What We Learned About 2012 College Football Season After One Month
The college football season comes and goes very quickly. It seems like the season just started, but we are already a month into it, as every team has played nearly half its regular season schedule.
And while there is still many marquee matchups left to take place, we have learned many things about the college football season in such a short amount of time.
We have seen our fair share of disappointing teams, surprising teams and players that have come out of nowhere. There have been upsets, injuries, and thrilling moments that have left everybody scratching their heads.
There are always things you can take away from each week, but here are a few things that we have learned in the first month of the 2012 college football season.
Louisville Will Likely Run the Table
Before the season started, the Big East was the laughingstock of the BCS conferences. Nobody wanted to give any team any respect, especially with many of the key teams looking to leave the conference.
Louisville has been one of the few bright spots for the Big East early on and has a terrific shot to go undefeated. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is completing 73 percent of his passes and the Cardinals defense is allowing less than 19 points per contest.
Already getting past schools such as North Carolina and Southern Miss, Louisville is one of the few schools that has a realistic chance at going undefeated in the regular season. Now the question is, could this team contend for more than just the BCS Orange Bowl?
Freshmen Can Really Help in a Big Way
When top recruits commit to a school, you expect them to have a successful career, but very rarely do you see them make a huge impact in their first year on campus. In the first month of the season, we have seen many first-year players step up in big ways for their teams.
Georgia true freshmen running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have combined for 964 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Miami Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson has 506 total yards and seven touchdowns, leading his team to a 4-1 start.
And then you have Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who happens to be a redshirt freshman. Still, he has become one of the more exciting quarterbacks in the country, throwing for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, but also rushing for 366 yards and an extra six scores.
These are just a few examples of several young players that aren't letting a lack of experience hold them back.
Oregon Can Play Defense
We know all about the no-huddle offense, De'Anthony Thomas and the high-flying Ducks offense that produces video game numbers.
But did you know that the Ducks are capable of playing defense as well?
In just five games, Oregon has sacked opposing quarterbacks 16 times, forced 12 turnovers and is allowing opposing teams to convert on third downs less than 25 percent of the time. The defense also managed to shutout the Arizona Wildcats and held Washington State to -8 rushing yards.
The offense of the Ducks is what will receive majority of the attention, but Chip Kelly's club has shown that the defense has potential as well. There may finally be enough balance to bring a national championship to Eugene.
Kansas State Is No Fluke
Nobody knew anything about this Kansas State team before the 2011 season started, but they quickly turned heads when the Wildcats won 10 games.
Now, the Wildcats are a Top 10 team and are showing that last season was no fluke whatsoever. The squad has jumped out to a 4-0 start, which includes victories over the Miami Hurricanes and Oklahoma Sooners. The running game is ranked 14th best in college football, and the defense has allowed only six touchdowns on 16 opponent red zone trips.
Don't look now, but Kansas State has quickly become a Big 12 contender.
The Big Ten Isn't Quite There Yet
Last season was an incredible year for the Big Ten, as Michigan appeared to be back and Michigan State and Wisconsin were making noise as well. Things couldn't have turned out any worse this season if you are a fan of Big Ten football.
The Wolverines already have two losses under their belt, Wisconsin lost to Oregon State and Michigan State has lost two of the three games it’s played against ranked teams. After the first month of the season, there are only two undefeated teams remaining in this conference and one of those teams is suspended from postseason play.
Who would have thought that Northwestern would be the school that's looked the best in the Big Ten?
But Ohio State Will Soon Return to Glory
You knew it was only a matter of time before Ohio State got back on its feet once Urban Meyer was hired as head coach.
Who knew it would be this soon?
Despite having a new coaching staff, the Buckeyes are 5-0 and look like the best team in the Big Ten conference. The offense is producing big play after big play, the defense is allowing only 17 points per game and quarterback Braxton Miller has turned into a man overnight.
With the recruiting classes that Meyer is bringing in, and this team eligible for bowl season next year, Ohio State is a team to keep an eye on moving forward.
