April 17, 2024

Here’s perhaps the single most baffling question of September: Is Georgia still great?

Oh, the Bulldogs are 5-0 because they’ve played some bad teams, and they have some very good players. And they’re still No. 1 in the polls because all of us watched the past two seasons of college football.

But that doesn’t address the core concern that, five games into this season, we’ve yet to see Georgia play anything close to a truly impressive game.

The Bulldogs started slow against UT-Martin in the opener, with a touchdown three seconds from the break the only reason a 17-0 halftime score didn’t look much uglier.

They started slow against Ball State, failing to score in the first quarter.

They trailed South Carolina 14-3 at halftime in Week 3.

They didn’t pull away from UAB in Week 4 until midway through the third quarter.

And Saturday, the Bulldogs went to the wire against an Auburn team with one of the most anemic offenses in the country.

In fairness to Georgia, Apple designed the alarm clock on its phones so the “snooze” button is far more prominent than the “off” button.

Carson Beck has been … fine. He threw for 313 yards and a TD in the win.

The ground game has been … fine. Daijun Edwards scored twice against Auburn.

The defense has been … fine. Payton Thorne and Robby Ashford picked up some yards with their legs, but Auburn’s passing game couldn’t hit water if it fell out of a boat.

It’s all fine. But we’ve come to expect so much more from the Bulldogs, the two-time defending champs, winners of 22 straight games. And in a year in which the SEC is one giant pile of meh, it’s entirely jarring to see Georgia follow suit.

Of course, the SEC might be simply playing possum — the same way Georgia has throughout the first halves of nearly every game it’s played so far.

Part of the college football world was sleeping on Kentucky more like it had just finished a second hot brown and was going into hibernation for a while. But Big Blue looks to be for real.

The other part of the college football world has been patiently waiting to see Texas A&M enter its inevitable doom spiral, when Jimbo Fisher fires Bobby Petrino for having a play card that doesn’t include footnotes, six addendums and a foreword by Gay Talese. But the Aggies are plugging along, and they look like they might actually be a player in the West.

On Saturday, Kentucky and Texas A&M made statements: Ignore at your own risk.

In fairness, the SEC has looked like a miasma of mediocrity that has everyone below the Mason-Dixon Line a little shaken up. Yes, Georgia remains the No. 1 team in the country, but the Bulldogs seem interested in playing big-boy football for only a few drives a week.

The rest of the league is one big blender of who-the-heck-knows, and the SEC appears a week or two away from changing its name to “others receiving votes.”

Yes, seven teams were ranked heading into Week 5, but five of those seven have a loss, and four of them were ranked in the 20s, positioned precariously between Duke and Kansas.

And despite all of that, 4-0 Kentucky found itself outside the top 25, which had to have felt like a massive insult, like calling UK a basketball school. Indeed, the last time an SEC team started 4-0 and wasn’t ranked entering Week 5 was Missouri in 2013. Thirty-seven SEC teams have started 4-0 after that, and all were ranked … except the Wildcats.

Funny thing, though: That 2013 Missouri team finally earned a number next to its name in Week 6, then beat a top-10 Georgia team en route to an SEC championship game appearance and a No. 5 ranking in the final AP poll.

Kentucky? The Wildcats will certainly be ranked next week, when they get — wait for it — Georgia.

On Saturday, Ray Davis utterly demoralized a Florida team that, quite frankly, had no business being in the top 25. Davis came up just shy of the school record for rushing yards, but still finished with 280 on the ground. He became the first SEC player to run for 250 yards and score four times in a conference game since Nick Fitzgerald did it in the 2016 Egg Bowl. Kentucky won easily despite throwing for just 69 yards.

The Gators, by the way, had allowed just 328 yards rushing in their first four games of the season. They handed 329 to Kentucky on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M went into Hog Country also unranked. The early-season loss to Miami felt like an emphatic statement that the Aggies were, once again, all hype and no substance. The season-ending injury to starting QB Conner Weigman only made matters worse. But Max Johnson, who we’re fairly certain is actually a middle-aged father of three with a Volvo, a mortgage and a comfortable job selling life insurance, threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns, and the Texas A&M defense made short work of what Dan Enos assures us is, in fact, Arkansas‘ offense and not an elaborate practical joke.

In other words, Saturday opened with seven ranked SEC teams that no one is actually sure are all that good, even the defending champion, and at least two more that used the early slate to shout from the rooftops that they, too, belong in the conversation.


After an incredibly frustrating start to the season in which Clemson dropped its first two ACC games, the Tigers finally figured things out Saturday with a 31-14 win against Syracuse.

Figured out their kicking issues? Well, no. That’s still a problem. Jonathan Weitz, the kicker Clemson pulled off the beach two weeks ago, was just 1 of 2 in field goal tries, and Clemson has now missed five kicks this year, trailing only future fellow ACC member Cal.

