The average college football fan thinks if a team is in the AP Top 25 then that team is legitimate.
You and I know better.
Some of these squads aren’t true threats to win it all.
The first playoff rankings come out on Halloween, so let’s determine which teams in the top 15 are legit threats to make the Playoff and which teams are phony.
15. Washington State (7-1)
Let’s start off with a pretender. The Cougars under Mike Leach are a perennial team in the rankings. But what have they actually achieved? Not much. This team has proven they are capable of winning 10+ games in the weakest power conference league, but they can’t consistently beat the big names and typically fall off the radar as the season progresses.
14. NC State (6-1)
The next two weeks will prove what NC State is. They take on #9 Notre Dame then #7 Clemson and I tend to think they will go 0-2 in this stretch. The Pack isn’t strong enough to win the Atlantic despite great play from it’s defense, particularly the front seven.
13. Virginia Tech (6-1)
The Hokies have benefited from a basic non-conference schedule and will continue to beat teams they are supposed to and lose to schools that are better than them. The offense is too stagnant and hasn’t shown much improvement. This is a team deserving of a top 15 ranking but nothing more.
12. Washington (6-1)
Chris Peterson’s group fell out of favor after dropping a road contest to Arizona State, but this team is still very talented. Unfortunately they have had the softest schedule of any of the top 15 teams and could start to spiral.
11. Oklahoma State (6-1)
Of the teams listed so far only Virginia Tech can claim their loss is meaningful. The ‘Pokes lost to the top team in their conference but still can gain a bid to the playoff by winning Bedlam and hoping for TCU to fall off. Mike Gundy is an elite coach and Mason Rudolph is still really good, despite losing most of his preseason Heisman traction.
10. Oklahoma (6-1)
The Sooners don’t play with as much purpose as I’d like, yet they still have so much talent offensively. The Big 12 is always a cluster when December rolls around and I expect OU to benefit from that. They have plenty of time left to where that Iowa State loss might not even affect them, so long as they can win out.
9. Notre Dame (6-1)
The Irish can claim the best loss of anyone in America right now. Unfortunately Brian Kelly has a tough schedule and no conference title game, so his margin for error is thin. If this team loses again they are out of the playoff and three of their last five games are against ranked teams with two of those game come away from Touchdown Jesus.
8. Miami (6-0)
The Canes are in the ACC Coastal, which is actually having a pretty decent year. Plus, Miami actually looks like they could beat Clemson in the title game. The only knock against them is they keep games close and haven’t shown that extra gear that truly dominant teams have. Still, I like this defense and the way the road has shaped up for them.
7. Clemson (6-1)
The defending National Champs are a shell of themselves offensively. Their vaunted D-Line took a bit of a week off against Syracuse and it cost them. They play Georgia Tech this week, who has played surprisingly well. I just have a bad feeling about Clemson and don’t actually think this year’s group can win the National Title, but they are by no means a phony team.
6. Ohio State (6-1)
Oh boy. The Big 10 has been great this year, but the Buckeyes are ranked this highly due to name value and preseason hype. OSU has only played against two teams so far with a winning record and one of those games was a loss to OU and the other was against Army. Not exactly an impressive résumé. The offense has put up points, but not really looked that proficient. If OSU loses to Penn State this weekend they aren’t totally out of it because they could still win the Big 10 with some help, but it’ll pretty much end their hopes.
5. Wisconsin (7-0)
Another pedestrian Big 10 team that could beat most teams in the country based off of its size, but won’t threaten the truly legit schools. The Badgers continue to churn out talented offensive lineman and run games but play in an awful division to which they have won two out of the last three years, but still managed to finish each of those seasons with three losses.
4. TCU (7-0)
I don’t think TCU can win it all, but they are my favorite outside of the SEC and Penn State to potentially get a top seed. Still, can’t imagine the Horned Frogs are able to win two games against top four teams.
3. Georgia (7-0)
Pros: A great schedule, handles diversity well, isn’t the favorite so won’t have to deal with everyone gunning for them, young coach trying to prove himself, fantastic defense.
Cons: Will probably have to beat Alabama or rely on the selection committee to look past that potential loss and bring the ‘Dawgs in as a one loss 4 seed.
2. Penn State (7-0)
As of today PSU is the best team in the country. Saquon Barkley is the best player in the Country and he has a QB in the form of Trace McSorley who could also gain postseason accolades. The defense is elite and James Franklin might be the most sought after coach in the country this offseason, by ADs and NFL teams alike.
1. Alabama (8-0)
UA made it to their bye week with ease. LSU and Auburn are always challenges to close out their schedule but LSU is down this year and Auburn is still a mixed bag of inconsistency. The Tide is rolling and this season is shaping up around it very well. Bama seems to handle teams without prolific QBs 99% of the time in the Saban era and only the Nittany Lions behind them have a Quarterback playing at a dangerous enough level to cause them some concern. Jalen Hurts still isn’t perfect, but with the landscape around Bama weaker at the top than last year, it could be another title for the Tide.
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