Ohio State Buckeyes top way-too-early college football top 25 rankings

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The 2017 season of college football is already promising to be a good one. With several teams poised to contend for the title and last year’s championship winner Clemson not yet in a position to defend its title, the top 25 looks like it could change at any moment.

With all this in mind, here is the JR Report’s way-too-early college football top 25.

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JT Barret will need to have his best season yet for Ohio State to take the number 1 place. Photo via Getty Images

1. Ohio State

Picking Ohio State over Alabama is a bold move, considering the Buckeyes’ last game where they lost 31-0 against Clemson.

With new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and both returners and new starters to bolster the offense, OSU is looking better than it has looked in a long time.

The Buckeyes also return seven of their defensive starters, who looked great in spring games. Ohio State has a chance to keep Alabama from winning a title, but will the Buckeyes be the ones to win it?

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Jalen Hurts had an amazing rookie season, and is looking to do even better in his sophomore year. Photo via Getty Images

2. Alabama

Even after losing several of their key starters, the Crimson Tide look great. Jalen Hurts looked amazing in the spring games, and so did his potential backup Tua Tagovailoa.

It’s an almost sure thing that the Tide are No.1 in the AP Poll, but it won’t last if they can’t hold up in the season opener against FSU. Their offense needs significant improvement with a better receiving corps and a more consistent pass attack.

Jalen Hurts is more than up to the task, but Ohio State will likely overtake the Tide in the polls.

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Deondre Francois has some more improvement to do if he hopes to be considered for the Heisman. Photo via Bobby Ellis / Getty Images

3. Florida State

The Seminoles are looking great for the preseason. It wouldn’t be surprising if they’re ranked worse, but No. 3 is a good place for them. They will have a lot to prove in their first game against a first or second-ranked Alabama, but they’re ready for a dog fight.

Five-star running back recruit Cam Akers is prepared to take up the job that Dalvin Cook left for him, and safety Derwin James is finally healthy enough to tear up the field.

Quarterback Deondre Francois seems to have improved on the field, and as he gets more and more comfortable in his role, opposing teams have more to worry about.

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Sam Darnold is already being projected as the 2018 NFL No.1 draft pick. Photo via Otto Gruele Jr. / Getty Images

4. USC

It’ll be interesting to see if the Trojans live up to all the off-season hype. True, Sam Darnold is a Heisman-caliber quarterback and it’s unlikely that he’ll have a bad season, but the strength of schedule is a recurring question for USC.

USC played the spring game with plenty of injuries, so we didn’t get a good picture of how the offense is shaping up for 2017. The Trojans are a favorite for the college football playoff, but it remains to be seen where they can ascend to despite their poor schedule.

If the Trojans can get over all the injuries and come into the season at 100 percent, No. 4 is the perfect ranking for them.

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Running back Saquon Barkley is undoubtedly one of the best backs in the game right now. Photo via USA Today Sports

5. Penn State

There’s no doubt that Penn State and its fans are still unhappy about being edged out of the playoff despite winning the Big Ten title.

With the trio of quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley, and redshirt sophomore receiver Juwan Johnson, the Nittany Lions will once again be a contender for the Big Ten championship.

The Nittany Lions have a lot to prove if they want to show that they deserve a place in the college football playoff, but this year’s team makes it look possible.

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Head coach Dabo Swinney has a lot of rebuilding to do if he hopes to keep the Tigers on top. Photo via Getty Images

6. Clemson

Although the Tigers lost star quarterback Deshaun Watson, they have some good players fighting for the position. In addition, the Clemson defense is one of the best defenses in the team’s history and will contend with Alabama for the best defense in the nation.

Clemson’s early schedule will be the perfect testing ground for the young team with games at Auburn and Louisville—there, we will see if the Tigers’ offense is reloaded enough to be a serious threat to FSU in the ACC.

