Sports

Why Eshaan’s Week 3 Rankings make no sense and prove he's a fraud who doesn’t watch football

Last week, Eshaan Joshi — my colleague, our sports editor, and officially my boss — made a complete fool of himself in front of the entire Tartan readership.

Let me explain. Before games were played last Saturday, we each agreed to rank what are, in our minds, the top 10 teams in the country. Of course, reasonable people can disagree about the finer points of the rankings. Whether Washington should have been above Notre Dame, for instance, is up for debate — I think they should have, as no team in the country had been quite as dominant against good competition as the Huskies, but it’s not conclusive. But Eshaan made two critical errors that defy logic, reason, and common sense.

First, he gave Texas the number one spot. The Texas Longhorns. He eloquently justified it as follows: “TEXAS IS MOTHA FUCKIN BACK Y’ALL!?” And second, he left the Penn State Nittany Lions out of the top ten, disagreeing with 62 out of the 63 voters on the AP poll, yours truly, and more importantly, the product we’ve seen on the field.

Let’s talk about Texas first, and we can get the elephant in the room out of the way early. Yes, the Longhorns beat Alabama, 34-24, along with football powerhouses Rice and Wyoming. And yes, Georgia hasn’t really played anyone all season. Their only game against a decent team was at South Carolina, and, to put it mildly, they struggled, putting up just 24 points and letting the Gamecocks keep it close until the half. I know all that.

But let’s not lose sight of the reasons that Georgia was a consensus #1 at the start of the season. The Bulldogs, coming off two national championships in a row, boast the nation’s best roster by a mile. The depth chart is staggering, and most of the roster from last year’s national championship team is very much intact. Carson Beck, the team’s young quarterback, backed up Stetson Bennett last year, and appeared in five games, topping a 200 quarterback rating in three of them while completing 74% of his passes. This year, as a starter, he’s down to a measly, pitiful 73%. (The average is around 60% across all of college football.)

Playing against weak competition, Georgia did the job each of the first two weeks — and then, for the first time since last year’s national semifinal, the Bulldogs blinked, falling behind 14-3 at the half and going into the locker room knowing there was a real risk of losing the game. South Carolina was playing like, well, a good team.

But you know what separates the good from the great?

Because, clearly, Eshaan doesn’t.

A good team digs deep when they’ve got the momentum. They take advantage of opportunities, and they win a lot of football games. They let the roar of a hundred thousand fans fuel them. They take what they’ve got, and sometimes, they turn it into something incredible. They have fun, and once in a while they make magic happen.

But a great team? A great team digs deep, even when the momentum of the game, the score on the board, and the dreams of an entire country are against them. They tune out the crowd, the sportswriters, the score, everyone but them and the eleven men lined up opposite them. When they’re in a rut, they find a way to grind it out anyway, do what they need to do to get off the field and go home with a win.

On Saturday, South Carolina, for the first half, with the wind at their backs, was a good team. Georgia, for the first time all year, wasn’t. But in the second half, the Bulldogs were great. I’m not saying the ugly result in Columbia was a good sign for Georgia, or that I’d rather see that, if I’m a Georgia fan, than a clean, 41-10 win. But we got to see what’s in Georgia’s tank. And it’s a burning fire.

Now, Texas. The Longhorns marched into Tuscaloosa and stunned Alabama, the first team to beat the Crimson Tide at home since LSU did it in November of 2019. And you better believe, they looked good doing it. Quarterback Quinn Ewers, a transfer from Ohio State, threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns.

But two things.

One, the defense just looked downright bad. They allowed Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe (who has been among Alabama’s bright spots this season) to throw two touchdown passes, and two others, which were called back by fortunate flags. They defended the run well, but against Milroe’s specialty, the deep ball, they were defenseless. The secondary completely fell apart, and on several of Milroe’s throws, there was no Texas defender in the area. They were only bailed out by a couple of flags, and the fact that Alabama’s pass defense was infinitely worse for nearly the entire game. Receivers who ran mediocre routes found themselves wide open time after time after time, and all Ewers had to do was aim the ball vaguely at the right part of the field. Yes, Texas was the better team against Alabama. But this team needs to win a lot more football games to make it into the College Football Playoff, and they won’t win too many with a defense like that.

And two, beating Alabama isn’t the same thing it once was. Sportswriters covering the Crimson Tide have given Nick Saban deference in the AP poll for as long as I can remember, but the reality is that last year, and even more this year, the Tide are among the mid-tier of SEC heavyweights. They no longer strike fear into the hearts of opponents, and they’ve gone from immortal to beatable. The Crimson Tide look like a team defeated, not just by Texas, but by life. The week after losing to Texas, they beat South Florida, 17-3, in a game where it looked like they weren’t even trying. The offensive line allowed South Florida’s front four through like they were French border guards in 1940. The quarterbacks went 10-for-23, racking up barely a hundred yards; they put it on the ground 42 times, averaging under five yards per carry. Against South Florida.

So yeah, Texas beat them. Big deal. Until Georgia stumbles, or someone makes a huge statement, the Bulldogs should be #1.

