Entering Week 7, the pretenders have revealed themselves across college football. But for two programs crawling toward lackluster seasons on the same trajectory, their makeup is quite different with altered hot-seat temperatures for their respective coaches.
Ed Orgeron no longer looks like he wants to be at LSU, refusing to blame himself for the Tigers' misgivings since winning a national championship in 2019. Meanwhile, the music Scott Frost was facing early this season after a loss to Illinois has quieted a bit as he portrays a coach at least fighting for what's left of squad he believes is close-knit and together.
It's all about physicality for LSU
Coach O has tried a little bit of everything at the line of scrimmage, yet nothing has worked in the run game this season. In fact, it looks a lot like last fall when the Tigers finished 5-5 as one of college football's biggest disappointments. Opposing defenses know the Tigers are struggling in that department, and before last weekend's loss at Kentucky, LSU had rarely found any semblance of rhythm between the tackles or around the edges.
After studying much of LSU's offensive tape and scheme, there are too many slow-developing handoffs that have negatively impacted a group up front that has underperformed. Detrimental first-down runs into a crowded pile thanks to zero push has detonated the offense, a unit which ranks 127th nationally at 83.3 yards per game.
The defense has been equally disappointing, though not quite as horrific as it was last season. There have been times LSU has stacked the box and left its corners on islands to stop the run, yet still, ball carriers muscle their way past the initial wave for first downs.
To put it bluntly, physicality in the trenches no longer exists at LSU. When you're blessed with talent, stopping the run and picking up yards on the ground comparatively is a mentality deal, and the Tigers seems to have played the better part of two seasons now without nastiness or an edge at the snap.
We know the overused "line of scrimmage league" adage rings true within the SEC, but the season-opening loss at UCLA revealed ugly concerns that haven't been corrected through first six weeks. Orgeron is undoubtedly on the league's hottest seat, and with four straight games against nationally-ranked competition beginning Saturday against Florida, the worst of it appears yet to come.
Little things for Huskers
Frost believes his team is close to turning a corner, and he's not wrong. However, Nebraska is still failing to do the little things that must be corrected to beat opposing teams with better rosters. Among those little things? Perhaps the simplest of all: execution.
The Cornhuskers had a chance after quarterback Adrian Martinez's critical fumble led to the go-ahead field goal to tie the game against Michigan, but their final drive was snuffed out at midfield thanks to a series of head-scratching plays. Martinez threw an incomplete pass on first down, saw a catchable ball missed by Levi Falck on second, and then Nebraska called the right play -- but failed -- on third-and-10.
Michigan's Gemon Green devoured a pass in the flat to Rahmir Johnson after one of Nebraska's guards was late getting to the boundary and missed a block. This was a spotlight play given the fact a chain-mover would've been close to field goal position and given the Huskers a fresh set of downs in Michigan territory.
On fourth down, Nebraska elected to throw one deep to Samori Toure, but the pass fell incomplete. Instead of working something over the middle and giving his team an opportunity to make something happen, Martinez opted for a low-percentage heave.
That's how close the Huskers have been from upsetting one of the three ranked teams they've played this season, but the same story continues to be written: Nebraska's execution issues are critically affecting moments of opportunity.
"This is a tightly-knit team, and gosh, I'm proud of them," Frost said. "We've come so far. I thought [Saturday] was the night. In games past, when we've gotten ahead, I got the sense that everybody was thinking what's going to go wrong, and I didn't feel that at all [Saturday]."
But it did, coach. It went wrong when it mattered most, and much of it was due to simple execution errors.
Will the ACC's best please stand up?
Wake Forest. That's who I deemed to be the ACC frontrunner heading into last week's games before the Demon Deacons were lucky to escape the Carrier Dome with an overtime win against Syracuse. This is the Orange we're talking about here, the same team who got beat up by Florida State and haven't beaten a Power Five opponent since Georgia Tech in September 2020.
At this point, projecting Wake Forest as the league champion with an Orange Bowl berth feels like throwing darts at a concrete wall and hoping they stick. It's only a matter of time before the winning streak ends and a team like NC State, Pittsburgh or Virginia Tech assumes favorite status in the ACC, right?
Strange scheduling quirks have led to Wake Forest's early edge in the standings. The Demon Deacons are 4-0 in league play, while the Wolfpack have only played one ACC matchup thus far, their win over Clemson. The two ACC Atlantic teams go to war Nov. 13 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which could determine the division champion.
NC State starts a seven-game over seven weeks ACC gauntlet on Saturday at Boston College, so getting off on the right foot is vitally important for Dave Doeren's group.