2015-10-22

FBS - Week 8 Preview

Week 7 did hit some of the contenders hard.
For many it was not necessarily the end of the conference or division title hunt, but so far it looks like the field of national playoff contenders did shrink a bit more.

Funny thing is, 3 American Athletic conference teams are now ranked TOP 25 in the AP-polls and Memphis did jump to #18 after their win over Ole Miss and took over the highest rank as non-power-5-team.
That would be juicy for the Tigers.
Good thing here is, that Memphis, Houston and Temple do play each other in the next few weeks to sort things out.
If 1 team will survive unscratched is anybodys guess.
At the moment, if 1 of those team does stay unbeaten, it looks very unlikely, that Toledo gets that highest ranked spot.
Toledos schedule is way too weak and at the moment does every one of those AAC team have a ranked vs ranked game ahead, and Memphis even 2 such games.
Toledo has nothing.

The so far remaining 1-loss Power5 teams + Independents after week 7 are:

ACC (5 teams)
Clemson Tigers (6-0)
Duke Blue Devils (5-1)
Florida State Seminoles (6-0)
North Carolina Tar Heels (5-1)
Pittsburgh Panthers (5-1)

dropped out:
none

BIG10 (3 teams)
Iowa Hawkeyes (7-0)
Michigan State Spartans (7-0)
Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0)

dropped out:
Michigan Wolverines (5-2), lost to Michigan State
Northwestern Wildcats (5-2), lost to Iowa
Penn State Nittany Lions (5-2), lost to Ohio State

BIG12 (4 teams)
Baylor Bears (6-0)
Oklahoma Sooners (5-1)
Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-0)
TCU Horned Frogs (7-0)

dropped out:
none

PAC12 (3 teams)
California Golden Bears (5-1)
Stanford Cardinal (5-1)
Utah Utes (6-0)

dropped out:
UCLA Bruins (4-2), lost to Stanford

SEC (4 teams)
Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1)
Florida Gators (6-1)
LSU Tigers (6-0)
Texas A&M Aggies (5-1)

dropped out:
Kentucky Wildcats (4-2), lost to Auburn
Ole Miss Rebels (5-2), lost to Memphis

INDEPENDENTS (1 team)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-1)

That makes only 6 teams dropping out of the list and 20 remaining. A stunning 3 teams of those 6 teams were from the BIG10.
Still too many teams to get into deep analysis, but the field gets down every week.

There are some team facing only 1 or even zero teams of that list on their remaining schedule, so they might stay in the hunt until the yet not not finalized conference title games do happen.
Iowa is such a candidate, if they stay in the lead for their division and unbeaten.

Let's have a look at my list of the

TOP10 teams for the playoff spots (sorted by likeliness)

#1 Baylor Bears
West Virginia did look more like a speed bump that an opponent this gameday and was send home with a 62-38 defeat.
So Baylor keeps on playing and as long as they don't play big shots of the other conferences it's hard to guess how good they really are.
So far they do look like the best team from the BIG12.
Mark this date: 21.11. Oklahoma State, on the road. At the moment there are 2 big speed bumps ahead, TCU at season final and a week before a road trip to the Cowboys, who still fly under the radar, unbeaten.
Next game: Iowa State, at home
The offense stats do look like a wet dream so far. I'm wondering what will happen if a good defense shows up.

#2 Ohio State Buckeyes
Nice win over Penn State, 38-10, but so far is Penn State not a powerhouse.
I think this win will be valued a bit higher than some others in the past this season, but this is still not the signature win they need to stay in the playoff hunt on top.
If they beat MSU and Michigan and win the BIG10, I think it's save to say, that they would be in.
On which spot is still open, but if all the ranked teams stay that good and OSU wins all games, it will boost their record and would probably secure a #1 spot.
Mark that date: 21.11. Michigan State at home. With the Spartans win over the Wolverines, this game got much hotter. Scenario 1 would be, OSU wins, then it's very likely the Buckeyes will win the division.
Scenario 2 is, the Spartans do win, then the Spartans would win the division.
There is still room for some other teams to get here, but the window is closing fast.
Next game: Rutgers, on the road.
The field of worthy teams get quite narrow in the BIG10 and Ohio State will have to prove they are rightful at my #2, soon.

#3 Utah Utes
Another impressive win against Arizona State, 34-18.
Now ranked at #3 in the AP-polls, I decided to put them also as #3 in my list.
I still feel this could collapse anytime. But for now, each week they do look like Championship material.
Mark this date: 21.11. UCLA, at home. UCLA did drop out of my list for the playoffs, but are still the strongest teams left on the schedule.
Next game: USC, on the road.
This might all come down to a monster clash between Stanford and Utah.

#4 Clemson Tigers
Boston College had to learn, that a good defense is nice, but adding an offense does help.
The Tigers did beat the Eagles 34-17 last weekend.
Mark this date: 07.11. Florida State, at home. With FSU beating Louisville, there is only FSU left between Clemsons and the division title.
Next game: Miami (Fla.), on the road
With some great games by other teams, Clemson did really drop a spot in the polls, as in my list.

#5 Alabama Crimson Tide
The only reason the Tide is left out of the 4 playoff spots is their lost game against Ole Miss.
But I think they do gain more steam with every big win they get and if they would really win the SEC, they might even jump one of the other teams.
Last week against Texas A&M did show every fan, Alabama does still play.
That 41-23 win was great for their reputation.
Mark this date: 07.11. LSU, at home. Not many had seen that game as essential for the division, but now it might become the deciding match. Both will play after a BYE.
Next game: Tennessee, at home
Great division, and tough games ahead.

#6 Michigan State Spartans
That win against Michigan was epic.
I still can't believe that defender was able to run that ball back, the whole distance.
If he would have been tackled, MSU would have had to kick a FG at least.
Well, 27-23 is great and they are really worth a second sight.
Beside Ohio State they don't have top opponents, so that game against the Buckeyes will be huge.
Mark this date: 21.11. Ohio State on the road. If MSU wins, they will skyrocket in this list. If they lose, they will fade away.
Next game: Indiana, at home
After that finish last week, I think all MSU fans would still be satisfied, if the Spartans would start losing now.

#7 Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes did look like a sleepwalking division champ in the making, the next few weeks.
The best record of their future opponents?
Twice 4-3, Indiana and Minnesota. They rest is way worse.
Mark this date: 07.11. Indiana, on the road. This one is from my point of view the toughest one left, as road game and Indiana can be better than their record does say.
Next game: Maryland, at home after a BYE
I'm stunned that the Hawkeyes do not lay an egg, from gameday to gameday I'm getting the confidence to think they might really be able to not only win the division, but also to challenge the other division winner for the conference.

#8 TCU Horned Frogs
Iowa State had no chance to win the last game, so 45-21 is OK I think.
TCU is at the heels of Baylor and it might come down for a deciding match between them, but before that do both teams have to keep on winning.
For Baylor I have not much to think about, but TCU was very close of losing at some games.
Mark this date: 21.11. Oklahoma, on the road. Or maybe at 07.11. the Cowboys game? No, I think the Cowboys are bound to lose at some point and that might be even TCU.
So, the Oklahoma Sooners game will be their do or die game.
Baylor a week later is the last puzzle piece, if all thinks go well before that, but Oklahoma is crucial.
Next game: West Virginia, at home
Still waiting for the fall, but very gameday they are still standing.

#9 Stanford Cardinals
That 56-35 win against UCLA was a win they needed.
Now they are in the media and are treated well.Mark this date: 15.10. UCLA, at home. This will be 1 of the few real tests the team will face.
Mark this date: 21.11. Cal, at home. The Big Game, as it is called, is the Cardinals to lose. They won the rivalry game every season since 2010 and this season they play at home, so chances are big, the Cardinals can win this and with that, secure the division.
Next game: Washington, at home
Now they are mentioned again in the PAC12 race and will for sure be a major part of the remaining coverage.

