September 3, 2019
Ahhh yes, college football is finally upon us. Soon the autumn leaves will creep their way into the landscape, hot cocoa will be abound and arguments of why our team should be in the so called "playoffs" will start to heat up. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves we need to pump the brakes a bit, we're only one week into the season. Despite that, I will continue the tradition I started last season and give you the ole' Beckster's takeaways from each week of the season. So here goes....
Disregard the AP Poll, four of the power five conferences are so top heavy they'd fall over if they were a living organism. As everyone pounds their chest over their "big" Mid-Major and Lower Division annual trouncing, let's really break down what each conference is looking at as far as playoff caliber teams.
Only a fool will try and convince you that anyone other than Clemson is an elite team from the ACC right now. Ok ok...that was harsh and I'm sorry. However, aside from the Tigers who are you excited about? They told us Florida State was back...well apparently nobody told Boise State (or water - see Cody Janzen's article on 12 oz Sports). Virginia beat fellow ACC member Pittsburgh and perennial 6-6 team, and a season opening win for the Cavs I'm sure is a big deal but not to me because they beat Pitt (yawn). Virginia Tech and Boston College put together a beautiful battle of mediocrity but neither showed anything that would convince me they handle an elite team like Clemson. Miami, FL was that one hope to take Clemson down and they couldn't hang on to the ball against the Gators...and we really don't know how good the Gators or Canes are anyway. This may be the most difficult conference to predict 2nd place and beyond, but after 1 week it's clear this is a one horse race. Of course anything can happen, injuries, motivation, etc so stay tuned I could be wrong on this one (probably not).
Two words - Jalen Hurts. Now look, I know he's going to face tougher defenses than Houston this year. But if that was his week 1, knock off the rust performance, Big 12 teams will need to outscore the Sooners which doesn't seem reasonable.....well, outside of their rival Texas. The Longhorns looked damn good and Sam Ehlinger looked laser sharp in their blowout win. It seemed like fans were excited about Iowa State, can I remind them they played a lower division team and went to OT? OK State was in a shootout with the hapless Beavers, three teams struggled against the lower division while the other four also played lower division teams. It's too early to tell but this looks like the Red River Rivalry will determine this conference, and if the conference winner has 1 loss....well we know the end of that story.
This is my conference in my territory. I was excited to see the Big Ten had the most ranked teams preseason, I also hate preseason rankings. The Buckeyes looked like world beaters....in the first quarter. Where did they go? I know they're breaking in a new QB but their defense disappeared for 2 1/2 quarters also. We'll find out about the Buckeyes this week because the Bearcats of Cincinnati are no push overs and much better than FAU. Meanwhile Wisconsin hammered a typically tough middle of the road team in South Florida. Sure the Badgers were SUPPOSED to win, but they went into Florida and left no doubt. The Nittany Lions dropped 79 points, I don't care if it was Idaho or not that was still an impressive offensive output. Many folks think Penn State is the most talented team in the conference. Michigan somehow gave up 21 points to Middle Tennessee State which doesn't bode well for a team that had one of it's worst defenses in school history last year. Iowa fans seemed geeked on Facebook, at least while yelling at me. Someone help me out here, if you lead at halftime 10-7 against a team that won't even sniff a MAC title, should you really be pounding your chest? Michigan State has the same problem as always, scary rush defense, pedestrian offense. On paper they're way better than 28-7 over Tulsa...maybe they just need some work. To me it's the same cast of characters, the bottom half of this league is weak. Don't let Northwestern fool you, Stanford isn't that good. Don't even get me started on Nebraska, I don't have the time or patience. This conference has at least 6-7 duds and 2-3 teams that could emerge as elite. The West is Wisconsin or Iowa's to win and the East will come down to Ohio State and Penn State. I don't see Iowa's talent pool being able to handle a Bama or Clemson and the jury is still out for Wisconsin. Ohio State and Penn State recruit and play talent that has ample speed and talent to compete with the big boys but will they both underachieve this year? My early favorite is Penn State to make the playoffs (that can change week to week).
How does one shake their head virtually? Well I'm doing it right now, you may not be able to tell. The Oregon Ducks at one point in the first half against Auburn should've, and could've, had 28 points. They had 14...and they were starting to lose a little momentum. What looked like a game that could've gotten out of hand turned into another mismanaged clock and a last minute winning touchdown for the Auburn Tigers. And with that...the PAC 12 already said goodbye to the playoffs. I understand teams make the playoffs with 1 loss, but usually not from the Big 12 or PAC 12, something about having "12" in your conference name. We already have a Big Ten team and the ACC team locked in because the Big Ten will never get shut out over 1 loss again and Clemson will go undefeated (book it now). Oregon's best chance is to hope the Big Ten plays itself out with multiple losses and Auburn makes the SEC title or at least finishes the season with only 1 loss. It hurts and is part of why the college system is broken but the PAC 12 isn't good enough for Oregon to recover. Washington gives this conference street cred and Colorado has been teetering on being an upper echelon team...but Stanford's win at home, against a pedestrian Northwestern team (17-7) does not translate well into conference power rankings. Let's not forget Northwestern is in the weak division of the Big Ten and only had a record of 8-5 last year following the loss to Ohio State and was 0-4 in non conference last year...that was maybe the big win for the PAC 12 in week 1. I felt the other shining light and promising note was USC's win over Fresno State who can be a tough opening week opponent, and the Trojans led 31-13 after three quarters and got complacent. Utah's win over BYU, in Provo, solidifies the belief they could be the best or second best team in this conference.
Here we go again...SEC Football. Every football fan outside the deep south cringes but you know what? They had the most impressive wins this first week. Florida beat Miami and Auburn beat Oregon. Now, this conference may be the most top heavy because the SEC also took some really embarrassing losses. The Vols, Ole Miss, Gamecocks, and Missouri all set the conference back a bit and Arkansas and Mississippi State wins aren't something you wanna brag about. We may be able to give Kentucky a little heat for only beating Toledo by 10, but the Rockets are usually the only MAC school that can play D1 football year in and year out. That leaves LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Florida and Bama...you know, the usual suspects. Five team race and Georgia and Bama could be on a collision course again. Bama has a big disadvantage with Auburn and LSU in their division and I see the Georgia-Florida game November 2 as the East Division title. In the West I just didn't gather from the Auburn game that they have the offense needed to beat Bama and LSU and the Tigers and Crimson Tide clearly have the 2 best QB's in this league. I feel it's LSU's year...maybe because they have a former Buckeye at the helm or maybe because I didn't get the normal cold chills watching Bama against Duke. I like LSU to storm Tuscaloosa November 9 and shock the world then win the SEC title game over Georgia. Then Bama will sneak in the playoffs again, because well...ESPN loves Bama and a 1 loss Bama always gets in over 1 loss teams from other conferences.
The Way Too Early, After Week 1 Playoff Projections:
ACC Title Game: Clemson v Miami
Big 12 Title Game: Oklahoma v Texas (Texas wins regular season game)
Big Ten Title Game: Wisconsin v Penn St
PAC 12 Title Game: Oregon v Utah
SEC Title Game: LSU v Georgia
Clemson v Bama
LSU v Penn St
Clemson v LSU
These are just opinions after 1 Week....it's finally football season!!