Friday, November 17, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Week 12

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKLY RANT

BRAND BIAS

Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State, USC, The SEC and the Big Ten. These names are all iconic brands when it comes to college football.  They are household names nationwide.  They draw eyeballs to TV sets and put butts in stadiums, but they should NOT be the deciding factor in who makes the CFB Playoff.  The fact is they do though.  Just look at the most recent rankings by the CFB Playoff committee, they are blinded by the brand just like you and me.  Let’s do a blind test on the Top 15 teams from the most recent rankings.  Below I have them listed randomly with season stats (Wins/ Wins vs current Top 25/ Strength of Schedule/ Record vs Massey Power Top 50/ Best Win based on ranking of opponent in Massey Power Top 50/ Wins over teams under .500).  Pick who you believe are the Top 4 teams in the country…

TEAM 1: 9 wins. 3 wins vs Top 25, #11 SOS, 6-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #10, 3 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 2: 9 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #83 SOS, 1-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #35, 3 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 3: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #10 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #13, 3 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 4: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #12 SOS, 2-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #8, 5 wins vs teams under.500
TEAM 5: 9 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #20 SOS, 4-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #4, 3 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 6: 10 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #36 SOS, 3-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #21, 4 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 7: 8 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #25 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #30, 2 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 8: 8 wins, 3 wins vs Top 25, #53 SOS, 3-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #14, 3 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 9: 10 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #47 SOS, 4-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #22, 6 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 10: 9 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #2 SOS, 8-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #9, 2 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 11: 8 wins, 3 wins vs Top 25, #3 SOS, 3-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #14, 2 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 12: 8 wins, 0 wins vs Top 25, #13 SOS, 5-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #20, 4 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 13: 9 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #16 SOS, 6-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #4, 4 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 14: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #19 SOS, 3-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #7, 2 wins vs teams under .500
TEAM 15: 8 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #31 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #11, 2 wins vs teams under .500

TEAM KEY and link to Massey Top 50 Power Rankings are at the end of the RANT

I still firmly believe that Ohio State was selected over TCU in the 1st ever playoff based on brand recognition alone.  Ohio State went on to win the National Championship making many forget about how shady the rankings changed between the final 2 weeks of the season despite no teams in the top group losing.  I hope that doesn’t happen again this season.

WHAT I LEARNED IN WEEK ELEVEN
*Notre Dame Needs To Join A Conference.  Two years ago, we saw a 2-loss Notre Dame team, which lost those two games by a total of 4 points and both to ranked teams, miss out on the CFB Playoff.  This year we will see it again.   Granted a 2-loss team has never made the playoff, but this year that is likely to change and Notre Dame won’t even be in the discussion when it happens.  The Irish have long been an Independent in football, but the game has changed.  ND is at a huge disadvantage now as they are competing for the same prize as every other team in the nation, a National Championship.  The Irish are currently ranked 8th, which is the 2nd highest of any 2-loss team.  However, other 2-loss teams that are behind them in the current rankings like Ohio State, TCU, Oklahoma State and even Washington State all have better chances of making the playoff than Notre Dame.  The advantages those teams have are clear.  They all have an opportunity to be named a conference champion and by doing so, beating another highly ranked team in their 13th game of the season.  Notre Dame plays 12 games, not 13.  Notre Dame does not play in a conference, therefore cannot win a conference championship.  Notre Dame will be lacking these points on their CFB Playoff Resume until they make a change, and because of that facing a steep uphill battle.
*A 4-Team Playoff Is Plenty.  You will hear a lot of people in the upcoming weeks claiming that the CFB Playoff needs to expand due to teams being left out.  That is non-sense.  Every team in the nation has 14 weeks to prove their worth to the committee.  The committee then has the job of selecting the 4 teams that are most worthy, based on the regular season and conference championship games.  There are 3 weeks remaining in this college football season and you could argue that 10-12 teams (although the real number is probably 7-8) still have an outside shot at making the 4-team field.  Can you imagine if you double the playoff to 8?  You could have 3-loss teams in the playoff.  When a team can lose a quarter of their games and make the playoffs it devalues the regular season.  The college football regular season is the best in all of sports.

WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN WEEK TWELVE
*Uniforms. Yes, this week’s schedule is bad enough that I’m looking forward to great uniforms.  The NFL has their Color Rush gimmick for Thursday Night football, college football has UCLA vs. USC.  These two LA-based schools have their annual rivalry game and with it brings the tradition of both teams wearing their home jerseys.  You get the iconic red USC jersey against the light blue and gold of UCLA.  You are in luck too, because even though UCLA is awful this season, the rest of Saturday’s schedule is so bad, that the entire nation can check out these uniforms paired up against each other.  It is the FOX game of the week (ugh!).     
*Week 13.  As I mentioned there are no good football games this week.  The only game between ranked opponents is a match-up between two teams that have combined to beat NOBODY this season, Michigan and Wisconsin.  I’m sure the Big Ten will celebrate a Wisconsin win and try to use it to bump the Badgers up into the Top 4 for the playoff, but spare me.  And if Michigan wins, I’m sure they will jump up into the Top 10-15 in next week’s rankings as the Big Ten Hype Machine will be talking about Ohio State vs Michigan until our ears bleed.  STOP IT!!!

COACHING CAROUSEL
Butch Jones makes #2, with many more coming soon.  
Florida Gators – The Gators have had their opening for about two weeks now and they have made some progress.  Most reports say they have locked in on three candidates and they are the same 3 names I listed as the top candidates when the job became open, Chip Kelly, Scott Frost & Dan Mullen.  I still think that Willie Taggart would be a fantastic hire for the Gators, but that doesn’t seem likely at this point.  With the new Early Signing Day in college football this season, I’d expect the Gators to move fast on this one.  I imagine they will have their guy by the 1st week of December.
Tennessee Volunteers – Butch Jones had lost his last game against each of the 13 other schools in the SEC after last week’s drubbing at the hands of lowly Missouri (50-17).  That was enough for the university to FINALLY part ways with their head coach.  Tennessee had improved each year under Butch Jones, winning 4 games his 1st year, 5 his 2nd and 9 each of the past 2 years.  But even after his 2nd straight 9-win season he entered this season on the hot seat.  After going 4-6 in the team’s first 10 games, it was time to pull the plug.  I don’t have a problem with the Vols firing Jones, but the expectations Vols fans and administration have for their football program are ridiculous.  It has been 17 years since Tennessee finished the season ranked in the AP Top 10 and 11 years since they finished in the Top 20, yet the expectations by their fan base is that they should be competing for the SEC Championship and the National Championship every year.  They haven’t even won the SEC East since 2007.  They haven’t won the SEC title since their National Championship season in 1998.  Tennessee will flash a ton of cash and go after every big name you can think of for this job, but the fact is, Tennessee isn’t a great job.  We already saw on Thursday that Jon Gruden (their pipedream target) wouldn’t even meet with them about the opening.  I expect them to also try to talk to coaches like Jimbo Fisher and Chip Kelly, but neither of those guys will take that job either.  Bottom line is that Tennessee fans will be disappointed by this hire.  In my mind a few calls that I would make if I were AD John Currie are Mike Leach at Washington State, James Franklin at Penn State and Justin Fuentes at Virginia Tech.

