College football has always had an ebb and flow to it. With the exception of the SEC’s national championship superiority, college football never fails to surprise. Let's be honest, what we all though about the game coming out of the 2012 season isn’t necessarily what’s panned out in 2013.
Did you see the SEC being hailed as a quarterback conference and not a defensive conference?
How about USC firing its coach before the middle of the season?
What about the Big Ten being a big disappointment?
Now that we’ve reached the middle of the year, it’s time to look at some things we knew coming into the season, some things we thought we knew and some things we didn’t know.
WHAT WE KNEW
Alabama is Alabama: No matter how much you want to doubt the two-time defending national champions, nitpick their defense or rip their offense, they always find a way to win and that’s what champions do. This hasn’t been the prettiest of seasons for the Crimson Tide – on the field or off it – but they’re still the class of the SEC and the country until someone finds a way to beat them.
[Related: Week 8 picks against the spread]
Baylor’s offense: At the end of last season, Baylor’s offense started to do some fantastic things and it turns out that was just a preview of things to come. The Bears have been fantastic this year. Steamrolling the opponents they should and handling those a little more on their level. Things are going to get a lot tougher toward the end of conference play, but there’s no doubt Baylor has lived up to its reputation as one of the most thrilling offenses in the country.
The American Athletic Conference would hurt Louisville: The Big East knew this was coming. It was already the worst of the Big Six leagues, but when teams started leaving to other conferences and the league was forced to rebrand and find replacements among the nonautomatic qualifiers, we all knew there would be some major growing pains. It’s just unfortunate that Louisville is having to pay for the Big East’s mistakes. The AAC is not a good conference. There are a couple good teams and one great team – Louisville – with a Heisman contender in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Sadly, because the conference is so bad, Louisville will have no shot at a national title and Bridgewater will have little shot at the Heisman.
WHAT WE THOUGHT WE KNEW
Jadeveon Clowney was a Heisman contender: Remember that one time Clowney made that hit on the Michigan running back, the kid’s helmet came off, he fumbled the ball and Clowney was an immediate NFL No. 1 draft pick. Yeah, we’re a long way from those days as Clowney has struggled with injuries this season, seen offenses run away from him and has a love-hate relationship with his coach. There’s no doubt Clowney is a talent, but he was always going to have a tough time living up to the ridiculous hype he received this offseason.
Alabama’s defense: For years, Alabama’s defense has been the defense by which all others are measured. But after allowing record-setting numbers to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M early in the season, the Tide is proving that it’s human after all. Of course, since allowing 42 to the Aggies, the Tide D has allowed just 16 total points in its last four games. It’s important to note those games were against Colorado State (2-4), Ole Miss (3-3), Georgia State (0-6) and Kentucky (1-5). The Tide defense probably won’t get much of a test until LSU on Nov. 9.
[Heisman Watch: Georgia's Aaron Murray out of the conversation]
The Pac-12 was good, but this good?: The play of Stanford and Oregon isn’t a big surprise – everyone thought those teams would be good. And even UCLA was supposed to be among the nation’s elite. But not sure anyone would have expected Oregon State’s Sean Mannion to be the nation’s best passer, Arizona State to be running over teams and Utah to be pulling off epic upsets. With the exception of Colorado, the Pac-12 is every bit the nation’s second-best conference and some might even argue better than the vaunted SEC. However, the Pac-12’s ascension will mean very little if it can’t get a team in the national championship and bring home a national title.
WHAT WE DIDN’T KNOW
Wow, Zach Mettenberger: Mettenberger came out of junior college as one of the most highly coveted transfers in the country. And when he finally got his shot – months after fans were clamoring for him to come into the game during the national championship – he flopped. He was one of the biggest busts of 2012 and the Tigers quarterbacking woes seemed like they would never go away. But something happened to Mettenberger this season where the light bulb clicked on, he found some confidence and has become a legitimate contender for SEC quarterback of the year. Heading into this weekend’s game against Ole Miss, Mettenberger leads all SEC quarterbacks in passing with 1,890 yards. He’s thrown 15 touchdowns to just two interceptions. During the first half of this season, Mettenberger has made himself a legitimate high draft pick.
Missouri, the class of the SEC East?: After Missouri’s big win against Georgia last week, the Tigers are undefeated and sitting atop the SEC East. Not sure anyone would have thought that after they struggled mightily in their first season and missed a bowl game for the first time since 2004. But these good feelings might be short-lived. The Tigers will be without starting quarterback James Franklin for the next few weeks heading into the toughest part of their schedule, but at the very least, Missouri is helping pull up the bottom of the conference.
All hail the state of Texas: There were high expectations for the University of Texas and perhaps decent ones for Texas A&M, but no one expected three of the teams in the state to be undefeated (Baylor, Houston and Texas Tech), one to have just one loss (Texas A&M) and one to have knocked off its rival in one of the nation’s biggest rivalry games (Texas). The only low points for the state are TCU at 3-3 and SMU at 1-4. Of all those teams, Tech is probably the biggest surprise. Behind new coach Kliff Kingsbury and a walk-on quarterback, the Red Raiders have blazed through their schedule to sit atop the Big 12. However, that might not last long since the Red Raiders still have all their best opponents ahead of them.
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