After a giant college football weekend in which the national landscape was muddled further, I figured it would be best to dedicate this column solely to CFB talk.
If you’re looking for my thoughts on Week 8 of the NFL and that INCREDIBLE Game 5 of the World Series (never seen anything like it), tune in to Monday’s Daily Blender from 1-3pm on 1580 The Fanatic, 99.3 FM, 95.9FM in the East Valley, at 1580thefanatic.com, or on the app.
FIRST DOWN: UofA emerges as a contender in the Pac-12 South after a dominating performance against then-#15 Washington State. Now what?
Just looking at these stats, please tell me who won this game:
Team A: Ran 101 plays, gained 646 total yards, held the ball for 37+ minutes, committed 4 turnovers
Team B: Ran 51 plays, gained 585 total yards, held the ball for 22+ minutes, committed 3 turnovers
Team A was Washington State who scored 37 points on Saturday night.
Team B was Arizona who scored 58 in that same game.
My point here…sometimes the stats can be misleading…and on Saturday night in Tucson, that was the case.
I could go on-and-on raving about another stellar performance from QB Khalil Tate, RB J.J. Taylor, and the team as a whole. But I’ll spare you the details…especially those of you who cheer for ASU.
Currently the Wildcats are 1/2 a game behind USC for the Pac-12 South Division lead…and what do you know, the ‘Cats play in L.A. on Saturday night. If the Trojans win, the South is pretty much wrapped up. If not, Arizona’s season goes from awesome to holy s&*t territory…with another Fiesta Bowl berth within reach (best case).
While making predictions on UofA games right now is truly a crapshoot with the emergence of Tate, I’ll tentatively predict a loss to USC followed by a big win at home over the lousy (at best) Oregon State Beavers. Sitting at 7-3, the Wildcats likely achieve an Alamo Bowl berth by sweeping Oregon and ASU on the road. In the case of a split a trip to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl is likely, with the worst case (0-2) being a bowl game in San Francisco or Las Vegas. Fortunately or unfortunately, the Cats look to have outplayed their chances at playing in the Cactus Bowl at Chase Field.
Rich Rodriguez’s job is 100% safe for next season…he’ll be back unless he takes another job elsewhere which considering the emergence of Tate, seems unlikely as well.
And as for Khalil Tate and his Heisman chances…see FOURTH DOWN below.
SECOND DOWN: Despite their blowout loss to USC, there’s still plenty of hope for ASU.
The Sun Devils were downright horrendous in getting crushed by the Trojans, 48-17 on Saturday. USC did pretty much whatever they wanted on offense amassing 607 total yards, including 341 on the ground. The score was closer than the game itself. But all hope is not lost for Todd Graham and his team in 2017…
Sitting at 4-4 with winnable games against Colorado, at UCLA (who might be without star QB Josh Rosen), at sad-sack Oregon State, and home vs. Arizona, a 4-0 finish isn’t out of the question. Unless they run the table and USC loses two of their final three (Arizona, at Colorado, UCLA), a Pac-12 South title isn’t in the cards for ASU this season. But a winning record and notable bowl game would be just enough to springboard the momentum into 2018. A 1-3 or 2-2 record down the stretch including a loss to rival UofA could once again put coach Todd Graham’s job in the crosshairs though.
THIRD DOWN: Ranking my top-10 heading into November
On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff committee will release their first poll – five weeks before the bowl matchups will be set. As I don’t believe in the legitimacy of preseason and early season polls, here are my rankings based on the eye test thus far in 2017.
1. Alabama – They’ve absolutely demolished their way to an 8-0 record thus far…but they still have three tricky games to play in November…LSU, at Mississippi State, and at Auburn. Add in a potential matchup with Georgia in the SEC Championship Game and it’s safe to say no team has a more daunting schedule down the stretch. They might be able to sustain one loss and still make the Final Four.
2. Georgia – Their win at Notre Dame is among the most impressive of any team this year and if they survive a trip to Auburn in two weeks, an undefeated regular season is very likely. Do that and play Alabama close in the SEC Championship Game means the Bulldogs are a virtual lock to make the Rose or Sugar Bowls (i.e. the Final Four).
