Updating the College Football Playoff Picture After Week Three
This season, college football is proving itself to be anything but predictable. We’re only three weeks in, and we’ve already seen a huge amount of shocks, upsets and surprises that even the most knowledgeable experts couldn’t have predicted. The Heisman trophy race has already taken some crazy turns, while the competition for the playoffs is heating up with some unexpected contenders making their mark. In this article, we’ll take a look for the various conferences and see which teams are set to lose out on the playoffs, as well as investigating those surprising packages that could be in with a shot at success in 2016.
Let’s start with the ACC where Florida State fans can wave goodbye to their chances of reaching the top four. The team was absolutely demolished by a score of 63-20 thanks to a Lamar Jackson-inspired Louisville squad. The Seminoles aren’t completely out of the running, but right now they simply do not look like a good enough team to make the championship game. They’ll also be revealing on other teams losing in order to have any chance of success, so it’s looking pretty grim for them right now.
Speaking of Louisville, few people were predicting such an incredible push from the Cardinals. Lamar Jackson has been the standout performer, leading his team in that brilliant 63-20 win with 4 rushing TDs and an extra passing score. Before the season began, Louisville was looked out as an outside. Now, the tables have turned and the Cardinals are showing they should not be taken so lightly.
Contenders: Louisville and Clemson
Moving onto the Big 12, where no team is really managing to stand out. Of course, we’re only three weeks in, but already it’s clear to see that things aren’t looking great right now. The conference’s big two teams, Oklahoma and Texas, lost their latest games. Nothing is written in stone just yet and the next couple of weeks could hold even more surprises in store for us, but based on what we’ve seen so far, the major playoff contenders will be coming from other conferences. ‘
It’s too soon to eliminate anyone here. TCU’s loss isn’t bad enough to knock them out of contention, and if either Texas or Oklahoma run the table, they will certainly deserve some consideration. At the moment, Baylor and West Virginia are undefeated but certainly don’t have a quality win on their resumes.
Contenders: Baylor … ?
For the Big Ten, Iowa are the latest big losers. The Hawkeyes got beat by North Dakota and that just isn’t good. The Bison have a great record over FBS opponents and so the result isn’t as big of a shock as it might seem, but it’s still not good when you’re losing to unranked teams. Iowa will have suffered some tough scars from that loss, and it might take a little while for the squad to recover.
There is some positive news though for Michigan State. The Spartans went into this season without a whole lot of pressure on their backs and seem to be doing well in such a relaxed atmosphere. The team has managed to get a non-conference win and has a fairly easy schedule, with home games against Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State still to come. The playoffs are more than a possibility for this squad, as long as they can keep working hard and playing the same way.
Contenders: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska
Obviously, when it comes to the Pac-12, we need to talk about the Trojans. USC has had a nightmarish season so far, falling to a 1-2 record for the first time in over 15 years! For whatever reason, the Trojans simply look incapable of picking themselves up and getting back on track. Their two losses were particularly heavy and new coach Clay Helton has got a big job ahead of him to sort this mess out. An on-the-road game against Utah is on the way and USC don’t look like they deserve to be called the favorites.
Fortunately for the Pac-12, Stanford continues to be a solid footballing force. The team had a fine season in 2015 and has been one of the few outfits to continue that sort of form into the new year. The latest win over USB was a good one, but there are some trickier games coming up, particularly those trips to Washington and Notre Dame. Can Stanford stay in the running for a playoff spot? Time will tell.
Contenders: Washington and Stanford
Let’s be honest, the Rebels aren’t mathematically out of the picture, but it’s very hard for anyone to argue that Ole Miss will be making the playoffs this year. The loss to Florida State was a warning sign, but the latest defeat against Alabama confirmed fans’ fears and put the team in a real negative spiral. The Rebels were actually leading that game by 21 points and still managed to lose. Technically, if they win all of their remaining games while the Crimson Tide loses a couple, the Rebels could still have a shot at glory. But it’s a long shot.
Once again, the often underrated Aggies are proving that they deserve a bit more respect. They began the season in fine fashion and have kept on going to record a perfect 3-0 start. That said, the Aggies did need to rely on field goal points to win the game against Auburn and do need to see a bit more action from their offensive players if they really want to claim the SEC crown. Still, nobody can argue against the fact that Texas A&M is one of only three undefeated teams in the SEC.
Contenders: Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Texas A&M
Non-Power 5 Contenders
Now let’s talk about Notre Dame. Once again, it isn’t completely impossible for the Fighting Irish to sort things out, but a 1-2 record before the end of summer just isn’t good enough. The independent nature of the team is proving to be a double-edged sword and Notre Dame fans will have expected better going into the 2016 season. Ideally, the team needed to make it to the playoffs with a maximum of one loss. They’ve already got two, so things aren’t looking great.
Finally, to end on a positive note, let’s look at the Houston Cougars. With a 3-0 record, Houston is looking great right now.
The team seemed to be struggling against Cincinnati but kept on fighting and earned themselves another fine victory to preserve their undefeated start to the season. The Cougars will want to keep on winning and keep themselves in contention for a playoff place. If what we’ve seen so far is anything to go by, they deserve to be optimistic.
Contenders: Houston, Notre Dame, Boise State