College Football’s Top Storylines

by Peyton Gallaher

It is now three weeks into yet another college football season. So far, the pace has been blistering and the thrills have taken our breath away. As per annum, the pageantry that radiates from college football has swallowed the collective attention of the entire nation.

Whether it be Illinois St. rising from the depths of the FCS to steal a win at Northwestern, or a 55-yard, game winning field goal kicked by a type one diabetic in Elliot Frye, the season has been a total whirlwind. At Least that last sentence read like one. The point is that college football has been totally wild to this point and there are still another three months of glorious madness left.

Needless to say, jolting your head around in an attempt to inhale everything is not a responsible way to treat your neck. Honestly, so many different outstanding moments have taken place this year that you probably were left with your head spinning and your brain dulled. In all likelihood, you have probably already forgotten a few things. That’s alright.

On top of that, some people, although it may be hard to believe, actually do social things on Saturdays rather than sit glued to their favorite couch, seat, or arm chair watching college football. That’s alright too.

There are plenty of other particulars as to why you may have missed something at some point. Ultimately, for whatever reason, the season has already taken you by the wayside. An annotated summarization is in order to get you back on track.

Good news: you can put the icy-hot you got out for your neck down, at least for now. In order to save you time and the constant cycle of sports media hot takes, every college football story line that you need to know about has been compiled into one convenient article.

A matter of fact, you just so happen to be reading right now. Without any more fan fair, here are the most important story lines and moment through the first three weekends of the 2016-17 college football calendar.

A Play or Not a Play

It was a dusty high-noon in Stillwater. A dog fight was taking place in Boone Pickens stadium. With five seconds left, twenty third ranked Oklahoma State lead Central Michigan by a score of 27-24.

The Cowboys’offense was faced with a 4th down on their own 50-yard line. Rather than punt, and give CMU a chance at a game winning return, OSU coach, Mike Gundy elected to run one final play.

Cowboys’ quarterback Mason Rudolph stumbled back into the pocket, surveyed for a moment, and chucked the ball high and harmlessly to the side line as time expired. Voilà! Game over! The Pokes side line erupted and both teams took the field to shake hands. The referees had other plans.

The explanation was that because Rudolph hadn’t left the tackle box on his icing throw away, the final play resulted in a penalty for intentional grounding. The ruling was a turnover on downs, and a subsequent final untimed play for the CMU offense.

The teams retreated to their corners and briefed their respective units on what to expect. The mighty Chippewas, lead by strong armed gunslinger Cooper Rush, took to the turf in a four-wide, stack right, stereotypical Hail Mary formation.

Rush proceeded to complete a bomb to Jesse Kroll, who lateraled the ball back to former quarterback Corey Willis, who proceeded to reverse field, cover about 50 yards, reach the opposite sideline, and extend the ball over the goal line for a game
winning score.

As quickly as the game had reached it’s shocking culmination, a new reason for intrigue rose out of the Oklahoma dust. Yes, a miracle play that resulted in an upset had just happened, but you see, the play shouldn’t have ever taken place.

At least according to MAC referee Tim Odey who said after the game that “There’s an exception to the rule that says if enforcement of the foul involves a loss of down, then that brings the game to an end.” Intentional grounding is one of the aforementioned fouls.

The CMU upset was certainly quirky and it will always be recorded with an asterisk in the record books, but nothing is going to change the result now.

The debate continues to rage about whether the win should be given over to the Cowboys, but in retrospect, didn’t they put themselves in a situation where the play could occur?

They could have easily avoided the play if head coach Mike Gundy had either known the situation better or prepared the defense for a lateral play. Gundy has since taken responsibility for the loss.

It’s a tough referendum to try and parse apart, and everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, one thing is definitive; hearts are still aching in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

How About Houston?

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Lead by the wonderfully dynamic Greg Ward Jr., the Cougars have looked mighty impressive through three weeks. With a huge win over Oklahoma in NRG stadium during the opening weekend, Houston announced themselves as the definitive Cinderella candidate for the
CFP this season.

The American Conference provides an earnest, transparent challenge for the Cougars and the path looks relatively straight forward from here on out. Well, that is until they host Louisville in a few weeks. Let’s just say November 17 should have about 29 circles around it on your calendar.

What’s refreshing about the Cougars isn’t the dazzling run and gun offense, the surprising abundance of talent in the front seven, or the fact that they have a coach that has a grill. It’s that Houston is just having so much dang fun! They go out, play hard for each other, and execute great, fundamental football in the process. It’s truly awesome to watch.

If none of that interests you, you should at least get around to watching Houston for Greg Ward Jr. At this point, he’s a bona fide Heisman candidate and his numbers back it up. He’s accounted for 720 yards and four touchdowns in the two games he’s started. Ward missed the game against Lamar with a sore shoulder.

Lamar “Action” Jackson

Don’t know if he’s five times better than Michael Vick was, but Jackson sure is something. First, he torched Charlotte for eight touchdowns in a half, but no one really read into that because it was Charlotte. Then he hurdled his way to five scores against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, and everyone raised an eyebrow.

Of course, Jackson followed up his first two games with an explosion. The Louisville
slugger accounted five touchdowns (one passing, four rushing) in a 63-10 Louisville rout of second-ranked Florida State Seminoles

When you earn the nickname “Lamarvalous” you’re probably doing something right. The sophomore has been nothing short of spectacular this year. Through three games, he’s totaled eighteen touchdowns. EIGHTEEN TOUCHDOWNS. That’s more than 115 ball clubs in the FBS right now.

If he keeps this up he will indubitably win the Heisman, potentially lead the Cardinals to the playoff, and garner plenty of attention from every girl that attends Louisville right now. Jackson is on a record shattering pace and he’s doing it in style.

It’s a Parity Party

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Whether it may be North Dakota State toppling No. 13 Iowa or Appalachian St. taking the No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers into overtime on the banks of the Tennessee River, David has been hanging with Goliath all year long. The amount of parity in college football right now is at an all-time high.

These minnows continue to stand up, challenge, and even beat the great white whales of the FBS at an alarming rate. Four FCS teams have beaten Power Five opposition so far this year, and countless more have challenged their favored big brothers to a full four quarters of football.

And it’s not just the FCS dogs making noise either. The vaunted SEC had two teams lose to non-Power Five schools on the opening weekend alone.

As mentioned earlier, Central Michigan travelled to Boone Pickens stadium and took down a top 25 opponent in Oklahoma State, at least in theory. Fellow MAC team Western Michigan has wins over both Illinois and Northwestern to their credit this year and San Diego St. outscored a really good California team as well.

The amount of parity is astonishing. Nothing like it has ever happened on such a mass scale. The question is: why? The answer: dunno.

Maybe it’s the advancements in high school scouting, maybe it’s the introduction of the zonal blocking scheme to college football.

Whatever it is, it’s working right now and it’s becoming harder and harder to schedule a “cupcake”.

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