Surprises, disaapointments early in the college football season

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Syracuse-LSU 2017
LSU has not looked impressive in their last three games since a season-opening shutout win (Photo: Terrill Weil).

After the first month of the college football season, things begin to take shape. We have a clearer perspective about the surprise teams and disappointments.

Washington State is off the a 4-0 start, including a 47-44 triple OT win over Boise State. The Cougars, 16th ranked in major polls, are led by quarterback Luke Falk. The school’s all-time leading passer has 1,378 yards for the season with an impressive 76 completion rate, 14 touchdown passes and just one interception.

The primary target in Wazzu’s pass-heavy attack is Tavares Martin who already has snared 26 passes for 390 yards and six touchdowns. His season’s best is 10 catches for 194 yards and three touchdowns against Oregon State.

The Cougars are 11th nationally in total offense, averaging 43.8 points and 504 yards per outing. They also boast the country’s 23rd ranked defense allowing 18.5 points and 262 yards to each opponent.

Head coach Mike Leach is the orchestra leader in Pullman, earning $3 million per season. He has a career mark of 117 wins and 77 losses. In previous stops at Valdosta State, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, Leach has built good passing offenses and winning teams. Alex Grinch is the Cougars defensive coordinator in his third season.

UCF (2-2) is on the cusp on good things, led by head coach Scott Frost is his second year. They currently pace the nation in total defense allowing 13.5 points and 266 yards per game.

Quarterback McKenzie Milton has five touchdown passes and one interception completing 66.7 percent of his attempts for 538 yards. He also leads UCF in rushing with 98 yards.

Frost played six seasons in the NFL as a defensive back after an interesting collegiate career. He served as backup quarterback at Stanford for two seasons before transferring to Nebraska where he led the Cornhuskers to a 13-0 season and National Championship in 1997. He was the first Cornhusker quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards in the same season.

UTSA has grabbed some attention with a 3-1 mark to begin 2017. Former LSU assistant Frank Wilson has done a marvelous job with the Roadrunners. The native New Orleanian is very detailed oriented. He has an overall 9-7 mark since taking over.

UTSA’s next opponent, Southern Miss, will be a good gauge as to just how far Wilson’s program has come. The defense is giving up just 13.7 points and 207 yards per game.

Minnesota have a new leader in the energetic P.J. Fleck, but the Golden Gophers also have the top-ranked defense in the Big Ten (No. 4 in the country) allowing only 8 points and 239 yards. A date with Purdue in two weeks which will be a good challenge for Minny.

Wake Forest (4-0) is putting up 37.8 points and 432 yards on offense per game. Talk about balanced attack. How about 215.8 yards per game passing and 216.3 yards rushing? Add to that the defense is only giving up 11.5 points to the opposition.

Gary Patterson, in his 17th season at TCU, has the Horned Frogs perched high, scoring 47.7 points offensively and allowing 18.5 defensively. The 4-0 Frogs will host West Virginia this weekend.

Virginia senior quarterback Kurt Benker has 1,249 yards passing and 10 touchdown passes with a season best 455 yards against UConn. He has led the Cavaliers to a 3-1 mark under head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who has the reigns as the head coach in his second season. The Cavaliers were 13-35 the past four seasons, but things look to be headed in right direction now.

Former Archbishop Shaw RB Trey Ragas leads UL Lafayette with 375 yards rushing (8.2 yards per carry) and four scores as a redshirt freshman.

Brother Martin product Roderic Teamer is ranked second nationally with seven quarterback sacks for Tulane as a rampaging safety. He had four against Army last week.

On a national scope, Ohio State freshman sensation J.K. Dobbins (5’10-208) has 520 yards (7.5 yards per tote) and three touchdowns for the 3-1 Buckeyes.

Sophomore running back Khalil Herbert (5’9-200) had 189 rushing yards in 2016 for the Kansas Jayhawks but has already managed 438 yards (7.6 yds/carry) and four touchdowns.

Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor runs a 10.5 hundred meters and power cleans 315 lbs. He already totaled 438 yards (8.3 yards per carry) and five touchdown for the 3-0 Badgers. He was not on the four-deep depth chart when the preseason drills began.

