What we learned in CFB Week 4: Crowded CFP chase, Duke’s demands, Marcus Freeman’s mistake

The most compelling reason for expanding the College Football Playoff from four to 12 teams was the simplest: It was getting boring. Each year, only six or seven teams will begin the season as true CFP contenders, and the field narrows from there. The march toward football’s Selection Sunday was slow, predictable and often dominated by some combination of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma. rinse and repeat.

The game is one year removed from its 12-team CFP era. But as it turns out, the playoff race can be quite entertaining without expanding the field — as long as the pool of contenders is as wide as it seems to be this year.

Who is the best team in college football right now? We don’t know! And that’s half the fun.

You can make a compelling case for Georgia, the two-time defending national champions who by their own admission haven’t looked that good against weaker competition. Michigan is in a similar place, and the Wolverines have been without their head coach for more than four weeks. Florida State has two of the best wins in the country: a lopsided win over LSU in Week 1 and a thrilling come-from-behind win in overtime at Clemson. Washington has obliterated its competition each week on the strength of the nation’s best offense, presenting an eye-testing case that the Huskies are the top dog. And what about Ohio State, whose legacy-making final drive in South Bend gave the Buckeyes the best win of any and put to rest some questions about their quarterback play?

What about Texas, just weeks away from a win over Alabama? Or USC, with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, whose exploits sometimes mask a questionable defense? Or Penn State, hiding in the shadow of its Big Ten East brethren? Or a Utah team that has won big without its veteran starting quarterback? Or even an Oregon team that speaks out and supports him? You can present any of these teams as the best team in the country.

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Here’s what else is coming up as we close the book on Week 4 of college football and look forward to Week 5.

No one knows how to properly handle Colorado’s first loss

From fans to pundits, reactions to Oregon’s 42-6 win over previously unbeaten Colorado have run rampant. The so-called haters have rejoiced, believing that the loss was necessary to take Deion Sanders and Co. down a peg, as the Buffs had come to dominate the news cycle to the extent that college football has not been the case since Tabomania. This was not seen in football. Others have tried to excuse Sanders’ team’s poor performance, with one national NFL voice even saying that the outcome of the game would have changed if Travis Hunter had been healthy. (Spoiler: It won’t happen!)

Obviously, it is very difficult to respond logically to Saturday’s result. Instead of acknowledging that although Colorado has been the story of the season, its roster was nowhere near where it needed to be to truly compete for the Pac-12 title in Year 1, everyone reacted in extremes. Perhaps the most absurd perspective on the loss came from former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson, who chimed in on FS1’s “Undisputed” Monday morning.

“I talked to someone in the coaching fraternity right after the game and they know some guys who coach at Oregon,” Johnson said. “And he said, ‘I never heard from any other assistant coach how much information was being given to that staff.'”

A handful of ideas:

  1. It’s not at all unusual for trainers to share information about common opponents.
  2. There isn’t any major conspiracy or vendetta against Sanders among other college coaches, although I’m sure more than a few coaches were annoyed by the praise he was getting even though he didn’t beat up anyone famous.
  3. Oregon’s coaching staff probably realized that they were the more talented team with better offensive and defensive lines in their own right.
  4. Someone who knows someone who told Johnson that the game of telephone is terrible.

If USC also beats Colorado this Saturday, who knows who Johnson will blame next. It can’t possibly be that the Buffs aren’t the best team on the field, right?

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Marcus Freeman admits Notre Dame didn’t realize there were only 10 players on the field

Notre Dame’s head coach said Monday he didn’t know the Fighting Irish only had 10 players on the field for the final two snaps of a 17-14 loss to Ohio State. As everyone knows, the Buckeyes took advantage of a gap created by a missing defensive lineman to rush one yard out for a game-winning touchdown.

Freeman said, “By the time we saw it on the last play, it was too late to do anything about it.”

That answer was more honest than what he said Saturday night, almost immediately after an unforgivable error following a timeout. At the time, Freeman said that Notre Dame did not want to be penalized for the late substitution… which makes no sense with the game on the line at that spot on the field where a potential penalty would cost mere inches.

Freeman did not specify which player should have been ejected from the field but was not, and he did not specify which staff member should have addressed the personnel error.

“There are systems in place to make sure this doesn’t happen, but ultimately the responsibility falls on me,” Freeman said. “This is the reality. I’m not going to come here and say this person should have done this. Ultimately, I have to do a better job as a head coach of making sure the systems we have in place are executed.

“As a coaching staff we must hold ourselves to the exact same standards we set our players for. We tell our players, fight the flow. You can’t be caught watching the game. The coaches had to win the interval also. We all have to embrace this and make sure this never happens again.”

