The STC Power Rankings Index College Football Top 10

This is about the very earliest in any college football season where you can legitimately start devising a set of rankings. Preseason polls are beyond nonsensical — they actually do more harm than good. We all read the polls in late August and we pay attention to the little number to the left of all the teams while we’re watching the games on TV. And we let that dictate in our minds who’s good, who’s better than who, and — ultimately — who can and can’t get into the playoff. But we’re five weeks into the season, so it’s fair to rank these teams based on what we’ve seen thus far. So here’s our first Sports Talk Center Power Rankings Index (STCPRI):

1. Oklahoma (4-0)

You could argue LSU has the best win (over Texas). You could say Clemson hasn’t lost and they’re the champs. You could say Tua is a machine and Alabama is at it again. To all that, I say Lincoln freaking Riley. He’s doing it again — Heisman trophy QB at OU. The Jalen Hurts story is incredible — and we have to believe it’s going to culminate with a reunion of sorts with Nick Saban and Alabama in the CFB Playoff. The Sooners are annihilating opponents by over 36 points per game on average. Moreover, they just pass the eye test — the offense flows, receivers are wide open, Hurts can throw and run, and teams can’t keep up.

2. Alabama(5-0)

While I like Oklahoma over ‘Bama right now, Tua gets my Heisman vote. After a seven touchdown effort on Saturday against Ole Miss, Tagavailoa has now accounted for 24 TDs on the season without a single turnover. The Tide will get tested in the tough SEC as the season goes on, including at Texas A&M this Saturday. Then, a battle with an LSU team that looks as strong as it has in a decade and the Iron Bowl at Auburn to round out the regular season.

3. LSU (4-0)

Don’t look now, but the LSU Tigers have a living, breathing quarterback in Joe Burrow. The Heisman candidate has the Baton Rouge faithful excited that 2019 might be different from past years, when the Tigers couldn’t count on a signal-caller to win them the big one. The Ohio State transfer has 17 TDs to 2 interceptions on the season and in the last three games, hasn’t thrown fewer than 373 yards. LSU has the win of the season with their week 2 shootout victory over Texas in Austin. LSU is scary this year — they aren’t predictable and they aren’t trying to slow games down. They want to throw and they can score with almost anyone.

4. Georgia(4-0)

The Bulldogs are just plugging along. Their early season schedule has been light to put it kindly. But they did handle a top-10 Notre Dame team in Athens a couple weeks ago. We’ll learn a lot about Georgia and quarterback Jake Fromm when the meat of their schedule arrives in November. They play Florida in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, travel to Auburn, and host Texas A&M.

5. Clemson (5-0)

Clemson is a perfect example of a team who benefited from preseason rankings. No one would have this team 1 or 2 in the polls through the first five weeks of play. The preseason Heisman hype surrounding sophomore QB Trevor Lawrence seems to have been premature, and as far as the eye test goes, the Tigers aren’t as impressive as the teams I have currently in front of them. And to be honest, Clemson isn’t likely to be tested until the playoff rolls around (the ACC is awful).

6. Ohio State (5-0)

After their primetime beatdown in Lincoln over the Cornhuskers, it seems everyone is ready to vault the Bucks way up the rankings. Impressive win? Yes. It was a statement. But OSU has also played the likes of Cincinnati, Miami (OH), Indiana, and Florida Atlantic, so forgive me if I’d prefer to wait for them to play a team with a pulse. As an aside, I’m not in love with Justin Fields — let’s see him in a big game against a good team. However, J.K. Dobbins ought to be getting a lot more touches. He’s a game changer at 7.1 yards per carry.

7. Texas (3-1)

Truth be told, I admit that I may be a little too enamored with the Longhorns. Maybe it’s the “Matthew McConaughy Effect”, maybe it’s Sam Ehlinger’s Heisman campaign, maybe I just want Texas to be back. In any event, Tom Herman’s group is solid and will score points. The question will be, “Can they stop anyone else from scoring points?” I’m going to recuse myself from answering that at the moment. Let me just enjoy Texas being back….for the time being. The upcoming October 12th Red River Shootout should tell us more. Until then, “Hook ’em!!”

8. Auburn (5-0)

Just as I’m a touch too high on Texas, I’m probably not giving Auburn their due. A comeback win over Oregon to open the year plus a nice win at College Station should have the Tigers looking sharp. But I can’t help but think they would have trouble keeping up with any offense ranked inside my top-7. Bo Nix is a nice story, but he’s got to be better than a 57% completion QB. The defense and running game are good enough. Can Bo Nix win a few games when called upon?

9. Wisconsin (4-0)

No team is better at what we all know they are than the Badgers. They are ground and pound and need Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor to get carries and collect yards. And if he does, Wisconsin will be in a ton of positive game scripts. Their dismantling of Michigan gives Wisconsin that bump they needed to throw them into the playoff conversation.

