September surprises: Biggest shocks from 1st month of 2022 season
The first month of the college football season has come and gone. Once again, Georgia, Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, and Michigan look like the five best teams in the country.
While that's becoming an almost annual occurrence, there are plenty of unexpected developments to follow from the first four weeks of action in 2022.
Here are five surprising stories from the kickoff to the season.
Perfect start for basketball bluebloods
If someone were to mention Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, and Syracuse, you'd immediately think it was one helluva Final Four. Those traditional basketball powerhouses haven't had the same incredible run on the gridiron over the years as they've had on the hardwood. But that appears to be changing in 2022 as all four schools hold perfect 4-0 records after the season's first month.
The success of Kentucky and UCLA hasn't come as the biggest shock, with both programs trending upward in recent years. Mark Stoops already scored a massive win on the season, taking the Wildcats to Florida and beating the Gators for the second straight campaign. Kentucky has now won three of the last five games in the series after Florida had captured 31 in a row.
UCLA has piled up 45 points in three of its four wins to start Chip Kelly's fifth season at the helm. However, the next three games will go a long way to determining whether Kelly can top the eight-win mark for the first time in Los Angeles. The Bruins face three top-15 opponents in a row, including Washington, Utah, and Oregon.
The most shocking school on this list is undoubtedly Kansas. The Jayhawks have become a punchline in Big 12 football, having failed to notch at least four wins in an entire season since 2009. The calendar has yet to flip to October and Kansas has already hit that mark. Lance Leipold has a star at quarterback in Jalon Daniels, with the junior standout leading one of the nation's top offensive units.
Finally, Dino Babers and Syracuse have things rolling in New York State. It's easy to point to the Orange's offense, but the defense is largely the reason for their turnaround from an 11-24 record the past three seasons. Syracuse currently sits second in the ACC in scoring defense after falling to sixth and 11th the past two years.
App State's 1st month
No school has gone through a wilder month than Appalachian State, which seems hell-bent on never playing another normal football game again. The team's shocking Week 2 road win as 17.5-point underdogs at Texas A&M somehow looks like the most straightforward result so far.
Week 1: Scored 40 points in the fourth quarter ... and still lost to North Carolina
Week 2: Beat Texas A&M on the road as 17.5-point underdogs
Week 3: Won on a Hail Mary vs. Troy with ESPN GameDay in Boone, North Carolina
Week 4: Blew a 25-point lead and lost to James Madison
The Mountaineers' win over the Aggies forced ESPN to change its plans and send its Saturday morning staple, College GameDay, to Boone for the first time ever. With the candle lit for a party in the mountains, Appalachian State saved the wildest moment in its contest with Troy for the end.
The Mountaineers lost their next contest to end the month at .500. Even the defeat came with high drama, as Appalachian State blew a 25-point lead to fall short. Through one month of the season, there's no doubt that win or lose, the Mountaineers are must-watch entertainment.
Big Ten West
Since going the division route, the Big Ten has been as lopsided as any conference in the country. The loaded East Division - filled with perennial powerhouses such as Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State - has produced the winner of the conference for the last eight years. However, even with that context, the West's early-season performance this year has been shockingly poor.
First, let's get it out of the way: Minnesota is the exception. P.J. Fleck and the Golden Gophers have posted a perfect 4-0 mark in dominant fashion. They're the lone unbeaten team left in the West, with Iowa and Illinois the only other programs sitting above .500.
But those two teams aren't without their warts, particularly the Hawkeyes and their annual malaise of an offense. After winning the opener 7-3 without scoring a touchdown - that's two safeties and a field goal for those scoring at home - Iowa has totaled just five offensive touchdowns through 240 minutes of gameplay. That's two fewer than Ohio State scored last week against Wisconsin.
Purdue sits at a respectable 2-2, with a pair of narrow losses to Penn State and Syracuse. But late errors in the contest against the Orange cost the Boilermakers the win, which could make it tricky for them to qualify for a bowl game.
It gets worse as you go down the standings, with Northwestern sitting at 1-3 on a schedule that features back-to-back home losses to FCS program Southern Illinois and the MAC's Miami (Ohio).
Its one victory this season came in Ireland against Nebraska, a team with a brutal first month of its own. The Cornhuskers not only lost to the Wildcats, but they also fell at home to SunBelt program Georgia Southern, a setback that ultimately saw head coach Scott Frost get fired.
Even usual stalwart Wisconsin is off to a rough start with a home loss to Washington State and an absolute beatdown at the hands of Ohio State.
Tyler Van Dyke's numbers
Tyler Van Dyke was arguably the country's hottest quarterback down the closing stretch of the 2021 season. The talented passer led Miami to a 5-1 record in the final six games with 20 touchdowns against just three interceptions. That performance made him a darling of virtually every analyst's early 2023 NFL mock drafts. Dane Brugler of The Athletic had him seventh overall, ESPN's Todd McShay slotted him in at ninth, while our own version put him at the end of the first round at No. 26.
Through four games of the 2022 campaign, it's safe to say Miami's offseason overhaul hasn't been kind to Van Dyke. New head coach Mario Cristobal replacing departed offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee with Michigan assistant Josh Gattis hasn't gone well for the passing attack. Van Dyke is averaging just 202 yards per game through the air with only four total touchdowns versus three interceptions.
It got so bad for Van Dyke that Cristobal opted to bench him during the second half of last weekend's embarrassing home loss to Middle Tennessee State.
The explosive offense we expected Lincoln Riley to bring to USC with his plethora of high-profile transfers has materialized through four games, but it's the opportunistic defense that's turning heads in Los Angeles.
The Trojans lead the country with an outrageous 11 interceptions and 14 total turnovers. Just as impressive is the fact that Riley's offense has yet to turn the ball over, meaning USC's turnover margin this season is a whopping plus-14, five better than the next best team.
It's one thing to get turnovers, but it's another to turn those into points. This has been one of the biggest drivers of USC's perfect 4-0 start. The Trojans have flipped their turnovers into more than 60 points this season, miles ahead of the next best team in the country.
Turnovers are a largely unsustainable statistic, but the Trojans are also blessed with one of the nation's top offensive units. Should the defense's incredible production drop off, Caleb Williams and Co. are more than equipped to shoulder the load.
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