HOT SEAT
HOT SEAT:
At this point in the season, I don’t think there is really any “hot seats” any more.  We have a pretty good idea which of the bigger programs are going to be making a change over the next few weeks.
SEAT ON FIRE(D):
Bret Bielema (Arkansas) – The first show dropped in this one on Wednesday when Arkansas fired Bielema’s top ally, AD Jeff Long.  Like Nebraska firing their AD before the inevitable happens with Mike Riley, it looks the same fate will occur at Arkansas with Bielema.  Arkansas plays Mississippi State this week and closes the season next Friday, the 24th, against Missouri.  I expect Bielema to be fired by the 25th.
Jim Mora, Jr. (UCLA) – UCLA is 5-5 which is exactly average.  They could get to 6 or maybe even 7 wins, but that won’t be enough to save Mora’s job.  The Bruins go across town and play rival USC this Saturday in a game that could get really ugly for a UCLA defense that have held just 3 of 10 teams under 30 points this season.  If it gets bad enough, it would not surprise me if the Bruins are being coached by an interim coach in their finale against Cal in 2 weeks.
Mike Riley (Nebraska) – Nebraska just got stomped by a Minnesota team that had just 1 Big Ten win coming into the game.  The Gophers put up 54 points in the game, they had only scored 44 points in their last 3 games combined.  Penn State should be really fun for Mike Riley & Co. this week, we all know that Jams Franklin never misses an opportunity to run up the score.  It looks like Nebraska is going to let (force) Riley to finish out the season, otherwise he would have been gone Sunday morning when the team arrived back from Minnesota.  The Cornhuskers close the season with Iowa. 
Lovie Smith (Illinois) – Smith is only in Year 2 at Illinois, but this experiment is not going well.  Illinois, which plays in the considerably easier side of the Big Ten, has not won a game since September 9th.  They have also been outscored on average 31-14 in their 6 Big Ten games this season, all losses.  And that is without playing Ohio State or Penn State, the two highest scoring teams in the conference.  This week they play Indiana, which seems like their only chance at salvaging a Big Ten win this season.  Indiana is also 0-6 in the Big Ten.
Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M) – This is another one that seems like a done deal now.  Sumlin and the Aggies are just 6-4, and unlikely to match his previous low win total of 8.  They close the year with 2 straight road games, Mississippi this weekend and LSU to close the season.  Reports from College Station not only already have Sumlin fired, but also are already naming possible suitors to replace him.  Who will be on the sidelines for the Aggies next year is still a mystery, but it certainly won’t be Kevin Sumlin.
PLAYOFF PICKS
I now release my Rant Rankings the day prior to the CFB Playoff selection releasing their updated rankings.  Be sure to check that out.
That is all this week.  Make sure the refrigerator is stocked, the spare remote-control batteries are nearby and enjoy the games!
BLIND TEST TEAMS:
TEAM 1: 9 wins. 3 wins vs Top 25, #11 SOS, 6-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #10, 3 wins vs teams under .500 OKLAHOMA
TEAM 2: 9 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #83 SOS, 1-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #35, 3 wins vs teams under .500 UCF
TEAM 3: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #10 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #13, 3 wins vs teams under .500 PENN STATE
TEAM 4: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #12 SOS, 2-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #8, 5 wins vs teams under.500 OHIO STATE
TEAM 5: 9 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #20 SOS, 4-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #4, 3 wins vs teams under .500 GEORGIA
TEAM 6: 10 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #36 SOS, 3-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #21, 4 wins vs teams under .500 ALABAMA
TEAM 7: 8 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #25 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #30, 2 wins vs teams under .500 USC
TEAM 8: 8 wins, 3 wins vs Top 25, #53 SOS, 3-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #14, 3 wins vs teams under .500 WASHINGTON STATE
TEAM 9: 10 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #47 SOS, 4-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #22, 6 wins vs teams under .500 WISCONSIN
TEAM 10: 9 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #2 SOS, 8-1 vs Top 50, Best win vs #9, 2 wins vs teams under .500 CLEMSON
TEAM 11: 8 wins, 3 wins vs Top 25, #3 SOS, 3-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #14, 2 wins vs teams under .500 NOTRE DAME
TEAM 12: 8 wins, 0 wins vs Top 25, #13 SOS, 5-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #20, 4 wins vs teams under .500 OKLAHOMA STATE
TEAM 13: 9 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #16 SOS, 6-0 vs Top 50, Best win vs #4, 4 wins vs teams under .500 MIAMI
TEAM 14: 8 wins, 2 wins vs Top 25, #19 SOS, 3-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #7, 2 wins vs teams under .500 AUBURN
TEAM 15: 8 wins, 1 win vs Top 25, #31 SOS, 4-2 vs Top 50, Best win vs #11, 2 wins vs teams under .500 TCU

Monday, November 13, 2017

Rant Rankings 11-13-17


1. Alabama Crimson Tide (10-0) Survive and Advance… It wasn’t pretty, but the Tide got a tough road win on Saturday over Mississippi State.  They now have their annual late November cupcake game vs Mercer, before the Iron Bowl vs Auburn in 2 weeks.
2. Miami Hurricanes (9-0) I have been critical of the Canes all year (until the beatdown vs VT) but the performance Miami had last week vs Notre Dame was one of the best of the season.  The defense carried them for the first half of the season.  Now the offense is playing well.  Look out The U is back!  They look to stay unbeaten vs Virginia (NOON, ABC) Saturday.
3. Oklahoma Sooners (9-1) Back to back wins over ranked teams and OU is now in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot and yet another Big XII Title.  A win at Kansas (3:30, ESPN) will clinch a spot in the Big XII Championship game.
4. Clemson Tigers (9-1) The Tigers clinched the ACC Atlantic division once again, beating Florida State on Saturday.  Showing that they are a true southern school, Clemson will play The Citadel of the FCS this week, before closing the regular season with rival South Carolina.
5. Auburn Tigers (8-2) The only team that could rival Miami for the Team of the Week honors (if that were a thing) would be Auburn.  The Tigers crushed Georgia for 60 minutes, handing the Bulldogs their 1st loss of the season.  Auburn has Louisiana Monroe (NOON, ESPN2) this week, before hosting a winner take all matchup with Alabama for the SEC West Title, and possibly much more.
6. Georgia Bulldogs (9-1) The Bulldogs had been one of the best defenses in the country before last week’s beatdown by Auburn.  Georgia allowed nearly 500 yards of offense, including 237 on the ground.  The Bulldogs have already clinched the SEC East, but need to get themselves right vs Kentucky (CBS, 3:30) if they want to get back into the playoff picture.
7. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2) Which Buckeye team will show up this week when they host Illinois (ABC, 3:30) the one that got blasted by an average Iowa team, or the one that blasted a tough Michigan State defense to the tune of 48 points?  The good news for Ohio State is that Illinois is so awful it won’t matter.
8. Wisconsin Badgers (10-0) Another win.  Another win over an unranked team.  Wisconsin is 10-0 now on the season and has still yet to beat a team currently ranked.  That trend could continue this week when they host Michigan (NOON, FOX). Michigan is ranked 19th in the most recent AP poll, but if they were to lose to the Badgers, they will likely drop out, meaning Wisconsin could end the regular season without a win over a ranked team.
9. TCU Horned Frogs (8-2) The Horned Frogs were the surprise team of the 1st half of the season.  Now they are coming off their 2nd straight road loss and trying to hold to a spot in the Big XII Championship game to revenge this week’s loss to Oklahoma.  They’ll try to snap their road struggles this week in Lubbock as they take on Texas Tech (NOON, FS1).
10. Oklahoma State (8-2) The team the Horned Frogs are fighting with for that 2nd spot in the Big XII Championship game is Ok State.  The Cowboys came from down 14-0 to Iowa State to secure a 49-42 shootout win.  The win puts OSU tied for 2nd place in the conference with West Virginia and TCU.  The Cowboys host Kansas State (3:30, ESPN2) this week.
11. Central Florida Knights (9-0) It almost seems like UCF has become bored with their opponents this season.  The Knights jumped out to a 21-3 1st Q lead over UCONN and toyed with them for the middle two quarters, before putting up 21 more in the final quarter of play for an easy win.  UCF has a cold-weather test at Temple (NOON, ESPNU) on Saturday.
12. Notre Dame (8-2) Just when I start to believe in Notre Dame (something I try to never do) they get bombed on a big stage.  The Irish were never in their game with Miami on Saturday.  ND has another challenge this week, that is bouncing back to face the unorthodox offense of Navy (3:30, NBC).
13.  Washington State Cougars (9-2) The Cougars hit a rough spot with tough bad road losses in October, but the pirates Mike Leach has righted the ship (yes, I know that was awful).  Washington State with a much-needed late season BYE week this week before the Apple Cup in 2 weeks, which could decide the PAC12 North Champion.
14. USC Trojans (9-2) Have I mentioned how bad the PAC-12 is this season? USC is in cruise control in the PAC12 South, having already clinched the division.  This week they will host UCLA (8p, ABC) in what is the annually the greatest uniform match-up in college football, as both LA schools where their home colors for the game.
15. Penn State Nittany Lions (8-2) Penn State keeps doing what they do best, which is winning the games they should win.  The Nittany Lions fell behind 6-0 to Rutgers in State College before rattling off the final 35 points of the game for an easy win. PSU has another easy one at home this week when Nebraska (4p, FOX) visits Happy Valley.
16. Mississippi State (7-3) The Bulldogs played a great game on Saturday and almost took down the #2 team in the nation.  Although they didn’t pull it off, they may have given the blueprint to teams like Auburn or Georgia, who still might see Alabama.  They may have also just lost their head coach as teams like Florida and Tennessee watched him nearly pull off the upset.  Miss State goes to Arkansas (NOON, CBS) to get back on the winning way.
17. Stanford Cardinal (7-3) I’m not sure there is a more unpredictable team in the country than Stanford.  When healthy and playing well, they are as good as anyone.  But they haven’t been healthy much and certainly haven’t played the way many are used to seeing Stanford play.  Stanford host Cal (8p, FOX) in The Big Game Saturday.
18. Washington Huskies (8-2) With all the chaos that took place on Saturday Washington would have been in a great position to move up in the rankings.  That is, if they hadn’t laid an egg against Stanford the night before.  The Huskies host Utah (10:30, ESPN) this week as they try to stay alive in the PAC12 North race.
19. Memphis Tigers (8-1) Memphis is silently sitting at 8-1 hoping to get another shot at UCF in the AAC Championship Game and sneak into a New Year’s Six game as the Group of 5 rep.  The Tigers face a high-powered SMU (NOON, ESPNN) offense this Saturday.  A win and the Tigers clinched their division and a spot in that championship game.

