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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College Football Top 10: The BGPR (#4)

1. Alabama (8-0, previously #1)

Let’s be honest, huh? The Tide didn’t play Saturday because they got promoted to Sundays and are playing the Bears, right? Ok, not really; but Alabama is still clearly the best team in the country. Big road game next Saturday night in Death Valley against LSU.college-football-schedule

2. Clemson (8-0, previously #2)

Couple big resume-building wins over Louisville and at FSU make up for the lackluster performances early on the season against the likes of Auburn, Troy, and NC State. When the lights are bright, Clemson comes ready and can hang with anyone.

3. Louisville (7-1, previously #3)

Didn’t expect Louisville to be trailing Virginia in the final 30 seconds, but Lamar Jackson answered the bell and kept the Cardinals playoff hopes alive and well.

4. Michigan (8-0, previously #4)

An unimpressive 32-23 win over rival Michigan State won’t do much to convince those who were suspect of U-M. The Wolverines didn’t play particularly well in the second half, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Questions will remain until they go on the road and win handily (and let’s agree that we can’t count Rutgers).

5. Washington (8-0, previously #5)

The Huskies needed a punt return for a touchdown in the final four minutes to top Utah. Nevermind the blocks in the back that weren’t called. Hey — a win’s a win. And on another note, quarterback Jake Browning is gaining serious steam as a Heisman contender.

6. Ohio State (7-1, previously #6)

At the Horseshoe against Northwestern and Urban Meyer’s squad could only manage a 24-20 win? Buckeyes seem a little off. They’ll need to hurry up and find themselves before Nebraska visits the Shoe next Saturday or else any hopes of the playoff or a Big Ten title will be dashed.

7. Wisconsin (6-2, previously #9)

The eye test is a powerful thing. And the Badgers pass it. Even in losses to Michigan and Ohio State, Wisconsin was in those games right to the very end.

 8. Texas A&M (7-1, previously #8)

Routing New Mexico State a week after getting drilled by Alabama was step one in the recovery process for the Aggies. Three of their final four games are against teams that A&M should beat — but they could be tested. They still have a lot to play for, with the inside track to a New Year’s Six bid.

9. Nebraska (7-1, previously #7)

Nebraska might have proven more in their loss this past weekend at Camp Randall than they had in their previous 7 wins.

10. Florida (6-1, previously not ranked)

If it weren’t for a total meltdown defensively in the 4th quarter of the Tennessee game, we’d be talking about Florida being 7-0. Few really believe the Gators are playoff-worthy or will pose anything threat to Alabama, if the two meet in the SEC Championship Game. But for now, I’m not sure any other team deserves this spot.

 

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

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College Football Rankings: The BGPR (#3)

1. Alabama (8-0, previously #1)

Another week, another win over a ranked team. The Tide are on another level than the rest of the college football world.college-football-schedule

2. Clemson (7-0, previously #3)

The Tigers are really unmatched as the number two team in the country. Yes, they’ve looked disinterested at times, and yes, they don’t have that same fire they seemed to have in ’15. But they’re still title contenders and are as talented as Alabama.

3. Louisville (6-1, previously #4)

A one-loss Louisville squad should have no problem maintaining it’s spot in the top-4. The offense is explosive and can they can score on anyone. From anywhere.

4. Michigan (7-0, previously #6)

Big wins fuel the fan base, but we all know U-M’s season rests on it’s trip to Columbus, where the winner seems all but guaranteed a spot in the playoff. The thing is even a loss to the Bucks, may not eliminate the Wolverines from playoff position in minds of voters.

5. Washington (7-0, previously #7)

Playing every week with something to prove, the Huskies are the Pac-12’s lone hope at crashing the playoff party. Big game this Saturday at Utah.

6. Ohio State (6-1, previously #2)

The loss to Penn State is brutal. But as weeks go by, we will see that the game at home against Michigan means everything. Win — they’re in.

7. Nebraska (7-0, previously #8)

The Cornhuskers didn’t put the Boilers down the way a top team needs to. But they have their first major test upcoming at Camp Randall this Saturday. Winner will be top-7 with a ceiling that’s getting higher, loser’s out of the top-10.

8. Texas A&M (6-1, previously #5)

The Aggies still have the look of a top-10 team even after the loss at Tuscaloosa.

9. Wisconsin (5-2, previously #9)

Big opportunity to position themselves back up the rankings if the Badgers can hold homefield against Nebraska.

10. West Virginia (6-0, previously #10)

Nice win over TCU on Saturday. Could have been a trap game, but the Mountaineers took care of business.

 

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

 

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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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