Can your 0-2 team salvage its season?
Sitting at 0-2 is about the last thing a college football head coach wants to deal with following his team's first two contests of a new season. But there's still time to turn things around. Unless you're a coach who knows deep down that he's in for a long season.
Let's take a look at some of the current winless programs and see if a brighter future is in store.
Georgia: As I wrote on Tuesday, this is a Bulldogs team that can rebound from a rough start if head coach Mark Richt keeps his players' heads up. The offense, while young, can be prolific if the play-calling isn't stale and conservative. The real issue is on defense, where coordinator Todd Grantham will have to deal with personnel issues, including the absence of his two starting inside linebackers. The key game will be at Tennessee in a few weeks. The 'Dawgs have Coastal Carolina this week before traveling to Ole Miss. Even if they happen to drop a home game to Mississippi State, if they can contain that efficient Tennessee offensive attack and steal a win, they could build momentum heading into the Florida game in Jacksonville. Richt obviously needs to win this season, but it's still a little too early to panick considering UGA had a brutal schedule to open the season.
ICONCan Michael Floyd and the Irish break through against Michigan State?
Notre Dame: I didn't think there was any way the Irish would drop last week's game at Michigan. And after leading 24-7 in the fourth quarter, there's no reason for them to not be 1-1. But, turnovers lead to losses. And that's exactly what has happened to ND this season. Michigan State comes to South Bend this weekend, and it's hard to argue that Brian Kelly's squad is the better team in this game. But if the sloppiness can be corrected, ND may have enough defensively to slow down the Spartans' attack. Because this is Notre Dame, it's certainly a must-win game for Kelly despite only being in his second season on campus.
Boston College: It's hard to expect the Eagles to win when their best player, running back Montel Harris, is out of action. While the passing game is a bit improved under sophomore quarterback Chase Rettig, this is a team that wins by running the football and stopping the run. And both of those areas have been dreadful the first two weeks of the year against Northwestern and Central Florida. In 2011, BC was tops in the nation against the run, allowing only 82.8 yards per game. This year, the Eagles gave up 227 yards to Northwestern and 235 yards to UCF. Offensively, the team has recorded just two touchdowns and managed just 141 yards of total offense last weekend. Backup running back Andre Williams has not stepped up, with the exception of his long run on the first play of the season against NU, so things won't get better in Chestnut Hill until Harris returns.
Oregon State: Poor Mike Riley. This Beavers team has been depleted by injuries, but there's still no excuse for losing to Sacramento State in the opener. And keep in mind OSU had to rally from a 21-6 fourth-quarter deficit just to force overtime. The Beavers were then shut out last week in Madison against Wisconsin. The quarterback situation is unsettled with Sean Mannion taking over for Ryan Katz after he was benched at halftime of the opener, and playmaking receiver/returner James Rodgers still hasn't returned. Freshman running back Malcolm Agnew looks to be the next great Beavers back after his 220-plus yard debut; however, his absence against the Badgers due to a hamstring injury showed just how offensively challenged this team could be this year. A much-needed bye week is ahead, with UCLA on the schedule after the break. Will things get even uglier in Corvallis?
Colorado: After a sluggish start offensively in the season opener against Hawaii, the Buffaloes responded with a prolific showing last week against Cal. Receiver Paul Richardson caught 11 passes for a school-record 284 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Tyler Hansen finished with a team-record 474 yards passing. Rodney Stewart will need to be more productive on the ground, however, so that this offense can have balance in tough conference play. The Buffaloes showed some fight, but I'm not sure how many wins they can net in Pac-12 play. First-year head coach Jon Embree will have accomplished a lot this fall if his players battle for him every week.
Duke: I thought that David Cutcliffe had an outside chance of getting his Blue Devils to a minor bowl this season at 6-6, but there's not much reason to believe that he can accomplish such a feat. Certainly losing to Stanford is no crime, and Cutcliffe had some gambles pay off against the Cardinal, but the opening loss to Richmond just can't happen when you've spent so much time trying to build up a program. The Blue Devils now must travel to Chestnut Hill to battle a Boston College squad thirsting for a win of its own. Not good. Plus, the Blue Devils still have a nonconference date with Mario Cristobal and Florida International on the slate. Yikes.
Minnesota: First and foremost, let's hope that first-year head coach Jerry Kill can rebound from yet another health scare and get the chance to continue to build up the Gophers. The New Mexico State loss was certainly unexpected after the close defeat at USC, but Kill will eventually win at Minnesota. He's done it everywhere else and he's too good of a coach to not take the Gophers to at least a minor bowl game sooner rather than later.
Indiana: Kevin Wilson has endured a frustrating start to his IU career. First, his team lost at Lucas Oil to Ball State in the season opener. Then, the Hoosiers rallied from a 20-point second-half deficit to take the lead over Virginia, only to fall to the Cavaliers in overtime. If Edward Wright-Baker can play well at quarterback, the Hoosiers should improve offensively week to week. But the defense, as always, remains the issue in Bloomington.
Fresno State: The Bulldogs opened the season with losses to Cal and Nebraska, as head coach Pat Hill continues to schedule quality nonconference opponents. Fresno State should be able to compete for a WAC title, but the Bulldogs will get serious competition from Hawaii, Nevada and even Utah State.
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