Peeking Down the Road in College Football

For most of the college football world, the 2015 pie has a quarter taken out of it. There are so many storylines to follow across a sport housing more than 100 programs. But I've decided to take a few early trends and expand them over the rest of the season-to-come.

Heavy is the Head That Wears the Crown

It's no secret that the task of playing with the status of "defending champions" is a difficult one. I even mentioned it at the end of my last column. But could a bout of deja vu be on the way? I had the opportunity to watch much of the Ohio State/Northern Illinois game on Saturday. The Buckeyes looked sloppy, committing 5 turnovers. Their defense was stout enough to keep the Huskies from taking full advantage, and OSU escaped what would have been an embarrassing home loss (for them, at least).

Changes will probably be made in Columbus, but if more struggles pop up, the comparisons to the last defending champ will grow in number. Remember the discussions surrounding the 2014 Florida State squad? Pundits continued to question whether that team would succumb to their series of close calls versus what appeared to be inferior competition. Test against unranked N.C. State, Miami, Boston College, and Florida kept the inquiries swirling until the Seminoles' underwhelming loss at the Rose Bowl.

The Buckeyes don't have the reigning Heisman winner, but (in my opinion) this team is more talented overall than the 2014 FSU team. And, unless Minnesota gets an offense and goes on a roll, Urban Meyer's team won't face another ranked opponent until November 21 (game 11 against Michigan State). Jimbo Fisher had to guide his players through four ranked foes (at the time those games). Since the end of World War I, only eight teams have repeated as consensus national champs. Before Alabama did it in 2011 & 2012, you have to go back to Nebraska of the mid-1990s. Before that ... Oklahoma from the mid-1950s. If the Buckeyes can't avoid more lackluster efforts, they won't join that illustrious list.

Getting Back to Its Roots

During the first quarter-century of its existence, the Heisman Trophy was mainly an award for running backs. From 1935-1961, just five quarterbacks took home the award. The narrative has completely changed. With such an emphasis on spread offenses and uptempo game plans, quarterbacks are as "in" as smartphones. Since the turn of the century, only one tailback has officially posed with "The Pose" (Mark Ingram in 2008 ... and yes, it would be two if Reggie Bush hadn't given his back). Tailbacks haven't gone extinct, but it's not their world anymore.

Well ... maybe they have something to say about that this season. If you look at the top 20 qualifiers in passing efficiency after Saturday's play, you could probably pick out seven names that might have the combination of showcase schedule and early-season success to put themselves in "Heisman position" by late November.

What about the country's big-time rushers? I believe that if you take the top twenty yard gainers after Saturday, you come up with a larger list of possible candidates as you do with the quarterbacks.

There's still plenty of time for the QBs to pile up more gaudy stats and separate themselves from their backfield counterparts. However, at this point, I believe it's neck-and-neck to figure out which pool of candidates has the best ... well, candidates.

Unfortunately, Pink Suits You

I don't think I'll ever have the fortitude to hire or fire an employee. And, sure, it isn't really fair to speculate on somebody's job status from afar. But when life is fair across every account, then you can give me a buzz. Each offseason, multiple jobs open up at Power 5 conference programs. Some are the direct result of the domino effect (see Oregon State and Wisconsin in 2015). So, which of these leaders are staring a pink slip in the eye?

Darrell Hazell, Purdue: Everyone knew that the Boilermakers would need an overhaul when Hazell got to West Lafayette, but this is the third year of the rebuild. His current record with the program is 5-22. This season's 1-2 start includes a loss at Marshall and a pounding at the hands of Virginia Tech. If the Boilers can't take care of Bowling Green this week, they very well could regress from last year's 3-9 campaign.

Mike London, Virginia: This is probably the first "hot seat" candidate of the bunch. Remarkably, London is in his sixth year in Charlottesville. Expectations were lifted after a bowl appearance in season two. However, the ACC hasn't been very kind in helping him out. The 11-29 in-conference mark projects the 24-40 overall record that usually spells the end of many eras at said school. This year's schedule did the Cavaliers no favors, either. A sufficient loss at UCLA. A heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame. Then, they hold on for dear life against William & Mary. In a year that's probably "bowl bid or burst bubble," there are wins on the rest of the schedule. Can they work their way to some?

Kyle Flood, Rutgers: The door is already open. Flood is already serving a three-game suspension for contacting a faculty member about a player's academic status. It's just the latest in a stack of scandalous incidents created by the Scarlet Knights' program. Now, if the school's "powers that be" want to judge Flood solely on his coaching merit, he'll stay (three straight bowl appearances). But, with the Mike Rice saga just an arm's length in the past, a 24-18 record on the gridiron seems to lose its appeal.

Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: Let me say this off the top. I'm a Cyclone, but I try not to be one of those "reaction changes as the wind blows" kind of alumni. I know that the tradition of winning football in Ames is brief and usually fleeting. He started off with a decent run, going 24-27 (with three bowl appearances) in his first four years. His squads defeated at least one top-20 team in each of the seasons from 2010-2012. But the well is getting shallow. A 5-19 record over the in a two-year stretch, while good enough to get Gene Chizik the gig at Auburn, probably puts Rhoads on thin ice. This year's squad may need to turn another one of those stunning upsets to extend their coach's clock one more year.

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