College Football Playoff Preview

1 Alabama

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Photo Credits: Bleacher Report

Much to the surprise of no one, Alabama has already established themselves as the “team to beat” just 3 weeks into the season. After throttling previously 3 Florida State in a highly anticipated Week 1 matchup, Alabama has once again secured themselves as the premiere powerhouse in college football.Alabama has a tough test late in the season, where they will travel to 17 Mississippi State on 11/11. Let’s be real though, this is Alabama; there is a very good chance that they win this game, and even if they don’t, there is almost as good as a chance that they will make the Playoff. At this point in the season, there is no foreseeable future where Alabama will not be playoff-bound once again.

Alabama has a tough test late in the season, where they will travel to 17 Mississippi State on 11/11. Let’s be real though, this is Alabama; there is a very good chance that they win this game, and even if they don’t, there is almost as good as a chance that they will make the Playoff. At this point in the season, there is no foreseeable future where Alabama will not be playoff-bound once again.

 

2 Clemson

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Photo Credits: College Football News

After winning their first College Football Playoff, Clemson has rebounded strongly this season, even with the loss of significant offensive playmakers in Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams. Clemson’s defensive line might very well be the best position group in all of college football, and their offense has been very good this year too, averaging nearly 520 yards per contest.

Just like Alabama, Clemson controls their own destiny and could probably survive a loss to a ranked team and still make the Playoff. After destroying Virginia Tech, Clemson only faces one tough tests over the rest of the season: a home game against 12 Florida State on 11/11. After their domineering wins over Louisville and Virginia Tech, if Clemson wins the ACC, they will likely be a shoe-in to the Playoff.

 

3 Oklahoma

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Photo Credits: AP Photo

It is often said that revenge is the best form of motivation; Oklahoma is the living embodiment of that saying. After getting embarrassed by the Buckeyes in front of their fans in Norman last year, Oklahoma showed them up in an assertive win over then 3 Ohio State. Since then, Oklahoma has continued their trend of being incredibly dominant; led by Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield, the Sooners’ offense is currently 4th in the nation, averaging an electric 599 yards per game.

Oklahoma has two tough tests remaining on their schedule: a road game at 15 Oklahoma State on 11/4, followed up by a home game against 8 TCU in the following week. Oklahoma’s remaining schedule is far from easy, but their strength of schedule and a huge win over Ohio State allows them to likely be in the Playoff even with 1 loss, as long as they win the Big 12.

 

4 Penn State

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Photo Credits: USA Today

After being left out of the College Football Playoff last season in one of the biggest snubs in recent history, Penn State has bounced back stronger than ever this year, obliterating their measly opponents thus far. Led by Heisman-favorite Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley, the Lions possess one of the most potent offenses in the country. Barkley has been an absolute force for the Lions, averaging nearly 200 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown per game.

With plenty of tough opponents left on their schedule, Penn State has tons of opportunities to build up their resume. On 10/21, the Lions will play 7 Michigan at home, and the following week, they will travel to Columbus to play Ohio State. If they survive these two tough tests, there is no foreseeable future in which Penn State will not make the College Football Playoff.

 

5 Georgia

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Photo Credits: Bleacher Report

After starting the season off everyone’s radar, Georgia has quickly burst onto the scene and is currently the #5 ranked team in the country. Although Georgia has a potent offense, most notably led by their stout rushing attack in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Georgia’s true excellence resides in their defense. Through their first five games, which included two ranked opponents and a stellar Tennessee team, the Bulldogs have astoundingly only allowed 46 points.

Georgia’s schedule includes two tough opponents at the end of the year in a home contest against 21 Florida on 10/28 and a road test at 12 Auburn on 11/11. Although Georgia has a very impressive resume, which includes two top-25 wins, as well as a pounding of then 17 Mississippi State and Tennessee, they still have work to do. Unless a team ahead of them loses, Georgia will not make the playoff unless they beat Alabama in the SEC title game.

