There are a lot of things to love about college football. Whether it’s the traditions, the tailgates, or the exceptional athletes there’s something for everyone.
But for me, week 2 encompassed the reason why I am writing this at 3:15 AM after watching fifteen hours straight of football. It was supposed to be a low-key week with a lack of marquee games. One truth held true, and it’s the reason I love this sport.
College. Football. Always Delivers.
Same Old Aggies
I will preface what I will write in this segment. I do not like Texas A&M. I like nothing about their football program or their entire university, quite frankly. But what I am about to write is what I believe is the truth, and the truth is not good, Aggieland.
Of course, Texas A&M lost to Appalachian State 17-14 at home Saturday. It was a deserved loss, as the offense only scored one touchdown, they had less than 100 yards passing, and their defensive front got bullied when it mattered. And, anytime you’re losing at home as a top-ten team to a team from the Sun Belt (more on them later) it’s not a good feeling. But, this is about a lot more than one game, whether Aggieland wants to believe it or not.
Let’s start with some facts. Texas A&M has never won a real national championship in college football. And by real, I mean when the game was nationalized and racially integrated. The 1920’s do not count.
Texas A&M currently has head coach Jimbo Fisher on a 10-year $95 million contract to do one thing; win a national title.
This is not the first time aTm has tried this approach with their head coach. They famously pried Jackie Sherril away from a powerhouse Pitt program in the early 80s. They never finished higher in the AP poll than sixth, and he left the program seven years after coming with serious sanctions related to, you guessed it, wrongdoing related to Aggieland boosters.
We all know the rumors about Texas A&M's 2022 recruiting class. First off, congratulations to them. It’s legal now, and I have no problem with it. We don’t know how much was spent on that 2022 recruiting class, which really was the first class of the NIL era, but some people think that number is upwards of $20 or $30 million. College Station is not that fun, your facilities aren’t that good, and the program isn’t good enough to be recruiting the way they did without doing something shady. Which, again, is fair game, but facts are facts.
If it wasn’t for the win over Alabama last year that was a fluke then and is still a fluke, the vibe around Texas A&M going into this year would’ve been much different.
Three national title-winning coaches, seemingly in the primes of their careers in Bear Bryant, Jackie Sherill, and Jimbo Fisher, never really got close to a national title. Fisher is still active, but the writing is on the wall in my opinion.
Texas A&M has not finished better than 5th in the AP Poll in the integrated era of college football.
Finally, for emphasis, Texas A&M, despite having nearly every built-in advantage possible for the entirety of modern college football, hasn’t won a thing.
I lay out these facts to help you understand that the problem in College Station is not the head coach. It’s not quarterback Haynes King, even though he is really bad. It’s not even the fact they play in the toughest division in college football in the SEC West.
The problem is you, Aggie fans and boosters. The boosters have too much say, and too much power at Texas A&M. They have for decades, dating back to when Bear Bryant roamed the sidelines. It only intensified during the Sherill years, boosters convinced they deserved a return on their investment when they helped finance what was then the biggest contract for a sports coach anywhere in college football. Now in 2022, in a world where you can legally pay recruits, they are a necessary evil, something that even the AD has to deal with for fears for his job, if he makes an unpopular but necessary decision that causes fundraising to drop. It is a group of rich boosters cosplaying as owners of a college football team, and they’re no good at it.
It’s not like that at Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, or even Georgia now that Kirby Smart has changed the booster culture there. It’s their program, not the boosters’.
Joe Paterno, for all of his faults and shortcomings, said it best.
“I want your money but not your two cents.”
Instead of concerning themselves with off-season recruiting battles, maybe the boosters will take a step back and maybe, just maybe, let the elite coaches and players do the coaching and playing. Until then, a title isn’t coming to Aggieland, and as it stands, that is poetic justice. All that money is just putting lipstick on a pig. Guess what, the pig still stinks when you get close to it.
Texas is coming
Let’s go over to the school in the Longhorn State that has actually won something since the Hoover Administration, though not much lately.
Texas had Alabama flat-out beat Saturday at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in a game most people thought would be an Alabama blowout.
Truthfully, if Quinn Ewers doesn’t get hurt early on in the midst of marching up and down the field on the Crimson Tide defense, I think Texas wins by multiple scores Saturday. And, if backup Hudson Card didn’t pick up a leg injury of his own, I think Texas wins too.
Ultimately, Bryce Young made a Heisman play and Alabama won, 20-19. But, the message was clear. These are not the Texas Longhorns of the last decade. These Longhorns are tough, physical, and really, really good.
