Heisman Watch: Week 9

The top 3 on this week’s Heisman Watch have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. With no clear running back favorite, an injury to Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., and no defensive standout that has the statistics to compete with the quarterbacks, these 3 historic seasons will continue to develop as November football is upon us.

1. Tua Tagovailoa (Quarterback, Alabama) alabama
QBR: 97.5
Passing Yards: 2,066
Touchdowns-to-Interceptions: 25:0
The Alabama quarterback came back from a knee injury to roll Tennessee last weekend on his way to raising his already historic QBR rating. He still has no interceptions and is running away as the best player in college football. He’s completing over 70% of his passes and has a bye week before a showdown with LSU.

2. Dwayne Haskins (Quarterback, Ohio State) ohio state
QBR: 83.9
Passing Yards: 2,801
Touchdowns-to-Interceptions: 30:5
Haskins is also having a historic season at the quarterback position and is leading the nation in passing yards thanks to a school record 73 pass attempts in a loss at Purdue last Saturday. Defense and an inability to get a run game going costed the Buckeyes, but Haskins still threw for 470 yards. The bye week could not come at a better time for Columbus before they take on Nebraska and Michigan State to kick off November.

3. Kyler Murray (Quarterback, Oklahoma) oklahoma
QBR: 96.9
Passing Yards: 1,977
Touchdowns-to-Interceptions: 25:3
Oklahoma’s all-around weapon continues to be Kyler Murray at quarterback. He has the potential to lead Oklahoma back to the Big XII Championship game and continues to make plays with his legs (428 yards, 5 rushing touchdowns). His legs and completion percentage (72.3%) keep him up-to-par with Haskins and Tagovailoa in the Heisman race. These three look like the clear favorites to be named finalists.

College Football Playoff Picture: Week 8

Upsets covered college football on Saturday as many teams saw their College Football Playoff chances diminish and others saw their chances increase dramatically. Here’s a look at the AP Top 25, everyone’s playoff hopes, and what each team has to have happen for a bid to the real postseason.

1. Alabama (SEC, 7-0)

Rundown: Alabama is still the best team in the country regardless if Tua Tagovailoa is ready to go against Tennessee. Jalen Hurts should start this week, giving Tua some rest before facing #5 LSU.

Can they afford a loss? Possibly. At this point in the season, Alabama can afford a loss and still remain in decent position to make the CFP. However, this team doesn’t look like they will lose anytime soon. A one-loss Alabama can probably remain ranked ahead of any Big XII or Pac-12 team.

Worst Case Scenario: Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Clemson all finish the season undefeated with a one-loss team winning the SEC. If the eye-test truly matters, the Selection Committee would have a lot to think about.

2. Ohio State (Big Ten, 7-0)

Rundown: The Buckeyes didn’t look as dominant on Saturday against Minnesota as they have in the past, but quarterback Dwayne Haskins still looks in control of every game. They should be able to handle Purdue and Nebraska in the coming weeks. They will be without DE Nick Bosa for the rest of the season as he prepares for the NFL Draft after a core muscle injury.

Can they afford a loss? Possibly. If Ohio State wins the Big Ten with one loss, they would be in position as long as that loss is viable (Michigan, Michigan State). However, they would need help if they don’t play in the Big Ten Championship game due to a Michigan loss.

Worst Case Scenario: Alabama, Notre Dame, and Clemson all remain undefeated and Michigan wins out. Ohio State would be left out of the CFP in a heartbeat.

3. Clemson (ACC, 6-0)

Rundown: The Tigers had their fun (and a bye week), but now the true test comes in their upcoming game against undefeated #16 NC State. Trevor Lawrence will be healthy for what looks like an elimination game.

Can they afford a loss? If they can, it better not be now. An ACC team that doesn’t win the conference will not make the CFP. If Clemson falters against the Wolfpack they’ll be left out of the ACC Championship (barring a NC State late-season meltdown).

Worst Case Scenario: Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame remain undefeated and Clemson wins the ACC with one loss. A one-loss champ from any conference would have a case against a one-loss champ from the ACC.

4. Notre Dame (Independent, 7-0)

Rundown: The Irish get a bye after a close win against Pitt at home. The schedule is favorable, but Northwestern, Florida State, and USC are all dark horses in November.

Can they afford a loss? Eh. There are a lot of one-loss teams in Power Five conferences still remaining and all of them would have a better resume than Notre Dame if the Irish lose with their remaining schedule.

Worst Case Scenario: They lose. Every one-loss team will have a case against Notre Dame come selection time if the Irish lose; their schedule just isn’t strong enough down the stretch.

5. LSU (SEC, 6-1)

Rundown: LSU surged into the top 5 this week after beating #8 Georgia. They control their own destiny with #1 Alabama in two weeks.

Can they afford a loss? No. The rest of their own conference is too strong to allow LSU to make the CFP with two losses, let alone the rest of the country.

Best Case Scenario: Beat Bama and you’re in, baby. The Tigers are the only one-loss team that controls their own fate.