20. Arizona Wildcats (7-3) The Wildcats have the most exciting player in college football in Khalil Tate and have won 5 of 6 games since he entered the lineup.  The lone loss was on the road to USC.  Tate and the Wildcats go to Eugene to take on Oregon (7p, PACN) this week.

Friday, November 10, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Week 11

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKLY RANT

THE BIG preTENd…

Two weekends ago we watched one of the most entertaining and exciting football games of the season in Columbus, when Ohio State hosted #2 Penn State.  The winner would have the easy path to the Big Ten Championship out of the East division and be sitting pretty to be selected into the CFB Playoff.  Fast forward one week later and both teams are licking their wounds after being upset on the road, giving both their 2nd loss of the season and likely ending any hope either had at making the playoff.  Not only do those losses likely eliminate both Penn State and Ohio State from playoff contention, but it puts a big question mark on their entire conferences chances of making the playoff.

Wisconsin now has the best chance of making the playoff from the Big Ten and that is simply because they are undefeated.  However, strength of schedule (or lack of strength in their schedule) has hurt the Badgers through the first two CFB Playoff Rankings.  The Badgers were ranked 9th in the 1st ranking and only moved up 1 spot this week after 2 teams in front of them lost.  In fact, they were jumped by fellow unbeaten Miami.  The only other hopes for the Big Ten sit ranked 12-13-14, Michigan State, Ohio State & Penn State respectively.  All three of those teams sit with 2-losses and if they were to make the playoff, would become the first ever 2-loss team to make it.  The fact that there are two other 2-loss teams in front of that group make it even less likely.  This week either Ohio State or Michigan State will get tehri 3rd loss on the season as they face-off with each other in Columbus. 

The question now becomes, would the committee leave out an undefeated team from the Big Ten in favor of a 1-loss teams, some of which may not even claim a conference championship (Notre Dame, SEC runner-up)?  With the committee ranking a 6-3 Iowa team this week, Wisconsin will get there 1st chance to play a ranked opponent this season.  The downfall for the Badgers is that if they beat Iowa, the Hawkeyes won’t likely be ranked anymore, leaving the Badgers, once again, with ZERO wins over ranked opponents.  The final two opponents in the regular season for Wisconsin are also not ranked, meaning that their only chance to get a win over a ranked team will likely be in the Big Ten Championship Game.  Would one win over a ranked team give Wisconsin the resume needed to crack the Top 4 and get selected into the CFB Playoff?

Only time will tell…

WHAT I LEARNED IN WEEK TEN

*Offense Is Fun, But Defense Is Good Too.  62-52 was the final score of the 2017 edition of Bedlam between rivals Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.  Is that good for football?  Is that fun to watch?  Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing these dynamic offenses when they are clicking, but I also want to see a defensive stop occasionally.  Both teams are good enough offensively to compete with any team in the nation, but to win a National Championship, you have to play defense.  Until one of these teams does that, I think they should remain outside the Top 4 in the rankings.
*The U Has Their Swag Back.  I have been a huge critic of Miami all season because they have seemed to do just enough to win games.  On Saturday, in primetime, against rival Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes dominated.  Virginia Tech entered the game 7-1 and ranked 13th in the nation, they left scoring a season low 10 points on just 299 yards of offense, while turning the ball over to the Miami defense 4 times.  In the win the Canes also clinched their 1st division championship since joining the ACC.  Miami jumped to #7 in the rankings this week, deservingly so.  They will have more chances to climb in the upcoming weeks with games vs Notre Dame and an ACC Championship game, possibly against Clemson, still on the schedule.

WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN WEEK ELEVEN

*Letting The Rankings Sort Themselves Out.  There are three matchups this week between Top 10 teams in the most recent CFB Playoff Rankings.  All of which will impact next week’s rankings considerably.  #1 Georgia @ #10 Auburn (3:30, CBS) gives Georgia a chance to cement their claim on a playoff spot, even if they were to lose Alabama in the SEC Championship.  It would give the Bulldogs their 2nd road win over a Top 10 team.  For Auburn, it gives them a chance to throw a wrench into the SEC race.  A win over Georgia this week, makes the Iron Bowl a winner-take-all game for the SEC West Title.  Winning both of those games would give Auburn a legit shot to become the 1st 2-loss team to make the CFB Playoff. #3 Notre Dame @ #7 Miami (8pm, ABC) This is a must-win game for Notre Dame as they try to make it into the playoff without having a conference tie-in.  The Irish can’t afford a 2nd loss, even if it is on the road to a Top 10 team.  Miami could probably afford a loss since it is not an ACC game and it would be their 1st of the year, but they would then need to run the table, including a win over Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, to have a chance at the 4-team playoff.  #6 TCU @ #5 Oklahoma (8pm, FOX) This match-up is what the Big XII would have been hoping for in the Big XII Championship Game in 3 weeks, not now.  Now it all but eliminates the loser from playoff contention, whereas the winner might also have to win a re-match game in the conference championship to get in to the playoff.     
*Bounce Back games.  With teams like Ohio State, NC State, Penn State, and Oklahoma State all losing last week, it will be interesting to see which teams roll up sleeves and man-up this week and which teams fold up their tent on the season.  All 4 have chances to still win their division and get to their conference championship game, but they can’t afford any more stumbles along the way.


