“And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. It’s highly unlikely that John Donne was talking about college football when he penned that, but it is a pretty apt description, no? It’s especially fitting for a weekend that saw four top ten teams lose, three of which by more than two touchdowns. However, as Bill Belichick might say, on to next week. This week’s playoff features two SEC and two Big 12 teams, which is both highly unlikely and a Big 12 fan’s dream. Plus, the Sugar Bowl gives us a third SEC vs. Big 12 matchup in this week’s fictional New Year’s Six. The main reason we need this is to see Art Briles and Bob Stoops look like this:
And then this:
And finally this:
Orange Bowl (#1 vs. #4)- Florida vs. Baylor
Most people, myself included, feel like Baylor would probably be a pretty substantial favorite in this game. Florida looked very impressive beating Ole Miss in “The Swamp” on Saturday night, and look significantly better than they did at any point under Will Muschamp, with the exception of the 11-2 season. Jim McElwain, profanity-laced diatribes aside, has done a good job with this team and the Gators are finally getting back to the point where they live up to their on-field talent level. That being said, they were pretty lucky to beat both Tennessee and Kentucky, so it is still fair to say that they aren’t all the way back to Urban Meyer era levels yet.
Art Briles is a pretty annoying guy and probably a liar, but he is a good football coach. Baylor’s offensive machine just keeps rolling with Seth Russell, Shock Linwood and a phenomenal receiving corps. The Bears hung 69 on Texas Tech this weekend. Baylor scored 56 points on SMU in the season opener, and that’s the worst offensive game they’ve had this season. As Baylor’s schedule stiffens entering conference play, we will get a chance to see how they really stack up to last year’s team. November will be a gauntlet for the Bears, and West Virginia’s defense could be a potential thorn in the side for Baylor, yet again, this season. The Bears take on the Mountaineers in two weekends.
Cotton Bowl (#2 vs. #3)- Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Alabama fans would probably love to get a chance to avenge the 2014 Sugar Bowl loss that was a bitter closing chapter for one of the most accomplished senior/junior classes in school history. Oklahoma’s pass rush gave Alabama fits in that game, and probably would again this season. Trevor Knight also had a career game in that Sugar Bowl, and Baker Mayfield has shown why he beat Knight out in the offseason. This would be a tough matchup for the Tide, but their talent gives them an opportunity to win every time they take the field.
The Tide finally seemed to come into their own this weekend in Athens in a game that was eerily reminiscent of the famed “Blackout” game that many viewed as the advent of the “Saban dynasty”. Jacob Coker finally showed some competence throwing the ball down the field, and the Alabama defense was stalwart in the rain. The only issue with that is that upcoming games against teams like Texas A&M won’t feed right into Alabama’s defensive strengths, nor will the weather. Oklahoma needed a minor miracle and Butch Jones losing his balls to beat Tennessee, but they have looked solid since the second half of that game, and were really impressive in the win over West Virginia.
Rose Bowl- Northwestern vs. Utah
Whodathunkit right? Northwestern was widely considered to just be fighting for a bowl berth entering the season, and internal turmoil between head coach and athletic director threatened to torpedo Utah’s season for all the wrong reasons. Yet, here we are a month into the season and both of these teams look like division contenders and more. Both teams still have miles to go before they can rest on their laurels, but they are certainly off to a fine start.
The Wildcats still have road trips to Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin on the schedule, as well as a home date with Iowa. Northwestern’s trip to “The Big House” this weekend will be a tall task with Michigan looking great since falling to the Utes in week one. Utah will host ESPN GameDay for the first time in school history this week as they take on the Cal Golden Bears this weekend. The future schedule holds road trips to Arizona and USC, with home dates against UCLA and Arizona State. So yeah, neither team has completed their season yet, but they are well ahead of where most expected and there’s no evidence yet that they can’t keep winning.
Sugar Bowl- Texas A&M vs. TCU
What a Texas-sized matchup! This game would probably set a Vegas record for over/under. A&M is firing on all cylinders right now, and making those who picked them to win the West in the preseason look very intelligent. Kyle Allen is emerging as the best quarterback in the division, sorry Dak, and with the receivers around him he has an environment that is very conducive to success. On the other side of the ball, Myles Garrett and Daylon Mack continue to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. It would be fun to watch Trevone Boykin scrambling around and trying to make plays with these two tailing him for an afternoon.
