Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Alabama had a thrilling comeback to win yet another title. It included putting in a freshman quarterback, who hadn’t played a meaningful snap all season long. The game just goes to show that college football is unique and great. While the 2017 season is now over it is time to look ahead to the 2018 season. Here is the early college football top 25 for the 2018 season:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

While they always lose talent to the NFL, Alabama can replace it. Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa will lead the offense alongside any of the talented running backs that decide to return to school. Najee Harris found some daylight in the title game and will also be back. The defense will lose a lot more talent to the NFL, but they always step up. A lot of players got experience this season due to injuries.

2. Clemson Tigers

Clemson made a third straight College Football Playoff and will compete for another next season. Kelly Bryant and the talented running backs will be back. Deon Cain and Hunter Renfrow need to make their decisions still, but Clemson can replace them. The defense always reloads and will at the very least have stud defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence to build around.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

J.K. Dobbins (Photo by cleveland.com)

J.T. Barrett may be leaving, but Dwayne Haskins looked good in relief against Michigan. Add him with J.K. Dobbins, Mike Weber and the majority of the offensive line returning and it has the makings of a good offense. The defense will still have Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones, which will help make up a good defensive line.

4. Washington Huskies

The Huskies had a young team this season that saw them replace a lot of NFL talent on defense. Jake Browning should return to school to lead the team at quarterback. Myles Gaskin and Dante Pettis could both be lost to the NFL, but if Gaskin elects to return to school, the offense will be solid. The majority of the defense will return, but will have to fill holes left by Vita Vea and some very good linebackers.

5. Miami Hurricanes

Is Malik Rosier the answer at quarterback? Only time will tell. The Hurricanes should have him, Mark Walton and Ahmmon Richards back to make plays. They do lose a lot on the offensive line, but should be able to replace it. Miami should also get most of their defense back, which includes a great back seven of talented linebackers and a good secondary.

6. Michigan State Spartans

L.J. Scott decided to return to school, giving Michigan State almost all their starters back for next year. After winning ten games this season, they should be expected to compete even more next season. Brian Lewerke is a dual-threat that is expected to improve this offseason. The defense was very young and should also get a lot better next season.

7. Georgia Bulldogs

The Bulldogs just played in the National Championship, but are going to lose a lot of talent, especially on their defense. They could lose up to nine or ten players from the defense, which will not be easy to replace. Georgia has some playmakers on offense returning in Jake Fromm, D’Andre Swift and Riley Ridley. Most of their offensive line also returns.

8. Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin got a huge win when linebacker T.J. Edwards said he was returning for his senior season. He will give the defense some stability, as they lose a lot this offseason. The offense will be expected to pick up the slack, as Jonathan Taylor had a fantastic freshman season and most of his offensive line will return. The question is: How well can Alex Hornibrook play?

9. Oklahoma Sooners

Lincoln Riley did a fantastic job in his first year as head coach, but now has to move on without Baker Mayfield. Kyler Murray was a highly-touted recruit that Riley can mold. Freshman running back Rodney Anderson also returns after having a great season and Rose Bowl. Add those two to wide receiver “Hollywood” Brown and the offense should be set. Defensively, some talent will move on, but the offense is the strength of the team.

10. Virginia Tech Hokies

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Josh Jackson (Photo by cjonline.com)

Josh Jackson had a fantastic freshman season that resulted in nine wins. His progression is what carries this ranking. Travon McMillan and Cam Phillips, his two offensive weapons at running back and wide receiver, are gone. Young receivers will need to step up and they will also need to replace a few offensive linemen. The Hokies will return about six or seven starters on defense, but will need to replace some NFL-level talent.

11. Penn State Nittany Lions 

Saquon Barkley is gone, but Trace McSorley is back again. He will now have to be the focal point of the offense with a new offensive coordinator. Most of the offensive line returns, but a lot of new faces will have to step up on defense, as they had a lot of seniors getting significant playing time.

12. Auburn Tigers

The Tigers had a great season that resulted with them playing in the Cotton Bowl. Auburn gets quarterback Jarrett Stidham back, while Kerryon Johnson is leaving for the NFL. They will lose some quality players on defense, but will get the majority back for 2018.

13. Stanford Cardinal

Bryce Love is likely going to the NFL. The good news for Stanford is they can seemingly plug in a lot of running backs into their system to be productive. K.J. Costello also showed some flashes of being a very good quarterback. They lose more than half of their defense to seniors, but the returning players are solid.

14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Both Josh Adams and Equanimeous St. are trying to make it at the next level. Losing Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson deals a significant blow to the offense of Notre Dame. They still have some good offensive linemen, running backs and wide receivers who will step up next season. That only leaves the matter of quarterback. Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush will battle it out in the offseason for the starting role. The seniors leaving the defense will leave a mark, but a lot of players returning have gotten significant playing time due to injuries over the previous few seasons.

15. Boise State Broncos

Boise State has a chance to be in the national spotlight again this year, after fading in the past few seasons. Quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Alexander Mattison return, which should help keep the offense rolling. Losing wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and some offensive linemen will hurt, but they will manage. The defense is young and pretty much all returning next season, meaning they should be dominant.

16. LSU Tigers

The Tigers will have to replace a lot of their offense, but they have some talented recruits waiting to take the team to the next level. Myles Brennan looks to take over at quarterback after seeing action in six games this season. He was a highly-touted recruit that should be able to make plays with another year under his belt. A lot of good players from LSU’s defense will be missing as well, so they’re recruits will need to step up.

17. Michigan Wolverines

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Shea Patterson (Photo by freep.com)

Michigan won the Shea Patterson sweepstakes and the quarterback transfer from Ole Miss. Brandon Peters also showed potential at the position this season. They’ll need skill position players to step up next season. Donovan Peoples-Jones is in store for a big year at wide receiver if the quarterback play is good enough. The defense returns most of its key players. A player to watch is linebacker Devin Bush, who is one of the best in the country.

