The Washington Huskies and Texas A&M Aggies are making this awfully interesting.
For now, though, we’re still sticking with our gut instincts while making selections for the College Football Playoff.
It should be the best overall package, the most impressive body of work. We like our four teams, but it will be subject to change.
On a weekly basis.
There are still 11 unbeaten teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision — and plenty of excellent one-loss squads — so we’re a long way from settling this issue.
My current favorites:
No. 1: ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
So Far: 6-0 (defeated Arkansas 49-30; opened the season by defeating USC 52-6, Western Kentucky 38-10, Ole Miss 48-43, Kent State 48-0 and Kentucky 34-6).
Synopsis: The Crimson Tide has endured only one serious test so far — their comeback against Ole Miss — and they continue to impress against SEC competition. Against Arkansas, freshman QB Jalen Hurts accounted for four touchdowns and defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick had a 100-yard interception return, Alabama’s 10th non-offensive score this season. Alabama is No. 1 for a reason.
Who’s Next: The Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0 SEC) travels to Tennessee (5-1, 2-1), which lost a riveting 45-38 double-overtime decision at Texas A&M. This series has been lopsided with Alabama winning nine straight games (by an average margin of 21 points). Don’t be surprised if Alabama-Tennessee is an SEC Championship Game preview.
No. 2: OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
So Far: 5-0 (defeated Indiana 38-17; opened the season by defeating Bowling Green 77-10, Tulsa 48-3, Oklahoma 45-24 and Rutgers 58-0).
Synopsis: The Buckeyes are 5-0 for the fourth time in Coach Urban Meyer’s five seasons. It was the 22nd consecutive win against the Indiana Hoosiers. Sounds like ho-hum, right? But Indiana has a formidable offense and Ohio State’s defense stepped up big time on a relatively off-day for the Buckeye offense.
Who’s Next: Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) travels to Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1) for a prime-time game. The Badgers are seeking their third victory this season against a top-10 team (they also beat LSU and Michigan State). The last Ohio State-Wisconsin meeting was memorable. The Buckeyes prevailed 59-0 in the 2014 Big Ten Conference Championship Game. Since 1995, the Buckeyes are 5-2 in Madison, including a 21-14 victory in 2012 (Urban Meyer’s first season with Ohio State).
No. 3: CLEMSON TIGERS
So Far: 6-0 (defeated Boston College 56-10; opened the season by defeating Auburn 19-13, Troy 30-20, South Carolina State 59-0, Georgia Tech 26-7 and Louisville 42-36).
Synopsis: The Tigers were largely disparaged in September, but they seem to be hitting a higher gear in October. Tiger QB Deshaun Watson has put together very strong back-to-back games, and Clemson’s offense is difficult to contain. The issue, as predicted, will be how well Clemson’s defense plays in the big games.
Who’s Next: Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) hosts N.C. State (4-1, 1-0) on Saturday. The Wolfpack defeated fast-sinking Notre Dame 10-3 in torrential rain conditions. Clemson has won 11 of the last 12 meetings, including last season’s 56-41 victory, when the teams combined for 1,011 yards of offense.
No. 4: MICHIGAN WOLVERINES
So Far: 6-0 (defeated Rutgers 78-0; opened the season by defeating Hawaii 63-3, UCF 51-14, Colorado 45-28, Penn State 49-10 and Wisconsin 14-7).
Synopsis: Michigan’s game against Rutgers was like watching someone pluck the wings off a fly. It was 78-0 — and could’ve been worse — with Michigan outgaining the Scarlet Knights 600-39. It was hardly a difficult test, but after six games it looks like Michigan might be just that good. It seems like the Wolverines are on a collision course with Ohio State in what could be one of the most anticipated games in Big Ten history.
Who’s Next: The Wolverines (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) get the weekend off before hosting Illinois (1-4, 0-2) on Oct. 22. The Fighting Illini travel to Rutgers on Saturday.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan (Peach Bowl) — Two of college football’s most powerful brand names square off. Alabama is accustomed to this stage and thrives under pressure. Michigan, despite its lofty history, hasn’t played for these kind of stakes in at least a decade, so expect the learning curve to kick in. But it’s a start. Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines should be an annual national-title contender. This time, they will run into a Crimson Tide wall. Winner: Alabama.
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson (Fiesta Bowl) — The quarterback duel is intriguing — Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett against Clemson’s Deshaun Watson — and the Tigers no doubt will be motivated to reach another national-title game. But the thinking here is Ohio State is the better team right now. The Buckeyes were supposed to be mildly rebuilding. Instead, they are reloading. It’s going to take a monumental effort to topple Urban Meyer’s club. Winner: Ohio State.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Ohio State (Raymond James Stadium, Tampa) — Alabama coach Nick Saban twice met Florida coach Urban Meyer in the SEC Championship Game, splitting the results. Meyer’s Buckeyes defeated the Crimson Tide 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl national semifinals to follow the 2014 season, when Ohio State captured the national championship. Alabama is shooting for its fifth national title in the past eight seasons, but we’ll continue to give the nod to Meyer over Saban in this fiery coaching rivalry. Winner: Ohio State.
WELCOME TO TAMPA
To get you in the mood for a potential trip to Tampa’s College Football Playoff championship game, we will offer a weekly primer on the city’s culture, folklore, cuisine and history.
Tampa is a strong college football town, but the area also has a longtime relationship with Major League Baseball. Spring training arrived in St. Petersburg early in the 20th century, and the Tampa Bay area soon became a hub of activity. Before getting the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now the Tampa Bay Rays) in 1995, several teams flirted with moving to the area. But the Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants — all linked to Tampa or St. Petersburg at one time — stayed in their home markets and the area had to wait its turn for expansion.