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Is there a dominant conference in college football in 2016? Results so far suggest no

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If you were to rank the conferences in a power ranking using whatever metric you chose, how would it look? Odds are you would place the SEC on top, because they are the SEC and anything lower than No. 1 would be uncivilized. But how would you rank the conferences after that? At this point, it may be safe to assume there is an argument to be made for and against just about every conference from No. 2 down to No. 5 among just the power conferences.

THE ACC

Overall, the ACC had itself a pretty decent weekend. Florida State was able to put a game on cruise control after coming alive against Ole Miss earlier in the week, and the conference picked up a pair of wins against the Big Ten with Pittsburgh defeating Penn State and North Carolina winning at Illinois. Clemson was sluggish but managed to avoid an upset as we continue to wonder just why Clemson is starting things off so slowly this season. But the losses took a toll on giving the ACC too much credit this week. Virginia Tech wasn’t able to bury Tennessee after taking a 14-0 lead in Bristol. North Carolina State lost on the road against East Carolina. Virginia traveled across the country and returned with an 0-2 record after losing at Oregon a week after being demolished at home by Richmond. The hits could keep on coming this week if the ACC is not careful. Miami visiting Appalachian State could be trickier than expected. Virginia is staring at a possible 0-3 at UConn (so long as the Huskies pay attention to the clock) and Duke has to travel to Northwestern, with the Wildcats now desperate for a win. Want a possible upset alert? How about Pittsburgh traveling to Oklahoma State? Speaking of the Big 12…

BIG 12

What’s up with the Big 12? We are two weeks in and already we have seen Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU take a loss (even if the Oklahoma State loss should never have happened). The margin for error in the Big 12 in the College Football Playoff picture was already pretty thin as it was heading into the 2016 season, but with Ohio State coming to town to play Oklahoma and Pittsburgh visiting Oklahoma State, the Big 12 is in danger of a couple more potential losses to some teams expected to compete for the Big 12 title. Meanwhile, Texas is off to a good start but they hit the road to play California. This will be a good test for the Longhorns, who have jumped up the rankings quickly this season. A loss to the Longhorns would drop them down to Earth a little bit. Could the Big 12’s best playoff hope after this weekend fall on Baylor running the table? Do you trust Jim Grobe to lead the Bears to a 12-0 record?

BIG TEN

The hope for the Big Ten still falls on Ohio State and/or Michigan proving they are worth the hype. Neither has truly been tested yet, although that changes this week with the Buckeyes heading to Oklahoma. We’ll still have to wait a little longer for Michigan. Credit Wisconsin for getting the job done against LSU in the opener, but other than that there hasn’t been a tremendous amount to write home about for the Big Ten. Northwestern is 0-2 with home losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State. Penn State lost another in-state game on the road for a second straight season, this time against the ACC. Illinois also took a loss against the ACC. Iowa enters dangerous territory this week with mighty FCS giant North Dakota State looking to notch another victory against an FBS opponent. Nebraska will get a chance to boost the Big Ten a little bit this week at home against Oregon, and Michigan State travels to South Bend to face Notre Dame. To say this is an important week for the Big Ten is an understatement.

PAC-12

The season started off OK for the Pac-12, but the losses it took were tough to gloss over. USC was embarrassed by Alabama, and UCLA couldn’t finish the comeback against Texas A&M on the road. Meanwhile, Washington State is now 0-2 with losses to Eastern Washington and Boise State. Arizona was clipped by BYU, but Utah avenged that loss for the conference last night with a defensive stand to preserve the win. Overall, the Pac-12 turned in a good Week 2 despite a pair of losses to the Mountain West Conference on the road (Cal lost to San Diego State and Washington State’s road loss to Boise State). I’m still trying to figure out how Arizona trailed Grambling State 21-3 at the half (Arizona came back to win, 31-21). Some key games for the Pac-12 this week will see UCLA travel to BYU and Cal host Texas in addition to Oregon visiting Nebraska (and Colorado to Michigan). The biggest game, however, features USC hosting Stanford. Stanford is the team to beat in the Pac-12, but if USC chops them down, the Pac-12 could suddenly be on very thin ice in the playoff picture before getting into the bulk of the conference schedule.

SEC

Alabama aside, the SEC is still looking to gain some confidence points. Yes, the SEC won all the games it needed to this weekend, but Georgia being taken down to the wire by Nicholls State isn’t exactly going to go down as a quality win in anyone’s book. This is a conference that dropped seven games in the opening week and will later face some mismatches against ACC foes (Louisville-Kentucky, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida State-Florida?), and we haven’t even touched on conference play yet. Alabama has looked to be the strongest team in the country and they travel to Ole Miss this week. Ole Miss cracked against Florida State but still figures to be Alabama’s toughest test yet, and the game is in Oxford. An Ole Miss victory turns the entire SEC playoff outlook on its side, because it is unlikely anyone else in the SEC has what ti takes to go undefeated. An ole Miss victory would mean Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss each have a loss before October. Do you trust Tennessee to go 12-0, or 13-0? Or Florida? No, of course you do not.

So this is a fun season for college football, because there is no dominant force, other than Alabama I suppose. Every conference has holes, from coast to coast. That’s what we have learned through just two weeks of the college football season. Let’s see which conference does the best job plugging those holes.

NC State board approves new deal for Dave Doeren

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In late November, after rejecting overtures from Tennessee in order to remain at North Carolina State, Dave Doeren agreed to a new contract with the university, pending the board rubber-stamping the agreement. This past week, that rubber met the stamp.

NC State confirmed that, on Thursday, the system’s Board of Trustees formally approved the new five-year deal for Doeren. The head coach’s new contract will now keep him with the Wolfpack through Dec. 31, 2022.

