Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (NIL-sustaining pork products sold separately in Ames):
Third Quarter: How’s your new guy doing?
Beyond Boulder, The Dash looks at high-profile newcomers and slots their four-week performance accordingly. (This is a Deion Sanders/Colorado–free list because the Buffaloes would inhale the thing on their own.)
Doing Great: Jeff Brohm, Louisville (21). The Cardinals are 4–0 for the first time since 2016, when Lamar Jackson was on his way to the Heisman Trophy. Louisville leads the ACC and ranks fifth nationally in total offense, emerging as one of several contenders for a potential league championship berth now that Clemson has two conference losses.
Jamey Chadwell, Liberty. The Flames are a largely unchallenged 4–0, winning every game by double figures. Chadwell has plugged QB Kaidon Salter into the Grayson McCall efficiency machine he employed at Coastal Carolina, with the sophomore responsible for 16 total touchdowns so far.
Brent Key, Georgia Tech. Key actually coached the Yellow Jackets for eight games last year as an interim, and as the full-time boss he’s picked up where he left off: winning ACC road games. Georgia Tech took down Wake Forest in Winston Salem on Saturday, running Key’s ACC record outside Atlanta to 4–1. He’s 2–2 this year, with one of those losses to Brohm and Louisville.
Doing O.K.: Scott Satterfield, Cincinnati. He was a mixed-bag guy at Louisville, and that has quickly been the case up the Ohio River. Satterfield thrilled the Bearcat faithful by upsetting Pittsburgh on the road, then turned around and was upset at home by Miami (Ohio). Cincinnati (2–2) gave Oklahoma a fight in its Big 12 debut Saturday before falling 20–6, with an interception at the goal line and a missed 26-yard field goal keeping the Bearcats from putting real pressure on the Sooners.
Kenny Dillingham, Arizona State. Given the fact that he was handed a stripped-down roster and a surprise, self-imposed bowl ban before the first game, Dillingham is making what he can out of a bad situation. While being shut out at home by Fresno State is bad, following that up by pushing USC into the fourth quarter was a positive sign for a 1–3 team.
Luke Fickell, Wisconsin (22). The loss at Washington State brought expectations back down to earth, but the Cougars are a good team and that’s a tough road trip. The Badgers (3–1) have reconnected with a Braelon Allen–centric offensive attack since then, and it’s paid dividends, most recently in a three-touchdown win at Purdue.
Not Great, Bob: Ryan Walters, Purdue. Speaking of that game in West Lafayette: The Boilermakers (1–3) committed three turnovers, one week after committing four against Syracuse. They don’t have a good enough defense to withstand that. Walters was handed a tough first-year schedule, but starting 0–3 in Ross-Ade Stadium reduces aspiration of bowl eligibility.
Zach Arnett, Mississippi State. Take out the FCS opponent and the Bulldogs (2–2) are allowing 464 yards per game, 6.48 yards per play and 34 points per game. For a former defensive assistant, those are cringey numbers. Mississippi State should be 3–3 heading into a back half that will paint a clearer picture of Arnett’s debut season.
Matt Rhule, Nebraska (23). He mismanaged the quarterback situation, which contributed greatly to an 0–2 start. Going with Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims in spring practice led to the transfer of incumbent starter Casey Thompson in May. Then Sims played a key role in the Cornhuskers’ whopping eight turnovers in losses to Minnesota and Colorado. Since then the starter has been Heinrich Haarberg, who has reduced errors and led Nebraska to expected victories over Northern Illinois and Louisiana Tech.
Doing great: Shannon Dawson and Lance Guidry (24), Miami. The improvement has been immediate and significant on both sides of the ball at The U. Tyler Van Dyke is reborn at quarterback. A defense that was mauled on the ground the second half of 2022 has not yet allowed a 100-yard rushing game in ’23.
Will Stein, Oregon offensive coordinator. The Eugene machine keeps rolling and might even be a little more souped-up under Stein. And for a snapshot of how much Stein is missed at his previous stop, UTSA: The Roadrunners are averaging 19.3 points per game this year, after 36.8 last year. (Veteran quarterback Frank Harris has missed the last two UTSA games with a turf-toe injury, but the offense still wasn’t running as productively when he was on the field.)
Rocky Long, Syracuse defensive coordinator. Dino Babers turned the defense over to Long protégé Tony White, but when White departed over last year he replaced him with the mentor himself. Long, architect of the 3-3-5 defense, has the Orange allowing just 10.8 points per game, tied for seventh nationally.