18. USC Trojans

Sam Darnold helped lead USC back to prominence, but now he is gone. Gone too are running back Ronald Jones and wide receiver Deontay Burnett. Two offensive linemen also graduate, so they will have some big shoes to fill in Los Angeles. A lot of their players on the defensive side of the ball will be testing the NFL Draft waters, so sophomore corner Jack Jones will have to step up and be a leader.

19. West Virginia Mountaineers

Will Grier had a great season for West Virginia and has decided to return to school. With most of his weapons back, Grier should have the Mountaineers in good position to have one of the best offenses in the country once again. While the defense isn’t the strength of the team, a lot of returning players will be good to work with.

20. Florida Atlantic Owls

Florida Atlantic hit a home run when they hired Lane Kiffin. He took a team that was supposed to be very bad and made them a conference championship team. Running back Devin Singletary was one of the most productive running backs in the country this season and will be back for his junior year. A young defense should also improve as a lot more people hop on the “Lane Train”.

21. Kansas State Wildcats

Bill Snyder is back for another season. They won nine games in 2016 and eight games this season with young teams. Now, with a bunch of veterans, the Wildcats are looking to compete more in the Big 12. Wide receiver Byron Pringle will be asked to do a lot for this team, but they will mainly try to run the football. If D.J. Reed decides to return at corner, it should be another solid year for the Wildcats.

22. Northwestern Wildcats

They won ten games this season and will be back for more next season. While their career leading rusher, Justin Jackson, is graduating, they seem to believe freshman Jeremy Larkin can be a workhorse back in his sophomore year. Quarterback Clayton Thorson is also back for next season, but is recovering from a torn ACL in the Music City Bowl. Freshman linebacker Paddy Fisher looks like he will be on of their all-time greats.

23. Florida State Seminoles

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Deondre Francois (photo by gridironnow.com)

Willie Taggart did a good job of turning around Oregon in his one season in Eugene. He is a solid coach who will get some talent returning. With Deondre Francois back at quarterback, Cam Akers at running back and a lot of good receivers, they should be solid on offense. The offensive line has struggled in the last few years, they are young and shold improve. A lot might need to be replaced on defense, but they have recruited well.

24. Mississippi State Bulldogs

If Nick Fitzgerald can recover from a gruesome leg injury, the Bulldogs have the makings of a good team. They get most of their team back, which is encouraging, but Dan Mullen left for Florida. Joe Moorehead will try to make Mississippi State’s offense a lot better, just like he did at Penn State.

25. Texas A&M Aggies

Jimbo Fisher is a great haul for Texas A&M. He will have to work with quarterbacks Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel, but they can be successful. Trayveon Willliams returns at running back, along with a lot of the offensive line, but they will have to replace Christian Kirk. A lot of their best defensive players will be playing on Sundays next year, so Fisher has a little bit of work cut out for him on that side of the ball.

 

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NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl

With all of the New Year’s Six bowl games, there will be good teams and players. If players can get their teams to this level of college football, a few of them will be able to play on Sundays. Miami and Wisconsin both have a group of players who will get a chance to play in the NFL. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl:

Wisconsin Badgers

Troy Fumagalli, TE

Fumagalli was the talk of the tight end class after making some amazing catches in last season’s Cotton Bowl. The senior has over 500 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons for Wisconsin, which is good production for a college tight end in a running system. This season he has 516 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

His size fits perfectly in with the NFL at 6’6″ and 248 pounds. He has tons of experience run blocking and has shown to be a good receiver. Fumagalli only has nine fingers, but has good hands.

Projected draft range: 1st round-3rd round

T.J. Edwards, LB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl

T.J. Edwards (Photo by zimbio.com)

Edwards is just a junior and could return to school, but he has done a lot for the Badgers in his three seasons. He is a jack of all traits and has 248 total tackles, 26 tackles for loss, five sacks and seven interceptions in his career. This season he has 75 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, four interceptions and seven interceptions.

He has decent size at 6’1″ and 244 pounds. With being projected to be selected in the mid rounds of the NFL draft, he may choose to go back to Madison for a year and try to become one of the top linebackers taken.

Projected draft range: 3rd round-5th round

Michael Dieter, OT

Dieter is also a junior, but has experience on multiple positions on the offensive line. He has made starts at tackle, guard and center, but this year has anchored the offensive line at left tackle this season. His versatility should be a good thing, as position changes are common for young offensive linemen in the NFL.

He has the size of a tackle at 6’6″ and 328 pounds, but could fit in anywhere on the offensive line. His athletic ability will be questioned, but if it isn’t good enough to play tackle, he can slide inside.

Projected draft range: 3rd round-5th round

Other notable Wisconsin prospects: G Beau Benzschawel (5th round-7th round), LB Jack Cichy (4th round-6th round), LB Garrett Dooley (4th round-6th round)

Miami Hurricanes

Chad Thomas, DE

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl

Chad Thomas (Photo by stateoftheu.com)

Thomas has been through the good and the bad at Miami in his four seasons, but is now able to finish off his career in a big bowl game. He has 24 tackles for loss and nine sacks in his career. The pass rushing isn’t the greatest in the class, but he is a good run stopper for a defensive end.

At 6’6″ and 275 pounds he has excellent size for the NFL. The run stopping means something, but his lack of sacks might hold him back.

Projected draft range: 3rd round-5th round

Michael Jackson, CB

Jackson is a player who really put his name on the map this season. The junior is a first year starter for the Hurricanes, but has produced. He has 39 total tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, four interceptions and four passes defended this season for Miami.

He has above average size for a corner at 6’1″ and 200 pounds. Only having one year of production will make some teams weary, but he is a solid player.