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This Duke football team has been flying under the radar for too long

There’s been a lot of offseason hype, and Florida State grabbed most of it in ACC country. The Seminoles have backed it up with two big wins to set up a wide-open path to the CFP. Well, mostly Fully open. Circle their date with Duke on October 21st – this should be their most challenging game of the regular season.

That’s because Duke is legitimately good. Riley Leonard is one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC, and the Blue Devils have one of the best defenses in the league. Second-year coach Mike Elko has transformed a program that won three games in 2021 and last year into a nine-win team, laying the foundation for a special season. Duke began the season by stunning Clemson, getting its first win over an AP top-10 team since 1989, followed by three blowouts to improve the Blue Devils’ record to 4–0. He is set to host ESPN’s “College GameDay” for the first time this weekend ahead of a top-20 showdown against Notre Dame.

While it’s fun to make jokes about basketball schools turning into football schools — Kansas is also, notably, 4-0, like North Carolina — it also sometimes obscures the facts. Duke is getting better week-by-week, improving on the field and building confidence that it can beat teams that have more blue-chip talent on their roster.

Led by Riley Leonard, Duke is one of six undefeated teams in the ACC, the most in any FBS conference. (David Butler II / USA TODAY)

Jim Harbaugh has the perfect approach to his running backs

You don’t always get this level of candor from a head coach. On Monday, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh was asked about Donovan Edwards, who has only 33 carries for 109 yards and zero touchdowns so far this season. Harbaugh said Edwards was good and there was nothing wrong in the running back room, and then he gave a very interesting answer about the usage of running backs.

“We play multiple backs because … for the players, what’s good for them individually and what’s good as a team,” Harbaugh said. “I treat it like I’m his father, like I’m his agent, I want what’s best for his career. I don’t believe anyone will carry the ball 30 times a game. He may not have some stats that other backs have. Even Blake (Corum), he’s running the ball very well, he has 97 yards, we take him out of the game. I don’t think he needs a 100-yard game as much as he needs to be healthy. What is the lifespan of a back, his career, on average? Maybe eight, nine, 10 years total, including college? So I don’t like taking the tread off the tire when they’re not getting paid. Keep that tread away from the tire.

“So, there may be games in which one may be featured more than the other. This is the kind of atmosphere here. Look at last year, the year before that, the year before that. … We’ll probably have this conversation again next week if Donovan carries more of the load. It would be like, what happened to Blake?”

Harbaugh is credited with setting his running back up for the best possible professional career and asserting it. It’s important to hear a high-profile coach talk like this about a position that has a short shelf life in the pros, especially at a time when the position has been so devalued by NFL front offices.

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Hugh Freeze Probably Doesn’t Understand the ‘Rivalry’ Part of Rivalry Sports

It’s not just the Iron Bowl, but it’s also the oldest rivalry in the Deep South. Although based on his comments on Monday, perhaps new Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze doesn’t realize how intense the Tigers’ game against Georgia is.

Freeze said, “I’m new here, but I don’t feel the hatred that there is in some of the other rivalries I’ve been a part of.” “I’m not big on hate. I’m not really. I’m just big on it, man, it means something to so many people. Therefore, we should compete out of love for our people, not necessarily out of hatred for other people. That’s how I work, but man, I hope we compete because we love Auburn, and it means something to the Auburn people to compete against Georgia. So, this will be my perspective. But still, that love is a huge motivator for me.”

It’s easy to mock a coach who competes out of love rather than hate, and many fans on social media did just that on Monday. But honestly, after a weekend of watching grown men mess with octogenarians, maybe it’s a good idea to focus on the love for a little bit!

Other news and notes

  • On Monday, attorneys for suspended Michigan State head football coach Mel Tucker formally responded to the school’s notice of intent to terminate Tucker’s contract, stating that they believe the university should be charged with personal ties. There is no authority to investigate, and Tucker’s behavior did not violate it. Terms of contract. As outlined in Tucker’s contract, the notice and this response were required parts of the firing process. Michigan State may take steps to fire Tucker in the coming days.
  • Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told the Anchors Away podcast that, if Army joins the American Athletic Conference, both schools would keep Army-Navy as a non-conference sport. That way, it could be played on the second Saturday of December every year like it does now.
  • Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire said Monday that starting quarterback Tyler Shaw will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a broken fibula. Shaw is expected to be out six to eight weeks, which is a big blow to a program that has already had a disappointing 1-3 start.

(Photo of Oregon RB Bucky Irving: Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

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