10. Oregon (3-1)

The loss in the final minute versus Auburn to start the year was tough — but if we have learned anything about college football, it’s that early losses can be forgotten. In addition, the Ducks should be favored in all their remaining PAC-12 games (minus maybe at U-W). If they cruise through that schedule, they can knock on the door of the top 4.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 218 (“Week 4 Six-Pack with Mike: The Lions Impressed, Buffalo’s Defense is Solid, and Atlanta Continues to Disappoint”) right here:

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College Football Power Rankings: Stop with Michigan

If you listen to my podcast, you are aware that I’m not buying the Michigan stock despite their win at East Lansing over the weekend and their good fortune of Ohio State losing at Purdue, putting the Wolverines in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten’s East Division. My eyes, however, tell me all I need to know. And what I know is that U-M is far from a top 4 team in the country.

  1. Alabama: This is an easy one. Did you think it was going to be anyone else. Oh, and give Tua the Heisman already.
  2. Clemson: The Tigers haven’t looked great in every game, but that’s ok. They’re still clearly the second best team in the land.
  3. LSU: The “other” Tigers have been very impressive this season, and Coach O’s boys have the most dominant win of the year when they rolled up last year’s National runner up, Georgia, 36-16.
  4. Georgia: Aside from the LSU loss, the Bulldogs are not worse than any team below them on this list.
  5. Texas: After LSU’s thumping of Georgia, it’s Texas’s win in the Red River Shootout over OU that is the win of the year to this point.
  6. Oklahoma: Lincoln Riley’s team hasn’t looked as unbeatable as they did in the first few weeks of the season, and then the shine really came off after the loss against rival Texas. But this offense can still do plenty of damage, and I wouldn’t bet against them in any of their remaining games.
  7. Florida: The Gators only blemish is a loss to a much-improved Kentucky team. That’s a game you need to win, though, if you plan on making the final four. But they’ll have many opportunities to make up for it, starting this weekend against UGA.
  8. Ohio State: The Buckeyes always do this it seems: a midseason night game on the road against a much lesser opponent that the Bucks lose. Embarrassing and unacceptable, but not a season killer.
  9. Notre Dame: The Irish beat Michigan and Stanford, and over the remaining weeks they’ll play a host of not-very-good schools. There’s a completely realistic road map that has Notre Dame going undefeated. And they’ll get rewarded with a trip to a National Semifinal — and that’s an example of voters just not watching the games.
  10. Michigan: I’ve said all there is to say about U-M. I’m not going to re-hash it. While I think their defense is top 3 in the nation, the team overall has a lot of improvements to make, starting with the inefficient offense. The good thing for the Wolverines is that they sit in the catbird seat and will be in the Playoff if they win the Big Ten — no matter what I say. They’re in a great spot as it stands, and if the offense starts clicking and they start imposing their will over opponents, then I’ll be eating my words. (Check out the link below to the Sports Talk Center podcast, where I give you more about why I feel this way about Michigan.)

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to Episode 88 right here:

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Should We Expect the Expected on Championship Saturday in College Football?

Championship Saturday is set in college football, and it looks like we’ll be treated to a host of very good to great games all day. But as we wait in anticipation for what we all expect will be a wild weekend — because college football is always wild — what if…..well, the most shocking thing about Saturday is that it’s not shocking at all?

Let me explain.

All the water cooler talk this week will be centered on who’s in and who’s out of the top 4 right now and who should get in if this happens and who should be in if that happens. For instance, is an unbeaten Wisconsin a guarantee playoff team? Can TCU jump into the mix if they upset Oklahoma? Is Ohio State in if they beat the Badgers, thus winning the Big 10? Does USC have any chance if they win the PAC-12 title game on Saturday? Do the Crimson Tide have a prayer?

So all these crazy, fantastic scenarios exist and the crazier the outcomes are on Saturday, the more chaos we’ll be treated to leading up to the selection show on Sunday.

But in a sport where the unexpected happens so routinely that it has become the expected, what if all the chaos we are expecting Saturday never happens. What if the unexpected, actually, doesn’t happen?

Everyone can agree, I think, that the winners of the ACC and SEC title games will be in the playoff. But then that’s where our imaginations are given free reign to run wild: Wisconsin hasn’t been that impressive this year so Ohio State should win, which will cause major debate over whether the Buckeyes deserve a spot in the playoff over a one-loss team, like Alabama; and Oklahoma beat TCU once already — it’s hard to beat a good team twice. So will TCU get in? And if they don’t, who takes OU’s spot?

See how fun that is? And that’s just a glimpse into all the debates we can be having.

