Check out the highlights from Week 3 of the Amway Coaches Poll.


Two things happened in Norman, Oka., on Saturday night — one with big-picture implications, the other more limited in scope — but neither of them were good for Oklahoma fans.

First, let’s get the small stuff out of the way. After Saturday’s resounding 45-24 loss to Ohio State, Oklahoma will not make the College Football Playoff, and it’s increasingly unlikely anyone in the Big 12 will be accomplished enough this season to clear that bar.

Though it’s dangerous to write off an entire conference in Week 3, the non-conference season has been a disaster for the Big 12. The league’s overall record thus far is 16-12 — a paltry 57.1 winning percentage — but even worse is the lack of wins that will lift the league’s reputation.

Aside from Texas’ win against Notre Dame, which was offset to some degree by the loss at California on Saturday night, there just isn’t any quality in the non-conference résumé. Baylor and West Virginia, the only teams without a loss, haven’t played anybody of note and seem unlikely to run the table.

That’s a pretty stunning reality for the Big 12, but particularly for Oklahoma fans, given the Sooners’ presence in the College Football Playoff last season and a No. 3 ranking to open this year.

Furthermore, in Bob Stoops’ 17-plus years at Oklahoma, it’s almost unheard of for the Sooners to check out of the national race this early regardless of how good or bad the season ultimately turned out. The only other time in his career Oklahoma went into October with two losses, in fact, was 2005.

So it’s fair to say that having the biggest goals go to waste by Week 3 is not something Oklahoma fans are used to or should be happy about, particularly with so much preseason hype about this team’s prospects.

But an even bigger long-term problem crystallized against the Buckeyes: The Big 12 is no longer a legitimate barometer for Oklahoma in its pursuit of a national title.

If you want to measure Stoops’ program by its peers at Texas or TCU or Oklahoma State, the Sooners are doing great.

But if you want to measure it by programs that are winning or contending for titles, it would be very hard to make an argument that Oklahoma is on the same level right now.

When you look at the ease with which Ohio State’s young team came into Norman and won on Saturday, combined with how Clemson has blown out the Sooners in two consecutive bowl games, there seems to be a clear gulf between Oklahoma and the handful of programs that can really win it all.

Oklahoma fans now must try to enthuse themselves for a long slog of a season where the Big 12 title is still available but a playoff berth seems almost impossible. That’s why, for this week, the Sooners have the most miserable fan base in college football.

(Disclaimer: This isn't a ranking of worst teams, worst losses or coaches whose jobs are in the most jeopardy. This is simply a measurement of a fan base's knee-jerk reaction to what they last saw. The way in which a team won or lost, expectations vis-à-vis program trajectory and traditional inferiority complex of fan base all factor into this ranking.)


1. Oklahoma: One would only need to track the recruiting rankings to understand why the Sooners have been in the “fake contender” category lately. In the 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes, which would comprise the base of upperclassmen for any of the top programs this year, Oklahoma’s classes were ranked 15th both years by The only five-star player the Sooners signed during that span was running back Joe Mixon.

That's not to say Oklahoma has been recruiting poorly, or that some players can’t outperform their star ranking, but history shows national champions are built with top-five classes. Oklahoma recruited at that level in the mid-2000s but unquestionably dropped off after that and has never recovered.

What we’re seeing now from Oklahoma is essentially what they’ve recruited: A top-25 type of team that, with some good breaks and a star player at quarterback, can win a conference title but will eventually hit its head on a ceiling. The problem is Stoops’ lengthy track record (including a national title) combined with Oklahoma’s brand and the overall weakness of the Big 12 has elevated the Sooners beyond what they’re actually capable of achieving. Now, however, the on-field truth has been laid bare for all to see.

2. Oregon: It was hard to watch the Ducks’ 35-32 loss at Nebraska and not wonder if Mark Helfrich is bordering on Larry Coker territory. Though some will point out that Coker at least won a national title, the comparison is more about the situation they inherited and the trajectory that followed.

Coker, the longtime career assistant, was chosen as the caretaker for Miami at the peak of its powers following Butch Davis and went 35-3 his first three seasons. Helfrich, also a career assistant and continuity hire, inherited Chip Kelly’s green machine with a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and went 25-4 his first two seasons. Coker eventually showed that maintaining Miami’s dominance was beyond his capabilities as a head coach and was fired after a three-year decline.

Oregon is only in the second year of its spiral following the 2014 national title game, but it’s a real and concerning trend for Ducks fans. They’re no longer the class of the Pac-12. They’re no longer ahead of the curve with their system and tempo. They’re no longer recruiting and developing star quarterbacks but rather trolling the FCS for stop-gaps. They’re still going to win games, but they’re no longer a threat to do much of anything on the national stage.

3. Notre Dame: There’s a reason people say this job, unlike any other, ages coaches in dog years. You could sense it Saturday night in Brian Kelly’s comments following a 36-28 loss to Michigan State that probably eliminated the Irish from playoff contention three weeks into the season. At times like these, the chase for what Notre Dame tries to achieve year in and year out just seems exhausting and maddening.

High academic and behavioral standards combined with an ambitious schedule, unrelenting expectations and no trophy to win besides a national championship means Notre Dame has to walk such a tightrope every year. And when the reality hits that the big goals are over, everything gets picked apart. Kelly was frustrated last night — with his players, with his assistants and with the media. It was obvious on the sidelines and after the game at the news conference.

Now in his seventh season, Kelly probably has reached the point where he will not be properly appreciated by his fan base for the job he’s done. With the potential of this season out the window, the rest of this season — whichever way it goes from here — is going to be one big blame game. If they win the rest, fans will blame Kelly for not having Notre Dame ready to go the first few weeks. If it goes south, they’ll blame him for putting a disappointing product on the field. It’s a lose-lose for Kelly at this point, and he seemed to sense it better than anyone.