It may not happen this year. Ewers’ injury to his non-throwing shoulder could keep him out for a while. If Card was healthy I would still feel good about their playoff chances, but he isn’t. They may have to settle for 9-3.
Next year, though?
This is a program that has dealt with some of the booster issues similar to A&M’s that Texas had and coach Steve Sarkisian has these guys playing serious football in Austin for the first time since Colt McCoy was under center. I won’t say Texas is back, but they’re not exactly not back, either. They’re as close as they’ve been in a decade to being a power again, and that’s quite the moral victory for Longhorn fans.
Marcus Freeman’s goodwill is gone at Notre Dame
Marcus Freeman won the offseason. The first-year Notre Dame head coach and near-polar opposite of the coach who spurned the Irish for LSU, Brian Kelly, had things rolling. The vibes were great in South Bend as big-time recruiting wins filed in, the program became not as rigid, and there was real hope that Freeman could be the guy to get the Fighting Irish their first national championship since 1988. Even after last week’s close loss to Ohio State, it was hard to not be excited about the Freeman era.
Until Saturday. Notre Dame simply was outplayed by visiting Marshall en route to a humiliating 26-21 loss at Notre Dame Stadium.
Quarterback Tyler Buchner was horrific, and his two late interceptions, one a pick-six that sealed the game for Marshall, were the stuff of a Stephen King novel. But the whole team did not look good. Marshall moved the ball well all day and their touchdown drive that gave the Thundering Herd a 19-15 lead was one of sheer dominance over the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame got outrushed 219-130 when the strength of their team is supposed to be the trenches. Worst of all, Freeman and company were flat on the sidelines, resigned to watching Notre Dame embarrassingly lose in his home debut.
That goodwill that Freeman built up is certainly gone. No, he will not be fired anytime soon. Yes, that goal of a national title in the future is still theoretically there for Freeman and the Irish. And yes, even the great Nick Saban lost to Louisiana-Monroe in his first year at Alabama.
The difference is Saban was handed the keys to a rusted-out Corvette, a program that had been in disrepair for a decade. Freeman inherited a Rolls Royce, a Notre Dame program on their most consistent stretch of football since Ara Parseghian roamed the sidelines and one that was conceivably one great quarterback away from winning a national title.
Yes, it’s early, but as someone who thought simply hiring Freeman was a lazy hire given it being NOTRE DAME and a good Notre Dame program at that, with Luke Fickell waiting for his big opportunity somewhere, Freeman may simply be over his head.
Fun Belt rules the day
In what has to be the best day in recent memory for a G5 conference, the Sun Belt knocked off two top-ten teams in Texas A&M and Notre Dame, and fellow member Georgia Southern also beat the last remnants of life out of the Scott Frost era with a win over Nebraska.
These were not fluke wins, either. All three of those teams did not look overmatched physically and all three could have conceivably won their games by more.
They aren’t the only good teams in the Sun Belt, either. Louisiana Lafayette and Troy are also excellent. College Gameday will be at Appalachian state next week for their clash against Troy. The Sun Belt, once the worst conference in the FBS, may just be the cream of the G5 crop.
Another great win for Kentucky, who hadn’t beat Florida in decades before Mark Stoops has now beat them three times.
Penn State fans have to be excited for the future. True freshmen Drew Allar, Nick Singleton and Omari Evans combined for five touchdowns in their 46-10 win over Ohio.
USC’s offense looked otherworldly for a half, and the defense was forcing turnovers.
When those things stopped in the 2nd half of their 41-28 win over Stanford, the Trojans weren’t so scary.
Oregon State coach Jonathon Smith decided to play for the win from the three-yard-line with three seconds left down three points to Fresno State. It paid off, as the Beavers scored, and all of a sudden they are very much a Pac 12 North contender.
Syracuse was dismal last year, but they’re 2-0 after blowing out Louisville and UConn to start the year. Dino Babers probably needs a bowl game to save his job, and this team looks like that is certainly achievable.
The Iowa offense is an abomination and if Kirk Ferentz rolls Spencer Petras out there next week it will show that Ferentz isn’t serious about winning, only about winning his way
Give credit to Washington State, who pulled a shocker over Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium 17-14. But, the rope on Paul Chryst in Madison seems to be getting awfully thin.
Following a masterful performance against a very bad Hawaii team, JJ McCarthy has been named the starting quarterback at Michigan. Jim Harbaugh made the right choice
Tennessee looked terrible early but showed guts in a come-from-behind road win at Pitt. Josh Heupel has it cooking in Knoxville.
My Playoff teams:
My Heisman Ballot:
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Drake Maye, QB, UNC
Follow Garrett Carr on Twitter @RealGarrettCarr