Week 4 proved to all but eliminate a conference from the CFP chase. With Clemson losing their second game of the season to an upset minded NC State, the ACC’s best chance seems to be out the window. It seems to be, but we’ll get to that later. One thing week 4 did provide was plenty of quarterback controversies. Wisconsin, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and even Notre Dame to name a few. The only conference without anything of note happening is the SEC. Best conference in the country? Or just the most predictable?
Faith in the Big 12?
Oklahoma survived again, Oklahoma State is quietly undefeated, and so are the Baylor Bears, both of whom entered the poll this week at numbers 19 and 21 respectively. First, Oklahoma escaped West Virginia late 16-13 on a field goal as time expired, but not before many Sooner fans took the opportunity to remind quarterback Spencer Rattler that he has not been up to their expectations. After two straight weeks of close calls against lower caliber teams, fans began to boo Rattler and chant for backup QB Caleb Williams. The real question is whether or not the Sooner offense, ranked 12th worst in the nation in yards per play, will improve at all before they face Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma State all on the road. Speaking of Baylor and Oklahoma State, their marquee matchup is this weekend. The winner could have a clear cut shot to the Big 12 championship game. Oklahoma State may have the best shot as they get to play at home against Baylor and Oklahoma, but their toughest game could be a trip to Austin to face the Longhorns on Oct. 16. Survive Texas, and Oklahoma State could be saying hello to the playoff, proving that the Big 12 may be just fine without Oklahoma and Texas.
The ACC is out. Or is it?
24.5 points is the average margin of victory for a Wake Forest team that is roasting hot. How about a 4-0 start for the Demon Deacons? The team has brought in a host of transfers this season. Ten to be exact, five of which are from the Power Five conferences. With the influx of experience, they’ve already equaled their win totals from last season and host a Louisville team this weekend that punished them last season 45-21. If the Demon Deacons can beat the Cardinals in a home game in which they are favored by 6.5, they will be 5-0. Wake Forest would be not only the best shot the ACC has at the playoff, but quite possibly the last shot. What about Boston College? The Eagles are 4-0 traveling to Clemson this week and after that they will host NC State. Tough two game stretch for the Eagles, but if they survive it could set up a showdown at the end of the season with the aforementioned Demon Deacons with a ACC championship berth on the line. Wouldn’t that be something?
Ohio State QB Controversy?
If Ohio State doesn’t have a quarterback controversy yet, it should. True freshman Kyle McCord started Saturday for the Buckeyes, and needless to say, he impressed. Akron is by no means a great team; however, the Zips were competitive, only trailing 14-7 after the first quarter. Then McCord showed out, throwing for 318 yards with 245 coming in the second and third quarters. During these two quarters the Buckeyes put up 38 points. During the fourth quarter, Jack Miller stepped in and also performed fairly well. C.J. Stroud has averaged 321 yards through the air per game while playing a full four quarters. McCord played three quarters and fell three yards short of Stroud’s average. McCord was incredibly efficient as well. Obviously it’s a small sample size, but McCord’s passer efficiency is 246.18, which would be tops in the NCAA, whereas Stroud’s is only 162.67, which is 27th in the country. For reference, last year, Justin Fields ranked 10th in the same stat. If McCord plays again Saturday on the road against Rutgers and the Buckeyes win convincingly, how many more people not named Ryan Day are going to need convincing?
Irish Back or Badgers Tanking?
After the Irish slapped around the Wisconsin Badgers this week, it appeared that their defense came to life in the fourth quarter. Two pick-sixes in the fourth put them ahead comfortably and were just two of the Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz’s four picks on the day. Is the Irish defense back to their 2020 ways? Is the Badgers offense still searching for answers? The Badger’s offense hasn’t particularly found success (they rank 124th in the nation in passing efficiency), and since Graham Mertz’s first game against Illinois last season, he has thrown five touchdowns to 11 interceptions, which begs the question; did Paul Chryst make the wrong decision and play Mertz over Coan? Coan is 4-0 and Mertz is now 1-2. The stats don’t lie, and one of these teams still has a potential playoff berth in front of them while the other might not win the inferior Big Ten West. Considering that Notre Dame isn’t in a conference, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out which team is which. So while the Irish defense was impressive Saturday, let’s not forget the opponent. Maybe it is time for the Badgers to go a different direction. Is redshirt junior Chase Wolf on the clock?
Big Ten Conference
The Big Ten Conference is clearly unbalanced. The Big Ten East is 24-4 to start the season while the West is 15-14. Last year in a COVID year-conference only season for the Big Ten, the East was 24-24 while the West was a slightly worse 24-25. In 2019, the East was 32-31 while the West was 31-32. Pretty even with the expectation of this year; however, the standings don’t tell the full story. The West hasn’t won the championship since Wisconsin won it in back to back years in 2011 and 2012. This makes the West 2-8 in Big Ten Championship games. It does appear that the best team in the West can’t get by the best team in the East, as it has been this way for eight years straight. In 2020, the Big Ten decided to have “champions week,” where teams in the East would play teams in the West. Three of the seven games were cancelled, but in the four games that were played, the East fared better than the West with three victories to one. Plus, conference realignment may net the Big Ten a better chance at the playoff, something Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren should think about. For instance, in 2016, if the Big Ten had been realigned there was potential to get two teams in. The Ohio State Buckeyes were already locked in, and under a hypothetical realignment that would pit Penn State vs. Michigan in the Big Ten Championship, the winner would potentially get the fourth spot, giving the Big Ten two teams in the playoff.