The shape of the 2021 season is beginning to emerge from the fog, and we see a picture of the landscape coming into focus, albeit through a haze of early season inconsistency.
There are some allegedly baffling questions that have vexed conventional wisdom already, but, with any sort of reflection make perfect sense.
- What happened to Clemson’s offense? Start with that trash offensive line, for beginners.
- What happened to Ohio State’s defense, now ranked 112th in the nation? Nothing, if you’ve paid attention. It’s always relied on athleticism over scheming and that’s usually enough for the Big 10; not so much against equally talented teams.
- Might the PAC 12 actually have some elite teams this year? Early returns suggest yes, and they’re not who you would expect.
- Is this the year the B1G-West finally wins a conference title? Book it. Can teams like Michigan and Penn State bounce back from ghastly showings in 2020? Maybe so. Penn State has looked awesome; Michigan has two very nice home wins already.
- What happened to Texas A&M and Florida? Bad, bad quarterback play.
- Alabama is averaging 45 PPG, but you still don’t completely trust the offense, right? Correct — and begin with that offensive line, which may be as much an issue of the personnel as it is of waiting for the unit to gel.
Those and more await to be fully answered. But, after two full weeks, we work with what we have, not preconceived expectations. I rerank them all every week for a reason.
Here is your 2021 Week 2 blog poll, with a few brief remarks to follow. Usual caveats apply:
The criteria are nebulous, far-ranging, and capricious — strength of schedule, bad and good coaching, injuries, exigent circumstances, home/away results, defense or lack thereof, offense or lack thereof, line play, power poll-ishness, can you cover a spread (Vegas is pretty smart about how good a team is), head-to-head where possible or prudent, and my own lying eyeballs.
2021 Blog Poll: Week 2
|OUT||Texas, USC, Iowa State, Toledo|
|JUST MISSED||Toledo, Iowa State|
Who’s Number 2?
If we’re going by eyeballs and somewhat body of early work, then I’m going with the Iowa Hawkeyes, a team I had at No. 9 in my preseason poll. Last year you got the sense this team was very close to putting it all together. And after blasting No. 19 Indiana then traveling to No. 9 Iowa State and shutting them down, the Hawks are it. Sorry, Jawjah, beating up a G5 team and a one-dimensional Clemmy program get you usurped from the penultimate spot.
You could just as easily make a case for Oregon (I suspect that Fresno win will look better as the season goes along), a dominating Cincinnati Bearcats squad, a salty Va. Tech Hokies team, or even Penn State who has done it with offense and defense (that defense is hella’ nasty). What about A&M? They’re going to be tough to score on for sure, but the first team that gets to 24 is going to hang an L on the Aggies. The D has been legit though.
Any one of these teams could make a case for No. 2, and I wouldn’t grumble too much. But for now, give me Iowa on a neutral field over the rest. And, as we all know, coaching and/or inconsistency will ultimately doom Texas A&M, Oregon, Georgia, and Penn State somewhere on the schedule. You can set your clock to Cristobal blowing a lead; UGA overlooking an unranked conference team; Penn State pulling a road no-show; and Jimbo just not preparing or adjusting in a crucial game.
So, don’t get too worked up over it just yet.
Who’s No. 2?
It’s actually Alabama. Some other team is No. 1
You can only play who’s on your schedule, and the Irish are 2-0. This isn’t the Domer team of recent years past. ND appears very much like the 2012 Cardiac Catholics version, who won 7 of their 12 games by a touchdown or less. That’s just who they are. As for that Toledo game? Besides being a short week, I had Toledo ranked 24th in the preseason. I suspect they’ll creep back in again too — that is a very high quality MAC club. In fact, I would take them by a FG on a neutral field over Alabama’s signature opponent to-date.
No one is paying attention to:
Michigan...or many Power 5 teams who struggled last year, TBH. (Penn State may be the quietest Top 10 I’ve ever seen). The Wolverines have a three-score win over the presumptive MAC West favorites and a demolition of preseason No. 24 Washington. The defense has been lights out, the running game solid, and the passing game is far more comfortable in Year 3 of the Josh Gattis Experience.