“We are on an exciting upward trajectory in football under the leadership of Coach Doeren,” said NC State athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. “He has assembled a terrifically talented coaching staff, as well, and that continuity and stability has been important to our current student-athletes and recruits.

“We are pleased that Dave will continue to lead NC State football, playing in one of the most challenging divisions in college football, the Atlantic Division of the ACC.”

In five seasons with the Wolfpack, the 46-year-old Doeren has compiled a 34-30 record, including a 15-25 mark in ACC play. The 2017 season was his best of the five, with a 9-4 overall mark that saw NC State finish in second place in the Atlantic after divisional finishes of seventh, fifth, fourth and tied-fourth the first four.

Under Doeren, the Wolfpack has played in a bowl game each of the last four seasons, posting a 3-1 mark in the postseason.

Nebraska clinches spring game attendance crown, Georgia pushes past Alabama

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Georgia got its revenge on Alabama on Saturday, I guess. Months after letting a lead slip away in the national championship game, Georgia wiggled past Alabama in the spring game attendance standings on Saturday but the Dawgs still had to settle for second place overall. A record crowd at Nebraska led to the Cornhusker faithful having the highest attendance for a spring game this season.

Nebraska set a school record on Saturday with 86,818 fans attending the spring game in Lincoln, the first under new head coach Scott Frost. It was the first time Nebraska recorded a crowd over 80,000 during the past five years. Nebraska surged to the top of the Big Ten spring attendance standings as well, and stayed comfortably ahead after Penn State recorded an estimated 71,000 fans at its spring game on Saturday. Ohio State had led the Big Ten the previous three years but stadium renovations limited Ohio State to 79,000 available seats this year at Ohio Stadium, and weather and schedule adjustments to the spring game resulted in a crowd of 47,803 for Ohio State’s spring game.

The SEC once again dominated spring game attendance numbers this year. With LSU and Mississippi State numbers still pending, the SEC has five schools in the top 10 in spring game attendance as of today; Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Texas A&M. As a conference, the SEC eclipsed the 400,000-fan mark for the fourth time in the last five years. Although the Big Ten is typically the second best conference in cumulative spring game attendance, the conference’s number took a big dip this season thanks to weather issues across the conference. Still, the number pulled in by Nebraska, Penn State, and Ohio State helped keep the Big Ten in second place ahead of the ACC.

Keep in mind spring game attendance is treated differently by every school, and the numbers often include estimates so the accuracy can be questioned. Even though there are still a handful of spring games left, none will rival the numbers put up today.

The updated top 10 is listed below, and a full database of spring game attendance can be found here (complete with conference breakdowns and a five-year record of spring game attendance figures by school).

2018 Spring Game Attendance Top 10

  1. Nebraska – 86,818
  2. Georgia – 82,184
  3. Alabama – 74,732
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Tennessee – 65,098
  6. Florida State – 60,934
  7. Clemson – 55,000
  8. Florida – 53,015
  9. Oklahoma – 52,102
  10. Texas A&M – 48,129

Jeremy Pruitt felt some Tennessee players ‘flat out quit’ in spring game

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New Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruit has a message to his players and Tennessee fans. If you are going to enter Neyland Stadium, you better be prepared to work.

Following Tennessee’s spring game in Knoxville, Pruitt reflected on his first spring game as head coach with the media and he was not about to let anyone off the hook for a mediocre performance in the spring game. One thing you never want to hear from a head coach is that some of his players seemingly quit. That was the case for Pruitt today, without naming any specific players.

Even fans received some gripes from the new head coach.

Tennessee estimated a total of 65,098 fans came out to watch the Tennessee spring game, which is an impressive total and right around the average Tennessee typically draws for the spring game. But the crowd buzz must not have impressed Pruitt, who could be setting the tone for the fans in the fall in hopes they turn things up a bit once the games actually matter.

The same message is now being sent to the entire team. Pruitt has a high standard in mind, which is to be expected after being an assistant at Alabama. Was Pruitt truly this displeased with his team’s effort in the spring game? Or was he simply trying to play things down in order to let his players know there will be no room for poor efforts?

Jalen Hurts speculation about to run wild after shaky spring game at Alabama

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If Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts was looking to build a case for taking the starting job for the Crimson Tide in 2018, he may have to rely on more than his performance in the spring game. Hurts turned in a sub-par performance in Alabama’s spring game on Saturday afternoon, leaving the door wide open for some speculation about his future as Alabama’s spring comes to a close.

Hurts completed 19 of his 37 pass attempts for 195 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He also was sacked seven times. With Tua Tagovailoa out of action due to injury, Hurts was outperformed by redshirt freshman Mac Jones, who completed 23 of 35 passes for 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jones was also intercepted once and was sacked six times. Of the two quarterbacks, Jones had the more inspiring performance.

Rumors speculating Hurts may end up looking to transfer will only continue to ignore following this spring, especially with Tagovailoa going into the offseason as the new hero in town after guiding Alabama back in the national championship game. It should be worth noting, however, a transfer for Hurts is not guaranteed to happen. That won’t stop fans and media from figuring out what will be next for Hurts.

Hurts’ dad recently suggested his son would be college football’s biggest free agent on the transfer market if he ended up losing the quarterback battle in Tuscaloosa. That may be a slight exaggeration, but there is no question Hurts would have plenty of potential and skill to offer any program he would potentially move to if he decides to leave Alabama. Alabama head coach Nick Saban tried to cool the tension by suggesting there is no reason to be concerned about the whole situation.

But this is Alabama we’re talking about. The Hurts watch is now in full force in Tuscaloosa, whether Saban likes it or not.