COACHING WATCH
WARM SEAT:
Gus Malzahn (Auburn) – The head coach of the 7-2, 10th ranked Auburn Tigers is safe.  The coach of the 8-4 Auburn Tigers could find himself very much on the hot seat.  That reality is very possible as Auburn still has games versus’ the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the nation.  A loss to Alabama would also be his 4th straight Iron Bowl loss, which would certainly not sit well with the Auburn boosters and fan base.
HOT SEAT:
Barry Odom (Missouri) – The only reason Odom is on this list is because Missouri plays in the SEC now.  If this were 7-10 years ago and the Tigers were in the Big XII still, no way is he on this list, but expectations in the SEC are different.  Odom now has the Tigers at 4-5 in Year 2 and even possibly going to a bowl.  His job seems safe, but again, life in the SEC is a completely different animal, so who knows?
SEAT ON FIRE(D):
Bret Bielema (Arkansas) – Arkansas needs a rather crazy 4th quarter comeback to beat a 1-8 Coastal Carolina team last week.  Think about that for a minute.  Sitting at 1-4 in the SEC, with the next two coming against ranked teams in rival LSU, and Mississippi State, there is a distinct possibility that Bielema doesn’t make it to the season finale against Missouri. 
Butch Jones (Tennessee) – Winless in the SEC at 0-5 and now their top-rated recruit, a Knoxville kid nonetheless, decommits from the Vols.  Can it get any worse for Tennessee?  I don’t understand why they just haven’t pulled the plug on this season yet.  Maybe even more comical than this season has been are the Vols fans that seem to think their program will attract top candidates like Jon Gruden to replace Jones.
Jim Mora, Jr. (UCLA) – With an NFL caliber QB healthy and under center, this was the year that Bruin fans thought UCLA might be back competing at the top of the PAC 12 South.  Instead, they are a half a game out of the basement in the PAC 12 South with 3 very loseable games remaining on the schedule.
Mike Riley (Nebraska) – Nebraska has been to 9 straight bowl games, but that streak is in jeopardy as the Cornhuskers are just 4-5 with a road games at Minnesota and Penn State before closing the season at home vs Iowa.  It has been pretty well known that Riley would not be back since Week 3 when Nebraska lost to Northern Illinois and the school’s AD was fired for not firing Riley.  Being a middle of the Big Ten West type team is certainly not good enough for Husker fans. 
Lovie Smith (Illinois) – Smith is only in Year 2 at Illinois, but this experiment is not going well.  Illinois, which plays in the considerably easier side of the Big Ten, has not won a game since September 9th.  They have also been outscored on average 31-14 in their 6 Big Ten games this season, all losses.  And that is without playing Ohio State or Penn State, the two highest scoring teams in the conference.  This week they play Indiana, which seems like their only chance at salvaging a Big Ten win this season.  Indiana is also 0-6 in the Big Ten.
Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M) – After two straight bad losses, the Kevin Sumlin Era at Texas A&M is as good as over.  Currently sitting at 5-4 overall and just 3-3 in the SEC, the Aggies are assured of a 5th straight season not reaching double-digits wins in Sumlin’s 6th year on the job.

PLAYOFF PICKS
I have now started to release my Rant Rankings the day prior to the CFB Playoff selection releasing their updated rankings.  Be sure to check that out.

That is all this week.  Make sure the refrigerator is stocked, the spare remote-control batteries are nearby and enjoy the games!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Rant Rankings 11-6-17


These rankings are 100% based on what I have seen watching college football to this point of the season.  These are not projections for what I think the committee rankings will be or should be.

1. Georgia Bulldogs (9-0) Georgia was once again dominant in their 24-10 win over South Carolina on Saturday.  The 14-point win was the smallest margin so far this season for Georgia, but they were never in any danger of losing.  The Bulldogs have their stiffest SEC challenge yet, coming this Saturday as they travel to #13 Auburn (3:30pm, CBS).
2. Alabama Crimson Tide (9-0) Just like Georgia, the Tide keep rolling (pun sadly intended).  Alabama also was a 24-10 winner on Saturday, when they hosted LSU.  Bama won, despite being outgained (306-299) by the Tigers.  It was the 1st time this season that Alabama was outgained in a game.  Alabama goes on the road this Saturday to take on Mississippi State (7pm, ESPN).
3. Oklahoma Sooners (8-1) Once again the Sooners come out victorious in their rivalry Bedlam game with #10 Oklahoma State, winning in a shootout 62-52, in this year’s edition.  OU now can claim the two best road wins in the country this season when you also include their 31-16 win in Columbus over Ohio State in Week 2.  The Sooners sit in the driver’s seat to represent the Big XII in the College Football Playoff.  However, if they stumble this week when they host #7 TCU (8pm, FOX) the Big XII may be without a representative once again.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-1) Not the best performance from the Irish on Saturday in their 48-37 win over Wake Forest, but every team has a hiccup over a 12-week schedule.  The difference is that Notre Dame still won when they weren’t playing their best.  Lots of teams can’t get away with that.  ND will need to bring their “A” Game on Saturday when they travel to #6 Miami (8pm, ABC)
5. Clemson Tigers (8-1) Chalk up another impressive win for Clemson to add to their resume.  The Tigers won on the road in Raleigh, taking down NC State in a battle for 1st place in the ACC Atlantic division, 38-31.  The Tigers had already beat #13 Auburn & #15 Virginia Tech this season.  Next up for the Tigers, Florida State (3:30, ESPN).  And even though the Seminoles are down this year, this game has grown into a big rivalry in the ACC Atlantic.
6. Miami Hurricanes (8-0) The Hurricanes finally impressed me this season. The defense came to play Saturday, forcing 4 Virginia Tech turnover and limiting the 15th ranked Hokies to just 299 yards.  Miami will have to play better offensively if they want to beat Notre Dame Saturday, turning it over 3 times like they did against the Hokies won’t be good enough.  Win or lose vs ND, the Canes are on a collision course with Clemson to play for the ACC Championship.
7. TCU Horned Frogs (8-1) TCU does something that is unheard of in the Big XII, they win with defense.  The Horned Frogs have held their last 4 opponents to 14 points or less, including a dominating 24-7 against Texas on Saturday.  The old saying that “Defense travels” will be put to the test Saturday when TCU goes to Norman to face the high-powered Oklahoma offense.  The winner of this game will sit alone atop the Big XII standings with just 1 conference loss.
8. Washington Huskies (8-1) Washington remains to be the PAC 12’s last hope at claiming a playoff berth.  The Huskies lead the nation in yards per play defense, which says something considering some of the offenses that come out of the PAC 12.  The Huskies will have another challenge this week as they go to Stanford (10:30pm, FS1) and face the leading rusher in the Power 5, Bryce Love.
9. Wisconsin Badgers (9-0) Like Washington being the PAC 12’s last playoff hope, Wisconsin has become the Big Ten’s last hope.  The Badgers still have not beaten anyone of note this season.  They will face the best team they have seen to this point on Saturday when they host Iowa (3:30pm, ABC) who is coming off a big upset win over Ohio State.
10. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-2) The Cowboys are my highest ranked 2-loss team simply because they have lost to 2 teams in the Top 7.  I have been driving the Ok State bandwagon all season and still believe that they could beat anyone on their schedule any given week.  I can promise you that neither Oklahoma or TCU would want to see the Cowboys in a rematch in the Big XII Championship Game that 1st weekend in December.  The Cowboys would have to win out for that to happen however, starting this week in Ames, when they face Iowa State (NOON, ABC).
11. Central Florida Knights (8-0) UCF has proven to be the cream of the crop in the Group of 5 this season as their offense continues to pile up the points.  With cake-walk games upcoming against UCONN (NOON, ESPNU) and Temple, the Knights should enter their season finale against 8-1 South Florida unbeaten.  If they come out of that game and win the AAC Championship Game the following week they will get a NY^ Bowl Game as their reward.
12. Ohio State Buckeyes (7-2) So how do you follow up your biggest win of the season?  If you are the Buckeyes, you lay an absolute dud to a 2-3 Big Ten team, thus knocking yourself out of any real chance of making the playoffs.  Ohio State does still have a chance to win the Big Ten East and therefore the Big Ten Championship Game.  They will need to bounce back this week to do so however, when they host #14 Michigan State (NOON, FOX).  Both teams are currently tied atop the Big Ten East standings at 5-1.
13. Auburn Tigers (7-2) Auburn has the best chance of any 2-loss team to make the Playoff.  It is all in front of the Tigers, as they host #1 Georgia this week and then go to #2 Alabama for the Iron Bowl to end the regular season.  If they win both of those they will once again face Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.  If the Tigers win all 3 of those games, plus beat Louisiana-Monroe in 2 weeks, it would be tough to keep them out of the Playoff, 2-losses or not.
14. Michigan State (7-2) The Spartans got blasted by Notre Dame in week 3.  Since then their lone loss was a 3OT thriller vs Northwestern.  They have one last hurdle this week to reclaim the top spot in the Big Ten East, and that is the Ohio State Buckeyes.  A win in Columbus will certainly bolster their stock more, but more importantly, it will likely put Sparty in the Big Ten Championship Game.
15. Virginia Tech (7-2) We mentioned Oklahoma State having two losses to teams in the Top 7, well VT can do one better.  They have 2 losses this season to teams with a combined 16-1 record and both (Clemson/Miami) rank in the Top 6.  Unfortunately for the Hokies, unlike Oklahoma State, they have been outmatched in their losses.  VaTech looks to get back to their winning ways in Atlanta when they face Georgia Tech (12:20, ACC Network).
16. USC Trojans (7-2) I admit it, I wrote off the Trojans after they got run over by Notre Dame a few weeks back.  Stepping back and looking at the big picture, their losses came to #4 ND and #18 Washington State, not terrible.  The Trojans also have already clinched the PAC 12 South Title, which means they are still alive for the PAC 12 Championship.  USC goes to Colorado (4pm, FOX) on Saturday.
17. Penn State Nittany Lions (7-2) For the 2nd straight week, the Nittany Lions faced a tough opponent, and for the 2nd straight week the Nittany Lions failed their test.  Penn State will likely end the season without beating a ranked opponent.  A 3rd straight loss on Saturday against Rutgers (NOON, BTN) would drop Penn State behind the Scarlet Knights in the Big Ten East standings.