6. Michigan (Big Ten, 6-1)

Rundown: Michigan is back in the top 10 after romping #23 Wisconsin. The Wolverines have to play #24 Michigan State on Saturday with #18 Penn State and #2 Ohio State on deck in November.

Worst Case Scenario: Michigan wins out and wins the Big Ten… but Clemson and Notre Dame remain unbeaten and Alabama’s only loss is to SEC Champion LSU, Georgia, Florida, or Kentucky (all of which have one loss). It would be hard to keep Michigan out, who would have a win against #2 Ohio State. The Committee would have to see Alabama as unequivocally better than the Wolverines in this scenario. This will probably be the craziest scenario as Michigan’s only loss is to Notre Dame.

7. Texas (Big XII, 6-1)

Rundown: Texas is in control of the Big XII right now but has yet to look like a playoff team. They still have #13 West Virginia and a potential rematch in the Big XII Championship with #9 Oklahoma.

Best Case Scenario: If Notre Dame loses and the other three conferences (SEC, Big Ten, ACC) show to only have one dominant team, Texas can make a semifinal. It’s crazy to think that with half of a season left to go, the #7 Longhorns could possibly not move up in the rankings even with teams ahead of them playing each other.

8. Georgia (SEC, 6-1)

Rundown: Georgia is fortunate enough to still be in control of their own destiny in the SEC. They get a bye week before facing #11 Florida and #14 Kentucky in crucial SEC East games.

Best Case Scenario: Georgia wins out and wins the SEC. They’d be beating a top 5 opponent in either Alabama or LSU and have a better case than any team not being an undefeated conference champion or Notre Dame.

9. Oklahoma (Big XII, 5-1)

Rundown: Oklahoma can win out and their schedule is not too challenging outside of #13 West Virginia at the end of the season. They can get another shot at a top 10 Texas team during championship week.

Best Case Scenario: Oklahoma has to win out and hope for Notre Dame to lose. If the Irish lose and no other conference can prove to have two teams worthy of making the CFP, the Sooners will get in by winning out.

10. UCF (American, 6-0)

Rundown: The Knights and quarterback McKenzie Milton are the most interesting team in college football. #20 Cincinnati and #21 USF are still undefeated in a three-way battle for the American Conference East Division.

Best Case Scenario: UCF needs to hope that Cincinnati and USF continue to win, but they also need to hope that Houston (5-1) takes care of business in the West Division with their dynamic offense. The unfortunate part is that USF and Houston play in two weeks. Either way, UCF needs these American Conference teams to be ranked when they play. If UCF can get wins against ranked opponents, they would need the following things to happen: Notre Dame to lose, one team from the Big Ten, SEC, and ACC to be clearly ahead, and the Big XII and Pac-12 to have multi-loss champions. It seems like a lot, but if the Knights are ranked high enough when the CFP rankings are released, there is still hope.

11. Florida (SEC, 6-1)

Rundown: Florida gets a bye before they face #8 Georgia, who is the only ranked team remaining on their schedule. The loss to #14 Kentucky still hurts the Gators because both teams can win out and Florida can still be left out of the SEC Championship game.

Best Case Scenario: Florida wins out and Kentucky finds a loss in SEC play. A one-loss Florida team that wins the SEC will have a better resume than any Big XII or Pac-12 team. Florida will get in with by winning out and claiming the SEC Championship.

12. Oregon (Pac-12, 5-1)

Rundown: The Pac-12 is still in deep trouble even after Oregon moved up in the rankings. Oregon gets #25 Washington State on Saturday in a pivotal North Division showdown, but that is the only ranked game left on their schedule. Don’t be surprised if the winner of this conference has as many as three losses.

Best Case Scenario: Notre Dame has to lose and three conferences (SEC, Big Ten, ACC) need to have only one team get in. Even then, the Big XII has to have a multi-loss champion. Oregon could even end up having problems with UCF, whose remaining strength of schedule could include 3 ranked opponents. The Pac-12 is looking more like the 6th best conference as the season progresses.

13. West Virginia (Big XII, 5-1)

Rundown: West Virginia just lost to Iowa State and they still have to play #7 Texas and #9 Oklahoma. They control their own destiny in the Big XII but quarterback Will Grier will need to play up to the hype of the rest of the conference.

Best Case Scenario: If WVU wins out, they’d need Notre Dame to surely lose and three conferences (SEC, Big Ten, ACC) to have one team only. Two Big Ten teams (Ohio State, Michigan) and two SEC teams if Alabama doesn’t win the SEC can also stay ahead of the Big XII’s chances. However, they would jump an undefeated UCF, which is a more confident prediction then we can make for Oregon.

14. Kentucky (SEC, 5-1)

Rundown: Kentucky controls their own fate in SEC play as they have winnable games against Vanderbilt and Missouri before facing #8 Georgia in a potential divisional championship.

Best Case Scenario: Much like the rest of the one-loss teams in the SEC, the Wildcats will be in control of their fate as winning out would boost their resume above the Big XII and Pac-12. Kentucky could be behind a Notre Dame, Clemson, and one or both of Ohio State and Michigan, depending on what the Committee sees as far as the eye test is concerned.

