The Week 12 College Football Top Ten

Photo Credit: Ty Russell/Oklahoma Sports
Photo Credit: Ty Russell/Oklahoma Sports

Relative order was restored to college football last Saturday, as there was only one top-10 defeat (Louisville) and many a blowout victory to go around. However, there is still plenty of intrigue in this week’s results just as there was a week ago; the intrigue in these results comes in what they mean for the College Football Playoff. So without further ado, here are my selections for the top ten teams in college football after week 12.

10. Washington Huskies (10-1)

You may have noticed that I dropped Washington from last week’s rankings after a home loss that week to USC. Well, after getting some help from Louisville, the Huskies emerge at number ten in this week’s rankings. I do not believe that this team deserves to make the playoff, as their out-of-conference schedule was atrocious (no, really: their best inter-conference foe was Rutgers). While they are playing well, their loss to USC ended their chances, at least in my eyes. And while the Huskies may control their own destiny in the real Playoff race, there is little to no chance you will see them in my final four. I just don’t think I can do it, especially with their strength of schedule (or lack thereof).

9. USC Trojans (8-3)

Sure, the USC Trojans are 8-3 and don’t necessarily have the resume to make the Playoff. But ask yourself this: do you really want to play the Trojans right now? Although they got off to a horrific 1-3 start, Clay Helton’s squad has bounced back with seven wins in a row, including triumphs over Colorado and Washington. Sam Darnold has been terrific since being named the starting quarterback earlier in the year, and USC could legitimately be ranked higher than this strictly based on how they have played over the past two months.

8. Western Michigan Broncos (11-0)

Weekly Western Michigan rant: this team is undefeated, has soundly defeated nearly every team it has played and boasts one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Last week, the Broncos defeated Buffalo 38-0, a visit that was punctuated by the presence of ESPN’s College Gameday. While the Broncos are ranked 21st in this week’s rankings, I believe that they should get a bonus for going undefeated, even if their schedule isn’t overly strong. And that concludes my rant. However, I will say this: I can’t see myself putting the Broncos higher than eight. So Western Michigan is not going to break the glass ceiling, so to speak, but I do believe they should be in a New Year’s Six Bowl game.

7. Oklahoma Sooners (9-2)

Oklahoma had what was easily the most impressive performance of week 12, as the Sooners traveled to Morgantown and defeated West Virginia 56-28. Granted, Oklahoma lost two lopsided contests early in the season to Ohio State and Houston, but they, just like USC, are one of the most explosive and dangerous teams in the country right now. The team has struggled defensively at times this year, as evidenced by their allowing 579 yards to the Mountaineers on Saturday. But this is a team that you can disregard at your own risk.

6. Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2)

Week 12 was quiet on the Penn State front, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Nittany Lions took care of business against Rutgers on Saturday to move to 9-2 and set up a meeting with a 3-8 Michigan State team for a chance to go to the Big Ten title game. Penn State needs Ohio State to beat Michigan, as well, for that to happen, but their chances of making the Big Ten Championship Game and potentially playing for a spot in the final four are becoming more realistic with each victory. Penn State needs some help, but their Playoff chances do have some life.

5. Wisconsin Badgers (9-2)

A quick note: my dropping Wisconsin from four to five this week does not have anything to do with the Badgers. Their solid run continued on Saturday with a 49-20 win against Purdue, a team that is winless in Big Ten play. Rather, this move has to do with the teams above Wisconsin in the standings, and one, in particular, that I am going to get to next. In my rankings, the Badgers would control their own destiny to make college football’s final four, even with two losses. Those two losses, though, came to Ohio State and Michigan.

4. Clemson Tigers (10-1)

Last weekend, Clemson really impressed me. While a road win in November against Wake Forest may seem like an ordinary triumph, the circumstances around it are what made it so pleasantly surprising. After the Tigers lost a heartbreaker to Pitt the week before, they bounced back and absolutely dominated the Demon Deacons on Saturday. The 35-13 win, as well as the quality of Clemson’s bounce-back performance, was enough for me to push them into the top four this week. It’s not that I expected them to lose, but the Tigers had their most important test of the season last weekend and they aced it. That’s enough to put them in the Playoff if it were held today.