Projected draft range: 3rd round-5th round

*Christopher Herndon will not play in this bowl game with a knee injury. Herndon’s draft range: 5th round-7th round

Other notable Miami prospects: C Nick Lindner (undrafted free agent), K Michael Badgley (undrafted free agent)

 

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2017 Capital One Orange Bowl preview

Wisconsin and Miami had chances in the final weeks to make it to the College Football Playoff, but lost key games. They are now going to play each other in the Orange Bowl. With Wisconsin always doing well in bowl games and Miami having home field advantage, something has to give. Here is the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl preview:

6 Wisconsin Badgers (12-1)

2017 Capital One Orange Bowl preview

Jonathan Taylor (Photo by dailycardinal.com)

The Badgers went undefeated into the Big Ten Championship Game, but lost to Ohio State. They were largely untested this year, but do have decent wins over Florida Atlantic, Michigan and Northwestern. It’s disappointing that they couldn’t finish with an undefeated record, but the Badgers have a chance to win two straight New Year’s Six Bowl Games.

Offensively, Wisconsin scores 37.5 points per game with the running game being the most successful part of the offense. Freshman Jonathan Taylor had one of the best regular seasons for a first year running back. Taylor has 1,847 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season. His worst game of the season came against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Quarterback Alex Hornibrook is a sophomore who completes 61.6% of his passes. He has 2,386 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this season. He turns the ball over too much and is at his best when he plays within himself. The leading receiver for the Badgers is tight end Troy Fumagalli with 516 receiving yards and four touchdowns.Wide receiver Quintez Cephus has 30 catches for 501 yards and six touchdowns.

The defense is one of the best in the country, scoring 13.2 points per game. They rank second against the run and fourth against the pass. A lot of these rankings are aided by the weak schedule they have played, but they are still a solid defense. Linebacker T.J. Edwards and defensive back Joe Ferguson each have four interceptions this season to help the cause.

10 Miami Hurricanes (10-2)

2017 Capital One Orange Bowl preview

Malik Rosier (Photo by palmbeachpost.com)

Miami lost their last two games, but had a great season in Mark Richt’s second year. Six of their ten wins came over bowl eligible teams, with the most notable wins coming over Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. Richt has the team back on the right track and they will want to end the season with a win.

The offense scores 29.5 points per game and has been inconsistent. Their running game accounts for 159.7 yards a game. They lost Mark Walton to injury and Travis Homer has stepped up. He has 902 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on six yards per carry. Quarterback Malik Rosier has 427 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

Rosier has led the team well, but hasn’t had the best season throwing the football. He has 2,917 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on 54.8% passing. A few receivers have made impacts for the Hurricanes in Braxton Berrios, Ahmmon Richards and Jeff Thomas. They all have over 300 receiving yards for Miami. Rosier will be without Christopher Herndon, who is out with a knee injury.

The defense allows 19.9 points per game and has some great speed. Their run defense ranks 43rd, while the pass defense ranks 52nd. Defensive backs Michael Jackson and Jaquan Johnson both have four interceptions this season and make it tough for opponents to complete passes.

Prediction

Miami is fortunate enough to have a home game for this matchup. That, along with their speed on defense, will help them win the game. They will fly to the ball to stop Taylor and make Hornibrook beat them, which he won’t be able to do.

Miami Hurricanes 24 Wisconsin 14

 

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College Football Playoff Bracketology 12/3/17

The season is over and all that is left is for the committee selecting the teams for the College Football Playoff (CFP). Here is how the committee should rank the teams in their final rankings of the season:

In the playoff:

1. Clemson Tigers (13-0)

The Tigers won the ACC yet again. This time they beat Miami to secure the ACC crown. They were ranked first last week by the committee and that shouldn’t change in the final rankings.

Clemson has a great resume and beat nine teams who are playing in bowls this winter. The loss to Syracuse happened when Kelly Bryant wasn’t healthy and didn’t play the full game. If the Tigers aren’t ranked first by the committee it would be a surprise.

2. Oklahoma Sooners (12-1)

Oklahoma locked up a spot in the CFP with their 41-17 win over TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game. Winning would’ve been enough, but they really put their stamp on this game and proved to the committee that they belong in the CFP.

The Sooners have the one blemish on their record that came at the hands of Iowa State. Their resume is great outside the loss. They beat Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU twice. With the second best strength of record at the completion of their game, Oklahoma doesn’t have much to worry about.

Can the Sooners’ defense step up in the College Football Playoff?

3. Georgia Bulldogs (12-1)

Georgia avenged their only loss of the season with a big win in the SEC Championship over Auburn. This was a play-in game for the CFP, so Georgia is in.

The Bulldogs tested themselves with a game at Notre Dame and passed the test. Adding that game to their wins over Mississipi State and Auburn, along with the fact that they are the SEC Champions, puts them in the CFP.

Georgia finally has the chance to play for a national title, but what can they do now that they have the chance?

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2)

College Football Playoff Bracketology

J.T. Barrett (Photo by espn.com)

Ohio State was able to hold on in the Big Ten Championship and beat Wisconsin 27-21. The Buckeyes will now be hoping their resume looks better to the committee than Alabama’s does.

The Buckeyes have a lot of solid wins, which puts them in the conversation to be in the CFP. They beat Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan. Three of these teams will be in or around the top 15 in the CFP committee’s final rankings. Alabama will have one team beat near the top 15, being LSU. I’ll take Ohio State beating three top 15 teams over, Albama’s possible one.

A Big Ten Championship is nice, but the Buckeyes feel they deserve to make the CFP.

First four out:

5. Auburn Tigers (10-3)

The Tigers lost in the SEC Championship Game. They would have been in had they won, but since they didn’t they will have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Auburn lost three games, all coming to good teams, but was the only team to beat Alabama. They also beat Mississippi State and Auburn in their first meeting. At the end of the day, Auburn was in the position they wanted to be in at the end of the season, but failed to execute.

6. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)

College football playoff bracketology

Nick Saban (Photo by usatoday.com)

Alabama was the only team with realistic CFP chances that was idle this weekend. The Crimson Tide will be hoping that their metrics and resume can get them into the playoff.

The strength of record was sixth in the country heading into the weekend, but likely will drop when all the metrics are updated. They beat LSU, Mississippi State and Fresno State for solid wins, but other than that their resume isn’t great. They failed to beat an elite team all season (unless LSU is considered elite) and are paying for it now.