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Jake Browning should be healthy by the start of the season after his shoulder surgery. Photo via Otto Gruele Jr. / Getty Images

7. Washington

Washington had a couple hiccups in the offseason like quarterback Jake Browning’s shoulder surgery and losing wide receiver John Ross to the NFL, but they are back and ready to compete.

Although the Huskies face tough opponents like Colorado, Stanford, and Washington State, they won’t face serious challenges beyond these teams until they play in the Pac-12 title game. Until then, they’ll stay on top of their side of the Pac-12 and likely in the top 10 nationally.

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Mason Rudolph is looking to make a splash in the Big 12 this season. Photo via Sue Ogrocki / AP Photo

8. Oklahoma State

The offseason was the perfect storm for Cowboys fans: their biggest rival Oklahoma lost both legendary coach Bob Stoops and outstanding running back Joe Mixon.

In addition, quarterback Mason Rudolph and his receiving corps are one of the best offenses in the nation. With returning receiver James Washington and LSU transfer wide receiver Tyron Johnson, the Cowboys are prepared to take on the Sooners’ offense better than they have in a good number of years.

If the Cowboys can bolster their mediocre defense and stay dominant offensively, this could be the year that they beat Oklahoma for the Big 12 crown.

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Legendary coach Bob Stoops recently announced his retirement–how much will this impact the Sooners’ 2017 season? Photo via CBS Sports

9. Oklahoma

Despite Oklahoma’s recent misfortune, they’re still Oklahoma. Legendary coach Bob Stoops announced his surprise retirement last week, and many are wondering what this means for the Sooners.

Although star quarterback Baker Mayfield returns with his entire offensive line, the Sooners lost a lot of other offensive depth, such as wide receiver Dede Westbrook, running back Joe Mixon, and running back Samaje Perine.

The offense should still be explosive headed by Mayfield and Oklahoma will still have a good chance of winning the Big 12—now, they just have to try a little harder.

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Baylor transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham seems to be a good fit for the Tigers. Photo via Peter G. Aiken / Getty Images

10. Auburn

Auburn fans are excited this season, and rightly so—some are saying this is the Auburn team that can beat Bama for the first time since 2013.

Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been performing well in practice and in the spring game. With running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson behind him, the Tigers offense is ready to go.

With a stellar recruiting class and a reloaded defense, the Tigers will be a big contender in the top 10, even if they lose the Iron Bowl.

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Derrius Guice is the perfect running back answer to LSU’s offensive problem. Photo via Bill Feig / The Advocate

11. LSU

With the arrival of offensive coordinator Matt Canada, Tigers fans are cautiously optimistic about the 2017 season. A lot of this optimism stems from hopes about running back Derrius Guice. Guice is set up to be one of the best running backs in the nation next year.

The Tigers don’t have a running problem, and they definitely won’t have a defense problem after completely turning around the defense under defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

The main problem for LSU going into next season is quarterback Danny Etling. If he can show improvement next season, the Tigers will be another thorn in Alabama’s side in the SEC.

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Jim Harbaugh has a lot of rebuilding to do to shape Michigan into a team like last year’s. Photo via Getty Images

12. Michigan

Jim Harbaugh’s team will likely be good once again, but the important question is whether they have the talent to be a top-10 team. With the way things are looking now, the answer is not quite.

Michigan lost 18 starters, but Harbaugh excels in turning a team of rookies into a high-caliber team. The Wolverines boast one of the top recruiting classes in the nation which has convinced many that while Michigan will be a different team next year, they will still be great as long as Harbaugh is in charge.

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Alex Hornibrook is a more than adequate quarterback for a solid Badgers squad. Photo via Jeff Hanisch / USA Today Sports

13. Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a solid pick to play well every year. The Badgers, under new defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, look to dominate the Big Ten West via defense.

The Badgers also have the duo of solid quarterback Alex Hornibrook and wide receiver Jazz Peavy, so there is still the potential to make a major impact offensively.