Figured out its red zone problems? Well, Cade Klubnik was sacked on a fourth-and-2 at the Syracuse 5-yard line. In all, Clemson was in Syracuse territory on 12 of 14 drives, but found the end zone on just four of them.

play

0:37

Cade Klubnik airs it out for a 47-yard TD pass

Cade Klubnik airs it out and finds Beaux Collins wide-open down the field for a 47-yard Clemson TD.

Figured out their turnover issues? The Tigers entered the game having allowed the fifth-most points off turnovers in the country (36), more than they allowed in any of the past three full seasons. The good news is they only added seven more to that total Saturday.

Figured out issues on the O-line? Ah, Syracuse did have 13 tackles for loss in the game, the most Clemson has allowed in a game since 2013.

But figured out how to get the other team to make a whole bunch of mistakes so they can finally win an ACC game? You betcha!

Syracuse had nine penalties, turned the ball over three times and gave up a short-field TD after a strange decision to attempt a 57-yard field goal near the end of the first half — all more than enough to hand Clemson the game.

Where does this leave the Tigers? Klubnik continues to improve, throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Tyler Brown looks like an emerging superstar after hauling in 151 yards, and the defense held Syracuse to less than 300 yards.

It may not have been the prettiest win, but for Clemson, any win is a good one.


Buffs prove treacherous for USC

play

1:52

Caleb Williams throws 6 TDs in win over Colorado

USC QB Caleb Williams goes off in a 48-41 win over Colorado with 6 touchdowns.

No college football team had more style than Colorado for the first three weeks of the year, but over the past two games, Oregon and USC have been more than happy to play the role of antihero, upending the Buffs’ wildest dreams.

Heisman folks may still say “Welcome to New York” to Shedeur Sanders, who accounted for 421 yards and five touchdowns, but it was Caleb Williams who showed he was ready for it Saturday, throwing for 403 yards and six touchdowns in USC’s 48-41 win. Still, is the Trojans’ D trouble for Lincoln Riley?

Regardless, the Buffs’ hot start has turned into a cruel summer — er, fall — with back-to-back losses, and Coach Prime may now long for the buzz he had in August. The media gaze can be delicate, but Prime’s not listening to anyone who says he needs to calm down. Because there’s a formula for regaining all that early hype, and it didn’t require a frenetic comeback win Saturday.

Coach Prime just needs a bit more Taylor Swift in his life.

Buffs games have been jam-packed with celebrities on the sideline, but they’ve all been there to bask in Prime’s state of grace. As we saw at last week’s Kansas City Chiefs game, however, Tay Tay raises everyone’s profile.

So, with that said, here’s our effort to inject Colorado with a little bit of the Swiftie bump to get this once-promising season to begin again.

He only wants guys who can play
Tells others not to stay
That’s what people say
That’s what people say

Used to be lightning on his feet
Now he only keeps receipts
At least that’s what people say
That’s what people say

On Twitter ranked his sons
Then lost to USC and Oregon
But he’s got all this media hype
saying Prime’s gonna be alright

He’s in every Geico ad
Wears sunglasses and a hat
And that’s why they get mad
That’s why they get mad

So the Trojans might be great, great, great, great, great
But next is Arizona State, State, State, State, State
Prime’s just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
Shake it off. Shake it off.


Did you know they’re 5-0?

Maryland

The Terps thumped Indiana 44-17 on Saturday to remain undefeated behind five touchdown passes from Taulia Tagovailoa. Sadly, their finest work in the game proved unsuccessful.

Louisville

The Cardinals tripped over their own shoelaces for much of Friday night’s game against NC State, but a 53-yard field goal by Brock Travelstead (whose last name, interestingly, is the same as a website to get great deals on hotels and rental cars) for the win. Louisville is the 15th ACC team to start 5-0 in the playoff era. Eleven of the previous 14 made it to the league’s title game.

James Madison

JMU sure knows how to make things interesting. They’re 5-0, with four wins vs. FBS competition coming by 1, 2, 7 and 8 points — the last a 31-23 victory over South Alabama on Saturday. The Dukes are just the fifth FBS team in the playoff era to open 5-0 with four wins coming by one possession. In the past three calendar years, JMU has played four football seasons at two different levels and posted a 32-6 record.

Penn State

OK, you probably did know the Nittany Lions are 5-0, but we needed an excuse to showcase their goal-line set early in the third quarter of Saturday’s win over Northwestern.

This could easily be used in one of those bar trivia games where you have to find the differences in each picture. Or it could be some sort of “Inception” situation. Either way, on the fourth play, Drew Allar ran straight ahead and finally found the end zone.

Later, James Franklin had the bus drive the team to O’Hare at 2 mph and stopped at every Burger King along I-90.


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