And now, Penn State.

Aside from the top, Eshaan and I mostly agreed on our rankings. He had Florida State a bit higher than I did — the Noles are a wild card, so I can’t fault him for that. We agreed that USC was the class of the Pac-12, with Washington and Oregon hot on their heels. We both had Notre Dame, who look like they’re in for a fantastic season. And, of course, we both had the big three teams in the Big Ten East, the ones that look primed to terrify college football all season long in the most hellish division in the sport.

Oh, what’s that? He didn’t have them all in the top ten?

Ohio State has a five-star quarterback, has put up 121 points, and allowed just twenty. The core of the roster from last year, where they were a missed field goal from a date with TCU for the national championship, remains intact. They have one of the best deep-ball units in the game. I put them at #6. Eshaan thinks they’re in, right?

I’m hearing he had them at #5. So far, so good.

Michigan has one of the best running backs in the country, a five-star quarterback, and has outscored opponents 96-16… they’re in there, right?

I have them at #2, and a case could be made that that’s too high. He’s got them at #4. That seems perfectly reasonable.

And Penn State, with a five-star quarterback, a 131-35 scoring margin, the best running back duo in the country, and a newly revamped, stellar offensive line — they’re in, too, I assume?

I had them at #7, which might actually be a little low. Eshaan had them at… where are they? Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, I’m not seeing them in there? Was there a typo?

No, I’m hearing he did that on purpose. Huh?

Let’s unpack that for a second. In Week 1, Penn State dominated West Virginia, putting up 38 points and cutting through the West Virginia defense — a group, by the way, that allowed just six points to Pitt last week — like it was melted butter. In Week 2, against an admittedly terrible Delaware team, the Nittany Lions did about as good as you can do, hanging 63 on the Blue Hens (sidenote: Delaware, get a better name, you’re embarrassing yourselves), while the defense held Delaware to just five first downs on the entire day. And in Week 3, Penn State traveled to Champaign, to play a very respectable Illinois team in quarterback Drew Allar’s first ever road start. Illinois kept it close for a quarter or so, but Penn State had a lot in the tank — a nationally-competitive amount in the tank — and outlasted the Fighting Illini (again, get a better name) to win by three scores.

And who is in the top 10, in place of the Nittany Lions? Well, Eshaan thinks it’s the Utah Utes. They have one impressive win, over Florida; since then, they’ve won a squeaker against Baylor and failed to run it up against Weber State. Remind me what happened last time Penn State played Utah? I’m hearing Penn State whipped Utah in the Rose Bowl.

Eshaan Joshi, you, all five feet and 97 pounds of you, are an idiot. But what you don’t realize is that you are also, unfortunately, stuck. While you can fix your Penn State mistake later, by putting them in the #5 or #6 slot after a big win, you forgot that Texas is in the Big 12, a conference that seems to feature one decent team every year, and as a result, they’ll barely be challenged until the playoffs. The best teams on their docket are Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and TCU. Baylor, who I guess Eshaan thinks is great because they ran Utah close, and he doesn’t realize Utah is trash. Kansas, who’s fine. Oklahoma, the only one of the bunch to be ranked. Kansas State, who sucked last year but were somehow the winners of this pathetic conference. And TCU, far and away the best team in the Big 12 last year, on course for the natty — until, that is, they lost 65-7 to Georgia, more or less the same Georgia that’s taking the field this year. Because they are the best team in the country (cough, cough) and that’s what the best team in the country does.

You, Eshaan Joshi, may well be screwed. Texas might not lose. They could win out against thoroughly mediocre competition, and if they do, you — who pushed them above everyone else to the #1 spot this early in the year — will have no choice but to keep them there. You’ll be stuck, not able to drop them if they play well but not at a national championship caliber. As it becomes clear that Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, and who knows who else are for real, atop your poll will sit the silly little Texas Longhorns, all courtesy of a nice game they played back in Week 2.

You will be sitting on your couch, every Saturday until the end of the season, wishing, hoping, nay, fervently praying that someone will whip the Longhorns and give you an excuse to drop them down to where they belong. And you have brought this upon yourself. Much like the little boy who gets too excited over a loose piece of candy and gets his hand stuck in the vending machine, you will soon be filled with regret, waiting for someone, anyone, to come rescue you.

My fervent hope is that nobody does. May Texas will go undefeated. I pray that you will be hung out to dry, forced into writing an article at the end of the season about why Texas deserves the #1 spot, while the rest of the Tartan’s seven-strong readership sits back and snickers. And maybe next season, you’ll know better than to make a fool of yourself.

Author’s note: Eshaan Joshi is a lovely individual who lets me write insane articles in the sports pages of this fine publication, and for that, I owe him a debt of gratitude. This is merely my friendly way of poking fun at the fact that he’s a bonehead and should stick to baseball in the future.

Second author’s note: This piece is brought to you thanks to a wonderful first-year named Merlin, who courteously provided the sustenance needed to fuel my slander of our equally wonderful sports editor. Many thanks… See y’all next week!