Every week we take a look around the college football landscape. We’ll go conference by conference, starting with the Big 12.
Oklahoma knocked off Ohio State in Columbus, 31-16. Baker Mayfield was electric—finishing with 386 yards through the air and three touchdowns. On the other side, J.T. Barrett went 19-of-35 for 182 yards. After the game, Mayfield offended a few Buckeyes:
Baker Mayfield plants the OU flag in the Ohio State logo at midfield pic.twitter.com/Ovas203PqP— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) September 10, 2017
If you want the Big 12 to make the playoff, root for Ohio State now. The Sooners will have a road head-to-head win. The committee has used wild reasoning at times. They won’t be able to ignore what Oklahoma did in Columbus.
Oklahoma State and Kansas State will be real challenges for Oklahoma. The Cowboys offense destroyed South Alabama, and the Wildcats overwhelmed Charlotte. With USC in the PAC-12, Alabama in the SEC, Clemson in the ACC and Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan all looming, the Big 12 champion would be in a tough spot with two losses. That means the Big 12 champion needs to go 9-1 through the league (including the Big 12 Championship Game). Hopefully the Big 12 doesn’t ruin a playoff opportunity with the title game.
Tip of the hat to TCU. The Frogs defeated Arkansas, 28-7. TCU suffocated Austin Allen—he finished just 9-of-23 with a QBR of 36.8. Baylor’s starting quarterback is going to have to play perfectly against the Frogs.
The weirdest stretch of football I’ve seen in 2017 happened during the TCU-Arkansas game. The Frogs had Kenny Hill punt from the Arkansas 32 on 4th & 5. The ball went into the end zone, so TCU netted 12 yards of field position. Arkansas drove down the field and missed a 24 yard attempt. Thank God the networks put Oklahoma-Ohio State, USC-Stanford and Clemson-Auburn on at the same time (and Baylor was on then too), so we could watch Arkansas miss field goals and get rolled.
Dabo is not going to Texas A&M. He never was, but after the Tigers had 11 sacks against Jarrett Stidham, he might be on his way to a third national title game in as many seasons. Stidham only had 79 yards. We know he’s a good quarterback, but Gus Malzahn has not done well with drop back quarterbacks.
Louisville won, but I don’t think they’re a real playoff contender. North Carolina—fresh off a loss to a bad Cal team—played Louisville close for the entire game. They play Clemson this week, and with Lamar Jackson one of the leaders in the Heisman race through two weeks, there’s always a chance. He was incredible against the Tar Heels:
Look at how easy Jackson makes this throw look... wow pic.twitter.com/Bj5EgtNuAt— T-Bob Hebert (@TBob53) September 9, 2017
In terrifying news for Baylor, Duke throttled Northwestern, 41-17. The Bears do not have a defensive turnover yet, and Duke’s quarterback had gone 202 passes without an interception. Turning things around in Durham will not be easy.
Alabama continues what seems like an inevitable march to the playoff. The Tide beat Fresno State 41-10, and they’ll beat a lot more teams. Auburn’s offense can’t score, Tennessee should have lost to Georgia Tech, Texas A&M nearly lost to Nichols State and the rest of the SEC has looked several tiers worse than Alabama.
South Carolina moved to 2-0 with a win over Missouri. The Tigers defense had an awful first half against Missouri State last week, and the Gamecocks went into Columbia and dropped 31 on the Tigers in route to a 31-13 victory.
Georgia filled half of Notre Dame’s stadium and beat the Irish 20-19. Brian Kelly went 4-8 a season ago and is facing a lawsuit for negligence form a former player. I thought he’d get fired last season. I don’t think too many will shed a tear for a guy who continually acts like this:
With Ohio State’s loss to Oklahoma, the Buckeyes almost assuredly have to run the table. That would mean beating Penn State and winning at Michigan. Then they’d have to follow that up with a win the next week in the Big Ten title, which would likely be against Wisconsin.
I do not believe in Wisconsin. They devastated Utah State in the second half of week one, but they played a bad team evenly for a half. In week two, Florida Atlantic kept it close for much of the game before Wisconsin won 31-14.
Michigan and Penn State look much better. The Wolverines destroyed Florida’s offense in week one, then they followed it up with a 36-14 victory over Cincinnati.
The Lions are now my pick to win the Big Ten. They beat Pitt 33-14. Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley combined for 153 rushing yards. I thought Penn State deserved to make the playoff last year with a head-to-head win over Ohio State and a Big Ten Championship. But unlike last season, they won’t have a loss to Pitt to weigh them down. Or as James Franklin put it:
James Franklin: "I know last year beating us for them was like the Super Bowl. This was just like beating Akron for us."— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) September 9, 2017
USC rebounded well from a close victory over Western Michigan in week one. They knocked off Stanford, 42-24. Texas comes to Los Angeles next week. The Longhorns are in some trouble.
The Trojans avoid Washington, which puts the PAC-12 in a lot better place to make the playoff. If only the Big 12 could keep their best teams from playing each other twice. Washington knocked off Montana 63-7, which was a vast improvement from a way too close game against Rutgers last week.
A few folks might squint and think Washington State or Colorado are contenders. I don’t think so. Mike Leach winning at Washington State shows that he is a fantastic coach, if there was ever any doubt. But the Cougars required a 21 point comeback to beat Boise State—and these aren’t the same Broncos. Then there’s Colorado. The Buffaloes have had two pretty good weeks, but they lost a lot from last year’s team. Both of these teams can knock anyone off. But they’ll probably lose a game or two they shouldn’t as well.
The Ducks had a wild game with the Cornhuskers. Oregon opened with a 42-14 lead. Nebraska closed the game on a 21-0 run. But the Ducks did enough early to win and are 2-0 in Willie Taggart’s first season. The Duck was celebrating:
This is my prediction for how things will go the rest of the way.
4) Penn State
A random team normally pops up as a playoff contender by the end of the season, so somebody not on this list will be around. But here are the teams I could see making the playoff.
Clemson, Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, USC, Stanford and Washington. That’s 15 teams. And while someone could grumble with a couple of inclusions or exclusions, those are the teams I’d be focused on.
Once again, this is a prediction for how things go at the end of the season. I have four guys making it to New York.
1) Baker Mayfield- He already had his Heisman moment in Columbus. He has 715 yards passing and an 84% completion percentage through two weeks. Perhaps the most impressive stat is that he is averaging 13 yards per attempt.
2) Lamar Jackson- If not for Baker Mayfield’s incredible play, Jackson would be the clear leader for the Heisman. He’s thrown for 711 yards and rushed for over 100 yards both weeks. The biggest impediment to him repeating may be Louisville’s season. There’s also been just one two time Heisman winner. I don’t think Jackson will be the second.
3) Saquon Barkley- Penn State’s running back is averaging 9.3 yards per carry and has four touchdowns. If the Lions win the Big Ten, he could pull this off. The two guys in front of him will be tough to beat, and quarterbacks tend to win the award.
4) Sam Darnold- If the race is close, Darnold could sneak by with Western voters. Eric Crouch won the Heisman that way. But as voting has become less regional, the Trojans quarterback faces a tough field. But with 316 yards on 21-of-26 passing against Stanford, he could become the third USC quarterback to win the Heisman this century.