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Panic Meter: How Worried Should Bettors Be About These College Teams?

  • We're only three weeks into the college football season, but there's cause for panic around the country.
  • Florida State and coach Willie Taggart have struggled out of the gate and lost to Syracuse in Week 3.
  • USC sputtered out of the gate and lost big against the Texas Longhorns on Saturday.

College football and premature panic go hand in hand, because the season is only 12 games and the fans are incredibly self-loathing. It’s wired into the sport’s DNA.

Through three weeks, there are a handful of teams not living up to expectations. You know who they are, because you (we) can’t stop talking about how bad they’ve been. The sky is falling, based on a quick Twitter search.

But should you truly panic about these teams, as a fan or bettor? Yes and no. Let’s dive in.


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Florida State

  • Record: 1-2
  • Week 3: Lost to Syracuse, 30-7

A tip: When a $21 million buyout and this pylon dressed in a helmet and shoulder pads are the only things your fans are talking about on a Saturday, you’re in trouble.

I feel bad picking on Abdul Bello (FSU’s left tackle from the video above), I really do. But that play is a microcosm of the Noles’ season so far — no one has any idea what they’re doing. Not prepared, not executing. They’re not really doing anything.

Ten points in two ACC games, sandwiched around a near-loss to FCS Samford, has somehow looked even worse than it sounds.

Coach Willie Taggart’s debut campaigns at Western Kentucky and South Florida were both two-win seasons. But he didn’t inherit one of the five most talented rosters in the country at those stops the way he has with FSU. Jimbo Fisher left a mess, but Taggart’s taken that mess and rolled around in it.

The offensive line is a disaster. The running game, with some of the best talent in the country, can’t get going. Quarterback Deondre Francois is going to somehow take the blame for it.

Adam McClintock, who grades play-callers based on play-by-play data and results relative to talent, rates Taggart as one of the worst play-callers in the country.

There’s been plenty written about Taggart’s mediocre results at USF and Western Kentucky, even if those programs were in a bad place when he showed up. Same with his 48-52 career record.

Whether or not he can make a similar turnaround (Western Kentucky went from two wins to seven in his second season; USF won eight games and made a bowl game in his third season) is very much up in the air, but it’s not passing the eye test right now. Florida State looks like a disaster.

Panic Meter: 8 out of 10

Nebraska

  • Record: 0-2
  • Week 3: Lost to Troy, 24-19

Nebraska didn’t have starting quarterback Adrian Martinez in its loss to Troy after he and the Huskers offense put up 595 yards in a Week 2 loss to Colorado. Three turnovers did Nebraska in against the Buffaloes, but the true freshman looks like he’ll be fun to watch for the next few years.

I place a weird amount of faith in Scott Frost, so I’m not too worried. Because he wants to play much faster and lighter than his predecessor, it will take a little while to shape his roster. Since Nebraska keeps hiring the coaches who couldn’t be more different than the guy before them, it might take a little time.

Any panic related to Nebraska should be rooted in the possibility that the Huskers no longer enjoy an advantage in areas most other programs didn’t take seriously (walk-ons, excellent strength/conditioning, great stadium), a fact which could prevent the Huskers from becoming a national title contender again. An 0-2 start should not sound many alarms.

Nebraska has a brutal schedule — Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa all on the road.

Don’t count on a bowl game this year. But count on Frost’s teams being competitive in games they probably shouldn’t be.

Panic Meter: 2 out of 10

Arkansas

  • Record: 1-2
  • Week 3: Lost to North Texas, 44-17

I don’t even blame Arkansas for falling victim to that play. I just wanted to include it. Anyway…

Did anyone expect Arkansas to do much this year in the SEC West? Nah. Especially with how bare Bret Bielema left this roster because he didn’t want to recruit.

But you can’t lose to Colorado State and North Texas. You especially can’t throw six interceptions against North Texas. You absolutely can’t play backyard football on offense against North Texas because you have no other options.

The most concerning thing about Saturday’s loss to UNT, if you’re taking the long view, is that Arkansas has no identity. Chad Morris’ smashmouth spread that turned Clemson into a dynasty and turned around SMU is nowhere to be found.

Like Nebraska, any true concern with Arkansas right now lies in the fact that the Razorbacks have an uphill battle to seriously compete in the SEC West. The Hogs have done it — four division titles since 1995 in that league is no joke — but in the current climate, they’ve got a long way to go.

Panic Meter: 5 out of 10

USC

  • Record: 1-2
  • Week 3: Lost to Texas, 37-14

No one seems to be that worried about USC. Maybe it’s the true freshman quarterback who is bound to develop, or that whole West Coast thing.

Either way, head coach Clay Helton is a problem. He’s got too much talent on his roster to have two losses already, even with a young quarterback. Sam Darnold covered up a lot of USC’s flaws, and he’s gone to greener pastures.

The Trojans looked bad against UNLV, awful against Stanford, and somehow worse against Texas.

A lot of folks are expecting this program to stay where it’s been the past two years, but that might be a little unrealistic right now.

Panic Meter: 7 out of 10

Credit:

Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Willie Taggart.

Follow Steve Petrella on Twitter
@steve_petrella
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