The quest to hoist the holy College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy began with 120+ teams all vying for the sacred relic. Now halfway through the 2015 season, 24 teams remain with a legitimate argument to be one of the four teams to make the College Football Playoffs. By season's end, the committee will be able choose wisely the four worthy teams without controversy (right TCU or MSU?). The committee will release their rankings on November 3rd at 8:30 central time with much rejoicing from the people. In the meantime, let us
consult the book of armaments look at each team’s chances, and make wild weekly predictions on who is in, and who is out.
Only the penitent team will pass:
These are the undefeated Power 5 teams in complete control of their destiny, unless of course there are more than four undefeated teams at the end of the regular season. Win out and the committee will most likely award that team with a trip to the playoffs. Ten teams remain undefeated, which seems high at this time of year (no research done). Who among them will remain undefeated?
#1 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0): The reigning CFB Champion is going about this season much like FSU did in 2014, by not winning pretty, but managing to win. Ohio State has also not beaten a single ranked team this season, but do close out against ranked MSU and Michigan. Somehow this is good enough to keep the #1 AP ranking. Well, I didn't vote for them. In spite of the 7-0 record, Urban Meyer is making a change at QB by benching last year's Championship game winner, Cardale Jones, for backup/once starter JT Barrett this weekend against Rutgers.
#2 Baylor Bears (6-0): Baylor is another top ranked team that has not beaten a ranked team this season; and will not face a ranked team until November 14th, when it plays Oklahoma. Regardless, Baylor has averaged a measly 64 points per game as it has utterly blown its enemies to tiny bits. QB Seth Russell is in control of the offense, and defense doesn't matter. Baylor looks to continue the streak against Iowa State this weekend. Baylor will have to go on the road to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State, and then to Fort Worth to face their rival/non-rival TCU. It will be a November that will make or break the Bears.
#3 Utah Utes (6-0): Possibly the biggest surprise team of 2015. The Utah Utes continue to win close games on the legs of Devontae Booker, who has rushed for 200 yards fewer (783) than Travis Wilson has passing (980). The Utes destroyed Oregon, and have beaten Cal and Michigan to round out a nice resume. This week the Utes go to Los Angeles as 3.5 point underdogs to the USC Trojans. You read that correctly. The number 3 team in the nation is an underdog at 3-3 USC.
#4 TCU Horned Frogs (7-0): TCU is another top 5 team that has not played a ranked team this season. TCU has played very well at home, including a 50-7 dismantling of the Texas Longhorns. However, it has been a different story on the road, as TCU struggled with Minnesota, Kansas State, and had a miraculous tip catch for the game winning touchdown on 4th down in Lubbock. In spite of the struggles, the frogs have managed to continue winning. West Virginia is next at home, so don't expect an upset here. The competition in November will greatly increase, thanks to the backloaded Big XII schedules. Well, minus Kansas at home.
#5 LSU Tigers (6-0): I was wrong about the LSU Tigers as I thought they would take a step back this year without consistent QB play and without defensive coordinator John Chavis. Leonard Fournette is the equalizer and does it all and has rushed for 1202 yards half way through the season. Even though he probably will not beat the NCAA rushing record held by Barry Sanders (1988: 2628 yards in 11 games), he is having an incredible year. He is the best offensive player in college football right now. LSU is going to need Fournette in November as the Tigers will face Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M. The game in Tuscaloosa will be an unstoppable force against an immovable object. LSU has Western Kentucky next so expect Fournette to run for another 200 yards.
#6 Clemson Tigers (6-0): Clemson is currently the number 6 ranked team in the nation and is set on erasing the term 'Clemsoning.' A home win over then number 6 Notre Dame is a quality win that the committee will notice. Florida State is the only remaining ranked team on the schedule; but plays 4 of the remaining 6 games on the road. Are we ready for Clemson to fall to a Spurrierless South Carolina? Clemson still controls its own destiny and just needs to keep winning. Clemson heads to Coral Gables to face Miami, in what will most likely be another nail in Al Golden's figurative coaching coffin.