But what if Wisconsin doesn’t lose to OSU? And say the Sooners roll through TCU like they did a couple weeks ago in primetime? Then what? No craziness? All the fun scenarios we played out get trashed just like that?

The most unexpected thing in college football this Championship Saturday would be if Wisconsin and Oklahoma each won.

How boring.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.

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Showdown Saturday Causes Shake Up to College Football Playoff Hopefuls

The big games we were promised Saturday came and went without a ton of suspense. Alabama was taken to the final minute against Mississippi State — and that was about all we got as far as close games. Georgia forgot to get off the bus at Auburn, Notre Dame missed the flight to Miami, Michigan State — my god — should have stayed in East Lansing, and TCU was never really in it against Oklahoma.

All that said, what we do have is a clearer picture of who’s in position to make the top-4. According to the College Football Playoff rankings, the SEC champ and the ACC champ will be in; and Oklahoma controls their own destiny. That leaves one spot for maybe an SEC “non-champion” or an unbeaten Wisconsin.

But one thing we know about college football is we know nothing about college football.

Here’s a few of my thoughts on what I see as the top 10:

1. Alabama

Close calls are not something college football fans have come to expect when watching Alabama football. But quarterback Jalen Hurts performed at his best in the clutch during the game’s final drive on Saturday night. The Tide have the nation’s best defense in yards and scoring.

2. Clemson

No team is better at sacking the QB than the Tigers’ defense. I don’t see Clemson tripping up before their December 2 meeting in the ACC Championship Game against Miami, which will put the winner in the playoff.

3. Miami

Put the Canes at 2 or 3 — it will work itself out when they meet Clemson. The win over Notre Dame was more than just a “W”. The defense opened a lot of people’s eyes; and we should start believing that this team’s defense might be just as good as conference rival Clemson’s. But this young team can’t take the next two games for granted — a noon kickoff against Virginia and then a Friday tilt in a half-empty Heinz Field against Pitt will both be easy to overlook.

4. Georgia

Ugly showing from the Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare on Saturday. Georgia’s one-dimensional offense proved to be predictable and vulnerable against a good, attacking defense determined to stop the run. A loss is one thing, but a 40-17 defeat at the hands of one of your conference rivals, when you’re supposed to be the best team in the country, is beyond disappointing. But if they win out and win the SEC title game, the loss won’t mean much as far as the playoff goes. Georgia will be there. The question is if they can’t handle Auburn, how is Georgia going to do against Alabama, if indeed it is the Tide in the SEC Championship Game?

5. Oklahoma

There is no doubting Baker Mayfield and OU’s efficient offense. But you’ve got to play some sort of defense — and I haven’t seen the Sooners do it since week 2 against Ohio State. For me, Oklahoma is no lock for the final 4 even if they end up with 1-loss and the Big 12 title — in reality, though, they committee has made it clear that they’ll be in.

6. Auburn

Well, Auburn passed task 1 of their 3-pronged strategy of crashing the playoff — beat Georgia. Up next on the To-Do List — just go ahead and beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl in two weeks. Then, of course, the Tigers would have to beat Georgia in a rematch in the SEC Championship Game. I’m not saying they can do it, but the way that defense played against the very efficient Georgia offense, I’m certainly not saying they can’t.

7. Wisconsin

Undefeated still, yet not getting much love. The win over Iowa was good for the Badgers, but it’s their first win over a team with a winning record. They’ll need to win impressively when they host Michigan this Saturday if they want to make a push for the top-4.

8. Notre Dame

ND’s playoff hopes came crashing down in Miami over the weekend in anti-climactic fashion. Just when it looked like everything was lining up for Brian Kelly’s team, the Hurricanes went and handed the Irish their worst defeat since USC beat them 49-14 in 2014. Notre Dame’s strength of schedule is still excellent so barring a stumble in the final couple weeks, the Irish will be in a New Year’s Six bowl

9. Ohio St.

A week after getting embarrassed at Iowa, Urban Meyer had his Buckeyes ready to rebound at home against Michigan State, who had everything to play for. I don’t really see a path to the playoff for OSU, but stranger things have happened. All OSU can do is win out, including the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin, and let the chips then fall where they may.

10. Penn St.

Back-to-back losses really has a way of taking a team off of everyone’s radar. I don’t even know who the Nittany Lions beat Saturday (I’m only kidding — that wasn’t meant to be a slight against Rutgers). James Franklin’s team is stuck is a bad spot — they can win out but still won’t win the division, thus leaving them out of the conference title game. To make matters worse, a New Year’s Six bowl game isn’t even a given right now based on how the conference is playing out.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.

