You’re only as good as your next game in college football.
The old adage isn’t wrong, your “last game” is important but not as a measure of quality but rather as a predictor of the next game. This is especially true for the college game with younger players who are prone to emotional swings.
As a general rule, when a team plays great, it’s difficult to repeat the same effort the next week. Conversely, when a team plays poorly, it’s eager to get back on the field and show it’s better than that.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Virginia Tech or Southern California.
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Last week, Virginia Tech went to Ohio State and knocked off the Buckeyes, 35-21. Suddenly, Virginia Tech was “back.” The Hokies shot up the top 25 (to No. 17) and spent the week being told how good they are. It was impossible to duplicate their emotional effort against East Carolina, which jumped out to a 21-0 lead and eventually beat the Hokies on the road, 28-21.
Last week, USC out-slugged Pac-12 champion Stanford in a 13-10 win on the road. Suddenly, USC was “back.” The Trojans shot up the top 25 (to No. 9) spent their week being told how good they are. Then USC traveled to Boston College, a middle-of-the-pack ACC team, and got trampled by the Eagles’ ground game in a 37-31 upset.
Meanwhile, both Ohio State (66-0 over Kent State) and Stanford (35-0 over Army) rebounded with easy wins, albeit against inferior opponents.
The trick for college coaches is to somehow coax a consistent effort out of its players. It's easier said than done because off games happen for almost every team. That's why scheduling is so important. The SEC has mastered this, especially Alabama, which almost never plays its most difficult games in consecutive weeks.
Boston College should benefit from friendly scheduling this week. The Eagles get Maine at home. Even if they come out flat, their talent advantage is such that they should still win by three touchdowns.
On the other hand, ECU – which played at South Carolina before going to Virginia Tech – gets no such break. The Pirates will face a North Carolina team that both played poorly in its previous game (a win over San Diego State) and is coming off a bye.
USC probably wishes it could re-order its schedule. The Trojans get a week off and then go back to Pac-12 play with Oregon State on Sept. 27.