#7 Michigan State Spartans (6-0): Michigan State came out victorious in the Big House after Michigan's puntastrophe last weekend. [Pause for any Michigan fan reading this as they probably went into a Coma]. Sparty has survived a number of close games this season, but to its credit, keeps winning. The game at Ohio State in late November looms large and the winner will only be sacrificial lambs for the slaughter against Iowa in the B1G championship game.** Next up for Sparty is Indiana, who is currently winless in conference play.
#9 Florida State Seminoles (6-0); Florida State is currently the number 9 ranked team in the nation and looks to return to an Oregonless Playoff. FSU does not have a win against a ranked team this season, but will have Clemson and Florida (possibly a third in the conference championship game) for an opportunity at a quality win. Jimbo Fisher has not figured out that he needs to showcase more of Dalvin Cook, and less of Everett Golson. Golson has done fine and keeps winning, but Cook is easily one of the top 5 running backs this season in College Football. Next up is Georgia Tech and its five game losing streak.
#12 Iowa Hawkeyes (7-0): Iowa. October is coming to a close, and Iowa is still in the playoff discussion. Hold on to your butts as Iowa will not play a ranked team until most likely the B1G Championship game. We are a Michigan State or Ohio State collapse away from Iowa making the playoffs. Granted, this is making huge assumptions that Iowa can take care of the bottom dwellers of the B1G East and West divisions with Mayland, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska. Iowa, and Kirk Ferentz, is fully capable of being beaten in nasty ways. I have yet to watch a minute of Hawkeye football, and will not be able to this weekend as they are on a bye.
#14 Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-0): OSU is behind every other power five unbeaten school in the rankings. This is another team that has struggled against unranked competition and needed a conspiracy to beat the Longhorns. OSU also has the top of the Big XII remaining on their schedule, but faces OU, Baylor, and TCU at home in Stillwater. Coach
Hair Gel Ima MAN Mike Gundy does get Kansas this weekend and should be 7-0 when it has to go on the road to Lubbock; a place it historically has not played well in. OSU has a tough road ahead, but could play the spoiler at home.
Only in the footsteps of God will this team Proceed:
These are the one loss teams. The teams that will need to proceed with the utmost caution, because one false step will send them plunging into the depths of non-playoff bowl season. There are a few of these teams that control their own destiny more than others (Bama, Florida, Oklahoma, etc), but all need the undefeated to fall.
#8 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1): Nick Saban has already taken a one loss team to the Playoffs, and is in complete control of its future. I have nothing nice to say about the Tide as I am sti...[this sentence is picked off and returned for a Tide Touchdown]. This team is good, and I hope we can have a LB corps like Saban has at his disposal. This week, Alabama has underachieving Tennessee in a rivalry game, and anything can happen. After Tennessee, Alabama will face LSU and Leonard Fournette at home. Alabama should be heavy favorites the rest of the way.
#10 Stanford Cardinal (5-1): After an opening weekend loss at Northwestern, Stanford has reeled off 5 straight wins, with a most recent dismantling of UCLA by Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey is an all-purpose back and is actually fast, no 'deceptively quick' adjectives needed. If you haven't stayed up late to watch #Pac12afterDark, I highly recommend watching McCaffrey and the Stanford Cardinals. Stanford has most of the Pac12 North left to play and also plays Notre Dame at home. Next up is 3-3 Washington.
#11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1): Notre Dame is a failed 2-point conversion and Overtime away from switching places on this list with Clemson. It would have been easy to give up on ND after losing Malik Zaire in the second game of the season, but the Irish have won 4 of its last 5 with DeShone Kizer at QB. The Golden Domers are off this week on bye, but then go on the road to play at undefeated #22 Temple, and at #25 Pitt. Winning these would help Notre Dame strengthen its playoff resume. It will be interesting to see how high a one loss ND can climb in the minds of the playoff committee without a conference championship game.
#13 Florida Gators (6-1): Florida has an interesting road to a potential playoff berth as it has one ranked team at home (FSU) remaining on the schedule. Winning out would send Florida to the SEC conference Championship where it could set itself up as one of the top one loss teams deserving a playoff spot. Think if Florida won a rematch against an undefeated LSU on a neutral field in Atlanta?
