We love college football. We are from the South and that means we simply cannot help it. Sweet tea, BBQ, and football are all in our DNA.
This is the best playoff field since the beginning of the playoff system. For the last three years all of the talk going into the season had Clemson and Alabama dominating the sport. This year was no different. But at almost halfway through the season, there appear to be a number of worthy challengers. Below is our staff consensus of the Top Ten through Week Five of the season:
1. Ohio State.
The most complete team on both sides of the ball. Georgia transfer QB Justin Fields gets better every week and the defense, which ranked 62nd last year in points per game (PPG) ranks 2nd this year. Did you see what they did to the Huskers in Lincoln?
This is not Alabama’s best team under Saban and probably not as good as last year’s team. The defense is porous and they have yet to establish an effective run game. But, oh, my, Tua and those receivers! They can score on anybody from anywhere on the field. November will tell the tale on this team.
Who can’t root for Jalen Hurts? He is dwarfing the stats of his Oklahoma predecessors. This year’s Sooner defense is better than last year’s team that couldn’t stop Betty White. They look a lot like Bama but face an easier path to the playoff.
The Tigers now have an offense to go with a very good defense. Joe Burrow, another transfer QB, is torching LSU passing records, and while that might not take much, he looks like a future high NFL Draft pick. They lack a great running back, and that might cost them in games against Auburn and Alabama, but they appear poised to make a serious run at the national title.
Don’t be fooled by the UNC game and all the doomsday talk on sports shows. Last year Clemson barely survived a game with overmatched Syracuse and they cruised through the playoffs with ease. This team is loaded with talent and they are bored.
Jake Fromm is no Tua nor is he even a Burrow, but he’s a winner. Like Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State, Georgia has talent everywhere. Bulldog fans, looking over at the high octane offenses in the Western Division of the SEC, are concerned that their own offense can’t keep up. Lay off of the antidepressants, Dawgs. Kirby Smart saw no need to chuck it all over the field against the Irish. By season’s end this team will be a monster.
Until Saturday night against Mississippi State, Bo Nix had looked like a serviceable game manager with not much more than a 50 percent completion percentage. But now he’s starting to look Gus Malzahn’s ideal QB for his offense. He’s not a Stidham who was an ill-fit for Malzahn. Nix is looking like a reincarnation of Nick Marshall — a true run/pass threat. But the strength of this team is the defense, and it’s the best in the country.
Wisconsin does not have anywhere near the talent of the top seven teams in our poll, but they know exactly who they are and what they want to do. Wisconsin looks like a team from the 1970s: ball-control, pounding run game, and a good defense. They won’t win the Big Ten — that honor will fall to Ohio State — but they are that conference’s second-best team.
9. Notre Dame.
Getting credit for a loss is overrated. But the Irish did not appear overmatched on the road at Georgia the way most of us assumed they would be, and they bounced back nicely at home against a solid Virginia team. This team is well coached and they are much more physical than previous Notre Dame teams under Brian Kelly. They need a miracle to make the playoffs, but we expect them to go unbeaten through the rest of their regular season schedule.
10. Penn State.
After last year’s 1-point loss to Ohio State at home, Nittany Lion’s head coach James Franklin declared Penn State to be a “great” football team but not an “elite” one. We don’t think they are either — yet. Penn State is getting better every week. They probably won’t beat Ohio State, but they are going to beat a lot of teams.
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