3. Michigan Wolverines (10-1)

Not a whole lot has changed on the Michigan front, either. Even though the Wolverines stumbled to a win against Indiana last weekend, that came under adverse weather conditions and with the team starting a backup quarterback (John O’Korn) who completed a grand total of seven passes on the day. Next up for Michigan is their annual rivalry matchup with Ohio State with a win sending them to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game next weekend. The health of starting quarterback Wilton Speight will be critical for Michigan on Saturday, as playing with O’Korn might not cut it against the Buckeyes.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1)

Speak of the devil, Ohio State comes into this weekend scarred after a 17-16 victory against Michigan State. The Spartans tried to go for two late in the game to take the lead but failed, and the Ohio State defense sealed the win with an interception on the next drive. All of that can be thrown out the window in advance of Saturday’s game; however, the performance could be construed as slightly concerning for a Buckeyes team that has been slightly inconsistent at times this season. However, I sincerely think Ohio State will be fine. A win on Saturday gets them into the Playoff.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0)

There really is nothing to see here. Alabama struggled to a 31-3 win over Chattanooga last week, but that may actually be good for them as they head into the Iron Bowl against Auburn. The Tide should be just fine, assuming they can escape the next two games without any severe injuries. Even a loss to Florida in the SEC title game would not knock them out of the top four. A loss to Auburn wouldn’t, either. After all, this is the best team in college football.

Departure: Louisville

New Addition: Washington

How Much Blame Does Jürgen Klinsmann Deserve for U.S. Soccer’s Struggles?

Photo Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today

United States Soccer coach Jürgen Klinsmann has been getting absolutely hammered recently for the play of his United States soccer team. From inconsistent performances in tournament play to sluggish showings in World Cup qualifying, the U.S. squad has seen nearly everything over Klinsmann’s five-year reign. Unfortunately, that has not often included sustained success.

As of the past few days, the hard feelings for Klinsmann’s group have come to a head after the national team’s stunning 4-0 shellacking at the hands of Costa Rica, a team the U.S. beat 4-0 just five months ago in June’s Copa America Centenario. This does not seem to be a one-off, either, as the international team lost to Mexico last Friday and drew 1-1 last month with lowly New Zealand, a team that has made the World Cup just twice in the past nine times the event was held. So things aren’t exactly going so well on our side of the pond, at least in terms of international football.

But how in the world does the United States get itself out of this mess? And is there anything that can be done to save the sinking ship that is United States soccer?

For starters, we should cut Klinsmann some slack because of the squad he is coaching at the present moment. Goaltender Tim Howard is expected to miss the next four months to undergo groin surgery for an injury he sustained in the Mexico match. Howard is 37, and he may not be the team’s starter when the 2018 World Cup rolls around (which, by the way, is by no means assured for this U.S. team). Brad Guzan has filled in for Howard and his performance has been somewhat uneven; he allowed seven goals in five games at Copa America and allowed three the other night in the Confederations Cup loss to Costa Rica. By the time 2018 comes, he may be a better option than Howard in goal (or Howard could possibly be retired, too). But his play as of late has been up and down, which is the primary difference between this U.S. team and the 2014 squad that lost to Belgium in the World Cup Round of 16.

Also, the midfield unit of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones has struggled mightily in World Cup qualifying, as neither has scored a goal in a combined 13 matches and 1,212 minutes on the field. To make matters even worse, Bradley and Klinsmann don’t even agree on what position the midfielder should play; Bradley would like to be positioned as a purely defensive midfielder while Klinsmann would like to have his captain play in more of an attacking role. Ironically enough, Michael’s father, Bob, was the USMNT coach from 2007-2011 and is now the manager of the English Premier League’s Swansea City. When Michael played for his dad, he was used in the exact role he is now, but he has evolved into more of a defensive midfielder as his career has progressed. Klinsmann probably isn’t using his player in the right role, which may be part of why he has struggled so much in international play.

As a general rule, though, this United States team is in transition; stars from past squads such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, and others have all moved on or are on their way out from the national team. This group is currently moving on from its past and addressing its complicated future, all while still trying to qualify for a World Cup. This is not the easiest task in the world, but it also hasn’t been helped by some of Klinsmann’s tactical decisions, not the least of which include placing Bradley in the attacking midfielder role.

And that brings us from the makeup of the team to the team’s coach. It’s interesting to note that most national team managers don’t stay on for more than one World Cup; Klinsmann himself left the German national team shortly after the 2006 World Cup and was only with the team for about two years. However, he was hired by the United States Soccer Federation in 2011 and coached the Stars and Stripes to a Round of 16 appearance two years ago. The performance was praised by critics as baby steps for a team that has often struggled in major tournaments. It was widely thought that Klinsmann’s U.S. squad was on the rise.

