The potential finally exists. In the seventh year of the College Football Playoff, the little guy could force his way through the door. He just needs an assist from a friend to get through the crowd.
The playoff has what looks like three automatics: Alabama, Ohio State and the ACC championship-game winner. The fourth team is uncertain. Cases can be made for different programs: A Pac-12 team if it wins out, Notre Dame if it loses the ACC title game to Clemson somewhat close, and Indiana, if it doesn’t lose again.
But back to the little guy, the non-power conference teams. BYU and Cincinnati are both undefeated. Both have been thoroughly impressive. Only two teams are ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense and defense and BYU is one of them. Cincinnati has the third-ranked scoring defense in the country and seven of its wins are by at least two touchdowns. They have annihilated Memphis, SMU and Houston, three of the best teams in the AAC.
Yet both lack a trademark victory that can be used to sway the committee.
Neither has a significant game remaining on its schedule. Neither, however, is busy on Dec. 5. It is an open date the two share.
Why not play each other? Give one another the opportunity to make a statement, to notch a top-10 victory. Maybe BYU blows out Cincinnati or Cincinnati blows out BYU. Then there really is an argument for inclusion.
A matchup of BYU and it’s prolific offense led by Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Zach Wilson against Cincinnati’s stingy defense and it’s ball-hawking secondary that has 13 interceptions would be the best regular-season game remaining.
There’s no guarantee this would lead to one of these teams making the playoff. It’s hard to see Notre Dame being left out if it gives Clemson a game in the rematch with Trevor Lawrence under center. If Florida defeats Alabama in the SEC Championship game, both teams likely get in. Indiana, courtesy of its narrow road loss to Ohio State, has an argument.
But so would BYU or Cincinnati. A win over the other would give the victor a legitimate case. Otherwise, it will just be another year when the little guy has no shot. Just ask Central Florida.
Worth the wait
After weeks of waiting, USC transfer JT Daniels made his debut at Georgia. It was more than anyone could have expected. Daniels threw for 401 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Mississippi State, the kind of performance the Bulldogs could’ve used in losses to Alabama and Florida. Daniels wasn’t healthy to play in either of those games, according to coach Kirby Smart, after suffering a torn ACL, and former walk-on Stetson Bennett wasn’t capable of leading the Bulldogs past either opponent.
The 401 yards were the most by a Georgia quarterback since Smart took over in 2016. The Bulldogs rushed for only 8 yards against Mississippi State, a departure from their usually punishing rushing attack. It will be intriguing to follow this potential trend, now that Smart has a quarterback capable of stretching the field vertically.
More than titles on line
Championship weekend has lacked drama in recent years. There has been very little on the line. It has led some to push for the playoff expanding with the first round that weekend. This year, it has the potential to be huge.
Barring any major upsets, it would set up like this: Clemson-Notre Dame in the ACC title game, a rematch of the Irish’s dramatic double-overtime victory Nov. 7 that was played without Lawrence. Alabama-Florida in the SEC title game, with the subplot that the Heisman Trophy could be decided between quarterbacks Mac Jones and Kyle Trask. Lastly, there is the Big Ten title game, as Ohio State’s electric fifth-ranked offense faces Northwestern’s stingy seventh-ranked scoring defense.
The only team of those six that could afford a loss and not sweat missing the playoff would be Alabama. Every team would have the potential to play its way into the playoff. Such a scenario is worth rooting for on Dec. 19.
1. Alabama (7-0) (Last week: 1)
Alabama treated Kentucky like a sparring partner that didn’t belong in the same ring, blasting the Wildcats 63-3. Fortunately for Big Blue Nation, basketball season starts Wednesday.
2. Ohio State (4-0) (2)
Saturday’s 42-35 win over Indiana can be looked at in two ways. Ohio State’s defense was exposed or the Buckeyes passed what will be their biggest test until the College Football Playoff.
3. Notre Dame (8-0) (3)
North Carolina’s 10th-ranked scoring attack is the final true roadblock between Notre Dame and an ACC regular-season title.
4. Clemson (7-1) (4)
Wins over middling Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech and the Tigers are back in the ACC title game for the sixth straight season.
5. Florida (6-1) (5)
Since the loss at Texas A&M, Florida has reeled off four straight wins by an average of 22.2 points. With Kentucky, Tennessee and LSU left on the schedule, the Gators should cruise to their first SEC East title in four years.
6. Cincinnati (8-0) (6)
The Bearcats’ come-from-behind win at Central Florida was more impressive than any of their blowout victories. They took an early punch and responded like a champion, showing resolve and toughness that weren’t previously needed.
7. Indiana (4-1) (8)
Indiana is for real. It proved that in a gutty seven-point loss at Ohio State. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who threw for 491 yards and five touchdowns in defeat, will be a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate next year.
8. Texas A&M (5-1) (7)
Texas A&M will have had a full three weeks off after consecutive postponements due to the pandemic. These pauses have sadly become expected.
9. Oregon (3-0) (9)
The undefeated Ducks have faced the opposition’s starting quarterback just once in three games because of positive COVID-19 tests, just another unique aspect to this bizarre season.
10. BYU (9-0) (10)
The Cougars did what was needed, putting up 66 points on winless North Alabama. Now the undefeated independent has to wait until Dec. 12 to make one last statement against San Diego State.
Heisman Watch (predicted finish)
QB Kyle Trask, Florida
My new leader, the Trask Train rolled on in a rout of Vanderbilt, as the senior threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first SEC player in history to throw for 30 touchdowns in a team’s first seven games.
QB Mac Jones, Alabama
Jones threw for a season-low 230 yards and equaled a season-low with two touchdown passes. Alabama’s dominance may actually work against his Heisman Trophy hopes.
QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Just when Lawrence was ready to return after a month layoff due to a positive COVID-19 rest, he’s forced to wait another week, when medical personnel from Florida State and Clemson couldn’t agree to move forward with the game due to a positive test of a different Clemson player. College football in 2022 in a nutshell.
QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
Fields has set the bar so incredibly high, he produced 378 yards and three touchdowns, and it wasn’t considered a great performance, due to his three interceptions and 60 percent completion rate.
QB Zach Wilson, BYU
He completed 10 passes against North Alabama and four of them went for touchdowns. Now that’s a Heisman ratio.
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