Even though the college football season is just four weeks complete, it is never too early to predict who will be the last four teams standing.
Here are the JR Report’s predictions for the College Football Playoff.
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Photo via Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
There is no controversy when talking about the No. 1 team in college football, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Clemson Tigers are a top-tier program and the defending champions, however, Alabama is just that dominant. Their defense is stout, their offense has playmakers in the backfield and Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach ever.
After slapping Vanderbilt into the earth, Alabama looks like a lock for the one seed once again.
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In 2016, former Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson, along with a dominant defense, led Clemson to a surprise National Championship victory over Alabama.
Despite Watson’s move to the NFL, the Tigers haven’t taken any steps back.
The lack of a drop-off was apparent when Lamar Jackson’s Louisville Cardinals received a rude awakening in a 42-21 rout.
Current Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant was never expected to replace Watson, but rather just do his best not to be a liability. But the kid can ball and is especially dangerous running the football averaging nearly five yards a carry.
With Florida State crippled under center, Clemson does not have a legitimate threat to the ACC title. Even though the Tigers suffered a scare against Boston College, a betting man should consider the Tigers a playoff lock barring a catastrophe.
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Just like Clemson, Oklahoma learned it is better to win ugly than lose pretty. They survived a late-game surge against Baylor to remain perfect on the season.
Baker Mayfield broke the 1,000-yard passing mark and has still not thrown an interception.
The Heisman hopeful leads a powerful Sooners offense which has amassed over 1,000 yards through the air and over 400 on the ground.
Defensively the Sooners are shaky. Baylor, still winless on the season (cough karma cough) torched the Sooners for 461 yards through the air and 41 points.
But still, Big 12 offenses can score with the best of them, so occasionally having a bad defensive night is expected.
Oklahoma State and TCU seem to be the Sooners’ biggest threat but OU still has a clear path to the College Football Playoffs after dominating its out of conference slate.
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4. Penn State
Iowa is not Baylor or Boston College bad, but still an unranked opponent Penn State was expected to handle. And like Oklahoma and Clemson, the Nittany Lions struggled mightily in an ugly victory.
Penn State has perhaps a Heisman winner on their roster in running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley is averaging an unholy eight yards per carry on 38 attempts. His 211 yards against Iowa furthers his cause to be at the award ceremony in New York.
Trace McSorley has been solid this season with nine touchdowns to only two interceptions.
Moreover, PSU’s defense is elite, pitching two shutouts and still not allowing a team over 20 points.
The Big 10 Championship is probably the hardest to predict this year, but Penn State looks very likely to come out on top of the scrum and earn that coveted playoff spot.
Michael Macon is a contributing writer for The JR Report.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s never too early to think about the winners of the Power Five conferences in College Football. In addition, the American Athletic Conference is turning some heads as a potentially powerful conference for next season. This year will prove to be an exciting year, as several of the potential winners aren’t last year’s champions.
As such, it should prove to be an exciting year, as several of the last season’s winners are not expected to repeat.
ACC: Florida State
Usually, the ACC is one of the toughest conferences to predict, but it often ends with the Clemson Tigers or Florida State Seminoles representing the Atlantic Division.
This year, however, Clemson will downgrade significantly at the quarterback position. With no clear replacement for quarterback Deshaun Watson, they won’t pose any threat offensive threat to the Seminoles.
Quarterback Deondre Francois has developed significantly since starting on the team, and with the top-rated running back recruit in the nation Cam Akers and a crop of new receivers, the FSU offense will have the strength to take down any ACC team.
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The Crimson Tide return this year stronger than ever. With an outstanding recruiting class and developing quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Tide have already proved they’re national championship material.
Alabama returns most of its defensive prowess as well, and the only teams in the SEC that even stand a chance against them are LSU, Georgia, and Florida.
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Big Ten: Ohio State
The Big Ten, maybe the most competitive conference in the country, will end with Ohio State taking the crown narrowly with Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan all close behind.
That being said, the Buckeyes will be one of the best teams in all of college football. They put together one of the best defenses in the country and return Heisman-hopeful quarterback J.T. Barrett.
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USC, a college football playoff favorite, is the heavy favorite in the PAC-12.
Quarterback Sam Darnold is one of the biggest reasons for the team’s success after throwing for 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns last season while not starting until the team’s fourth game.
In addition to Heisman-contender Darnold, USC has the extremely talented five-star running back Stephen Carr to add a new dimension to the Trojan offense.
USC’s main competition, Washington, will have a tough time catching the Trojans as the Huskies have a much tougher schedule and has to play Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, Stanford, and Utah.
