How did the nation's first female coach in Division I football land a job? Has the Notre Dame playoff push already started? What are the must-watch games for Week 6? Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer has the answers to those questions and more in his weekly college football notebook, the Thursday Tailgate.
The original intent was not to make history. In fact, Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens had no idea his decision to hire a woman as a full-time coach would be historic at all.
When he first met Callie Brownson in summer 2017 at the Manning Passing Academy, where she worked alongside 15 other female coaches at the camp's first women's coaching clinic, he was impressed. Then he was curious—enough to offer her a summer 2018 internship at Dartmouth.
A few months later, Brownson is still at Dartmouth. Not as an intern, a label she has since shed, but as an offensive quality control coach and the first full-time female coach in Division I football.
"It really became a no-brainer," Teevens says. "It was her personality, her confidence in meetings and her heart. I didn't know she was the first one. I just knew she was a quality hire that would make our program better. Callie fit exactly what we're looking for."
For Brownson, the path to Hanover, New Hampshire, began in Alexandria, Virginia, where she played youth football as a 10-year-old and developed a love for the sport. But nurturing that love proved to be difficult at Mount Vernon High School, as her attempts to play were routinely denied.
"The last week of junior year, I came to the coach and told him I was going to try out as a senior," Brownson recalls of her last attempt. "I didn't care if you ever put me on the field, but I was going to be on the football team. I didn't want to be the kicker. I wanted to play. And he laughed at me; it was a no."
Eventually Brownson secured a roster spot on the D.C. Divas of the Women's Football Alliance, playing for them from 2010 through 2017 as a safety and running back. She was a five-time captain and four-time WFA All-American. She also won two gold medals for Team USA.
Throughout her time as a player for the national team, Brownson worked at various football camps, and that sparked her love for coaching. Entering her late 20s, she knew her playing career wouldn't last much longer. So in summer 2017, she interned in the New York Jets scouting department.
The following summer, after getting a taste of NFL life, she landed with Teevens. Players benefited from her influence so much that near the end of her two-week internship, they encouraged the Dartmouth coach to bring her on full time, which he did.
"People will say, 'Oh, you hired a woman.' No. I hired a coach, and I think that's important," Teevens says. "My responsibility is to bring in the best people to help put our team in a position to have success, and there's a variety of characteristics and traits you look for. She had every one of them."
Although most coaches in her position have months to acclimate to the system, terminology and routine, Brownson had less than a week. And still, there was comfort in the grind.
"I was fully submersed in everything," Brownson says. "It wasn't decorative, and this wasn't some sort of publicity stunt. I was there to work and learn and be a part of Dartmouth football."
From film study to recruiting to game-planning in meetings, Brownson has become an asset for Dartmouth, which is hoping to go 4-0 with a critical matchup against Yale this week.
While leagues such as the NBA and NFL have started to welcome women to the coaching ranks, Brownson's hire marks the continuation of a movement in Division I college football that began with the hiring of women to fill part-time coaching roles.
As for where this could lead, Brownson, 28, isn't thinking about what her life will look like in five years. She's focused on the present. "I want that ring," she says on the possibility of winning an Ivy League title in her first season as a coach.
And yet, she can't help but wonder if her presence and influence will help pave the way for something more, which is a responsibility she does not take lightly.
"People ask me all the time," Brownson says, "Do I feel pressure to do a good job? Of course; it's my job. And there are others out there like me that want to do this, and I want to make sure I leave no doubt that it's a good decision to hire women and to bring them on board."
The Notre Dame College Football Playoff Push Is Upon Us
The takes are coming. In fact, they are already here. Tell me if you've already heard this five weeks into the season: Notre Dame is this close to the College Football Playoff. Might as well write it down in pen. Screw the pencil.
Indeed, Notre Dame has a playoff-friendly schedule. Barring injury or the unforeseen, Brian Kelly's bunch should be favored in all its remaining games. The biggest obstacle could come this week at Virginia Tech, which recovered nicely Saturday against Duke after a stunning upset loss to Old Dominion the previous week.
The hardest game after that is…maybe the finale at USC? At home against Syracuse or Florida State? Maybe at Northwestern?
Just by assessing the schedule—and the lack of a conference championship game—it's easy to see why so many have started to connect Notre Dame to the postseason.
The Irish are a fine team. Ian Book has looked fabulous at quarterback since he took over starting duties in Week 4. The defense, anchored by lineman Jerry Tillery, who leads the nation in sacks with seven, has played well.
But this sport rarely conforms to the blueprint. You should know this by now. We see, we react, we overreact, we adjust and then we eventually overreact again.
Love you, college football.
Let's Talk About When It Would Be Appropriate to Rank Football Teams
Preseason polls are bad. Unnecessary. Manipulative. But they impact the way we rank and evaluate teams during the season, as certain programs and previously ranked squads have a much easier time moving into or higher in the Top 25.
Consider a team like Colorado. The No. 21 Buffaloes are ranked for the first time this season and are the only undefeated team in the Pac-12.
The Buffaloes aren't higher than No. 20 Michigan State, which has looked utterly average, and No. 18 Oregon, which has a loss, because they weren't ranked to start the season.