Had Florida State been as good as expected the resume might have had the necessary boost to get Alabama in the CFP.

7. Wisconsin Badgers (12-1)

Wisconsin lost in the Big Ten Championship and lost their chance to play in the CFP. It was a well fought game, but they ultimately fell short.

The Badgers didn’t play a great schedule, which meant they had no room for error this year. Wins over Northwestern and Michigan are nice, but won’t get anyone in the playoff without a conference championship.

It isn’t what Wisconsin fans wanted, but the team will still get to play in a big time bowl game.

8. USC Trojans (11-2)

USC won the Pac-12 Championship over Stanford in a 31-28 win. It’s a too little too late for the Trojans, but they have secured a second straight New Year’s Six bowl.

The Trojans beat Stanford twice and Arizona for their best wins of the season. Their losses to Washington State and Notre Dame aren’t bad, but they haven’t beaten enough good teams to warrant a higher ranking than this.

Next four out:

9. Miami Hurricanes (10-2)

Miami got off to a slow start against Clemson and were never able to recover in the ACC Championship Game. They had a great season, but came up just short of the CFP. A New Year’s Six Bowl game is not a bad result for Mark Richt in his second season.

The Hurricanes successfully beat Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, but were unable to accrue any other great victories. The loss at Pittsburgh, who didn’t qualify for a bowl game, really hurt Miami’s chances. If they were undefeated heading into the ACC Championship Game, they may have been able to afford a loss.

Mark Richt has started to bring the “U” back, but they haven’t gotten all the way back.

10. UCF Golden Knights (12-0)

UCF completed the undefeated record heading into the bowl games. They beat Memphis in a double overtime thriller 62-55 to win the AAC Championship.

It’s a shame that UCF, isn’t getting more recognition for the CFP, but they did lock up a chance to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Their two wins over Memphis are great and they also beat a Power 5 conference team in Maryland. If their game against Georgia Tech wasn’t cancelled due to a hurricane, they would’ve gotten much more love from the committee.

Scott Frost is reportedly out, so how will UCF respond in their big bowl game?

11. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)

Penn State did not play this weekend, but drop in the rankings as a result of other teams winning conference championships.

The Nittany Lions only have two solid wins, one over Michigan and one coming at the expense of Northwestern. They lost in both games in which they had a chance to really impress the committee. Had they beaten Ohio State and/or Michigan State, they would rightfully be in the CFP talk. They’ll have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl.

Might we see another Penn State vs. USC matchup?

12. Washington Huskies (10-2)

Like Penn State, the Huskies didn’t play anyone this week. They benefit from teams losing in conference championship games though.

The Huskies couldn’t put it all together this season against good competition. Their best wins were over Fresno State and Washington State, but had a horrid schedule outside of those games.

Washington will also have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

 

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Five things we learned from conference championship week

Teams are preparing for bowl season or for next season depending on how their season finished. Heading into bowl games, more coaching carousel drama, here is what we learned:

1. Oklahoma locks up CFP, Baker Mayfield locks up the Heisman

Conference Championship week

Baker Mayfield (usatoday.com)

Oklahoma dominated in the Big 12 Championship, beating TCU 41-17. The Sooners were ranked third in the most recent College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings, so this win virtually locks up their CFP spot. With a record of 12-1 and a Big 12 Championship at hand, Oklahoma will be watching the selection show just to see who they are playing in the first round of the CFP.

On top of the Sooners winning the Big 12, their quarterback, Baker Mayfield, has cemented himself as the Heisman winner. In the Big 12 Championship Game, he threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns. With over 4,000 yards passing and 40 total touchdowns on the season, Mayfield is the obvious choice.

2. UCF has completed a great turnaround, but lose coach

Scott Frost was announced as the new head coach of the UCF Golden Knights after the 2015 season. UCF had just gone 0-12 and needed a lot of work. In his first season as head coach, Frost led the team to a 6-7 record, which included an appearance in the Cure Bowl. It was a great start to the turnaround, but Frost wasn’t done yet.

This season, UCF was not favored to win the conference, with teams like USF and Houston stealing the headlines. They were expected to take another step forward, however. They surprised everyone and ripped off 12 wins (one was cancelled due to a hurricane) and won the AAC Championship. The Golden Knights have earned the right to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl. The complete turnaround has been completed.

Unfortunately for UCF, Frost has reportedly taken the job at Nebraska. While it is a bittersweet moment for the Golden Knights, I don’t think they would trade the undefeated season and AAC Championship.

3. Georgia fans can relax….for now

Conference Championship week

D’Andre Swift (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

Georgia has been a team that looks like a contender early in the season, but nearly always blows it. The administration fired Mark Richt for his failures to compete at the highest levels. They hired Kirby Smart, who in his second season, has led the Bulldogs to a SEC Championship and the chance to win the whole thing.

The Bulldogs will be in the CFP and will be waiting to see how they play. They may have overcome the thought that they would choke, but they have to prepare for more big games if they want to win it all. Their wins over Auburn and at Notre Dame prove they can play with anyone in the country.

4. Clemson is battle tested

Clemson has put together another great season. They won the ACC Championship Game and are going to be in the CFP. Can the Tigers repeat as champs?

While the Tigers did lose to Syracuse, they beat a lot of good football teams this year. They won nine games against bowl eligible teams, including big wins over Auburn, Louisville, Miami, Virginia Tech and N.C. State. There were questions to start the season about Clemson, but they have answered most of those questions.

Does anyone want to play Clemson in the first round of the CFP?

5. J.T. Barrett is one of the toughest players of all time

J.T. Barrett re-aggravated a knee injury against Michigan and had to exit the game. Dwayne Haskins Jr. was able to take over and lead the team to victory. Barrett had surgery on his knee on the day after the Michigan game and was questionable to play in the Big Ten Championship.

