Welcome to the fourth edition of the sophomore season of The Hangover, where I recap the previous weekend in college football. This week, The Hangover comes from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where I finally took a weekend off work to see my Crimson Tide dominate Texas A&M. Nick Saban has his team rolling, and I’m not sure who can stop them. Having a weekend off meant watching a great deal of football, so I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp of the college football landscape (which means everything is going to be wrong). A lot went down this weekend, so let’s dive in!
We’re four weeks into college football. Overreactions are out of the way, as now we can make realistic, possibly-correct statements based on the current sample size from teams. Here are some of my statements that three weeks ago may have seemed crazy but now seem pretty possible:
Kentucky is the second-best team in the SEC East.
What team is 11th in the nation in yards allowed per game, has the third-leading rusher in the country, and is 2-0 in conference for the first time since 1977? The Kentucky Wildcats, naturally. Mark Stoops’ tenure at Kentucky has been a slow burn but, in his sixth season, things are starting to come together. Kentucky is the second-best team in the SEC East, and the only reason people aren’t buying in is because the name “Kentucky” is written across the front of the jersey. The Wildcats shut down a good Mississippi State team last weekend, holding the Bulldogs to 56 rushing yards on 28 carries and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald specifically to 20 yards on the ground on 16 carries. Kentucky running back Benny Snell is forcing his way into the Heisman conversation after a four touchdown, 165-yard performance. Quarterback Terry Wilson has gotten the Wildcats in some trouble this year with a few of his decisions, but he’s electric and can take it the distance at any second. The defense is salty, too. If you can’t tell, I’m buying in. Here’s the best part: the schedule is decently manageable going forward. South Carolina comes to Lexington this weekend, and then the Cats travel to College Station to take on Texas A&M. Not easy, but winnable. If the Wildcats can find a way to go 4-0 or 3-1 in the next four games (South Carolina, at Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, at Missouri), then we may see the match-up nobody expected–a November 3rd showdown between Georgia and Kentucky for the SEC East.
The Big 12 is already down to two legitimate playoff contenders: West Virginia and Oklahoma.
The teams may not be surprising, but I for one and shocked that we’re just down to two legitimate CFP contenders in the Big 12 after week four. So what happened to everybody else?
Texas: Not a realistic threat with the loss to Maryland. The last two weeks have been nice, but I think this team is too volatile to win out.
TCU: Two losses, so they’re gone. No two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff, and I don’t expect that to start with TCU even if the Horned Frogs win out.
Oklahoma State: After being in a good position following a win over Boise State, the Cowboys got shelled at home against Texas Tech. Tough to see Mike Gundy’s squad coming back from that and winning out.
The Big 12 is a volatile conference–anybody can beat anybody at any time, which leads to some entertaining games but few playoff threats. With Oklahoma looking vulnerable after barely beating Army in overtime on pay-per-view (how does this exist in 2018?) and West Virginia facing its first tough road test at Texas Tech this weekend, it’s tough to think that the Big 12 will have more than maybe one team in the running for a spot come early December.
Penn State-Ohio State next weekend may already be a CFP play-in game.
Before the year, I had Michigan State in my playoff predictions. While that’s still a possibility, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Big Ten representative in the College Football Playoff will be either Penn State or Ohio State. That makes this Saturday’s game in Happy Valley even more important. The winner will be a game up on the loser, and both have a pretty manageable schedule coming up. While I don’t have any stats or numbers to back this statement up, I think it’s obvious that these are the two best teams in the Big Ten. My gut tells me that whoever wins this game will make the playoff.
It’s Clemson and nobody else in the ACC.
We knew this statement would be true coming into the year, but did anyone think it’d be this obvious after week four? Who’s the second best team in the ACC–Duke? Syracuse? After Virginia Tech lost by two touchdowns to previously winless Old Dominion and Boston College got shellacked at Purdue, I’m just not sure there’s a team in this league that can stay within single-digits of Clemson. Miami might be getting better now that Mark Richt has seemingly gone away from Malik Rosier, but that’ll be tough to deduce until the Hurricanes play a moderately tough conference opponent. As I said earlier, we knew Clemson was the best team in the ACC entering the season. I just can’t believe we’re coming up on week five and every other team is already out of the running.
Alabama is the best team in the country, and it isn’t close.
A few of you will roll your eyes at this comment and say, “Oh, he’s just an Alabama fan.” First off, I always check bias at the door when I write and make predictions. Second, I don’t think you can make a reasonable argument against this statement. The reason Alabama sits at number one with sixty of sixty-one first place votes is Tua Tagovailoa, who continues to dominate. Tua’s thrown for 1033 yard this year with twelve touchdowns and zero interceptions. He spreads the ball out to a plethora of receivers and doesn’t get sacked (just two this year). If Tua played all four quarters, Alabama would score sixty every game. Alabama’s defense may not be as dominant as it’s been in the past, but teams aren’t going to put up more than thirty-five against the Tide. I don’t see anything other team that’s so suffocating it seems impossible that they can be outscored. Bama is the best in the country, and I expect them to run through the rest of the schedule until the SEC Championship.