4. Auburn: Since Nov. 1, 2014, the Tigers are 6-12 against FBS opponents, 2-10 in the SEC and have lost six consecutive home games against league opponents. That’s how you go from being the toast of college football to the hot seat in less than two seasons, as Gus Malzahn has done. Auburn was booed repeatedly by its home crowd Saturday in a 29-16 loss to Texas A&M, which included a cosmetic touchdown by Auburn with 2:59 remaining to make the final score a little more respectable.

Auburn’s 399 yards of offense was a truly misleading statistic, as the Tigers really struggled to sustain or finish drives. It was ugly, again, and this is now the second season in a row where the offense — the unit Malzahn directly oversees — looks inept against quality competition.

And when you look at the schedule ahead, another home game against LSU next week might well determine whether Auburn even gets to bowl eligibility. Despite the contract extension he received before the season, Auburn fans will not stand for this much longer.

5. USC: The long-running mediocrity of USC has made it seem normal for the Trojans to be beaten in routine fashion by Stanford. But it’s not normal, and it should never be normal. Is this really what the Trojans’ program has come to? Even for all the tumult of the last few years, there is real talent at USC that is being made to look indistinguishable from Oregon State except for the uniforms. That should not happen.

Of course, this entire procession of coaches shouldn’t have happened dating back to giving the job to Lane Kiffin way before he was ready to maximize it. Something has to change. It’s not fair to Helton that the stakes are this high, but he’s 1-4 since being named the permanent coach and that record does not reflect the roster he is coaching.

It doesn’t reflect the goals or aspirations of what USC should be or can achieve. There’s no shame in losing to Stanford these days, but getting absolutely throttled 27-10 and looking sloppy in the process reflects directly to the head coach.


Show Thumbnails
Show Captions


Ole Miss: Even in this crazy offensive era of college football, you should be able to hold a three-touchdown lead or at least make it incredibly difficult for a team to come back. Ole Miss, however, has a habit of making it easy. In three games, the Rebels have blown a 22-point lead vs. Florida State and a 21-point lead over Alabama with breathtaking quickness.

After opening up 24-3 on the Crimson Tide, the Rebels gave it all back in just six minutes of game time. That makes Ole Miss’ 1-2 start all the more depressing for fans, who are already in defensive mode over the ongoing NCAA infractions case that could bring significant penalties to the program.

Northern Illinois: When you’ve ruled the Mid-American Conference for as long as the Huskies, when you’ve made an Orange Bowl back in the BCS days and think of yourselves as a candidate to move into a better conference, you don’t tolerate losing streaks well.

And after a 42-28 loss to San Diego State, this is now a six-game losing streak for Northern Illinois dating  to last season. Though a MAC title is still possible and would make everything look better, the trajectory of the program is suddenly concerning.

Vanderbilt: The low-key optimism around Vanderbilt heading into this season has been replaced by an all-too-familiar sense of despair. The Commodores just aren’t very good, and they haven’t been at any point since Derek Mason took over in 2014.

He’s 8-19 as a head coach, and Saturday’s 38-7 loss at Georgia Tech was a bad look in many ways. When triple-option Georgia Tech passes for nearly as many yards (222) as your entire offense gained (275), something has gone terribly wrong.

Boston College: That’s now 10 consecutive losses in ACC play, including three shutouts, following a 49-0 loss at Virginia Tech. To the extent fans can stop obsessing over Deflategate and the Red Sox long enough to notice, it’s clear this program is going nowhere at the moment. Even worse, fellow cellar dwellers such as Syracuse and Wake Forest seem to be on the upswing. A second consecutive 0-8 in the ACC looks like a real possibility.

Kansas: It’s possible the Jayhawks might be worse this year than they were last year, which would be incredibly depressing for a fan base that needs something to keep it engaged before March Madness.

The Jayhawks turned it over six times in a 43-7 loss at Memphis, which could have been 14- to 20 points-worse if the Tigers had executed slightly better and Mike Norvell hadn’t let his foot off the gas in the fourth quarter.


Florida State: The 63-20 beatdown at Louisville was surreal, and now the Seminoles have to pick themselves up and play at dangerous South Florida next week before hosting North Carolina and traveling to Miami. If they’re not careful, any hopes of resurrecting their season could be over in a blink.

Iowa: Giving Kirk Ferentz another contract extension through 2025 just before he loses to North Dakota State is the most Iowa thing ever.

Arkansas State: The schedule has been sneaky tough, but it’s jarring to see the Red Wolves at 0-3 after they’ve been arguably the most consistent program in the Sun Belt the last several years.

Marshall: An under-the-radar stunning score Saturday came via the Thundering Herd, which lost at home to Akron 65-38. Marshall is 33-8 the last three seasons and 18-1 in Huntington, so you don’t expect them to lose to Akron at home — and certainly not by 27 points.

Missouri: All the Tigers had to do was stop one more play to wrap up what would have been a massive victory for first-year coach Barry Odom over Georgia. Instead, Bulldogs freshman quarterback Jacob Eason threaded the needle on fourth-and-10 for a 20-yard touchdown with 1:29 remaining. Then, after receiver J’Mon Moore crossed midfield for a big gain to get Missouri close to field goal range, he fumbled with 1:10 left, giving Georgia a 28-27 win.


►“At this point, Bob Stoops needs to be late career Bobby Bowden” — (Oklahoma)

►“I’m done with Josh Dobbs and this team” — (Tennessee)

►“The SEC office must be moved out of Alabama” — (Ole Miss)

►“Thank God Petrino will be coaching at Auburn next year” — (Florida State)

►“Hire Bobby Petrino today” —