There reaches a point, though, when players who have been in the team’s system for several years begin to tune out the coach’s message; that’s why many international coaches don’t stay on with one country for more than one World Cup. Unfortunately, that may be what is starting to happen for the United States team. Klinsmann’s message was surely effective at the beginning of his reign, but that message might be getting old now. That seems like a speculative thing to say, but many of the players who have been in the program for several years are the ones who are struggling the most. Connect the dots and the reason why might be Jūrgen Klinsmann.

One of the few bright spots for the United States team has been 18-year-old phenom Christian Pulisic. Pulisic has risen from nearly complete obscurity to arguably the best and most important player on the USMNT right now. He is one of the most exciting U.S. soccer prospects in recent memory, and he holds the keys to the United States’ international football future. No pressure, man.

The question is: will Klinsmann stick around for his development? More importantly, should he? I would say that the answer is no: the U.S. team will likely still make the World Cup, but this squad has more talent than what they have shown recently. They do have one of the most promising players in recent memory, but it’s far more important for Team USA to build for a potentially exciting future.

And while it’s not all his fault, that future does not include Jürgen Klinsmann.

The Week 11 College Football Top Ten

Photo Credit: Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
Photo Credit: Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Ah, yes, there goes college football rearing its ugly head again….

That’s sarcasm, of course: this sport is as good as they come when the late stages of the season come rolling in. That was on full display again on Saturday, as the second, third, and fourth-ranked teams all went down on one day for the first time in 31 years. That means plenty of changes in this week’s rankings, and that also means new teams in the top four. So let’s get on with it; here’s my list of the top ten teams in college football after week 11.

10. USC Trojans (7-3)

Last week: NR

USC had arguably the most impressive showing of any team this past weekend, as they traveled to Seattle and easily dispatched the Washington Huskies. Redshirt Freshman quarterback Sam Darnold anchored the offense with two touchdown passes and nearly 300 yards passing; additionally, the team’s defense held the explosive Husky offense to just 13 points.  The Trojans struggled to start the season, going 1-3 and raising questions about new head coach Clay Helton’s job security. But USC is one of the ten best teams in the nation right now and would be a lot to handle for basically any team in the country. Hypothetically, they could even beat Alabama–no, never mind.

9. Oklahoma Sooners (8-2)

Last week: NR

Speaking of teams that have rebounded from slow beginnings, Oklahoma has won its last seven games after a 1-2 start. All of those seven games have come in-conference, as well, so the Sooners control their own destiny to win the Big 12. This week, they’ll be going on the road to play a very solid West Virginia team in a game that almost has Playoff implications. While the Sooners likely don’t have a realistic path to the Playoff at this point, things could get a little interesting if they win out. After all, we saw what happened last week.

8. Western Michigan Broncos (10-0)

Last week: 10

Western Michigan continues to climb up in my rankings. After starting at ten last week, the Broncos are climbing up two spots to eight this week. While they were tied in the fourth quarter last week with a 3-6 Kent State team, they were able to take care of business and score the final sixteen points en route to the victory. This shift is more of a figure of the events of last Saturday, as the Broncos continue to take care of business while other teams falter. In my rankings, P.J. Fleck’s squad would be a lock for the Group of Five berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game. They don’t have a path to the Playoff, but they do deserve their just due.

7. Penn State Nittany Lions (8-2)

Last week: 8

Quietly, Penn State staged one of the gutsiest performances of week 11. Down ten points in the third quarter, the Nittany Lions scored 24 of the final 27 points to beat Indiana, 45-31. Granted, this team is not perfect, as Saturday’s game showed, but Penn State found a way to win, keeping their somewhat dim Playoff hopes alive. James Franklin’s team can still win the Big Ten East with an Ohio State win over Michigan to close the season, a scenario that seems all the more likely now (more on that later). If Penn State were to win the Big Ten title game, they would still have a chance to get in the Playoff. Once again, anything can happen.

