1. Alabama is the undisputed best team in the nation
This season may be wide open as far as what four teams will make College Football Playoffs, but Alabama is clear-cut the best team in the nation, and it’s not even close at this juncture of the season. Saturday, the Crimson Tide steamrolled past previously unbeaten Texas A&M 33-14 to remain No. 1 in the nation.
Alabama looks destined to make their third straight trip to the CFB Playoffs for a chance of repeating as national champions. The Tide’s defense bottled up the Aggies offense much like it has done everyone else this season. A&M quarterback Trevor Knight was held to 164 yards on 14-of-31 passing. They also sacked Knight five times. Meanwhile, the run defense was just as impressive holding the Aggies to 114 yards and 3.0 yards per carry.
Alabama is 7-0 with wins over A&M, Ole Miss, USC, Tennessee, and Arkansas. They are outscoring their opponents by an average score of 44-15. And to imagine this is with the offense being inconsistent for much of the season. Alabama’s defense is great enough to carry the team to its second straight national championship, but the more Jalen Hurts grows as a quarterback, the Tide will be more daunting.
Looking ahead to their remaining schedule, they only have a trip to Baton Rouge on Nov. 5 against LSU and the Iron Bowl in the season finale as potential road blocks. And while both Tigers programs look like the most improved teams in the nation, let alone SEC, given the track record of Nick Saban and the Tide, it may not prove to be much of a challenge.
2. Its Lamar Jackson’s Heisman to lose
The Lamar Jackson Show was back on air this week. The Louisville quarterback destroyed the defense of N.C. State. He threw for 355 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 76 yards and a touchdown.
359 Total Yards
4 TD for @UofLFootball
In the 1ST HALF.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) October 22, 2016
Jackson is by far the leading candidate for the Heisman. He has 18 passing touchdowns and 16 rushing touchdowns for the season. His 34 total touchdowns is now a Louisville single-season school-record. His impressive outing against the Wolfpack comes a week after Clemson struggled against the same N.C. State team.
With impressive outings in his toughest tests — Florida State, Louisville, N.C. State, and Syracuse — Jackson has a good firm grip on the Heisman and it’s his trophy to lose.
3. Big Ten finish will be fun to watch
Ohio State may have stumbled against Penn State, but the intrigue and suspense of the Big Ten is still firm. The Buckeyes are not out of the hunt for the CFB Playoffs, not by a long shot. Four of the Buckeyes’ remaining five opponents have winning records and are still in the thick of the chase for a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis.
Ohio State will play Northwestern before their showdown against undefeated Nebraska. Then they will make a trip to Maryland to play the Terrapins, who are coming off an impressive 28-17 win over Michigan State, who the Buckeyes play the following week in East Lansing. Then they close the season out with archrival Michigan.
Speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines have breezed through their schedule with impressive wins over Colorado, Penn State, and Wisconsin, but they still have a date at East Lansing next Saturday, home against Maryland, and that showdown against the Buckeyes which will be in Columbus.
And don’t count out Penn State, who has a chance with their 24-21 win over Ohio State to steal the Big Ten East with some help. They have already played the Big Two in the division and have a win over Maryland. And the Terrapins, while unlikely, could be a huge spoiler as they are a rising program under first-year head coach D.J. Durkin.
Meanwhile in the West division, Wisconsin appears to be the best team in the division, yet they have two conference losses — to Ohio State and Michigan. Currently, Nebraska is in first place with a perfect 7-0 record, and 4-0 conference mark, but back-to-back trips to Wisconsin and Ohio State could certainly change their standings drastically.
Northwestern is in the same position in the West as Penn State is in the East. While the Wildcats stumbled against the Cornhuskers, they still have to play the Badgers, and with Nebraska’s tough schedule ahead of them, an upset win over Wisconsin and Northwestern could very much be playing in Indianapolis.
The next month will be very intriguing and fun to watch in the Big Ten. There is a lot of football and movement still to play out on the season.
4. Charlie Strong days as Texas head coach are numbered
Charlie Strong’s seat was already scorching hot, now it’s in flames after the Longhorns lost to Kansas State 24-21 on Saturday to drop to 3-4. Their win over Notre Dame to open the season is a faded memory. An announcement of his dismissal from the program is pending. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Will the Texas brass make the move now, as early as Monday morning, or will it wait out the season is the only question now?
Strong has had to embattle the naysayers and critics since Day 1. And at this point, losing his job may be more a relief than a burden for him. Boosters and fans have long soured on his tenure in Austin, and as the losses pile up, it’s apparent this was a bad hire from the get-go. And no it’s not because Strong is not a good coach, but he was never the right fit. Anything short of a perfect season right out of the gate in his first season was never going to be good enough for Texas.
As Strong’s final days are numbered, it’s safe to assume the Texas brass is cooking up a plan to lure Tom Herman from Houston to replace the soon-to-be ousted Strong.
5. Houston’s season is figuratively over
Speaking of Herman and Houston, the Cougars’ hopes of making the College Football Playoffs were faint with the loss to Navy. After Saturday’s lackluster effort against SMU, a 38-16 thrashing loss, Houston’s season as we know it is over. Forget about a Nov. 17 clash against Louisville, the Cougars had no interest in beating SMU and for it, they will settle on a low-level bowl game.
The current outlook is a stark contrast from the preseason, when many believed they had a great chance of becoming the first Group of Five program to make the CFB Playoffs. A win over Oklahoma put them right in the mix and all they had to do was run the course and beat the rising Louisville Cardinals.
Now the Cougars will have to fight through the emotions of feeling the rest of the season is meaningless and play for pride. The players will also have to ignore all the chatter about how Herman is the leading coaching candidate for any big program in search of a change for next season, see Texas.
KCM Sports Power Rankings ahead Week 9
Biggest Takeaways from Power Rankings
- Louisville is ranked ahead of Clemson for fourth despite losing to Clemson earlier this season. Right now, Louisville is playing better, and yes the Tigers beat the Cardinals 42-36 on Oct. 1. The way Cardinals handled N.C. State and the Tigers stumbled against the Wolfpack a week ago played a huge factor.
- Auburn jumps 10 spots to No. 12. The Tigers throttled Arkansas 56-3, proving they are just as good as initially projected along with their 18-13 win over LSU earlier this season. Their two losses on the season came against Wisconsin, who is ranked No. 7 this week and Texas A&M, who was undefeated until their loss to Alabama on Saturday.
- Houston took the biggest tumble, dropping eight spots to No. 19. The Cougars still are ranked ahead of Oklahoma, who Houston beat in the season opener.