18. Washington State (7-2) The Cougars kept their PAC 12 Championship hopes alive last week beating Stanford 24-21.  Washington State would have to win their final 2 games to win the PAC 12 North and get a bid into the Championship Game.  It will not be easy however, as both games come on the road, where WSU is just 1-2 this season.  First up is Utah (5:30, PAC12 Network) on Saturday, then comes the Apple Cup against rival Washington.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Week 10

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKLY RANT

RANKINGS!!!

The 1st College Football Playoff Rankings were unveiled this week, so let’s just dive right in and discuss.  First impressions were good.  I think they did a lot right.  I was glad to see that they did not reward teams like Miami and Wisconsin just simply because they are undefeated.  Neither team has any decent wins and the committee punished them for it.  The difference between the two going forward is that Miami will have multiple chance to get that Resume Win, while Wisconsin could have to wait until the Big Ten Championship Game for their 1st game vs a ranked opponent.

A big question I have moving forward with the committee is how the look at strength of opponent.  For instance, Alabama beat Florida State in Week #1 when the expectations for FSU were sky-high and they were ranked in the Top 5 in the AP & Coaches (I know, not the CFB).  Now Florida State is 2-5 and might not go to a bowl.  Does Alabama get rewarded for beating a team with lots of preseason hype, or will the committee judge FSU (and that win for Alabama) based on their overall record after the season?

A few things did jump out at me when going over the rankings for the first time.  They committee is setting up some very interesting/controversial storylines and possibilities.

*Ohio State is #6.  That puts the top Big Ten team behind three other conference leaders and three other teams with identical records.  With the SEC holding two spots ahead of Ohio State, with Georgia & Alabama both undefeated, it is possible that the loser of the SEC Championship remains ahead of Ohio State?  Could the committee keep out a 1-loss Big Ten Champ Ohio State team?

*Notre Dame is too high for me.  I had them 4th in my rankings behind Clemson.  I immediately realized that the committee valued USC much more than I did and rewarded Notre Dame for that win (which I am fine with).  My question that I asked before though rings true about Notre Dame.  If USC falls off and NC State (their other Top 25 win) loses another game or two, will the committee have the stones to move Notre Dame down in the rankings, even if they keep winning?  NC State plays Clemson this week, a loss there and Notre Dame likely loses a Top 25 win.  Likewise, USC plays a red-hot Arizona team.  If Arizona and Clemson win, then Notre Dame has ZERO Top 25 wins, do they drop then?

*There will be A LOT of “elimination games” in the final month of the season, beginning this week.  That makes me happy.

WHAT I LEARNED IN WEEK NINE

*There Is A Lot More Wrong With Florida State Than Just An Injured QB.  Everyone knew that DeAndre Francois tearing his knee in the opener against Alabama would be a setback for the Seminoles.  The team that had huge expectations going into the season was now relying on a freshman QB to take them to the promised land.  However, the weeks since that Alabama loss have shown that Francois or not, this FSU team was not a team capable of winning a National Championship.  They still have huge issues on the offensive line, which held them back last season.  Despite having two good young backs in Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick, they are close to what they lost in 1st round draft pick Dalvin Cook.  And maybe most importantly, a defense, the reason many thought they could compete for a National Championship, has been BLAH.  They ranked 50th in the nation in Scoring D (24.3ppg) and 56th in Rush D (158.1ypg). Not good.  Florida State has the longest active streak of bowl appearances (35), that streak may end this year.

*Florida Gators Have Had Enough Of Jim McElwain.  Jim McElwain has been fired from the University of Florida despite going 22-12 in 2+ seasons and starting his SEC career 16-3 in the conference.  He also won the SEC East in his only 2 years at the school.  He is also a guy that the school just gave a contract extension to in June, extending him 1-year, through the 2023 season.  But losing to Alabama 2 years in a row in the SEC Championship and losing 2 straight years (without scoring an offensive touchdown) to hated rival Florida State had a lot of fans and boosters uneasy.  SI.com’s Andy Staples, a UF grad and college football expert, wrote a great piece of how much more went into this move than wins and losses.

WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN WEEK TEN

*Bedlam In Stillwater.  Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State.  Both team enter the game at 7-1.  OU is #5 in this year’s initial CFB Playoff Rankings, Ok State is #11.  This is basically a CFB Playoff elimination game.  The rivalry game that the Big XII was hoping would be played in the conference championship game to determine the CFB Playoff representative is now being played out a month earlier, in the regular season.

*An Old-School Big East Rivalry Game.  Virginia Tech vs Miami.  1-loss Virginia Tech is 13th in this week’s rankings, Miami #10 despite being undefeated.  This is another elimination game between two rivals.  For years this game determined the Big East Champion, now it puts the winner in the driver’s seat in the ACC Coastal race.

*Conference Race Pictures Clearing Up.  Although not nearly as big in the National Picture as the two previous games mentioned, there are quite a few other games that will impact their conferences moving forward.  In the Big Ten Penn State @ Michigan State will give one of these two teams their second conference loss and end any hope they had at catching Ohio State in the East race. Michigan State has yet to play tOSU, so they technically still control their own destiny in the East, despite losing to Northwestern last week.  In the ACC Clemson @ NC State will give the winner the inside track at the ACC Atlantic title and a spot in the ACC Championship Game (likely against the winner of the VT/Miami game). In the Big XII Iowa State @ Morgantown will also eliminate one from contention for a conference championship game spot.  Iowa State is one of 4 teams in the conference with 1 loss.  WVU is lurking just 1 game back, waiting for other teams to stumble.  In the SEC we have LSU @ Alabama.  Believe it or not, despite currently sitting in 3rd place and having been outscored 100-91 in conference games, LSU controls their own destiny in the SEC West.  If they win out, it will be the Tigers, not Alabama in the SEC Championship Game against (presumably) Georgia.  Out west in the PAC12 Arizona @ USC gives the winner a clear lane to win the South, while Stanford @ Washington State all but eliminates the loser from winning the North.

COACHING CAROUSEL
The first domino fell in the coaching carousel this week with Florida firing Jim McElwain (see above)

Florida Gators – The Gators will spend money for their next head coach.  Despite still paying Will Muschamp his buyout, and still owing Colorado State over $1M for the buyout of Jim McElwain and now paying over $4M of a buyout to McElwain, the Gators still have that SEC money.  Expect them to go after a successful head coach from a Power 5 program.  Their last two hires have been an assistant coach and a Group of 5 coach, they won’t go either of those routes again… Unless it is for Scott Frost.  Frost is the current head coach at UCF, who is undefeated and killing it in Orlando.  I believe that although Frost is on their list, but he is not at the top.  The three names that I think they at least kick the tires on before going to Frost are Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, Willie Taggart at Oregon and Chip Kelly, formerly at Oregon and the Philadelphia Eagles.  One thing that is for sure, is that by the Gators going after a current head coach, this will get the ball rolling for plenty of other coaching moves.  Credit the Gators for making this move when they did too.  There are going to be other SEC schools looking for head coaches at the end of the month and the Gators just got a head start on all of them.

GAMBLING EYE

Penn State (-9) @ Michigan State – Both teams coming off their 1st Big Ten loss, Penn State seems better suited to bounce back and stay on the tails of Ohio State.  I could see the Nittany Lions taking out some of their anger on Sparty and Co. in East Lansing on Saturday.

Florida (+3.5/+145 ML) @ Missouri – Obviously Florida is a mess right now, as they go through a coaching change, but Missouri has been a dumpster fire all season.  I expect Florida to play one of their better games of the season on Saturday and that would be more than enough to beat a bad Tiger team.