15. Washington (Pac-12, 5-2)

Rundown: Washington’s CFP chances are about as slim as anyone in the top 25. The Huskies lost to #12 Oregon this past weekend and have a tough game against Colorado (5-1) this Saturday.

Best Case Scenario: Washington probably won’t rank ahead of a one-loss Notre Dame, any one-loss SEC team, any one-loss Big Ten team, any one-loss ACC team, or any undefeated American Conference teams. The Huskies would need absolute chaos and then more chaos.

16. North Carolina State (ACC, 5-0)

Rundown: NC State is still undefeated and gets to prove if they belong in the conversation this weekend when they play #3 Clemson. An undefeated NC State team does not carry as much clout as an undefeated Clemson due to Clemson’s win against #17 Texas A&M, but a win this weekend will mean all the difference.

Best Case Scenario: NC State gets the bid over any Big XII team if they win out. The problem remains with the eye test. The SEC still has an influx of teams with one loss and a chance at the SEC belt and the Big Ten also has Michigan and Ohio State possibly proving they both deserve to be in over the ACC. It seems unlikely that an undefeated NC State does not get a bid, but their strength of schedule might even be weaker than the big three of the American East Division (UCF, Cincinnati, USF). NC State needs to beat Clemson this weekend, the rest lays at the hands of the Committee when the first rankings are released in two weeks.

17. Texas A&M (SEC, 5-2)

Rundown: Texas A&M has two strong losses in #3 Clemson and #1 Alabama. They have to rely on Alabama to lose twice to make the SEC Championship. Their schedule doesn’t get easier after the bye week with #22 Mississippi State, Auburn, and #5 LSU still on the schedule.

Best Case Scenario: Alabama drops two games and Texas A&M wins the SEC. A two-loss SEC team would need a lot of help and hope for other two-loss champions in other conferences. If any conference gets a team in with two losses, it’s the SEC.

18. Penn State (Big Ten, 4-2)

Rundown: Penn State is eliminated from playoff contention barring an absolute mess from #2 Ohio State and #6 Michigan. Penn State still has #19 Iowa, #6 Michigan, and #23 Wisconsin.

Best Case Scenario: If Penn State can win out and every conference (including their own and the American) has two-loss champions, the Big Ten has a strong case as any to get a bid. The SEC would be the only thing standing in their way. Penn State can hope for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

19. Iowa (Big Ten, 5-1)

Rundown: Outside of a late October game against #18 Penn State, the Hawkeyes have a favorable schedule. They don’t control their own destiny as Wisconsin holds the tiebreaker over them in Big Ten West play.

Best Case Scenario: If Iowa can find themselves in a Big Ten Championship game and win it against an Ohio State or Michigan, they would be in a good position to sniff the top four. A one-loss SEC champ will probably remain ahead, but a win in the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis will be a stronger win then that of the Big XII or Pac-12 title games. Notre Dame losing and Alabama running the table would help.

20. Cincinnati (American, 6-0)

Rundown: Cincinnati has a weak schedule outside of back-to-back current undefeated teams #21 South Florida and #10 UCF. If they can win those games they could have a potential matchup against a ranked, one-loss Houston team from the weaker West Division.

Best Case Scenario: If multi-loss teams win the Big XII and Pac-12 (which is a more likely scenario than most would think), then the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, and Notre Dame are the only entities standing in the way. But if a two-loss Virginia Tech takes the ACC, an undefeated American Conference team could see themselves in playoff contention. The Bearcats should hope for all that and for Alabama and Ohio State to keep winning. A Notre Dame loss or two wouldn’t hurt either.

21. South Florida (American, 6-0)

Rundown: It took a miracle for USF to take down Tulsa this past weekend, but a zero in the loss column still remains. USF gets Houston in two weeks and also has undefeated teams #20 Cincinnati and #10 UCF.

Best Case Scenario: USF is the only one of the three undefeated teams in the East Division that has to play Houston from the West Division before the American Conference Championship. Beating the same team twice does not boost a resume more than beating that same team once. If you’re wondering what USF needs to hope for to reach the CFP, refer to Cincinnati above, but also factor in that Houston game before the conference championship. A lot of what the American Conference needs is determined by that initial CFP ranking.

22. Mississippi State (SEC, 4-2)

Rundown: Mississippi State has #5 LSU, #17 Texas A&M, and #1 Alabama in three-out-of-four straight weeks. This will be tough for the Bulldogs.

Best Case Scenario: Mississippi State winning out would give them a lot of high-profile wins, but even then they might not make their own conference title game. If somehow they do find themselves in the SEC Championship, they’d be competing with every one-loss champ for a spot in the CFP. Their wins would stack up against any conference champion if they win out, but how would the losses to Kentucky and Florida look by the end of the season? The good news is that both of those teams control their own destiny in the East Division and a rematch victory would help, but then they’d need some more help… and some more.

