Some teams are off to smooth starts in the 2019 college football season, while others have struggled to find their footing early on.
There is still a long season head, but should some fan bases be panicking? Sports Illustrated wrote about its concern level for four teams — the Tennessee Volunteers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Florida State Seminoles and UCLA — that have split or lost their first two games of the season.
Tennessee: Concern level 10 out of 10
“Tennessee has been a wreck for the last decade now, save for a few nine-win seasons under Butch Jones,” SI wrote. “In 2017, Jones’s last year, the Volunteers went 4–8. In 2018, the first season under Jeremy Pruitt, they went 5–7. This year seems it’s more of the same. Tennessee is 0–2 for the first time since 1988, and those two losses are to Georgia State and BYU in double overtime.”
Tennessee will likely give Pruitt more than two seasons to right the ship. Firing Pruitt would force the Vols to eat a lot of money, and they are already on the hook for the remainder of former coach Butch Jones’ buyout. Jones will be paid just over $200,000 a month through February 2021. However, attitudes could change if this Tennessee season spirals further downhill. It will be an uphill battle for Tennessee to get to a bowl game after an 0-2 start, as the Vols will likely be an underdog in the majority of the remaining games on the schedule.
UCLA: Concern level 8 out of 10
“What happened to Chip Kelly’s offense?” SI wrote. “In 2018, his first year at UCLA, the Bruins went 3–9 and ranked 98th in scoring offense (24.6 points a game). This year, the Bruins have gone 0–2 against Cincinnati and San Diego State, and the offense appears to be even worse. Look at the numbers: Against Cincinnati: 218 total yards, 12 first downs, 14 points; Against San Diego State: 261 total yards, 16 first downs, 14 points.”
The pressure to win is not as great for Kelly at UCLA as it is for the rest of his peers on this list. That may work in his favor, as the coach attempts to kick start his offense. But there may be some embarrassing moments ahead, though. UCLA will play a high-scoring Oklahoma team on Saturday. That is not a good matchup for a team that has scored just 28 points in two weeks. Kelly would benefit from some upsets by his team once Pac-12 play begins for the Bruins.
Florida State: Concern level 6 out of 10
“Two games, two second-half meltdowns for Florida State,” SI wrote. “In the season opener, the Seminoles led Boise State 31–13 deep into the second quarter, only to surrender 23 unanswered points and lose. The next week, Florida State led Louisiana-Monroe 24–7 at halftime and eventually went to overtime, where the Seminoles won when the Warhawks missed an extra point.”
The missed extra point may have been the lifeline Florida State needed to keep its season from making a turn for the worst. Still, things could quickly turn sour again for Seminoles coach Willie Taggart if the team underperforms against Virginia on Saturday.
Nebraska: Concern level 5 out of 10
“Of these four teams, Nebraska had the highest aspirations this season,” SI wrote. “The Cornhuskers started at No. 24 in the AP poll, and it seemed that, after going 4–8 in 2018, Scott Frost might have Nebraska poised to make some noise in the Big Ten. Then the Huskers struggled against South Alabama (yet recovered to win) and lost in overtime to Colorado. The Buffaloes stormed from behind and outscored Nebraska 27–14 in the fourth quarter and overtime.”
Fortunately for Nebraska, last week’s loss to Colorado was not a conference game. The Huskers could gain confidence if they knock off Northern Illinois Saturday night ahead of their Big Ten opener against Illinois. Then comes a massive chance for a statement win in a home matchup with Big Ten title favorite Ohio State.