Speaking of Boykin, his Heisman campaign has been pretty quiet so far this season, but that shouldn’t suggest that he isn’t still the favorite necessarily. He is still putting up big numbers, and even though the Horned Frogs haven’t looked as good as they did in last season’s Peach Bowl, which is a ridiculous standard, they keep winning. If the continue to do so, then they will eventually be conference champions, obviously, and assuredly find themselves in the playoff.
Fiesta Bowl- Florida State vs. Ohio State
This would be another fantastic bowl matchup, and honestly could end up being a playoff game. Ohio State has looked considerably worse than last year and at least some believe that a quarterback controversy may have something to do with that. The Buckeyes still have time to figure it out as long as they keep winning in the process, and as long as they have Ezekiel Elliott making mince meat of opposing defenses. Joey Bosa and the rest of the Buckeye defense are also a force to be reckoned with and should keep even the worst version of Ohio State’s offense in most games.
Florida State has flown largely under the radar this season everywhere except here seemingly. Dalvin Cook’s hamstring injury is something to monitor as the Seminoles prepare to take on Miami. When the ‘Noles take on the ‘Canes in the “abbreviated with an apostrophe nickname” rivalry this weekend, FSU will put its perfect record on the line and “The U” will look to bounce back from an embarrassing Thursday night loss to Cincinnati. The Hurricanes have a strong secondary and if Cook can’t play or is limited, then the additional burden on Everett Golson could lead to some turnover opportunities for Miami.
Peach Bowl- Navy vs. Clemson
Yesterday I suggested that Navy would discussed further today, well I’m a man of my word. Keenan Reynolds and the triple option offense continue to roll. The Midshipmen dispatched of service academy rival Air Force this weekend 33-11. Navy is currently averaging just south of 340 rushing yards per game, and showing no signs of slowing. Reynolds is also probably going to break Montee Ball’s career rushing touchdown record before the season is over. (He is currently five away from tying Ball). This weekend poses one of three major road hurdles left on the Navy schedule. Going to South Bend won’t be easy and the Irish have already demonstrated an ability to defend the triple option by dispatching Georgia Tech earlier in the season.
Clemson, on the other hand, beat the Fighting Irish on Saturday night in disgusting weather conditions. The Tigers jumped on Notre Dame 24-3, and then fought tooth and nail to stave off a late rally, stopping the Fighting Irish on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game with less than a minute left. As long as Deshaun Watson is healthy, this team has the quarterback play, talent, and defense to win the ACC and get into the playoff. Time will tell with Clemson and that November 7th duel with Florida State will be a big one. The Seminoles have beaten Clemson in three straight, and a fourth would likely dash the Tigers’ playoff aspirations.
1. Florida Gators (5-0)
2. Oklahoma Sooners (4-0)
3. Alabama Crimson Tide (4-1)
4. Baylor Bears (4-0)
5. Northwestern Wildcats (5-0)
6. Florida State Seminoles (4-0)
7. Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0)
8. Navy Midshipmen (4-0)
9. Texas A&M Aggies (5-0)
10. TCU Horned Frogs (5-0)
11. Clemson Tigers (4-0)
12. Utah Utes (4-0)
13. Temple Owls (4-0)
14. Iowa Hawkeyes (5-0)
15. Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-0)
16. Michigan Wolverines (4-1)
17. Houston Cougars (4-0)
18. Stanford Cardinal (4-1)
19. Toledo Rockets (4-0)
20. LSU Tigers (4-0)
21. Cal Golden Bears (5-0)
22. Boise State Broncos (4-1)
23. Michigan State Spartans (5-0)
24. Memphis Tigers (5-0)
25. N.C. State Wolfpack (4-1)
First Five Out: USC Trojans, Duke Blue Devils, North Carolina Tar Heels, West Virginia Mountaineers, Notre Dame Fighting Irish