6. Wisconsin Badgers (8-2)

Last week: 7

There isn’t a whole lot of news to report on the Wisconsin Badgers, and with last weekend’s happenings, that isn’t a bad thing as far as they are concerned. With a routine 48-3 thumping of the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday, the Badgers stand to benefit at least some from the carnage at the top of the standings. Sure, they lack some of the bells and whistles of the better teams in the country (including, you know, competent quarterback play) but Wisconsin is poised to find itself in a New Year’s Six Bowl and potentially beyond with a little help. That is far more than anyone could have predicted at the beginning of this season.

5. Clemson Tigers (9-1)

Last week: 3

Mini-rant time: Clemson has been dicey and, frankly, unimpressive at times this season. They’ve had close calls at home against the likes of NC State and Troy and have had six games decided by seven points or fewer. Yes, they do boast wins over Louisville, Florida State, and Auburn, but the team has taken on a 2015 Ohio State vibe, and I mean that in all honesty. So after they lost to Pittsburgh at home this week, you would think that they would drop in the rankings. And yet, many pundits seem to think that they will only drop one spot (from two to three) in the real rankings. I know, I’m only dropping them two spots, but you don’t just lose at home to a 5-4 team and escape in the top four of my rankings. Sorry. I can’t put Clemson in the top four this week.

4. Michigan Wolverines (9-1)

Last week: 2

Michigan suffered a similar fate on Saturday; the only difference between them and Clemson is that their loss to a 5-4 team came on the road at Iowa. The bigger issue for the Wolverines, though, is the health of starting quarterback Wilton Speight, who is said to have suffered a broken collarbone in his non-throwing shoulder on Saturday. Coach Jim Harbaugh has since refuted that report, but it remains to be seen whether Speight can come back to the field this season. Michigan still controls its own destiny to make the Playoff, but they may have just suffered a crippling blow to those aspirations.

3. Louisville Cardinals (9-1)

Last week: 6

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Saturday’s carnage was the Louisville Cardinals, who did not look overly impressive themselves in a 44-12 win against Wake Forest last week. The Cardinals were losing that game 12-10 in the third quarter before their offense pulled it together in the final quarter and a half. Louisville should be in the Playoff if they win but that isn’t necessarily guaranteed, as they could still be jumped by Clemson if the Tigers win out; Clemson also has a tiebreaker over Louisville to go to the ACC title game. However, the Cardinals are in good shape with two weeks left in the regular season.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1)

Last week: 5

In reality, not all that much changed for Ohio State this weekend. They took care of business in a big way against Maryland and while they have moved from five to two in my rankings, they still need to win out to make the Playoff. It’s hard to see them getting in with two losses, but it’s fairly clear the the Buckeyes are the second-best team in the country right now. It’s probably as high as they can get this season, but the Buckeyes are in a great position to secure a Playoff berth over the next two weeks.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (10-0)

Last week: 1

At this rate, college football is slowly becoming a story of Alabama and everyone else. What I’m trying to say is that the Tide are just that much better than the field. There is no reason that would change after Bama’s 51-3 win over Mississippi State on Saturday. Alabama is number one until they lose. And right now, I don’t think I can see them losing anytime soon.

Departures: Washington, Auburn

New Additions: Oklahoma, USC

Is James Harden Really This Good?

Photo Credit: Soobum Im/USA Today Sports

Photo Credit: Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

If you don’t think James Harden is one of the best players in basketball, think again. And think quickly.

Harden is having one of the great beginnings to a season in the history of the sport. Through just eight games, the beard is averaging over thirty points, thirteen assists, and seven rebounds per game. Granted, we’re only eight games into the season, but still, Harden is on pace to average numbers that have only been reached by Oscar Robertson. And usually, we would say “player X and others” in this situation, but there are no others here. Harden is in a league of his own, doing things many of us have never seen before.

But, as is often the question with hot starts in sports, will Harden be able to keep this up over the course of a full season?

First, if we are asking whether or not Harden can keep up this performance and these exact numbers, the answer is probably no; actually, that probably is likely closer to definitely. There is a reason Robertson is the only player in league history to average a double-double over the course of a full season. Additionally, Robertson averaged 45 minutes per game in the 1963-64 season for the Cincinnati Royals, one of the seasons in which he averaged a double-double. Harden has been held under 38 minutes per game so far this year, and don’t expect that number to increase that much, either; Harden’s career high in minutes per game is 38.3 in 2012-13.

Besides minutes, though, it’s going to be very difficult for Harden to do this simply because of the laws of averages. He’s going to hit a rough stretch at some point this season and that’s coming sooner rather than later. Also, look to see how defenses adapt to Harden and if they try to get the ball out of his hands. That strategy would theoretically drive down his numbers and force his teammates to account for more offense.

