The premier season of the College Football Playoff is inching toward becoming a BCS-caliber nightmare for the inaugural Playoff Selection Committee. Up and down the list of contenders, flaws and potential abound, but reliability is elsewhere. It's resulted in muddled resumes for teams that have been accustomed to being on top.
|1.||Florida State Seminoles (35)||39.2||20.8||5-0|
|2.||Auburn Tigers (23)||42.0||14.4||5-0|
|3.||Mississippi State Bulldogs (2)||42.6||19.4||5-0|
|3.||Ole Miss Rebels||35.8||10.2||5-0|
|6.||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||31.4||12.0||5-0|
|7.||Alabama Crimson Tide||37.0||15.8||4-1|
|8.||Michigan State Spartans||45.6||20.6||4-1|
|9.||TCU Horned Frogs||42.8||13.5||4-0|
At the top, still, is Florida State. Plenty of analysts have commented that this team does not look like a #1 material, but they have, at least, finished their business when they needed to. The run defense is porous, and the offense has question marks all over, but when other teams were poised to capture the #1 ranking, they fell to lesser competition. Florida State hasn't - at least, not yet - and their ACC schedule might insulate them from the kinds of losses that Oklahoma (to TCU) and Oregon (to Arizona) suffered this Saturday. Their schedule is manageable and they retain the name recognition and respect from winning last year's championship. Still, it's a Seminole squad that, at halftime, was down to Clemson and Oklahoma State and led Wake Forest and NC State by a combined 13. The team is young, ginger, and very, very different from last year's veteran group.
In addition to starting nose guard Nile Lawrence-Stample being out for the year (torn pec), No. 2 nose guard Derrick Mitchell (leg) did not play [against Wake Forest], and neither did FSU's best linebacker, Terrance Smith (undisclosed). During the first half, FSU lost starting center Austin Barron to a broken hand (later said fractured arm), and superstar WR Rashad Greene to a concussion.
Of course, five top-ten teams did fall, and it all started with Thursday's raucous upset of Arizona over Oregon. The Ducks have given pause before with their reckless style of play, something that always seems to bite them eventually in a season, and this one was no different as the game effectively ended on a strip-sack of Mariota with two minutes left. Mariota fumbled again earlier in the game, and another was ruled a touchdown as Marcus ran into the endzone but lost the ball almost simultaneously. The Ducks have changed a bit under Mark Helfrich, but those spots have remained for another year.
Another recent powerhouse, from whose flanks the Seminoles were revived, got stuffed by an old SEC laughingstock. The Crimson Tide went on the road to Oxford and, in the process, were exposed by Ole Miss in their safety play and a little on their offensive line. On the other side of that, an Ole Miss team that entered the year without the attention they deserved - particularly on defense, with stars like S Cody Prewitt, NB Tony Conner, and LB Serderius Bryant - now has the #3 ranking in the country alongside their in-state foe, Mississippi State.
This isn't a back-breaker for Alabama, and before Saturday they had a good case for the top team in the country. But the Tide, like the Ducks, have shown the same problems that they had before: a secondary that's the key weakness of the defense, an offensive line that no longer dominates the rest of the SEC, and a coaching staff that tries to contain (Ole Miss: 2.3 yards per carry) rather than disrupt. The team has managed a daunting amount of turnover to the NFL, and this is a young group in a division with three very talented, veteran teams in Auburn, Ole Miss, and MSU.
Oklahoma was another team many thought of as top-four material, but the questions about their playmakers outside of Trevor Knight and Sterling Shepard rang true, while the Horned Frogs managed to negate some of the Sooners' pass rush with their dual-threat QB. Zack Sanchez has some All-America potential in OU's backfield, but the Horned Frogs' air raid attack found other openings, going toe-to-toe with Knight and getting 318 passing yards. The Sooners had found themselves moving up the rankings by default, with teams like UCLA and Alabama struggling, but these days, it seems like whoever gets put in the top ten comes with question marks.
"This isn't the defining moment of our season. There's a lot of football left," said Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight. "Who knows what's down the road. It's early in the season, a one-loss team can still make it."
While that is true, it's also looking like it will be a crowded list.
Hitting the Links Believes
Of course, the offense could also make a good case for the limelight, what with J.T. Barrett (326 yards per game, 17/5 TD ratio, 10.2 yards per throw) turning into a very serviceable replica of Braxton Miller and Michael Thomas looking polished and deadly among the receiver group. For a couple years in a row, Thomas had shown amazing spring performances but ultimately landed himself in the doghouse. The redshirt sophomore entered the season with 22 yards of college production, but he has finally broken out and led the Buckeye receivers. He's getting 18.9 yards a catch, has 5 touchdowns and shows good size, speed and body control. It's possible he'll be one of their better receivers over the last few years.
But with that said, if their defense starts to click, that would be terrifying. That's been their missing link.
They went full Northwestern.
This is part of an ongoing conversation about a number of topics. On a slightly different note, Frank Clark has consistently seemed a step slow on his pass rush this season, which ultimately points back to the fact that the former safety is north of 270 lbs. He reminds me a little of an Iowa DE, in that way. There are ways for the coaches to mix up the front seven, but I don't trust the coaches to do anything effectively and without messing up the slow and steady progress the players make under them. But in theory, there are ways to manufacture a bit of pass rush with this group, because it would be very helpful.
Also, Magnus makes a good point about Da'Mario Jones; neither Canteen nor the back-up tight ends have worked out so far, and there has to be more productivity there. This has been said enough, but there's potential for a dominant group here.
SC once again ran around 100 plays, and Buck Allen had another monster game. Fans have been frustrated with DC Justin Wilcox's conservative style, but he has a lot of young players to work with, especially in the secondary. This was a flawed game for the Trojans all around, but odds are that they bounce back from this 3-2 start. With that said, they travel next week to Tucson to face the #10 Arizona Wildcats.
LSU is now 0-2 in-conference, and worse, their quarterback situation isn't getting any better. The Tigers have back-to-back games against Florida and Kentucky, which are the two most winnable games left for Les Miles.
This was too entertaining not to include. SI's Andy Staples runs through the week's upsets and surprises, then includes TCU in his Projected Top 4. He also goes into detail about the highlight of the week (also linked below), and shows Ole Miss's Robert Nkemdiche (#5) toss an Alabama offensive lineman like a rag doll. Then, Michigan is mentioned at the start of First-and-Ten.
Meanwhile, Tim Beckman and Brady Hoke are in a race to the bottom, so to speak, with Beckman dropping to 1-17 in the Big Ten with Illinois' 38-27 loss to Purdue.
Hit the comments for some adorable 'Nope' gifs.
Cal isn't mentioned much, outside of Jared Goff and Trevor Davis, but this has been a pleasant bounceback campaign for them. Head coach Sonny Dykes comes from the Mike Leach School of Atmospheric Footballs, but his team was helped by a pair of near-identical kick returns by the aforementioned Davis. The Bears are now 4-1, in a conference that just keeps getting deeper all the time.
LSU might be ranked a touch high, but this is a good list. Also, yes, only two teams in the SEC have a losing record. None of those teams, not even Vanderbilt, has a losing record out-of-conference.
This was a great highlight on a kick return.
This was a better one.
Stat of the week: Washington State University's Connor Holliday already has 3,000 passing yards and 26 touchdowns through six games. In WSU's loss this weekend to Cal, the senior threw 70 times for 734 yards and a 6/0 TD ratio. He has yet to throw fewer than 56 times in a game.