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Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield will once again have an outstanding season with their new and skilled recruiting class. As such, they’ll take the BIG-12 throne once again.
One thing to cause them worry—and one thing that will probably be a barrier between them and anything beyond the conference title—is the fact that Bob Stoops retired last week.
Oklahoma’s only real threat is offense-heavy Oklahoma State, and at the end of the day, the Sooners should have an easy time getting past their contender in the conference championship game.
American: University of South Florida
The AAC has been one of the most exciting conferences to follow for the last few seasons. With breakout teams such as Houston, Navy, and Temple, the AAC is a surprisingly stacked conference.
Temple will lose 16 of its starters and is projected to fall behind in USF’s division, leaving the Bulls an open trip to the conference championship.
Houston, Navy, and Tulsa will all battle for the AAC West title, with no clear favorite.
Quarterback Quinton Flowers has been gaining national attention for the last year or so as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. Flowers chalked up 2,812 passing yards and 1,530 rushing yards during his junior season.
Under head coach Charlie Strong, the Bulls will continue to improve. Their roster remains strong from last year and they should find no serious conflict in their schedule besides games against Houston and Tulsa.
Written by Madison House
Photo via Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
In the weeks leading up to the Rose Bowl matchup between Penn State and USC, the media was pumping up the event as the “big comeback Bowl Game.” Both teams, having historically been very strong football programs, were in their first good season since harsh sanctions each had received several years prior.
USC’s sanctions were the result of an aspiring sports agent paying the rent for running back Reggie Bush’s parents. Penn State’s sanctions followed something far different. The president, athletic director, vice president, and head football coach covered up the wrongdoings of their beloved Jerry Sandusky for at least 10 years.
We shouldn’t condone the actions of the USC athletic program. Giving money to college athletes or their families is against NCAA rules. However, it’s important to recognize the difference between helping the family of a player, who needs that economic support, and the occurrence and subsequent institutional suppression of child molestation.
Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky began coaching for Penn State in the 1960s and created a strong football program with one of the highest graduation rates. Their program was known for its integrity and morality. The fame and influence of these coaches extended off of the football field as well; Sandusky began a presidentially recognized charity organization called the Second Mile, which aimed to support underprivileged children in Pennsylvania.
Second Mile children often developed relationships with Sandusky, accompanying him to football games, meeting the players, and playing on the football field. To children living difficult lives in rural Pennsylvania, excursions with a celebrity onto the most important site in town was special.
Why would the president, athletic director, and head coach hide child rape or even questionable Sandusky-child relationships?
The athletics program at Penn State made about $53 million a year during the Paterno-Sandusky era. This profit was largely based on the reliance of its town, State College, and the sparkling legacy of the duo that created a historic football and academic program from scratch. Many argue that the administration wasn’t aware of the extent of Sandusky’s actions, but a 1998 investigation of Sandusky’s possible sexual involvement with children gave a background for the allegation in 2001.
It wasn’t until eight years later that a new investigation on Jerry Sandusky opened up the extent of his violations: 52 young boys came forward with cases about Sandusky, including Sandusky’s adopted son, Matt, and eight victims testified in court. Most victims had similar stories of having poor backgrounds and becoming enchanted with the famous man picking them up but taking the loving father figure too far.
A few years earlier, PSU’s “comeback” rival was facing a far different scandal.
Reggie Bush grew up with a single working mother and little to no relationship with his biological father. Reggie Bush’s need for economic stability made him an easy target for a questionable sports agent.
With the power of education or socioeconomic status, he might have refused the offer, but isn’t the point of college football to give Bush enough education to support his mother and his future?
USC received harsh sanctions justified by their supposed “lack of institutional control” because the athletic director allegedly knew of the wrongdoing and failed to stop it. A valid point, even though the NCAA evaluation gave no individual charge to either the athletic director or the head coach, just a general lack of institutional control.
How does the NCAA justify punishing a football player for accepting rent for his mom’s apartment more harshly than an administration that covers up for a man molesting and raping ten-year-old boys on its campus?
The NCAA’s job is to sanction college athletic programs when rules are broken. Thus, the USC football program received sanctions of scholarships reduced by 30 over the time span of three years, loss of all wins from the 2005 season and two from the 2004 season, and two years of a postseason ban. Penn State received a four-year postseason ban, loss of 112 wins (from 1998 to 2011) including two national titles, one year of the school’s football revenue in a fine, and a loss of 40 scholarships over four years.
These two sets of sanctions are considered two of the harshest sanctions in NCAA history, just short of the “death penalty,” banning that team’s athletic participation for one year. The extremity of the sanctions on Penn State calmed the situation after the initial shock by the horrible actions of Sandusky and the neglect of the Penn State administration to help the young boys.