 

6 Washington

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Photo Credits: Sports Illustrated

While these top five teams have been stealing the national headlines, Washington has been slowly creeping its way into playoff contention. While Washington has been doing anything too special, as their offense is barely averaging over 400 yards per game and their defense has been good but not stellar, they have absolutely destroyed every team they have played thus far. Their closest game was all the way back in Week 1, where they manhandled Rutgers in a 16 point victory.

More so than any other team on this list, Washington needs help to get into the playoff. With a very weak schedule and a lackluster Pac 12, it is foreseeable that Washington could win out and still potentially miss the playoff. If they want any chance of getting in, it is imperative that they beat 20 Utah on 11/18 and 11 Washington State on 11/25 and win the Pac 12.

 

7 Michigan

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Photo Credits: AP Photo

For a team that is ranked #7 in the country, I have never seen one that is so incapable, yet has infinite potential. Even though they have played quite terribly (especially in the first half) in their first couple of games, Michigan has managed to dominate some quite terrible teams. Once Michigan starts to put it together, however, everyone should watch out, as they are capable of beating anyone. If they play like they did in the second half of their season opener versus Florida, they very well might be the best team in the country.

Although they are currently on the outside and looking in, Michigan has more opportunities to bolster their resume than any other team in the country. They face two very tough road tests at 4 Penn State on 10/21 and 9 Wisconsin on 11/18, followed up by a difficult homestand against 10 Ohio State on 11/25. However, if Michigan somehow survives all of these tests, they have a guaranteed spot in the College Football Playoff.

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, CBS Sports, Football Reference, and NCAA.com. Thank you for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Cover Photo Credits: Getty Images

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Heisman Watch List Update

Through the first 5 weeks, Lamar Jackson, Louisville’s electric quarterback with both serious passing and running talent, has a huge lead in mid-season Heisman voting polls. However, as we know too well, things can change quite quickly. Take Leonard Fournette, quite possibly the best running back in the country, had a lead similar to Jackson’s through the first half of the season last year. However, he wasn’t even a finalist for the Heisman Trophy after a weak showing against Alabama, and only finished 6th in Heisman voting. Below is our analysis of the front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy through the first 5 weeks of the 2016 College Football season.

 

Heisman Favorite: Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals

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Lamar Jackson has easily been the best player in College Football thus far. If he keeps this pace up, he will surely win the Heisman. Photo Credits: syracuse.com

Through the first 5 weeks of the season, Lamar Jackson has blown everyone else out of the water, in possibly the most impressive campaign ever (through 5 weeks). Jackson has averaged an incredible 463 yards per game of total offense (325 passing, 138 rushing), which is second in the country only to Patrick Mahomes, who has faced noticeably weaker competition thus far. Jackson also leads the country in total QBR, with a rating of 92.8, which is more than 2 points higher than the next quarterback.

In addition, Jackson has average 4.6 passing TD’s per game as well as 2.8 rushing TD’s per game, which makes him responsible for 33.6 points per game. Jackson is first in the country in points responsible per game and is on pace to shatter Colt Brennan’s current record of 27.4 points responsible per game back in 2006.

What’s even more impressive is that Jackson has sustained his unbelievable play against 2 of the best teams in the country. Jackson played fabulously against Florida State (362 yards from scrimmage and 5 total touchdowns), who was widely regarded to have one of the best defenses in the country before Jackson humiliated them. While the Louisville Cardinals fell to the Clemson Tigers last week, Jackson still played brilliantly and kept the game close, as he recorded 475 yards of total offense as well as 3 total touchdowns.

 

Don’t sleep on him: Christian McCaffrey, Stanford Cardinals

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Even after a weak showing against Washington, McCaffrey is anything but out of the Heisman race. Photo Credits: Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports

Given that McCaffrey has established himself as a clear front-runner for the Heisman (behind Jackson obviously) and is still considered to be having a “bad” season really speaks to how amazing of a player he is.

