NCAA Playoff Favorites? The Reality: Still Waiting
It's only Week 5, but Florida State is lucky that this is the first year of playoff football.
The Seminoles' struggles in their past two games are a sign they wouldn't make a BCS top two under the old system at season's end.
Oregon, Alabama, and Oklahoma could be feeling the same way. None have been overly impressive against quality competition.
Yesterday, Florida State fell behind on the road to a mediocre North Carolina State team, 24-7, before rallying to win, 56-41.
Jameis Winston did throw for 365 yard and four touchdowns but suffered two interceptions. This is two weeks in a row that the Noles had to rally, and even though Winston didn't play last week, the red flag has gone up in Tallahassee.
Florida State does have one thing going for it: the schedule. The Seminoles will have a scrimmage this week against Wake Forest and will ka-rush Syracuse the week after. Nôtre Dame travels to Tallahassee on Sat 18 Oct, at which time we'll see if the Irish can maintain their 30-points-per-game scoring average.
Other than that, Louisville and Miami are on the docket, but it still doesn't compare to the nine-game Pac-12 schedule that Oregon plays or, at this point, even the SEC schedule that's still laced with patsies for Auburn (Samford; really?) and Alabama (West Carolina; no shame!).
If the Seminoles slip up or don't start playing better, who's in line to knock them out of the playoff picture?
Alabama has only played one quasi-bona fidé opponent, and that was West Virginia at a neutral site. Those would be the same Mountaineers that Oklahoma handled in Morgantown, albeit not without a bit of bother. Mississippi is waiting for the Crimson Tide this weekend. After discovering the same thing UCLA did about Memphis -- the Rebels only led 7-3 at halftime -- Ole Miss put aside thinking about 'Bama for a half but now has returned its focus to hosting its conference foe.
How tight is the Pac-12? Oregon is last among the dozen in team defense. The Ducks are beyond lucky Stanford managed to lose a game against USC that it dominated everywhere except on the scoreboard, but the Cardinal has indicated it could actually be the team to beat in the North after going into Seattle and edging a tough Washington squad.
However, it's UCLA that's shown the most ability to date in all aspects of the game. So far this season, the Bruins have won with defense (at Virginia), back-ups (at Texas) and a return game (accounting for 14 of its 62 points against Arizona State), not to mention while looking ahead (Memphis).
Oklahoma has a manageable schedule and, like UCLA, has shown all-around proficiency in the early going. The Sooners also have one of the more unique newcomers of the season. His uniform number should be M1A1/2.
Texas A&M escaped Arkansas yesterday, and showed it has work to do against the run. What's more, it's looking like that victory over South Carolina was more pedestrian than the hype proclaimed. The Razorbacks have lost 14 SEC games in a row, incidentally.
Yeah right, Kevin. There's a presidential campaign out there somewhere that needs you.
Baylor is both unbeaten and un-respected. Given the Bears' early schedule, deservedly so. It may be that way until the rubber meets the road on Sat 8 Nov in Norman. Auburn played a part in Kansas State's implosion, but the Wildcats solved Gus Malzahn's offensive schemes with players who, on the whole, aren't as talented as the Tigers will find in their upcoming opponents.
Nôtre Dame is interesting. The Irish have come out of nowhere -- almost like re-instated QB Everett Golson -- to move into the picture. The Irish consistently play a respectable schedule, and wins over Florida State, Stanford, and USC would in all likelihood propel them into the playoffs. Easier said than done, though.
In college football, September is for observations, October is for adjustments, and November is for truth. As this month draws to a close, it appears quality losses will dot the leaders' landscape. It'll be down to the CFP Selection Committee to reward the bold. In that respect, Michigan State may still have hope.