2015-09-30

FBS - Week 5 Preview

To state it like some journalists did already state it: After the 1st month of football, we have no clue who is worth the 4 spots of the national playoffs.
That's the essence of all their writings.

There are still 2+ month of football left and the field might get a bit narrowed in, but no team did really dominate the way it's safe to say they WILL be part of the playoffs.
None.

Sooner or later we will learn how good some teams are, but at the moment there is still a wide field of unbeaten und 1-loss-teams which do look like they could become the frontrunners.
And if you like to include the 2- or even 3-loss-teams, this gets way out of control.
So far a 3-loss team never got named the AP-National Champion, so it's very unlikely it will happen this season.
The last time a 2-loss team was named AP-National Champion? That was 2007 with LSU. Before that? 1960 with Minnesota.
Looks like 2-losses are also a very high barrier.

The so far remaining 1-loss Power5 teams + Independents are:

ACC (9 teams)
Boston College Eagles (3-1)
Clemson Tigers (3-0)
Duke Blue Devils (3-1)
Florida State Seminoles (3-0)
Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes (3-0)
North Carolina Tar Heels (3-1)
North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-0)
Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1)
Syracuse Orange (3-1)

BIG10 (10 teams)
Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1)
Indiana Hoosiers (4-0)
Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0)
Michigan Wolverines (3-1)
Michigan State Spartans (4-0)
Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-1)
Northwestern Wildcats (4-0)
Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0)
Penn State Nittany Lions (3-1)
Wisconsin Badgers (3-1)

BIG12 (7 teams)
Baylor Bears (3-0)
Kansas State Wildcats (3-0)
Oklahoma Sooners (3-0)
Oklahoma State Cowboys (4-0)
TCU Horned Frogs (4-0)
Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-1)
West Virginia Mountaineers (3-0)

PAC12 (8 teams)
Arizona Wildcats (3-1)
California Golden Bears (4-0)
Colorado Buffaloes (3-1)
Stanford Cardinal (3-1)
UCLA Bruins (4-0)
USC Trojans (3-1)
Utah Utes (4-0)
Washington State Cougars (2-1)

SEC (9 teams)
Alabama Crimson Tide (3-1)
Florida Gators (4-0)
Georgia Bulldogs (4-0)
Kentucky Wildcats (3-1)
LSU Tigers (3-0)
Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-1)
Missouri Tigers (3-1)
Texas A&M Aggies (4-0)
Ole Miss Rebels (4-0)

INDEPENDENTS (1 team)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0)

This are 44 teams, but there are some names, which do have only a very slim chance to survive the next few weeks on this list, based on their games in September and the upcoming games in October.
Since the conference games do start more or less now, the teams will eliminated each other inside the conferences very fast.

My list of the 10 leading teams had to be updated again after the last gameday.

TOP10 teams for the playoff spots (sorted by likeliness)

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes
They won against Western Michigan 38-12.
Not really dominating, but a win is a win.
So far they had no conference game.
The teams they played so far are not really the tough guys, and even Virginia Tech looks weak now, so even that game against an ACC team is discounted.
I'm looking forward for the next weeks.
They will play only 2 teams from the list above, Indiana and Penn State, the rest has already 2 or more losses.
If they struggle there, the November will be a real challenge.
Mark that date: 21.11. Michigan State at home. Might be the division deciding game.
Next game: Indiana, on the road
For now they are (still) my pick as BIG10 Champ, but sliding regarding the #1 spot.

#2 Baylor Bears
The Bears did demolish Rice 70-17.
This is tricky. Driving up the score is not very nice, but if you just win 35-17, everyone think the team is weak.
So far, Baylor looks very competitive and earns the spot as BIG12 favorite.
They will play n October the 1st few conference games and the toughest game looks to be West Virginia.
All others are not really on their high note, even Texas Tech has some upset potential.
Mark this date: 14.11. Oklahoma, at home. I switched the game from the TCU-game, because I think sooner or later will TCU lose and even if that game will be still a tough one, that Oklahoma game is earlier and might decide more likely the conference.
Next game: Texas Tech, on the road
Until they lose, the Bears will be my favorite to win the conference.

#3 Georgia Bulldogs
The Bulldogs did win against FCS-team Southern and did manage to be the favorite (at least so far) against Alabama next weekend.
Sometime I'm not convinced Georgia will really win the SEC, but at the moment they look more and more like a lock for the division title and then it's an open game.
If they lose against Alabama, I'm not sure what I will do then, but for now they stay at this spot.
Mark this date: 03.10. Alabama, at home. This is maybe the only chance to get a real test of strength before the conference final.
Next game: Alabama, at home.
So far my SEC favorite.

