Three-Point Stance: Culture changes; burning questions; surprise unbeatens
Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell’s thought-provoking Three-Point Stance is here with what the word culture means, five burning questions and the most surprising undefeated football teams.
1. Changing a culture within a program can be difficult
Culture. What does culture mean when it comes to college football?
It’s the reason Nick Saban is the greatest coach in college football history and why Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson into a superpower. It’s why Kirby Smart is such a genius and why Urban Meyer got a three-game suspension instead of being fired in the Zach Smith scandal.
Culture, to me, is the vibe that players rock to on a daily basis in a college football program. Is that vibe a winning hum or a tone of negativity? That’s the difference between a culture of winning and losing.
Why am I going on and on about this? Because as I watch teams like Nebraska, Tennessee, Florida State, UCLA and others try to change the culture of their football teams under new and talented coaches, I become more and more impressed with Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia and others. The challenge is great, as we can see at especially Nebraska and UCLA early on. To build a winning culture you need to find older players who are will buy into winning, lead your team and teach the younger players how to carry on that tradition.
Unfortunately at many programs with a coaching change, the culture has already been established and must be broken, so finding those leaders is not easy. Often times you have to turn to younger players to become your leaders before they are ready and it takes years for them to mature and teach those that come behind them. This is why turning around programs is so difficult.
And what do you do with the older players who are used to losing? What about the players that seem to give up, as we saw when Nebraska lost to Michigan and Tennessee lost to Florida? Do you bench them? Cut them? Are they infecting your younger players with their negativity and lack of fight?
So as you criticize Scott Frost, Jeremy Pruitt, Chip Kelly, Willie Taggart and others, just remember how difficult their job is. They each inherited teams from coaches who were horrible leaders and never built a true culture of success and winning (or in Florida State’s case, a coach who just gave up on the program) and it will take time to turn things around. In the meantime, marvel at the job that Saban, Swinney, Meyer and Smart have done at their respective programs because it isn’t easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things you can accomplish at the college football level.
2. Watch for the flames
A new weekly staple for you, five burning questions. Be careful and don’t get too close to your screen, these are scorching hot.
1. Is Michigan a national title contender? I'm in the minority, but it is close. The loss to Notre Dame exposed some weaknesses, but since then it has responded well. The key will be the stretch when it plays Wisconsin, at Michigan State and Penn State. If it can win those games, the Ohio State game will be huge and the winner could be a playoff team.
Shea Patterson is playing better, the offensive line is coming together and the defense is as stout as any in the country, so Michigan has a chance. The Big Ten East isn’t as strong as I once feared, so keep an eye out on the Wolverines as a sleeper for the playoff.
2. Is Kentucky a threat to Georgia in the SEC East? Not a real threat, no. Yes, Kentucky is playing very well and are one of the more surprising undefeated teams in the country (see below), but do we really think they can run the table and beat Georgia? We don’t. Or at least I don’t. In fact, Georgia will crush Kentucky.
3. Can Virginia Tech rebound after loss to ODU? The Hokies are still undefeated in conference and have the ACC Coastal to worry about, but such a bad loss can really damage the psyche of a team. Miami is the big threat here, but they could stumble against Duke this weekend if they aren’t careful. This loss and the loss of Josh Jackson dooms their hopes of winning their division, there were just too many weaknesses exposed.
4. Should Sooners fans be concerned? Nope. Army is a tough team to prepare for, we all know that. And Oklahoma was clearly not up for the game. The Big 12 is tough, tougher than many people think, so it’s not set in stone that Oklahoma will run the table, but I’m not worried about this near loss. In fact, it might be a motivating factor moving forward.
5. Who will turn it around first, Tennessee or Nebraska? How’s this for a question. My best guess is Tennessee, because they appear to be closer to being competitive than Nebraska who just looks awful, but both teams appear to be far, far away. The fan bases have been waiting for so long for a return to glory and it might be many more years before that happens for either.
3. Seven surprising unbeatens
There are 21 undefeated football teams after four weeks of the football season, but not all are created equally. Here are seven that are just downright surprising at this stage…
1. Syracuse – How about the Orange? The offense is fun to watch, it dominated Florida State to the surprise of many and now try to play spoiler in the ACC. Not many would have predicted this before the season.
6. Colorado – Wasn’t this supposed to be a down year for Colorado and wasn’t Mike MacIntyre supposed to be on the hot seat?