But let’s just think about this for a second: I compared James Harden to Oscar Robertson. Is that something you ever thought you would hear? Granted, don’t be surprised to see a dropoff come soon for the Rockets star. But still, we’re talking about James Harden and Oscar Robertson in the same sentence, people! We need to wake up and realize that we’re seeing something that hasn’t been done in many years. It doesn’t matter if that’s in 80 games or eight; it’s spectacular nonetheless.

And now, let’s think hypothetically: what would need to happen for Harden to continue at this torrid clip? What would the Rockets need to do to give him the help he needs to continue his success?

For starters, Harden’s role will have to remain unchanged in D’Antoni’s offense. Last year’s starting point guard, Patrick Beverley, has missed the beginning of the season after undergoing knee surgery in October; however, he could be returning to practice next week and hopes to come back to the active roster by November 25. Harden has currently been acting as the Rockets’ starting point guard, but will that continue when Beverley returns? It remains to be seen, but the hopes of an unprecedented statistical season may take a hit upon Beverley’s return and Harden’s hypothetical shift back to shooting guard, his original position.

At the same time, a common misconception of Harden’s tear is that his numbers have been artificially inflated by D’Antoni’s high-octane offense. While D’Antoni has been tremendously helpful in Harden’s development, his offense hasn’t actually worked at an overly quick pace. Houston ranks 16th in the NBA in possessions per game (96.9), a far cry from when D’Antoni consistently engineered the Suns’ offense to near the top of the league in pace. D’Antoni’s Pheonix offense operated so quickly that it earned the nickname “Seven Seconds or :ess”.

Interestingly enough, this year’s Houston offense has actually had a faster pace than the “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns, but it’s not like Harden couldn’t do this on other, similarly talented teams.

Harden’s move to point guard has paid dividends not only for him but also for the Houston offense. Their offensive rating ranks fourth in the NBA and is up roughly three points from a season ago. The rest of the offense has been simplified, as well. More often than not, Harden facilitates and gets fellow starter Trevor Ariza and new acquisitions Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon involved. Also (and this cannot be understated), new starting center Clint Capela has boosted the offense with his energy and unselfishness; meaning, he doesn’t need the ball with his back to the basket to succeed (looking at you, Dwight Howard). Losing Howard was somewhat of a blow for the Rockets, but replacing him with Capela has:

  1. Helped Harden and others assume bigger roles in the offense and
  2. Indirectly made the offense much more efficient

Even if Harden does not sustain these numbers, he should still have success in the new-look Rockets offense. D’Antoni’s offensive scheme has always been very point guard-friendly (Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin) and that trend has continued with Harden. D’Antoni moved Harden to point guard before this season, which solved one of the team’s main weaknesses from last season. While it remains to be seen whether or not he will stay as the team’s main facilitator, his beginning of the season has been incredible.

Yes, he may not be able to continue what he has done over the first eight games of the season. But what James Harden has accomplished to start his campaign should not be overlooked, as it may be a harbinger for both individual and team success in the future.

College Football’s Top Ten After Week Ten

Photo Credit: Johnny Andrews/The Seattle Times

While tomorrow is Election Day in America, the College Football Playoff committee will also have some critical decisions to make.  While this week’s rankings will not ultimately decide the teams that make the Playoff, what the Committee does this week will go a long way toward deciphering what exactly they value in a team (hint, hint: strength of schedule).

And while the Committee certainly isn’t listening to me on this one, I’ll chip in my two cents anyway.  We’ll try to make this a weekly staple until the reveal of the four teams in the College Football Playoff.  Let’s start at number ten.

10. Western Michigan Broncos (9-0)

Let’s confront this fact head-on: Western Michigan is an odd choice at number ten.  The Broncos have played a weak schedule and haven’t looked overwhelming in some of their games.  However, I’m willing to cut the Broncos some slack because they’ve beaten all of the teams they have played.  Let’s face it: the committee values strength of schedule above basically everything else in its evaluations.  But shouldn’t there also be a value on winning?  Winning is what the Broncos have done, which is why I’m happy to put them at number ten on November 7th.  And no, that’s not a misprint.p

9. Auburn Tigers (7-2)

Let’s face it: there are teams in this realm with better wins than Auburn’s.  However, it’s also important to look at their two losses, which came to Clemson and Texas A&M, both of whom were ranked in the top four of last week’s rankings.  Granted, they didn’t look overly impressive in last week’s 23-16 win over Vanderbilt, but a fairly easy next two games (at Georgia, Alabama A&M) should have them in position to play spoiler against Alabama in the Iron Bowl on November 26th.  A rushing attack centered around Kamryn Pettway (who is questionable for this week’s game) and one of the best defenses in the country have Auburn sliding into the top ten this week.