#10 LSU Tigers
The Tigers do shine through their running game.
Leonard Fournette is a leading candidate for the Heisman and in 6 games he has 1202 yards, and that does not include the canceled game against McNeese State, where he would have run wild over them.
Last weekend they did beat Florida 35-28 and ended the unbeaten series of the Gators.
Mark this date: 07.11. Alabama, on the road. It's the 1st game against a lot of ranked teams in November, but this could be the start for the race to the top, or the end of the division title hunt.
Next game: Western Kentucky, at home
LSU has all the tools to stay in the hunt, and might end up as second best SEC team.

Dropped out:
Texas A&M Aggies (lost to Alabama and for sure are the Aggies still high on that list, but not high enough.)

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

#1 Houston Cougars
This is a coin toss at the moment. The AAC-teams Memphis, Houston and Temple are all unbeaten and I think at the end will the last team standing get this spot.
At the moment I give Houston the spot for 2 reasons. They play Memphis at home and Memphis has to play Houston AND Temple, which makes it more likely they will lose 1 of those games, if not both.
Temple has a game against Notre Dame, which should seal their season for that ranking here.
Houston did win against Tulane last weekend 42-7.
Mark this date: 14.11. Memphis, at home. This game will very likely be the deciding game.
Next game: UCF, on the road
Win and you are in.

#2 Toledo Rockets
Still climbing, now at #19 in the ranks.
They did beat Eastern Michigan 63-20.
Mark this date: 17.11. Bowling Green, on the road. Hard to say, but Bowling Green looks like the biggest opponent left.
Next game: UMass, on the road
The MAC team can only try to stay unbeaten and hope for a round robin beating inside the AAC.

#3 none.
I decided to leave that spot for the rest of the season.
Basically it's AAC or MAC, all other conference do look very unlikely.
It doesn't make much sense to put Memphis here, since I expect them to lose at some point.
I'm not happy with the current situation, but it looks like the season gets quite boring in terms of conference competition on that level.

Dropped out:
Boise State Broncos (lost to Utah State in a very hard way. They still might win the division, but for sure they are out of the AP polls for a long time)
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Now let's have a look at the BLOCK OF GRANITE TOP GAMES FOR WEEK 7

Sat. Oct. 24 - 12:00 pm ET
#6 Clemson @ Miami (Fla.)
Vegas does see here the Hurricanes as 6.5 underdog.
I think this will be won by Clemson with an even higher margin.
I'm not sure Golden does deserve the constant "Fire Golden" air banner terror with a record of 4-2 and those 2 losses against Cincinnati (fine, that's not so nice) and Florida State (which are unbeaten so far), both on the road.
Yes, the "U" fanbase is expecting more wins and less Cincinnati-losses from that team, but so far they did OK.
Good enough to keep the coach, not my call.
But not record does righten that air banner terror.
My 2 cents on that.
Now they host the hottest team of the ACC, an unbeaten team, ranked #6 in the country.
Are they strong enough to win this, on paper?
Maybe.
Are they strong enough to win this, in reality?
Don't think so.
That whole Coach is under fire business is bad atmosphere, the fan base is not really in the side of the coach.
Let Miami slip a bit and that home advantage might become a home disadvantage.
I think Miami will have a hard time keeping the pace and in combination with that sick situation, I expect Clemson to win.
I did in fact put that win as the most likely in my ESPN-tip.
Tigers win.

Sat. Oct. 24 - 7:00 pm ET
#9 Florida State @ Georgia Tech
This can a l t e r the ACC.
The Yellow Jackets are also a 6.5 underdog at home.
I did not find many journalist picking GT, even against the spread.
That means, all of them do see FSUs run defense, which is 19th overall, good enough to stop the 7th best rushing offense.
I think that might turn out wrong.
I still think, GT is a good team, they have issues, but they can outplay most teams.
They lost against several good teams, while FSU did win against from my point of view mid level teams.
So, now they will face off against each other in Georgia.
I think they key will be, who mistaken free will GT play.
If that is a perfect game, they will win.
If they do shoot against themselves in the foot, they will lose.
My pick here is, GT will get this done. A long shot maybe, but I say:
Yellow Jackets win.

Sat. Oct. 24 - 7:00 pm ET
#15 Texas A&M @ #24 Ole Miss
Oh, this is the only ranked vs ranked games this week and it is strange.
We have Texas A&M, former unbeaten team, got hit by Alabama and lost 23-41.
We have Ole Miss, now with 2 losses, after a national sensational loss against Memphis, 24-37, but once the team beating Alabama 43-37.
Vegas does see the Ole Miss Rebels as 6 point favorite.
That's tough for Texas A&M, I think.
Could be the motivation to get this done.
But this is in Mississippi and it's their 1st big game at home, after a bad game. Motivation shouldn't be an issue for them.
It seems this is a coin toss game and I think it is.
Many is depended on the QBs.
I think, Ole Miss QBs will be much more comfortable at home and that will make a difference.
Texas A&M will try to outscore Ole Miss with their great offense, but Ole Miss can counter that, if their QB does fly.
So, do I believe he will fly?
Yes.
100% sure?
No.
Still, Rebels win.

Sat. Oct. 24 - 7:30 pm ET
#3 Utah @ USC
And the next strange game.
We have the #3 team of the country based on those AP-polls being a 3.5 underdog against a non-ranked, 3-3 record having, interim coached team from USC.
Odd?
You bet.
The only approach I see for this game is, that USC has the 12th best passing offense, against the 95th best pass defense.
But Utah is also leading in interceptions with 13 so far, so in a black-or-white view, USC can either throw and march over the field or throw pick-6s.
And Utah can do more, and I think that's really the key factor, they can score, fast.
So, 3.5 underdog in Los Angeles?
Fine, but they will win.
Utes win.

'Til next time
Jack6 on BLOCK OF GRANITE

2015-10-20

FBS - Week 7 Review

Arbeitsunfall. (accident at work)

No game had that attention as the Michigan State vs Michigan game.

As you may know, the winner of that game does get the Paul Bunyan Trophy, named after that fairy tale lumberjack, who did form many landmarks of the unite states (he got help by his giant blue ox).

Well, it's save to say that this seasons version of the rival game became an accident at work in the woods (sorry, the big house), which will be a story to tell forever.
More to that in my game review below.

One thing is sure this weekend, some teams did get wins and losses, which had massive impact on the season.

So far no additional fired coaches, but this might change over the week.
Some teams did really suck the last few weeks, or since season opener and there is not much wait-until-it's-over-mentality anymore.
Team do kick their coaches right at at point where ADs think it's time for a change.

Now let's have a look at the BLOCK OF GRANITE TOP GAMES FOR WEEK 7

Thurs. Oct. 15 - 10:30 pm ET
#18 UCLA @ #15 Stanford
That was my Thursday-Special and it was special, at least for Stanford.
UCLA did play good, but were unable to stop the next big Stanford running back, who had 243 yards and 4 TDs in that game.
It's not that the Bruins were unable to move the ball, they were just stopped at the right time to get the ball in the endzone to stay in the game.
After the 3rd quarter were Stanford up front 56-20.
UCLA did score another 15 points in garbage time, which was more or less the whole 4th quarter, but that did not matter much.
For Stanford this is another win for the division title race and to stay in national playoff talk, but UCLA just got hit out of all conversations until Utah starts losing, better more than once.
UCLA 35 - Stanford 56 -> Jacks Score: 17-8

Sat. Oct. 17 - 12:00 pm ET
#17 Iowa @ #20 Northwestern
Wow, it looks like Northwesterns Cinderella story just got hit twice to knock them off for good.
The Iowa backup RB did power his way through the so called tough defense of Northwestern for 204 yards and 4 TDs.
Northwestern did lose that game after the half, unable to score, trailing by 6 they did let the Hawkeyes score 24 points to seal the deal.
Iowa now a big front runner for the division title, Northwestern dropped cold and will very likely vanish from the AP ranks also.
Iowa 40 - Northwestern 10 -> Jacks Score: 18-8