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“Prove-It” Games Headline Week 11 in College Football

This Saturday in college football should provide a bit of clarity with regard to which playoff-hopeful teams are legitimate contenders, as we move closer and closer to the conference championships in early December. A team like Miami, who hasn’t really won very convincingly and who’s schedule hasn’t been all that overwhelming to this point, can add a major boost their their resume with a win over the third-ranked Fighting Irish. The TCU-Oklahoma winner seems all but a sure thing to be playing in the Big 12 title game — with all signs pointing to the playoffs, if the winner Saturday can indeed win the conference championship (no matter how hard I argue that the Big 12 isn’t worthy).

Hey, even Wisconsin, who has gotten shredded in the media for their uber-weak schedule, can bolster their argument with a win over 20th-ranked Iowa. And while we just take for granted that Alabama and Georgia are on an inevitable collision course to meet in a battle of unbeatens in the SEC Championship Game at Atlanta’s brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, both have formidable opponents this weekend in Mississippi State and Auburn, respectively.

Let’s check out which games this Saturday carry the most weight moving forward towards the College Football Playoff.

#3 Notre Dame at #7 Miami

The “Catholics Versus Convicts” rivalry is rekindled this Saturday night in prime time. Both teams have high hopes of being in the top-4 at season’s end. A win here makes that a very real possibility, especially for the Irish, who’d only need to worry about a slip-up at Stanford. For
Miami, they’d still need to beat Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, which is not a given by any stretch of the imagination.

You don’t want to oversimplify the winning formula for this game, but you also don’t want to overthink it. This comes down to Miami’s 66th-ranked rush defense going up against Notre Dame’s 5th-ranked rushing attack. The Irish’s Heisman-hopeful running back Josh Adams is averaging 8.7 yards per carry — that’s really really good by the way — and in the their last two big prime time tilts, Adams averaged 196.5 yards against USC and NC St. If Miami is able to contain Adams and force ND quarterback Brandon Wimbush to beat them in what should be a very hostile environment, this game could easily turn in the Hurricanes’ favor.

Turnovers could be the other determining factor in this game. Miami quarterback Malik Rozier has to do a better job of protecting the ball than he did last week against Virginia Tech. The Golden Domers are tied for 5th in the nation in turnover margin with a plus-12.

#6 TCU at #5 Oklahoma

TCU comes into this game with the conference’s top defense. The Horned Frogs have already defeated three of the top 10 offenses in the nation while holding them below their season averages for yards and points. Now, they get Heisman Trophy front-runner quarterback Baker Mayfield and the nation’s most productive offense.

In a league that does not place any emphasis on defense — look no further than last week’s 62-52 game between OU and Oklahoma State, TCU is allowing only 284 total yards and only 13.9 points per game. They are number one in rushing defense in the nation, giving up less than 70 yards per game and only four touchdowns on the ground for the year. At least someone in the conference is willing to humor us and play defense.

It’s worth noting last year when these two met, Mayfield threw for 274 yards with two touchdowns and ran for another 55 yards and two more scores. The Sooners won that shootout 52-46, the most points TCU gave up in 2016.

For all intents and purposes, this is an elimination game. The winner is by no means guaranteed a spot in the playoff, but the loser is most definitely out.

#1 Georgia at #10 Auburn

A lot of interesting storylines exist Saturday when these two SEC powers  meet on the field. First, while the Bulldogs have already clinched a berth in the SEC Championship Game on December 2, a win in Auburn on Saturday might make it difficult for them to ever fall from the top-4 this season, even if they were to lose in the title game.

Secondly, Auburn has a ton to play for. Win Saturday and beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl and the Tigers will be pitted in a rematch with this very same Georgia team on December 2 with a possible playoff berth the line.

Lastly, can true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm go into Auburn and come out with a win? The win over Notre Dame was big, but that was much earlier in the season, when expectations hadn’t yet reached their peak. This would constitute a signature victory — top 10 opponent, on the road, all the heightened national title expectations. This is big time SEC football here.

And Fromm might just be ready for the big stage. He’s the 9th most efficient QB in the country, and he has two stud running backs in the backfield with him in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who have accounted for 18 touchdowns this year while averaging a combined 185 yards per game. Georgia’s rushing attack is 8th in the nation and they have the best redzone offense — scoring at a 97% clip when inside their opponents’ 20.

Auburn’s best hope will be to force the freshman QB into making some poor decisions with the ball. However, the Tigers defense is only plus-1 in turnover margin and only 5th in the conference in defensive passing efficiency.

#25 Iowa at #6 Wisconsin

Make no mistake — this is not a great statement game for Wisconsin, but it is their ONLY statement game. We have nothing to refer to in order to critique the Badgers this season. The schedule is awful. But a win over the Hawkeyes, who actually still have a pathway to Indy, would give us something to look at. Ultimately, we probably won’t know much about the Badgers until December 2 in the Big 10 title game.