Even in his “off” season, McCaffrey has averaged 158.5 yards from scrimmage per game, which is just 26 yards per game less than Dalvin Cook, who leads the country in this stat. In addition, McCaffrey leads the country with 214.5 all-purpose yards per game, which is definitely off of his record pace from last year, but nonetheless still incredible. McCaffrey has also averaged 1 touchdown per game, which is impressive as well.

What’s most impressive about McCaffrey’s campaign thus far is that he has completely carried Stanford through this season. McCaffrey has carried the team, touching the ball on 46.8% of Stanford’s plays. While McCaffrey might have been ineffective last week, that was largely the rest of the offense’s fault; his offensive line had trouble blocking Washington’s defensive line and due to Burns’ inexperience, Washington could afford to jam the box with defenders. Stanford’s offensive line, which is weaker than in year’s past, as well as Ryan Burns, Stanford’s inexperienced and ineffective quarterback, are the only things holding McCaffrey back from being as good as he was last season.

 

Do not forget about him: JT Barrett, Ohio State Buckeyes

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JT Barrett has torched opposing defenses so far this year, both in the air and on the ground. Photo Credits: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

While most of the Heisman attention has been focused on Lamar Jackson, for quarterbacks at least, JT Barrett has been quietly putting together an impressive campaign as well. Barrett has averaged 222 passing yards per game and 51 rushing yards per game through the Buckeyes’ first 4 games, which is above average, but not amazing. However, Barrett has averaged 4.25 TD’s per game so far, which means he is responsible for 25.5 points per game. Barrett is 4th in the country in points responsible for per game, behind Jackson, Mahomes, and Webb, and just is a tiny bit off of the record pace Colt Brennan set back in 2006.

Even though Barrett’s stats, especially touchdowns per game, are impressive, they certainly aren’t Heisman worthy. However, what makes Barrett so appealing has been the Buckeyes’ dominance so far. Barrett, Ohio State’s quarterback and captain of the Buckeyes’ offense, has led them to victories of 67 points (Bowling Green), 45 points (Tulsa), 21 points (Oklahoma), and 58 points (Rutgers). Oklahoma, once considered the overwhelming favorite to win the Big 12, was absolutely destroyed by Barrett and the Buckeyes at home, only adding onto Barrett’s impressive resume.

 

Dark Horse: Jake Browning, Washington Huskies

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Jake Browning has exceeded everyone’s expectations this year, especially in Washington’s rout of Stanford last week. Photo Credits: ASSOCIATED PRESS/(AP PHOTO/TED)

While Jake Browning’s stats don’t jump off of the page, he is certainly a major contender to win the Heisman this year. Browning is 5th in the country in Total QBR and 6th in the country in completion percentage and has only thrown 2 interceptions so far, all suggesting that Browning is completely in control as he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country. Browning’s 3.6 TD’s per game and 223 passing yards per game are certainly above average but are nothing super special either.

What’s easily the most impressive part of Browning’s resume is that he has commanded one of the most powerful offenses in the country. Washington was ranked 5th in last week’s AP Rankings and has continued to trend upward, fueled by Browning’s stellar performance. The Huskies racked up easily the most impressive win of the season last week when they absolutely obliterated the Stanford Cardinals, 44-6, which proves that Browning and the Huskies can beat up on stronger teams as well.

 

Other Heisman front-runners:

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan Wolverines

He’s a super talented player and has shown tremendous potential and big play ability on offense, defense, and special teams.

Deshaun Watson, Clemson Tigers

He’s quite possibly the best quarterback in the country, and just took down the Louisville Cardinals and outplayed Lamar Jackson, the current Heisman favorite.

Greg Ward, Jr., Houston Cougars

He doesn’t quite have the stats the other contenders do, but he sure knows how to win. Houston’s only loss in the past 2 seasons came when Ward was hurt against UConn.

Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina Tar Heels

He leads the country in touchdown to interception ratio (13:0) and completion percentage (76%) and is 6th in passing yards as well as 7th in yards per attempt.

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NCAA.com, Wikipedia, and Football Reference. Thanks for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Cover Photo Credits: Getty Images