He was able to start and play the whole game against Wisconsin. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but he once again got the job done and led the Buckeyes to victory. He had 271 total yards and three touchdowns while playing so banged up. While he may not go down as one of the greatest players in the history of Ohio State, he certainly is one of the toughest.

 

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College football conference championship week picks

Conference championship week is here, which means less games to pick. Joe DiTullio and Rob Doerger pick their conference champions and more!

Away Home Location Rob Joe
#12 Stanford #10 USC Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA Stanford USC
#20 Memphis #14 UCF Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, FL UCF UCF
Akron Toledo Ford Field, Detroit, MI Toledo Toledo
North Texas Florida Atlantic FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, FL FAU FAU
UMass Florida Intl FIU Stadium, Miami, FL FIU FIU
Louisiana Monroe Florida State Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL FSU FSU
#11 TCU #3 Oklahoma AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX Oklahoma Oklahoma
Georgia Southern Coastal Carolina Brooks Stadium, Conway, SC Georgia Southern Georgia Southern
Idaho Georgia State Georgia State Stadium, Atlanta, GA Georgia St Georgia St.
Louisiana Appalachian State Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone, NC App St App St
#6 Georgia #2 Auburn Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA Auburn Auburn
South Alabama New Mexico State Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM USA USA
Troy Arkansas State Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR Troy Troy
#25 Fresno State Boise State Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID Boise Boise
#7 Miami #1 Clemson Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC Clemson Clemson
#8 Ohio State #4 Wisconsin Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN Ohio St Ohio State
Gameday Guest Picker (Charlotte) Michael Jordan Ray Lewis

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Five things to watch for in conference championship week

College football is winding down, but before bowl season comes, conference championships are left. With so much good football this weekend, here are five things to watch:

1. Two great defenses going at it in Atlanta

Conference Championship Week

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

Georgia and Auburn get a chance to play again in the SEC Championship. It’s not often that a rivalry game ends up happening in the conference championship games, but this one should be exciting. Both teams will be going at it hard to try and clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff (CFP).

The Bulldogs have the fifth best scoring defense in the country and are hoping they can do more to stop Auburn this time around. Georgia allowed 40 points, which is by far the most they have allowed all season. Their front seven is going to need to step up to stop a potent rushing attack. They have the talent, with NFL-bound players like Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter, but they didn’t step up last time.

Auburn ranks ninth in scoring defense. The Tigers run the football and play good defense, much like Georgia, which is usually a good recipe to win a lot of games. They have given up 27 points twice, but that is the most they have allowed in a game all season. For this matchup, they will be tasked with stopping all of Georgia’s great running backs. They should be able to continue doing what they have been doing.

Get ready for yet another defensive and physical game in the SEC Championship.

2. Can Miami dethrone Clemson?

Miami and Clemson meet in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday night. While Clemson’s resume is very impressive, Miami’s leaves a lot to be desired. At the end of the day though, if Miami can win, they are in the CFP.

Clemson is battle-tested, having faced eight teams that will likely get bowl invites. They did lose a game to Syracuse, but their quarterback, Kelly Bryant, wasn’t 100% healthy and had to leave the game. The Tigers have so many other good wins that they have still put themselves in a good position to make the CFP.

The Hurricanes have been one of the best stories in college football this season. Mark Richt has started the process of bringing the “U” mentality back to Coral Gables. They do have a loss to a lackluster Pitt team they suffered this past week, but the main thing that is concerning is their wins. Their wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, which were good wins at the time, look a lot worse now that Notre Dame lost again and the Hokies nearly dropped out of the rankings. To compound some of their concerns, they pulled their starting quarterback, Malik Rosier, near the end of the game against Pitt.

Miami will be the underdog in this game, but usually that’s how it works until the top dog is knocked off.

3. Wisconsin’s perfect season on the line

Conference Championship Week

Jonathan Taylor (Photo by dailycardinal.com)

Wisconsin is another team that has been criticized for not playing a very difficult schedule. They are undefeated and now will get their chance to prove to the world, and more importantly the committee, that they can beat a good team. Ohio State still has a chance to make the CFP, with some help, so a lot is at stake here.

The Badgers need to win to make the CFP, just like every other team playing this weekend. They haven’t played any premier teams and are doubted by a lot of people. Wisconsin can run the ball and play defense like most years. In what should be a low-scoring game, Jonathan Taylor will need to make big plays in the running game to set up Alex Hornibrook in good situations to throw the ball downfield. If Taylor can’t, Wisconsin will not be able to move the football.

Ohio State has been up and down all season. Their inconsistencies are in all three phases of the game. There are a lot of questions surrounding this team, especially after J.T. Barrett went down with an injury against Michigan. Dwayne Haskins came in and made some good throws to help keep Ohio State in this position. No matter who the quarterback is, the Buckeyes are favored and should be able to run the ball well.

Another conference championship game that should be low-scoring, the Big Ten Championship Game, will ultimately let everyone know if Wisconsin is for real or not?

4. Oklahoma’s potent offense vs. TCU’s balanced team

The Oklahoma Sooners and TCU Horned Frogs will have a rematch in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Big 12 moved to a championship game to get a better chance of having a team in the CFP, but this year it can backfire on them if TCU pulls off an upset.

Oklahoma will have Baker Mayfield for the full game this weekend, and he won’t disappoint. The Sooners’ offense has scored 45.3 points per game, with the fewest in a single game being 29. There will be fireworks when Mayfield and the offense take the field. He is still trying to pad his stats to win the Heisman Trophy, but already has over 4,000 yards passing.

TCU, on the other hand, has a top ten defense and a top 30 offense in terms of points allowed and points scored. Their offense won’t be explosive, but will take what the Oklahoma defense gives them. The defense will be tasked with slowing down Mayfield, something they failed to do in the first meeting.

The only question that remains is: Can TCU play spoiler for the whole Big 12 conference?

5. Offense, offense and more offense in the AAC Championship Game

The AAC Championship Game is going to be one of the more entertaining games to watch this weekend. Not only will the winner likely go to a New Year’s Six bowl game, but it will have a lot of offense and scoring along the way.

