What I think, know and believe about the college football world, KJ Costello, the Mississippi State offense, and the sample size needed for the College Football Playoff, all in the latest Cavalcade of Whimsy.


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Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault …

Like LSU, at least it leads the nation in run defense.

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It’s almost as if the Pac-12 plays its game after dark, or something

First question I’ve been asked on every appearance over the last 48 hours: “Can you believe what Mississippi State did to LSU?”

Uhhh, yeah.

America, have you really not seen the Mike Leach offense before?

Of course the 623 yards and five touchdowns put up by KJ Costello in Mississippi State’s stunning 44-34 win at LSU were amazing, but this is what Leach’s teams do.

They put up ungodly numbers.

They take a slew of unnecessary chances when they’re up big in the second half, making games far more interesting than they need to be.

They sort of play defense – but not really – on the way to a 4th-to-6th place conference finish and, God willing, a mid-tier bowl game.

And they play a wacky-fun brand of college football.

But this all seems foreign to a whole lot of SEC fans, as if what happened on Saturday against LSU came from out of nowhere.

Of course it was incredible. Of course Mississippi State fans should be jacked. Of course the win is a big freaking deal. However, LSU really was missing an entire NFL team full of players from last year, including CB Derek Stingley Jr. – possibly the best college football player in America not named Trevor – who only makes all the difference in the world if he wasn’t out sick with non-COVID related issues.

But none of that really matters, especially this year.

How great was that Mississippi State performance? It’s been one of the rock-steady absolutes so far in 2020 is that almost all teams are really, really off to start the season. Without a regular spring practice and with the summer sessions screwed up, almost no one has the timing down.

The timing seemed just super for a Leach offense that’s all about quick reads and precision.

But again, college football, have you not seen this thing before? LSU fans should know the numbers better than anyone else.

Who led the nation in passing last year? Nope – it wasn’t Joe Burrow. It was Washington State’s Anthony Gordon, and he led by a mile averaging a ridiculous 51 more yards per game than Burrow.

Wazzu led the nation in passing in 2019. It led the nation in passing in 2018. Wazzu’s passing game was a disaster in 2017 – it finished second. It totally bottomed out in 2016 – it finished third.

It led the nation in passing in 2015, and 2014, and was fourth in 2013 …

This is what Mike Leach teams do.

The 623 passing yards were crazy – it’s not like this was Oregon State the Bulldogs were facing – but throwing it around the yard 60 times and putting up video game numbers is a day at the office.

And now this experiment gets interesting. As a head coach, Leach has never had the players to work with like he has at Mississippi State.

That doesn’t excuse that he has never taken a team to a conference championship game, much less win one – if you can get to a Power Five championship at Northwestern, or Baylor, or Wake Forest, or Duke … – but now he has the lines, and he has the talent to fit the system.

As if you needed more reasons to watch SEC football …

Oh yes, this will be fun.

Seriously, just how good is Stanford QB Davis Mills?

America, have you really not seen KJ Costello play? My guess is yes.

A little inside baseball stuff here – Stanford being awesome equals pageview and site traffic death.

Over the last two-plus decades, CFN has always covered the Pac-10/Pac-12 with the same sort of analysis and effort of any of the other top conferences, but unless USC is USC, you can actually hear people ignoring the site whenever anything about the league is posted.

Triple that whenever anything is put up about Stanford, even when Andrew Luck was busy being the greatest pro prospect quarterback since John Elway, so it’s not a shocker that Costello needed this LSU game to become a college football name in the SEC world.

Costello was a massive recruit for Stanford in 2016. Jacob Eason was the biggest star quarterback prospect in the class, but Costello wasn’t far behind.

There’s no questioning his size, his arm, his composure, his personality, or his smarts – the guy graduated from Stanford – but he got banged up early last year and wasn’t quite able to come back to form when he was able to go.

Now he’s healthy, and now he’s about to be 2020’s college football big thing.

In 2018 he bombed away for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns, torched Leach’s Washington State team for 323 yards and four touchdowns in a wild 41-38 loss, and appeared to be ready to be on the verge of stardom before getting hurt.

Now, he’s the exact right quarterback in the exact right system at the exact right time. No, he’s not Trevor Lawrence, but he might just be the No. 2 quarterback off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft if he can stay healthy and keep this going.

Welcome to college football’s newest superstar, and if he can do that again against Alabama and in wins on a few more national stages, welcome to the lead dog in the 2020 Heisman Trophy race.

Welcome to the KJ Costello, Mississippi State show.

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