3. Clemson – Beating both Auburn at home and Virginia Tech on the road is enough to offset their one road loss to Syracuse. Win at NC State this week and over Miami or Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game and they’re a lock.
4. Oklahoma – The Sooners win at Ohio State IS the most impressive win of any team this year…but the home loss vs. Iowa State was a major buzz kill. If they survive their rivals, Oklahoma State this week and TCU next week, the Sooners will most certainly be a viable playoff contender. But can they beat one of the two a second time in the Big XII Championship? I’ll say OU ends up with at least two losses and out of the playoff.
5. Ohio State – Nice comeback to beat Penn State by 1 but other than the Nittany Lions and Oklahoma (who smoked them in Columbus), they’ve faced no stiff competition. Beating an undefeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game would help…but be careful to that trip at Michigan to end the regular season first. My gut says they lose again.
6. Penn State – An 11-1 Penn State team won’t make the top 4 because their strength of schedule just won’t cut it. They had to beat Ohio State and run the table to be a playoff lock. Now they need quite a bit of help.
7. Notre Dame – Had they beaten Georgia in Week 2, they would be the unquestioned #2 team in America right now. Unfortunately they still have to play at Miami and at Stanford down the stretch. I’m very confident in saying they won’t win both and therefore won’t end up ranked in the top 4.
8. Oklahoma State – Other than the loss to TCU, this team passes the eye test in a big way. They can win with offense and / or defense…and the scores of their games are more wildly unpredictable than any other team on this list. Like the Sooners above, if the Cowboys win out, they’re in. Probably the same thing with fellow Big XII member TCU…good luck predicting this conference the rest of the way!
9. Miami FL – Undefeated thus far but the tests start this week: back-to-back home games against Virginia Tech (who just missed this list) and Notre Dame. Win both…and beat Clemson in the ACC Title Game and they’re 100% in the CFB Playoff. Unfortunately for the ‘Canes, I like the Hokies to crash the party in South Florida this Saturday.
10. Wisconsin – Unless Michigan resurfaces in the top 25 soon, the Badgers might go the entire regular season without playing a single ranked team. Beating Ohio State or Penn State in the Big 10 Championship would likely get them in. But for now, I’m not convinced on their legitimacy.
FOURTH DOWN: Barkley a Heisman lock? Not so fast my friends!
Here’s how I’d vote if I had a ballot right now.
1. Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State) – Dynamic player as a runner, receiver, and returner. Since the Heisman is supposed to be awarded to the best player in college football, Barkley fits that criteria. His 14 all-purpose TDs are impressive but his performance against Ohio State, outside of returning the opening kickoff for a score wasn’t. The frontrunner but far from a lock at this point.
2. Bryce Love (RB, Stanford) – The numbers have been eye-popping thus far, 1,387 yards rushing and 11 TDs in seven games. But watching his team be punchless without him against Oregon State last Thursday was enough for me to justify this high ranking. If there was a CFB MVP award, it might be Love’s to lose.
3. J.T. Barrett (QB, Ohio State) – Completed his last 16 passes on Saturday in leading the Buckeyes to a furious comeback over Penn State. Started the season off poorly but if he keeps up this level of play, there’s no reason to think Ohio State’s QB won’t be invited to New York at season’s end.
4. Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma) – 23 passing TDs and 4 rushing scores thus far this season. A dynamic playmaker on one of the nation’s best teams, he probably won’t win the award but certainly deserves to be a finalist.
5. Khalil Tate (QB, Arizona) – Yes, I’m going there. And why not? His team was dead in the water until he came out of nowhere to take the nation by storm and lead the Wildcats into the top 25. In the four games Tate has played in October, Arizona has scored 45,47,45, and 58 points. Despite having only 69 carries, Tate ranks 13th in the nation in rushing yards. Keep up this pace and there’s no question he deserves an invitation to the Heisman ceremony!