College football focus: Power programs getting burned in ‘easy’ games | College Sports

They’re called guarantee games, which can be interpreted two ways.

Big-time football programs agree to give their little brothers a guaranteed payout to go on the road to play a game. And the big-time program is supposed to be guaranteed a win.

It’s not working out that way in 2017.

Louisiana State paid Troy $985,000 to visit Baton Rouge on Saturday. The visitor then handed the Tigers a 24-21 loss on their home field. And it was homecoming.

Just to make sure that all of LSU nation understood the situation, the official Troy University twitter account delivered this message in the wake of the program’s win: “Hey, @LSU, thanks for having us down for homecoming! We really enjoyed it!”

It’s not the first time a school has written a hefty check only to lose a game this season. According to Darren Rovell of ESPN, Syracuse paid Middle Tennessee State $950,000 and lost, Rutgers paid Eastern Michigan $860,000 and lost and Nebraska paid Northern Illinois $820,000 and lost.

“We’ve been playing for a long time,” Troy coach Neal Brown said. “We’ve won three national championships; we’ve played against the who’s who of college football over the last 15 years and had some wins at our place. We had one quality win at Mississippi State, but we’ve been knocking on the door for a long time.”

Depending on when the contract was signed, this probably seemed like a pretty sure thing for LSU. Troy was 4-8 as recently as 2015 and lost lopsided games against North Carolina State, Wisconsin and Mississippi State that season.

However, the program has seen an upturn under coach Neal Brown, who is in his third season. He started during that 4-8 campaign and then led Troy to a 10-3 season in 2016, when it lost 30-24 at Clemson. That might have been the first sign that LSU needed to be ready.

The Trojans ended up tied for the biggest turnaround in the country as they went from four wins to 10 in 2016. They earned a one-week appearance in the rankings at No. 25 and won the Dollar General Bowl.

None of that makes Saturday’s loss any easier to swallow at LSU, where coach Ed Orgeron is under increasing pressure.

“We gotta fight hard, man,” he said. “I’ve got to be a leader. I’ve got to do my best job ever, right now.”

Running roughshod

There are a lot of statistical gems that have emreged from Bryce Love’s first five games. Who’s that, you ask? The Stanford junior running back who already has surpassed 1,000 yards, pushing himself into the early Heisman Trophy conversation.

Consider that Love’s nation-leaading rushing total is is 265 yards ahead of his closest competitor in the same amount of games. He is averaging 11.1 yards a carry. He has touchdown runs of 75, 51, 53, 69, 61 and 59 yards. He has amassed his yardage against some decent competition, including No. 14 USC, No. 19 San Diego State and UCLA.

Over the weekend, he broke Stanford’s single-game rushing record, previously held by Christian McCaffrey, by running for 301 yards. He is averaging 217.6 a game

“So, the opening statement is Bryce Love. And the answer to every question is Bryce Love,” coach David Shaw said after the Cardinal beat Arizona State. “Never seen anything like that. Ever. It was unbelievable.”

Who’s No. 1?

Alabama continued to claim a majority of the first-place votes in the rankings this week. But it seems that the more people compare the Crimson Tide’s schedule with Clemson’s that the defending national champ garners more support for the top spot in the Associated Press top 25.

After beating Virginia Tech, Clemson cut into Alabama’s lead by collecting nine more first-place votes than the previous week. Why the extra support?

Clemson has wins over No. 12 Auburn, No. 16 Virginia Tech and No. 17 Louisville. The latter two wins came on the road. Alabama’s biggest win thus far came against Florida State, which was No. 3 at the time but has since fallen from the rankings. The Crimson Tide has one road win. But they have destroyed every opponent, winning by an average of 37.6 points.

It could be that we are headed for a third consecutive Alabama-Clemson matchup for the national championship.

Depth at quarterback

Maryland was not supposed to do a whole lot this season, and it remains to be seen how far the Terrapins will go. They were picked to finish sixth out of seven teams in the Big Ten’s East Division. For the time being, Maryland is 1-0 with a claim to first place.

What is impressive about the team’s overall 3-1 start is that coach D.J. Durkin used his third starting quarterback Saturday and still managed to pull out a 31-24 win at Minnesota. Max Bortenschlager, at one time third on the depth chart, led a game-winning drive in the closing minutes.

He had replaced Kasim Hill, who was the starter when the Terrapins beat Towson. He suffered a torn ACL last week against Central Florida. Hill had replaced Tyrrell Pigrome, who led a season-opening victory over Texas before suffering an ACL tear.

“It’s part of the game, unfortunately,” Durkin said. “When it happens at the same position, that makes things a little tougher. But it’s part of life and a great way to learn.”