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

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