However, both USC and Penn State appealed for the reduction of their sanctions due to the detrimental effects such sanctions have on a strong football program. USC was denied any reduction of their sanctions, extending their punishment until the 2016-2017 season. Penn State’s appeal lowered their sanctions to the fine and the 112 vacated wins.
How come the sanctions on both schools were so similar? And why were the PSU sanctions repealed, making them significantly less detrimental than those on USC? Both universities displayed a lack of institutional control, but which caused more damage?
While the NCAA claims that a “college degree is at the heart of our mission,” this value often isn’t translated into practice; most student-athletes aren’t required to graduate to become professional athletes, they receive school benefits, and even those that do graduate are given academic “advantages” to maximize the time they spend on the field. Because very few can accumulate enough wealth as a professional athlete, a vast majority of college athletes will need to rely on other skills that were possibly compromised due to their athletic value.
This opportunity for the exploitation of students questions whether or not college athletes should be paid because universities have very little incentive to educate their players or ensure a good quality of life for them. Thus, universities can take advantage of the fact that many aspiring football players lack financial means to get an education or make a living without utilizing their athletic gifts. The NCAA should be their avenue to use physical talents to get a strong education.
As many argue, Reggie Bush should’ve been financially aided for his contribution to the university and to the NCAA which likely would’ve eliminated any relationship between his family and the agent.
As for the effects of the PSU case, many argue that child rape is a worse crime than murder, as raping or molesting a child can have serious effects on that child’s life. About one-third of rape victims consider suicide, and the younger the child, the more their world is morphed by their experiences.
Another prominent defense of the PSU administration is that even though they didn’t punish Sandusky or prevent future harmful interactions, they didn’t completely ignore Sandusky’s actions: they took away his key to the locker room.
Pedophilia is largely considered a mental disorder, a disease, not to mention the mental illness necessary to sexually take advantage of another human being, no matter the age. Coupled with the about 50 young children molested or raped by Sandusky, it’s hard to argue that Sandusky was mentally healthy. Though that in no way justifies his behavior, it increases the necessity of the healthy to ensure the protection of the children who lacked the ability to advocate for themselves.
Paterno, Curley, Schultz, and Spanier likely weren’t pedophiles, likely don’t have a history of sexual assault, so shouldn’t they have been responsible for protecting the situation? They were aware that Sandusky was having inappropriate relations with young boys on school campus and failed to stop it. All of the child rapes and molestation by Sandusky from 2001 to 2011 could’ve been prevented by any of those four men contacting the authorities.
If that’s not a “lack of institutional control,” it is not clear what is. The only control they demonstrated was protecting their football program from the bad publicity of child rape.
There is little to no acknowledgment of the reduction in Penn State sanctions. In fact, many continually display Penn State as having received the harshest sanctions in history, when, in reality, they received very minimal punishment.
Ultimately, the NCAA is faced with recognizing the complexities involved in sanctioning universities. Regardless of which team you cheer for, it’s important to look at why each violation occurred and how harmful that violation was in order to determine the equity of the sanctions.
On the surface this seems like a pretty close matchup. One team has two losses and the other has three. However, I don’t think USC can compete at the same level as the Nittany Lions. First, they were absolutely trashed by Alabama in the season opener. Yeah, a lot of teams get thrashed by Alabama, but top ten teams should be able to at least hold their own. Next, they lost to Stanford, and to a Utah team who lost to Colorado and Washington. If they were the same caliber as Penn State, they would have won those games.
Penn State’s only two losses were a surprise early season loss to Pitt and a loss to Michigan. They beat Wisconsin, Ohio State, and several other powerful programs throughout the season. Simply put, I think they’re better equipped to win this one and show the world that they belong in the college football playoff.
Penn State has a great QB and RB duo that should be hard for the Trojans to beat. Trace McSorley has 760 yards in his last two games, as well as eight touchdowns and 16.3 yards per completion. Saquon Barkley has 19 touchdowns and 1,302 yards rushing along with 23 receptions.
USC’s Sam Darnold’s NFL-level talent and reliable WR Juju Smith-Schuster is a pair that should worry the Penn State defense. Darnold has 2,633 passing yards with 26 touchdowns on the season, while Smith-Schuster averages 12.4 yards per catch.
Most of the predictions I’m seeing say that USC will win this contest. Vegas has them at -7, but I just don’t see it. Sure, it’ll be a really close game, but ultimately the Nittany Lions have more talent and determination. More talent and determination is usually a good recipe for success. Have to go with Penn State to beat USC.
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.
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.