There are two types of narrative that often emerge early in the year which later prove to be totally false as the acid test of conference play separates truth from fiction. One is confirmation bias, where teams that were assumed to be good make it through the early portion of their schedule without a defeat that would shine bright flaws that conference play will later reveal. TCU may be 3-0, but anyone watching closely would be hesitant to rank them as the no. 3 team in the country.
Another is when a team flashes unexpected brilliance that leads to excited narratives that the team can't actually live up to. It takes some very careful observation and discernment to suss out which early trends and narratives will hold up and which will not, but here's an attempt to address some of the most prominent story lines and which are likely to stand the test of time.
Unlikely to be true
The Big 12 is going to get into the playoff this year
The Big 12 has seven undefeated teams and two of them achieved road victories against SEC opponents while the preseason favorites Baylor and TCU have been trucking along and keeping hope alive for a Big 12 appearance in the 2nd college football playoff.
However, the early season has already revealed a picture of major flaws within each team that is going to make an undefeated season exceptionally unlikely and a one-loss season a pretty tough outcome as well.
Let's start with the Horned Frogs, who entered the season having to replace six very good starters from 2014's top 10 defense and are now facing a crises as the remaining defensive personnel endures loss after loss. The biggest one might have been cornerback Ranthony Texada, the Frogs' field corner and sole returning starter outside. If TCU can't aggressively deploy their safeties in the middle of the field their entire system begins to unravel very quickly and doing so will be very difficult without Texada.
The Frogs have also lost many of their replacements inside with linebackers Sammy Douglas and Mike Freeze out while their weak safety (something of a misnomer given how much of a role in run support this position plays) Kenny Iloka is also out for the year.
The Frogs are currently ranked 43rd in defensive S&P, are still scrambling to replace their losses on defense, and now face a surging Texas Tech team followed by a Texas offense that will test the discipline of their new players with dual-threat QB Jerrod Heard.
Next up, the Baylor Bears. Art Briles' team had two main concerns heading into the season which were whether Seth Russell would prove to be as careful with the football as previous Bear QBs and if the defense could fit some promising young personnel together and attack people in 2015.
Russell had a concerning game against Lamar in which he threw three interceptions and Baylor has yet to put together a great defensive effort due to the absences of veterans Shawn Oakman and Orion Stewart in week one followed by an injury that kept Taylor Young out in week two.
There's hope that Baylor's defense will prove much better than their current ranking of 98th in defensive S&P but they don't look strong enough to overcome the inevitable road troubles the offense will have as Russell endures growing pains. Road games at Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and TCU stand out as potential playoff-busters for the Bears.
The rest of the Big 12 has rather obvious fatal flaws. The Oklahoma Sooners can't run the football anywhere close to as effectively as they did in 2014 and their secondary play is still suspect in a league where bad pass defense is the worst crime. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have shown great promise but neither team have done much to suggest they are juggernauts that can dominate the league and enter the playoff.
Ole Miss is the best team in the country
After beating the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, the Rebels are flying high and had 11 first place votes in the last AP top 25. The problem though is the same one as last year, Ole Miss struggles to run the football.
The win over Alabama was impressive, but winning on the road is made simpler when you have a +5 turnover margin and four of them gift you the ball on the opponent's side of the 50 yard line. Despite this enormous advantage, as well as a touchdown pass that can really only be described as a gift from the gods, the Rebels only won by six points.
There is a lot to like about this team with their devastating WR corps, solid QB play (thus far) from Chad Kelly, and outstanding defense but it's hard to secure wins when you can't run the football. You can't count on winning close games every week in the SEC West, at some point the Rebels need to be able to just put teams away and that's difficult to do without a run game.
The Rebels are going to have a great year, and perhaps even reach the playoffs, but they are fatally flawed in a way that will prevent a national championship.
QB controversy will destroy the Ohio State Buckeyes
Struggling to beat a strong non-AQ team that was returning nine defensive starters isn't quite the near-disaster that some have made it out to be. All that needs to happen is for the Buckeyes to experience a big win where Jones or Barrett leads them to victory with a huge day and the whole matter will cease to be a major distraction.
Meanwhile, Elliott and the ground game is still intact and the defense has continued to grow with the no. 1 rank in defensive S&P thanks to Darron Lee's emergence as yet another superstar on a loaded defensive roster.
It's a long trip to the bottom for the Buckeyes and it'll require some major slip-ups for them to collapse this season. The much more likely outcome is the team rallying around one QB or the other.
Likely to be true
Notre Dame will be a playoff contender
Plugging in a 3rd string QB hasn't really hurt them much in part because the Irish have a good one in that slot (DeShone Kizer) and more importantly because they have a ton of support around him. This is one of the best offensive lines in the country while Will Fuller is one of the best wide receivers in the game.
Given how far Will Fuller tends to line up from the NFL-laden OL It's hard for defenses to get numbers everywhere they are needed to avoid getting out-executed by Notre Dame's superior talent. Add in good WR blocking from the Irish and you have a very, very difficult offense to game plan for.
What's more, the Notre Dame defense is also very strong thanks to a very solid secondary with multiple veterans and another future NFL player in linebacker Jaylon Smith. With this offensive line and defensive backfield, the Irish should be able to overcome their early injury losses and put a top 10 team on the field throughout the season.
The ACC will be better than expected
Let's start with Florida State, who are turning over most of their playoff starting lineup but have plugged in one of the best RBs in the entire country with the explosive Dalvin Cook. Between Cook, Rudolph, and the other emerging Seminole skill players Jimbo Fisher has a very fast group on offense that he's working with. With all of this explosiveness, they have a much larger margin of error as they develop greater execution across the OL.
Meanwhile the defense has rebounded with even more young athletes and a system built around Jalen Ramsey. Even with Boston College taking their young offense to school last weekend the 'Noles defense preserved a victory with a shutout of the Golden Eagles.
Clemson is still trucking along well on defense, further lending credit to the notion that bringing Mike Stoops back to Norman and pushing Venables out was a disastrous mistake for Bob Stoops.
Georgia Tech is still a strong, dangerous team while Miami is sitting at 3-0 and may be much better than expected. This is still one of the weaker AQ conferences, but a one loss champion is going to be in stronger position to reach the playoffs than anyone would have guessed before the season.
Arkansas will continue fail to realize the preseason expectations
Beyond the problem of having begun the season at 1-2, the Hogs have had a fatal flaw exposed that could mean several more defeats as they play a schedule that includes a neutral site game with A&M this weekend as well as road trips to Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, and Tennessee.
The problem is that Arkansas simply struggles to generate explosive plays on offense. In 2014 they didn't score much as a team but they were able to run the ball all over several opponents, be efficient on 3rd down throwing to their excellent TE tandem, and play stout defense. All of this was true last year as well and the team went 7-6 on the year and 2-6 in the SEC.
You can't score many points if you can't throw the ball down the field or to explosive receivers and the Hogs aren't doing that. If you can't score points you aren't going to beat Alabama, Ole Miss, or Texas A&M and you are looking at a 50-50 shot of out-dueling teams like LSU or Tennessee in a low-scoring slugfest.
Until the Hogs find a deep threat at WR or someone like Dalvin Cook at RB they are not going to get the most out of having good, pro-style personnel along the OL and at TE.
Every college football season always brings big surprises, a closer look at what's happened in 2015 so far says there are a few more this year bubbling under the surface.