Wisconsin (-14) @ Indiana -  Wisconsin is by far the best team in the Big Ten West.  Indiana is winless in the Big Ten East.  I know they East is better than the West, but I have got to believe that Wisconsin is more than two touchdowns better than the worst team in the other division.

Syracuse (+5/+175 ML) @ Florida State -   To me Florida State has quit on the season.  At 2-5, the Noles no longer want to be out on the field.  Their goal every year is championships, and that is no longer a possibility for FSU.  Syracuse has been very good as their offense keeps improving.  The Cuse have a chance to get wins over Clemson and Florida State in the same season.

Iowa State @ West Virginia (OVER 60) – Vegas likes WVU in this game which has me shying away from the spread in this game, but in my mind, if WVU is going to win, it will be in a shootout.  Both teams have scored 30+ in 6 of their 8 games played and WVU has scored at least 30 in all 5 of their wins.  60 seems very low to me in a matchup of these offenses.

Virginia Tech (-3) @ Miami – This will sound odd when talking about an undefeated football team, but Miami is not very good.  They have struggled in every game and have continuously let teams hang around.  Virginia Tech is a team that if you let hang around, they will make you pay.  The Hokies will be, BY FAR, the best team Miami has faced this season.  I don’t think this game is close on Saturday night.

Arizona (+7/+240 ML) @ USC – I’m riding the Khalil Tate train until he loses.  This kid has played 4 games this season and still leads the Wildcats in rushing by over 400 yards.  Nobody has stopped him yet and I don’t think USC gets it done either.  Tate is a Southern California kid, so this will be a special homecoming for him.  Expect him to put on a show!

PLAYOFF PICKS
I have now started to release my Top 20 in the Rant Rankings the day prior to the CFB Playoff selection releasing their updated rankings.  Be sure to check that out.



That is all this week.  Make sure the refrigerator is stocked, the spare remote-control batteries are nearby and enjoy the games!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Rant Rankings 10-30-17

With the first College Football Playoff Rankings being announced Tuesday, I wanted to release my Rant Rankings beforehand.

These rankings are 100% based on what I have seen watching college football to this point of the season.  These are not projections for what I think the committee rankings will be or should be.

1. Georgia Bulldogs (8-0) Georgia has answered the bell every Saturday they have played, and they have done it in dominating fashion.  The Bulldogs closest game was their opener, which was a 21-point win vs Appalachian State.  Georgia held a 31-0 lead in that game with 6 minutes remaining.  Georgia edges out Alabama for the #1 spot due to their quality win, on the road over #3 Notre Dame.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0) Bama has the undefeated record like Georgia, but has played a bunch of nobodies.  That Week 1 win over then #3 Florida State was supposed to be a statement non-conference win for Bama, but Florida State now sits at 2-5 and might not even get bowl eligible this season.  Alabama has only 3 wins over teams with winning records, and two of the three were Group of 5 teams in non-conference games.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes (7-1) When the Buckeyes are playing well, they are dangerous.  The downfall is that they aren’t very consistent.  We saw this Saturday.  They mucked it up and played bad football into the 3rd quarter against #8 Penn State before finally putting their foot down and dominating the final 20 minutes or so of the game.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1) The Irish have the best loss in college football, a 1-point loss to #1 Georgia.  They have also dominated every other opponent they have faced.  Unfortunately for them, the once vaunted 2nd half of the schedule suddenly doesn’t look so tough.  The good news is that they should run the table.  The bad news is that the Irish could end the season without a win over a Top 20 team.  They also will not have a conference championship to sell to the selection committee, which we know they like.
5. Clemson Tigers (7-1) Clemson’s only loss the season came when their starting QB got hurt in the 1st half the game.  When full healthy we have seen the Tigers beat #18 Auburn, #9 Virginia Tech & the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and his Louisville Cardinals.  And they beat all of them with relative ease.  No other team in the country has those types of wins.  They get another chance this week when they go to Raleigh to face #19 NC State in a battle for 1st place in the ACC Atlantic.
6. Oklahoma Sooners (7-1) Suddenly that loss to #10 Iowa State doesn’t look so bad, does it?  And that win at #3 Ohio State looks even better.  The Sooners have another stiff test this Saturday when they go to Stillwater for a rivalry game against #7 Oklahoma State.
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-1) The Cowboys have not been the Cowboys most have expected this season.  While they have just flat-out outscored some opponents, they have also needed their defense to win other games.  With no wins over Top 20 teams currently, the Cowboys face two in their next 2 games.  This week vs #6 Oklahoma, then next week at #10 Iowa State.  These two games will make or break Oklahoma State’s season and playoff hopes.
8. Penn State Nittany Lions (7-1) The Nittany Lions finally played a tough opponent on Saturday and took their 1st loss in the process.  While it was only a 1-point loss on the road, it was also the only time the season that Penn State will face a ranked team.  It is tough to build a resume when you have nothing impressive to put on it.  I really do think Penn State is a good football team, but I just haven’t seen them prove it on the field.  Based on the rest of their schedule, we probably won’t get that opportunity until Bowl Season.
9. Virginia Tech Hokies (7-1) The Hokies get this Top 10 spot based on potential.  They do have a non-conference win at a neutral site over West Virginia, but other than that, there isn’t much.  That is life in the ACC Coastal for you.  Their 13-point win over Boston College, although perplexing at the time,  is looking much better as each week goes by.  The Hokies lone loss was to #5 Clemson, a team they may get a rematch with in the ACC Championship game if they can get by #12 Miami this week and finish the rest of the season with just that 1 loss.
10. Iowa State Cyclones (6-2) A 2-loss Cyclone team over some undefeated teams you might ask… YES!  The Cyclones have given both #6 Oklahoma and #11 TCU their only losses of the season, with the OU win coming in Norman.  I forgive close losses, when you can counter them with big wins.  After upset win last week vs TCU, it doesn’t get any easier as they go on the road vs WVU this week, before taking on #7 Oklahoma State in 2 weeks.
11. TCU Horned Frogs (7-1) Taking their 1st loss of the season on Saturday to #10 Iowa State brought the Horned Frogs back to the pack in the Big XII, but their road win in Stillwater over #7 Oklahoma State is what put them on the map this season.  Still in good position to make the Big XII Championship game, the Horned Frogs need to take care of business the next two weeks vs Texas and #6 Oklahoma to secure a spot in Arlington.
12. Miami Hurricanes (7-0) All they do is win, but that isn’t always enough.  The Hurricanes offense has struggled all season, allowing inferior opponents to stay in games.  Only 2 of the 7 wins have come against teams with winning records (Toledo 7-1 & Georgia Tech 4-3).
13. Wisconsin Badgers (8-0) Remember the Iowa Hawkeyes team from 2015 that drove everyone crazy being ranked so high because they were an undefeated Big Ten team? Welcome to the 2017 Wisconsin Badgers.  It’s not that Wisconsin is a terrible team, it’s just that they haven’t played a good team yet this season.  The Badgers are 5-0 in the Big Ten, those 5 opponents have a combined record of 18-22 on the year.  There is a good chance Wisconsin will not play a ranked team until the Big Ten Championship Game.
14. Washington (7-1) It tells you something about the Pac12 when their top ranked team is #14.  The Huskies seem to be the best of the bunch out west, but that isn’t anything worth bragging about this season.  With no wins to write home about to this point in the season, the Huskies will get a chance to prove themselves against better opponents the final month of the season.  It starts with Oregon this week followed by #17 Stanford, Utah and rival Washington State to end the season.
15. UCF Knights (7-0) Hello Group of 5!!!  Central Florida is the class of the Group of 5 this season with a dynamic offense that leads the nation in scoring.  Their undefeated record includes a win over a Power 5 opponent in Maryland.  As long as they don’t trip up in the final month, the Knights should find themselves in a New Year’s 6 Bowl Game.
16. LSU Tigers (6-2) Don’t look now, but LSU controls their own destiny in the SEC West.  Winners of three straight, if they get their 4th straight it will come against #2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
17. Stanford Cardinal (6-2) After opening the season dropping two of their first three games, the Cardinal have run off five straight and have resume wins available in their upcoming games.  Stanford still has Washington State, #14 Washington and #4 Notre Dame remaining of the schedule.
18. Auburn Tigers (6-2) Likely out of the SEC West race after losing to LSU two weeks ago, the Tigers still have a chance to make an impact on the overall rankings, as they are the only team in the country that still had to play #1 Georgia and #2 Alabama.
19. NC State Wolfpack (6-2) Two non-conference losses have probably taken the Wolfpack out of the playoff conversation, but they remain undefeated in the ACC going into their game with #5 Clemson on Saturday.  A win over the defending national champs and a trip to the ACC Championship Game is likely, as is a New Year’s 6 Bowl Game.