There's a reason we do preseason polls, of course. It's the same reason we put out the Top 25 each weekend. They create controversy and interest, and that's good for business. But to be fair, we shouldn't even consider ranking football teams until after four weeks.
That's still a small sample size, which is why the College Football Playoff committee doesn't meet for another month. There's no point to the rankings before then—other than the whole money-making component, which is, you guessed it: important.
Five Games to Watch This Weekend
Here's what you should watch this weekend, summarized in tweet-length form (all times Eastern):
No. 7 Oklahoma vs. No. 19 Texas (Saturday, noon): Will we be able to finally write "Texas is back" and mean it come Saturday afternoon? Regardless of the outcome, a lot of food will be fried outside the Cotton Bowl at the Texas State Fair, and we can all celebrate this rare, glorious early start.
No. 5 LSU at No. 22 Florida (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.): If the Tigers can pull this off, Ed Orgeron's squad will have beaten three top 25 teams in the first six weeks, with two of those wins coming on the road. But if LSU loses to a surprising, surging Florida team, some will want him fired. Coaching college football is hard.
No. 6 Notre Dame at No. 24 Virginia Tech (Saturday, 8:00 p.m.): The Hokies, a few weeks removed from a loss to Old Dominion—a team that lost to Liberty by roughly 600 points—will attempt to run Notre Dame's College Football Playoff RV off the road. It sounds crazy enough that it just might work.
No. 13 Kentucky at Texas A&M (Saturday, 7:00 p.m.): The No. 13 next to Kentucky's name is unnerving and lovely all at once. As is the fact that the Wildcats have the nation's No. 3 scoring defense, which is better than Alabama's No. 5 unit. If we are dreaming this football tomfoolery, I hope we stay asleep awhile longer.
No. 23 NC State vs. Boston College (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.): Is North Carolina State good? What about Boston College? These questions may not interest you, but we'll gain intel on them in what probably is the most interesting, non-interesting game set for Saturday.
What Else to Watch This Weekend
First: Laviska Shenault Jr., The Best-Kept Secret in College Football
Outside the football surgery Tua Tagovailoa is performing for Alabama, I'm not sure a football player has been more enjoyable to watch than Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado's phenomenal sophomore wideout.
Yes, it's a Colorado-heavy week. But Shenault has double-digit catches in three of the Buffaloes' first four contests and leads the nation in receiving yards per game.
He's a deep threat. He's deadly on screens. He can also run the ball every now and then.
The Buffs draw Arizona State at home this week, which is enough reason to tune in. But do yourself a favor and take in the full Shenault experience. He's special.
Second: Will Washington State Finish a Game With Rushing Yards?
Mike Leach did it again, as he added the latest in a long line of quirky achievements to his coaching mantle. His Washington State Cougars won a conference game last Saturday over Utah by rushing for a grand total of zero yards.
Not one. Not negative yardage. Zero. And, again, his team won, 28-24.
For the season, Washington State is ranked No. 129 in total rushing yards, ahead of only San Jose State. This week, the Cougars draw Oregon State, which is No. 128 in rushing defense and allowing 6.9 yards per carry.
Something's gotta give. You'd like to think this will result in a big rushing output for Wazzu.
Leach, though, usually has other plans.
Third: Cole McDonald Stat-Watching Continues
I tried to tell you a few weeks ago to watch the 2-star Hawaii quarterback with dreadlocks who was posting huge numbers. Since then, Hawaii starter Cole McDonald has continued to be awesome—throwing for 24 touchdowns, rushing for two more and tossing only two interceptions in six games.
This week, McDonald is playing Wyoming, the nation's No. 100 passing defense.
Prediction: There will be (more) points.
Gambling Locks of the Week
Last Week: 2-4
Season to date: 13-15
We were trending toward an average 3-3 reboot week when Arizona's kicker botched what would've been a spread-covering extra point in the final moments against USC with a slice that looked like one of my tee shots. That was a suboptimal way to lose against the spread, though I've since had enough time and therapy to recover.
I've emotionally turned my attention toward Week 6, which has plenty of lovely wager potential. Here are the picks, using lines provided by the Westgate odds on OddsShark.
Virginia Tech (+6) vs. Notre Dame: For the second week in a row, let's take the team playing its backup quarterback that lost to Old Dominion not long ago. The Hokies are live.
Texas A&M (-6) vs. Kentucky: This line feels…odd. Kentucky is on fire and getting points. Looks too good to be true, yes? It usually is.
Mississippi State (+3.5) vs. Auburn: This game could be ugly—perhaps decided by a field goal either way. Give me the points. The under doesn't sound bad, either.
Florida (+2) vs. LSU: Florida suddenly looks like one of college football's better teams, which is as weird to type as it probably is to read.
Pittsburgh (+4.5) vs. Syracuse: Behold the ol' "So You Just Blew What Would've Been a Remarkable Upset and Now You're Going to Lose to a Bad Team on the Road" special.
Utah (+5.5) vs. Stanford: This is an spot for Stanford, which seems like a tired football team after an eventful couple of weekends. Utah will keep it close enough.
Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @KegsnEggs.