College Football Mid-Season Report
Since the midpoint of the college season is upon us I thought it would be a good idea to review the preseason AP top 25 poll and compare it to this weeks’. So let’s take a look at what teams are falling in line with the preseason predictions, which teams have us asking why did we think they were so good and why others weren’t even given a chance at being contenders. I also gave insight on their remaining schedule and prospects for the rest of the season.
Why did we think they were good?
Team Preseason Rank - Current Rank, Record
LSU 5 – UR, 3-2 Les is out after losses to Wisconsin 4-1 and Auburn 4-2 both on the road by a combined 7 points, seems like an overreaction to me. The Tigers are obviously not as good as their preseason ranking but they aren’t as bad as their current ranking either. They have plenty of opportunities to turn the season around with games vs Alabama, at Florida, at Arkansas and at Texas A&M.
Stanford 8 – UR, 3-2 After 3 weeks Stanford looked like they were on track for another stellar season. Then back to back blow out losses, first one at Washington is understandable, losing 42-16 at home to Washington state isn’t. Stanford has been bit by the injury bug which could be their biggest issue. If the Cardinals can get healthy they can bounce back strong as rest of their schedule is littered with teams that are either bad or in a rebuilding year.
ND 10 – UR, 2-4 They have wins over Nevada and Syracuse ouch, losses to Texas, Michigan State, Duke and NC State not a good team among them. This is probably the biggest miss, where did it all go wrong for Brian Kelly? He should probably start with the defense as they haven’t stopped anyone yet. At this point the only way to salvage the season is to play spoiler, with Miami and Virginia Tech left, they certainly can do that.
TCU 13 – UR, 4-2 Their two losses are looking better, combined 9 point losses to Arkansas and Oklahoma. The problem is their wins are really unimpressive, SDST, Iowa St, SMU and Kansas by 1 point. Kansas might be the worst power 5 team with only 1 win over Rhode Island. With games at West Virginia and Baylor the Horned Frogs will have the opportunity to ruin the Mountaineers and Bears seasons.
UCLA 16 – UR, 3-3 They have 1 good loss @Texas A&M, that is the best thing about their season. Thankfully they don’t have to play Washington, this is the only saving grace to their remaining schedule. The Bruins season will come down to the November 19th clash with crosstown rival USC.
FSU 4 – 14, 4-2 Wins over Ole Miss, Miami and South Florida are solid, blowout loss to Louisville and losing at home to NC make FSU the biggest unknown of the teams in the top 25. Their season rests on beating Clemson in 3 weeks.
Oklahoma 3 – 19, 3-2 Losses to Houston and Ohio state weren’t as close as they look, beating Texas in the Red River shootout didn’t give signs of hope either. A disappointing season in which they still control their own destiny in the BIG 12.
Iowa 17 – UR, 4-2 Losses to FCS power N Dakota St and Big 10 rival Northwestern, Iowa is out of the national race but is still undefeated in league play. Their season could come down to a game in Lincoln vs the Cornhuskers on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Georgia – 18 – UR, 4-2 The Kirby Smart era started strong with a win over North Carolina but then 2 wins by a combined 3 points over FCS team Nicholas State and SEC cellar dweller Missouri was the start of things to come. After a beating at the hands of Ole Miss and a heartbreaking Hail Mary loss to Tennessee, Georgia’s season is on life support. I wonder if the Georgia fan base is starting to question firing Mark Richt? Kirby with have to beat Florida and GT to keep the rabid dawg fans at bay.
USC 20 – UR, 3-3 After the opening night thrashing by Alabama I asked did USC even deserve a preseason ranking? Seems like it was given based on name alone. Losing to Stanford and Utah gave me a definitive answer which was no. Back to back wins over Arizona State and Colorado prove nothing as neither team has been especially tested. With a record that stands at 3-3 the Trojans are just hoping to go .500 and beat crosstown rival UCLA.
Oregon 24 – UR, 2-4 After Saturday’s thrashing by Washington, Oregon is now 2-4, riding a 4 game losing streak. They seem to have never recovered from the close loss to Nebraska in week 3 that started the current slide. They will try to get right at Cal in 2 weeks.
Falling right in line
Alabama 1 – 1, 6-0 Besides trailing Ole Miss 24-3 with 2:47 left in the 2nd quarter, Bama hasn’t been tested. They went from down 21 to up 3 with 6:03 left in the 3rd quarter and haven’t looked back since. After pounding Kent State and Kentucky by a combined score of 83-6, Saban and the Tide went on the road and defeated a ranked Arkansas team by 19 in a game that wasn’t that close. Just ask Lawton Nalley, an Arkansas professor who was arrested after yelling “If I had your record I’d be f****** fired. F*** you.” at Arkansas coach Brett Bielema. Saban has the tide rolling but they should be tested over the next 3 weeks with games at Tennessee, Texas A&M and at LSU.