With the good, we also have the not so good so far.

The 3-1 LSU Tigers fit the requirements for a disappointing season. The wheels appear to be wobbling already, and the staff is searching for the right chemistry.

The overall depth is the thinnest that LSU has had in many years. Some current starters were previous earmarked to take a redshirt season and it shows. The effort is there, the experience is not. Head coach Ed Orgeron has been put in a spot where he has had to hand down suspensions for the overall good of the program. He has tried to make necessary decisions, knowing what the consequences would be in the short term. Much had to be changed following Les Miles’ departure.

LSU has 36 percent of the players on the two deep depth chart as either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen. The defense is allowing 18.5 points and offensively scoring 28.5 points per outing. Those numbers will be challenged with the meat of the SEC schedule coming in two weeks.

The reality of what type of season this might be for LSU is not the lofty 10-2 finish that I mistakenly felt was a worthy assessment in preseason. Injuries have taken a bite out of the roster, and many defections of players that were counted upon hurt as well.

The lack of depth has made instant starters out of players maybe not ready for that role. Who knows what the remainder of the season holds? The Tigers will go as far as the young talent will take them. Hopefully, injuries will not have a further impact.

Florida State had high hopes for 2017 but the normally potent Seminoles are producing 14 points a game. Meanwhile, the defense is allowing 25.5 points for the 0-2 ‘Noles.

Freshman starting quarterback James Blackman has the necessary tools, but he was thrown into the fire for FSU following the season ending loss of starter Deondre Francois. In fact, Florida State has 13 players out with an assortment of ailments, including starting wide receiver Davante Phillips. The Seminoles are still trying to replace stud running back Dalvin Cook, now with the Minnesota Vikings. The offensive line has its share of challenges.

The visit to Wake Forest this week won’t be a cake walk, but we could find out what the Seminoles really are this year.

UCLA is 2-2 but spiraling downward. With Heisman hopeful quarterback Josh Rosen, the Bruins were hoping for a special season. It’s not happening. The defense is giving up 43.2 points per game, and Stanford’s Bryce Love gashed the Bruins for 263 yards rushing last week.

The ULL Ragin Cajuns are stuck at 1-3 despite scoring 41 points each game. However, they give up 53.7 points.

The past two seasons, the Cajuns are 10-15 record wise.

Beating SLU by a close 51-48 score in the season opener was a red flag. The Cajuns travel up to Idaho in two weeks, needing the bye to address defensive woes.

Defensive coordinators Mike Lucas and Charlie Harbison will have to formulate a plan quickly to turn the Cajuns around.

Here are five coaches beginning to feel their seats warm up.

Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, earning $4.1 million per season, is 1-2 on the season. The overtime loss last week to Texas A&M didn’t help matters. He is 26-28 overall at Arkansas, where his AD Jeff Long says that Bielema is “not” on the hotseat and called him a “leader.” Bielema was 68-24 record at Wisconsin but the Hogs have not been trending upward.

Kansas coach Dave Beaty, like Bielema, is 47 years old. Beaty earns $1.6 million in his third campaign with the Jayhawks but sports a 3-25 record.

Jim Mora Jr. earns $3.6 million and has an overall 43-26 record with the UCLA Bruins, including 2-2 in bowl appearances. The 56 year old needed a big year with the star Rosen behind center, but that appears to be unlikely.

Butch Jones has taken some heat at Tennessee, earning $4.4 million but not winning big. He took over for Derek Dooley, who had a 15-21 record. The past two seasons have resulted in 9-4 finishes for the Volunteers under Jones, who may have missed on a golden opportunity to contend for titles with last year’s roster.

Rich Rodriguez earns $3 million at Arizona. He had previous stops at West Virginia and Michigan. The Tulane offensive coordinator in 1997-’98 has his Wildcats at 2-2, having lost to Utah and Houston. With Colorado and UCLA looming, the pressure is on after Rodriguez’s squads posted 3-9 and 7-6 marks the past two seasons.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

CCS/Fox Sports/ESPN/WFAN

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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