23. Wisconsin (Big Ten, 4-2)

Rundown: They still control their own destiny in the West Division, but they play #18 Penn State later in the season. Wisconsin’s latest loss at the hands of #6 Michigan will be too much to overcome.

Best Case Scenario: Wisconsin can hope for a Big Ten Championship victory, but the one-loss champions from (most likely) every Power Five conference would remain ahead of the Badgers. A Wisconsin win in the Big Ten title game would probably ruin all chances of the Big Ten getting a bid unless Michigan beats Ohio State and loses to Wisconsin – then Ohio State would still have a chance.

24. Michigan State (Big Ten, 4-2)

Rundown: MSU still controls their own destiny in the East Division since they play #6 Michigan on Saturday with Maryland and #2 Ohio State in November. However, their losses against Arizona State and Northwestern will still look bad on the resume.

Best Case Scenario: Michigan State wins the Big Ten with other two-loss teams winning their conferences. The Pac-12 and Big XII can absolutely have a two-loss champion that Michigan State would jump, but help needs to come from the ACC outside of Clemson and NC State, the SEC only getting one bid, and even Ohio State losing again. The American Conference poses a threat to any two-loss champion, even Michigan State.

25. Washington State (Pac-12, 5-1)

Rundown: Washington State jumped into the rankings after another win. They have #12 Oregon on Saturday and #15 Washington to close out the year. Their lone loss against USC could be avenged in the Pac-12 title game.

Best Case Scenario: Refer to Oregon, it’s practically the same situation.

 

Heisman Watch: Week 8

Not much changed in the latest Heisman Watch, but two sophomore skill players are lingering behind the nation’s top 3 quarterbacks.  Late October and November schedules could prove crucial to how these players compete in the second half of the season.

1. Tua Tagovailoa (Quarterback, Alabama)alabama
QBR: 97.4
Passing Yards: 1,760
Touchdowns-to-Interceptions: 21:0
Tua continues to lead the #1 Crimson Tide to an undefeated record in which he has yet to throw an interception. He threw for 265 yards and 3 touchdowns in last weekend’s win against Missouri, but a knee injury might stunt him for the time being. Alabama will be just fine with Jalen Hurts behind center, but Tua’s injury might keep him out of the Tennessee game this weekend in which he could have racked up more stats. However, Nick Saban just wants him to be ready for the game against LSU on November 3rd.

2. Dwayne Haskins (Quarterback, Ohio State)ohio state
QBR: 85.9
Passing Yards: 2,331
Touchdowns-to-Interceptions: 28:4
Haskins could finish this season with more yards and touchdowns then any quarterback in Big Ten history. He threw for 412 yards and 3 touchdowns and was 33 of 44 passing for the second straight week. He’s completing over 72% of his passes and will most likely continue to out-throw Tagovailoa and the other quarterbacks on this list. He gets a winless Nebraska team this weekend in which he might be able to pull ahead of an injured Tagovailoa.

3. Kyler Murray (Quarterback, Oklahoma)oklahoma
QBR: 96.8
Passing Yards: 1,764
Touchdowns-to-Interceptions: 21:3
Murray’s bye week puts him at a disadvantage in this week’s Heisman watch, but he has arguably the easiest schedule ahead with TCU, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Kansas all before current-undefeated West Virginia to close out the season. Murray’s schedule and running ability could push him ahead on the watch list.

4. Laviska Shenault Jr. (Wide Receiver, Colorado)colorado
Receptions: 60
Receiving Yards: 780
Touchdowns: 6
The dynamic sophomore is the best wide receiver in the country so far this season. He is averaging 10.0 receptions, 1.0 touchdowns, and 130.0 yards per game. The Buffaloes took a loss to USC this weekend in which Shenault couldn’t get too hot. However, he ended the night with 9 receptions, 72 yards, and a rushing touchdown. Shenault is still the go-to player for Colorado and has a strong ability to run the ball (5 rushing touchdowns this season). He will face a tough defense against Washington this weekend.

5. Jonathan Taylor wisconsin
Rushing Yards: 950
Average: 6.6
Touchdowns: 8
Taylor is having a great season but finishes many games without a rushing touchdown, which could hurt his chances at being names a Heisman finalist. He’s averaging 158.3 yards a game and has rushed for over 100 yards in every game this season (his lowest being 101 yards in the most recent loss at Michigan). Taylor can gain some points if he can somehow get Wisconsin a Big Ten title. He gets Illinois this weekend to up that touchdown total.

College Football Playoff Picture: Week 7

The halfway point of the season is closing the door to many team’s College Football Playoff chances. Looking at the AP Top 25, here’s where the field stands on their chances and what they can – and can’t do – to reach the College Football Playoff.

1. Alabama (SEC, 6-0)

Rundown: This Nick Saban team is one of the best he has ever coached with Tua Tagovailoa on the path to become the most efficient passer in college football history. The bulk of their schedule is yet to come, but this team has more problems against the spread than they do beating teams.

Can they afford a loss? Probably. Barring an influx of undefeated teams from other conferences and Notre Dame, this team might be able to afford a divisional loss or close game in the SEC championship against Georgia. Even if other conferences produce undefeated champs, the SEC still has the best chance to get two bids.