20. Arizona Wildcats (6-2) It is as simple as Khalil Tate.  Tate took over QB duties 4 games ago.  Since that point the Wildcats are 4-0 and have scored 45. 47. 45 & 58 points in those games. The Wildcats go to LA this week to play USC for the top spot in the PAC12 South.

Friday, October 27, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Week 9

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKLY RANT

They are who we thought they were!

There were two big, primetime games last week and both ended up as duds.  In both cases one team clearly outshined their opponents in every phase of the game.  Penn State and Notre Dame both earned the title of “Contender” after their home romps over rival opponents.  Both teams had looked impressive to this point and won a bunch of games, but Saturday was the first time either of them did it against an opponent with a pulse.

Or did they?  Have a pulse I mean.

This is not to take anything away from Penn State and Notre Dame, as I said, they earned the recognition that they have gotten from their performances on Saturday.  Both have themselves sitting in a nice spot to claim a CFB Playoff spot if they keep winning.  Both also have very challenging games waiting for them again this weekend.

But back to Michigan and USC, the big losers this weekend.  These teams are not good football teams right now.  Michigan has been overrated since debuting at #11 in the AP and #9 in the Coaches preseason polls, despite losing more players to the NFL Draft than any other team in the country and returning the fewest starters in the country.  USC had all the hype after last season and the return of Heisman favorite and #1 overall NFL Draft pick, Sam Darnold.  But they showed their flaws starting in Week 1, when Western Michigan, racked up 263 yards on the ground and was in a 28-28 tie in the Coliseum midway through the 4th quarter. 

Michigan with their uber-annoying, former NFL quarterback head coach Jim Harbaugh has one of the worst offenses in the country.  The Wolverines rank 98th (out of 130) in the country in total offense (361 ypg). To put that into perspective to my loyal and local readers who know and follow Pitt, the Panthers rank 94th.  They rank T-90th in scoring, just 25.1 ppg and haven’t scored 30+ since Week 2.  Penn State held Michigan to just 269 yards and 13 points on Saturday.  With the loss, the Wolverines now fall into a tie with Rutgers in the Big Ten East standings.  I’m sure that is exactly where all the Big Blue Faithful thought Harbaugh would have them in Year 3 as head coach.  BTW, that big Rutgers vs Michigan game for 4th place in the Big Ten East is this Saturday at The Big House.

USC has been bad in the trenches all season and now they are decimated with injuries.  As mentioned USC allowed 263 on the ground to a MAC team in Week 1, so even when healthy they weren’t great in the trenches.  They also allowed 3 sacks in that game to Western Michigan.  In their loss to Notre Dame, Darnold was sacked 5 times before the Trojans put up the white-flag late in the 3rd quarter and he exited the game for good.  The Irish also ran for 377 yards against the Boys of Troy.  Things won’t be getting better for USC this year either, as the PAC12 schedule makers didn’t give the Trojans a BYE week until Week 13, when their regular season will have already concluded. 

Again, I don’t mean to take anything away from Penn State or Notre Dame, but pointing out the flaws of their opponents.  They did just what they are supposed to do when they face bad teams, they dominated.  Both Notre Dame and Penn State are good football teams.  We will be talking about them much more this season if they continue to play the way they have through the first eight weeks.

WHAT ELSE I LEARNED IN WEEK EIGHT

*I Now Believe in TCU. It is probably odd to finally buy-in on a team that is undefeated and ranked 4th in the country after they played Kansas, but that is what I’m doing.  TCU held Kansas to -6 yards in the game’s first three quarters.  That is tough to do to any team, no matter what level.  TCU did it to a Power 5 (I cringe using that term in regard to Kansas) team and conference foe.  Kansas had one 1st down in the opening drive of the game.  They didn’t have another until the :57 mark of the 3rd quarter, and that came via penalty.  The Jayhawks longest drive of the game was 17 yards.  That came in their final possession, while facing TCU’s 3rd string defense. 

*The B1G West is Awful.  I say it all the time, but the Big Ten in general is over rated and because of that, Big Ten teams benefit from inflated records.  The Big Ten West is especially over rated however!  Once again, we have a Big Ten West team high in the rankings, just because they are beating up on other Big Ten West teams.  Just like Iowa two seasons ago, Wisconsin is sitting undefeated and unchallenged in the #5 spot in this week’s rankings.  How did that work out for Iowa???  Just to refresh your memory, they lost in the Big Ten Championship game, then trailed 38-0 in the Rose bowl to Stanford before the Cardinal called off the dogs in a 45-16 romp.  Last year Wisconsin lost 3 games, all to Big Ten East teams.  Can’t we just make a mandate that if you haven’t beaten a ranked team by the 1st Saturday in October, you can’t be ranked in the Top 10???  FUN FACT #1: With Michigan falling out of the Top 25, the ENTIRE Big Ten now has a grand total of ONE victory over a ranked team this season.  That win was Iowa beating Iowa State 44-41 in Week 2.  Iowa State is ranked #25 this week, and very well could be unranked this time next week after playing #4 TCU on Saturday
Just look at ESPN’s Stats & Info Department’s FootballPower Index and the strength of schedules this year.  There are 64 Power 5 conference teams, 65 if you add Notre Dame.  Here is the bottom of that list:
58) Iowa
59) Rutgers
60) Penn State
61) Illinois
62) Indiana
63) Wisconsin
64) Minnesota
65) Northwestern
The only P5 teams in the country with a worse strength of schedule than undefeated Wisconsin are two teams in their division. 

WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN WEEK NINE

*Show Me Games.  Notre Dame and Penn State have to come off of high intensity, high emotion wins against rivals to face even tougher tests this week.  THIS WEEK will be their big games, not last week.  NC State will be the toughest defense the Irish have faced since their Week 2 loss to Georgia.  The Bulldogs held ND to 55 yards on the ground, on 37 carries.  Georgia ranks 4th national in Rush Defense.  NC State comes in just 2 spots behind the Bulldogs, ranking 6th on the season, giving up just 91.3 yards per game.  FUN FACT #2: Notre Dame has never scored a touchdown against NC State.  The Wolfpack are 2-0 all-time vs the Irish, limiting them to just 3 field goals, while outscoring them 38-9.
Penn State travels to Columbus, to face Ohio State, the team they knocked off last year on their way to winning the Big Ten East.  Ohio State presents an interesting test for Penn State, simply because they have a functioning offense.  Penn State has not seen one of those yet this season.  Penn State leads the nation in Scoring Defense, giving up just 9.6 ppg.  They also rank 9th in Total Defense, allowing just over 280 yards per game.  Those numbers may be a little misleading however, when you realize that they have not played a team that ranks in the Top 70 in Total Offense or in the Top 80 in Scoring Offense.
Here are the 7 opponents Penn State has faced this season, and their ranking in Total Offense and Scoring Offense (out of 130):
Akron – 117 Total Offense / 101 Scoring Offense
Pitt – 94/97
Georgia State – 89/114
Iowa – 103/81
Indiana – 95/89
Northwestern – 74/83
Michigan – 98/90
Ohio State ranks 3rd nationally in Total Offense (577.3 ypg) and is tied for 1st in Scoring Offense (47.3 ppg).
Another interesting nugget on these games, both NC State and Ohio State had BYE weeks last week, giving them 2 weeks to prepare.