Sat. Oct. 17 - 3:30 pm ET
#7 Michigan State @ #12 Michigan
And now the BIG game this weekend, in the BIG HOUSE!
111740 official visitors, most of them in blue and maize yellow.
The 1st quarter was scoreless, then did Michigan start the scoring with a TD and XP.
Spartans did answer on their own after a series of 3-and-out on both sides. They did tie the game at 7.
The Wolverines were able to kick a FG right after that dive and went into the half with that 3 point lead.
After the break were Michigan unable to score in the 1st drive, Michigan State did had their drive, but gambled on 4th down and were stopped on a fake punt, which gave the Wolverines really good field position.
Both team did score TDs after that play and the Spartans were still down by 3.
Michigan were able to score another FG, extending the lead to 6, but after that it was defense for a long time.
Michigan State did gamble again during that time and had a miss 4th down pass on Wolverines 32 yard line.
Already in the 4th did Michigan again score a FG, but MSU did answer with a TD, fueled by a LONG pass play of 74 yards.
Lots of field position battles during the game and when the clock had less than 5 minutes to run, the Spartans charged for the last big drive.
They started on their own 28 and walked down the field, eating away more than 3 minutes and were stopped at 4th down on the Michigan 45.
End of the game?
Not so fast.
Michigan did play 1, 2 and 3, trying to run down the clock and get a 1st down.
At 4th down and 10 ticks on the clock, they decided to punt on MSUs 47 yard line.
The snap was OK, but not perfect, the punter dropped the ball out of his hands and lifted it from the ground, tried to kick it and that made it even worse.
A wall of white Spartans did try to gangtackle him, while he attempted the kick.
One Spartan got the ball and ran for the victory, while time ran out.
A spectator had a heartattack during the play and that's understandable.
The Wolverine were 10 seconds from a great victory away and the mood did swing from YEAH! to OH NO!.
For the Spartans, that was a BIG win, not only in the rivalry, but also on national stage, for Michigan, that was a setback at the worst circumstances.
The division is NOT lost, since MSU has to play Ohio State and other teams, and Michigan has also to play Ohio State end of regular season.
But that loss did put them into a MUST-WIN-situation knowing a second loss is the end of might-be-dreams of an incredible season.
The Spartans will rise from this, at least for a short time.
I don't think they will jump Ohio State, since they did win big also, this weekend.
Michigan State 27 - Michigan 23 -> Jacks Score: 19-8

Sat. Oct. 17 - 3:30 pm ET
#10 Alabama @ #9 Texas A&M
It did not end as instant classic.
Alabama did win big against a sloppy A&M team, which did throw 3 pick-6.
The Crimson Tide did lead at the half 28-13, with already 2 of the 3 pick-6 in the books.
The only highlight for A&M was a punt return TD.
After the half it got a bit more even, with Texas shorten the Alabama lead, but they missed a FG and after the 3rd quarter they were forced to make plays, which resulted in another pick-6.
Alabama does stay in the hunt for the division, Texas A&M did get a 1st blow, but are still in the mix.
All does depend on both teams performance against LSU the next few weeks.
Alabama 41 - Texas A&M 23 -> Jacks Score: 20-8

Sat. Oct. 17 - 7:00 pm ET
#8 Florida @ #6 LSU
I expected a downer by Florida, but they did play quite good.
LSU did help them in the beginning with a fumbled punt return, setting up a TD drive after that.
But LSU did bounce back and did score 3 unanswered TDs for a 21-7 lead until Florida was able to score on their own.
The Tigers answered on their drive also with a TD and sealed the 28-14 halftime lead.
The 3rd quarter did belong all to Florida, scoring a TD by the offense and a TD on a punt return.
Tied game!
The next drive started in the 3rd quarter, but ended in the 4th on a fake field goal attempt on Floridas 16 yard line.
The Kicker ran left after the snap, caught the ball thrown to the sideline and went 16 yards for lead.
After that play did Florida trail by 7 but had still 10 min. to play and were at some points in scoring range, but decided to punt of to play for it, than kicking a FG from the 35 yard line.
Not trusting the kicker?
What ever the decision did motivate, at the end did Florida lose in Death Valley by those 7 points.
LSU now in prime position in the SEC west, while Florida is still in the hunt for the SEC East, but got knocked down once.
Florida 28 - LSU 35 -> Jacks Score: 21-8

Wow, I picked a perfect 5 of 5. Hehe.

More interesting results:
Auburn did beat Kentucky 30-27 for their 1st SEC win this season.
Utah State did crush Boise State 52-26 and the Broncos had 8!!! turnovers. No team can win this way.
Ohio State won against Penn State 38-10 and did eventually silent a few non believers. Well, I wait until the Michigan teams did show up against the Buckeyes.
Utah did handle Arizona State 34-18 and is now in a very comforting position in the PAC12 South.
Florida State did silent Louisville 41-21 and is now on paper the only team to stop Clemson.
The upset of the week is Memphis win over Ole Miss. 37-24. Ole Miss was ranked #13 before the game. Fore sure they won't be after that performance.
Notre Dame won against the interims coached USC 41-31. I'm still not buying any national playoffs claims of the Irish, they will need a lot more than that win to get a ticket.
Oklahoma did punish Kansas State 55-0 after their embarrassing loss against Texas. Won't help them too much, but a bit.
Western Michigan beats Ohio 49-10. The Broncos are now the best behind Toledo in their division.
Pittsburgh did win against Georgia Tech 31-28 and is now in good position to play for the division crown.
Colorado State did hand Air Force their 1st loss, winning 38-23.
Miami (Fla.) did win against Virginia Tech 30-20. That HC just manages to survive on a weekend basis.
Virginia did beat Syracuse 44-38 in 3 OTs. That was the 1st ACC win for Virginia.
A huge 4th quarter did lift Rutgers over Indiana 55-52. Indiana so far zero wins in the BIG10, just many close games.
Nebraska got their 1st win the BIG10 against Minnesota, winning 48-25.
The now interims coaches South Carolina did win against Vanderbilt 19-10.
Washington State did win against Oregon State 52-31. Wazzu still in the hunt for the PAC12 North.
Big upset by Wyoming against Nevada. 28-21.
Georgia did beat Missouri in a FG driven game 9-6.

'Til next time
Jack6 on BLOCK OF GRANITE

2015-10-14

FBS - Week 7 Preview

Now there are 6 weeks over and most of the teams had played 5 games or more.
That's half way through the season, more or less.

But the truth is, for most teams it just had began a couple of weeks ago, because even if the national championship hunt is at full speed and of cause all games do count, for the conference championships this is not true.
Teams with 4-0 as a start non conference did lose already a few games and are almost completely out of contention, while they are still on their way to a bowl.
North Carolina is such a team, now at 4-2 and 0-2 in the conference.

Or other teams did start quite bad, but are so far perfect inside the conference, still in the hunt and they still can earn a title.
Louisiana Lafayette and Arkansas State are such team, having 1-0 inside the conference, but 2-3 overall.

I think that's something outsiders don't get their head around, that college football teams do play a season with different goal achievable.

The PAC12 is a fun place this season, because it looks like they might have a typical season, with some teams dominating and some do suffer, but they might become also a quite strange season, where all teams did lose at some point.
It's not clear until the season is over, but at the moment did the big names from the last few seasons stumble, while others do have new live.

If it happens that all teams do lose at some point, they will have a hard time to get into the playoffs, but almost every team might be still in the hunt for the PAC12 championship until season final and also it might happen that they will have a lot of bowl teams.
That would give the conference also reputation and each team an extra game to play for.

On the national scale did the PAC12 reduce their list of potential title teams a bit last gameday, but some other conference had more drop outs.