8. Penn State Nittany Lions (7-2)

Penn State is a team that I have come around on over the course of this season.  After getting pummeled 49-10 by Michigan on September 24, the team has won its last five games, including a 24-21 home victory over Ohio State.  An offense spearheaded by Trace McSorley has been one of the most consistent in the country and has come on as of late.  This is a different team than the one that got destroyed in Ann Arbor in week four.  Message to the rest of college football: beware of Penn State.

7. Wisconsin Badgers (7-2)

Wisconsin is another team that has evolved since the beginning of the season; the Badgers, though, have fared far better and more consistently in their schedule than Penn State has.  The Badgers have had quarterback issues all year long, waffling between Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook.  The Badger offense, though, revolves around running back Corey Clement, who rushed for over 100 yards in last week’s win over Northwestern.  Wisconsin’s two losses have come against Michigan and Ohio State and their remaining schedule (Illinois, at Purdue, Minnesota) is rather easy.  The Badgers should run the table and likely will end up in the Orange Bowl.

6. Louisville Cardinals (8-1)

The Louisville Cardinals are a good team that has been carried all year long by human cheat code quarterback Lamar Jackson.  Jackson continued his heroics last week, throwing for seven touchdowns in a blowout victory against Boston College.  The Cards don’t have any more difficult tests on the schedule, as Houston has self-imploded (you’re welcome) and Wake Forest and Kentucky will both be coming to Louisville.  The Cardinals probably need help to make the Playoff, but they’re having an amazing season nonetheless.  That is all thanks to Lamar Jackson.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1)

Ohio State had the most impressive performance of week ten, defeating Nebraska 62-3 at home.  J.T. Barrett is a legitimate Heisman contender who leads one of the most talented offenses in the country.  If Ohio State wins out, which would include a victory against Michigan, they would likely make the Playoff.  Even at five, the Buckeyes still control their own destiny.  Two road tests lie between them and a date with the Wolverines in Columbus to close out the regular season.

4. Washington Huskies (9-0)

While the Huskies may be jumped by the Buckeyes in the real rankings tomorrow, I am putting Washington over Ohio State because of the value I place on winning.  While Washington has not played an overly difficult schedule, they have won all of their games, and have won all but two of those games in convincing fashion.  Jake Browning has spearheaded the second-best scoring offense in the country to a 9-0 record this year, and the Huskies’ remaining games are against USC, Arizona State, and Washington State.  If Washington wins out, they’re in my playoff.  Let’s be honest: all they’ve done is win.  There’s something to be said for that.

3. Clemson Tigers (9-0)

Clemson has been tested nearly all season long and was a missed field goal away from losing to NC State on October 15.  However, they’ve come out of these trials unscathed, with close wins against Auburn, Troy, Louisville, NC State, and Florida State.  Granted, the health of quarterback DeShaun Watson will be key for the Tigers going forward.  But Dabo Swinney’s team will do things the way they always have: by bringing their own guts and pulling out close games when they have to.

2. Michigan Wolverines (9-0)

I rate Michigan above Clemson because I subjectively believe that they are just a tick better than the Tigers.  Honestly, the choice between two and three is kind of splitting hairs, but the Wolverines have blasted through their schedule with only two close calls (a week nine win at Michigan State and a 14-7 slugfest against Wisconsin on October 1st).  Tack onto that an impressive 45-28 win over Colorado in week three and you get the picture of a team with a complete resume.  That’s what the Wolverines have, and that’s why I put them just above Clemson.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (9-0)

Duh.  Alabama is in a class of its own in these rankings, as they can win any game in any fashion.  I truly believe that they are significantly better than everyone else in college football right now, and the Tide have the talent on both sides of the ball to back that up.  Barring a trip-up in the Iron Bowl or in the SEC title game, the Tide will be rolling into the College Football Playoff as the nation’s best team.  And it isn’t that close.

Let me know what I got right and wrong in the comments section!