We exited the first Saturday in October with 20 undefeated teams and before the calendar turns to November, we’ll be down to at least 11 or less so buckle up because it’s going to be a crazy month in college football.
Florida Gators – Don’t look now but the Florida Gators are good again and they are good way ahead of schedule. First year Head Coach Jim McElwain (more on him in a bit) has an offensive unit that many left for dead playing lights out and showed it on Saturday night when they completely deconstructed Ole Miss in ‘The Swamp’. Earlier this season McElwain caught a lot of heat after a very public tough love moment with his leading rusher Kelvin Taylor was broadcast live to America from the sidelines of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Later McElwain apologized for how everything went down but whichever side of the fence you are on for that subject, it’s hard to ignore the aftereffects: three straight wins with the last one being a blowout win over the 3rd ranked team in the country.
American Athletic Conference West Division – It’s easy to get caught up in all of the Power 5 conferences and the College Football Playoff and forget about the Group of Five conferences. If you’re going to pay attention to any of them (I suggest you pay attention to them all because they are extremely exciting) make sure you keep an eye on the AAC Western Division. As of today, there are three undefeated teams (Houston, Navy, Memphis), two massively improved teams (SMU & Tulsa) and another team who looks like they have finally found an identity (Tulane). Houston’s schedule is back loaded but taking care of business in the front means you can have a chance at greatness in the back. The Naval Academy is doing exactly what we expected the Naval Academy to do; run all over people but the difference in 2015 is their stout defense. The Memphis Tigers are undefeated heading into their bye week before a huge showdown against the Ole Miss Rebels in the Liberty Bowl. This division will get a lot more attention if the Tigers can pull off that upset.
Tom Herman, Houston Cougars Head Coach – At only 40 years old, Tom Herman has become one of the best coaches in the country after his incredible coaching job at Ohio State at the end of last season on the Buckeyes march to the National Championship. Herman accepted the Houston Cougars head coaching job in early December but stayed on in Columbus to get the job done. I think it’s safe to say that the Buckeyes miss Herman and the Houston Cougars chose the right man for the job. Herman has the Cougars 4-0 and in position for a serious run at a birth in the first ever American Athletic Conference Championship Game where the team with the best overall record gets to play host to the contest. So far this season Houston has beaten Louisville, Texas State & Tulsa in convincing fashion and get Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, Memphis & Navy all at home. We might be talking about Tom Herman for Coach of the Year honors when this thing gets to December.
Tennessee Volunteers – Things are getting bad up in Knoxville and they don’t look to get better any time soon. The Vols were in position to snap a ten year drought against the Florida Gators only to have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in the final minutes. Then last week it was the same ole story when the Arkansas Razorbacks were able to claw back and beat Tennessee in Neyland Stadium giving the Volunteers their second straight conference loss in 2015. The next two weeks won’t be easy either as the Georgia Bulldogs pay a visit to Rocky Top followed by a road trip down to Tuscaloosa against the Alabama Crimson Tide. So far this season the marquee win for Tennessee is a 29-point victory over Bowling Green (who isn’t bad) in Nashville which has begun the grumblings for head coach Butch Jones’ job and rightfully so. So far during his tenure here is a list of the teams that Tennessee has beaten at home: Austin Peay, Western Kentucky, South Alabama, South Carolina, Utah State, Arkansas State, Chattanooga, Kentucky & Western Carolina. The Vols are also 1-11 against ranked opponents under Jones.
Big Ten West Division – As exciting as the AAC West has become, the Big Ten West has been just that boring. The saving grace has been the excellent play of the Northwestern Wildcats but after that, the whole division is one big snoozefest. The Wildcats shut out the Golden Gophers who have looked completely inept on offense and allowed Northwestern to get their first Big Ten shutout victory in 20 years. Iowa and Wisconsin played for the Heartland Trophy on Saturday but honestly, neither team deserved it after both teams combined for 6 turnovers and only 16 points. Iowa won 10-6 but as viewers we got to see 3 field goals and a the lone touchdown drive went for 4 yards on 5 plays after, surprise, a turnover. Then there is the Nebraska-Illinois game. First off, kudos to the Fighting Illini and interim head coach Bill Cubit for having a team with a little spunk in a division that needs it. Secondly, can Nebraska get Beau Pelini or at least Feaux Pelini back as head coach? At least the Cornhuskers were interesting when they lost under him. The Huskers were up 13-0 in the 4th quarter and allowed two late touchdowns on 70-plus yard drives to hand the Illini only their 5th conference win in the last four seasons.
Mike Riley, Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Coach – I’m going to preface this by saying that I really like Mike Riley. I think he is an outstanding man & football coach but he just isn’t getting it done in Lincoln, plain and simple. So far this season their only wins are against South Alabama & Southern Miss and have losses to BYU, Miami and now lowly Illinois. I somewhat understand why Nebraska made the change at the end of last season but Pelini was the best they were going to get anyways for a multitude of reasons. Nebraska hadn’t beaten a ranked team since 2012 and there were several run-ins between Pelini & boosters or Pelini & head officials at Nebraska but when does it become about winning and not about personality differences? Winning cures everything obviously and unfortunately the Huskers haven’t won much lately, this year included. The rest of the season is no Murderer’s Row but given Nebraska’s performance so far this season it might as well be. Riley needs a big win badly in Lincoln. Winters are already long in Nebraska but it could be longer and colder if the Huskers don’t get the ship turned around soon.
Player of the Week – Ezekiel Elliott – RB – Ohio State – 23 carries, 274 yards, 3 TDs
If it hadn’t been for Elliott, the Buckeyes might have been in serious trouble against the Hoosiers in Bloomington. His scoring plays on the day were 55, 65 and 75 yards touchdown runs which shows his home-run-threat-on-every-play capability. With all of the Heisman talk floating around Baton Rouge, Elliott’s performance on Saturday brought a little of that discussion back to Columbus.
Coach of the Week – Jim McElwain – Florida
It was obvious that McElwain was a great offensive coordinator for Alabama and that he was a good head coach at Colorado State but the questions were whether he could do it on the big stage of the SEC and if he could turn around a Florida program that had hit near rock bottom. So far the answers are yes and yes. There is still a lot of season left but it’s pretty apparent that Coach McElwain has this program on the right track and moving in the right directions after their 38-10 beatdown of Ole Miss on Saturday night in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Honorable Mention – Sonny Dykes – California
Here we are one week into October and Coach Dykes has the Cal Bears 5-0 with a 2-0 record in conference play and needed three second half touchdowns to come from behind to win against Washington State. The other side of this game was that Dykes was coaching against this mentor in Mike Leach which I’m sure meant a lot to Coach Dykes.
Uniforms of the Week – Baylor Bears
The grey uniform fad has hopefully run its course but every now and then a team will get it right. Baylor just happens to be that team this week with the grey uniform set they wore in AT&T Stadium on Saturday afternoon and I really liked the satin grey helmets as well. Solid look for the Bears on Saturday.
Dud Uniforms of the Week – Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern hasn’t done much wrong in 2015 but Saturday they really looked bad uniforms-wise. I get the ‘Northwestern font’ thing but the black, purple and gold themed unis this past Saturday were only topped by the poor play of the Minnesota offense.