Every week we discuss the week that was in college football. And what a week it was.
Problems in Texas:
It's the college football triangle of hilariously awful week one L's pic.twitter.com/0CZZFWY9Su— #HoustonStrong (@dfank_BU) September 4, 2017
Texas opened in the top 25. They lost by 10 at home to a mediocre Maryland team. The Longhorns struggled to stop the run—Maryland averaged 6.1 yards per carry—and couldn’t convert 2-point conversions and 4th down tries. It could be a long season in Austin.
We all know about Baylor’s terrible loss to Liberty, so we won’t rehash that here. We will cover Texas A&M’s debacle against UCLA. Texas A&M had been the country’s premiere September program. Each season they’d start off crushing teams early in the season. With a 44-10 lead in the 3rd quarter, the Aggies were well on the way to the hype train taking off. But UCLA scored the last 35 points and TexAgs crashed from folks taking to the website to start yet another thread calling for a new coach. I was just shocked A&M would blow a late lead:
It's unheard of that Texas A&M would blow a late lead: pic.twitter.com/KQmj51IsbS— Kendall (@kkaut) September 4, 2017
Big 12 Race:
Quite a few people are down on the Big 12. Baylor lost to an FCS team, Texas fell to Maryland and West Virginia lost to Virginia Tech. Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas all won against bad teams, but bowl eligibility would be a huge win for that trio.
Don’t sleep on the top four in the Big 12. Oklahoma rolled against UTEP. While some wouldn’t draw much from that, OU still has Baker Mayfield and the Sooner’s receivers were excellent. Oklahoma State was awesome offensively against Temple, and Bill Snyder has a returning quarterback and a good defense. That recipe has worked a lot in Manhattan. Whether Kenny Hill can get it done at TCU is an open question, but the Frogs have a talented roster and could be a top 25 team all season.
Bill Snyder says he sees across-the-board improvement from Jesse Ertz: "His management of the game has just gotten better and better."— Kellis Robinett (@KellisRobinett) September 4, 2017
Oklahoma desperately needs to beat Ohio State. The Sooners were crushed in Norman last season, and they open as the underdog in Columbus. J.T. Barrett had trouble against Indiana, so there’s some hope for the Sooners. If Oklahoma wins that game, the Big 12 will be in a good spot to make the playoff.
Alabama’s Path is Clear:
The Tide blew open the contest against Florida State in the second half. Jalen Hurts threw for just 96 yards against Florida State—who before the injury to Deondre Francois—might have been the nation’s second best team. If Alabama can dominate a game with their QB throwing for 96 yards, we’re all in trouble. Alabama is once again one of the country’s best teams.
The SEC competition doesn’t seem the best. The league has the best talent, but so many of the best coaches from the past are gone. Texas A&M is closer to a mid-season coaching change than challenging Alabama. Jarrett Stidham had an okay game, but the Auburn offensive line and receivers are going to make his challenge pretty great. Florida was eviscerated by Michigan. And is Ed Orgeron going to turn around LSU’s offense in year one?
Last 99 Alabama games:— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) September 3, 2017
* favored in 98 of them
* 88-11 straight up
* 56-42-1 against the spread (57% ATS)
With their non-conference win over Florida State, Alabama can easily lose a game and make the playoff. If the Tide somehow finish second in the SEC West, they might pull an Ohio State from last year and make the playoff over the conference champion. We’re a week into the season, so a lot will change. But I’d be shocked if Alabama is not a playoff team.
ACC Playofff Problems?
The ACC has fantastic coaches-—Dabo Swinney (he’s not going to A&M, Aggies), Bobby Petrino and Jimbo Fisher are all awesome, but all of their teams might be suffering from down seasons, especially with FSU’s quarterback out for the season. Clemson had an impressive performance against Kent State, but after winning the national championship, the Tigers are playing a lot of new games. If they lose to Auburn, then they’ll very likely need to run the table to make the playoff.
Louisville nearly lost to Purdue. The Cardinals were much worse at the end of last season, and week one did not inspire hope the Cardinals are back to what they were last September.
North Carolina and North Carolina State had terrible weeks. The Tar Heels played a revamped Cal team coming off a four win season. A couple Vegas Insiders had North Carolina and the points as the lock of the week. They lost. North Carolina State was a playoff sleeper for a few, somehow. They lost to South Carolina—a six win team last season.
Clemson could emerge as the dominant team in the ACC, and with the bottom of the conference weaker, maybe they finish 12-1 or 13-0. That will certainly get them in the playoff. But the ACC’s playoff path is a lot narrower than it seemed before the season.
PAC-12 Before Dark?
USC struggled against West Michigan. They trailed in the second half in Los Angeles. The Broncos won 12 games last season, and some of the magic remains after P.J. Fleck left for Minnesota. I still expect the Trojans to roll Texas and have a good season.
Washington’s game is a little more of an anomaly. They only beat Rutgers by 16. Yes, that’s a comfortable win. Rutgers is awful though. Jake Browning displayed his accuracy at key moments to ensure a win. I don’t see the Huskies making the playoff though.
For all the talk of Texas and Duke being back, Stanford appears back. The Cardinals thrashed Rice, and David Shaw’s team won their final seven games in 2016. Stanford-USC this week could end up being as important as Ohio State-Oklahoma.
Anu Solomon was also once a PAC-12 man, so this is relevant:
When you find out Chick-fil-A is open on Labor Day: pic.twitter.com/dt02f71FiB— Kendall (@kkaut) September 3, 2017
I could see four teams winning the Big 10: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin. The first three play in the same division and once again, those three could split their series. Michigan and Penn State looked good. The Wolverines offense could be an issue but their defense made Jim McElwain’s seat pretty hot at Florida.
Ohio State beat Indiana, but they struggled at times. The Buckeyes lost to Virginia Tech at home the season they won the playoff, so maybe these are early struggles in Columbus. Ohio State fans are worried about Barrett’s accuracy. He’ll have to improve for the Buckeyes to win what might be the best conference.
Wisconsin crushed Utah State, but the game was close for a while. The Badgers avoid Penn State and Ohio State, so even if they lose to Michigan, they’ll have a chance to make the playoff with a win in the Big 10 title game. The Badgers are probably the most likely division winner in America.
Once again the Big 10 could give us a weird playoff scenario. Say Wisconsin wins the Big 10 Championship and finishes 12-1 with a loss to Michigan during the regular season. Penn State goes 11-1 with a loss to Ohio State, and Michigan finishes 11-1 with a loss to Penn State. Then the Buckeyes finish 11-2 after losing the Big 10 title game, but they have a win over 12-1 Oklahoma. Who makes the playoff? There are a lot of weird permutations in a league where three of the best teams play in one division. Prepare for another season of Big 10 playoff debate.