At this point in the season, we know things, more things than we knew a few months ago. Call it a college football mid term exam, where stumbling in smelling of Old Crow and Newports isn’t really an option. Mississippi State is really good. Michigan is really not. Dana Holgorsen really is the fix at West Virginia. Mike Leach surprisingly might not be in Pullman. Katy Perry needs to stay as far away from football as she possibly can. And preferably music too.
With being 50 percent of the way through to the CFB Playoff, there will be frauds we look back on and figure we should have seen; there will be teams we didn’t expect to shove on. And here they are, as if this really delegates anything like it’s the Martians telling us how the future will turn out. Trust No One, and all that.
Alabama: (ducks for flying objects launched at head) I like Alabama. They Crimson Tide are one of the blue bloods of the sport. But this isn’t their year. Next year might be … because they’re Alabama … but this year probably isn’t in a tougher than probably expected SEC West. The secondary has been shaky at times — it’s up against a sterling standard, so that will happen. The Tide don’t run the ball with impunity, and the offense turns the ball over more than Alabama normally does. It’s a younger-ish team with a younger-ish quarterback in terms of experience, and this is how things go when that happens. Ranking the Tide in the top 10 is sketchy, but polls don’t matter anymore. Alabama isn’t beating elite teams right now. That could change, of course. The Tide might get Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa, but they’re not there yet. Keep your flying objects to yourself, please.
TCU: Look, I like any team with the internal self confidence to call itself the Horned Frogs as much as the next guy, and Trevone Boykin truly is a special player, but what that Baylor game showed the world last week was that one team was ready to take that step when it abso-freaking-lutely had to, even against the odds, and the other wasn’t ready to metaphorically shut the door in high-pressure situations. The upside for TCU is that the Horned Frogs have acclimated well to the “Large 12 without two.” There is no longer really a question of, “Can this former non-BCS power sustain with the jump up in conference?” I think that question has been answered, only there’s a ceiling on it for this particular year. There are no stupid statistics or metrics when it comes to winning titles, it’s about whether or not you can get it done when it has to get done.
Anyone in the Pac-12 other than Oregon: There’s a lot of “not ready” going on in the Pac-12 this year. Having conference depth is fantastic, but your elite teams need to act as elite teams when the rubber meets the road, and you look back and marvel a bit at where the conference would be with just a few different results, like USC not being bullied up and down the field by mediocre Boston College or UCLA not falling to Utah. Arizona and that Utah team aren’t ready yet. These are just the breaks. If the Pac-12 is getting a team into the CFB Playoff, it’s Oregon. If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it must be the West Coast’s lone hope, which in turn gives hope to teams from other conferences: one of the de facto two best conferences in the country in any sane person’s estimation is really close to being shut out of the playoff.
Egg Bowl loser: I don’t care if both go in unbeaten. That game ends up being a playoff game. This first year, the onus will be on making this thing look like a legit system, which it would look less like if you start funneling teams in from the same division, let alone the same conference. This is, of course, the way it should be, no matter who tells you otherwise. Odds are that both won’t enter unbeaten, since they have to deal with the rugged SEC West, so this is mostly wasted typing by me. (Probably.)
Could happen and off your radar:
Georgia: You find out a lot about anyone or any group of people during adversity. It’s more of a mental state than it is a direct “on the field” asset to have, but the uncertainty of the Todd Gurley situation turned into a galvanizing moment last week against Missouri. Nick Chubb honestly might not be that far of a drop off, the kind of player Georgia recruits well every stinking year, so that’s not much of a surprise. There really doesn’t seem to be anything above mediocre to challenge Georgia in the SEC East, and then it just mostly comes down to a one-game playoff against an SEC West champion. It’s shocking to look at the losses levied to Georgia from this time last year to now and consider the Dawgs an outside playoff shot, but here they are. When you least expect it … and all that …
Ohio State: Gleefully left (by some) for embalming after losing to Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes gathered their undercarriage and have since pelted in an average of 56 points per game, including games against Cincinnati and Maryland. OSU is probably a little defensive improvement from really making a push. It mostly comes down to a one-game playoff of sorts with Michigan State to vault whomever wins that into a likely playoff position, provided that team then wins out. The B1G West is mostly like the SEC East. J.T. Barrett has been a revelation and has to be the national freshman of the year when the smoke clears, no?
Oklahoma: It seems crass to say about TCU “not happening” and then include Oklahoma here after TCU defeated the Sooners two weeks ago, but the ole schedule maker sometimes likes you, and sometimes he doesn’t. Oklahoma will have a more than ample chance to atone for the sins of one loss, and all the Sooners will really need to do is show up hard on their home field to get it done. Baylor comes to Norman. Oklahoma State comes to Norman. The only road games remaining are eternally rebuilding Iowa State and utterly flaccid but fashionable Texas Tech. Since this isn’t Project Runway, I’ll take the Sooners. If I had to wager some loot on the situation, I’d say the Sooners have a pretty decent chance of making football’s fashion week. But they can be had on defense, and a month ago, that didn’t seem like as much of a possibility as it does now. It comes down to clipping Baylor at home. The winner of that gets in.