2. Georgia (SEC, 6-0)

Rundown: Georgia hasn’t been tested yet, but they look poised to run the table in a weaker SEC East. If they do and can get through Alabama, they’re the best team in the country hands down.

Can they afford a loss? Probably. Again, an influx of undefeated teams from other Power Five conferences, Notre Dame, and possibly a one-loss Penn State team (if Ohio State wins out) are the only things keeping Georgia out of the playoff if they lose. A close loss in the SEC title game against Alabama might not be enough to push them out of the top 4.

3. Ohio State (Big Ten, 6-0)

Rundown: Dwayne Haskins and company look very strong on offense, but the defense continually gives up big plays against nearly every opponent they play. Michigan and Michigan State are on the slate, but the Buckeyes have a 71% chance to win out.

Can they afford a loss? Possibly. A regular season loss can probably happen as long as they keep it close, but a loss in the Big Ten Championship to Wisconsin could knock them out of contention. Undefeated Clemson, Notre Dame, a one-loss SEC team and an undefeated SEC champ could certainly keep a one-loss Ohio State out.

4. Clemson (ACC, 6-0)

Rundown: Clemson plays in a weak ACC, but they get a crack at undefeated NC State this weekend. They have the best chance in the country at winning out.

Can they afford a loss? Probably not. This ACC is too weak for Clemson to afford a loss and still get in the playoff. Penn State’s resume will look better if they win out with their lone loss being against a possible undefeated Ohio State. However, Clemson’s remaining schedule and their defensive line shouldn’t worry any Tigers fans.

5. Notre Dame (Independent, 6-0)

Rundown: The Irish have a schedule that is just tough enough for them to be put in the same category as other Power Five programs. Their quarterback play is good and their defense is winning games. That early-season win against Michigan looks better by the week and their remaining schedule is favorable against the likes of Florida State and USC – who are both having down seasons.

Can they afford a loss? No. Their schedule doesn’t put them in position to lose and still get in over a conference champion. An undefeated Notre Dame will most likely receive a bid as long as there are not 4 undefeated conference champions – but even that might not keep them out. It will be interesting to see where they rank when the CFP rankings are released.

6. West Virginia (Big XII, 5-0)

Rundown: West Virginia has a very exciting offense in a very exciting offensive conference. The canceled NC State game would have been a nice nonconference win, but the Mountaineers have a tough schedule ahead.

Can they afford a loss? Possibly. The great thing about the Big XII is that everyone plays everyone, and the Big XII Championship game acts as a second chance for the second best team in the conference. West Virginia might be able to lose as long as they get another shot at that same team during conference championship week. A one-loss Penn State (if Ohio State wins out), a one loss Georgia or Alabama (to the other being an undefeated conference champ), an undefeated ACC team, and an undefeated Notre Dame could stand in the way. This is a team that should hope to be ranked ahead of Penn State when the CFP rankings are released.

7. Washington (Pac-12, 5-1)

Rundown: The Huskies have a good defense that should be able to run the table in the Pac-12, but this conference has suffered internal chaos before. They play a good Oregon team this weekend and it should be an indicator as to how far ahead they are from the rest of their conference.

Can they afford a loss? Absolutely not. Their lone loss against Auburn looks worse by the week and the Pac-12’s playoff hopes almost ride solely on Washington’s shoulders. Winning out might not even be enough with two Big Ten teams (Ohio State, Penn State), two SEC teams (Alabama, Georgia), Notre Dame, and Clemson having to falter.

8. Penn State (Big Ten, 4-1)

Rundown: Penn State’s offense is really good under Trace McSorley and the remaining schedule is favorable. They probably won’t be playing for a conference championship, but they could easily be considered the second best team in the Big Ten if Ohio State wins out.

Can they afford a loss? Absolutely not. Their Ohio State loss looks really good, but they can’t reach the playoff with another loss. Penn State’s chances at a final four appearance are extremely interesting. An undefeated Clemson and SEC team will certainly be ahead of Penn State, but a one-loss SEC team that doesn’t win their conference would make for a great debate. An undefeated Notre Dame could see themselves behind Penn State if they beat Michigan more impressively than Notre Dame did to start the year (a close, 24-17 game).

9. Texas (Big XII, 5-1)

Rundown: This team finds themselves in a similar situation that Ohio State was in during their 2014 national championship run. That Ohio State team had an offense ran by Tom Herman, the current Longhorns head coach who is pretty familiar to running the table after a weak loss during opening week (Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech by two touchdowns). After an impressive win against Oklahoma, this team has a great chance to bring Texas back to notoriety.

Can they afford a loss? Nope. The Maryland loss doesn’t look absolutely terrible, but it has more ramifications then most people would think. Texas has to run the table in the Big XII. An undefeated Notre Dame team, an undefeated or one-loss Ohio State, possibly two SEC teams, and a one-loss Penn State team (which will have a win over Maryland) would all probably rank ahead of Texas. They need to win out and let the rest of the Power Five run its course.