Other Notable Games

Also watch for Michigan State visiting Columbus to take on Ohio State. Granted the winner would still have an uphill battle like none other if they want to make the top-4, they will, however, be in complete control of the East Division in the Big 10 with the inside track to playing for the conference championship in Indianapolis on December 2.

And no cake walk this weekend for Alabama either. The Tide go into Davis Wade Stadium to play a #16 Mississippi State team that’s riding a 4-game winning streak, where they’ve scored no less than 34 points in each.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.

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College Football Doing What College Football Does

Anyone who tells you they know how a college football season will turn out is not being truthful. In fact, as we enter the 11th week of the 2017 season, not even the so-called experts can be trusted. College football is and has been chaos for decades. Upsets happen routinely and when the human element gets added to the mix as far as the playoff committee and the writers’ and coaches’ polls, predicting what will happen in college football is like trying to predict the next tweet from the President’s Twitter account. (Good luck.)

So after another weekend where some of the proclaimed “giants” fell to defeat, let’s look and see where the top 10 stands today:

1. Alabama (9-0)

It makes no difference to me whether you have the Tide at 1 or Georgia at 1. If all plays out how we think (and that’s dangerous proposition in this sport), then the two will settle it on the field in the SEC Championship Game in December. Until then, Alabama’s dominance is just too impressive for me to place them in any other spot.

2. Georgia (9-0)

Jake Fromm very impressive at what yea coach Kirby Smart asks him to do. It will be a lot of fun to see how he matches up with an Alabama defense. Before then though, Georgia has to deal with Auburn, who has their sights on an SEC title.

3. Notre Dame (8-1)

Every checkpoint that the Irish come to is passed with flying colors. However, this Miami game has a different feel to it — it’s later in the season, new expectations have been established, fan bases and alumni are starting to think about “what could be”. It should be a classic matchup of two teams that know what they want to do, know what they’re good at, and know what the opponent is going to try and do. ND can run the football as well as any team in the country — 5th in the nation; Miami’s defense has shut down opponents’ passing attacks all season. Can they slow Josh Adams enough to make quarterback Brandon Wimbush beat them?

4. Clemson (8-1)

When Clemson is executing, they can play with anyone and beat anyone. So putting them at 4 is only due to their little slip-up they had at Syracuse. It’s hard to envision the Tigers out of a game because their defense is tenacious. A battle against the Hurricanes is looming with the CC title on the line.

5. Miami (8-0)

A week ago I said step one for Miami was beating Virginia Tech. Check. Now, a tougher task remains — beat Notre Dame. A very good Miami defense versus the pass will be tested against an Irish offense that is fourth in efficiency inside the 20. If Miami can’t stop the run, this might be over as quickly as Notre Dame’s previous wins over USC and NC St.

6. Wisconsin (9-0)

The Badgers host Michigan in 2 weeks and that will be the only kinda sorta test that Wisconsin faces until Indy. Hard to get really excited about this team because I’m not sure any of us know what the Badgers really are.

7. TCU (8-1)

Let me get this out of the way: I don’t respect the Big 12 and I couldn’t care less if they get left out of the College Football Playoff again. That said, I do like TCU quite a bit. Here’s a team that does value defense: number 1 in the country versus the rush (69.7 yards per game) and 6th in scoring (less than 14 points per game). This Saturday night’s showdown in Norman could mean the season for TCU — a win and they should be safely in the Big 12 title game with a shot at a playoff berth.

8. Oklahoma (8-1)

The experts who put together the playoff ranking each week sure do love OU. Not me. The conference plays no defense (aside from TCU) so I have a hard time putting all this offense I see from Oklahoma in perspective. I mean, it took the Sooners 62 points to beat Oklahoma State. That doesn’t scream playoff team to me.

9. Auburn (7-2)

This Tiger team is a dangerous one. They’re lurking just under the radar, but they control their own destiny. It’s simple: beat Georgia, beat ‘Bama (and everyone else left on the schedule) and Auburn will be in the conference championship game with possible playoff implications on the line.

10. Penn State (7-2)

I know, two straight losses and the Nittany Lions are still in the top 10? The loss at Ohio State was a choke job, but they played well for nearly 3 and a half quarters. And the loss in East Lansing after a 3-hour plus weather delay isn’t the worst loss that a team could have. Yes, Washington could easily have this spot, but I’m not ready to give Penn State the boot quite yet. But make no mistake, the playoffs are not happening for James Franklin’s team this year.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.

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The Day-Before-Preview of the Initial College Football Playoff Rankings

With the first College Football Playoff Rankings due out Tuesday evening, here’s what we could expect to see — although these are not designed to be a prediction of any sort. These rankings are simply my thoughts based on what has transpired to this point in the college football season.

