Q. Was James Franklin’s explanation of his bizarre fourth down play call in the loss to Ohio State any better than the call itself?
The short answer is no. And the Penn State coach didn’t help his reputation for being petulant by having to be restrained after the game when a fan in the record Beaver Stadium of 110,889 called him out as Franklin was leaving the field. Here’s the deal: In a 27-26 game, after calling two timeouts and with the season on the line on fourth and five in the waning moments, you DO NOT take the ball out of QB Trace McSorley’s hands. DO NOT. Maybe Franklin wasn’t paying close enough attention but McSorley set a school record with 461 yards of total offense (175 of it rushing) and accounted for 94 percent of the Nittany Lions’ offense. So why a zone read handoff to Miles Sanders? Good question. Unfortunately for Penn State’s season there is no good answer.
Q. Which under-the-radar teams do we need to start taking more seriously after a full month of the season?
Start with Kentucky. The Wildcats are 5-0 for the first time since 2007 and 3-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1977 after beating South Carolina. Three games will define Kentucky’s season now: At Texas A&M on Saturday, at Missouri and Georgia at home. Include Army is there as well. The Black Knights are 3-2 after routing previously-unbeaten Buffalo and own a win over 5-1 Hawaii. One loss was to 4-1 Duke, the other to Oklahoma in OT in Norman. Two more: 4-1 Syracuse, which gave Clemson all it could handle in a road loss, and 4-0 West Virginia, which continues to look like the biggest threat to Oklahoma in the Big 12.
Q. Is Washington now the Pac-12’s only hope for a playoff team?
Not only do the Huskies continue to look like the class of the Pac-12 – 4-0 Colorado still has some proving to do – but the 21-16 opening-game loss to Auburn isn’t a deal-breaker. After manhandling No. 20-ranked BYU, the Huskies can continue to build their case with Oregon, Colorado, Stanford and Washington State (a combined 16-3 at the moment) remaining. Here’s the problem for Washington, though: If Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama/LSU/Georgia, Oklahoma/West Virginia and Clemson continue unbeaten the Huskies will be on the outside looking in.
Q. Are we now looking at a 12-0 season – and a playoff berth — for Notre Dame?
After the surprisingly-easy 38-17 victory over Stanford, the Irish’s biggest remaining test may very well be Saturday at Virginia Tech. Check the remaining schedule and try to find a loss for Brian Kelly’s squad: Pittsburgh (2-3), Navy (2-2), Northwestern (1-3), Florida State (3-2), Syracuse (4-1) and USC (3-2). The Syracuse game is in South Bend. The USC game is at the Coliseum. But Pitt, Navy, Northwestern and Florida State will all be double-digit underdogs to Notre Dame. So Saturday looks to be the last big obstacle the Irish need to overcome on the way to 12-0. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.