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We’ve reached the halfway point of the regular season, a time where the true contenders are beginning to emerge. It’s also a time where we can look back at our preseason expectations and assess how teams have performed thus far. While teams like Colorado and NC State — both undefeated — have surprised, plenty of others have been major disappointments. Those teams are the focus of this week’s Our Five.
Louisville has fallen further than anybody expected without Lamar Jackson. An offensive decline without one of the most productive college players ever was inevitable, but an offense that’s ranked No. 115 in the country was unthinkable under Bobby Petrino. The defense has been bad, too, especially in Friday night’s 66-31 home loss to Georgia Tech. In the loss, which dropped the Cardinals to 2-4 on the year, the defense allowed 542 rushing yards to the Yellow Jackets’ option offense.
If UL doesn’t win four of six down the stretch, it will miss a bowl game for the first time under Petrino. Whether he survives beyond this season is anybody’s guess.
4. Boise State
Boise State was our pick to represent the Group of Five conferences in a New Year’s Six bowl game. But that’s pretty much already out of the question. After an electric 2-0 start with a combined score of 118-27, the Broncos sputtered on the road against Oklahoma State. It was a chance for a statement win. Instead, Boise State was bullied by the Cowboys, 44-21. Since then OSU has losses to Texas Tech and Iowa State under its belt, making the loss look worse for Boise.
This past Saturday, Boise could muster only 229 yards of offense in a 19-13 home loss to San Diego State. That opened up a path for Utah State in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division.
3. Florida State
The start of the Willie Taggart era has been bumpy to say the least. Taggart inherited a roster full of talent, but the Seminoles have stumbled to a 3-3 start. The Seminoles were embarrassed in losses to Virginia Tech and Syracuse, combining for just 10 points in those games. They also needed a late rally to beat FCS Samford at home.
FSU needed a boneheaded late-game decision from Bobby Petrino to pull out a win over Louisville and then blew a 27-7 third-quarter lead in Saturday’s 28-27 loss to rival Miami over the weekend. With four ranked opponents left on the schedule, FSU’s record 36-year bowl streak is in serious jeopardy.
2. Michigan State
Michigan State returned 19 starters from a team that won 10 games in 2017. Naturally, expectations for a potentially special season were there in East Lansing. That has not come to fruition. The Spartans dropped to 3-2 with a miserable 29-19 loss to Northwestern over the weekend. The performance pretty much summed up the season so far. As noted in the Forde-Yard Dash, the offense, in year six with Dave Warner calling plays, had a rough afternoon, especially in short-yardage situations.
The Northwestern game wasn’t the only rough moment this season. The Spartans barely escaped Utah State in Week 1 at home, lost to Arizona State 16-13 and looked sluggish in a 31-20 win over Central Michigan, a team that has only beaten Maine in 2018. Next on the schedule are No. 8 Penn State and No. 12 Michigan. MSU better get things turned around quickly.
Nebraska fans were ecstatic when Scott Frost left UCF to come home and coach his alma mater. But Nebraska’s return to glory is clearly going to take a while. So is its return to mere competitiveness. The Huskers are one of four college football teams without a win in 2018. The 0-5 record matches the worst start to a season in program history.
Along the way, Nebraska has lost to Colorado, Troy and Purdue at home with road losses to Michigan (56-10) and Wisconsin (41-24) sprinkled in. Frost has been open about the rebuild the program was set to endure, but there were still hopes the team could reach a bowl game in his first season. Barring some sort of miraculous run through October and November, that won’t happen. The more immediate goal should be halting the program’s record nine-game losing streak.
Arizona: With Khalil Tate at quarterback and Kevin Sumlin as the new coach, Arizona was a trendy pick to win the Pac-12 South. After the first few weeks of play (losses to BYU and Houston), that looked highly unlikely. The Wildcats were even tied with Southern Utah late in the first half (before pulling away) in Week 3. Things looked bleak, but UA has rebounded with a 2-1 start in Pac-12 play. Things still look nowhere near as explosive it did last fall though. For example, Tate (who has played through an ankle injury) has just 109 rushing yards on 44 carries. In 2017, he put up 752 yards on his first 44 rushes.
Navy: The Midshipmen have been a consistently strong program under Ken Niumatalolo, but the 2018 season is not off to a promising start. Navy was dominated over the weekend, 35-7, to Air Force. With a challenging second-half schedule, Navy is in danger of missing a bowl for just the second time in Niumatalolo’s 11 seasons.
UCLA: We knew UCLA was in for a rebuild with the hire of Chip Kelly, but nobody expected an 0-5 start. The offense is beginning to come around, though. The Bruins gave No. 10 Washington a game (31-24) over the weekend. That elusive first win is going to come at some point.
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