The so far remaining 1-loss Power5 teams + Independents after week 5 are:

ACC (5 teams)
Clemson Tigers (5-0)
Duke Blue Devils (5-1)
Florida State Seminoles (5-0)
North Carolina Tar Heels (4-1)
Pittsburgh Panthers (4-1)

dropped out:
Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes (3-2), lost to Florida State
North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-2), lost to Virginia Tech
Syracuse Orange (3-2), lost to South Florida

BIG10 (6 teams)
Iowa Hawkeyes (6-0)
Michigan Wolverines (5-1)
Michigan State Spartans (6-0)
Northwestern Wildcats (5-1)
Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0)
Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1)

dropped out:
Illinois Fighting Illini (4-2), lost to Iowa
Indiana Hoosiers (4-2), lost to Penn State

BIG12 (4 teams)
Baylor Bears (5-0)
Oklahoma Sooners (4-1)
Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-0)
TCU Horned Frogs (6-0)

dropped out:
Kansas State Wildcats (3-2), lost to TCU
West Virginia Mountaineers (3-2), lost to Oklahoma State

PAC12 (4 teams)
California Golden Bears (5-1)
Stanford Cardinal (4-1)
UCLA Bruins (4-1)
Utah Utes (5-0)

dropped out:
USC Trojans (3-2), lost to Washington

SEC (6 teams)
Alabama Crimson Tide (5-1)
Florida Gators (6-0)
Kentucky Wildcats (4-1)
LSU Tigers (5-0)
Texas A&M Aggies (5-0)
Ole Miss Rebels (5-1)

dropped out:
Georgia Bulldogs (4-2), lost to Tennessee
Missouri Tigers (4-1), lost to Florida

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

So 10 teams got scratched from that last list and now 26 teams are still in the hunt.
Still too much to have all the remaining games mentioned, but at least does the field get thicker.

Of cause my list of the 10 leading teams had to be updated, again, and this time a had to rethink some teams.

TOP10 teams for the playoff spots (sorted by likeliness)

#1 Baylor Bears
The Bears did destroy Kansas in 1 half and the rest was garbage time.
They are now ranked in the AP polls at #2!
If you show a time traveler from last century that list, he will call you nuts.
Baylor did become something different the past few years and Briles will go into history as one of the best coaches there, ever.
At the moment it's hard to see them stumble.
Mark this date: 21.11. Oklahoma State, on the road. Oklahoma did stumble against Texas last week, and it looked like the Bears will have not a hard time against them at home, so I switched to the road game against the Cowboys, which did sneak into the leadership of the BIG12 at the moment, unbeaten.
It's only because they have played more games at this point, but still, the Cowboys are there and might still be there when Baylor have to play 1 of the toughest games, as it seems.
Next game: West Virginia, at home
Except an unforeseen upset happens, Baylor will not be tested until the November is there.
They are my BIG12 favorite.

#2 Ohio State Buckeyes
They really have a trend to lose sneak under a blanket.
They did beat Maryland, but the Terrapins did not fire their coach out a bad mood, Maryland is not good, this season.
So, no real prove of strength.
Mark that date: 21.11. Michigan State at home. Nothing changed, this might be the division deciding game. But the game after that ("THE GAME", against Michigan) starts to get more an more focus.
Next game: Penn State, at home
Now we have 3 hot teams in the BIG10 and all are in the East division?
Ohio State stays here, but the next few weeks might already change that.

#3 Clemson Tigers
A clear win over Georgia Tech did boost their reputation a bit more and they are at the moment the only ACC team worth a 2nd look.
Mark this date: 07.11. Florida State, at home. So far did FSU escape an upset and they might keep that luck until the Tigers invite them.
Next game: Boston College, at home
At the moment it gets a bit strange in the polls, since all do like to lift Clemson even higher but there are so many other good teams.
They are ranked #5 in the AP, now.

#4 Utah Utes
An impressive win against Cal did lift them high in the AP polls.
With #4 they are huge now and THE story of the season.
I did not lift them higher, because I think Clemson will finish very likely unbeaten, what's not so sure in Utah.
Mark this date: 21.11. UCLA, at home. There are only 4 teams left in the PAC12 for the playoff spots and UCLA is the only team Utah has to play from that list in the future.
Next game: Arizona State, at home
I'm still waiting for the next big upset.

#5 Alabama Crimson Tide
Yes, there are several other SEC teams and they don't get love from me.
But Alabama has to lose to drop in my list and they might do that soon.
Mark this date: 17.10. Texas A&M, on the road. This one looks hot. I will have pick that game later, so no big text here.
Next game: Texas A&M, on the road
The West division does look very potential at the moment.

#6 Michigan State Spartans
The Spartans did beat Rutgers, barely.
Not enough to jump Ohio State in my list and it looks like the Spartans are losing supporters in the AP also.
Now ranked only at #7.
Mark this date: 21.11. Ohio State on the road. Yes everyone is high on next week, but regardless of that one, the Buckeyes game will be the deciding one.
Next game: Michigan, on the road
For the Spartans might the season become a nightmare or a big joy next weekend.

#7 Texas A&M Aggies
So far I'm not willing to jump on the Gators-are-competitors-Bandwagon.
Texas A&M does look much better and after that awful game of Ole Miss do the Aggies getting my attention.
They won last gameday against Mississippi State and it might really become a 2 way race between Alabama and A&M.
I give still the Tide the favorite role and expecting the Aggies to lose the matchup against the Tide.
Mark this date: 17.10. Alabama, at home. This is not the Johnny Football Aggies team, but they might be able to beat the Tide after a BYE. I think they will not.
If they win, the biggest threat is gone, but many test do remain.
Next game: Alabama, at home, after a BYE
The SEC might become a everyone-beats-everyone-league, but that will only be visible in November.

#8 Iowa Hawkeye
I had the Wildcats at that spot, but with my Michigan-Northwestern-pick (see below) it doesn'Â't make sense to have them here any longer.
Iowa is so far unbeaten and has all the chances to win the division. That would be a surprise, but so far no other team did show up to challenge them (With Northwestern losing according my pick).
Iowa did beat Wisconsin last gameday 10-6 and they have still some work to do, but at the moment they have all the tools needed.
Mark this date: 17.10. Northwestern, one the road. If this would be a different, contending team, I would say the rest program is easy. Before the season I would even say the Northwestern game is possible to win (and still is), but that was under the impression to see a mid-level Hawkeyes team playing a mid-level Wildcats team. Now we might see a division deciding game here.
Next game: Illinois, at home
The Hawkeyes could really be the thing this season, it all depends, if they fall apart like they did in the past, or if they can stay focused.

#9 TCU Horned Frogs
Yes they are back and yes there is no 2nd team from the PAC12 and the ACC in this list.
First, why not a PAC12 team?
I see as real contenders from the North division Stanford (1-loss) and Cal (unbeaten), from the South division beside Utah (being #4) I see UCLA and USC (both 1-loss).
I don't think Cal will stay unbeaten for long and all the others are at the moment worse than Northwestern or TCU, at least from my point of view.
I just couldn't point out THAT 2nd best PAC12. At the moment it looks like the PAC12 will eliminate itself from contest by having teams beating each other up.
Second, why not the ACC?
The highest rated team beside Clemson is Florida State, likely the worst unbeaten team so far. I think they will lose sooner or later, more than once.
And then next? Duke, North Carolina, Pitt, Miami or Syracuse? Those teams don't have more chances to get into the playoffs than Northwestern or TCU. For sure.
That might change, but at the moment, if a team would win all from here on, non of the ACC teams would be in.
So, another team, beside the ACC and PAC12.
Northwestern and TCU are unbeaten and even if they did not win with all offensive power, they have better chances to get into the playoffs than other teams.
The lucky game against Texas Tech did TCU drop to the #10 and they will have all the chances to get higher, soon.
Mark this date: 21.11. Oklahoma, on the road. If they really win all games, Oklahoma in Norman will be a tough test, followed by Baylor at home. The Baylor game might become essential, but before that is a win against the Sooners needed.
Next game: Kansas State, on the road
I still think TCU might fall at some point, but I can't name it. They might fall next gameday, or against Oklahoma, or never.

