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(Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where once every 150 years a quarterback throws for nine touchdowns and loses):
FOUR-GAME FREE AGENCY — THE RULE THE COACHES WANTED
First it was Kelly Bryant (31), leaving Clemson four games into the 2018 season and now leading Missouri to a 3-1 start.
Now it is D’Eriq King (32), Houston senior quarterback, taking an abrupt redshirt in this 1-3 season with the stated goal of playing for the Cougars again in 2020 — which seems preposterous. The more likely scenario: King scans the quarterback market and executes a grad transfer elsewhere, or simply turns pro.
These are the kind of potential transfers coaches hate, disrupting the depth chart and the locker room one-third of the way into a season. At least Bryant had been demoted to second string when he left Clemson last year; King is the starting heart and soul of the Cougars.
But this is also the system coaches created. They wanted to test-drive a player for four games without burning a redshirt year, seeing it as a win-win for themselves and for players who get some experience and don’t lose interest in the team while only practicing all season.
As is so often the case with NCAA rules, there was a loophole nobody saw coming. And now the Cougars could be losing a quarterback who has accounted for 82 career touchdowns. (The backup, interestingly enough, is one Logan Holgorsen, son of coach Dana Holgorsen.)
That’s a blow to this year’s team. But consider King’s career to date: recruited by Tom Herman and played under him for one season; played two more under Major Applewhite; now finishing out under Holgorsen. You think he signed up for that turnstile? He should absolutely use the rule to his advantage, whatever advantage that ends up being.
Anyone who begrudges D’Eriq King his freedom to do what’s best for himself at this point has college athlete control issues.
HARBAUGH GETS HUMBLED, TAKES ACCOUNTABILITY
Michigan has been outscored 138-68 in its last three games against Power Five competition, which is flatly incredible in its fifth season under Jim Harbaugh (33). The latest humiliation was a 35-14 smashing at Wisconsin that was worse than the final score — the Wolverines trailed 35-0 before tacking on two touchdowns.
And so the wait for greatness continues in Ann Arbor, and in fact looks farther away now than it did in Year 2 under Harbaugh. With the chutzpah knocked out of the program yet again, Harbaugh at least properly fell on his sword Monday.
“Watching film I think it was pretty obvious to everybody that watched it – the entire football world – really from A to Z, wasn’t good, wasn’t good enough,” he said at his weekly news conference. “Not acceptable. [It] starts really with not [being] acceptable for me, so you start self-critical and [we’re] determined to get it fixed. That speaks for me and everybody on our team, players and coaches. Not a day we’re proud of.
“Starts with, we didn’t play physical enough. We were out-hustled. I take responsibility for that. In many ways we were out-schemed, also take responsibility. That’s my job to make sure we’re completely sound in all that we’re running and how I manage the team and get them to play hard, play tough. As I said, A to Z, you could point to wasn’t good enough. We all take responsibility for that, we’ve all got fingerprints on it. Determined to get it fixed is where we’re at right now.”
Right now is also Rutgers Week, so some things likely will appear fixed no matter what Saturday. But everyone knows the struggles with better opposition, and there are at least six losable games remaining on the schedule: Iowa on Oct. 5, at Penn State on Oct. 19, Notre Dame on Oct. 26, at Maryland on Nov. 2, Michigan State on Nov. 16 and Ohio State on Nov. 23.
It would almost be karmically apt for the Wolverines to slide through their worst season yet under Harbaugh and be 5-6 when the Buckeyes visit — and Harbaugh finally beats Ohio State.
THE FAINTING IRISH
In 1953, Notre Dame salvaged a tie against Iowa in the season finale by faking injuries at the end of both the first half and the fourth quarter, stopping the clock and throwing touchdown passes thereafter to escape with a 14-14 deadlock and a 9-0-1 season. The first-half fake injury was described thusly, in a story on Notre Dame’s own athletic website: “Irish left tackle Frank Varrichione let out a blood-curdling scream and collapsed to the turf, seemingly suffering a very sudden and mortal injury.” The right tackle did the collapsing at the end of the game.
Thenceforth, that team was derisively nicknamed the “Fainting Irish.”
Some 66 years later, fainting was back in vogue for Notre Dame. Despite the protestations of one Brian Kelly (34), the video evidence was pretty clear and compelling that at least one of his Notre Dame defensive players took a blatant dive to slow Georgia’s offense during the second half Saturday night.
What was true in 1953 is true today: Players across this great land will fake an injury for strategic purposes. Perhaps more this year than in several years.
The problems with that practice: first, it’s dishonest and lousy sportsmanship; second, it causes fans to question the veracity of many injuries, including some that are legitimate, and there isn’t much worse than home team fans booing a for-real injured visiting player; third, we don’t need college football games to be any longer; fourth, don’t act like soccer players.
The Dash encourages the American Football Coaches Association (35) to ask its members to curb the fainting. It’s a lousy way to play the game.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The Dash salutes Michigan State’s every-other-week offense (36), a bold strategy in which the Spartans fluctuate between complete incompetence and significant productivity with the football.
This was Michigan State in weeks one and three, against Tulsa and Arizona State: two offensive touchdowns, one defensive touchdown, one safety, and field goal “drives” of four, minus-eight, four and 73 yards. Average points: 17.5.
This was Michigan State in weeks two and four, against Western Michigan and Northwestern: Ten offensive touchdowns, 11 scoring drives longer than 50 yards. Average points: 41.
The Spartans take on Indiana here in week five. Consider betting the under.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Sonny Dykes (37), SMU. The Mustangs finally took back the Iron Skillet rivalry trophy in the series with TCU, upsetting the Horned Frogs 41-38. TCU had won seven straight, six of them blowouts, and 17 of the last 20 in the series. In the second season under Dykes, the Mustangs are now 4-0 for the first time since 1984 — dating back to the Pony Express Era when pretty much anything went at SMU. Dykes was miscast as the head coach at California from 2013-16 and seems much more comfortable back on his home turf in Texas.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Mike Leach (38), Washington State. Better at breaking down mascot fights than protecting 32-point leads at home against winless teams.
When thirsty in greater Detroit, the best thing to do is link up with Friend of Dash and Yahoo Sports colleague Dan Wetzel, who has been in every bar in the metro area. Try one particularly Wetzelian establishment, Gusoline Alley (39), in Royal Oak, Michigan. It is a lowbrow shotgun dive, heavy on the real. And if you want to keep it extremely real and extremely cheap, order an Altes (40) — “Original Detroit Lager” — and hope for the best. You likely will not want to thank The Dash later.
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