take on the spunky Beavers in a 3-0 team matchup. It won’t draw much attention outside of the West Coast thanks to its placement on the Pac-12 network, but it’s a tricky contest for USC and a proof game for Oregon State, which finds itself part of the Pacific Northwest’s impressive start to the season.

5.Minnesota. The Gophers (3-0) aren’t a popular topic of conversation, at least not yet. Wins over New Mexico State, western Illinois, and a sad Colorado team aren’t going to help anyone this year. They join a Michigan State group coming off a lackluster show in Washington, and the win over the Spartans in East Lansing makes a run for a Big Ten West title a little more plausible.

A weekly look at the race for college football’s favorite statue.

1st QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State (941 yards, 11 TDs, 0 INTs passing). Shredded Toledo for 367 yards and five touchdowns as the Buckeyes ended the nonconference game in loss. (Last week: 2)

2. QB Bryce Young, Alabama (644 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs passing; 144 yards, 2 TDs rushing). Threw a few interceptions in a 63-7 bludgeon by Louisiana-Monroe. That knocks the defending Heisman winner off the lead, but there are still plenty of opportunities to amass big numbers. (LB: 1)

3. QB Caleb Williams, Southern California (874 yards, 8 TDs, 0 INTs passing; 73 yards, 2 TDs rushing). Wasn’t quite as efficient against Fresno State as he was in the Trojans’ first two games, but still put up 25 of 37 for 284 yards and two touchdowns. USC will be fine if these are Williams’ easy outings. (LB: 3)

4th QB Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia (952 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs passing; 31 yards, 3 TDs rushing). Whatever path exists for that candidacy depends on other high-profile QBs flopping (which hasn’t happened yet) and Bennett putting up solid, flawless numbers while the Bulldogs keep rolling (which has happened). (LV: 5)

Georgia can break your spirit. Just look at the empty grandstands of South Carolina.

5. QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington (1,079 yards, 10 TDs, 1 INT passing; 31 yards rushing). Penix recorded its best career efficiency rating in 2019 when Kalen DeBoer was his offensive coordinator in Indiana. Now reunited with the new Seattle head coach for the Huskies — and, more importantly, healthy — he dissected Michigan State for 397 yards and four touchdowns last week. (LW: Not ranked)

6. LB Will Anderson, Alabama (15 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT). That’s more like it. Anderson had a day off against Texas but delivered an interception return for a touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe. Anderson was arguably the best player in the country last season, and he could improve on his fifth-place finish at Heisman by 2021. (LW: NR)

Leave a Comment