4-Down Territory: College Football Playoff is Set, PSU-Auburn, Bama-Florida & all the Biggest Game
1st Down: The College Football Playoff is Set: With the US News & World Report College Rankings out it is College Football Academic Playoff time. The top 4 FBS football Universities are Stanford (6th), Northwestern (9th), Duke (9th) and Vanderbilt (14th). As fate would have it these four teams are playing this weekend exactly how they are seeded……..(1) Stanford at (4) Vanderbilt: Stanford won at USC last week and Vandy won at Colorado State. New Cardinal QB Tanner McKee was impressive in his collegiate debut for Stanford and should continue that this week….(2) Northwestern at (3) Duke: Northwestern will need to get better production from QB Hunter Johnson if they are going to contend in the Big Ten West. Saturday will be a good gauge on his progress.……More Schoolwork: So which conferences are the strongest academically according to those rankings? Based on the average ranking of their schools the list looks like this: 1. The ACC (57.7), 2. The Big 10 (60.1), 3. The Pac 12 (82.7), 4. The SEC (110.8) and 5.The Big 12 (138.8). Here is one place where the Alliance beats the SEC……Virginia at #21 North Carolina: If the US News and World Report rankings were used for a 12-team playoff UVA (26th ranked) would be the 9-seed and UNC (28th ranked) would be the 12-seed among power-5 schools. UVA put a 42-14 beating on Illinois last weekend but the mountain gets much higher this week at UNC.
2nd Down: The SEC vs The Alliance: Last week the SEC scored a 2-1 record in 3 games versus the Alliance thanks to Texas A&M’s late score at Colorado. The SEC is now 5-2 versus the Alliance. This week there are two games, the aforementioned Stanford at Vanderbilt and…..#22 Auburn at #10 Penn State: Auburn’s offense will be the best Penn State’s defense has faced so far this year. Quarterback Bo Nix was the SEC Rookie of the Year in 2019 and RB Tank Bigsby was the 2020 SEC Rookie of the Year. What Auburn presents is a veteran offensive line and an attack that is more diverse than most. That offensive line presents a match-up challenge for a PSU defense that has shown strength at linebacker and at Safety. On offense Penn State has been inconsistent running the ball and protecting the quarterback. Auburn’s revamped 4-3 defense has given them better pass rush this year. The Tigers are also strong at linebacker and safety. If PSU keeps their turnover numbers clean again on offense they should win his one.
3rd Down: Keep Your Eyes On: Nebraska at #3 Oklahoma: Since leaving the Big 12 Nebraska has struggled to find their footing in the Big Ten, while OU has dominated the Big 12. If OU quarterback Spencer Rattler continues his excellent play it will a long trip home to Lincoln for the Huskers……#8 Cincinnati at Indiana: The Hoosiers preseason high hopes were dashed by a bad day against Iowa. But this is still a good football team with a veteran quarterback and a solid defense. Cincinnati also has experience in those same key spots. The Bearcats need an impressive win here to bolster their potential playoff resume…..#15 Virginia Tech at West Virginia: The Hokies defense is very good. If WVU makes the same kinds of turnover mistakes they made against Maryland it will be a long day…….Michigan State at #24 Miami: While MSU transfer RB Kenneth Walker has grabbed a lot of attention, the play of QB Payton Thorne has been a big improvement from MSU’s QB play a year ago. Miami has yet to play to their potential this year. Hurricane QB D’Eriq King has not found the level he’s shown previously…...Purdue at #12 Notre Dame: Notre Dame is 2-0 after a win at FSU and barely escaping Toledo. Purdue seems to have found a QB in Jack Plummer who has been laser sharp in his first two outings. If Notre Dame plays at the level they’ve show so far the Boilermakers will steal this one….#19 Arizona State at #23 BYU: Maybe the Pac 12 should’ve invited BYU as the Cougars are 2-0 vs Pac 12 teams this year. A win here would give them a 3-0 Pac 12 record with games later against Washington State and USC. With a 10:15 kickoff this is one worth staying up for.
4th Down: More SEC: South Carolina at #2 Georgia: The Dawgs offense finally found the end zone last week against UAB. On defense Georgia has shown that they are an elite unit in dominating Clemson’s offense in week one and handling UAB last week. If the Georgia linebackers continue to have as much success blitzing as they have so far, they may not need that much from the offense……#1 Alabama at #11 Florida: Alabama’s defense has to prepare for two quarterbacks at Florida, but for both QBs Alabama will try to make them throw the ball. Florida leads the nation with 763 yards rushing with 430 (56.3%) coming on the legs of QBs Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson. The issue for the Gator QBs has been the 4 INTs they’ve thrown. And we all know how much Nick Saban’s defenses love turnovers. For Saban since coming to the SEC in 2000 he is 9-4 against Florida with a 3-1 mark in Gainesville. But Saban knows he has a new QB making his first true road start against a defense that has successfully prioritized getting turnovers under Dan Mullen.