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Arkansas, Michigan State and other September football biggest surprises


When is it not necessarily a bad thing to be picked at the bottom of the league on Media Day in the summer? 2021 season.

This is not a piece to indicate the failure of precision engings or predictions. In general, the media does its homework, information is readily available, and the teams that are expected to be good are usually good and the parties that are expected to struggle are usually struggling.

But those who follow college football already know that September has brought more disasters and unexpected results than usual. Here’s a team from each Power 5 conference that brought together the first one surprisingly strong of the season after getting a little love on Media Day.

More: Picks against the spread for the top 25 games

ACC: Louisville

Media Day Forecast: The ACC is sixth on the coast

September record: 3-1 (1-0)

Summer Narrative: After a promising debut season for Scott Sutterfield, Lewisville dropped to -7–7 (ACC -7-7) in 2020. Quarterback owner Cunningham returned, with some offensive firearms left for the NFL, and Sutterfield had to write a letter asking for an awkward apology. Innocently interviewed with South Carolina. The program was in a bit of a mess.

What they did: After losing to Ole Miss in the season-opener, the Cardinals have won three straight. Louisville dramatically knocked out UCF 42-35, winning a pick-six with 13 seconds left. The Cards advanced to -71-lead before a -71-point win at Florida State. Cunningham ran eight touchdowns (fourth in the nation), threw for five and had two interceptions in a year after making 15 turnovers in 11 games.

Big Ten: Michigan State

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Media Day Forecast: The Big Ten ends in the East

September record: 4-0 (2-0), No. 17 AP Poll

Summer Narrative: Mel Tucker took charge so late in the 2020 cycle that he missed both signing days, then less than a month later the sports world (and the rest of the world) was largely shut down. So his 2-5 debut was not unexpected. The Spartans needed a significant rebuild after Mark Dantonio slipped away after being recruited at the end of the era, and Money was the representative to do it. But it took time. The 2021 season looked like it was going to be a long one.

What they did: The Spartans are 4-0, only one cupcake in the docket. MSU has risen to the top to win Northwest, Miami and Nebraska and is with Western Kentucky. Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III leads the country at 138.5 rushing yards per game and quarterback Payton Thorn is surprisingly serviceable with a 10 to 1 TD-to-INT ratio. The comeback win against Nebraska showed the team’s prowess in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Big 12: Baylor

Media Day Forecast: Eighth in the Big 12

September record: 4-0 (2-0) in AP Survey, No. 21

Summer Narrative: Another “epidemic hire”, Dave Arnda came to Baylor and was unable to practice in the spring of 2020, which contributed to the 2–7 debut season. Veteran quarterback Charlie Brewer then moved to Utah, leaving a big hole for new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes. The defense had some experience, but that defense was ranked No. 2 in the approved points in 2020. Was at number, so there wasn’t too much optimism on either side of the ball.

What they did: Starting the season with Texas State, Texas Southern and Kansas was not the killer row, but the Bears were ready when it was time to play the big 12 power. Baylor defeated Iowa State 21-29 on Saturday, denying a possible game to convert the cyclone into a two-point last-minute. Gary Bohanon, who has attempted 38 passes in the previous three seasons, is completing 73 percent of his passes without 7 TDs and no INT, and he has run for four TDs. The schedule gets a lot tougher from here, but the Bears have some initial pace.

More: Where’s “College Game Day” this week?

PAC-12: State of Oregon

Media Day Forecast: Pack-12 is fifth in the North

September record: 3-1 (1-0)

Summer Narrative: Seven consecutive lost asons do not make yourself optimistic. One of the strengths of the team under Jonathan Smith was quick attack, and Jeremy Jefferson ran and lost to the NFL Draft. There were some indications of progress in 2020, such as a -31-3 win against Oregon, but history kept expectations at Corvalis modest.

What they did: Oregon State fought Purdue four-quarters on the street for a 30-21 opening weekend defeat, but has won three since then. The biggest win came on Saturday in Los Angeles, where the OSU defeated the USC on the road for the first time since 1960. Chance Nolan, who won a quarterback job in August when Tristan Gabia struggled with a hamstring injury, forced four touchdown passes and Beaver Defense forced four USC turnovers. Looking at the state of Oregon it looks like it will be tough all season in Pack-12.

SEC: Arkansas

Media Day Forecast: The latest is at SEC West

September record: 4-0 (1-0), AP Poll No.8

Summer Narrative: Arkansas surpassed expectations in 2020 and won three SECs after not getting any in 201 SE and 201 in, and hired the unrestricted Sam Pitman just before canceling the epidemic spring practice. But the media still liked everyone else at SEC West in 2021 before Razorback. Quarterback Failip Franks needed to be replaced, and when the defense started at nine it was 106th in total defense and surrendered 50-plus points three times. Pitman made some waves on the recruiting trail, but Arkansas felt the brutal SEC West climb the stairs a few years away.

Bender: Georgia has risen to No. 1 in the playoffs

What they did: Arkansas has become the country’s biggest surprise, with both Texas and Texas A&M topping the top ten after dropping in double digits. QB KJ Jefferson ran and threw, and the defense shot at No. 12 nationally. The four ranked teams still remain in the final eight games, starting in No. 2 Georgia this weekend, but a spectacular September Arkansas fans are hoping their Hogs will finish the season in the top 25 for the first time since 2011.





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