#9 Stanford Cardinals
If that loss against Northwestern would have been a win, I think Stanford would be TOP10 ranked and maybe even ahead of Utah.
But the lost that season opener and have to deal with it.
And they are dealing very well with it, by winning football games.
Mark this date: 15.10. UCLA, at home. This will be 1 of the few real tests the team will face.
Next game: UCLA, at home.
The Cardinals are back in business and could really be a championship game participant in the PAC12.

Dropped out:
Oklahoma Sooners (lost to Texas 17-24 and they looked pretty bad from motivation point of view. Boy, I you can't motivate your team against Texas, something is wrong.)

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

#1 Boise State Broncos
The punished Colorado State 41-10 and did even jump Toledo in the ranks.
At the moment you wonder why they lost that 1 game, but at the end it might not matter, since a spot in the playoffs was always a long shot and it just got a bit longer.
Mark this date: 17.10. Utah State, on the road. Utah State did look good at the weekend, so this might get interesting.
Next game: Utah State, on the road
At the moment they look like a lock for the Mountain West.

#2 Houston Cougars
The Cougars are so good, that their HC is already in discussion for the job openings, which happened Monday.
They won against SMU 49-28 last weekend and got ranked as #24 after that weekend.
Mark this date: 14.11. Memphis, at home. Memphis got almost ranked, elected at #27. If both keep winning, this game might become a ranked vs ranked game.
Next game: Tulane, on the road
If they keep winning, they might even jump Boise on the long term.

#3 Toledo Rockets
Now ranked at #22, the Rockets do keep on winning.
The Rockets did beat Kent State 38-7, so they keep their momentum going.
Mark this date: 17.11. Bowling Green, on the road. Bowling Green is still rocking, so this will be good.
Next game: Eastern Michigan, at home.
Keep on winning!

Dropped out:
none

Now let's have a look at the BLOCK OF GRANITE TOP GAMES FOR WEEK 7

Thurs. Oct. 15 - 10:30 pm ET
#18 UCLA @ #15 Stanford
It's played on Thursday and normally I try to avoid previews on such games, since I'm not sure when I do get the blog entry finished, but this time I had to go for this.
So, here is the Thursday-Special!
Great game, with UCLA trailing in the standings, but strong enough to make an upset, and Stanford ruling the north so far.
Vegas does see Stanford up front with a score and I think that's valid.
UCLA had problems stopping their running game and UCLAs defense is hurting, with many players injured.
Not impossible to win against Stanford, but played in North California and after a bye week (for both teams)?
The Bruins do need a perfect game from their QB.
Stanford will try to eat the clock, will run like hell and UCLA will need to strike quickly.
I doubt that the Bruins can overcome their injuries, so I pick Stanford.
Cardinals win.

Sat. Oct. 17 - 12:00 pm ET
#17 Iowa @ #20 Northwestern
Now what will I do here ...?
Iowa does look good, very good.
But that team had some problems the past few seasons with streaks and keeping them alive.
So my gut says, the Hawkeyes are bound to lose and what would be more fitting to lose against the humiliated Northwestern team on Wildcats home turf?
The bookers do have the Wildcats as underdog, by a field goal.
Not much.
A look into the schedule does not really help, none of their games were really impressive, if you maybe except the Stanford win of Northwestern.
But on season opener can happen very much.
I think that so high praised defense of Northwestern is a bit hyped, but that doesn't matter if the offense would be able to score.
And here comes the biggest question mark.
The Wildcats did score ZERO against Michigan.
Can they score against Iowa?
I think, they might be able to do that, but not enough.
Iowa will control the game, I think. Maybe.
Hawkeyes win.

Sat. Oct. 17 - 3:30 pm ET
#7 Michigan State @ #12 Michigan
Nobody, and that's for sure, did see this game as ranked vs ranked prior the season.
That loss to Utah did proof that Michigan has to catch up a lot.
Well ... not so fast.
Michigan did win since than all games and that last win against Northwestern was a stunner.
On the other hand did the Spartans win ALL games, but not very impressive.
The consequence is, that now Sparty is the underdog in a game they thought would be just a bump in their ride to that Ohio State game.
It's 7 points!
That's huge.
But never the less, who can win here?
Both teams.
Who will win?
Hard to say.
It's in the big house, rivalry game and for sure are both teams motivated.
My guts do favor Michigan, but my head says the Spartans are more mature than the fresh trained Wolverines.
Close game and Sparty wins!

Sat. Oct. 17 - 3:30 pm ET
#10 Alabama @ #9 Texas A&M
This 1 can become an instant classic, or a hype-of-the-season-game.
Alabama did lose 1 time this season so far, against Ole Miss, Texas A&M is unbeaten.
Still, Alabama is the favorite in this game, even on Aggies homefield.
Sumlins Aggies do look good, this season and they could win this.
But never underestimate Sabans Crimson Tide.
Can they rush against A&M, then they will very likely win, because then they have the time controlling tool.
They will have to control that stingy defense of A&M, otherwise they will lose.
Tough pick for me, but I go with Alabama.
Crimson Tide win.

Sat. Oct. 17 - 7:00 pm ET
#8 Florida @ #6 LSU
LSU will probably have a easy game here.
Why?
Floridas QB got suspended because of enhancing drugs misuse and Florida has now a to field the backup.
This is played at LSU, so a hostile environment and a castrated offense?
I can't believe Florida will survive this.
I think the Tigers will run the ball and will stop the Gators and will hold them to very view points.
Tigers win.

'Til next time
Jack6 on BLOCK OF GRANITE

2015-10-13

FBS - Week 6 Review

Prügelknaben (means fall guys)

After week 6 of the 2015 season we have the 1st 3 fired coaches.

The 1st guy was the HC of North Texas.

In my preview for that team I had:
'Dan McCarney is now in his 5th season and 2013 season was great with a 9-4 season and a bowl win.
But 2014 did the team drop to 4-8.
So, was that a recharging or the beginning of the end of the McCarney area?
He had similar up and down seasons on his first HC-gig with the Iowa State Cyclones.
It did cost him his job.'
Well, it didn't take long to decide he had to go.
The final push came after a 66-7 loss against Portland State, a FCS team.
It's not only bad to lose against a FCS team, but 66-7 is so far over the edge that it's no wonder McCarney was gone the last whistle did blow, literally.
Interim coach will be Mike Canales, who did once already served as interims coach for North Texas in 2010, going 2-3 at that season.

The 2nd guy I did not really see coming at that moment.
Maryland did fire their HC after the 49-28 loss against Ohio State.

For the Terrapins I had:
'... His successor (in 2012) at Maryland became Randy Edsall, at that time a long time UConn HC.
He started 2-10 and brought Maryland up to 7-6, including a bowl loss, in 2013, their last season in the ACC.
In 2014 the finished with the same result, just a different bowl and with 1 more win in the conference and 1 less win against non conference teams.'
I had him not on a hot seat.
Granted, Maryland did not look that good so far in the season, with a 2-4 record, but was that enough to fire him.
I think there are plenty of other coaches I would see go 1st, but it happened and Maryland did name Mike Locksley, the OC.

The 3rd guy does not fall into that lose-and-get-fired-category.
USC headcoach Steve Sarkisian did leave the team for an undefined period of time on Monday, stating health problems.
On Tuesday I heard that he was fired by the Athletic Director and Clay Helton, the USC OC, will be interims HC.
Sarkisian had prior the season some bad moments, which did hint an alcohol problem, so it might come down to some therapy for him.
But that's not sure.

