Just when College Football couldn’t get any crazier, week 6 brought quite possibly the craziest games in years. The Red River Rivalry absolutely delivered thanks to Texas not holding a 21!!!! point lead. Nick Saban’s reign over former assistants came to an end as Jimbo Fisher got it done. To this point I still don’t know how A&M’s QB came back for the last series. Notre Dame and Michigan survived late and Iowa rallied to beat a ferocious first half Penn State team. What a week in College Football.
Alabama Will Miss The CFP
No, you did not misread that. Alabama will miss the playoff for just the second time ever. While the Crimson Tide did rally to take the lead over A&M late they couldn’t get the necessary stops to win the game. What’s the problem with the Tide? Defense. What seems to be the strength of at least half of the top ten teams this season the Tide do not fall into this category. Coming off of a stronger performance against Ole Miss it appeared the Tide defense was trending the right way. Wrong, their defense is mediocre at best, ranking 57th nationally in expected points added (EPA) per play, 40th in EPA per rush, and 78th in EPA per pass. The offense of the Crimson Tide has been solid (7th in EPA per play) but the Tide can’t continue to expect to roll in and outscore every opponent. Georgia likely will find Alabama as their matchup in the SEC championship, and the Bulldogs have a defense ranked first in EPA per play and EPA per pass. The stats say the storyline will likely be who wins out: Bama’s defense or Georgia’s offense? Given Georgia’s offense ranks 11th in EPA per pass, I’m going to side with them. Alabama will not be the first team to make the playoff with two losses. Saban’s first loss to a former assistant will not be his last.
Iowa IN? OUT?
Am I the only one who sees Iowa’s season heading down a similar road to the one it did in 2015. For those who forgot, Iowa went 12-0 rolled to a Big Ten Championship appearance before losing close to MSU. Then, they lost in the Rose Bowl getting blown out by Stanford. In the first half this past weekend against Penn State, Iowa didn’t look like they were going to get that far. They were down 17-3 before an injury to Penn State QB Sean Clifford changed the entire dynamic of the Nittany Lions offense and the game. From there Iowa did just enough to win while holding Penn State to just 3 points the rest of the way. Surviving against Penn State 23-20 just as they survived 10-6 in Madison in 2015. 12-0 is definitely on the table looking at Iowa’s remaining schedule, but the Big Ten Championship could be a problem for Iowa. The Hawkeyes couldn’t stop Penn State’s mediocre, one-dimensional offense (ranks 105th in EPA per rush and 48th in EPA per pass) with Sean Clifford in the game. Penn State doesn’t have the best offense in the Big Ten East alone and they are now a game back of Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State. All three of those teams have offenses ranking higher in EPA than the Nittany Lions and could gash the Hawkeyes defense which has been impressive so far.
Oklahoma Will Make The Playoff IF…
They continue to ride with Caleb WIlliams at quarterback. Williams’ stat line didn’t pop out to the naked eye but his impact on the Sooners offense was immeasurable. The Sooner offense with quarterback Spencer Rattler was struggling against a Texas defense that ranks 101st in EPA per play. So much so that he was pulled in the second quarter down 28-7. Enter Caleb Williams. Williams led the high-powered yet lethargic offense back into the game eventually taking the win and with it maybe even the starting job. The Sooners remaining schedule looks like this: vs TCU, @ Kansas, vs Texas Tech, @ Baylor, vs Iowa State, and @ Oklahoma State. Caleb WIlliams brings a dual-threat element to the offense that could win them these games. Win out and Oklahoma is a college football playoff lock. With Rattler in the game Oklahoma averaged just 5.3 yards per play while averaging 10.1 yards per play with Williams. The tools are there for the Sooners to have a special season, the question is whether or not Lincoln Riley will put them together.
Wake Forest is Still Alive
Mack Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels are 3-3 but they could have a season defining moment in week ten. Wake Forest is undefeated and by the looks of their schedule could be 8-0 before facing the next challenger. Wake Forest has a remaining schedule of @ Army, vs Duke, @ UNC, vs NC State, @ Clemson, and @ Boston College. They can likely beat Army and Duke, North Carolina however, while they are 3-3 could provide the Demon Deacons a bit of a challenge. Carolina’s offense is solid, ranking 32nd in EPA per play. Wake Forest has an above average pass offense ranking 18th in EPA per pass, but that’s where the impressive stats end for the Deacs. Wake Forest’s defense is below average and with the efficient Carolina offense it appears that 8-0 could be the peak of the season.
Who Can Challenge Georgia?
Georgia gives me constant reminders of the dominance LSU displayed in 2019. The difference is LSU did it offensively and Georgia is doing it defensively. Georgia’s defense has given up just 33 points the whole season, that’s an average of just 5.5 points per game. South Carolina (13) and Auburn (10) are responsible for 23 of those 33 points alone. Cincinnati and Clemson are tied for second place behind Georgia’s defense at 12.2 points per game which in their own right is phenomenal. The Bulldogs defense ranks 1st in EPA per play and EPA per pass. However, the easy part of the schedule is over for the Bulldogs as Georgia faces a 6-0 Kentucky team this week with star running back, and SEC rushing leader Chris Rodriguez. If anyone in the SEC could expose a hole in the rush defense ranking 13th in EPA per rush it’s Rodriguez and while Georgia is a heavy favorite in the home game the story line may not be whether or not they win but how many rushing yards can the SEC rushing leader muster. If Georgia’s defense holds and it’s another blowout for the Dawgs then it may not even matter who makes the playoff alongside them.