Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, a sport that is completely off its rocker at the moment:
First Quarter: Wrestling Tights for Everyone, Please
We keep receipts!
Ohio against the world!
They’re fighting for clicks, we’re fighting for wins!
Whew. Let’s all take a deep breath, shall we?
In a florid flash, college football has become the most melodramatic sport in the United States. Millionaire coaches are strutting like peacocks, picking fights with each other and reacting like teenagers to a mean comment in the hallway. It’s completely preposterous. It’s also highly entertaining. Divas on parade.
When Ohio State coach Ryan Day (1) went off—and then off some more—on ancient Lou Holtz late Saturday night in Notre Dame Stadium, it capped a month of hyperventilation and overreaction. Not from the young men playing the game, the ones whose emotional maturity is not fully formed. Oh no, these are the adults who now cannot wait to get in front of a microphone to spout off.
We’ve gone well past standard bulletin board motivational material to grudge-holding and airing of grievances.
Out West, Washington State coach Jake Dickert (2) joined the war on octogenarians by going after ESPN’s Lee Corso, who at 88 years of age is in a figurehead role at best on College GameDay. Corso reportedly termed the Oregon State-Washington State game the “No One Watches Bowl” on the show Saturday morning, and Dickert lit him up after the Cougars beat the Beavers.
“I don’t really understand that,” Dickert said. “What’s the merit, once again? The facts say, people watch the Coogs. And the people watch the Cougs more than every team that’s left over in the Big 12. Coach Corso is at the point now where they give him the seat and he reads off it and tries to make a joke — it doesn’t even make sense. It’s well-documented what ESPN has done to get our league to where it’s at.”
As it turned out, Dickert didn’t even hear what Corso said, which was more sympathetic than mocking.
Dickert is entitled to his raw feelings regarding the predicament of his school and the demise of the Pac-12. Wazzu has been royally screwed. But if you’re ranking the threats to Washington State’s power-conference existence, Lee Corso doesn’t even make the list. Aim before firing.
What coaches love to say: We block out the outside noise. We don’t concern ourselves with what’s said in the media—we don’t read any of that stuff. We only worry about ourselves and control what we can control.
What they’re actually doing: listening with rabbit ears to everything that’s being said about them, or about their opponents. And they’re getting legitimately mad about it.
“Message board mad,” as ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt termed Oregon coach Dan Lanning (3), who verbally shredded Colorado pregame (the fighting for clicks/fighting for wins philippic), then watched this team shred the Buffaloes in the first half, then went in for still more on the Buffs in his halftime interview. “Not done yet. We’re not satisfied. I hope all those people that have been watching [Colorado] every week are watching this week,” Lanning said.
The Dash is going to go ahead and chalk this up to the Prime Effect. Deion Sanders (4), disruptor extraordinaire, has so changed the dynamic of public coaching comportment that it’s rippling outward from Boulder. Sanders doesn’t lapse into dishonest coach-speak when he’s asked questions; he answers with a candor that annoys some and delights others. His unconventional embrace of the spotlight, bathing in a cult of personality, in a wild first month on the job at Colorado has affected some of his peers.
It drove Colorado State coach Jay Norvell (5) to take his hats-and-sunglasses shot at Sanders before the Rams played the Buffaloes. And it clearly drove Lanning to say with cameras rolling what most coaches only say when the locker room doors are closed. Jealousy over Sanders’ star power, anger over the amount of attention garnered by a flawed team, whatever—reaction to Sanders has reached pro wrestling levels with astonishing speed.
(This week Colorado has to rebound against USC, which could be another long afternoon for the Buffaloes. Don’t expect Lincoln Riley to go WWE on Sanders; he saves his public drama for the beat writers covering his team.)
Day’s outburst Saturday night comes from a little different place. Primarily, it seems, from being deeply wounded by the criticism that has come from consecutive blowout losses to rival Michigan (6). The storylines were pretty clear in both those games: the Wolverines trampled the Buckeyes with power football, rushing for 549 yards to Ohio State’s 207. That begat an analog referendum: Michigan tough, Ohio State not tough.
Against the backdrop, Holtz, a former college coach of great renown and former TV analyst of lesser renown, went on The Pat McAfee Show and declared that Day’s teams aren’t physical enough. “He has lost to Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Michigan twice—and everybody who beats them does so because they’re more physical than Ohio State,” Holtz said. “I think Notre Dame will take that same approach.”
When Ohio State barely scored the winning touchdown from a yard out with the aid of Notre Dame having only 10 defenders on the field, Day wasted no time going after the 86-year-old Holtz, who hasn’t been a relevant voice in the sport in years. He lit up the live TV interview postgame, then repeated all of it and more in speaking with the assembled media.
“I’m really upset about what Lou Holtz said publicly about our team, and about Ohio State, and about Buckeye Nation, and we’re not going to stand for that,” Day said. “That’s not even close to true. I don’t know where that narrative comes from, but that ends tonight.”
It was a great victory for Ohio State over Notre Dame, and it could serve the Buckeyes extremely well down the road. But when Day turned it into “Ohio against the world,” it was another moment where a coach caped up for a somewhat manufactured cause.
The Buckeyes playing the role of the persecuted doesn’t engender much sympathy, given Ohio State’s status as the richest athletic department in the country. Good to know that even the giants of the sport can feel pin pricks of resentment and wildly respond to them.
It’s been an overwrought September, and there’s still one more Saturday left in the month. Can’t wait to see which coach opts for a top-rope leap upon some perceived slight next.
Four for the Playoff
Each week, The Dash selects and brackets the four-team College Football Playoff as if today is Selection Sunday. After a huge week of games, we have both greater clarity and more contenders.
Sugar Bowl: top seed Florida State (7) vs. fourth seed Penn State (8).
The Seminoles (4-0) now have two spear-planting victories, neither in Tallahassee. They whipped LSU in Orlando and then staged a steely comeback to beat Clemson in Death Valley Saturday. A defensive score helped get that game into overtime, and quarterback Jordan Travis connected yet again with Michigan State transfer receiver Keon Coleman (six TDs on the season) for the game winner. Next up for Florida State: open date, followed by a visit from struggling Virginia Tech Oct. 7.
The Nittany Lions (4-0) showed some dominance in pulling away for a 31-0 win over previously unbeaten Iowa Saturday night in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions’ 215 rushing yards were the most against the Hawkeyes since 2019, and quarterback Drew Allar finished four drives with short touchdown throws. This marked the third straight season Penn State has shut out a Big Ten opponent in Beaver Stadium. Next up for Penn State: at Northwestern.
Rose Bowl: second seed Ohio State (9) vs. third seed Washington (10).
The Buckeyes (4-0) scored the biggest victory of the season to date Saturday, albeit just barely. The game was a coming-of-age moment for first-year starting quarterback Kyle McCord, a first-year starter trying to fill big shoes. He completed three huge throws to keep the game-winning drive alive, and extended his streak without an interception to three games. Next up for Ohio State: open date, followed by a visit from currently undefeated Maryland Oct. 7.
The Huskies (4-0) remain the most pyrotechnic offense in the land, hanging 59 points on California—45 of them in the first half. Rome Odunze, the best of an armada of dangerous Washington receivers, caught two passes for touchdowns and returned a punt 83 yards for a third. Next up for Washington: at Arizona.
New: Penn State, Ohio State.
Also considered: Texas, Utah, Oregon, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Duke, Miami.