Wisconsin won’t have a particularly difficult schedule, either. They only face Michigan as far as powerful Big Ten teams go, which should go as a big advantage for them staying on top of their division and staying ranked all season.

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Nick Chubb has been a celebrity in Athens for his years at UGA. Photo via Dale Zanine / USA Today Sports

14. Georgia

The well-known running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel return for the Bulldogs along with the passing attack from sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason.

The Dawgs’ defense is also nothing to joke around about. With 10 returning starters, the Georgia defense will be one of the best in the league. Along with Auburn and LSU, the Bulldogs are among the SEC teams with the capability of finally beating Alabama.

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Miami head coach Mark Richt is hard at work figuring out a replacement for quarterback Brad Kaaya. Photo via Luis M. Alvarez / AP Photo

15. Miami

The only thing different between this year’s Miami team and last year’s will be the quarterback. With Brad Kaaya’s departure, the Canes are choosing between three potential replacements.

The Hurricanes have an impressive receiving and running game, as well as a stellar defense. If the quarterback choice meshes well with the rest of the offense, Miami will clinch the ACC Coastal division.

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Lamar Jackson, one of the best quarterbacks in the league, leaps over a Syracuse defender. Photo via Rich Barnes / USA Today Sports

16. Louisville

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson returns to Louisville this season, and every season that he’s on the team is a season where the Cardinals will be good.

The biggest concern for the Cardinals is protecting Jackson. If they can improve their offensive line, Jackson won’t need to be worried about being sacked 46 times again this season.

Louisville may have a similarly disappointing season to last year’s 9-4 finish, but they will certainly start off strong.

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Keller Chryst suffered an injury late last season, but hopes to return for 2017. Photo via Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

17. Stanford

With quarterback Keller Chryst injured and hoping to return before next season, the Cardinal have put some confidence in backup quarterback Ryan Burns. The Cardinal will have an uphill battle to remain relevant in 2017 with an early game against USC.

Stanford isn’t worried about things on the other side of the ball, and will tout one of the best defenses in the Pac-12.

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Quinton Flowers has put the USF Bulls in position for a breakout season. Photo via USF Athletics

18. USF

USF is the AAC team receiving the most hype coming into the 2017 season led by dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate and star quarterback Quinton Flowers.

Charlie Strong has made great strides as the incoming coach for the Bulls making the offense is stronger than it has ever been. More importantly, the defense is also looking strong.

With the way things are going and the rise of the AAC, it wouldn’t be surprising to see USF as a top-10 team by the end of the season.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding transfer quarterback Will Grier. Photo via Kelsie VanderWijst / BGS

19. West Virginia

Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier already seems to be finding more success at West Virginia than he ever did for the Gators. He performed well during spring games and the hype is building in Morgantown.

Grier will benefit from a solid running back and wide receiver corps, so the offense isn’t the main worry for the Mountaineers.

The main concern is the defense, and if WVU can find its defensive stride they will be a contender for the Big 12 championship.

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There are a lot of questions surrounding the Gators this year, and a lot of their success rests on Feleipe Franks. Photo via David Bowie / Gator Country

20. Florida

Redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks has made some waves in Gainesville after he won the quarterback battle.

The Gators hope to clinch the SEC East, but they will face stiff competition from Georgia and a surprisingly strong Tennessee team.

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Wildcats quarterback Jesse Ertz battled injury last year, but will most likely be healthy for 2017. Photo via Bo Rader/ the Wichita Eagle via AP Photo

21. Kansas State

The Wildcats are shaping up well, and all three avenues of offensive playmaking are wide open. Dual-threat Jesse Ertz should be cleared after his shoulder surgery, and he’s got a deep corps of receivers and running back Alex Barnes as options.

