During the preseason, I was very high on Ohio State. I think Ryan Day is far more motivated than Meyer was in his waning days; the offense always prepared better last season with him leading the charge; and aside from UGA/Alabama, no one has recruited better over the last half-decade. I thought that the Buckeyes would be no worse than the No. 2 seed in the Playoffs, and depending on how the SEC shaped up, could even be No. 1.
And, after almost half a season, it’s hard to argue with that preliminary assessment. There has not been a scarier team in college football this season. Day and co. are giving Justin Fields manageable throws, the running game is clicking, and the rebuilt defense has been lights out. They are destroying people, and that does not look to change anytime soon. Say what you will about the early schedule, but Cincinnati and Michigan State are quality teams, and the results? A combined 75-10 shellacking from the Poisonous Trees.
There are some more difficult games coming up, to be sure. And, like the SEC, the Big 10 will work itself out.
At this point in the season, you can make a case for LSU, Georgia, even Florida, all falling somewhere between 1 and 4. The wins have to matter, and they have some quality ones.
Then there are the unbeatens of dubious resistance. We don’t know how good Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma are. Jalen Hurts’ passing performance yesterday against Kansas showed that he is still the limited thrower that frustrated us so much for three years. At the same time, the defense has improved somewhat and the running game is nasty. Clemson has serious problems up front and the book is out on Sunshine. But, is anyone capable of testing the in a #butt ACC?
For Alabama’s part, they are doing what they need to — laying waste to a fairly light schedule that has featured two teams that will likely make bowls (and, sorry, USCe — after looking at the stretch run, you’re not one of them). Can the best offense in the country, with its two best players, iron out the wrinkles and be the dominant force in all phases of the games for sixty minutes like it is capable of? Or, rather, is the 2019 Tide like its 2018 counterpart? A team with limitations that requires Tua Tagovailoa to have an outstanding performance every time he steps on the field? This week will tell us a lot about the Tide. Not that I’m high on A&M, but in terms of talent and physicality, Alabama will finally get a chance to be punched in the mouth. A road trip to College Station is just what the doctor ordered for a program that has made everything look so very easy the past decade, and especially the last two seasons with this treasure trove of offensive talent.
Here’s your Bye Week Blog Poll. And, as always, the criteria are nebulous, far-ranging, and capricious. The usual caveats apply: The Blog Poll takes into account strength of schedule, bad and good coaching, injuries, exigent circumstances, home/away, defense or lack thereof, offense or lack thereof, line play, power poll-ishness, head-to-head where possible or prudent, and lying eyeballs.
Bye Week Blog Poll
Heisman Predictor: Tua Tagovailoa is on pace to shatter last year’s marks, including putting up about 50+ TDs through the air — and that says something since he set an NCAA record for passing efficiency. He’s still not thrown a pick, and there are at least four nationally-televised Top 15ish games for him to show out in.
The only wildcard here is Jalen Hurts: Can he be productive in the air against some of the better secondaries in the Big 12 — there aren’t many, but if yesterday’s performance was an indicator, even national sentiment for a supposedly-wronged Hurts may not carry the day. But, beware: Tua is very much in danger of being the Peyton Manning of this generation — a player so singularly dominant that folks look for reasons, stupid and small, to deny the no-brainer. Like political writers, sportswriters hate the inevitable and try to create counterfactuals to defy commonsense and thwart the blindingly obvious. We saw it with our own eyes last year, in fact.
But, aside from those two, there’s no strong case to be made for anyone else in the country — even Jerry Jeudy is getting pushed at his own position group on his own team. #AlabamaProblems
Literally nothing has changed here since my May prospectus. I don’t think OU runs the table; the P12 plays itself out of contention; there’s no one in a down ACC that can challenge even this limited Clemson team; and UGA/Alabama are still the best teams in the strongest conference. (No, I’m not buying LSU just yet. The next quality defense they face will be the first.)
- Ohio State