But also keep an eye on Sparty, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi State, and Arkansas who have all been sneaky good early. And Purdue has decided to start playing just enough defense to win games. Hey! That’s an improvement for Brohm! And you could say very much the same of Ole Miss.
For that matter, no one is paying attention to a lot of the G5 either: Liberty and Coastal are doing their usual thing. Cincinnati is blandly pasting people by 30 points a game. BYU hasn’t missed much of a beat over last season. Gus made a splash in Orlando, and UCF could move up there too. Army has been suffocating (don’t let that prevent-induced score of the WKU game fool you.) Craig Bohl has his best team ever in Wyoming, and that team can win a game with either offense or defense. San Jose State and Nevada didn’t go anywhere. Appalachian State is still a ferocious out. Boise State may have lost its one and only game of the year. Fresno State is much improved; ditto Arkansas State, Utah State and many, many more. DYK: Houston is also 2-0 for the first time in almost a decade? Holgo’s team looks great.
Big 12 Hot Mess
I’m not willing to write off the entire Big 12 just yet. But I am willing to write them out of the playoffs.
I still think Iowa State is a quality team — it could even be a Top 10 team at the end of the year. But after dicking around with Northern Iowa and then getting manhandled at home in the Cyclones’ biggest game ever, this team looks like it read its press clippings all summer. TCU has been playing on the edge, but pulling out Ws. Oklahoma State has forgotten how to play offense, but the defense is very nice. Ditto Kansas State. And Oklahoma...sigh. What are we going to do with you? Spencer Rattler doesn’t look ready for prime time and that defense was even worse against Tulane. Texas is softer than baby shit up front. It’s like they shot their wad for ULL and then forgot that even the worst SEC teams have NFL caliber linemen — every. last. team. The Longhorns aren’t done losing.
Are any of the flyover teams worthy of a playoff spot? Will any one of them earn one down the stretch? No, and no. As a conference, I’d actually take the quality of play from the Pac 12 over the Big 12 at the moment. And that says nothing good about your conference.
Do we really have to take the PAC 12 seriously?
Yup. We sure do.
Arizona State has been recruiting at a great clip under Herm (although the NCAA is about to drop a lead weight on them for cheatin’), and it is finally paying off. Teams may have beaten ASU with talent before, but never with coaching. Herm is finally now getting that talent and it shows. The Sun Devils look great.
So too do their Westwood brethren look great. Same deal: A very good veteran coach had to rebuild a roster, start a lot of babies for a few years, and wait for the cake to come out of the oven with a clean fork. The Bruins have done just that.
While I’m not terribly high on the Ducks, and that game against the Buckeyes was imminently loseable to bad coaching decisions and some OSU drops, you evaluate what you have in front of you. In terms of road wins, that may be the best one we see all season...unless OSU finishes 8-4 or some nonsense. And given their defense, they just might. Stanford and Oregon State are going to hang some unforseen Ls on people too — ask the Trojans.
The rest of the conference is still garbage, and I’ll be stunned if Clay Helton survives 2021, but for now, yes we must take this troika seriously.
Ohio State? Clemson?
Why are these ranked where they are? Well, who do you trust more to get their head on straight first — Clemson’s offense? Or OSU’s defense? Defense is usually a talent issue, and offense is usually about scheme. The Buckeyes simply don’t have the talent or the scheme back there.
WHERE’S FLORIDA?! WHERE’S AUBURN?! WHERE’S KENTUCKY? WHERE’S MISSISSIPPI STATE?!
Unranked, where they belong. The offense is trash. Running over really, really bad and undersized teams doesn’t impress me. Nor do any of the QBs on the roster. I suspect we see both on Saturday, and it’s a good day for the Alabama secondary. Mullen usually schemes well against the Tide, but these amphibians are fairly toothless.
Auburn ran up the score on the 128th ranked team and an HBCU that went below .500. Literally the worst thing that could have happened to Harsin was to give the Barn false hope. The next team they play that punches back will be the first. And then dark days, my friends. Dark days. That honeymoon is about to be over.
Of all these, Mississippi State has looked by far the best. The offense is clicking, the defense is getting it done, and the pasting of NCSU is probably the best win any four of these teams possess so far. In fact, by season’s end, it may prove that MSU has already notched two Ws over bowl teams.