*Afternoon Football.  Due to Game 4 of the World Series, it seems like the networks have elected to schedule their top games all in the afternoon this week, to prevent a ratings battle.  Oklahoma State @ West Virginia is a Noon kick Saturday and it features two ranked teams trying to stay alive for a Big XII Championship Game bid.  Both teams enter the game in a 4-way tie for 2nd place in the conference at 3-1.  The 3:30 timeslot is slammed with good games.  We mentioned NC State @ Notre Dame already as well as Penn State @ Ohio State, but we also have the rivalry game formerly known as The World Largest Cocktail Party, with Georgia vs Florida in Jacksonville as well as an under the radar game between two ranked teams with TCU @ Iowa State.  Iowa State is in that 4-way tie with WVU and OK State in the Big XII.  TCU sits unbeaten and in 1st place in the conference.  Iowa State has never won a home game against the Horned Frogs.  Michigan State @ Northwestern is another game to keep an eye on in the 3:30 timeslot.  Sparty is tied with Ohio State and Penn State at 4-0 in the Big Ten East.

*What Is Going To Happen To USC?  As we covered already, USC is a football team with a lot of issues.  That said, they are still in 1st place in the PAC12 South at 4-1 in conference.  This week however, they have a 3-1 (PAC12 record) Arizona State team in Tempe.  Arizona State has back-to-back wins over Washington and Utah and also beat Oregon earlier this season (before the Justin Herbert injury derailed the Ducks season).  This is suddenly a very losable game for USC and considering they then have Khalil Tate and Arizona next week, the Trojans could be looking at four straight losses if they can’t right the ship and get a road win against the Sun Devils.

HOT SEAT
We started the HOT SEAT section of the Weekly Rant the last week of September, updating you throughout October.  It is now time to remove some coaches from the HOT SEAT, while adding another.
OFF THE HOT SEAT:
Rich Rodriguez (Arizona) – It only took him 10 years, but RichRod finally found his next Pat White in Khalil White and is now off the HOT SEAT and suddenly a legit contender in the PAC12 South.
Todd Graham (Arizona State) – Like his coaching rival Rodriguez, something finally clicked for Graham and the Sun Devils and after 1-2 start in the non-conference.  ASU could be sitting in 1st place in the PAC12 South after this weekend, allowing Graham to sit in a much cooler and comfortable coaching seat.
Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) – Dantonio was barely on the HOT SEAT to begin with, but now he is completely off.  MSU had a down year last year, going just 3-9 and having some off-the-field issues within their roster which raised questions about Dantonio.  He then got drummed at home by Notre Dame in Week 3, which in hindsight wasn’t nearly as bad of a loss as originally though considering what ND has gone on to do.  Sparty hasn’t lost since.  Dantonio is going anywhere any time soon.
Mark Stoops (Kentucky) – Stoops was probably on this list prematurely.  We must remember this is Kentucky, and if Stoops can stay out of trouble and goes to bowl games, he isn’t going anywhere.  Kentucky is a basketball school in a Football conference.  Stoops is 5-2 right now and that is good enough to the Big Blue Nation who is just waiting for the 1st tip of the hoops season.
NEW ADDITIONS:
Gus Malzahn (Auburn) – Seems odd to have the head coach of a 2-loss team on the HOT SEAT, but Auburn has been looking for a reason to fire this guy since last year.  As a matter of fact, he probably would have been fired after the LSU game last season had instant replay not overturned the final play of the game.  Instead, Les Miles was fired.  Oddly enough, it was LSU again that may do in Malzahn.  His Tigers blew a 20-point lead 2 weeks ago, losing 27-23 and giving a struggling LSU team life in the SEC East.  Auburn could easily lose their final 3 SEC games, which includes Alabama in the Iron Bowl the final week of the season.  Malzahn is 1-3 vs Nick Saban in the rivalry game, losing the last three, while being outscored 114-69.
Lovie Smith (Illinois) – When Illinois made this hire 2 years ago, it made a lot of sense.  Illinois is never going to be a football power, so why not just hire a local legend (taking the Bears to the Super Bowl gives you legend status in Illinois) to get people talking about the program and let him try to change the perception?  Well things went sideways in a hurry and now Illinois is stuck just 2 years into an 6yr/$21M deal.  The Illini are just 5-14 in their 1st 19 games under Smith, and while that is a small sample size, there is nothing that looks like he is turning things around.  The Illini haven’t won a game since Sept 9th, and haven’t scored more than 24 points in a game since Nov 5th, last season!  They also lost to Rutgers two weeks ago, that alone is a fireable offense at most Power 5 programs.
Clay Helton (USC) -  This one is a longshot, but a possibility.  When Helton was hired in 2015 after taking over in an interim role, it came to most as a surprise.  Helton then started his career as 1-3 to open the 2016 season.  There were whispers at that point, just 4 games into his career, that he may not last long.  Then came a QB switch and a very favorable portion of the schedule, which led to the Trojans finding their stride and running off 9 straight to close the season.  This year however, with lofty preseason expectations the Trojans have struggled in every aspect of the game.  Their 6-2 record doesn’t tell the full story.  Helton probably makes it through the season and begins the 2018 season squarely on the HOT SEAT, but if things get worse and the Trojans falter down the stretch, don’t be shocked if they cut their ties with the 2nd year head coach.
STILL HOT:
Barry Odom (Missouri) – Odom should have never been on the Hot Seat to begin with.  If Missouri still played football in the Big XII there would be no talk of firing him.  However, Mizzou is now in the SEC, the place where football rebuilds don’t exist, regardless of how much they are needed.  T question now becomes, does Missouri think rationally or do they think like an SEC football program?  Odom has certainly taken his lumps in his first year-plus as head coach, but this is YEAR TWO!!!!  Give the guy some time.  I think he is safe, but it is tough to try to figure out what SEC schools are thinking when it comes to coaching.
SEAT ON FIRE(D):
Bret Bielema (Arkansas) – 2-5 overall this season and 0-4 in the SEC, Bielema is good as gone.  Arkansas has Ole Miss this week and if they lose that, they will be lucky to get to 4 wins on the season. 
Mike Riley (Nebraska) – The good news for Mike Riley and all Cornhusker fans is that Nebraska is currently in 2nd place in the B1G West.  The bad news is that the B1G West is awful (see above) and the Cornhuskers have a losing record this season and might not get bowl eligible.  Even though he is still on the sidelines, Riley was essentially fired when his AD took the bullet for him back in September.  Then AD Shawn Eichorst was reportedly told to fire Riley after the Huskers lost to Northern Illinois.  When he refused, he was fired. 
Butch Jones (Tennessee) – Jones is another one that is good as gone come Dec 1st.  He has followed the “How To Not Secure Your Job” manual to near perfection this season.  0-4 in the SEC East while getting outscored 127-36 in those 4 games, won’t cut it most places. It certainly won’t cut it in Knoxville.  Just think if Georgia Tech didn’t go for 2 and the win in the season opener against Tennessee, they could be staring at 2-5 right now, with their only wins coming against Indiana State and UMASS.  The Vols have some winnable games remaining on their schedule, but it is too late at this point.
Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M) – This is a tough one.  I want to move his to the STILL HOT section because he has the Aggies at 5-2 and they just might be the 2nd best team in the SEC West.  The problem is that the people making the decisions at Texas A&M are idiots and are just looking for reasons to fire Sumlin.  A loss in two weeks to Auburn or in the finale against LSU might be enough for them.  Either way, Sumlin will land on his feet and find another job in no time.  Deep down, I am hoping that Sumlin and the Aggies win-out and finish 10-2, then Sumlin leaves on his own, taking another job, preferably in the SEC where he can torture A&M annually.
Jim Mora, Jr. (UCLA) – 4-3, 2-2 is not what UCLA expected in Year 6 of Jim Mora, Jr.  Having one of the worst defenses in America is also not something they expected.  The Bruins had a chance to stand out when USC was down.  They missed that opportunity.  The final 5 games of the season will be make or break for Mora and the Bruins.  Washington, Utah, Arizona St, USC & Cal all are good enough to beat UCLA.  The toughest part for UCLA is asking the question, “Who are you going to get that will be better?”   

PLAYOFF PICKS
These are the 4 best undefeated teams in college football right now.  I am not sold that they are the 4 best overall teams in college football, but being undefeated certainly gives you a leg up in the Playoff Race.
1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Penn State
4. TCU
NEXT UP:
Clemson
Oklahoma State
Oklahoma
Ohio State
Notre Dame
Miami

That is all this week.  Make sure the refrigerator is stocked, the spare remote-control batteries are nearby and enjoy the games!