College football top 25, overreaction, week 12: what would Greg Schiano have done in Tennessee?

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It doesn’t matter that Michigan beat Rutgers 48-42. It matters that the Wolverines need a comeback effort and three extra hours to do so.

Jim Harbaugh’s complaint is a retreading story, so we’ll save it for another time. What keeps coming out is that there is a competent Rutgers team it cannot be ruled out. While every year is a new opportunity to start over, it’s shocking how much the Scarlet Knights’ look has improved under coach Greg Schiano.

I was skeptical of how Schiano 2.0 would work. It’s not that I don’t think Schiano is a good college coach, it’s that he previously ran the program at a time when there was more room for success in the Big East skeleton. And if Rutgers wanted to move forward as more than a doormat, his best option was to find the next Schiano, don’t hire him again. It is early, but I may have been wrong. The Scarlet Knights are 1-4, but they’ve been tough, if not downright competitive.

The situation is reminiscent of how things might have turned out had Schiano actually been hired to coach Tennessee instead of Jeremy Pruitt at the end of 2017. Pressure from fans and media to walk away from Schiano over unfounded allegations Jerry Sandusky’s cover-up of crimes at Penn State eventually worked, but it’s not like Pruitt delivered the goods. The Vols were one of the SEC’s upcoming day teams in the year, but they lost five in a row in double digits. It’s the first time such a sequence occurs au Tennessee.

Schiano raised Rutgers from the dead once. Looks like he could start over. Each job has its own challenges, and Tennessee is a very different job than Rutgers. Still, it would have been interesting to see what he could have done with the volunteers.

Northwestern defense can win the Big Ten West

An undefeated Northwest is something that needs to be implanted in our collective psyche. After a 17-7 win over Wisconsin, the No. 19 Wildcats move up to 5-0 and the remaining timeline for Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois is highly winnable. What’s going to bring Pat Fitzgerald’s side to the Big Ten Championship Game is the same defense that has taken them here before. The Wildcats have already shut out four opponents in the second half, including the Badgers on Saturday. I doubt Northwestern is good enough to beat Ohio State, but he’s good enough defensively to split the pitch with them.

Even after Daniels made his debut for No.13 Georgia in a 31-24 victory over Mississippi State, Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart has remained tight-lipped on why it has taken so long for the transfer from USC to see the squad this season. It can only be assumed that Daniels simply hasn’t been in good enough health after his late-season knee injury in 2019. Otherwise, it would be coaching malpractice. Daniels was excellent, with 401 yards and four touchdowns – and looked like the clear answer on Stetson Bennett and D’Wan Mathis. Ironically, Georgia were able to win most of their games this year without needing a great quarterback game as they could rely on their defense and running game. The opposite was true against a very shorthanded Mississippi State team. Georgia needed Daniels to win while the rest of the squad lacked.

UCLA is the gift that keeps on giving

The Bruins would make a great Secret Santa because they give away a bunch of goodies and fly under the radar in total anonymity. A wild, but very true statistic, provided by Bryan Fischer, tells the story. In three games this season, the Bruins have returned the ball nine times, allowing opposing teams to score touchdowns on those turnovers. Four of them lost 38-35 to the 11th Oregon on Saturday, giving the Ducks 28 points. To watch UCLA, you’d actually think they’re an improved team under coach Chip Kelly – when they can keep the ball. But this is where the problem lies.

I find myself at a bit of a crossroads with the college football playoffs and the outside teams at the Power Five conferences. I like the four-team format and I’m uncertain about the expansion. But I also recognize the iniquity that is the plight of BYUs, Cincinnatis and Coastal Carolinas around the world. These teams can play hard. Cincy and Coastal had two big wins against UCF and Appalachian State, respectively. They are getting more light than normal this year which is good. But the reality of their playoff run remains the same – which is to say, it’s not great. Due to the largely reserved rosters for the conference this year, we couldn’t see Cincinnati against Nebraska or BYU against their normally tough schedule, packed with Power Five teams. It would appear that a good compromise would be allowing them to play against the Power Five competition in the New Year’s Six Bowls – but, again, space is limited. This is the best crop of high-end teams outside of the power leagues in quite some time and it looks like they’re going to be short-sold again.

Big 12 title race takes shape

… kind of. There are still many tie-breaker scenarios that could complicate matters. In practice, we won’t know what the Arlington game is likely to be for a week or two. But after Oklahoma’s 41-13 win over Oklahoma State and Iowa State which destroyed K-State 45-0, these would be your two favorites. Texas and Oklahoma state remain in contention and the Longhorns’ home game against the Cyclones in Week 13 is going to be massive. Despite all the early season jumps this conference has taken, the end is shaping up to be fun.

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