The Pac-12 May Actually Be More Than Two Teams
The Pac-12 was more like the Pac-2 last season after a total of six teams finished with a losing record. This year, it looks like things may be a little different, as other programs are beginning to step up and make a name for themselves.
Oregon State is undefeated, with victories over three teams that were ranked at one point in the year. Stanford upset USC, as the Cardinal were later upset by the Washington Huskies. Arizona has turned into one of the most exciting teams to watch with Rich Rodriguez as head coach. UCLA has made some noise with a first-year head coach as well.
The Pac-12 appears to be a mad house right now with many teams showing signs of life. And while USC and Oregon remain the front-runners for the Pac-12 title, it is great to see more competition and less mediocrity out west.
Matt Barkley May Not Be That Great After All
Matt Barkley had everybody drooling over him during the offseason. He was expected to walk away with every piece of hardware imaginable, lead USC to a Pac-12 title and national championship and then become the first overall pick in the NFL draft.
The senior season hasn't exactly went according to plan for Barkley, as he is completing only 61.5 percent of his passes, has thrown five interceptions and his 251 yard per game average is 41 yards below what it was last season.
Now, Barkley is still a solid quarterback prospect, but this type of season makes you wonder if he should have left early for the draft last year. There is still time to turn things around, but there may be more questions about the USC single-caller than just arm strength.
LSU Is Not as Good as Last Season
LSU was considered the favorite by many to not only return to the BCS National Championship Game but win it this time. With many key defensive players returning, one of the best offensive lines in the country and quarterback Zach Mettenberger taking over, many thought this LSU team was even better than last years.
Mettenberger has not lived up to the hype at all, the offensive line has not produced and is dealing with injuries, the defense gives up many big plays and the offense isn't converting in the red zone. Although the Tigers are 5-0, they barely beat Auburn and struggled to pull away from Towson last week.
Maybe I'm crazy, but with Florida and South Carolina on the schedule the next two weeks, LSU will take a plunge in the rankings sooner than later.
Many Teams Are Back
The NBA is better off when teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are playing well. The NFL is better when teams such as the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys are winning football games.
Well, college football has its teams that make the overall sport better as well.
Notre Dame has sneaked into the Top 10 after picking up impressive victories over Michigan and Michigan State. The Irish are 4-0 for the first time since the 2002 season. Florida State may have finally got the monkey of its back, as the Seminoles are 5-0 and a Top 3 team.
Teams such as Florida, Miami and UCLA have also gotten off to a nice start in 2012.
Hopefully many of these powerhouse programs can continue to get back into the national spotlight, as college football will be better because of it.
Arkansas Is in Serious Trouble
Arkansas would have fallen off the face of the earth if Christopher Columbus was able to prove that the globe was flat. A team that was considered one of the favorites to win the SEC this season and compete for a national championship is now 1-4.
The Razorbacks have lost four games in a row, including losses to Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers and Texas A&M, all unranked teams. A team with so much offensive firepower can't score and the defense is ranked 116th in points allowed.
Arkansas was expected to have the most successful season in program history, but now is in serious trouble moving forward. A coaching change will eventually take place, and it may be a while before the Razorbacks are this talented on either side of the ball.
Arkansas is by far the most disappointing team in the country in 2012.
Nick Saban Is by Far the Best Coach in the Country
Although Alabama has won two of the last three national championships, the Crimson Tide were doubted before the season began. With many key losses on the defensive side of the ball and a lack of proven offensive weapons, many didn't believe this team had what it took to defend its title.
After five games, Alabama is 5-0 and is considered the overwhelming No. 1 team in both polls. The offense is averaging 40 points per contest and the defense has forced 15 turnovers while allowing only a touchdown per game.
Head coach Nick Saban is the best at getting the most out of his players and is able to coach young, talented ones and plug them in to replace veterans. With a thin secondary and sophomores starting at linebacker, it is amazing the way this football team is playing early in the year.
Of course, things could change later in the season, but Saban has proved that his teams should never be doubted, as he usually finds a way to succeed.