And another gone HC, but on his own terms, is South Carolinas Steve Spurrier.
He did announce his retirement on Monday and is gone from the team.
Shawn Elliot, the OC, was named interims HC there.
Spurrier was asked prior the season when he will go and his response, even after the 1st few losses was always: 'I will stay'.
Well, it looks like he did change his mind, somehow.
I don't want to spread rumors, but honestly, I doubt he did wake up on Monday and thought about quitting.
There must have been some talks before that and it might be a nice move of the school to let the great Spurrier get away that way, not being forced to fire him.

You remember by short text regarding depressions?

Hell, I wish the people would be a bit more open with those issues.
Not to have them marked as 'weak', but to make it clear that human beings can not handle all that stress equally and that schools have to give their athletes AND stuff the right environment to deal with it.
At the moment it looks more like 'you can't get it done, you are done ...'.

Back to the gameday.

It had some stunning upsets and lots of surprises.


Now let's have a look at the BLOCK OF GRANITE TOP GAMES FOR WEEK 6

Sat. Oct. 10 - 3:30 pm ET
#13 Northwestern @ #18 Michigan
That one was totally onesided.
It was so onesided, that the country is talking about weather Michigan is the new favorite for the BIG10.
Yes, that might be, but there are at least 2 big games still to play, Michigan State and Ohio State.
Still, Northwestern was finished at the half, trailing 28-0 and did never recover.
One thing is clear, Michigan will be the talk of the season as long as they keep on winning.
Might be until season final (THE GAME, against the Bickeyes) or even beyond.
Northwestern 0 - Michigan 38 -> Jacks Score: 13-8

Sat. Oct. 10 - 3:30 pm ET
Navy @ #15 Notre Dame
Until halftime this was more or less an open game.
Navy was just 3 behind.
Then did Notre Dame adjust and did keep on scoring, while they held Navy to just 3 points in the second half.
It looks like Kelly has that series back on track in Irish favor.
Believe it or not, but that win did impress me more than the close loss to Clemson.
I still don't see Notre Dame in the playoffs, but when they keep on playing that way, a big bowl is worth it.
Navy 24 - Notre Dame 41 -> Jacks Score: 14-8

Sat. Oct. 10 - 3:30 pm ET
Wisconsin @ Nebraska
That must have hurt.
For the Huskers.
Nebraska did take the 21-20 lead late in the 4th but Wisconsin came back and did kick a FG-try about 2 min. to go.
The ball did hit the post and was no good.
Over?
NO!
With 3 and out did Nebraska punt and Wisconsin had less than 1 min. to go.
They went over the field and tried another FG. The kicker did already miss 2! (he also miss one in the 1st half) and this time he barely made it for the Badgers win.
Wisconsin 23 - Nebraska 21 -> Jacks Score: 14-8

Sat. Oct. 10 - 10:00 pm ET
#23 California @ #5 Utah
I had the feeling that Cal was a bit hyped, but the did stay in the game despite 5 picks by their QB.
Normally you would expect a blowout with those turnovers, but until the end it was still an open game.
At the end did Utah win, but I think Cal can still hope for some losses of some other contenders, including Stanford.
This season it looks like everyone can win in the PAC12, sometimes.
California 24 - Utah 30 -> Jacks Score: 15-8

More interesting results:
Washington did beat USC on the road 17-12, which might had some impact on all the USC drama the past few weeks. Sarkisian was Washingtons HC 1 and a half seasons ago.
TCU did beat Kansas State, on the road, 52-45. Granted, if TCU can win all games like this, they will win a national championship, but somehow I doubt a streak of luck of that dimension.
Michigan State did barely beat Rutgers 31-24. Rutgers at the moment under interims coaching, since the HC has to serve a 3 game suspension. He will be back next game.
Texas did beat Oklahoma, at home, 24-17. Oklahoma did basically sleep in the 1st quarter and did lose against a up-to-now bad Texas team.
Florida did best Missouri 21-3, but lost their QB afterwards, because of a doping suspension of 1 year!
Tennessee did win against Georgia 38-31, which does give Georgia a nice tough sliding down the power ranks.
Wake Forest was able to score 1 FG to beat Boston College 3-0.
South Florida bests Syracuse 45-24. Not a good sign for Syracuse, since South Florida is not even a power house in the American Athletic Conference, far from a good team to challenge an ACC team, so why did they lose?
UConn did score plenty in their win over UCF, 40-13. Biggest news here. The HC of UCF was also the interims AD and THAT job did he left, yesterday, staying so far the HC of UCF.
As mentioned did Portland State blast North Texas 66-7. North Texas was a slightly underdog according to Vegas, but not like that!
Washington State did beat Oregon, on the road, 45-38. Oregon looks horrible at the moment and there are rumors of a very hot seat.



'Til next time
Jack6 on BLOCK OF GRANITE

2015-10-07

FBS - Week 6 Preview

Sometimes I would like to hear the inner conflicts of football coaches, especially college Football coaches.

The next few lines are true for every sports, but Football is for me the most fun sport to watch, so I stick with them.

Imagine you are a coach, got yourself a heachcoach job and did fine.
You did teach the kids the sport, encourage them to grow and to flourish in the sport and hopefully also in live and you know you are doing OK.
At some point you get the opportunity to get a new HC job, with better wages and higher expectations, more chances for more respect and higher reputation.
Self-confident as you are you take the job and start the process of changing the team according to your strategy, your long-term goals and the kids do adjust.
All fine, but the success on the field is not there.
You know you are doing a good job, also your staff is doing a fine job, but somehow the teaching does not result in wins.

Why?

Are the other teams better?
Is your system, your knowledge, your preparation maybe on a level inferior to the level of other coaches? Suddenly?
Do the kids not get the stuff you are coaching?
Or are they just over confident and lost the inner strength to fight for a win?
Lost concentration?

That's what I mean. What does a coach like Charlie Strong (of Texas) think at the moment?
A Steve Spurrier (of South Carolina) or Butch Jones (of Tennessee)?

Are they thinking over such questions or are they so focused on the next game they might oversee essential deficits you only see with a step back?

The last gameday was brutal for some coaches. Coaches who had good success at some schools, but now have to face the possibility to have a bad season, maybe getting paid holidays until the rest of their contract time (called fired) or getting hate mails from fans against the coach and even his family. Football fans can be nice, but they can also be … rude.
Those coaches do get paid well, no doubt, but that doesn't mean anything if the job does destroy your mental balance, your security or your family.
Unfortunately you can't find much about the topic "depression" on coaches.
There have to be some, but how many, I was not able to get any numbers on.

So far we did not see a coach getting the axe, except Tim Beckmans firing 1 week prior the 1st game because of "accusations of gross player mistreatment".
I'm curious to see, which coach will really get the pink slip as the 1st one.
Maybe you know it, there is a webpage with just that focus, ranking all 125 coaches with Purdues HC being at #1 at the moment.

Well, firing is the one part of the sports business and celebrating is the other one.
Some teams had more than enough to celebrate last gameday and I will try to give quick overlook of my updated playoff contenders.

The so far remaining 1-loss Power5 teams + Independents after week 5 are:

ACC (8 teams)
Clemson Tigers (4-0)
Duke Blue Devils (4-1)
Florida State Seminoles (4-0)
Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes (3-1)
North Carolina Tar Heels (4-1)
North Carolina State Wolfpack (4-1)
Pittsburgh Panthers (3-1)
Syracuse Orange (3-1)

dropped out:
Boston College Eagles (3-2), lost to Duke

BIG10 (8 teams)
Illinois Fighting Illini (4-1)
Indiana Hoosiers (4-1)
Iowa Hawkeyes (5-0)
Michigan Wolverines (4-1)
Michigan State Spartans (5-0)
Northwestern Wildcats (5-0)
Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0)
Penn State Nittany Lions (4-1)

dropped out:
Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-2), lost to Northwestern
Wisconsin Badgers (3-2), lost to Iowa

BIG12 (6 teams)
Baylor Bears (4-0)
Kansas State Wildcats (3-1)
Oklahoma Sooners (4-0)
Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-0)
TCU Horned Frogs (5-0)
West Virginia Mountaineers (3-1)

dropped out:
Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-2)

PAC12 (5 teams)
California Golden Bears (5-0)
Stanford Cardinal (4-1)
UCLA Bruins (4-1)
USC Trojans (3-1)
Utah Utes (4-0)

dropped out:
Arizona Wildcats (3-2), lost to Stanford
Colorado Buffaloes (3-2), lost to Oregon
Washington State Cougars (2-2), lost to Cal

SEC (8 teams)
Alabama Crimson Tide (4-1)
Florida Gators (5-0)
Georgia Bulldogs (4-1)
Kentucky Wildcats (4-1)
LSU Tigers (4-0)
Missouri Tigers (4-1)
Texas A&M Aggies (5-0)
Ole Miss Rebels (4-1)

dropped out:
Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-2), lost to Texas A&M

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

So 8 teams lost out of the last list and now 36 teams are still in the hunt.
Many of them will play against each other during the season, put at the moment it doesn't make sense to point those games out in total.
Before I do that, when the field has shrinked a bit more.