Kansas State also returns a significant amount of defenders, and they will prove to be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12. They’re an outlier like West Virginia and TCU, but they have upset potential for opponents such as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

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Former USF coach Willie Taggart is ready to revamp the Ducks’ football program. Photo via Chris Pietsch / The Register-Guard

22. Oregon

2016 was a year of disappointment for the Ducks after they dipped below five wins for the first time since 1991 and had their first losing season since 2004. It was  a wakeup call for Oregon, and with incoming coach Willie Taggart the Ducks are looking to climb their way back to the top again.

Oregon is an iffy choice for the top 25 at this point, but they have the tools they need to stage a comeback in 2017. With a surprisingly strong recruiting class, the Ducks will rack up at least seven wins and will remain hovering around the rankings all season.

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Washington State quarterback Luke Falk is underrated coming into 2017, but he’ll prove himself quickly. Photo via USA Today Sports

23. Washington State

The Cougars look great coming into the 2017 season headed by quarterback Luke Falk. Falk has a great spread of receivers to pass to, as well as a strong running corps.

Washington State should field a good defensive line as well, and the Cougars are set up to be good competition for their in-state rivals, Washington.

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Volunteers’ quarterback Quinten Dormady is raising hopes in Tennessee. Photo via Andrew Bruckse / Tennessee Athletics

24. Tennessee

Vols quarterback Quinten Dormady shined during the spring game, and Tennessee is looking good on both sides of the ball for 2017.

Tennessee faces stiff competition in the SEC East against Georgia and Florida. They have upset potential, however, and will be looking to try for the SEC East crown.

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There are already noticeable changes in the Texas program under new head coach Tom Herman. Photo via the Associated Press

25. Texas

After a disappointing decline for the Longhorns’ football program, head coach Tom Herman is looking to turn it around with a complete program overhaul. Herman’s recruiting and redesigning has brought new life to Austin.

The Longhorns are looking to retake their place as one of the strongest college football programs, and although a change like that doesn’t happen overnight, they will be contenders to edge into the top 25 next season.

“26”. TCU, Virginia Tech, Boise State

These three teams are right on the edge of the top 25, and could very well see their names on the list when the first polls are published.

 

Alabama Will Win the 2018 CFB Championship

Photo via Assoicated Press

It seems like the impossible has happened: Alabama lost a national championship. I was shocked, to the point where I had already written an anticipatory article about Bama’s win in the National Championship game.

Next year, however, I can’t see any other teams winning. Bama’s recruiting class has an incredible amount of talent coming in including 7 of the top 40 players in the nation. They have five “5-star” recruits that have already enrolled at the university—on the offensive side, Najee Harris (RB), Alex Leatherwood (OT), Dylan Moses (OLB), Jerry Jeudy (WR), and Tua Tagovailoa (QB/DUAL). Tagovailoa is an excellent quarterback, and Bama may have an interesting dual threat with Jalen Hurts–only a sophomore–and Tagovailoa.

The QB situation must be watched closely, because some would say having two quarterbacks is equal to having none. Who will they start? Will they move either of the versatile players to another position? Until very recently I would check up on the Sarkisian’s past, but of course the Tide just lost him–this raises another important question: who will replace him, and how will they handle this offensive conundrum? It’ll be interesting to watch this develop, because it most definitely has implications for how well the Tide play this season.

Defensively, they have also picked up LaBryan Ray, who has signed a letter of intent.

Let this sink in: these are only the 5-star recruits. They have countless other players in the recruiting class that are performing better than anyone in high school football and should show a lot of promise going into next season.

If anyone was to take a look at the recruiting classes from other top teams, they will realize that Bama absolutely dominated this year. Clemson, the defending national champions, only picked up two top-40 players. They still have a talented squad returning, but it will be without their heart and soul from last season, Deshaun Watson.

Ohio State has the 2nd best recruiting class with 5 top 40 players coming in this year. In addition, the greatness of Urban Meyer and an increase in motivation from their recent disaster in Glendale (losing 31-0 to Clemson in the semi-final), they should prove to be the biggest threat to Alabama’s title hopes.