#15 Texas A&M Aggies (5-1): After throwing three pick sixes in a game in which it lost by 18, Texas A&M is still very much in the hunt, but needs Alabama to lose one more regular season game to have a shot at going to Atlanta for the SEC Conference Championship game. First, the Aggies must go to Oxford for the third time in four years and beat a ranked Ole Miss team. Kevin Sumlin has not lost in Vaught Hemingway stadium, but is a 6 point underdog to Hugh Freeze's rebel scum [classless]. This matchup is the only matchup this weekend to feature two top 25 teams and is a must-win for A&M to keep its playoff hopes alive.
#17 Oklahoma Sooners (5-1): Oklahoma is hard to get a read on. First, OU loses to 1-4 Texas in the Red River Rivalry, and comes out the next week and obliterates the Kansas State Wildcats 55-0. Oklahoma has Texas Tech this week in an interesting matchup where we can really learn if OU is a contender or a pretender. To close out the regular season, Big Game Bob has to have his team ready to face Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma State back to back to back over the final three weeks of the season. Hard to imagine a scenario where OU comes out unscathed from that lineup.
#20 Cal Golden Bears ( 5-1): Cal joins the one loss teams after falling to Utah on the road last weekend by 6 points. Cal is also a missed extra point from Texas kicker Nick Rose from having to play overtime in Austin. We will find out Thursday night if Cal can rebound against UCLA.
#23 Duke Blue Devils (5-1): The Blue Devils lone loss came against then ranked North Western (19-10). Since, Duke has won three straight but faces Virginia Tech on the road this weekend. Duke will play the other two 1 loss Coastal Division teams in early November, which will clear up the division's chances at sending a team to the playoff. Hint: the chances are not good.
#25 Pittsburgh Panthers (5-1): The Panthers have a forgivable loss to obvious playoff team Iowa. Since, Pitt has won three straight but faces 3-3 Syracuse on the road this weekend. Pat Narduzzi has done a fine job turning this Pitt team around in year one. Pitt also has Notre Dame on the schedule which could give it a resume boost come playoff time. Of course this would mean beating Clemson or FSU in the ACC Championship game.
NR UNC Tarheels (5-1): UNC opened the season with a loss against South Carolina, which is not a forgivable loss. UNC has a back loaded schedule and should quickly fall off this list. However, the Tarheels look to get bowl eligible with a win against Virginia this weekend.
Only in the leap from obscurity will the team prove its worth:
These are the unbeaten non-Power 5 teams that hope to spoil the party by taking a playoff spot. This is the equivalent of placing a defensive player on the Heisman ballot. This will not happen, but would be so good for College Football, except if a one-loss Texas A&M is jumped by one of these teams.
#18 Memphis Tigers (6-0): Memphis is coming off a huge victory over Ole Miss this past weekend and is 6-0 under Justin Fuente. There are some that are predicting Memphis to make a New Year's six bowl this season, which would be incredible for this team from the AAC. Memphis is fun to watch. Memphis will face ranked Houston and Temple before season's end, which should be favorable to the committee.
#19 Toledo Rockets (6-0): Last I saw Toledo, it was handing the Arkansas Razorbacks their first loss of the season. Toledo will have a hard time convincing the committee it belongs in the playoff because it does not play any other ranked teams. In addition, Arkansas has lost two more since losing to Toledo.
#21 Houston Cougars (6-0): Tom Herman may prove to be one of the best hires from the last offseason as he has Houston playing very well. I have enjoyed Greg Ward Jr. this season. However, Houston has not beaten a ranked team this season, but will get the opportunity to face Memphis, which should be must-watch TV.
#22 Temple Owls (6-0): Temple also has not beaten a ranked team this season, but did beat Penn State to start the year. Temple will face Memphis and Notre Dame in the regular season and could face Houston in the AAC championship game to give it three ranked opponents.
Way too early Predictions
My playoff teams based on the first 7 weeks of college football are:
Sorry ACC. Also, will somebody please beat Baylor?
*Just ask TCU or Michigan State.
** I don't have a crystal ball, just wanting the world to burn.