Of cause my list of the 10 leading teams had to be updated after that great weekend.

TOP10 teams for the playoff spots (sorted by likeliness)

#1 Baylor Bears
Baylor did everything right so far and did show great potential.
Out cause is every game different, but the Bears do look like an unstoppable force so far.
That 63-35 win against Texas Tech did show that this team is out to play for a spot in the playoffs and don't want to get left out again.
They jumped in my list the underperforming Ohio State and did rightful get the top spot.
Mark this date: 14.11. Oklahoma, at home. With the win against West Virginia did Oklahoma show that they will very likely be the team to beat for a conference championship.
Next game: Kansas, on the road
Except an unforeseen upset happens, Baylor will not be tested until the November is there.
They are my BIG12 favorite.

#2 Ohio State Buckeyes
They almost stumbled over Indiana, which is not really known for very good football.
The 34-27 win is enough to get the 'W', but far from enough to secure the #1 spot.
The nation and I are asking themselves, if really Ohio State will be the team to win that division or the conference.
Mark that date: 21.11. Michigan State at home. Nothing changed, this might be the division deciding game.
Next game: Maryland, at home
I was tempted to put the Spartans here, but so far reputation gives them enough to stay in the BIG10 favorite spot.
Still, they are sliding down.

#3 Clemson Tigers
This might change over the season, if it will get clearer weather a PAC12 or SEC team stays perfect, but at the moment this looks unlikely and so does Clemson grab the #3 spot.
They won against Notre Dame 24-22 and did almost lose again in the final minutes.
By avoiding that meltdown they look like the lock for at least the ACC Championship game, and for now it looks likely they will win all remaining games.
Mark this date: 07.11. Florida State, at home. The Division might get down to this and I have to admit I did not see FSU that strong. So far they are good and Clemson will have to play 100% here.
Next game: Georgia Tech, at home
My guts are still convinced that the ACC will suck in a playoff game, but I can't help it, if the Tigers stay perfect, they will earn that spot.

#4 Utah Utes
Ha!
Utah did not play and did rise in the ranks.
Yes they did.
The PAC12 did cut 3 contenders from their list, all by themselves, and NOT playing did secure the great impression from that Oregon game we had from Utah.
Is that enough to win the conference?
Maybe, maybe not.
The scenarios are clear. If all teams of the PAC12 remaining get beaten during the season, the PAC12 champ will drop and might get the #5 spot or worse.
If a team can win all games, they are in and Utah is as valid as all other unbeaten teams.
Mark this date: 21.11. UCLA, at home. OK, UCLA did lose, but they are just 1 win behind so far and can still turn the contest in their favor.
This game will be crucial, if not 1 or both teams do fall apart.
Next game: Cal, at home
The more I see from the PAC12, the more I'm sure that we might not see a perfect team at the end of the season.
The main question will be, weather a 1-loss team will get a playoff spot or not.

#5 Alabama Crimson Tide
Oh get out of the house! You might say….
There is LSU, Florida and Texas A&M still unbeaten, so why are the damn Elephants again in the top spot of the SEC?
Because they are the Saban-Elephants and as long as they don't lose a 2nd time, they are my favorite, again.
They did kill Georgia 38-10 and I think that loss will have bigger impact on Georgia than we might think at the moment.
They might still win their division and will then maybe face Alabama again, but at the moment I doubt a division title.
For Alabama it is crucial to stay focused and get the next few big games done.
Mark this date: 17.10. Texas A&M, on the road. As good all other SEC teams on the Tide schedule might be, for now does that road game against the Aggies do look like the next BIG game. They will play LSU at home and Auburn looks not in good shape.
Next game: Arkansas, at home
I'm still sure that the West will bring in the SEC Champ, but that might become a slightly tarnished one.

#6 Michigan State Spartans
MSU did beat Purdue just by 3 points, 24-21.
Not really a statement, but so far they did win.
It will be interesting to see them playing against the better teams.
Mark this date: 21.11. Ohio State on the road. The remaining strong BIG10 teams are hard to figure out and so far is the Buckeyes game the most likely toughest one.
Next game: Rutger, on the road
The Spartans are at the moment quite high in the AP polls, but might rise or fall quickly, if the next few BIG10 games might get closer than expected.

#7 Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners did win big against West Virginia (44-24) and are now in a good position to control the BIG12.
They do look very stable and might be the 2nd best team in the conference.
Mark this date: 14.11. Baylor, on the road. If all things go smoothly, that Baylor game will be the clash of the BIG12-titans.
Next game: Texas, at home
With Bob Stoops I do always wait for the letdown, but so far did the Sooners play strong. I think they will have their problems with Baylor, but beside that they are my 2nd team from the BIG12.

#8 Texas A&M Aggies
So far I'm not willing to jump on the Gators-are-competitors-Bandwagon.
Texas A&M does look much better and after that awful game of Ole Miss do the Aggies getting my attention.
They won last gameday against Mississippi State and it might really become a 2 way race between Alabama and A&M.
I give still the Tide the favorite role and expecting the Aggies to lose the matchup against the Tide.
Mark this date: 17.10. Alabama, at home. This is not the Johnny Football Aggies team, but they might be able to beat the Tide after a BYE. I think they will not.
If they win, the biggest threat is gone, but many test do remain.
Next game: Alabama, at home, after a BYE
The SEC might become a everyone-beats-everyone-league, but that will only be visible in November.

#9 Iowa Hawkeye
I had the Wildcats at that spot, but with my Michigan-Northwestern-pick (see below) it doesn’t make sense to have them here any longer.
Iowa is so far unbeaten and has all the chances to win the division. That would be a surprise, but so far no other team did show up to challenge them (With Northwestern losing according my pick).
Iowa did beat Wisconsin last gameday 10-6 and they have still some work to do, but at the moment they have all the tools needed.
Mark this date: 17.10. Northwestern, one the road. If this would be a different, contending team, I would say the rest program is easy. Before the season I would even say the Northwestern game is possible to win (and still is), but that was under the impression to see a mid-level Hawkeyes team playing a mid-level Wildcats team. Now we might see a division deciding game here.
Next game: Illinois, at home
The Hawkeyes could really be the thing this season, it all depends, if they fall apart like they did in the past, or if they can stay focused.

