Week Nine Playoff Picture
The Top Four:
1.) Ohio State (8-0)
Best win: vs. Penn State 38-10
The Buckeyes went on the road Saturday and embarrassed Rutgers in primetime, beating the Scarlet Knights 49-7. J.T. Barrett got his first start of the season, and emphatically ended the quarterback controversy. Each week, Ohio State is starting to look more and more like their National Championship selves.
2.) Clemson (7-0)
Best win: vs. No. 9 Notre Dame 24-22
Last Saturday, Clemson took a trip to South Beach and put the final nail in Miami coach Al Golden’s coffin with a 58-0 blowout. After handing the Canes their worst loss in program history, Dabo Swinney’s Tigers look like one of the most complete teams in the country. They boast elite coaching, an elite defense and solid QB play. After FSU’s loss, Clemson appears to be the ACC’s only shot at the playoff.
3.) Baylor (7-0)
Best win: vs. Texas Tech 63-35
Baylor got a win on the field, but they might have taken a bigger loss in the process when they lost quarterback Seth Russell for the season due to a neck injury. In comes talented true freshman Jarrett Stidham, ESPN’s No. 37 overall prospect in last year’s recruiting rankings. Can Art Briles plug the frosh into his system this late in the year and keep up Baylor’s potent offensive attack?
4.) LSU (7-0)
Best win: vs. No. 11 Florida 35-28
Not much new to say about the Tigers after they defeated Western Kentucky 48-20 at home. Leonard Fournette had one of his quieter games of the season, rushing for a measly 150 yards. LSU has a bye week approaching, and it comes at a perfect time. In two weeks, they travel to Tuscaloosa to face the Alabama in their biggest game of the year.
The Next Four:
5.) Iowa (7-0)
Best win: at Northwestern 40-10
My biggest jump this week comes from the Iowa Hawkeyes. People are sleeping on this team, but they quietly have one of the best resumes in the country with wins over 6-1 Pitt, 6-2 Northwestern and 6-2 Wisconsin. Iowa’s remaining schedule is super manageable, and they could very well be undefeated heading into the B1G title game.
6.) TCU (7-0)
Best win: at Texas Tech 55-52
Another week, another playoff column about how TCU lacks a signature win (to be fair, they did have a bye). Injuries have been killer for the Horned Frogs. Their defense has had a whopping 20 different players start at defense this year, including two former safeties starting at linebacker. Still, they’re undefeated, and have a chance to boost their resume with three top-15 opponents on their remaining schedule.
7.) Michigan State (8-0)
Best win: at No. 15 Michigan 27-23
At first glance, Michigan State’s 52-26 win over Indiana looks like a solid blowout. However, the score doesn’t indicate how close the game actually was. The Spartans lead the Hoosiers 28-26 at the end of the third quarter before dropping 24 unanswered points in the final quarter. This week, they get a much-needed bye to get healthy before their final stretch of the season.
8.) Alabama (7-1)
Best win: at Texas A&M 41-23
Tennessee hung tough, but Alabama survived at home and beat the Vols 19-14. In typical Nick Saban fashion, the Tide are winning games thanks to their talented defense and relentless rushing attack. Jake Coker hasn’t been exceptional at quarterback, but he’s doing enough for Bama to be in the playoff hunt.
Four Games to Watch:
(Rankings based on AP Poll)
1.) No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 22 Temple
Raise your hand if you had ESPN’s College GameDay heading to this game before the start of the year… Nobody? That’s what I thought. Temple is in the midst of the best season in school history, while Notre Dame is fighting to get back in the playoff conversation. Something’s gotta give in Philly this Saturday night.
2.) No. 8 Stanford at Washington State
After suffering a loss in week one, Stanford’s offense has been clicking and the Cardinal look like an elite team. But don’t look now, the Cougars are 5-2, and control their own destiny in the Pac-12 North. Can they make a Washington Statement this weekend?
3.) No. 12 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Everyone talks about Baylor and TCU, but Oklahoma State is quietly 7-0 and still in the Big 12 hunt. Mike Gundy must make sure the Cowboys don’t overlook Texas Tech before their matchup with TCU next Saturday.
4.) No. 3 Clemson at North Carolina State
Clemson is rolling after putting the hurt on Miami last Saturday. Can they keep up their dominance, or do they have a letdown at NC State?
Jeff Capanelli is a junior, broadcast journalism major. He can be contacted at email@example.com.