UCF is undefeated, and quite honestly, should be way higher up in the CFP standings. They have the highest scoring offense in the country, averaging 47.6 points per game. McKenzie Milton has been able to spread the ball around from his quarterback position, to get the Golden Knights to such a good standing. It’s only Scott Frost’s second year and he is already playing in the league title game with a lot on the line.

Memphis has lost only one game, coming at the hands of UCF. While the offense is only the fourth best in terms of scoring, they probably have bigger stars than UCF. Riley Ferguson has thrown for 3,500 yards in just 11 games. His top receiver, Anthony Miller, has made so many highlight plays and has 1,212 receiving yards. Look for Ferguson and Miller to connect a lot in this game.

 

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College Football Playoff bracketology 11/26/17

Conference championship games are set. There is still a lot of different scenarios that can happen, which will make the next week in football, on the field and off, fun to watch. Here are how the teams should be ranked after rivalry week (rankings of opponents are based off last week’s CFP rankings):

Playoff teams

1. Clemson Tigers (11-1)

College football bracketology

Kelly Bryant (Photo by greenvilleonline.com)

The Tigers beat yet another ranked team, South Carolina, to finish the regular season 11-1. With other teams ahead of them losing, they move up to the top spot of these rankings.

Clemson has beaten so many quality teams this season it is almost impossible to keep them out of the top spot. Their win against Auburn looks really good after the Tigers were able to beat Alabama. With other wins over Louisville, Virginia Tech, N.C. State and South Carolina, Clemson is sitting pretty entering the ACC Championship Game. The knock on them is their loss to Syracuse, but because they didn’t have their starting quarterback healthy for the game, the committee gives them a slight pass.

Ultimately, if Clemson wins in the ACC Championship Game, they are in.

This week: vs. 2 Miami Hurricanes

2. Oklahoma Sooners (11-1)

Baker Mayfield was suspended for two plays, but it didn’t matter. Oklahoma outscored another Big 12 team in West Virginia. They too benefit from teams ahead of them losing and are now in a great spot.

Oklahoma has big wins over TCU, Oklahoma State and Ohio State, making their resume really impressive. The loss to Iowa State isn’t that bad. With so many wins over great teams, including over a top ten team in Ohio State, Oklahoma controls their own destiny.

There haven’t been too many upsets in conference championships during the CFP era, but Oklahoma needs to stay focused against a tough opponent.

This week: vs. 12 TCU Horned Frogs

3. Auburn Tigers (10-2)

Auburn knocked off a number one team for the second time this season when they beat Alabama by 12. The Tigers played a physical and defensive game to beat Alabama and will get one more chance to prove what they can do to the committee.

The Tigers have beaten Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi State for a list of really good wins. They do have two losses, to Clemson and LSU, but the wins make up for it. At this point the committee can’t put Alabama or Georgia over them, so by virtue of winning their tough games, they are in the CFP slot at three.

They get a rematch in the SEC Championship Game to solidify their spot in the CFP.

This week: vs. 7 Georgia Bulldogs

4. Wisconsin Badgers (12-0)

The Badgers finished off the regular season undefeated after destroying their rival Minnesota. They may not have played the toughest schedule, but they are undefeated in a power conference, so they should be ranked within the top four this week.

Wisconsin’s big wins are over Northwestern and Michigan. Northwestern has won nine game on the season, while Michigan has won eight. Neither are great wins, but both are solid.

They will need to have their biggest game of the season, but if the Badgers win the Big Ten Championship, they are in the playoff.

This week: vs. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes

Next four out

5. Georgia Bulldogs (11-1)

Georgia didn’t have any trouble with their rival, Georgia Tech, and finished the season at 11-1. They get to move up the rankings slightly, but will need to win the SEC Championship Game to make the CFP.

The win at Notre Dame really helps them, as well as their win over Mississippi State. While they did get blown out by Auburn, they get a chance at revenge against them in the SEC Championship Game.

Basically, if Georgia wins, they are in.

This week: vs. 6 Auburn Tigers

6. Miami Hurricanes (10-1)

In a Friday noon game that was easy to lose in the shuffle of the holiday weekend, Miami lost a road game to Pitt. This was a game they couldn’t get the offense going and suffered their first loss of the season because of it.

Miami blew Notre Dame out and also had a big win over Virginia Tech. They were not able to play a full 12 game schedule due to all of the hurricanes this fall, which hurts them, but only minimally. The Hurricanes lost to Pitt, who is not a good football team. The good news is that they still control their own destiny.

Can the “U” come all the way back and win an ACC Championship Game with so much at stake?

This week: vs. 3 Clemson Tigers

7. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)

Alabama is out of the SEC Championship race after losing to Auburn. It was their first loss of the season, but their offense couldn’t get much done against a stifling Tigers’ defense.

Even though it is their first loss, they have to wait and see how other teams do next weekend to see if they can make the CFP. They have solid wins over LSU and Mississippi State, but have yet to beat an elite team. Their hope is that they can squeeze into the CFP, but they will need help.

The wait and see approach is never fun, but that’s all Alabama fans can do right now.

This week: N/A

8. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2)

College football playoff bracketology

Dwayne Haskins Jr. (Photo by thelantern.com)

The Buckeyes got the win in their big rivalry game over Michigan. They finished with 10 wins in the regular season and now get to play Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship.

The loss to Iowa hurts, while losing to Oklahoma is a little more understandable. For good wins, the Buckeyes bring their wins over Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan to the table.

If they beat Wisconsin, Ohio State will have a shot at the CFP.

This week: vs. 5 Wisconsin Badgers

Next four out

9. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)

Penn State beat Maryland this week to finish off a second straight double digit win season. This win will solidify their spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game, but they will not be able to make the CFP.

Their two losses are to Ohio State and Michigan State, but they don’t have many good wins. Their best wins are over Iowa and Michigan, so their resume will not be good enough.

A New Year’s Six Bowl is not a bad finish, but Penn State fans had higher hopes.

