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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This Weekend in Football: 5 Must See Matchups on the Gridiron

It’s still tremendously early in both the NFL season and college football season. But that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying some intriguing games, beginning Friday night. It’s not too often we get treated to three games featuring top-10 teams going head-to-head. While it’s not even October yet, there promises to be major ramifications for the College Football Playoff after Saturday night. We always have lots of questions at this point in the season, and three of them should be answered this weekend: (1) who’s the team to beat in the Pac-12?; (2) is Michigan as good as their ranking? and (3) can Death Valley-bound Louisville traverse the second of three major obstacles on their schedule after demolishing Florida State a couple weeks ago?

In the pro game, it’s really too hard to say if any game this weekend will impact the playoffs — every game means the same, no matter when it’s played, I suppose. But let’s just target a couple games this weekend in the NFL that have the potential to excite and entertain us, the viewing audience.

Here’s five games that shouldn’t disappoint this weekend. Schedule your errands around these matchups.

 

7 Stanford (+3.5) at 10 Washington, Friday, 9:00pm

Seattle is host to a battle of top-10 teams for the first time since Big Red visited in 1997. The Huskies of 2016 are hoping for a better result than the 27-14 loss that the ’97 version of U-W was dealt by Tom Osborne’s Cornhuskers.

Tenth-ranked Washington enters the showdown for Pac-12 North supremacy with a defense that has been very stingy and a quarterback, who is amongst the best in the country through the first four games. The Husky defense has only allowed 14.5 points per game and leads the nation with 13 takeaways. They will, undoubtedly, face their toughest test when All-American Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey takes the field. Last year’s Heisman finalist gashed the Huskies in 2015 to the tune of 221 yards from scrimmage, including a 50-yard touchdown catch. The Cardinal won that game in dominating fashion, 31-14, but this year’s game should be much more competitive.

Washington’s sophomore quarterback Jake Browning has been the model of perfection so far this season with 14 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions. His QB efficiency places him third in the country, and he will be looking to add to his offensive output Friday night against a Stanford defense who is missing its top two cornerbacks.

The Cardinal has won a school-best 7 consecutive road games in conference so don’t expect them to be rattled when entering Friday night’s tilt under the lights in a hostile environment.

 

8 Wisconsin (+10.5) at 4 Michigan, Saturday, 3:30pm

Perhaps the biggest question all of college football wants an answer to is “how good is Michigan?”. The Wolverines have eviscerated their opening four opponents while averaging 52 points a game — the most during any four game stretch to open any season in Michigan history. And while they have risen to fourth in the country, there is still an uncertainty about who this team really is. They haven’t gone on the road, they haven’t played anyone even close to being ranked, and they have gotten exposed at times with regard to running the ball and stopping the run — just check out the Colorado game.

Saturday’s game at the Big House will definitely help us understand what kind of team head coach Jim Harbaugh has there in Ann Arbor. Wisconsin enters the game ranked 8th in the country and coming off a huge 30-6 upset win in East Lansing a week ago over the Spartans. The Badgers won that game with their defense and their ability to force turnovers. They will no doubt want to do the same this weekend. The Badger defense comes to Ann Arbor ranked 7th in scoring defense (11.8 points per game against), 12th in total defense, and 10th against the rush.

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst will do his best to grind out the win on the ground. His team is third in the country in time of possession. The Badgers game plan is simple — run and stop the run. They will need to do a better job of converting third downs, though. That is one area that the Badger offense struggles at despite their “pound the rock” philosophy. The Michigan defense ranks first in the country in third down conversion rate (stopped 44 of 50 conversion attempts). And they get a healthy Jourdan Lewis back after the All American cornerback was limited in last Saturday’s win over Penn State.

 

3 Louisville (-2) at 5 Clemson, Saturday, 8:00pm

Who would have thought when the schedule makers were finished that this game would turn out to be the most anticipated of the weekend? This battle of top-5 teams comes down to one thing: can Clemson’s defense stop Louisville’s Heisman-hopeful quarterback Lamar Jackson? Period.

Louisville has 19 rushing touchdowns and gains an average of 7.8 yards per carry — Clemson has only allowed 3 touchdowns and allows just 2.6 yards per carry. Louisville’s passing game is just as potent — 15 passing touchdowns through 4 games. In turn, Clemson’s pass defense is equally as strong — just allowing 2 scores and leading the ACC with 7 interceptions.

What these two teams each do best will be pitted against each other, face-to-face, on the field Saturday night. Louisville’s high-octane offense, led by a quarterback who can reach 100 yards rushing easily in one half, going against a Clemson defense that can force mistakes and turnovers and has a defensive front 4 that makes some NFL teams jealous.

If Clemson is to win, they will do so on the back of their defense, but quarterback Deshaun Watson will need to summons some of his 2015 magic. The preseason Heisman favorite has failed to rush for more than 55 yards in a game this season and has lacked that special something that helped make the Tigers so dominant last year. It’s early, though, and maybe this is just the stage for Watson to breakout and show Lamar Jackson that the Heisman hasn’t been handed out quite yet.

