Buy or Sell? In many ways, the questions are the answers in September

The reality of September volatility cannot be underscored enough in college football.

The Ohio State team you saw in September of 2014 was nothing close to the team you saw in December and January. The Texas A&M team you saw on opening night in 2014 was nothing close to the team witnessed in October, just a few weeks later. Teams generally change personalities from one month to another. Some specific components might remain largely the same, and moreover, really bad teams will often (though not always) stay bad over the course of a season. In those cases, month-to-month change isn’t a part of life… though teams and coaching staffs wish it was.

At this still-early stage of the season, we’ve not only seen one game, but three. More specifically, we’ve seen a number of teams taste their first true test of the big time, finally stepping out from CupcakeVille and playing opponents who would either bring out their best or expose their worst (or both, to varying degrees).

After a number of this weekend’s games, the same basic question has to be asked of many teams: Buy or sell?


Are you buying Notre Dame after its very impressive performance against Georgia Tech, forged in the face of numerous injuries and a veteran Yellow Jacket quarterback named Justin Thomas? Or, are you going to emphasize your desire to sell the Yellow Jackets, based on a stumble-over-your-shoelaces performance in which running backs and fullbacks were darting erratically in the wrong directions and didn’t seem to be sure of what they were doing? Preseason critics of the Jackets said that the losses of skill players were going to matter. On Saturday, they were right… but does this mean one should give up on Georgia Tech? Maybe this was about Notre Dame’s interior line play, which carried the day even without injured tackle Jarron Jones.

I have my own inclination here — buying Notre Dame — but maybe you think you need to sell Georgia Tech stock. At any rate, it’s a question which deserves some thought.

Are you buying Ole Miss or selling Alabama? The most attractive element of the Rebels is that they have substantial playmakers on both sides of the ball. This is not what you can call a half-a-loaf team; it’s well positioned to be able to win different kinds of games, the 35-30s on one hand and the 17-13 slobberknocker festivals on the other. (Michigan State is another team which comes to mind in this vein of thought.)

On the other hand, you might choose to sell Alabama, based on Nick Saban’s indecisiveness regarding his quarterback and his team’s extremely sloppy performance. Keep in mind that Alabama didn’t look very good in the first half of the 2014 season, but on the back end, the Crimson Tide came together. Bart Doan counseled you to not celebrate this team’s demise… because it hasn’t happened yet.

That having been said, what if this really is the year Alabama loses its footing? TSS columnist Allen Kenney hinted at the difficulty of keeping the machine rolling over the summer.

The question — should you sell Alabama? — is itself an answer, in that while the likelihood of such an occurrence is anyone’s guess, the possibility of the occurrence is real, and therefore something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

Are you buying Stanford or selling USC? David Shaw certainly coached well on Saturday, but was this more a reflection on USC being poorly coached by Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, whose future as a head coaching candidate gets worse, not better, with each year of disappointing outings such as this one against the Cardinal?

Shaw and quarterback Kevin Hogan were met with a huge chorus of “I told you so!” after their joint face-plant against Northwestern. (Speaking of the Wildcats, are you buying them or selling Duke after Saturday?) Now, the outlook seems very different on The Farm. However, USC has enough of a “Lane Kiffin Redux” vibe with “Seven-Win Sark” that one could very legitimately view Stanford’s win as the product of USC’s shortcomings more than the Cardinal’s virtues.

To a certain extent with Stanford but especially with USC, the question — buy or sell? — is an answer, in that it underscores the critical condition of the Trojans as a program. If they don’t get things solved against Arizona State this weekend, in what has very quickly become a “September survival showcase supreme,” Sark’s seat will genuinely be hot. He HAS to win that game in order to calm fears about his leadership. Shaw didn’t face nearly that level of pressure this past Saturday, but just the same, you KNOW he would have heard and endless refrain of “Harbaugh’s players! Harbaugh’s players!”, had he gotten his doors blown off by USC.

Are you buying Texas Tech or selling Arkansas? Are you doing both?

Are you buying Jim McElwain stock at Florida or selling Kentucky, or neither?

Are you buying Memphis and buying Bowling Green after that wonderful shootout between two of the few really competent offenses in college football?

Are you buying Indiana stock or selling Western Kentucky stock after what you saw on Saturday, or are you doing neither?

On and on the questions flow. On and on they go.

You don’t necessarily need an answer to any of them. The reality of merely asking the questions creates the sense of unsettledness which lies at the heart of every college football September.

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |