Adam Kramer on College Football: The Undersized QB Taking the Sport by Storm

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterNovember 1, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, MD - OCTOBER 20:  D'Eriq King #4 of the Houston Cougars warms up before a college football game against the Navy Midshipmen at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Is Houston's 5'11" quarterback the most exciting player in college football? What should be made of the first College Football Playoff rankings? And what about Week 10's must-watch games? Adam Kramer explores what's happening in college football in his weekly college football notebook, the Thursday Tailgate.


The question induces laughter from D'Eriq King. Years ago, it would've likely produced a much different response. But now, on the heels of a seven-touchdown performance that featured one of this season's most spectacular touchdown runs, what the heck. Might as well laugh it off.

For Houston's starting quarterback, the player with more touchdowns than anyone in college football, it's a question he's been asked all his life.

How tall are you?

On his official Houston bio, King is listed at an un-quarterback-like 5'11" and 195 pounds. But is this actually correct?

“Uh, not exactly," King says. “The weight is not too far off, but my height is a little bit shorter than that."

On Saturday, King led Houston to a 57-36 win over then-unbeaten South Florida. The undersized QB finished with 419 passing yards, 132 rushing yards (on only 12 carries) and seven touchdowns.

He raised his season touchdown total to 39, doing so in only eight games.

At a time when size at the position is as valued as it has ever been, King is a unicorn of sorts. The junior from Manvel, Texas, who grew up idolizing Vince Young, is still learning the nuances of the position at this level.

As a freshman and sophomore, King was switched to wide receiver. While he grew comfortable as a wideout, it was not a role he expected or originally wanted to play in college.

College football coaches, on the other hand, felt otherwise. While King had scholarship offers from Clemson, Michigan State, Washington and others, most schools thought he could not play QB because of his size.

“A lot of schools wanted me to play slot receiver or defensive back," King says. “Ultimately I came here because I wanted to play quarterback."

ANNAPOLIS, MD - OCTOBER 20:  D'Eriq King #4 of the Houston Cougars scores a touchdown during a college football game against the Navy Midshipmen at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/G
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

For at least a little while, that vision took a detour. King caught 29 passes in both his freshman and sophomore seasons before making the change back to QB days before Halloween last year.

Even then, despite the abruptness of the change, his performance was good enough to make him the starter this year. He has responded with at least three touchdowns in every game.

King's emergence has turned him into a celebrity of sorts. While so much of the talk about Houston has centered on defensive tackle Ed Oliver, a potential top-five draft pick who missed last week's game with a knee injury, the quarterback has slowly grabbed national headlines despite playing outside a major conference.

With each week, his popularity has grown. After his performance against USF, King says he had 400 notifications on his phone that he's been too busy to read. Picture requests on campus are becoming more common. And a buzz surrounding his potential Heisman campaign has started to build.

While winning the award is unlikely given Houston's schedule, King could earn an invitation to the ceremony if his staggering production continues.

“I always dreamed of the award as a little kid," he says. “I'm not just sitting in my room thinking about winning a Heisman, but it's just a blessing to hear my name connected to it. I've got to keep playing the way I'm playing right now."

Houston (7-1), which sits atop the standings in the West division of the American Athletic Conference, could play its way into a marquee bowl game with a strong finish. At his current pace, King could close out the 2018 season with one of the most productive years for a quarterback in recent history.

Which leads us back to the question that he couldn't quite put a number to.

Just how tall is he?

Here's a better question given the past few months.

At this point, does it really matter?


CFP Rankings Are Out, Which Is a Reminder How Little They Mean (For Now)

David Goldman/Associated Press

Let it be known that college football has done a magnificent job in promoting its four-team postseason, with the exception of playing games on New Year's Eve. That is not a good idea. Everything else, headlined by the weekly College Football Playoff rankings show that debuted for this season on Tuesday, has been well done.

For the first time this year, the selection committee put together a Top 25.

Unsurprisingly, Alabama was No. 1 and Clemson No. 2. Semi-surprisingly, unbeaten Notre Dame came in at No. 4, behind one-loss LSU, which debuted at No. 3.

Each week, these rankings trigger anger, confusion and displeasure from fanbases that feel they've been wronged. Central Florida fans know these emotions well after a full year of unsuccessfully trying to impress the committee.

The emotions that are manufactured by these early rankings are actually wonderful for business. But don't fall into the trap of taking them too seriously.

None of these rankings matter until December 2, the day the four teams of the College Football Playoff will be officially announced once all conference championships have been decided.

Until then, enjoy the show.


With That Said, Here's the Weirdest Playoff Scenario That Is Still Semi-Possible

If I were to put together the most improbable-but-not-impossible playoff based on the initial rankings, here is how it would look. Reminder: This is for entertainment purposes only. Will it actually happen? Absolutely not. But here's how it could look in the most chaotic scenario.

1, Kentucky (currently No. 9)

2. Washington State (currently No. 8)

3. West Virginia (currently No. 13)

4. Central Florida (currently No 12) 

Northwestern wins the Big 10 title game, knocking the conference out of the playoff and opening the door for Pac-12 champion Washington State. Clemson loses twice. Notre Dame loses at least once—although let's call it two for good measure. West Virginia runs the table, as does Kentucky. Oh, and Alabama has to lose two games, and we aren't done. UCF, maybe the hardest to figure of all, remains undefeated and skyrockets past all of the carnage and chaos.