1. Alabama (8-0)

Nick Saban’s team looks like the total package week-in and week-out. With teams falling around them, the Tide just keeps the pedal to the floor. Doesn’t hurt when you have the top-ranked rush defense and the number 1 scoring defense in the land.

2. Georgia (8-0)

With each passing week, we get closer and closer to a #1 versus #2 battle for the SEC title in Alabama and Georgia. The Bulldogs defense has been exceptional, but their redzone offense is as efficient as it can be — 31 trips in their opponents’ 20-yard line and 31 times they’ve cashed in (25 TDs and 6 field goals).

3. Notre Dame (7-1)

No team seems better at beating ranked teams than the Irish. And they’re doing it handily. A few reasons could be their ability to run the ball and play stellar defense. Notre Dame ranks 6th in the nation in rushing while their defense is ranked in the top 10 in scoring. Turnovers are another big factor with the Golden Domers — 7th in the country in turnover differential.

4. Ohio State (7-1)

What a comeback against Penn State. You wouldn’t think much good could be said about the Buckeye defense after giving up 38 in that Big Ten showdown; but they made big stops when they needed to and corralled Saquon Barkley about as good as any team can hope to. J.T. Barrett thrust himself into the Heisman conversation with a remarkable performance.

5. Penn State (7-1)

It might be tough for Penn State (and their fans, mostly) to get over that loss to OSU. It looked like the game was in hand on a number of occasions, late. How the Nittany Lions respond will say a lot about what kind of team this is, as we inch closer to the Big Ten Championship. No rest for the weary — Michigan State is up next on the schedule. And despite their loss at Northwestern, head coach Mark Dantonio will have the Spartans relishing their role as the underdog on Saturday.

6. Clemson (7-1)

A methodical victory over Georgia Tech in primetime was just what the Tigers needed after they got tripped up 2 weeks earlier at Syracuse. While everyone talks about their offense and quarterback Kelly Bryant, it’s the Clemson defense that leads the nation in sacks.

7. Wisconsin (8-0)

We can knock Wisconsin all we like because of their weak schedule. They’re 8-0 but haven’t played a single team with a winning record. Hey, they can’t control that, I know. But it’s fair to ask how the Badgers would stack up against a formidable opponent. By the looks of the rest of their schedule, that really isn’t happening until they go to Indy for the Big Ten Championship Game against OSU or Penn St. Until then, Wisconsin just keeps playing Wisconsin football — top 10 in the country in redzone defense, second overall in time of possession, and first in 3rd down efficiency.

8. Miami (7-0)

A lot like Wisconsin, the Hurricanes will need to start beating teams with a pulse for people to start really taking them seriously. And that begins this weekend as they host Virginia Tech. If that’s not enough, the ‘Canes get the Fighting Irish in South Florida the following weekend. After those two games, Miami will either be in the top 5 or they’ll be out of the top 10 altogether. A couple of “Prove It” games upcoming.

9. Iowa State (6-2)

The Cyclones have, arguably, been the hottest team in college football over the past month with top-5 wins over Oklahoma and TCU coupled with dominating performances against Kansas and Texas Tech. It’d be easy to say ISU is just a flash in the pan and will fizzle out before December, but they play smart, efficient football — they’re the 5th least penalized team in the nation and they are 8th in turnover margin. Create turnovers and don’t shoot yourself in the foot is a classic formula for winning football games.

10. Oklahoma (7-1)

With the TCU loss, Oklahoma could catapult themselves back into playoff talk, but it won’t be easy. Baker Mayfield mans the most efficient passing offense in the country, but the Sooners will need a balanced attack to claw back into the top 4. It starts this Saturday in Stillwater with Bedlam.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.

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College Football Power Rankings #2

With one more weekend of games until the first official College Football Playoff Rankings come out, let’s play around with what the top-10 looks like right now.

1. Alabama (previously 1)

A dominating win over Tennessee last week is just par for the course for Alabama. Nick Saban has the Tide systematically destroying opponents. The gap between ‘Bama and the rest of college football looks wider than it’s ever been.

2. Penn State (previously 2)

A dominating win over Michigan served more as revenge for the 49-10 defeat in 2016 to the Wolverines — it didn’t prove much else. We know PSU is good, and a beat down of U-M doesn’t really prove too much. However, trip to the Shoe against a game Ohio State team? Now, that’s a test.

3. TCU (previously 3)

TCU is just quietly taking opponents apart so far this season. This is a team most-equipped to win the Big-12 based on their offensive firepower and their ability to play defense, especially in the secondary.

