Road Maps for College Football's Biggest Early-Season Busts to Get on Track

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2018

Road Maps for College Football's Biggest Early-Season Busts to Get on Track

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The college football world spends the entire offseason trying to identify championship threats, bounce-back teams and electric players. Inevitably, September isn't kind to a handful of projections.

    Entering the third full week of the 2018 campaign, several programs have fallen well short of expectations and need to correct one significant issue. There surely are more problems, but we're focused on one major flaw.

    Let's acknowledge something right out of the gate, though: We're not magicians. We don't have every answer, and sometimes, the most important fix is the roster itself. That can't happen midseason.

    But every struggling team has that particularly glaring issue. When that is addressed, the program should begin to have more success on the field this season.

Arizona Wildcats

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    Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    The problem

    Head coach Kevin Sumlin has taken the dual out of dual-threat quarterback Khalil Tate. Through two losses, the explosive runner has trudged to 22 yards on 15 attempts. Arizona has yet to score in the first quarter, so the game-opening script isn't working.

          

    One big fix

    Roll the pocket more often. The simple truth is that Tate's not a dropback passer and shouldn't be asked to on a regular basis. Not only will Tate be limited to half-field reads, but he'll also already be moving. If the first and second option aren't available, he'll be in a better position to use his mobility. Designed runs for the junior should be a bigger part of the offense because of the blocking advantage they provide.

Florida Gators

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The problem

    If anyone expected Florida to really compete in the SEC East this season, that's a different issue. But it's jarring to see Kentucky outmuscle the Gators. They hadn't dropped a game in the series since 1986, yet surrendered 454 yards of offenseincluding 303 on the ground at a 7.4 clipand lost 27-16.

             

    One big fix

    Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is no stranger to blitzes. Dialing up extra pressure, though ideally a temporary adjustment, can assist a defensive line that has struggled to control the trenches. Although it will increase tension on a young, thin secondary, the Gators must be willing to fail aggressively instead of watching their D-line get picked apart.

Florida State Seminoles

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    Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

    The problem

    When the Seminoles encounter any third down, it's the product of an abysmal first-down play. In 30 third-down situations, per B/R research, FSU has faced an average of 8.3 yards to gain. The preceding first-down snaps have resulted in a total of minus-one yards. (Pre-snap penalties are included in this stat because they're the first official play of a down sequence.)

              

    One big fix

    Go forward on first down! That statistic is dumbfounding, especially given Willie Taggart's deserved reputation as a highly successful offensive coach. To date, 13 of FSU's 30 third-down distances have been double-digit yards. Consistently dealing with 3rd-and-long is not a winning strategy.

Miami Hurricanes

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The problem

    Quarterback Malik Rosier is basically the definition of inconsistent. It certainly doesn't help that Miami's offensive line has a similar issue. Head coach Mark Richt called the unit a "work in progress," according to Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

               

    One big fix

    Break out some pistol. Even dating back to 2017, the Hurricanes' running game has been limited. There are slow-developing sweeps, quarterback draws and zone reads. Richt needs to be more creative, and runs moving forward faster instead of side-to-side should help the offensive line. Please stop faking play action on 3rd-and-long as well. You're not fooling anyone except yourselves.

Michigan State Spartans

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The problem

    Expectations are a dangerous thing. In Michigan State's case, though, the promise of an elite defense wasn't just a hope. In 2017, the Spartans ranked No. 7 overall and allowed only 6.2 yards per passing attemptthe 15th-lowest clip nationally. Through two games, they've ceded 7.6 yards per pass and 699 yards total, putting them at No. 122 in the nation in passing defense.

          

    One big fix

    Cornerback Josiah Scott's injury is a significant negative, given his 10 pass breakups and reliable coverage as a freshman. Until he returns, though, MSU needs its defensive line to consistently create more havoc in the backfield. Only four sacks and five hurries is unacceptable. Pressure up front will ease the burden on the secondary to cover longer than reasonable.

UCLA Bruins

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    Brett Deering/Getty Images

    The problem

    UCLA can't stop opponents from getting into the backfield, already surrendering 20 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. The running game has only two gains of 20-plus yards, and the Bruins have mustered just five passes of 20-plus yards.

           

    One big fix

    Be patient. It isn't always pretty right now, but this is going to work with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson under center. He's showing decent command of the offense, particularly on quick-hitting routes. As the true freshman learns, he'll be more comfortable identifying blitzes and finding hot receivers. (Also, maybe put the slow-developing play-action passes in the back pocket for now.)

Washington Huskies

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The problem

    On paper, there's no shame in falling to Auburn in a "neutral" game in Atlanta. Knocking out North Dakota 45-3 looks fine, too. However, a red-zone turnover cost the Huskies an obvious chance to clip Auburn, and quarterback Jake Browning told reporters after the game that he never felt his team dominated UND "at any point."

              

    One big fix

    Improved accuracy from Browning will be like a chain reaction for the Huskies. Even beyond his four total turnovers, actually giving his receivers a chance will move the sticks more often. Extended drives mean more points. Bigger leads help an already-elite defense. And when opponents can't score, UW will be cruising.

             

    All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.comcfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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