Call this the doomsday football playoff equation. If it happened, we would have an eight-team playoff by spring break.


Five Games to Watch This Weekend

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 05:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide shakes hands with head coach Ed Orgeron of the LSU Tigers after their 10-0 win at Tiger Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This is one of the better collections of games we will get all year. Let us celebrate this glorious buffet in style. (All game times Eastern, and all rankings now courtesy of the College Football Playoff selection committee).

No. 1 Alabama at No. 3 LSU (Saturday, 8 p.m.): Night games in Baton Rouge are gumbo-infused madness, and this will be one of its finest installments. And yet, with Alabama close to a two-touchdown favorite, it's hard to grasp what the game itself might look like. The tailgate, however, will be quite a sight.

No. 6 Georgia at No. 9 Kentucky (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.): If Kentucky wins, it will represent the SEC East in the SEC Championship Game. This is not a drill or some sort of basketball analysis misfire. This is real. The Wildcats have gone from a warm, cuddly football story to a team that finds itself in the hunt. Let's go.

No. 14 Penn State at No. 5 Michigan (Saturday, 3:45 p.m.): With each passing week, it is becoming increasingly difficult to doubt Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. A victory here would only add to that positive momentum. Whether Harbaugh receives appropriate credit is still TBD, but a loss would be a shock to the system. A massive game.

No. 13 West Virginia at No. 17 Texas (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.): It will slide under the radar given the robust slate, but West Virginia-Texas is a) hugely important in the Big 12 and b) almost certain to be touchdown-rich. This will also be a defining moment in our quest to determine if Texas is indeed back. Tune in to find out.

No. 7 Oklahoma at Texas Tech (Saturday, 8 p.m.): Speaking of touchdown-rich, two years ago these two combined to score 125 points and produced nearly a mile in yardage. Texas Tech looks like it might have found a defense, so that likely won't happen here. Or maybe it will, with Kyler Murray ready for takeoff for Oklahoma. 


What Else to Watch This Weekend

First, an Extended Preview of Alabama-LSU

Yes, this is cheating. All game previews are typically limited to 280 characters or fewer to move it along, but this one, given the teams, the history and what is at stake, feels like it demands a little something more.

So let's talk matchups. Specifically, Alabama's wideouts going against LSU's cornerbacks, which will be the most intriguing game within the game. As brilliant as Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa has been, his wideouts—Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith and freshman Jaylen Waddle—have constantly gotten open and helped execute one brilliant throw after the next.

LSU cornerback Greedy Williams and a deep group of defensive backs will hope to change that. Whether they can or not, the matchup will be a must-see. Specifically, watching Williams against Jeudy, who is averaging 25.1 yards per catch, will be a delight.


Second, Notre Dame's Final Playoff Push (Part 1)

Northwestern has now beaten Purdue, Michigan State and, most recently, Wisconsin. The Wildcats also lost to Akron and Duke. Yep, it's been that kind of year.

But this team is dangerous. So Notre Dame, with four games standing between it and the College Football Playoff, had best be careful.

For fans of teams waiting anxiously just outside the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, this game in Evanston is especially worth watching. And with Northwestern, who knows what we'll see.


Third, This Saturday's Sneaky-Good, Scoreboard-Shattering Matchup Is…

Syracuse-Wake Forest. Yes, really.

While these programs don't normally have offensive-heavy reputations, Syracuse is averaging more than 40 points per game, and Wake Forest just dropped 56 on Louisville—the third time this year that the Demon Deacons eclipsed the 50-point mark.

For those who are curious, the game will be played at noon. If you're looking for the perfect lather to get you to the robust night slate, look no further.


Gambling Locks of the Week

COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 27:  Running back Benny Snell Jr. #26 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates with teammates and fans after the Wildcats defeated the Missouri Tigers 15-14 to win the game at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Columbia
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Last Week: 4-2

Season to date: 29-22-1

For at least a little while last Saturday, 6-0 felt possible. Then Missouri and Washington State crumbled, and I “settled" for another 4-2 weekend. If you haven't purchased your ticket for this glorious money train by now, I'm not sure what else to tell you.

Here are this week's picks, using lines provided by OddsShark.

Missouri (+6) at Florida: Missouri just lost to Kentucky on one of the worst defensive pass interference calls in the past decade. I have no idea why that matters, but we're betting the Tigers regardless.

 Washington (-10) vs. Stanford: This game was supposed to be a lot better than it is, although that won't stop us from partaking. Huskies by 17.

Auburn (-4) vs. Texas A&M: Last time out, Auburn covered for us. This time out, off a bye, the Tigers will do the same.

Kentucky (+9.5) vs. Georgia: The Bulldogs are the more talented team, but Kentucky finds comfort in ugly football. Georgia wins, but Kentucky makes it sweat.

Temple (+10.5) at Central Florida: This is a quality game featuring quality teams. Temple might just be a live underdog to win outright.

Arizona (-3) vs. Colorado: What a strange turn for Colorado that will get stranger this weekend. Arizona by a touchdown.


Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @KegsnEggs