 

New Orleans (+4) at San Diego, Sunday, 4:25pm

If you like defensive dogfights, you may want to click over to House Hunters or jump on a Law & Order: SVU marathon. Bottom line — this game is not for you. The Saints defense ranks dead last in the NFL against the rush and 25th against the pass. The Chargers, you ask? Not much better — 30th against the pass (and the against the rush, well, it won’t matter because they’re playing the Saints — and we know the Saints don’t run it).

Both teams will come out testing the other’s secondary. Drew Brees and company lead the league in passing offense and are third in total yards from scrimmage while Phillip Rivers is the 2nd highest rated quarterback, behind only Matt Ryan. The gamelans are pretty transparent in this one. Buckle up. First team to 40.

 

New York Giants (+4.5) at Minnesota, Monday, 8:15pm

This game is intriguing because of the matchup between a very high-powered offense and a defense that is tough and nasty. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. will do their best to find inroads against the stingy Viking defense. The Giants offense operates very efficiently — 6.3 yards per play — while the defense has, surprisingly, been better than most anticipated.

On the other sideline, Sam Bradford has stepped into the best situation he could have imagined. Even minus all-pro running back Adrian Peterson, Bradford is not being asked to win games or do too much — that’s the defense’s job. And they’re good at it. Really good. It should be fun to watch Manning and this offense respond to Minnesota’s complex defensive schemes and blitzes.

 

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

 

 

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College Football 2016 Predictions

Conference Races

ACC — This conference comes down to Clemson and Florida State. North Carolina might be a cute story again like ncaa-football-cfp-national-championship-media-day-1-590x900they were in 2015, but the ACC is a battle between the two goliaths. However, Clemson has the difference-maker in quarterback DeShaun Watson.

BIG 10 — There are 4 teams worth talking about when it comes to winning the Big 10: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State. First off, it’s going to be tough for Iowa to replicate it’s magical 2015 season. Secondly, Michigan State is in a bit of a reboot/reload season. The Spartans will still be very good; they just might not be as good as we’ve seen them in recent years. That leaves rivals OSU and U-M. The easy, fun, most intriguing route is that the two are both undefeated when they meet in Columbus to end the regular season, before the winner moves on to Indy for the conference title game. So let’s go with that. Michigan’s going to be very good, but Urban’s boys are still a bit better and they have the better QB — JT Barrett.

BIG 12 — Oklahoma looks to be the dominant team in the conference. Baylor’s offseason will likely derail any hopes they may have had, and Oklahoma State has potential to be a sleeper team if they get out of the gates strong. TCU will serve as the Sooners’ biggest threat. But the Big 12 should be Oklahoma’s to lose.

PAC 12 — The conference is totally wide open. Stanford, with Christian McCaffrey as a Heisman candidate and Keller Chryst throwing the ball, has probably the best team overall. Their schedule is daunting, but 2 losses might okay. UCLA will have a nasty defense and Josh Rosen at QB, but they have ran out of gas — or started without gas — over the past few years when expectations were high. With few people picking the Ducks this year, Oregon may be primed for a great year. But in the end, Stanford has the most pieces in place to win the conference.

SEC — Every year it feels like we search and search for someone to dethrone Alabama. LSU always has a shot because Les Miles recruits so well; Texas A&M has the offense to go toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide; and Ole Miss has proven they can beat ‘Bama. But let’s face it, Alabama should roll along — probably losing one game during the season that will cause Nick Saban to tear into his team and re-focus them — and find themselves in the top 4 and playing for the conference championship in December.

 

College Football Playoff

Clemson — Unlike 2015-16, the Tigers aren’t going to surprise anyone or be that team that looks good and strong but no one really expects them to win it all. Clemson will be and should be the definitive favorite going into the playoff.

Ohio State — I can see Ohio State dropping one of those “sleepwalking” games, as I call them — like an Illinois game or Northwestern. The ones where you are a big favorite but aren’t totally focused for whatever reason; and maybe there’s other factors at play — like bad weather.  Ohio State also has a tough stretch where they go on the road to play Penn State and Wisconsin in back to back games. I think they get to the U-M game at the end with a blemish on their record. But a win against Michigan, who should be ranked in the top 2 in the nation, will propel the Bucks into the playoff.

Alabama — The Tide are always good for a loss along the way, but it never seems to derail their title hopes. In fact, Nick Saban uses the loss better than any coach in America uses losses to motivate his team. Alabama will be there in the end, but this is a Tide team that may struggle running the ball more than any ‘Bama team has in the recent past. However, it’s not a playoff if Alabama’s not in it.

Michigan — This final spot could easily be Oklahoma’s. But I have a difficult time picking Bob Stoops’ teams to contend on the national level — especially 2 years in a row. Plus, the Wolverines have a very nice schedule until mid-October when they travel up to East Lansing to play the Spartans. They also have to go to Iowa. But I expect Jim Harbaugh’s guys to come away with Ws in both those affairs, setting them up as a top 2 team in the country when the Big Game calls in Columbus. A loss against the Buckeyes will sting, but a 1-loss Michigan team won’t fall out of the top 4.

 

National Champion

DeShaun Watson is the best player in college football — the most exciting and the most fun to watch. He was good enough to win the National Championship against Alabama last January, but fell just short. Scratch that — he wasn’t just good enough, he was great. He will be great again this year en route to the Heisman Trophy and a National Title. Clemson beats Alabama in a rematch for the ages.

 

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

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