Remember, Nick Saban is one of the best coaches in history, and he excels in molding recruits into the best players they can be. The Tide’s team cohesion is the envy of all of college football, and with these new recruits to bolster their ranks, they could prove unstoppable.

Alabama is also retaining a good amount of their very talented team from last year. The first name that comes to mind is Jalen Hurts, who wowed everyone with his poise and clear-headedness at the age of 18 by driving down the field to score the go ahead touchdown with just over 2 minutes left against Clemson and throwing 0 interceptions in the game. He played like a champion all season, and it is not hard to believe that he will continue to improve.

For the sake of brevity I won’t go into every impact player that’s staying on the team, but suffice to say that they’ll be formidable next year.

Clemson, FSU, USC, Oklahoma, and Ohio State should all expect to have great seasons (Washington and Penn State not so much). If Alabama can overcome the first hurdle, a season opener against the Seminoles, they’ll be right on track. Realistically, a loss wouldn’t eliminate them from the college football playoff, but it would put them in a hole forcing them to win out to insure their spot in the playoffs.

However, a win against FSU would provide the perfect confidence boost for Alabama to go on a tear throughout the entire season and win the 2018 National Championship.

College Football Week 13 (Rivalry Week) Rundown

Photo via MGoblue.com

#2 Ohio State vs #3 Michigan — Winner: Michigan

Home field Advantage? Check.

Winning at home vs Michigan since 2000? Check.

Chaos factor (i.e., they muddle up the process of choosing playoff contenders completely)? Check.

Everything seems to point to the Buckeyes. Regardless, something deep down tells me that Michigan is going to win and cement themselves for the playoffs. Don’t ask me why.  The game will be decided by less than five points and in the last five minutes, but I think it’ll be decided in favor of Michigan. I think Ohio State will have the first half advantage—and for a home game, this is huge—but desperation and a strong and balanced team will give Michigan the comeback power it needs to take the game.

#1 Alabama vs #15 Auburn — Winner: Alabama

Every year I want to choose Auburn to win this one. Alabama is hungry for its postseason, and they want to be on top when they inevitably enter the playoffs at the end of the year. Saban is 6-3 in the Iron Bowl, and the Crimson Tide enjoys their time at the top too much to lose to their bitter rival. Their defenses are pretty even, but I think Bama has the competitive edge when it comes to offense, and ultimately they’ll win a bitterly close matchup.

#10 Colorado vs #12 Utah — Winner: Colorado

Utah will be unable to stop the Buffaloes’ crazy win streak, especially after being humbled by a 3-7 Oregon team last week. Liufau is going to have a miraculous showing, and with no home field advantage for either team, even Utah’s strong special teams via Andy Phillips won’t be able to snag the win.

#6 Washington vs #22 Washington State — Winner: Washington State

This is my huge upset of the week, and I think I’ll be spot on about it. Washington showed its weakness when it lost to USC, and I think it’ll be caught off guard by Falk and his receivers. Falk will throw for well over 300 yards, and while it’ll of course be a close game, WSU will come out on top and Washington will lose its hopes of going to the playoffs.

#17 Florida State vs #23 Florida — Winner: FSU

This is gonna be a super close game. Last year, even Seminoles fans were disappointed at how badly the Seminoles beat UF, and now the Gators will be back with a vengeance. Despite that, the over 80,000 capacity venue at Doak Campbell in Tallahassee will be enough to rattle the Gators, and they won’t be able to slow down Dalvin Cook nearly enough.

#8 Penn State vs Michigan State — Winner: Penn State

Looking at records this seems like a no-brainer, but all I’m saying is that Michigan State and Dantonio are gonna keep this closer than anyone expects.

#16 LSU vs #25 Texas A&M — Winner: LSU

The Aggies will be too overconfident with their home field advantage, and LSU will show them why that’s a mistake. It won’t be close, but I can predict a high scoring game from both teams. LSU will get a strong showing from both Guice and Elting, and Knight just won’t be able to cut it for TAMU.