10. UCF (The American, 5-0)

Rundown: Where will they be when the CFP rankings are released? The American Athletic Conference has three undefeated teams in the East Division (Cincinnati, South Florida being the others), and UCF had their game against North Carolina canceled. As bad as North Carolina is, every Power Five win helps their case.

Can they afford a loss? Absolutely not. The American is a Group of Five conference, but year after year it feels more like a conference that is solely in their own category stuck in the middle. UCF needs to win out and hope for some major chaos in the Power Five with two-loss teams winning conferences and a bunch of other unlikely scenarios. The good news is that current undefeated teams Cincinnati and South Florida (one of which will lose to the other) are the last two games for the Knights before their conference championship game.

11. Oklahoma (Big XII, 5-1)

Rundown: Oklahoma has a Heisman candidate at quarterback with Kyler Murray and if they win out they can have another shot at Texas in the title game. But they should hope for it to be Texas and only Texas. The Big XII scheduling format plays in favor for Oklahoma to have a shot at redemption, but they need to get through TCU and West Virginia first.

Can they afford a loss? Not anymore. Oklahoma has to win out and hope for some upsets ahead of them. If Clemson or Notre Dame lose, they can fall behind a one-loss Oklahoma. But Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, and Penn State can all remain ahead of the Sooners throughout the rest of the season. This is a team that should hope to be ranked right on Penn State’s heals when the CFP rankings are released. They need some help.

12. Michigan (Big Ten, 5-1)

Rundown: Michigan has the second-best loss in the country (Notre Dame), but they get a chance at the team that has the best loss in the country (Penn State) and the team that has the best win in the country (Ohio State). Michigan’s schedule allows them to almost completely control their own destiny.

Can they afford a loss? Nope. Michigan needs to win out. They will jump Oklahoma with wins at home against Penn State and in the Horseshoe at Ohio State. They also have a cross-divisional game against the likely Big Ten West champ Wisconsin on Saturday. Michigan’s resume will be good enough if they win out, and the only thing stopping them would be two SEC teams, undefeated Clemson, and undefeated Notre Dame, but two SEC teams might be unlikely to get in over a Michigan that wins out with this schedule.

13. LSU (SEC, 5-1)

Rundown: LSU is a good team and Joe Burrow is a good quarterback. They aren’t destroying teams, but they have some decent wins (Miami, Auburn). LSU gets a shot at the top two teams in the conference and the country with Georgia on Saturday and Alabama in November. If they win out, it’ll be hard to keep them out of the playoff.

What needs to happen? A loss will keep them out of the SEC title game and put them in a mid-major bowl game. They control their own destiny barring chaos in the conference in which two Big Ten teams, Notre Dame, and Clemson get in over every SEC team; however, that seems unlikely. LSU has the toughest remaining schedule in the country and is by no means out of the playoff race.

14. Florida (SEC, 5-1)

Rundown: They beat LSU but lost to Kentucky. They could have a shot at Alabama with a win over Georgia in two weeks and control their own destiny in the SEC. Similar to LSU, they need to have some style points and prove they are the Florida of a decade ago.

What needs to happen? Win out and let the rest of the country do the rest. Remember, Ohio State was ranked 16th when the first CFP rankings were released in 2014 before their run to the title. Expect Florida to be ranked in the low-to-mid teens but with a chance to move up.

15. Wisconsin (Big Ten, 4-1)

Rundown: The Big Ten West is very weak and Wisconsin lost to BYU in nonconference play. The good news is that Wisconsin gets a shot at the top three teams in the Big Ten East with Michigan on Saturday, Penn State in November, and possibly Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game.

What needs to happen? To blame Wisconsin for their weak division doesn’t serve them justice when they have a chance to play every good team in the East Division. Regardless, they need to win out and jump ahead of two SEC teams, Clemson, and Notre Dame. If they beat the three-headed monsters of the Big Ten East, they should be able to jump any Big XII team outside of an undefeated West Virginia or possibly an Oklahoma team that redeems themselves against Texas.

16. Miami (ACC, 5-1)

Rundown: A weak schedule, a loss to LSU, and unimpressive wins at Toledo (yes, AT Toledo) and Florida State put the Hurricanes in a tough spot. They won’t get a shot at Clemson until the ACC Championship and the remainder of their schedule is a cake walk through the ACC Coastal Division.

What needs to happen? A lot. Penn State and Ohio State winning out will probably keep both teams ahead of Miami. Notre Dame, any of the Big XII teams (West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma), and any two of the SEC teams (Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida) are ahead of Miami until further notice. Miami needs to hope for only one SEC team to assert its dominance, and they should hope for it to be Alabama or Georgia rather than LSU. The LSU loss doesn’t help Miami too much as they would need LSU to take down Georgia and Alabama and THEN hope for Alabama and Georgia to finish the season with two losses. A one-loss Big XII champ will remain ahead of Miami, but Miami and Washington both winning out would provide a tough debate for teams with similar resumes.

