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HomeFootballNCAA FootballCollege Football: Week Two in Review

College Football: Week Two in Review

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We are two weeks into the college football regular season, and surprising storylines are already developing. From scandalous off-the-field headlines at a place where they are all too familiar to the mild humbling of the SEC, we can’t help but feel that the 2007 is very strong in 2023. Here’s a look at some of the biggest storylines to emerge from week two.

Mel Tucker Suspended, Michigan State Mum. Again.

While most of America slept, early Sunday morning, Michigan State officials announced that they’d suspended head coach Mel Tucker. At the same time, both USA Today and ESPN broke simultaneous stories that Tucker was accused of sexual harassment by Brenda Tracy, a prominent advocate against sexual violence by athletes on college campuses and a victim of sexual violence herself. Tucker disputes the allegations and claims the two were engaged in a consensual relationship. 

To avoid the charge that this is yet another in a shameful handling of sexual misconduct allegations by people in positions of authority on campus, Michigan State officials insisted they’ve followed proper protocols to ensure due process to Tucker while protecting the safety and identity of the accuser before the October hearing that will most likely determine Tucker’s fate as Spartan head coach. 

Athletic director Allen Haller insisted, albeit vaguely, that Michigan State has followed protocols in handling the accusation against Tucker. It’s hard to believe the process designed to protect accusers would also result in someone facing severe allegations like Tucker being allowed to remain on the job for nearly ten months without taking action. Rachel Denhollander, herself a victim of such violence at Michigan State and a relentless advocate for transparency in such matters, pointed out that Michigan State is misusing the Title IX protocols to minimize public attention and that following the protocols did not stop Michigan State from taking action before the October hearing. 

Brett McMurphy initially reported that Tucker had been fired. Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic and Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press later reported that Tucker had not been fired but was suspended with pay pending the outcome of his October hearing. After Sunday’s press conference, Michigan State announced Tucker’s suspension was, in fact, without pay. 

With Tucker currently owed over $70 million on a ten-year contract he signed after a very successful 2021 season, it appears that Michigan State will look to terminate Tucker with cause to avoid being forced to pay such a large buyout and one of the better programs in the Big Ten will be both back in the market for a head coach and will be doing so under an all too familiar cloud of suspicion.

They’re Back (?)

We love a good “_____ is back” joke as much as the next person, and nobody has been on the receiving end of those jokes more over the last two decades than Texas and Miami. But we might need to find new targets for our jokes after week two. 

Texas recorded the most impressive performance of week two, going on the road and beating Alabama 34-24 at Bryant Denny Stadium. It was Alabama’s first loss at home by double-digits since 2004, three years before Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. 

It’s not surprising that Texas won the game. After all, Texas nearly won the matchup in Austin last year despite losing quarterback Quinn Ewers to injury early in the game. The surprising element of the win was how Texas did it. Texas dominated Alabama’s lines. Even in defeat, how often have we been able to say with a straight face that Saban’s teams got pushed around up front? Alabama failed to sack Ewers once, while Texas sacked Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe five times. 

Steve Sarkisian called a brilliant game. His route combinations regularly confused the Alabama secondary while Texas’ offensive line held up against a ferocious pass rush, which allowed Ewers to scorch the Tide for 349 yards and three touchdowns. 

While Texas dominated Alabama, Miami beat up Texas A&M at Hard Rock Stadium. The Hurricanes gave the most unambiguous indication yet that 2022 was both an aberration and a transition year that laid the foundation for what we saw Saturday afternoon. Tyler van Dyke lit up the No. 23 Aggies for 379 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-33 win. 

The ACC has waited nearly two decades for Miami to be…well…Miami. Their bludgeoning of a Texas A&M team that fields as much talent as anyone in the country not named Alabama or Georgia is the clearest indication that the ‘Canes will be contenders in the ACC in 2023.

Does Anyone Recognize this Alabama?

Above, we wanted to emphasize Texas and what the Longhorns did in their win at Alabama. But it’s difficult to watch how Alabama played and wonder if something might be wrong this time. Have pundits wrongly declared previous losses by Alabama proof that the dynasty under Saban was over? Of course. And those declarations were incorrect. But, even the most ardent ‘Bama fan would have to admit that what we saw Saturday night was the least Saban-looking performance in a game of this magnitude since his first season in Tuscaloosa in 2007. 

After the game, Sarkisian noted his firsthand experience with opposing teams beating themselves mentally before ever taking the field at Bryant Denny Stadium. On Saturday night, Texas showed no fear of the Tide or the environment. Instead, Texas responded every time Alabama seemed to gain its footing, scoring immediately following Alabama retook the lead in the second half and outsourcing the Tide 21-8 in the decisive fourth quarter.

But more than the final score, how Alabama played should have fans worried that relative football mortality has come for Saban the same way it has for every previous college football dynasty. The Tide committed ten penalties, turned the ball over more, couldn’t protect Jalen Milroe, couldn’t Sack Quinn Ewers, were beaten over the top through the air multiple times, and rushed for just 107 yards, with only 63 of those rushing yards coming from running backs. 

We’ve never seen a Saban-coached Alabama team look less like a Saban-coached Alabama team.

A Slim Slice of Humble Pie for the SEC

The good news for Alabama fans is that this wasn’t an SEC loss (yet), and the SEC is currently off to one of its worst starts to a season in recent memory. After South Carolina, Florida, and LSU took high-profile beatings in week one, Texas whipped Alabama, Miami blew out Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt lost to Wake Forest. Even the wins were by the slimmest of margins as Mississippi State escaped Arizona in overtime, Auburn held on for a 14-10 win at Cal, and Kentucky snoozed and shuffled through a 28-17 win over FCS EKU who was beaten 66-13 by Cincinnati the week before. 

Does any of this matter regarding who will ultimately win the College Football Playoff? History says no. So we don’t think Greg Sankey is concerned about an SEC program not winning it all, much less being left out of the playoff altogether. But, it would be equally mistaken to dismiss this start by the SEC as meaningless. Resume arguments for a second SEC team making the field will be hard to make when the rest of the Power 5 conferences finally managed to get some licks in on the mighty SEC for a change. 

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