#4 Clemson Tigers
So far only 3 games played and they had a BYE week.
At the moment the Tigers do look like the team to beat in the ACC, even if many do see the real test against FSU coming.
Mark this date: 07.11. Florida State, at home. Clemson will be tested several time the next few weeks, starting with next weekend against Notre Dame, and they might be not in the top4 spot anymore, when they have to face the eventually only remaining team left to challenge them for the division title.
They will have to win this to get into the championship game.
Next game: Notre Dame, at home
For now Clemson has the edge for #4, but the might drop out of that spot faster than you can say 'Irish win'.

#5 Utah Utes
Oh no!
I know!
How could that happen?
Why not ?
Because that win against Oregon was so jaw dropping, that the team does deserve this spot, even if they might only hold it for a week or a few more.
At the moment does the PAC12 look like the conference where everyone can beat everyone and it's absolutely possible that Utah will stay on top.
Mark this date: 21.11. UCLA, at home. The team might get a loss on the way to that big game (as big as it looks now), but if both teams will stay unbeaten, this date will be the deciding match.
Next game: Cal, after a BYE!
The PAC12 looks like they could bring in one of the strongest teams for the playoffs, or they might fall out of the playoffs in total. Nothing is for sure.

#6 Michigan State Spartans
The Spartans did beat Central Michigan 30-10, which is not the kind of performance you might expect from a top team.
The good news is, they will play now conference games, the bad news is, they will play the 1st real test in mid-October, not earlier.
Mark this date: 21.11. Ohio State on the road. At the moment some might bring up the Wolverine games, but honestly I think the Spartans are at least this season secure at that front.
Even on the road. Quite different is the Buckeyes game. This might be the 1 game to decide the division and maybe even the conference.
Next game: Purdue, at home
So far they are might 2nd team from the BIG10, but it will become much clearer in November.

#7 Alabama Crimson Tide
That win over Louisiana-Monroe was not really helpful. 34-0 doesn't mean anything. Nice to see a shutout, but this does not help to determine their strength.
I did say I stick with the Tide until they lose a 2nd time, so they stay here.
Mark this date: 03.10. Georgia, on the road. This game will be the next big test for the Tide.
If they win, they will be back on track (as long as Ole Miss will lose at some point), if they lose, they will drop out of this list.
Next game: Georgia, on the road
The SEC has still some potential teams on the list, so I hope to get this sorted out fast.

#8 Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners had a BYE week and that might help this weekend, when they face ranked West Virginia.
It's tough to tell the strength of Oklahoma is really there, because they did allow so many points.
Mark this date: 14.11. Baylor, on the road. This will be a tough test for the Sooners. They might fall out of that list earlier, maybe even after the weekend, but if they prevail until then, Baylor will be the major test.
Next game: West Virginia, at home
There is much potential to get a lot of upsets in the BIG12, but so far it looks quite stable.

#9 UCLA Bruins
It's hard to value here in if UCLA or Cal do deserve the 2nd place of the PAC12.
Both teams did survive a scare against good teams, both had good games against PAC12 teams.
For me does Cal look more like a spoiler, which will fall at some point of the season, while UCLA does look like a team, which might bend at some time, but which is hard to break.
That's why I gave them the spot here.
Why are they not the favorite? Because as long as Utah does not lose, that Oregon win will be weighted as double win in my mind.
Don't panic, Bruins fans, quality does prevail, so over time I might see the light and UCLA gets the top spot.
Mark this date: 15.10. Stanford, on the road. This might become a real test. Stanford did recover very well from that bad season start and UCLA might get here more than they can swallow.
Next game: Arizona State, at home
This could already be the end for the Wildcats in that list.

#10 Ole Miss
They won against Vanderbilt 27-16, which does not ring like that win against Alabama.
I'm still sure they will fall at some point in the season, but so far they won and all fans have to live with my sorting.
It will be soon sorted out, don't worry.
Mark this date: 24.10. Texas A&M. It looks like this will become 1 of the next toughest tests for that team.
Of cause there will be others, but until that date it looks like a championship caliber team might get there unbeaten.
Next game: Florida, on the road.
Ole Miss will have some more challenge here, than expected.

Dropped out:
Oregon Ducks (lost to Utah in a huge way, do know have 2 losses and even if they might get into the conference championship game, they won't be relevant for the playoffs until many other teams have lost twice.)
Arizona Wildcats (lost to UCLA with some questions on offense and defense. They might rebound, but at the moment there are other PAC12 teams which are hotter.)

Here are the 3 most likely non power 5 teams to crash the party:

#1 Boise State Broncos
This might be a bid ridiculous and unfair to other, unbeaten, teams, but the Broncos do have it all to crash the party, except they have 1 loss.
Still, the crushed Virginia (which almost won against Notre Dame before) 56-14 and if they keep on winning that high against the conference opponents, they will rise in the ranks.
Mark this date: 10.10. Colorado State, on the road. This looks like a perfect trap game.
CSU is maybe not as strong as last season, but for sure they can still play football.
Next game. Hawai'i, at home
The main competitor for a MWC favorite will be the AAC champ, so Boise better keep on winning high.

