The College Football season is heating up as we near the end of October. Big time conference games are starting to take place, and for the third straight week, a top ten team lost to an unranked opponent. So far, five perennial powers have been able to stay unblemished and have established themselves as true contenders: Louisiana State University (LSU), Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Penn State.
LSU is dominating legit SEC opponents and Joe Burrow has surprised as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. They just took care of Auburn 23-20 and they seem to be playing at a different level than what they have been the last couple of years.
Alabama, of course, is at the top of the list. They have the best receiving core in the nation, lead by future top 10 pick Jerry Jeudy, and an elite defense. However, there are concerns in Tuscaloosa, the main one being the health of star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa had surgery two weeks ago on his right ankle and the Alabama faithful are holding their breath, hoping that he will be back healthy for their huge showdown against LSU in two weeks. Back-up Mac Jones has done well filling in for Tua against lesser opponents and has kept the Tide rolling, but the thought is that Alabama will need to be at full strength when they take on the hottest team in college football.
Ohio State continues to prove themselves after a 38-7 victory over a tough Wisconsin team. Quarterback Justin Fields looks like the number one recruit that he was two years ago and that defense, led by top prospect defensive end Chase Young, has a legit argument as the best in the nation. However, the road ahead will not be easy ,as they face Penn State and Michigan in the next month.
Speaking of the Nittany Lions, they continue to silently make their case as a true contender. They followed their win against Michigan with another big victory against Michigan State, 28-7. They have held 7 out of their 8 opponents to under 13 points, and Sean Clifford may be the most underrated quarterback in the nation.
Of course the defending champions are in the mix as well. Although it has been an underwhelming season thus far, Clemson continues to boast an undefeated record in the underachieving ACC. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has not lived up to the pre-season Heisman hype but has shown flashes of why he is considered one of the best NFL quarterback prospects in years.
Even though their strength of schedule is pretty weak, it would be impossible to not include the Tigers in the playoff if they win out.
Of course, there are some one loss teams that are just outside the conversation, waiting for one of the big players to slip up so they can get in. The main one would be feel-good story of the year Oklahoma. Transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts, straight from his dethroning at Alabama, looked like he was on his way to the school’s third straight Heisman trophy winner. That was until this past Saturday, when they got absolutely waxed by an average Kansas State team. Something crazy could still happen of course, but this loss could be a dagger for the Sooners’ season. They don’t really have any good wins besides Texas (who fell out of the top 25 after losing to TCU), which makes the best team they will face this year Baylor. Even if they win that game, which they should, that is not a great resume.
Oregon and Utah are one loss teams that represent the Pac-12’s chances. But honestly, c’mon, it’s the Pac-12 and I don’t trust either one of those teams to legitimately contend with the big boys.
By far the most intriguing upcoming game is between Georgia and Florida. Both of these teams have one loss but they are still fully in contention for the play-off. The winner of this game is almost a lock to win the SEC east, and if they are able to beat LSU or Alabama in the SEC title game, the committee has to include a one loss SEC champion. And because there are big top 5 games coming up (Alabama vs. LSU, Ohio State vs. Penn State), there are only going to be a maximum of three power five conference undefeated teams (that is, of course, unless Minnesota and Baylor magically win out, which they won’t).
So, after all of that, my prediction goes as followed. I will never bet against Alabama and Nick Saban, even if Tua is a little banged up. They will squeak by LSU and then roll past the SEC East champion to get the number one seed.
Ohio State will be too talented for Penn State, Michigan, or anybody else, and win out to get the two seed.
Clemson will continue to dominate the ACC, which is increasingly becoming a joke in the football world, but it will still be more than enough though to get them the third seed.
That brings us to the dreaded 4th seed. The winner of the SEC East, whether it is Georgia or Florida, will have two losses and that will be too much to overcome. Oregon or Utah are simply not good enough and won’t be taken seriously, so the Pac-12 is out. That leaves the two future one loss teams who won’t make their conference championship, LSU and Penn State.
At this point, LSU has looked more dominant across the board, and they have done so in the very difficult SEC West. So, although it will receive heavy criticism, LSU will get the 4th seed and at that point, the real fun will begin.