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OPINION: College football mid-season superlatives



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Clemson University offensive coordinator Jeff Scott yells Oct. 12 during a game against Florida State. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Life of the Party: University of Oklahoma

On Oklahoma’s second drive against Kansas State University, quarterback Jalen Hurts threw a screen to wide receiver Ceedee Lamb. Lamb then skittered back to Hurts and flipped him the ball, which Hurts hurled for a 70-yard strike to wide receiver Nick Basquine.

Basquine later tried his hand at throwing in another display of trickery, this one leading to an interception.

Kansas State secured the 48-41 upset only when replay showed an onside kick recovered by Oklahoma was illegally touched just half a yard short of the requisite ten.

The big idea? Even when the victim of a historic upset, the Sooners are insanely fun to watch. They tally just shy of 50 points per game, doing so with a Heisman-caliber quarterback that is responsible for more scores than any other individual in the nation.

Though their odds of winning a national title are dwarfed by those of the University of Alabama and Ohio State, when it comes to an electrifying hour of football, there is no safer bet than the Oklahoma Sooners. 

Biggest Glow-Up: Louisiana State University

Woah. Is it just me, or did LSU get kind of hot over the summer? Joe Burrow’s 2018 campaign was satisfactory with 2,894 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air, but nobody got whiplash from doing a double take at it. Eight games into the 2019 season, Burrow has nearly matched his yardage total from last year while netting 30 touchdowns, making him the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. 

The past decade has been riddled with promises of explosive offenses and championship contention in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but only now do these bold proclamations seem to have any substance. 

Finishing 38th in offensive production in 2018, the Tigers now boldly stand at fourth in the country. Passing coordinator Joe Brady has cleared up the acne of LSU’s offensive inefficiencies, and Burrow’s eye-catching numbers have turned enough heads to earn LSU the top spot in the AP Poll. 

Biggest Flirt: University of North Carolina

Entering week five, North Carolina was the quintessential girl next door. A comfortably decent group with an admittedly exciting true freshman quarterback in Sam Howell, but not quite the widespread intrigue needed to inflate the ACC Network’s subscriber pool.

Then the plucky Tar Heels came within a two-point conversion of toppling No. 1 Clemson in Death Valley, cementing themselves as the insufferable flirts of the college football world. 

Discounting its drubbing of bottom-dweller Georgia Tech, North Carolina has won or lost each of its outings by a single score. Their defeats have involved a controversial bit of refereeing, a game-winning field goal, a failed two-point conversion, and a sixth overtime. North Carolina is a few crucial moments from being 8-1 or, just as easily, 2-7.

Inconsistency in the rushing attack and often sloppy defensive line play has prevented the Tar Heels from making any serious commitments to greatness. Still, I can not help but check ESPN late on an odd Thursday night just to see what they are up to. 

Class Clown: Wisconsin

Class clowns do two things best — making others laugh and pulling pranks. Wisconsin obliterated its first six opponents by a combined score of 255-29, and viewers guffawed at the losers’ expense. This notably included a 35-14 shellacking of then-No. 11 Michigan, a team notorious for laughable performances on big stages. 

Before long, Wisconsin had been anointed the class of the Big Ten West and the sole threat standing in the way of juggernaut Ohio State. That is, until Illinois kicker James McCourt dealt Wisconsin its first loss with a walk-off field goal in Illinois’ only defeat of a ranked opponent since 2011. 

Oct. 26, ESPN’s College Gameday broadcast from Brookings, South Dakota. Jubilant fans waved signs on live television thanking Wisconsin for losing to Illinois and souring the appeal of the Wisconsin-Ohio State matchup later that day. The Badgers went on to get thrashed 38-7 by the Buckeyes.

Wisconsin gave us plenty of chuckles at the expense of lesser opponents, then pulled the classic jest of imitating an elite squad. For now, the pointing and laughing continues, just not in the direction the Badgers would like. 

Most Likely to Succeed: University of Clemson

There exists a multitude of reasons why Clemson is in the most enviable position to contend for a title. Chief among them is that the ACC is really, really bad. 

Thus far, Clemson has showcased neither Ohio State’s defensive dominance nor Alabama’s offensive proficiency. However, while Alabama must stave off a white-hot LSU for the SEC West and Ohio State faces Penn State and Michigan in consecutive weeks, Clemson’s toughest remaining test comes against none other than Wake Forest University. 

From there, the Tigers will battle for conference supremacy against the victor of the ACC Coastal, a division currently led by 6-3 University of Virginia. 

Criticisms have been made of quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s supposed sophomore slump, which now consists of a meager 20 touchdowns. The horror. Clemson is still a massive orange steamroller whose path to victory is obscured by a handful of basketball schools. 

Even if it is as the lowly fourth seed, fans can expect to see Clemson in the Playoff come December.  

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