Ohio State 6 – 2, 5-0 The win over an overrated Oklahoma team is all Ohio State has going for it. Upcoming games at Wisconsin, vs Nebraska and vs Michigan should provide much tougher tests.
Clemson 2 – 3, 6-0 The Tigers started slow out of the gate with people wondering what was wrong after 3 weeks. After they handled ACC foe Georgia Tech in Atlanta and then defeated everyone’s early season darling Louisville it seems Clemson is right back on track. They just need to avoid the look ahead game against NC State, enjoy a bye week and then go to Tallahassee to take on the Seminoles in a game that appears to be the last challenge on their schedule. Clemson projects to be double digit favorites in their remaining games against Syracuse, Pitt, @Wake and vs instate rival South Carolina.
Michigan 7 – 4, 6-0 Michigan was tested for their 5th win of the season against Wisconsin. The rest of their schedule has seen the Wolverines beating up on some has-beens (Colorado and Penn State) and never-will-bes (Hawaii, UCF and Rutgers). Besides the season ending game with rival Ohio State in the horseshoe and the possibility that rival Michigan State gives them a fight in East Lansing, the rest of their schedule should be a breeze. However, on the road against Iowa on November 12th could be a sneaky spot for Michigan to be tripped up. I doubt Illinois, Maryland or Indiana can keep it close in the Big House.
Tennessee 9 – 9, 5-1 Tennessee’s season to this point has been defined by the difference in their play between the first and second halves. They have trailed in 5 of 6 games this year by scores of 13-3, 14-0, 21-3, 17-0, 28-7. Bad first halves finally caught up to them with their OT loss to Texas A&M. Tennessee has lost 9 straight to Alabama, they will need to solve the slow start problem when they head to Tuscaloosa on Saturday to face the juggernaut that Nick Saban has built at Alabama. A win almost guarantees a birth in the SEC Championship game as the Vols remaining schedule is littered with the bottom feeders of the SEC.
Ole Miss 11 – 12, 3-2 The Rebels are being held up by who they lost to. Bama and FSU defeated Ole Miss after trailing by scores of 24-3 and 28-6. Even though Ole Miss had sound leads in both games the level that the Tide and Seminoles were able to come back and still soundly defeat the Rebels leads me to believe they are overrated. Wins over Wofford, Georgia and Memphis don’t say much. Games at Arkansas, at LSU, Texas A&M will determine if the Rebels retain their lofty ranking.
Houston 15 – 13, 5-1 The season opening win over Oklahoma catapulted the Cougars up the rankings, however last week’s loss to Navy puts them back about where they started and put an end to any National Championship talk for Tom Herman and his upstart Houston squad. Houston still has a shot to pull off a successful season if they can win their remaining AAC schedule and defeat Louisville on November 17th in Houston on a huge Thursday night ESPN tilt.
Florida 25 – 18, 4-1 The Gators can still win the SEC East, however they need to win out and have Tennessee lose another SEC game. I wonder if McElwain is sending Saban a gift basket this week? By giving up the big Volunteer come back they allowed the Vols to defeat Florida for the first time after 11 consecutive losses. Florida really needs the LSU game to be played if they want to move into any sort of national championship conversation, UMass, N Texas and Presbyterian certainly kills their strength of schedule.
Utah UR – 21, 5-1 I am not sure why the Utes are ranked, they are 5-1 but their claim to fame is a defeat of a bad USC team and their one loss is to an even worse Cal team. This seems like an underserved ranking. If they can navigate their remaining Pac 12 schedule they will certainly continue to rise in the rankings.
Arkansas UR – 22, 4-2 Here is a team that has 4 wins over relative no bodies and then the 2 times they faced talented competition they were beaten down like the average team they are. Arkansas is ranked because they are in the SEC and their 2 losses are to 2 of the top 6 teams. I don’t believe they deserve to be this high, games vs Ole Miss, Florida and LSU along with road tests at Auburn and Miss St will determine if I am correct.
Auburn UR – 23, 4-2 Auburn appears to be much better than the preseason pundits gave them credit. Close losses to Clemson and Texas A&M show they can hang with anyone and wins over LSU and Miss State show they are an above average team. The remaining schedule is tough road tilts with Ole Miss, Georgia and rival Alabama, along with Arkansas at home should provide huge tests. Even if they can navigate the remaining schedule unscathed they will need some help to make the SEC Championship game, as they need A&M to lose twice.