4. Georgia (previously 5)

The more Notre Dame wins, the more it strengthens Georgia’s resume — as if they need much more evidence that they’re a top team in the land. Some experts won’t believe in the Bulldogs, though, until they get to the SEC title game. They should roll Florida this weekend.

5. Notre Dame (previously 10)

If people had been sleeping on the Irish, last Saturday night’s manhandling of USC should have woken everyone up. The schedule doesn’t get easier — they host ACC-contender N.C. State this weekend. The formula is simple — keep winning, keep moving up. A one-loss ND team this year would be playoff-bound.

6. Clemson (previously 4)

The Tigers can get right back on track with a big game looming at home against Georgia Tech, who’s respectably 4-2. If QB Kelly Bryant bounces back after his concussion against Syracuse, don’t expect Clemson to miss a beat.

7. Wisconsin (previously 6)

There might not be a difficult game on Wisconsin’s schedule. Everything is lined up for the Badgers to head into Indianapolis undefeated.

8. Miami (previously 9)

The Hurricanes are the least impressive of the remaining unbeatens just because of how they win. But upcoming games against Va. Tech and Notre Dame will tell the true story of this year’s Miami squad.

9. Oklahoma (previously 7)

Nothing about OU has been too impressive since they went into Columbus and beat OSU. For them to make a run at the playoff, the Sooners need to win with authority.

10. Ohio State (previously 8)

Ohio State hasn’t beaten anyone so until they do, it’s hard to move them very far up the rankings. Bringing Penn State into the Horseshoe this weekend is a huge litmus test. How much have the Buckeyes improved from their early season home-loss to the Sooners? We’ll find out Saturday.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.

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College Football Power Rankings

The first edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings will be released on Halloween — and yes, some teams are sure to get a trick while others a treat (I couldn’t help making a lame Halloween joke). Let’s check out where some of the nation’s top teams stand as they jockey for position in that coveted top-4.

1. Alabama

With Clemson’s loss (although, it probably means little in the big picture), the Tide are the unquestioned number 1 team in the land right now. No games have been close — ho hum, Nick Saban just has the team winning. As usual. The Iron Bowl, against rival Auburn, at the end of the regular season will be one to watch as will a possible showdown with high-flying and undefeated Georgia in the SEC championship.

2. Penn St.

No one can question the offense in Happy Valley and running back Saquon Barkley might be the country’s best player. But there’s a lot still left on the schedule as the Big Ten powers start colliding. We’ll know who Penn St. really is over the next three weeks. First real test is this weekend when the Nittany Lions host Michigan and their stellar defense under the lights.

3. TCU

The Big-12 is always tough to take seriously. But TCU shut down the high-octane offense of Oklahoma State while also providing a punch on offense themselves. But it all may come down to a TCU-OU battle in the coming weeks to see if a Big-12 team can get into the playoff. The Horned Frogs look like the most well-equipped right now. Three in-conference road wins says enough.

4. Clemson

If one loss is supposed to derail Clemson’s season and national title hopes, you may want to see how last year ended for the Tigers. Injuries are a real concern, but if they win out, Dabo Sweeney’s kids will be in the playoff.

5. Georgia

For all those Alabama haters, here’s your new favorite team. The Bulldogs are playing as well as they’ve played in 15 years. A very winnable schedule ahead as they look to be a collision course with the Tide for the SEC title and perhaps the number-1 ranking going into the playoff.

6. Wisconsin

Undefeated, yes. But the Badgers haven’t beaten a team with a winning record yet and the most recent struggle against Purdue doesn’t help their cause.

7. Oklahoma

The win at the Horseshoe against the Buckeyes is the biggest win of the college football season to this point. The slip-up against Iowa State is embarrassing, but shouldn’t change the perception that OU is as talented as anyone and can play with anyone. Big games ahead against OK State and TCU will make or break the Sooners’ playoff hopes.

8. Ohio St.

Bouncing back after the home loss to Oklahoma has happened rather quietly for the Bucks. But doesn’t this often happen with OSU? Drop a game, unexpectedly, then just plug away and win while others fall around them? It’s happening again this year.

9. Miami

The Canes are living dangerously. They’ve needed all 60 minutes in each of their last two games to eek out victories.

10. Notre Dame

With the Irish’s lone loss coming to Georgia, the playoff is distinct possibility. In fact, it will be a reality if Brian Kelly can get his team to navigate a treacherous schedule that includes games against USC, Miami, Stanford, and NC State. Win those 4  (and the other ones), how can the Irish be kept out?

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.

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The College Football Teams to Watch Out for in 2017

As Labor Day weekend approaches, sports fans get to enjoy a vast array of events to wet our pallet. The U.S. Open kicks off this week; major league baseball enters the final month of the regular season; and football is so close we can touch it. While we have to wait until after Labor Day for the start of the NFL season, college football’s opening weekend will almost be complete when we fire up the grill on Monday.

