Alabama and Clemson look like the favorites once again, but plenty of challengers loom. Before getting to those teams, we’ll start out West with a big win for Mike Leach and his Cougars.
Washington State beat USC on Friday, 30-27. The Cougars are 4-0 and might crash the playoff. They still have Oregon, Colorado and Washington left. Nothing is guaranteed, but Leach will make the journey fun:
Mike Leach is an American Treasure. pic.twitter.com/4Ashs2r4KH— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 30, 2017
USC’s season is not over. If the Trojans win out, they’re almost assuredly in the playoff. They lost early and carry a powerful brand. Baylor and TCU fans understand brand matters. But the Trojans have been mediocre too often this season. Western Michigan kept it close, and Texas nearly pulled off an upset. USC is missing three starting linemen and needs to run the table. Their season isn’t over yet, but that day seems to be coming.
Is Washington actually good? They’ve played one of the worst schedules in the country, and they led Oregon State by just 7 points at halftime. The Huskies had a close game with Rutgers. Once again, Washington could be good enough to make the playoff and bad enough to make viewers wish they hadn’t.
Penn State rolled Indiana, a week after nearly losing to Iowa. I still think the Nittany Lions are the class of the Big Ten. Saquon Barkley only averaged 2.8 yards per carry, but he ran the opening kickoff back:
Saquon Barkley opens the game with a kick return TD! pic.twitter.com/dYGg6OjJSf— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 30, 2017
Ohio State drilled Rutgers, which is what should happen. The Nittany Lions have Michigan and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks. The Buckeyes just might make the playoff, again.
I am not a believer in Wisconsin, but they have such an easy path to the Big Ten Championship Game. Northwestern led for a while, and the Badgers struggle to move the football. But college football is a just win sport. They won. The Badgers also get Michigan at home and avoid Penn State and Ohio State.
On Northwestern’s final possession, the Wildcats showed they are very much a basketball school:
Perhaps Clayton Thorson was thinking of Dan Orlovsky here. pic.twitter.com/Lw6WhyX2x7— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) September 30, 2017
Only two games for the league on Saturday, and our thoughts on the Baylor game are everywhere else on the website.
The Cowboys season is not over. Oklahoma State won a close contest against Texas Tech. Like USC, an early loss leaves the Cowboys with a narrow path to the playoff. But unlike the Trojans, the Cowboys have shown plenty in their other games to make it possible they could run the table.
Texas Tech has been substantially better than most of us thought. The Cowboys won, but the Red Raiders look like they could win eight or nine games. “Last Chance U” star Dakota Allen has been a big reason why:
Introducing the PFF All-American Watch, through four weeks of football.— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) September 28, 2017
The dogs are rolling. Georgia walloped Tennessee, 41-0. This is the state of the Volunteers:
This is also not the ideal punt. pic.twitter.com/HmLQfA8aUe— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 30, 2017
LSU joins Tennessee in the “didn’t make it to October before the season was over” club. Ed Orgeron has a $12 million buyout, per Darren Rovell. That fact is relevant because Troy beat LSU on homecoming. Then they came for their roast:
Hey @LSU, thanks for having us down for homecoming! We really enjoyed it!— Troy University (@TROYUnews) October 1, 2017
Auburn’s offense is rolling. A week after destroying Missouri, the Tigers beat Mississippi State, 49-10. The Tigers have Georgia and Alabama in a three week stretch. Auburn lost to Clemson earlier in the year, so they probably need to run the table to make the playoff. That seems nearly impossible, but the Tigers look a lot better.
Clemson is awesome. The Tigers defensive line is money. And the Tigers have destroyed Auburn, Louisville and Virginia Tech. Clemson is the best bet to make the playoff.
But Miami looms. The Hurricanes knocked off Duke, and they’re undefeated in Mark Richt’s second season as head coach. If they play Clemson in the ACC title game, they’ll be underdogs, but the Hurricanes are Clemson’s biggest threat.
These are my guesses for where we end up.
1) Alabama- The Tide still look like the class of the SEC (I see you Georgia fans), and Jalen Hurts has been better this season. Auburn may be the only ranked team Alabama plays the rest of the regular season.
2) Clemson- The Tigers also have a pretty easy run the rest of the way. Florida State cratering has a lot of people convinced Alabama-Clemson III is coming.
3) Oklahoma- I think Oklahoma is one of the country’s four best teams. But I think the Big 12 has a great top half. Add in the league having the toughest championship game in the country—no other power five league has their No. 1 and No. 2 teams play a rematch—and the Sooners will have plenty of chances to lose.
4) Penn State- The Lions look like the Big Ten’s best team, but the schedule has me worried. There are so many weird permutations for Big Ten champions because of potential splits between Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.
This is where I think the race ends, not where I’d have it today.
1) Baker Mayfield- The Heisman usually goes to a quarterback. Mayfield had his Heisman moment against Ohio State, and he’ll have more spectacular plays. He’ll have the statistics. If he gets OU to the playoff, he’ll be a big favorite.
2) Saquon Barkley- He’ll put up huge numbers and is the best player on one of the best teams. If Mayfield stumbles, he’s the favorite.
3) Lamar Jackson- After his rough outing against Clemson, Jackson’s Heisman hopes are basically shot. Previous winners have a hard time winning, but they often make it back to New York.