#10 TCU Horned Frogs
Yes they are back and yes there is no 2nd team from the PAC12 and the ACC in this list.
First, why not a PAC12 team?
I see as real contenders from the North division Stanford (1-loss) and Cal (unbeaten), from the South division beside Utah (being #4) I see UCLA and USC (both 1-loss).
I don't think Cal will stay unbeaten for long and all the others are at the moment worse than Northwestern or TCU, at least from my point of view.
I just couldn't point out THAT 2nd best PAC12. At the moment it looks like the PAC12 will eliminate itself from contest by having teams beating each other up.
Second, why not the ACC?
The highest rated team beside Clemson is Florida State, likely the worst unbeaten team so far. I think they will lose sooner or later, more than once.
And then next? Duke, North Carolina, Pitt, Miami or Syracuse? Those teams don't have more chances to get into the playoffs than Northwestern or TCU. For sure.
That might change, but at the moment, if a team would win all from here on, non of the ACC teams would be in.
So, another team, beside the ACC and PAC12.
Northwestern and TCU are unbeaten and even if they did not win with all offensive power, they have better chances to get into the playoffs than other teams.
The lucky game against Texas Tech did TCU drop to the #10 and they will have all the chances to get higher, soon.
Mark this date: 21.11. Oklahoma, on the road. If they really win all games, Oklahoma in Norman will be a tough test, followed by Baylor at home. The Baylor game might become essential, but before that is a win against the Sooners needed.
Next game: Kansas State, on the road
I still think TCU might fall at some point, but I can't name it. They might fall next gameday, or against Oklahoma, or never.

Dropped out:
Georgia Bulldogs (lost to Alabama 10-38 and that does question a lot. They might return, but for now they are toast.)
UCLA Bruins (lost to Arizona State 23-38, which does raise some big questions regarding their next few games. I still think they are good team, but they might need a more matured QB to keep the level of playing quality. I think they will drop another game at some point.)
Ole Miss Rebels (lost to Florida 10-38 (not a good week to get 38 points ...) and they didn't even look like contenders anymore. Now it's time to ask, how many games they will lose that way, and how many games will they win the way they beat Alabama. I think they will not always win, hence they dropped out.)

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

#1 Boise State Broncos
A storming 55-0 win over Hawai'i did bring the Broncos back into the ranks at #25.
Is that enough to make the playoffs? No?
Getting a big bowl? If they keep on winning, yes.
They have a much better schedule than at the moment higher ranked Toledo, which is for now the highest non-power-5-team at #24.
I think they would jump Toledo at some point.
Mark this date: 17.10. Utah State, on the road. I switched to that game, because Utah State looks more competitive at the moment.
Next game: Colorado State, on the road
At the moment they look like a lock for the Mountain West.

#2 Houston Cougars
The Cougars did win some games so far and that win against Louisville will be very likely be worth much more over the season.
The remaining schedule is very nice, they might get bye that without a loss, which I see as a must to overcome the Broncos.
Mark this date: 14.11. Memphis, at home. Memphis is hot at the moment and this will very likely be one of the deciding games for the division and conference.
Next game: SMU, at home
The AAC should better bring an unbeaten Champ to the bowl table and Houston has all the tools to do so.

#3 Toledo Rockets
Toledo might win all remaining games, but would they really end up better than Boise State?
I'm not sure and so far I think they will not.
Mark this date: 17.11. Bowling Green, on the road. Switched to this game, since NIU might be not in shape and BG looks better, for now.
Next game: Kent State, at home.
The MAC-Champ would maybe get a rank, if he stays unbeaten. Toledo has 2 big wins to boost that.

Dropped out:
Temple Owls (did win against Charlotte, but overall did they not win THAT big and over the season they do have some hard opponents, which will make it hard for them to stay unbeaten.)

Now let's have a look at the BLOCK OF GRANITE TOP GAMES FOR WEEK 6

Sat. Oct. 10 - 3:30 pm ET
#13 Northwestern @ #18 Michigan
Who would have guessed that the 2 hottest games on gameday 6 would be Cal @ Utah (see below) and Northwestern @ Michigan?
All other top 25 teams do play much less interesting games, if you are not a fan of the specific team.
On the global scale are this 2 games the only 2 with both teams in the TOP25.
The winners will survive, the losers will at least drop a few spots, maybe will drop out of the rankings.
What do we have here?
Northwestern has one of the finest defenses in the country as has Michigan, so don't expect many points.
Michigan did lose one of their key defenders, but if that's enough to make them soft, I don't know.
The main problem will probably be the offense side.
Northwestern is more ground based, while Michigan is mixing the things up.
But Michigan was so far very good in stopping run and pass, while Northwestern had some problems with the passing.
Here is my take on this.
Given the circumstances in the big house, Northwestern will face a tough test and it will define their season.
If they can really win here, make room for the championship game, because then they are ready to get there.
But overall I think they will have problems.
A rushing attack against a fine defense is a major con if you are trailing late in the game, and I think they will trail.
Vegas has Michigan as an 8 point favorite at the moment.
That's a lot in a defense game.
I think overall will the margin be even bigger, because if you need to make plays at the end of the game, errors can happen and that will be punished.
It's the big house, with 107.000 fans and Northwestern has a Freshman as QB.
As much as I would like to see Northwestern doing this stunt and win the game, I don't see them winning.
Michigan will win.

Sat. Oct. 10 - 3:30 pm ET
Navy @ #15 Notre Dame
Notre Dame host Navy on their annual rivalry game.
Prior to 2007 did Navy lose that game every season since 1964!
In 2007 did Navy then win in 3OT and did also win in 2009 and 2010.
The 2007 and 2009 season were under Charlie Weis, 2010 was Brian Kellys 1st season with the Irish.
Since then did Notre Dame win each year.
Last season this was a quite high scoring game with a final score of 49-39.
This season we have a ranked Notre Dame team facing a not so far ranked Navy team, even if they are unbeaten yet.
Notre Dame lost last week against Clemson and did so far play some nice games.
Navy did beat Air Force and is adjusting this season to the American Athletic conference, with the chance to win it.
Vegas is giving the Irish a 14.5 point favorite spot, which is huge.
They did beat a Georgia Tech by 8 points, which does field a similar offense like Navy.
But this is a different game and a different team.
I did not find many which see Navy as the winner, but not many did believe in the 14.5 points spread.
Expect a close game and we will see, how Notre Dame is able to swallow that crucial loss against Clemson.
Irish win, but it will be hard.

Sat. Oct. 10 - 3:30 pm ET
Wisconsin @ Nebraska
I had that game scripted as the deciding game for their division.
Now it looks like both teams might be irrelevant for the division title.
For sure will the loser fall very far behind in the race and will very likely be irrelevant (as much as a team can be irrelevant playing in the same division) for the division title.
The winner can hope for the next few games and might get back on track.
Both teams do have a lot of talent and it looks like both teams are underperforming.
Wisconsin did not only lose their opener to Alabama, they also lost to Iowa last week.
For Nebraska it’s even worse, losing 3 times, against BYU, Miami and Illinois.
Reading those results it's strange that Nebraska is still the favorite in that game, even it's only 1.5 points.
I see Wisconsin at the moment a bit better adjusting to their new coach than the Huskers do with their new HC.
Enough to win this game?
I think so.
Playing in Nebraska is never easy, but BYU did win (even only on a hail mary) and Wisconsin for sure better suited to play the Huskers.
I pick the Badgers as winners.

Sat. Oct. 10 - 10:00 pm ET
#23 California @ #5 Utah
This one is the TOP game of the week, at least for me.
It's Cals chance to stop the chat about overrated and it's Utahs chance to justify 7 1st-place votes in last AP-poll.
The loser will not automatically be out of contention, but will have a hard time, especially Cal.
If they would win the PAC12, it's possible they would be left out of the playoffs.
Utah is the clear favorite with a TD spread and we will very likely see an exciting game.
Nobody has seen this game as national television game and THAT relevant for the PAC12.
Now it is.
Cal did win against Washington State last week, Utah did not play, but their incredible win against Oregon is still present.
Again did no journalist pick the underdog to win.
So do like to see a close game and picked Cal against the spread, but who are we kidding?
Utah looks like a prime contender, and Cal did get their wins in close games against Washington State, Washington, Texas, San Diego State and Grambling.
Close game? No, I don't think so.
Yes, Cal might get this done (which would give a surprise like Utahs win over Oregon), but I don't think it will happen.
My pick is Utah by double digits.

'Til next time
Jack6 on BLOCK OF GRANITE