And while January bowl games seem forever away, it’s never too early to start thinking about who might be standing at the end. Here’s a look at each of the Power Five’s top contenders for this year’s College Football Playoff and predictions for the National Semifinals and Championship:

ACC

Florida State

It’s not hard to recruit in Florida, and it’s really not tough if you’ve got the resume that Jimbo Fisher has built. FSU is chalk full of talent — Deondre Francois at quarterback while preseason All-Americans Tarvarus McFadden and Derwin James lead the defense in Tallahassee. Add five-star freshman running back Cam Akers and it’s hard to find holes in this team. A brutal schedule, including games against Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Miami, and Louisville, may be tough to overcome, but the talent is there to do it. If they pass these tests, no team will be more proven when January rolls around.

Miami

If Malik Rosier proves to be top quarterback in the conference, then we might be talking about the Hurricanes in December, having a shot at cracking the top 4. The defense is, without question, very good, and running back Mark Walton has All-ACC written all over him. A great ground game with that defense makes Miami very formidable. Again, a lot rests on the arm and decision-making of Rosier.

Clemson

You never want to count out a champion, and the Tigers are just that. Even so, the 2017 edition of Clemson football will look a lot different than years past. And it starts with not having DeShaun Watson.

 

Big Ten

Ohio State

There’s little doubt that the Buckeyes are (and should be) the favorites to win another Big Ten title and advance on to the playoff. They return a slew of starters on defense as well as J.T. Barrett at QB. The game at the Big House in Ann Arbor in November could punch OSU’s ticket to Indy, and ultimately, to National Semifinals.

Wisconsin

Two keys to keep in mind with the Badgers in 2017: (1) they lost 3 one-score games last year and (2) they are the beneficiaries of a very favorable schedule this year. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook is back with a stout offensive line, and the defense is well-built and returns a host of veterans, who are hungry to avenge last year’s conference championship game loss to Penn State.

Michigan

A lot of questions exist about Michigan: is Wilton Speight the guy at quarterback, can they replace all the seniors who left, can the defense return to it’s same dominating form in 2016, who will make the plays on offense? Jim Harbaugh gets paid the big money to answer those questions. But is it realistic to think the Maize and Blue are legit conference contenders right now or is 2018 their year?

Penn State

No team was hotter than PSU at the end of 2016. Everyone expects the Nittany Lions to pick up where they left off. Expectations are a funny thing, though.

 

Big 12

Oklahoma

The Sooners will enter the 2017 season without legendary head coach Bob Stoops. As strange as it will be to not see Stoops on the sidelines for OU, new head man Lincoln Riley takes over a team capable of winning immediately. The return of quarterback Baker Mayfield and his trusted offensive line might give the Sooners the edge over rival Oklahoma State for conference supremacy. But the addition of a Big-12 title game this year adds to the intrigue.

Oklahoma State

To win in the Big 12, a team needs offense — and the more, the better. Arguably, no team has more explosiveness on that side of the ball than the Cowboys. The three-headed monster of future NFL quarterback Mason Rudolph, stud wideout James Washington, and running back Justice Hill should be entertaining for fans of OSU and frightening for opposing defenses. If all goes according to plan, the Cowboys Battle in Bedlam with rival OU and then the conference title game should tell the tale of which Big 12 team has bragging rights and, more importantly, the best case for a playoff berth.

 

Pac-12

USC

Before we proclaim that Southern California is back to stake claim to the top spot in college football, let’s remember that this team got drubbed by Alabama in last season’s opener and, although they cruised most of the rest of the way, they never really looked like a playoff team. Sam Darnold is the talk of the town in SoCal and will make an NFL team very happy next May — as well as USC fans this fall; but the Trojans still have some work to do with their offensive line, if they want in the playoff conversation this year.

Washington

Chris Petersen’s team is back to prove their 2016 National Semifinal berth was not a flash in the pan. The Huskies bring back one of the nation’s best passers in Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin might be the best that the conference has to offer at the position. Don’t be at all surprised to see UW in the Pac-12 title game with another shot to make the playoff.

 

SEC

Alabama

Not sure anyone can test the Tide in the conference. Nick Saban’s team may drop a game along the way — heck, maybe two if they lose the opener to the Seminoles, but even a 2-loss Alabama squad is likely getting in the playoff. Too big, too fast, too good — at every position.

 

College Football Playoff Predictions

1. Washington (13-0)

2. Florida State (12-1)

3. Wisconsin (12-1)

4. Alabama (12-1)

5. Oklahoma State (12-1)

 

Rose Bowl

Alabama defeats Washington

Sugar Bowl

Florida State defeats Wisconsin

National Championship

Florida State defeats Alabama

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