Gray’s Top Ten
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Notre Dame
Alabama is the best team in the country, as stated above, and it isn’t close. Finally watching them in person just reinforced that point. Georgia didn’t get a great game from Jake Fromm, but the defense was electric, scoring a few touchdowns and forcing a plethora of mistakes from Missouri. Ohio State looked good against Tulane in Urban Meyer’s first game back, but we’ll know more for sure after the Penn State game this weekend. Clemson looks more and more like it’s transitioning to Trevor Lawrence, and LSU beat up Louisiana Tech in methodical fashion. Oklahoma really struggled with Army of all teams, and that raises some concerns. The Sooners allowed 339 rushing yards to the Knights, which makes me nervous against teams like Oklahoma State that can run the football. We’ll see if that hurts them going forward. Stanford pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat against Oregon. This weekend’s game against Notre Dame will show us whether Stanford has the stuff to be a legitimate playoff contender. Finally, Notre Dame comes back in after beating Wake Forest, but more on that below.
Coach of the Week
Congratulations to this week’s COTW, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly. After three weeks of a rough looking offense, Kelly decided to pull the trigger and start a new quarterback. In came Ian Book, who led the Fighting Irish to a 56-27 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday throwing for 325 yards and two touchdowns in the process. While nobody will confuse the Wake Forest defense for Alabama or Georgia, making the switch was a gutsy move that Kelly had to make. Props to Brian Kelly for trusting his gut. It worked out this week; the real test for Book will come next against Stanford.
Idiot of the Week
Usually we reserve this spot for coaches, but we’ll make an adjustment thanks to a reader’s suggestion (shout-out to Scott Pittman for sending this one in). The new kickoff rule might be a bit confusing to the casual football fan, but by now you’d assume the players and coaches have figured it out. Well, clearly Bobby Petrino didn’t cover everything, because on Saturday the Louisville Cardinals made a mental error in the midst of getting blown out by Virginia (which should be enough anyway to get Petrino in this list). Hassan Hall, a freshman running back from Atlanta, Georgia, was back deep to receive after Virginia scored a touchdown to go up 27-3. Cavalier kicker Brian Delaney booted it to the one-yard line, and Hall took a knee, assuming that meant a touchback. Here’s the problem–it doesn’t. A touchback inside the 25-yard line and outside of the end zone is called after a fair catch. A knee means you’re down. Therefore, Hall’s gaffe meant the Louisville drive started at the one. Needless to say, this play exemplifies how this season has started for Petrino’s squad.
Few things are guaranteed in life, but one thing is for sure–every Wednesday night from 9-10 pm CT, I know exactly where I’ll be sitting. For the last two weeks, I’ve hosted watch parties at my house for American Horror Story. We’ve got a solid group of ten or so friends coming in every week to see what insanity Ryan Murphy has cooked up. This season, Apocalypse, is the eighth of the anthology series (and, because we’re only two episodes in, the sample size isn’t big enough to be apart of the following list). So, since it’s commonly debated among AHS fans, I thought I’d give my Top Five American Horror Story seasons. *Disclaimer*: per usual, once Random Rankings are posted, they aren’t changing. So if you liked Freak Show, you’ll be disappointed. No explanations this week. If you behind on AHS, all seven of the previous seasons are on Netflix.
1. Asylum-Season Two
2. Murder House-Season One
3. Coven-Season Three
4. Roanoke-Season Six
5. Cult-Season Seven
SEC Power Rankings
I’m an SEC guy through and through, so I have to include my SEC Power Rankings. Kentucky pulled off a big upset over Mississippi State, a team I still really like this year. Meanwhile, Alabama and Georgia continued to separate from the pack. Let’s see how these shift the next few weeks:
- Mississippi State
- Texas A&M
- South Carolina
- Ole Miss
So Who’s Ready for Week Five?
Lots of great match-ups coming up, including the best game of the year in the Big Ten. Here’s what we have to look forward to next weekend:
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas
Syracuse at #3 Clemson
#12 West Virginia at #25 Texas Tech
#18 Texas at Kansas State
Baylor at #6 Oklahoma
#14 Michigan at Northwestern
Florida at #23 Mississippi State
Virginia Tech at #22 Duke
Iowa State at TCU
#4 Ohio State at #9 Penn State
#7 Stanford at #8 Notre Dame
South Carolina at #17 Kentucky
#20 BYU at #11 Washington
#19 Oregon at #24 California
That’s it from The Hangover HQ! I’ll be off to Athens this weekend for Georgia-Tennessee. Should be a barn-burner (not). See you next week!