It’s October, Sun Belt and MAC games are on Tuesday and Wednesday and college basketball writers are warming up their computers. That means we’re officially halfway through the regular season … college football season moves so fast.
But as we move closer and closer to Oct. 30 – the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season – we continue to see significant movement. We are closer to the realization that multiple Power 5 conferences will be let out of the Playoff for the second consecutive season, and we are closer to the possibility of three, maybe four undefeated teams to end the season.
So here’s my projected CFP Top 10:
2) Notre Dame
4) Ohio State
6) Penn State
7) West Virginia
Again this what I believe the committee would have as their Top 10 if they had to rank them right now. When you look at schedule strength and results, Notre Dame has done enough to be the No. 2-ranked team. Four of Georgia’s final six opponents will be ranked, starting Saturday at No. 13 LSU, so the Bulldogs will have many chances to solidify their situation.
The Playoff Predictor sees a considerable gap between the top five and the next five with LSU completely out of the picture.
Five teams have separated themselves from the pack in the College Football Playoff race. pic.twitter.com/Jg2HxRJOT3
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 8, 2018
Last week I spotlighted my editor’s tweet. This week I will spotlight his idea. He told me it was time to step things up a bit and predict some scores. Predicting anything isn’t necessarily my strong suit, but for the greater good I will do it.
So let’s get it started:
Teams in the AP Top 25 (8): Alabama (1), Georgia (2), LSU (13), Florida (14), Kentucky (18), Auburn (21), Texas A&M (22), Mississippi State (24).
Alabama is still rolling along and will likely beat Missouri by 28-35 points, so let’s isolate on LSU-Georgia. The bad news for LSU is its 27-19 loss to Florida took the Tigers out of every metric.
The good news is LSU still controls its fate. Win out and get to the SEC Championship Game. Win the SEC Championship Game and get into the CFP. It’s that simple. As for Georgia, this is officially the meat of the Bulldogs’ schedule with LSU, Florida, Kentucky and Auburn over the next five weeks. All four teams are ranked (for now) and if the Bulldogs can get through this gauntlet they still have a very good shot of making the CFP win or lose in the SECCG as long as it’s competitive.
So while LSU-Georgia isn’t quite a total elimination, it’s very close to one and when it’s all said and done I think the Bulldogs will move forward with a 24-17 victory in Death Valley.
Florida has won four in a row and is this close to getting in the CFP discussion. But the Gators still have to beat Georgia on Oct. 27. And before looking ahead to that Cocktail Party, they have to beat Vanderbilt this weekend. Expect a sluggish Florida team to grind out a 23-10 win in Nashville.
Teams in the AP Top 25 (4): Ohio State (3), Penn State (8), Michigan (12), Wisconsin (15).
Ohio State should put up a 60 spot at home against Minnesota, and Penn State has a home date against Michigan State, which seemed tougher before Sparty lost at home to Northwestern.
So let’s focus on Michigan-Wisconsin. The Badgers play in the Big Ten West, so it should make the conference title game. But they will need a ton of help to get back in the Playoff race. Beating a top 15 team like Michigan at home would be a good start.
Michigan is an interesting team. It has a lot of pitfalls ahead but also a lot of potential opportunity. Beat Wisconsin at home, slide by Michigan State on the road next week and face Penn State at home on Nov. 3 in a very important game. If the Wolverines survive that, it makes their trip to Ohio State a winner-take-all trip to the Big Ten Championship Game. The 24-17 opening-week loss at Notre Dame looks great in hindsight. With games against two Top 10 teams, Michigan is similar to LSU, in that there’s plenty of opportunity to make a strong case for the Playoff.
For the sake of personal enjoyment and seeing as many teams clog up the CFP as possible, I’m going with Team Khakis in the primetime showdown on Saturday. Michigan 21, Wisconsin 14.
Teams in the AP Top 25 (3): West Virginia (6), Texas (9), Oklahoma (11).
What’d I tell you about Texas?
Even though ESPN was basically Oklahoma-or-bust in regards to the Big 12, I still believe that Texas has a strong chance at busting in the CFP if it can win out. A 12-1 Texas team on a 12-game win streak with a Big 12 conference championship is going to get consideration. The Longhorns have the best strength of schedule of any team in the Top 10.
The fate of this conference lies in the Nov. 3 game between Texas and West Virginia in Austin. Texas has some pitfalls as well — a road game against Oklahoma State on Oct. 27 will be tricky – but this Saturday, it’s a 52-24 win over Baylor.
No. 6 West Virginia has a tricky one this week at Iowa State. The Cyclones always put up a good fight at home and Saturday should be no different. Expect Will Grier and company to barely escape Ames with a 42-35 win. That would make West Virginia 6-0.
Meanwhile Oklahoma will now deal with life without a Stoops.
Teams in the AP Top 25 (3): Clemson (4), Miami (16), N.C. State (20).
Clemson and N.C. State are off and face each other in Week 8, so we can table that discussion for seven days. But I must say the Tigers looked much more like the team they should be in a blowout win over Wake Forest last week.
Nothing about Miami tells me they will be in the conversation. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Hurricanes dropped two games in their remaining schedule. They should definitely be on upset alert this weekend against Virginia, but I’ll give them a break and say they squeak by with a 34-27 win in Charlottesville.
Teams in the AP Top 25 (3): Washington (7), Oregon (17), Colorado (19).
Here you are Pac-12: It’s do or die this weekend. Washington is at Oregon and Colorado finally plays a team with a pulse when it travels to USC.
Oregon … Oregon … Oregon. If the Ducks didn’t choke away that game against Stanford, I’d think they would be in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 claim to a Playoff spot. As it is they can only play spoiler for now and hope for a lot of help. Washington has done just enough to stick around the top 10. The Huskies haven’t proven they belong in the CFP, but they haven’t eliminated themselves, either. There’s Oregon this week and Colorado next week. Win those two and they are home free, but it still might not be enough.
That being said, I like Oregon winning big at home, 41-24, this week to end Washington’s hopes.
As for Colorado, that No. 101 strength of schedule is inexcusably bad, but luckily it won’t get any worse. There’s no such thing as a bad win against USC, especially on the road. But I’m just not a believer in Ralphie and I don’t see the Buffaloes handing the Trojans their first home loss in 3 years. USC 35, Colorado 31.
AP rank: 5
Might as well give Notre Dame its own subhead. The Irish have been very good, especially since inserting Ian Book in as the starting quarterback. The ranked portion of the schedule, however, is over. Of the Irish’s final six opponents, only USC would appear to have a chance to be ranked when they play. But Notre Dame has passed the eye test thus far and deserve to be heavily in the CFP mix. Now it has to stay there with dominant wins over weaker competition. The Irish will start off on the right foot this week with a 44-17 win over Pitt.
Group of 5s
Teams in the AP Top 25 (3): UCF (10), South Florida (23), Cincinnati (25).
Well the good news is all three unbeaten AAC teams will play one other. UCF’s No. 128 strength of schedule is disgraceful for a top 10 team, but that’s the annual challenge for any Group of 5 team. Cincinnati at No. 123 and South Florida at No. 115 aren’t much better.
What UCF has, however, is a little bit of credibility. The Knights did beat Auburn last year and they haven’t lost a game since December of 2016. So would a UCF team with 25 consecutive wins get serious consideration? Yes and they should. And frankly it’s a bad system if they don’t.
Two of the three keep it going this week, too. UCF holds off Memphis, 55-42; USF slides by Tulsa, 45-38; but Temple pulls the upset on Cincinnati, 38-28.