Doing O.K.: Bobby Petrino (25), Texas A&M offensive coordinator. He hasn’t worked a miracle. Nor has he turned this experiment into a destructive ego battle with Jimbo Fisher. The trajectory is up; we’ll see where the landing point is. The product is improved, but there are many SEC tests to come after laboring to 27 points against Auburn. (Granted, that dramatically beats laboring to 10 points against Auburn last year.)
Kendal Briles, TCU offensive coordinator. The Horned Frogs have scored slightly fewer points in each game, from 42 to 41 to 36 to 34. They’ve also won three in a row after the opening loss to Colorado, with QB Chandler Morris performing well in those games. The Frogs had their first turnover-free game of the season against SMU, a key part of securing the Iron Skillet for the foreseeable future.
Gerad Parker, Notre Dame offensive coordinator. Until calling a screen pass late against Ohio State and allowing the Buckeyes to save what would turn out to be a crucial timeout, all returns had been positive for Parker. He’s developed a run-heavy unit that patiently stuck to the ground game against Ohio State, then relied on Sam Hartman to make plays in key situations.
Not great, Bob: Tommy Rees (26), Alabama offensive coordinator. The man Parker replaced has been pilloried in Tuscaloosa for the Crimson Tide’s slow start. A lot of that isn’t necessarily his fault; he didn’t inherit the quarterback room of years past at Bama. But benching Jalen Milroe and starting Tyler Buchner against South Florida was a near disaster, and the entire attack remains a laborious work in progress. The Tide has gone three straight games scoring 24 or fewer points; the last time that happened was October 2009.
Garrett Riley, Clemson offensive coordinator. After taking a 24–17 lead on Florida State, the Tigers’ last six drives went thusly: fumble that was returned for a touchdown, punt, punt, missed field goal, end of regulation, over on downs to end the game. Clemson has lost more fumbles (five) than anyone else in the ACC, is last in the league in red zone conversion percentage (partly due to kicking issues) and is 13th in the league in scrimmage plays of 20 yards or longer.
Ryan Lindley, San Diego State offensive coordinator. Being the OC for ultra-conservative Brady Hoke is a challenge, and that showed when the Aztecs flailed through the first four games. They might have hit their stride in defeat against Boise State on Saturday, producing season highs of 439 yards and 6.97 yards per play.
Doing great: Keon Coleman (27), Florida State wide receiver. The best contested-catch receiver in college football has proven to be a monster pickup from Michigan State. Coleman’s six touchdown receptions include five against high-level competition, LSU and Clemson. Some of those were absolute beauties.
Jordan Burch, Oregon defensive end. The South Carolina transfer got off to a bit of a slow start, but ended when he dropped Shedeur Sanders twice for sacks Saturday. Burch now leads the Ducks in sacks and tackles for loss.
Jamari Thrash, Louisville wide receiver. He came in from Georgia State and immediately became the Cardinals’ biggest deep threat. He’s scored five touchdowns on just 19 receptions, and his 21.05 yards per catch lead the ACC for anyone with 10 or more receptions.
(Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman, who would lead this category, was discussed in the Dash Second Quarter.)
Doing O.K.: DJ Uiagalelei (28), Oregon State QB. After an unhappy ending to his tenure at Clemson, Uiagalelei has found a comfort zone in Corvallis and helped the Beavers to a 3–1 start. Uiagalelei’s current pass efficiency rating of 142.80 is higher than either of his two seasons starting for the Tigers, although he had his least efficient game of the season in a loss to Washington State on Saturday. Utah’s fierce defense poses a big challenge Friday.
Jaylen Key, Alabama defensive back. In reality, he’s doing better than OK. The transfer from UAB has earned his playing time at Five-Star U, ranking second on the team in solo tackles (13) and picking off a pass in his Alabama debut.
Dominic Lovett, Georgia wide receiver. The Missouri transfer has the most receptions of any wideout among the Bulldogs with 17, trailing only tight end Brock Bowers. Lovett hasn’t yet gotten into the end zone and hadn’t produced any big plays until a 33-yarder against UAB on Saturday.
Not great, Bob: The previously mentioned Sims at Nebraska (29). Sims injured his ankle in the second half against Colorado and hasn’t played since, but it’s unclear whether that’s a medical decision or a coach’s decision.
Payton Thorne, Auburn quarterback. In two games against Power 5 competition, the Michigan State transfer has completed 15 of 26 passes for 138 yards. Thorne was benched against Texas A&M on Saturday and the QB position is now in flux for Hugh Freeze.
Cade McNamara, Iowa quarterback. Maybe you just can’t fix Brian Ferentz. But the arrival of McNamara from Michigan was supposed to liberate the Hawkeyes from the Spencer Petras Era, not be a continuation of it. He’s thrown for fewer yards and a lower completion percentage in every game so far this year.