Time flies when you’re having fun.
No, not you Clay Helton. No, no, Willie Taggert. Not yet Scott Frost. Yes, keep looking sour Mark Dantonio. Hey! Someone check if Chip Kelly still has a pulse.
College football has already reached the halfway point. Some things are starting to come into focus, while others still remain murky.
It appears there are not a ton of really good football teams this year. The ACC is awful, the PAC 12 still doesn’t have a team to hang its hat on, the Big Ten has three quality teams(I think), the Big 12 is down to Oklahoma and everyone else, and the SEC runs West.
I definitely overvalued Texas and Michigan, and undervalued Wisconsin and Penn State. I’m still riding my pick to win it all, the LSU Tigers.
Let’s hit it around the nation with a Two Cent conference check in.
This is a very simple conference to analyze. Clemson. That’s it.
Clemson will probably be favored by 20 points in every game they play.
Someone will be required to win the Coastal division and play Clemson in the ACC championship game. It looked like Virginia may be decent, but then they lost to Miami(Fla), who had just lost to Virginia Tech, who had just got blown out by Duke, who just lost to Pitt, who lost to…you guessed it, Virginia. What a mess!
So, it could still be Virginia, and I wouldn’t count out Pitt. Pitt may be sllloooowwwwly turning a corner.
One thing is certain in my eyes. With this pitiful strength of schedule, if Clemson should somehow blow one of these cakewalk games they should be out of the playoff picture. Remember, the committee said previous years don’t factor in to their decision making(insert eye roll emoji here).
Keep touching Howard’s Rock.
The strength of the SEC is in the Western division.
Alabama and LSU are headed for a titanic confrontation in Tuscaloosa on November 9. The loser is by no means out of the playoff picture. Then there is still Auburn lurking in the West division, with matchups against both LSU and Alabama. As a matter of fact, Auburn may be who decides the winner of this conference. They have already lost to Florida, and still have Georgia on the schedule in addition to the two West front runners. Apparently Gus Malzhan ticked somebody off at SEC scheduling headquarters.
The East may come down to the former Greatest Outdoor Cocktail Party that annually pits Florida and Georgia in Jacksonville. Georgia has looked lethargic all season, and flatlined in an overtime loss to South Carolina that led to this scene.
After beating Georgia “between the hedges”, the Gamecocks ate some of the hedges.
Florida made me a believer in a loss at LSU. I’ve doubted them all year, but they stood toe to toe in Death Valley with the Tigers for three quarters.
The X factor in the East is Missouri, one of my surprise team predictions to start the season. They have an easy schedule, but must prove they can win on the road. Their only road trip ended in a season opening loss to Wyoming. They get Georgia on the road and Florida at home. Most people forget Missouri is even in the SEC, so they are looking to make the rest of the college football world aware.
I’m still sticking to Hold that Tiger.
This is a fairly easy conference to analyze. Oklahoma, with its win over Texas, is head and shoulders above the crowd.
Baylor is a nice story, with Matt Ruhle finding the magic potion in Waco. Iowa State is finding its sea legs after a sluggish start. Texas will get healthy and be better late. Those are the only teams that could potentially upset the Sooners.
Unfortunately for Oklahoma, they most likely will have to beat the Longhorns for a second time in the Big 12 title game. That won’t be easy if Texas heals up over the next month. I would never bet against Lincoln Riley, easily the best young coach in college football.
The PAC 12 has an identity crisis, some say. What they really have is an LA problem.
UCLA is one dramatic comeback on the Palouse from being 0-5 and headed toward a winless season. Chip Kelly, who honestly looks like he could care less, could be unemployed at season’s end.
Across town, Clay Helton will join Kelly on the unemployment line. Helton, king of the moral victory, has gone 15-16 with the USC Trojans since Sam Darnold left. Just like at UCLA, there will be a new AD at USC that will be charged with cleaning house.
USC, after a close loss at Notre Dame, still has a shot to win the conference. They certainly have the talent, but must be consistently good rather than sporadically good. The coaching may not allow for that.
Utah and Arizona State both could step up in the PAC 12 South if USC stumbles. Herm Edwards deserves credit for making the Sun Devils successful. Utah May rue slipping up against the Trojans back in September.
In the PAC 12 North Oregon leads the way, and is the most complete team in the league. Justin Herbert is quietly one of the better quarterbacks in college football. Oregon is also the PAC 12’s only shot at the playoffs, and it is an extremely outside shot. To run the table, Oregon must win on the road at Washington, USC, and Arizona State. It won’t be easy.
Quack, quack, I guess.
This seems like a three horse race, but of all people, Minnesota, would like a seat at the trough.
The suddenly very shiny Golden Gophers have a great chance to be 8-0 when they host Penn State on November 9. P.J. Fleck has these Gophers rowing the boat, but rowing under the radar. I thought Minnesota had a real chance to win ten games this year, and they may just do that.
As for those Penn State Nittany Lions, they got their best win of the season on Saturday in Iowa City. I’m still not sure how good Penn State is, but looking at their schedule leads me to 11-1. These other Big Ten teams just aren’t that good( don’t tell the boat rowers in Minny). Iowa is among the teams that are average. A white out game awaits on homecoming in Happy Valley this week against Michigan.
Wisconsin is rolling. Jonathan Taylor is a Heisman candidate. The question for the Badgers will be if a good team shuts down the run game, can quarterback Jack Coan make big plays. They have a big one in two weeks at Ohio State. A trip to the playoffs will be part of that storyline. A trip to the Big Ten championship game may be on the line November 30 in Minnesota.
Does it look like the Ohio State Buckeyes miss Urban Meyer?
The biggest difference I see is they are stepping on the throat of lesser opponents, rather than allowing them to hang around as often happened under Meyer. The other big difference is at quarterback. Justin Fields is better than the previous Buckeye quarterbacks because he is an equal threat with his feet and arms.
This certainly seems to be the year Ohio State makes the playoffs. In addition to having an ultra talented team, the Buckeyes have a very favorable schedule. They get Wisconsin and Penn State at home, and finish at what certainly looks like a weak Michigan team. A possible rematch with Wisconsin could then await.
Hang On Sloopy.
As much as I pound the drum for an eight team playoff, by season’s end there may be only 4 deserving teams. So many teams seem average this year.
Right now the four playoff teams will come out of my latest Two Cent Top Ten:
- Ohio State
- Penn State
Honorable mentions go to Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Baylor.
Minnesota and Baylor will face reality eventually, and until Notre Dame commits to joining a conference then one loss will be enough to knock them out of the playoff picture.
Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.