Navy UR – 25, 4-1 Here is another team that is over ranked, they have 1 quality win over a pretty good Houston team, however their one loss to their service academy rival Air Force is a bad loss. I don’t see this ranking lasting all season as their remaining schedule is devoid of any good teams that beating would boost them up and a loss to any team they play will result in them being bounced.
Why didn’t we think they were good?
Washington 14 -5, 6-0 The Huskies have shot up the rankings have throttling Stanford and Oregon in back to back weeks. Now while both teams have been great in recent years, 2016 isn’t one of those years. Oregon is in what appears to be a rebuilding year and Stanford has had so many injuries they are only a shadow of their normal selves. I think the Huskies are good but nothing on their remaining schedule is going to let you know for sure. If they make the playoffs the team they play will be their first real test.
Louisville 19 – 7, 4-1 Louisville is living off its beat down of the Seminoles and staying close with the Tigers. The rest of their schedule has been beating up overmatched opponents and this should continue as all their remaining opponents’ sans Houston should be overmatched as well. The Thursday night test in Houston vs the Cougars should give the Cardinal one more test prior to their bowl game. They still have an outside shot at making the ACC title game, however that would require Clemson to lose 2 ACC games and that seems very unlikely.
Texas A&M UR – 6, 6-0 Texas A&M might be the most battle tested team in the country to this point. They have played 5 power 5 teams including 4 tough conference games. It looks like the winner, of the game against Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2 weeks, will be in the driver seat in the SEC West division.
Wisconsin UR – 8, 4-1 The Badgers appear to be for real after wins over LSU and Michigan State and the lone loss to Michigan in the Big House by a TD. The Badgers’ game on Saturday vs Ohio state will give them another opportunity to show just how real they are. If they pass that test, they still have huge games at Iowa and home vs Nebraska, along with the rest of their remaining BIG10 slate.
Nebraska UR – 10, 5-0 At 5-0 and 2-0 in conference the Cornhuskers appear to be a force to be reckoned with. However, their only good win over Oregon seems worse after each passing week as it becomes more apparent that Oregon isn’t a good team. Their 2 BIG 10 wins are against perennial bottom feeders. We will find out over the next month if Nebraska deserves this lofty ranking as a they travel to Wisconsin and Ohio State. If the Cornhuskers can serve those two road trips, they would then have only one real test remaining a season ending test at Iowa between them in the BIG10 Championship game.
Baylor 23 – 11, 5-0 Baylor is another team that seems underserving of their ranking. The Bears have moved up 12 spots so far on the season but their 5 wins are over nobodies. An 11-point win at home versus Oklahoma State is the best thing they have going for them which isn’t saying much. From the way the BIG12 is shaking out their only real test will be at Oklahoma on November 12th. I think it is possible for an undefeated Big 12 team to be left out of the Playoff.
Boise State UR – 15, 5-0 Boise State is 5-0 which is why they are ranked, however the quality of their wins certainly brings into question if they deserve their ranking of 15. Unfortunately, there are no games on their schedule that is going to give us an answer. The Broncos should be able to remain undefeated with the easy schedule they have remaining. Even if they go undefeated their strength of schedule will prevent Boise State from making any noise on the national scene.
Miami UR – 16, 4 – 1 I am sure the Hurricanes are still stinging from the 1-point loss to FSU because of a blocked extra point. At 4-1 Miami has no great wins but has just entered the meat of their schedule. If they can finally rebound from an FSU loss, the Hurricanes are 15-15 after losses to FSU the previous 6 seasons, they can still have a successful first season for Mark Richt. They can begin to reverse that trend with a win over North Carolina on Saturday and then by beating Virginia Tech on Thursday night the following week. Those 2 wins would put Miami in the driver seat towards their first ACC championship birth.
Virginia Tech UR – 17, 4-1 only loss to Tennessee in a neutral sight game. I am still not sure what to make of Virginia Tech. They were soundly defeated by Tennessee, they have 3 wins over bad competition and a win over North Carolina that took place during hurricane Matthew. Their defense appears to be up to Bud Foster standards and the offense is going great under new coach Justin Fuentes. Based on the season to date their only real competition remaining is a Thursday Night tilt with the Hurricanes on October 20th. A win over Miami puts Tech in prime position to represent the Coastal division in the ACC championship game.
West Virginia UR – 20, 4-0 The Mountaineers are off to a 4-0 start with all being unimpressive wins over bad teams. The schedule does stiffen with TCU, at Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor remaining. I don’t see West Virginia navigating those games undefeated. Even if they did I am not sure an undefeated BIG 12 team isn’t left out of the playoffs.
Western Michigan UR – 24, 6-0 The Broncos are 6-0 with wins over a couple of bad BIG10 teams appearing to prop them up. With only conference games remaining I don’t see Western Michigan moving much farther up the rankings, even if they do remain undefeated.
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