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

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