This week: N/A

10. USC Trojans (10-2)

USC finished their season a week early and got to watch all of the football unfold this week. They already have 10 wins and qualified for the Pac-12 Championship Game.

The Trojans lost to Notre Dame and Washington State. Those teams are both of good quality, but the wins haven’t made up for the losses. Arizona and Stanford are their best wins and that isn’t good enough to make the CFP. The only way they have a chance is if the committee goes crazy and thinks that the PAC-12 Champion deserves to be in.

They get to try to avenge one of their losses in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but it is likely too little, too late.

This week: vs. 17 Washington Huskies

11. TCU Horned Frogs (10-2)

TCU gets to play in the Big 12 Championship Game as a result of their win over Baylor this week. The Horned Frogs pulled away late to secure the victory.

Unfortunately, even if they win the Big 12 Championship Game over Oklahoma, they likely won’t get in. They do have good wins over Oklahoma State and West Virginia. The losses to Oklahoma and Iowa State aren’t bad, but the resume isn’t good enough to get them in the CFP.

Can the Horned Frogs be the spoiler for Oklahoma’s CFP chances?

This week: vs. 4 Oklahoma Sooners

12. UCF Golden Knights (11-0)

College football playoff bracketology

Shaquem Griffin (Photo by yahoo.com)

The Golden Knights finally find their way to the top 12 after defeating rival USF to finish the season off undefeated. They did lose the opportunity to play 12 games due to a hurricane, but are undefeated nonetheless.

UCF has beaten Memphis and USF who are both quality teams. They also beat a power five team in Maryland. The hurricane canceled a game against Georgia Tech that could have helped their resume, even though the Yellow Jackets are below .500. Their wins over Memphis and USF are better than they’ll ever get credit for, but they don’t play quality teams every week in the AAC.

They play Memphis in the AAC Championship Game this week, which should once again bolster their case to move up the rankings. With other teams losing ahead of them, they could get close to the CFP top four, but will likely be a handful of spots short.

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Five things we learned from college football week 12

College football week 12 didn’t offer much, but more can still be learned. Here are five things we learned from the games in week 12:

1. USC the much better team, Rosen the better quarterback

college football week 12

Sam Darnold (Photo by nydailynews.com)

USC beat UCLA 28-23 to finish off a 10-2 regular season. The Trojans are in the Pac-12 Championship and are likely at least going to be in a New Year’s Six bowl game. There is no doubt that USC is the better football team, but this game was marketed as a duel between top quarterback prospects, and probably rightfully so.

Josh Rosen had a great game that saw him throw for 421 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He literally had to carry his team to keep them close, something he is very used to. He showed in this game that he is the much more polished quarterback.

Sam Darnold threw for 264 yards and an interception. The most impressive thing he showed off was his scrambling and athletic ability. He may have a higher ceiling than Rosen, but he showed that he has a lot of developing to do before he gets to that point.

2. Jonathan Taylor can produce against good competition

Taylor had a tall task this week going up against the Michigan defense. He started off slowly, but ended up thriving. The freshman finished with 132 rushing yards. He did have a 56 yard run, but in the second half he started running more consistently.

For Wisconsin to have any shot to beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, Taylor has to produce. Taylor should be able to get near 2,000 yards on the season and is a serious Heisman contender, but he had yet to prove it on the big stage. Now, Wisconsin knows they can lean on him in tough games.

3. UCF will a chance to prove themselves

College football week 12

McKenzie Milton (Photo by hawaiiprepworld.com)

The UCF Golden Knights have been snubbed by the College Football Playoff committee with their rankings so far. They are undefeated and actually, up through last week, had a better strength of record than Wisconsin. While they will not make the CFP, they should be getting more serious attention.

For UCF, it all comes down to the last two games of their season. First they get to play their rival USF, who has just one loss on the season. If they win that game, they get to play what will likely be a one loss Memphis team in the AAC Championship Game. Memphis is ranked currently and moving up. This gives UCF two great opportunities to show the world what they’ve got. If they win both, they are going to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

4. Bill Snyder is going bowling again

Kansas State got a big upset win over Oklahoma State this week. Oklahoma State will likely not be in the Big 12 Championship Game because of the loss. Just when everyone starts to doubt Snyder, he gets his team ready to go and they pull off the upset win.

Snyder is now going to his 19th bowl game as the head coach of the Kansas State Wildcats. This is an impressive feat, given that Kansas State was atrocious before he got there and he is in his second stint as head coach for the university at age 78. This year will help him into 12th place all by himself for bowl game appearances by a coach.

5. Late season cupcake games need to end

Yes, playing FCS teams funds their athletic department, but the games are not fun to watch.  College football is in the heat of a great playoff race and it is all interrupted to play FCS teams. The drama that has built up for weeks, just took a pause in week 12 and is expected to pick back up for rivalry week. There should be a way around this, whether it’s hosting the games at another time (early in the season), or just as an exhibition.

All teams in the top ten won this weekend and it has nothing to do with the quality of the teams, it has to do with the quality of the competition. If college football wants to really draw in the most viewers, it can do so by not having its best teams schedule cupcake games in November, a time when fans are supposed to be getting ready for bowl and playoff season. While it likely won’t be fixed for a while, if at all, it made week 12 very mundane and should be corrected for the future.

 

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College Football Playoff bracketology 11/19/17

This week of the season was not very eventful with a bunch of cupcakes on the schedule. The bad games this week will prep college football fans for a great rivalry week that has a lot of good matchups. Here are how the teams rank before the big weekend:

Playoff teams

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0)

College football bracketology

Jalen Hurts (Photo by gridironnow.com)

Alabama won big over Mercer (FCS) this weekend. It was an easy game, in which Alabama even held out some of their players as a precaution. Hopefully they are at their best for rivalry week.

The wins over LSU, Mississippi State and Texas A&M are solid, but Alabama lacks a big win. Still though, with the undefeated record, the Crimson Tide will stay in the top spot in the rankings.

