Somehow, Ohio State escaped. And then Penn State’s James Franklin talked about the fine line between “great” programs (his) and “elite” (Ohio State). He’s not wrong, as far as it goes. But the biggest and best matchup of the season so far resulted in a superb thriller. The Buckeyes won, and Franklin is correct – they’re elite – but they’ve got some flaws.
Meanwhile, Penn State remains in the mix for the Football Four. But not this week, sorry. And then there’s always Alabama, which leads the Football Four after Week 5. As always, remember we pick the playoff bracket as if the season was over.*
1. Alabama – Nothing changes here. Against Louisiana-Lafayette, did you expect it to? But regardless of opponent the Crimson Tide’s romp continues with no sign of slowing down, much less stopping.
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2. Ohio State – Against the biggest challenge any contender has faced, the Buckeyes teetered on the verge of a loss – and then roared back in the final minutes to win. Dwayne Haskins looked rattled by Penn State. But he just kept feeding the ball to a variety of game-breakers. Finally, they did.
WORK TO DO: Ohio State is very good but not good enough to win national title
3. Georgia – The final score looks nice, but Tennessee pushed Georgia. It’s how a rivalry should be, but still somewhat surprising. Yeah, we’re nitpicking – but that’s the standard, and projecting way down the road, a semi-soft schedule might require style points.
4. Clemson – Phew. The Tigers escaped Syracuse with a touchdown in the final minute – a 94-yard drive led by a quarterback who was third-team five minutes ago. After new starter Trevor Lawrence went down with concussion-like symptoms – and with old starter Kelly Bryant no longer on the team – Chase Brice was Clemson’s hope. The Tigers have to hope Lawrence can stay healthy – but there were larger issues, too, as Syracuse almost pulled off the upset for the second consecutive season.
Four More **
5. Oklahoma – How’s this line for a backup quarterback: 17-21, 432 yards and six touchdowns? OK, trick question. Kyler Murray was benched for the first series because he was late to a practice. He also ran for a touchdown, leading Oklahoma’s offense to another huge day. Keep an eye on the defense, which might be developing a tendency for costly lapses. Next up, for a Red River shootout with actual high stakes.
6. Notre Dame – With new QB Ian Book, the Irish suddenly have a dynamic offense – and legitimate playoff hopes. If they keep winning, the conversation will make fans of other contenders (and conferences) very uneasy.
GOOD BOOK: With new quarterback, Notre Dame has the look of playoff contender
7. LSU – No issues with a rout of Ole Miss at home. But things are about to get a lot tougher: At Florida this week, then Georgia in Death Valley the next.
8. Penn State – The Nittany Lions were better than Ohio State on Saturday but couldn’t close out the Buckeyes. And what was that play call on fourth-and-5? Even after the setback, they’re very much alive.
A Few More After That ***
West Virginia – It’s time to start paying attention to Will Grier and the Mountaineers, who’re emerging as the chief contender to Oklahoma in the Big 12 – and possibly for more.
Auburn – The defense is terrific. But it is past time to sound the alarms about the offense. ALERT! ALERT!
Washington – Blowing out a ranked BYU team (which, you might recall, popped Wisconsin) is a credibility-builder for a team (and a league) that needs it.
Central Florida – After a blowout of Pittsburgh, the streak is 17 consecutive now. The Knights continue to lay a claim as the Group of Five’s best program … and they’d like to talk with you about the playoff. They might look back on the canceled game with North Carolina as extremely damaging to those hopes.
Kentucky – The SEC East’s next-best team (after Georgia)? Yup – and don’t blame the Wildcats if they dream of removing “next-“ and “(after Georgia)” from that sentence.
Oregon – The Ducks rebounded from that heartbreaking loss to Stanford by rolling to a win at California. Justin Herbert and the Ducks can make their case in two weeks, when Washington visits Eugene.
Michigan – The Wolverines rallied from a 17-0 deficit to nip Northwestern. What to make of it? They remain viable in the Big Ten East race, anyway.
Texas – The season-opening loss to Maryland grows more inexplicable by the week. The Longhorns are 4-1 – their first four-game winning streak since 2013, Mack Brown’s last season as coach – heading into Dallas with hopes of taking down Oklahoma.
Futile Four ****
Mississippi State – Remember when Mississippi State was the chic pick to be dangerous to the SEC’s powers? Never mind. Former coach Dan Mullen came back to town and handed the Bulldogs their second consecutive loss. That’s two weeks in a row Mississippi State’s offense struggled to muster anything at all. Ugh(-ly).
Louisville – How to cough up a win: Up three under two minutes, Jawon Pass was intercepted – why were the Cardinals throwing? – and Florida State took advantage of an unexpected opportunity. With very little offense, Louisville is 0-3 against Power Five opponents.
Nebraska – “I appreciate the fans here so much, because I walk out of that tunnel at 0-3 and little kids still want to slap our hands. And people are saying, ‘You’ll get ‘em going, coach.’ And we will. It’s going to happen.” – Scott Frost, only now the Huskers are 0-4.
UCLA – Time to start searching the remaining schedule for wins. Sorry, we meant win. … Still searching. Chip Kelly will get UCLA turned around, but this season is shaping up as an absolute disaster.
* The season is not over.
** Don’t be worried that your team sits just outside the cut. This is a weekly snapshot. And what do we know, anyway?
*** See the previous note, but it’s OK to be slightly concerned or very angry. But what do we know, anyway?
**** No note necessary
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