#1 Temple Owls
I think they will fall of the map soon.
The AAC does field a few unbeaten teams so far and Temple only gets the gig here, because of their incredible wins.
They had a BYE.
Mark this date: 31.10. Notre Dame, at home. If they survive until then, they will face off against a probably ranked team here.
It would be a bomb, if they would win this.
Next game: Charlotte, on the road
At the moment it looks like the AAC-Champ might get the final gig and Temple is in the mix.

#3 Toledo Rockets
So far did Toledo win all games, last against Arkansas State 37-7.
They will have a hard time to get into the ranks and stay there as a MAC team, but it is possible.
Mark this date: 03.11. Northern Illinois, at home. If the season gets stopped, it will be very likely be here.
Next game: Ball State, on the road
The MAC-Champ would maybe get a rank, if he stays unbeaten. Toledo has 2 big wins to boost that.

Dropped out:
None

Now let's have a look at the BLOCK OF GRANITE TOP GAMES FOR WEEK 5

Sat. Oct. 3 - 12:00 pm ET
#23 West Virginia @ 15 Oklahoma
Oh what should I do here.
We have a West Virginia team, which might have found a defense, we have a Sooners teams, which might have found an offense.
Both teams have their strength but so far had not much of a competition.
For Oklahoma does speak the Tennessee game, while West Virginia can only bring in the Maryland win.
I would not say that the Sooners hand much trouble with Tulsa last week, but they allowed 30+ points, which is not a good sign.
Add a BIG12 bonus to that mix with a similar explosive offense and the Sooners defense might be in trouble.
The good thing is, the Sooners are also equipped to get into a shootout, even if they would like to avoid that.
As seen with the TCU-Texas Tech game, such a shootout can go either way and if you have to make many plays and scores, there is always much more room for errors.
If this game would be in West Virginia, I would be tempted to give the Mountaineers a try, but since this is in Norman, I think at the end of the day will Oklahoma prevail.
Sooners win.

Sat. Oct. 3 - 3:30 pm ET
#13 Alabama @ #8 Georgia
Argh, this can become a nightmare.
If the Tide would lose, the SEC West would be wide open for whichever team is ready to step up.
It feels like Alabama had their grip around that division forever, but the truth is, they did win it not since the Stone Age, every season.
If Georgia loses, this would not change much in the SEC East (as long as not team there does dominate, which doesn't look that way), but it would make it hard to have a clear favorite for the SEC.
OK, that might make it more interesting for everyone, but I'm doomed for my pick list as I'm already for the PAC12.
Since a gazillion games is Alabama NOT the favorite in that game and that's a bit tricky.
This game does ring all bells of upset I have, because this are the Saban-Tide and Georgia did not win many games against them.
Even both teams are in the SEC, they don't meet each other very often.
The last win against them was 2007, Sabans 1st season with the Tide.
Since then did they meet during the season once and in the conference championship game once, both losses.
But even with all the alarms, my head says, that the Crimson Tide will get beaten here in a close game.
Georgia has a great running back and I think that will make the difference, this season.
Bulldogs win.

Sat. Oct. 3 - 7:30 pm ET
#21 Mississippi State @ #14 Texas A&M
Mississippi State did lose only by 2 points against LSU, so don't underestimate them.
Texas A&M did win all games so far, but not that dominant as you would like to have it.
Vegas have them as the favorite here with a TD + XP up front.
Honestly the game is difficult for me to pick for just one reason: Which team is not really strong?
Both teams had games which do hint a strong team, both had games which do hint a poor one.
Which will show up?
I give the Aggies credit for their great offense so far, which I think should be enough to keep the Bulldogs from winning the game.
LSU had basically only the ground to attack, while A&M can do both.
I think this will be a quite high scoring game, and I think A&M will score way more points than MSU can answer.
Aggies win.

Sat. Oct. 3 - 8:00 pm ET
#6 Notre Dame @ #12 Clemson
I'm still not sold on the Notre Dame strength.
They did play not top teams and they did not really win in a big way, except the GT game.
Clemson did also not really play a powerhouse so far, but do come with a slightly better reputation.
At least that's my take on that.
Notre Dame might come up with a victory here and they better pray then, that Clemson will win the ACC, because this might become one of the few signature wins against a ranked opponent this season and if you want to claim 1 of the 4 playoff spots against 5 conference champs and runner ups, you better have a good schedule story and a perfect record.
I'm not buying the Notre Dame story so far.
I did not buy it when they were send to the BCS title game and got spanked in a big way.
And I don't buy it this season, even if they win all games.
The good thing this season will be, if they get a playoff spot and are hyped, they get sorted out in the semifinals, instead of spoiling the final.
Fine, let's focus on Clemson.
Their close game against Louisville made me worry a bit, I think with the right defense they can be stopped.
It looks like the nation is a bit split for a winner pick.
For me, the home team is the team to pick and therefore:
Tigers win.

'Til next time
Jack6 on BLOCK OF GRANITE

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