College Football Week 12 Run Down

Photo via Getty Images

This week is definitely an off week for most of the top 10. With the exception of my predicted upset from Houston and the showdown between #8 Oklahoma and #10 West Virginia, all of the teams expect to hold their rankings and get ready for competitions down the road. The * denotes “good games to watch.”

#1 Alabama vs. Chattanooga — Winner: Alabama 

If the Crimson Tide doesn’t roll over Chattanooga, there’s a problem. While Bennifield is a strong QB, the Mocs can’t even begin to compete on the level of Saban’s franchise.

#2 Ohio State vs. Michigan State — Winner: Ohio State

In any other year, I wouldn’t be so quick to choose OSU as the winner of this matchup; after a surprisingly disastrous season, however, I don’t think the Spartans have nearly enough talent or momentum to come out on top.

* #3 Louisville vs. Houston — Winner: Houston 

On paper, this seems like a huge upset, but Houston has proven time and time again that they are more than a match for high ranking programs. After some good upsets earlier in the season, Houston lost a lot of the momentum they’d gained in a shocker vs. Navy. If their defense has a strong showing, I think the Cougars can be a hard team to beat.

#4 Michigan vs. Indiana — Winner: Michigan 

Michigan comes into the game with a strong defense that the Hoosiers will be unable to overcome. Indiana is still reeling after a loss to Penn State, and their hopes of bowl eligibility will only come to fruition with a win over Purdue, not Michigan.

#5 Clemson vs. Wake Forest — Winner: Clemson

The strong Tigers team will be more than a match for the Demon Deacons, and while Clemson will win I feel like Wake will put up more of a fight than anyone thinks. They held their own in the first half against Louisville, and Clemson undoubtedly has their loss to Pitt fresh in their minds.

#6 Wisconsin vs. Purdue — Winner: Wisconsin  

This’ll be a no-contest, bread and butter win for Wisconsin. The Badgers have proven their worth as a powerhouse football program this year and will have no problem taking care of Purdue’s mistake-prone offense.

* #7 Washington vs. Arizona State — Winner: Washington

I was almost tempted to predict an upset here. Washington fell to USC last week in an embarrassing loss, and now nurses a 9-1 record—amazing to be sure, but not where they would like to be right now. On the other hand, Arizona State is not nearly as powerful as a team as I expected they would be. At 5-5 with four straight losses, they simply do not have the momentum to punch through the hole opened up by Washington’s recent loss. ASU has won the last 10 matches against the Huskies, but this will break their streak.

#8 Oklahoma vs. #10 West Virginia — Winner: Oklahoma 

This is really the game to watch out for. Both teams are hoping for a Big 12 championship spot, and both have the right type of momentum coming into today’s game. WVU’s pass defense will prove to be a thorn in the Sooners’ side, and the Mountaineers will ride their home field advantage as far as they can. It’s gonna be a tough win for Oklahoma but I think they’ll pull it off. They have a strong offense and a 7-game winning streak to show for their effort this season. It’s going to be a very close game, and I expect it’ll be within 6 points by the time it’s over.

#9 Penn State vs. Rutgers — Winner: Penn State

Penn State will make short work of the 2-8 Rutgers squad. It never helped Rutgers that they had an extremely hard schedule this year, but there isn’t much of an excuse for a 2-8 team.

Non-Top 10 Games to Watch Out For

#11 Utah vs. Oregon — Winner: Utah

Remembering how good Oregon looked the last couple of years, it’s strange to reconcile that with their record. Plain and simple, the Ducks aren’t performing well at all. While this is the perfect spoiler game—the perfect game to call an upset for—I just don’t think the Ducks will be able to prevail. The Utes will have a hard time with this win because Oregon doesn’t seem very formidable at 3-7, but in the end, they’ll come out on top. Barely.