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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (“Horns Down” counseling available for the sensitive souls in Austin, where they think a hand signal is something sacred):
WHERE DID THEY GO?
Five guys we were talking a lot about coming into the season, but have since disappeared from view:
Bryce Love (31), Stanford. The running back was the 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up, and thus a logical preseason 2018 Heisman favorite. Instead the season has been nothing but frustration. Love had 12 100-yard rushing games last season; this year he’s had one. Love had at least one run of 30 or more yards in every game he played last season, and 11 games with at least one run of 50 or more yards; this year he’s had just three runs of more than 30 and one of more than 50. Love played through chronic ankle issues last year, but those have kept him on the sideline more this season. His lack of production is a big reason why traditional ground-and-pound Stanford has more passing attempts than rushes for the first time since 2004. The Heisman race has gone on without Love in 2018.
Lane Kiffin (32), Florida Atlantic. For the first time in more than a decade, it’s been pretty easy to ignore the Kim Kardashian of football. Last year he got his do-over chance as a head coach at FAU and made the most of it, going 11-3 and winning a bowl game and carrying a 10-game winning streak into this season. There was a lot of preseason chatter about Kiffin being one more big season away from getting another head-coaching shot at a Power Five job, after being fired from three of his previous four jobs (Oakland Raiders, USC, Alabama offensive coordinator during the playoffs). But with 15 starters returning, the preseason Conference USA favorite Owls are in fifth place in the East Division and 4-5 overall. Worse than the losing for Kiffin is this — nobody’s talking about him.
Brandon Wimbush (33), Notre Dame. It’s rare when an undefeated team makes a quarterback change, but the Fighting Irish did that and have been better because of it. Wimbush, who started 12 of 13 games in 2017, started the first three this year for Notre Dame with the full expectation of being The Man all year. But the team was winning more in spite of him than because of him, so Brian Kelly promoted backup Ian Book in the fourth game and the Irish offense took off. Wimbush has been a DNP in five of the past six games, but has been a good soldier about the demotion. Come 2019, he could be an attractive graduate-transfer option for many schools.
Deondre Francois (34), Florida State. Not much has gone right for Francois since his promising freshman season in 2016. He suffered a season-ending injury in the opener in 2017, and the 2018 adjustment to Willie Taggart’s offense has been a bust. After posting good numbers in the Noles’ four wins (11 touchdowns, one interception) and awful numbers in their first four losses (two touchdowns, six interceptions), Francois finally was benched after the blowout at Clemson on Oct. 27. James Blackman started against North Carolina State, and may be the starter the rest of the way for FSU.
LJ Scott (35), Michigan State. As a freshman, Scott scored one of the most famous touchdowns in school history — the dramatic, second-effort, last-second surge into the end zone to beat Iowa and win the 2015 Big Ten championship, resulting in a CFP bid. For the next two years he was a dependable leading rusher, and seemed destined to finish his career in the school’s all-time top five in rushing. But this season has been a washout, owing primarily to injury. Scott has played in just four games, carrying the ball 55 times for 180 yards, just 3.27 yards per carry with no touchdowns.
RUINOUS DRINKING GAME OF THE WEEK
The Dash’s ongoing quest to keep the readership tipsy took a two-week sobriety break — a cleanse, if you will — but is back for the stretch run. Prepare your livers accordingly. This week’s drinking game:
This is Control Season in college football. With playoff and bowl hypotheticals running rampant, take a drink every time you hear a coach use the word control (36). Make it a double when a coach uses the word (or a form of it) twice in one sentence, as in:
“We can only control what we can control.”
“We just need to control our controllables.”
You will need rehab by Selection Sunday.
DASH STAT OF THE WEEK
None of Northwestern’s stats make sense for a Big Ten West leader. Pat Fitzgerald (37) is clearly working some voodoo economics.
The Wildcats are among the least productive offensive teams in the nation. Their average yards per play is 4.55, which ranks 126th out of 130. (Rutgers, with one win, is 127th. San Jose State, with one win, is 125th.)
So you may assume Northwestern is locking up opponents defensively — but you’d be wrong. The purple is surrendering 5.5 yards per play, which is 59th nationally. There cannot be many teams that are nearly a full yard down per play that have a winning record.
It has to be turnover margin, then, right? No. It is not. The Wildcats are a minus-1 in turnover margin.
Explosive plays? Not so much. Northwestern is tied for 120th in number of plays from scrimmage going for 20 or more yards, and tied for 122nd in plus of 30 or more yards.
Limiting explosive plays? The Wildcats are decidedly mediocre in that category.
Red-zone efficiency? Third-down conversions? Nothing notable there, either.
About the only statistical thing Northwestern does well is avoid penalties, while also having its opponents penalized frequently. The Wildcats lead the Big Ten in fewest penalty yards per game (27.2) and most opponent penalty yards (76.3).
Maybe that’s enough to win the Big Ten West. What a time to be a Wildcat.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Dana Holgorsen (38), West Virginia. Holgo’s YOLO call to go for two and the win in the final minute at Texas will go down in Mountaineers lore — especially if WVU keeps rolling and wins the Big 12. The decision was set up by the prettiest clutch throw of the season, Will Grier dropping an absolutely perfect 33-yard bomb to Gary Jennings for a touchdown with 16 seconds left. It was after that when Holgorsen asked and answered the question of the day, the month, the season:
“You want to win the game? Let’s go win the game.”
Then he sent the offense back out, down 41-40, to go for the win. Grier initially threw a slant to David Sills V for the win, but it was called off by a last-second Texas timeout. Undaunted, Holgo came back with a quarterback draw by Grier for the win. That was a gilded page from the Gusto Coaching Handbook.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Randy Edsall (39), Connecticut. His contract is peppered with the most ridiculous of bonuses — if the Huskies score first, lead at halftime, etc. But if you need any further proof that he’s stealing money in his second act at UConn, look at the nightmarish numbers his defense is allowing: 47.9 points and an ungodly 627 yards per game. The latter is on pace to smash the FBS record of 561 yards per game, set by Kansas in 2015. Surely the 8.91 yards allowed per play has to be a record as well. UConn is 1-8 and coming off a 30-point loss to Tulsa, which also had won one game heading into that pillow fight. Bob Diaco clearly left the program in post-nuclear condition — but it’s somehow gotten worse under Edsall.
When hungry and thirsty in the peerless gustatory city of New Orleans, The Dash has so many recommendations. Here’s one: dinner at Clancy’s (40), a classy old-school joint away from the Bourbon Street mayhem. The marinated crab claws are actually stupid, they’re so good. Follow that up with the exceptional smoked duck and get some peppermint ice cream for dessert. Then retire to the bar for an Abita Jockamo IPA — maybe two. Thank The Dash later.
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