17. Oregon (Pac-12, 4-1)

Rundown: Oregon looks about as average as any one-loss team in the country. They have a decent offense but lost their one important game against Stanford. The Pac-12 needs more help than any conference to reach the playoff.

What needs to happen? In short, Oregon needs two-loss teams to win conference championships. They also need to beat Washington on Saturday and hope they run into an undefeated or one-loss Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship game. If Oregon can run the table, they’ll need to pass the eye test to get ahead.

18. Kentucky (SEC, 5-1)

Rundown: Kentucky has not looked super impressive, but they beat Florida and lost to Texas A&M in overtime. They have the weakest schedule remaining compared to the rest of the SEC.

What needs to happen? They get Georgia to kick off November and an upset would propel them forward. If Kentucky wins out they’ll make the playoff ahead of any Pac-12 team. The only scenarios possibly keeping them out of controlling their own destiny would be two Big Ten teams (Ohio State, Penn State), an undefeated Clemson, an undefeated Notre Dame, and an undefeated West Virginia. But even then, wins over the top two teams in the country would put them in any conversation with any unbeaten team.

19. Colorado (Pac-12, 5-0)

Rundown: Colorado has been playing decent football and they have the best wide receiver in the country in Laviska Shenault Jr (708 yards, 6 touchdowns in 5 games). They get Washington in two weeks but what does that really matter when the two could play again in the Pac-12 Championship game? Beating the same team twice does not boost a resume more than beating that team once.

What needs to happen? Well, they can’t lose. A one-loss Big XII team, a one-loss Big Ten team, a one-loss SEC team, a one-loss ACC champ Miami, undefeated Notre Dame, and/or an undefeated Clemson could all remain ahead of Colorado – who will arguably have a worse resume than an undefeated UCF. Their initial CFP rank could provide more answers on what they have to do to get in.

20. North Carolina State (ACC, 5-0)

Rundown: They’ve won a lot of close games and style points don’t bode well for this team. They get a bye before facing Clemson next weekend, but the cancelled game against West Virginia could prove extremely costly if they can win out.

What needs to happen? A one-loss Big XII champ can remain ahead of NC State, especially if it’s a team that beats a team they lost to in the regular season (such as Oklahoma beating Texas in the conference championship game). They need to hope they can upset Clemson and that Miami continues to win ahead of the ACC Championship game. Can a one-loss SEC or one-loss Big Ten team that doesn’t win their conference remain ahead of an undefeated NC State? The CFP rankings will answer a lot of the questions surrounding them and Colorado.

21. Auburn (SEC, 4-2)

Rundown: Losses to LSU and Mississippi State helped nearly knock the War Eagle out of playoff contention. Auburn struggles on offense and can’t buy a first down, and they still have Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama on the schedule.

What needs to happen? Colorado and NC State are rightfully ahead of Auburn, and even wins against the top two teams in the country would be hard to propel them into the top four. A lot of self-destruction would have to happen in all the Power Five conferences for Auburn to get a bid, but even then it would be hard to place them above UCF – the team that beat them at the end of last season.

22. Texas A&M (SEC, 4-2)

Rundown: There isn’t much that A&M running back Trayveon Williams can’t do for this team; he has 720 yards and 7 touchdowns in only 6 games this season. The Aggies are a solid offensive team when their run game is clicking, but quarterback play remains average at best and is the reason they lost to Alabama and Clemson in the first quarter of the season.

What needs to happen? Texas A&M has a rough schedule ahead, but their toughest opponents are behind them. If the Aggies win out and chaos leads to them in the SEC title game, which is highly unlikely, they will still need help from every other Power Five conference to be considered in the top four. It might be too little too late at this point in the season.

23. South Florida (The American, 5-0)

Rundown: USF is still unbeaten and has wins over two Power Five opponents (Georgia Tech, Illinois), but the Bulls still have Houston, undefeated Cincinnati, and Group of Five powerhouse UCF to close the season.

What needs to happen? USF needs to run the table in a tough American East Division, but the conference championship game will probably be against an unranked opponent such as Houston, who USF plays at the end of October anyways. USF would need the impossible to receive a playoff bid, but the CFP rankings should paint a clearer picture.

24. Mississippi State (SEC, 4-2)

Rundown: A three-touchdown loss to Kentucky and an ugly offensive loss to Florida have the Bulldogs barely in the top 25 halfway through the season. They still have to play LSU this weekend, Texas A&M the following week, and Alabama. They don’t have much of a passing game with Nick Fitzgerald under center (49.6% completion percentage, 4 touchdowns, 3 interceptions), but he makes up for it with his legs as he broke the all-time SEC quarterback rushing mark this past week.

What needs to happen? A two-loss champ from the SEC will have to be better than multiple Big Ten teams, a Big XII champ, an ACC champ, and Notre Dame even if they lose. If Mississippi State runs the table, they’ll have to hope for Alabama to hit a roadblock in SEC West play.

