College Football 2017 – Halfway Point
Here we cruise along the backstretch of the 2017 College Football season. Figured I’d share a few thoughts and whatnot.
Biggest Surprises So Far:
The SEC is NOT the best overall conference this year. They do have two elite teams at the top in Alabama and Georgia, and Auburn’s defense is good enough to make them a solid third team among the Top 25. But after that it looks like a jumbled mess of teams that rate from uninspiring to downright….blech. Some ugly non-conference losses they had still leave a bad taste for me. LSU’s home loss to Troy stands out most, but there were several others (looking at you, Texas A&M). This is the SEC of course, so this could just be a one-season fluke and they will be back on their perch in 2018. But not without bloodshed first….I could see as many as 7 coaching vacancies down south this offseason.
Michigan State is good again. It’s easy to forget about a program that isn’t one of the brand names and suddenly falls off the map after a great run for several years. But never underestimate Mark Dantonio. After a 3-9 disaster and major off-field issues in the offseason, Dantonio has the Spartans right there in the thick of the Big Ten East standings. He recently beat in-state rival Michigan for the eighth time in ten seasons (yes, you read that correctly). The Wolverines are down a bit this season, and their offense downright ugly, so mentioning Michigan State in the same sentence with Ohio State and Penn State may be going too far for now. But as long as Mark Dantonio is in East Lansing the Spartans aren’t just going away.
The AZ schools aren’t that bad. Sorry, but I had to sneak some west coast in here. I honestly thought Arizona and Arizona State would be taking up residence in the Pac-12 basement this season. Instead the Wildcats sit at 4-2 and the Sun Devils 3-3 after a win over #4 Washington. That might not sound that great overall, but seriously, I thought they would be A LOT worse. And keep an eye on Wildcats QB Khalil Tate. Since taking over two weeks ago during the game at Colorado, he’s put up Heisman-like numbers. He’s off to way too late a start to make any kind of waves for the award, plus he plays on the wrong side of the Mississippi (more on that later), but if he keeps this up then Tate will become must-see TV soon.
I don’t think I need to mention the SEC again.
Louisville is not that good. Lamar Jackson is still Lamar Jackson, but even a Heisman QB can only do so much by himself. He’s single-handedly kept their offense churning, but he doesn’t play defense. If he did, the Cardinals probably wouldn’t rank #116 in FBS in defensive efficiency….and probably wouldn’t have just surrendered 45 points to Boston College, who normally abhor the notion of making the scoreboard operator do any work. Yuk! The Cardinals have to play at Florida State next, and the Seminoles are far better than their 2-3 record suggests. After that it’s a 3-game stretch (at Wake Forest, Virginia and Syracuse at home) that suddenly looks much more challenging than it did at the start of the season. They wrap up at in-state rival Kentucky. I think Louisville will get the 2 wins they need to be bowl-eligible, but it also wouldn’t shock me if they didn’t.
As mentioned, Florida State, a team in pretty much everyone’s preseason Top 5, is currently 2-3. Yes, they have played the toughest schedule in the country so far. Yes, they lost their starting QB for the season during the opener and had to turn to a true freshman. Yes, they had to wait three weeks to play their second game of the season due to a hurricane. But still, there is way too much talent on that team for them to be 2-3. But I’m gonna make a call here….the Seminoles will finish the season at 9-4, their one additional loss coming at Clemson. There.
Saquon Barkley is the most exciting player in the country right now. He plays for the #2 team in the nation, and is a multi-threat in the running game, passing game, and special teams. He’s probably a Top 5 pick in the next NFL Draft. Right now, the award is his to lose. But if I had a vote to cast today, it wouldn’t be for Barkley. My vote would be for Stanford’s Bryce Love.
Seriously, he is quietly putting up sick numbers on the ground (1,387 yards, 11 TDs through 7). It took him just 5 games to surpass 1,000 yards rushing. Barry Sanders’ historic 1988 season (2,628 yards, 37 TDs) is safe, but at this rate Love should easily become the 29th player in D-1 history to join the elite 2,000 club. So what does Love have to do to get some love? I guess play in the eastern half of the country….or if you do play out west, go to USC. Otherwise, you aren’t winning any hardware….Love need only ask fellow Stanford alums Andrew Luck, Toby Gerhart and Christian McCaffrey about that. (/eastern bias rant)
My Prediction For The Four Playoff Teams:
Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, TCU