Rivalry week is here and Alabama has a chance for a great win over Auburn.

This week: at 6 Auburn Tigers

2. Clemson Tigers (10-1)

The Tigers didn’t have a problem with The Citadel (FCS). Clemson rolled 61-3. They look primed for big things in the next few weeks.

Clemson has some of the most impressive wins in college football, especially their win over Auburn. Their victories over Louisville, Virginia Tech and N.C. State also add to their good resume and help them stay in the second spot.

They will have a small test against South Carolina on rivalry week.

This week: at South Carolina Gamecocks

3. Miami Hurricanes (10-0)

Miami is one of the few teams that played a decent team this week. Although they trailed Virginia for much of the game, they scored 30 unanswered points to run away with the game. They played like they did before the last two weeks, which is up and down with the level of their competition, for most of the time against Virginia.

The Hurricanes have jumped up to this spot in the rankings and will stay here because of their performances in recent weeks. Wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame aren’t quite as impressive as the wins Clemson has overall. They should still feel confident though, as they will get to play Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.

Unfortunately Miami doesn’t play one of its biggest rivals this week, but they should be able to get the win to stay undefeated.

This week: at Pittsburgh Panthers

4. Oklahoma Sooners (10-1)

Oklahoma had a conference game this week, but it was still an easy game, as they played Kansas. While there was a lot of extra-curricular activity, the important thing is that Oklahoma won 41-3.

With good wins over Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU, Oklahoma is in a good position. They are already in the Big 12 Championship Game and if they win out, they will be in the CFP.

The Sooners will get a tough game this week, albeit not against a rival.

This week: vs. West Virginia Mountaineers

First four out

5. Wisconsin Badgers (11-0)

The committee decided to put the Badgers at number five last week, so they will likely be ranked at five again. This week Wisconsin got a win over a decent Michigan team. Michigan has a good defense, but really shouldn’t have been ranked in the top 25.

Beating Michigan still gives Wisconsin another solid win, but it won’t be enough to get into the top four, yet. The wins over Iowa and Northwestern are nice, but if Wisconsin wants to make the CFP, they will need to beat a really good team.

The Badgers’ rival is Minnesota, so they will likely go into the Big Ten Championship undefeated.

This week: at Minnesota Golden Gophers

6. Auburn Tigers (9-2)

College football playoff bracketology

Kerryon Johnson (Photo by al.com)

Auburn started slow against UL Monroe, but picked it up and ended up winning 42-14. This sets up another great Iron Bowl that will have CFP implications.

The Tigers have big wins over Georgia and Mississippi State. Their losses to LSU and Clemson aren’t that bad either. If Auburn wins out, they will be a CFP team.

If the Tigers can win this week, they will be rewarded with a chance to play Georgia again in the SEC Championship.

This week: vs. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

7. Georgia Bulldogs (10-1)

The Bulldogs bounced back from their loss to Auburn very well by beating Kentucky 42-13. Kentucky is a solid win for Georgia, but ultimately the important thing is that they won, as they still control their own destiny.

Georgia’s wins over Notre Dame and Mississippi State are both good. The loss to Auburn is something they will want to avenge if possible. If they win their rivalry game and the SEC Championship Game, they are in the CFP.

Can Georgia shut down Georgia Tech’s triple option this week?

This week: at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-2)

Notre Dame won a tough game over Navy this week to stay in the top ten. While it was one of the tougher games that a top ten team faced, the Fighting Irish should’ve played better.

Wins over Michigan State, USC and N.C. State have kept Notre Dame this high in the rankings. It will be hard for the Fighting Irish to make the CFP, but not totally impossible.

Bryce Love and Stanford are on the schedule for the last week of the season, so Notre Dame better be ready for a physical game.

This week: at 22 Stanford Cardinal

Next four out

9. Ohio State Buckeyes (9-2)

College football playoff bracketology

Urban Meyer (Photo by newsok.com)

It has been an up and down season for Ohio State, but this week they destroyed Illinois. With the win they kept their small CFP hopes alive.

The Buckeyes have beaten Michigan State and Penn State for some really good wins. The two losses are holding them back. If they can win out, which includes a victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, Ohio State will be very close to the cutting line, one way or another.

The big game is this weekend for Ohio State. Throw records aside for how big of a rivalry game this is. Ohio State hasn’t struggled with Michigan much in the 21st century, but anything can happen.

This week: at 24 Michigan Wolverines

10. Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2)

Penn State beat Nebraska pretty easily this weekend. The Nittany Lions are pretty much out of the CFP picture, but getting another ten win season is nice.

James Franklin has to hope for absolute disaster and chaos to happen to make the CFP. It would take some upsets in the final week of the regular season and some during conference championship week to make it even slightly possible. All Penn State can do is win this week and then wait and see where the chips fall.

Ten wins should be the expectation when they take on Maryland this weekend.

This week: at Maryland Terrapins

11. USC Trojans (10-2)

The Trojans finished off their regular season with a win over rival UCLA. They get a nice week off to prepare for the Pac-12 Championship Game.

USC probably has a better chance of making the CFP than some teams ahead of them (Notre Dame, Penn State). It all depends on how they play in the Pac-12 Championship Game and if the teams above them hold to form. They are rooting for Washington State to win the Apple Cup, so they can play them in the Pac-12 Championship for another solid win.

A week off before a conference championship is unique, but can USC make the most of it and win the Pac-12?

This week: Bye

12. TCU Horned Frogs (9-2)

TCU was able to beat Texas Tech pretty easily, despite not having quarterback Kenny Hill. If they can beat Baylor in the final week, they will get a chance to play in the Big 12 Championship Game.

The Horned Frogs need some help to make it into the CFP. Beating Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game would be a nice start, but it will not be enough on its own. It will likely take: USC losing in the Pac-12 Championship, Ohio State winning the Big 10 and much more to go their way.

They should be focusing on what they can control and winning the Big 12 would be a great feat for TCU.

This week: vs. Baylor Bears

 

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