25. Cincinnati (The American, 6-0)

Rundown: The Bearcats have the weakest undefeated record in the country per their scheduling. UCLA is a bad win and Cincinnati looked highly questionable against MAC foes Miami (OH) and Ohio. Their remaining schedule is a lot of fun with USF and UCF in back-to-back weeks in November.

What needs to happen? Cincinnati is in a better position than USF is in to make the playoff if they remain undefeated. If Houston can win out with their lone loss being a shootout against Texas Tech, the American Conference Championship can potentially be between an undefeated Cincinnati and a one-loss should-be-ranked-by-then Houston. USF has to play Houston in the regular season, which diminishes their resume if they simply beat them again in a conference championship. Cincinnati, however, can hope for Houston to keep winning and that November 30th game to be between two decently ranked teams. Cincinnati would obviously need some help from every Power Five conference to have a two or three-loss champion, but 8 ranked SEC teams, a top-heavy Big Ten, and a round-robin Big XII can create chaos. Though unlikely, the American Conference is putting themselves in the best position among any Group of Five contenders.

Heisman Watch: Week 7

Week 6 of college football marks halfway through the season for the majority of teams in the country and for a lot of these Heisman hopefuls, the stat-padding portion of the schedule has come to an end. With conference play heating up and an abundance of games left to play in top-heavy conferences, here’s where Partika Post has Heisman candidates ranked:

1. Tua Tagovailoa (Quarterback, Alabama)alabama
QBR: 98.5
Passing Yards: 1,495
Touchdowns-to-Interceptions: 18:0
It’s simple. The man throws around 16 passes a game, scores touchdowns, doesn’t turn the ball over, and wins football games. His QBR is not only the top in the country, but it’s on pace to put him at the top all-time (and it’s not even close). He doesn’t play in the fourth quarter and he has the big-play effect of just about any player in the country. The bulk of his schedule is yet to come with LSU and Auburn (and probably Georgia), but Alabama (and Tua) can probably afford a loss and still remain the favorites for the title and the Heisman trophy.

2. Dwayne Haskins (Quarterback, Ohio State) ohio state
QBR: 87.1
Passing Yards: 1,919
Touchdowns-to-Interceptions: 25:4
It’s hard to make a case against Haskins, who is the only player in the country to rank in the top 5 in QBR (5th), passing yards (3rd), and touchdowns (1st). He throws dimes out of the pocket and looks to be the best quarterback Ohio State’s had . . . ever. He’s statistically proficient and continually acts as the coach on the field for Urban Meyer. He’s maneuvered through TCU and Penn State, but his touchdown count will have to outweigh Tua’s efficiency for him to be holding the Heisman at the end of the season.

3. Kyler Murray (Quarterback, Oklahoma) oklahoma
QBR: 96.8
Passing Yards: 1,764
Touchdowns-to-Interceptions: 21:3
If he runs through the Big XII the way he has so far, Mr. Do-It-All for Oklahoma will put himself in great position to be a finalist come December. His speed, mobility, and running ability (5 rushing touchdowns) make him the most versatile quarterback of the bunch. He looks poised to have another shot at Texas if he wins out, which could push him over the edge with a win in the Big XII title game.

4. Laviska Shenault Jr. (Wide Receiver, Colorado) colorado
Receptions: 51
Receiving Yards: 708
Touchdowns: 6
It’s hard to really determine how good Colorado and Shenault could be in the Pac-12, but the season is just starting. Shenault is the go-to man for the Buffaloes every time he steps on the field. He has at least 1 touchdown in every game this season and averages 10.2 receptions per game. He’s had at least 10 receptions and over 120 yards in every game this season outside of Colorado’s blowout win over New Hampshire. If these numbers continue, he can be in the Heisman conversation with any player of any position.

5. Will Grier (Quarterback, West Virginia) wvu
QBR: 86.6
Passing Yards: 1,819
Touchdowns-to-Interceptions: 21:6
At this point in the season, Grier is the 4th best quarterback in the Heisman race due to the godly numbers of Tagovailoa, Haskins, and Murray. Regardless, he has thrown for almost more yards than anyone in the country with one less game (NC State was canceled) and he has 21 touchdowns. He’s been playing good football and winning games, but Texas, TCU, and Oklahoma loom in November. If he can put a shortage to his interceptions (3 against Kansas) and prove his name belongs in the conversation, he could have West Virginia playing for a spot in the playoff.

(Phase 3)

Sitting, patiently – in the street
A special figure she plans to meet
Over and over of shuffling cars
A man steps out, ready to greet

Standing quite tall – in draping dress
A man unowned and speaking less
His arms reach out like open bars
To fix once more the grateful mess

Talking through – in straight line
Of all the moments she said ‘it’s fine’
Bottled up in empty jars
Wondering why there was no sign

Rolling hills – inside the cave
Never once was she this brave
Letting emotions take more control
As she left her words at his grave

(Phase 2)

On the same beach a notebook is blank
What was written, it seems
Has sank

Even the message will fail to live on
The ink has been erased from the page
It’s gone

The paper soaked, waves blared
Equally as if
No one cared

The writer, herself, has left it alone
To be forgotten in the storm
The low of the unknown