Last weekend was definitely a bye week. I enjoyed Lake Guntersville for a few days, watched as a good friend was married on Saturday, and spent some time with the future in-laws. Sure, football was happening in the background, but it was far from the primary focus. Despite all of the almost upsets, I don’t feel like I missed too much, and I’m ready to hit the ground rolling again this weekend in Jordan-Hare Stadium. This is when the season gets fun, folks, so buckle in for a great second half of the season.
Let’s a take a look at this week’s Top 25.
Sans Western Michigan (#6??), I’d say that’s about what we all expected.
Yet again, we have Michigan, Alabama, and Ohio State, with Washington taking the spot of now #7 Clemson. I don’t feel like I need to explain again how Michigan is a monster. They had a bye week as well, and have a laughable slate of games for the next month or so. They have to travel to Iowa in early November, but they should be undefeated by the time they face Ohio State.
Alabama is really starting to settle in right now and become the killing machine the usually are. They host undefeated #12 TAMU this week in what should be their biggest test so far, but the Tide are winning games by an average of 30 points and KO’ing teams in the middle of the second quarter this year. They beat Tennessee so bad they made them drop 27 spots to #44 this week. Maybe the Aggies can figure out a weakness, but for now I’d say Alabama is looking very… Alabama.
Ohio State, now at #3, barely survived a great overtime matchup with #24 Wisconsin. The Buckeyes still have a handful of interesting games this year, and go to #48 Penn State this week. I would expect Ohio State to win (obviously), but the Nittany Lions haven’t been so bad the last few weeks and are coming off a bye week, as well.
At #4, Washington is back at the top after a bye week. With Clemson’s game against NCST going to overtime, the Tigers dropped back a bit, so the Huskies took their spot. Washington should be able to pad the stats against #96 Oregon State, but their SOS (already below average) will take a hit. I would think Washington could handle their business enough to maintain their #4 spot this week, but if they play even a somewhat close game, look for #5 Louisville or #7 Clemson to jump right in there.
Obviously, one of Michigan and Ohio State has to lose at least one game this year. There are still several teams in the top 15 with strong schedules remaining who could make a move to the top, though. Right now, I’ve got my eye on #10 West Virginia. Currently undefeated against a so-so schedule, they have a few games in the Big 12 left this year which are against respectable opponents, but which are games that they can put up some good wins (OU, TCU, Baylor). Watch out for the Mountaineers. They’re going to make some noise.
Something interesting I always like to look at when viewing my rankings is which Group of 5 (G5; basically the mid-major conferences) teams are the best. It is EXTREMELY unlikely we will see a non-power conference team in the playoffs. As good as Houston is this year, they still will almost certainly be locked out because of the one loss. The Sterritt Score right now shows four teams right there together at the top: #6 Western Michigan, #8 Houston, #9 Boise State, and #15 Troy.
The Broncos have been impressive this year, with two Big 10 West wins over Illinois and Northwestern and wins over relatively strong G5 teams Georgia Southern and Central Michigan*, while holding an average MOV of 23 and KO of 32 minutes. The schedule softens up significantly on the backend, so don’t expect WMU to stick near the top 5 for too long, but they’ve been nothing short of impressive thus far. Head coach PJ Fleck has definitely coached his way into a big time job if he wants it.
Houston has been fairly well covered this year, after a high profile win over #32 Oklahoma and one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Greg Ward Jr. They still have a big matchup with #5 Louisville on the horizon, but that loss to Navy all but bars them from the Playoff.
The other Broncos, Boise State, have been tearing up a bad MWC again this year, just like they have for the last 15 or so years. Boise can more than likely run the table once again, with matchups against #64 BYU at #29 Air Force looking like the only remaining competition, but the weakness of this year’s schedule really holds them back. If you haven’t seen Boise this year, check them out. Their QB, Brett Rypien, is slicing people up this year with 1622 yards, a 62.2% completion percentage, and a 12:3 TD:INT ratio. He’s also just a sophomore.
In the fourth G5 Playoff spot is Troy. Despite the loss to Clemson early this year (I still think they were robbed there), Troy has put up solid wins against all of the lesser competition they’ve faced. We’ve already seen it start, but it looks like Troy will continue to slip as they get deeper into conference play, with their strength of schedule looking to nosedive over the next few weeks. It’s always fun to see a small school in our state do well, though. Go Trojans!
Not a whole lot to say here that I haven’t said before, due to the bye week. Auburn did creep up four spots to #11, mainly due to other teams losing, but that may not be all that surprising. Other computer-based rankings have us as high as #8! As awesome as it is that Auburn has found its rhythm as of late, imagine where we would be without the QB fiasco for the first few weeks. A win over either Clemson or TAMU would have Auburn in the top 10, and a win over both would have put us right in the middle of the playoff race.
I might be the first to bring this up, and I almost feel like I shouldn’t even entertain the thought, but Auburn isn’t out of the SEC race. If Bama beats TAMU this weekend, Auburn could win the SEC by running the table and forcing a three-way tie with TAMU and Bama. I’m not sure what the tiebreaker is, though,* and the whole idea is a major longshot. We can dream, though, right?
Auburn hosts #57 Arkansas this weekend, and a win here would go a long ways towards easing a lot of our minds about how good this team really is. I really think Auburn matches up well with the Razorbacks, though, and our defense should be able to stifle the Arkansas offense pretty handily.
What to Watch
With this article coming out a little late, I’m sure most of you are already looking forward to this weekend’s games. What do we have in store?
#19 NCST at #5 Louisville
#16 Miami at #21 VT
#3 Ohio State at #48 Penn State
#24 Wisconsion at #28 Iowa
#35 TCU at #10 West Virginia
#64 BYU at #9 Boise State
#18 Colorado at #64 Stanford
#12 TAMU at #2 Bama
Thanks for reading, and War Eagle!
*EDITOR'S NOTE: The tie-breaker is... interesting.