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

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