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Who Needs A Blogpoll Week 8: Bye Week Edition

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We step back and take a look at the national picture.

Clemson? Blech.
Clemson? Blech.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It's Week Eight, and Alabama is finally on a bye after a brutal October that saw the Tide play then-Top 10 UGA and A&M on the road, a physical homecoming game against an improving Arkansas team, and capping the month off versus a very talented and rested arch-nemesis Volunteers' squad. Say what you will about Butch Jones' Xs and Os, but the Vols have brought in at least as much talent as their competitors in the East, and, despite some errors in this one, UT had a great game plan, particularly on defense. Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara are a legit fearsome duo.

This week's shakeups occurred mainly at the top, as Florida State got Kick Six'd; the Utah Utes were dead on the tarmac in LA; and Good Ole Miss showed up versus an Aggies team which is showing all the dents and scratches of last year's edition. Sumlin is a very good coach, but at some level he has to realize that teams do not win the Western Division without an excellent running game and something resembling a defense (although, Ole Miss is certainly testing that former proposition this season.)

Rank

Team

Last Week

1

Clemson Tigers

3

2

LSU Tigers

2

3

Ohio State Buckeyes

4

4

Alabama Crimson Tide

5

5

Stanford Cardinal

7

6

Michigan State Spartans

6

7

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

10

8

Florida Gators

9

9

Baylor Bears

8

10

Iowa Hawkeyes

14

11

Utah Utes

1

12

TCU Horned Frogs

12

13

Oklahoma Sooners

15

14

Memphis Tigers

17

15

Oklahoma State Cowboys

18

16

Ole Miss Rebels

20

17

Michigan Wolverines

16

18

Florida State Seminoles / Duke Blue Devils

No. 11 and 25

19

Temple Owls

19

20

Toledo Rockets

21

21

Pitt Panthers

24

22

UNC Tarheels

23

23

Houston Cougars

-

24

Texas A&M Aggies

13

25

UCLA Bruins

-

Playoffs?

I have assiduously avoided the topic of playoffs until now. We are in the last third of the regular season where injuries show, where schedules and depth take their toll, where we have some idea of who is a true contender. This year, however, is different than the past few seasons. So many schools have back-loaded schedules that it is almost impossible to know who's actually a contender - particularly in the Big Twelve, the ACC Coastal, and the SEC-West.

While I have OSU, Clemson, Alabama and LSU as the top four, that in no way means that those are who I think will be in the picture when the smoke clears. Going into the bye, I think we're looking at:

  • Ohio State/Michigan State. If either (or both) of these teams has a bad loss late however, especially with awful strength of schedules, then it possibly opens the door to a team that I am certain could beat Sparty and could give OSU fits - the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. But, for now, let's assume that both play up to their potential and then beat Iowa in the B1GCG.

  • Clemson. The Tigers' defense has been quite good, as has the offense at times. This is a very physical team Dabo has assembled and one that looks like it has proof against Clemsoning. And, while I don't want to live in a world where an ACC team looks like an SEC one, the Tigers do.

  • A one-loss Alabama Crimson Tide or a one-loss SECCG Florida Gators. I'm not going to hedge here. I think Alabama is a bad matchup for LSU. The game will be, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, "short, brutish, and nasty." I also don't like LSU in a rematch versus Florida, even if they beat the Tide. Moreover, I think Alabama is also a bad matchup for a thin Gator team. However, should Florida run the table (and I suspect they would have to) and finishes 12-1 and SEC Champs, then McElwain will have earned his semi-bid to the Sugar Bowl. And, yes, even if Ole Miss wins the West, wins the SEC, and finishes 11-2, an 11-1 Alabama will get the nod over the Rebels for the playoffs, despite the H2H loss. Memphis is a helluva' drug, people.

  • Stanford - Notre Dame winner. People are framing the debate as one where the P12 Champion emerges here. But, there are only perhaps two elite P12 teams, and the Trees look to be the best for now. I do not see where a one-loss Utah can overcome, for instance, a one-loss Notre Dame whose only hypothetical loss is to Clemson on the road by one score. The Playoff Committee will not say it, but if last year showed anything it was that established brands, eyeballs, and asses in seats matter. Few teams draw like Notre Dame.

  • No, I did not include the Big Twelve. TCU is ripe for the plucking, and a team like Oklahoma, Baylor, or the Cowboys can do so. I did not include Baylor, because the rhythm offense is apt to be wonky mid-season with a new quarterback (and, I think this team loses to TCU on the road anyway.) Bedlam will settle a hypothetical OU-OSU quandary, and the Cowboys have some losses coming either way. The Dirt Burglars would have a good argument if they run the table, but in the end, they have just the worst loss of any playoff contender, and I believe would get left out.

Coach Of The Midyear

There have been a lot of great jobs by guys this year, but my candidate pool would be: Justin Fuente (Memphis,) Brian Kelly (Notre Dame,) Jim McElwain (Florida,) Jim Harbaugh (Michigan,) David Cutcliffe (Duke,) Pat Narduzzi (Pitt,) David Shaw (Stanford,) and Matt Campbell (Toledo.)

Spoilers and Dark Horses

As noted above, there are many late-season games in perhaps the most back-loaded season I can remember. And, to that end, there are many teams that don't have much of a playoff shot, but that can still wreck divisional, conference, and national title hopes for some contenders.

  • Duke - The Devils have a loss on the road to Northwestern, but the defense and special teams are among the best and can frustrate Clemson just enough to eke out an ugly win.

  • Florida State / UGA - Neither are in the playoff picture, but both have enough talent and coaching to end Florida's dream run. UGA in particular is a tough draw - the WLOCP is just unpredictable that way.

  • Mississippi State - The Bulldogs are a .500 team masquerading as an 8-4 one. But, in a game that always follows LSU, where Bully has nothing to lose, MSU under Mullen has traditionally played Alabama tough. The Auburn jinx may be real, but this is the real Crimson Tide upset alert if Alabama makes it past the Tigers.

  • Kansas State - For whatever reason, Snyder has tended to give the spread boys fits. If this team hasn't given up, something weird could happen in the Little Apple.

  • California - The Golden Bears aren't all that terrible, and, in a rivalry game where points will be at a premium, Stanford has to be weary of their cross-Bay nemesis.

  • Iowa - Could an undefeated B1G champion get left out? Oh, easily. The Hawkeyes' SOS is abysmal, they play in the worst division, and if they run the table would still only have one quality win - the B1GCG. The BIG-East winner is on notice here - ugly defensive wins are still wins.