The Road Report: College Football America Week 3


The biggest story in college football over the past couple of weeks has been Hurricanes Harvey and Irma which have collectively wiped out hundreds of college and high school football games. College Football America Editor-in-Chief Matthew Postins gives a great perspective, however, on where football ranks in the list of priorities, and we only bring it up because we are a college football website. We salute all the emergency officials and volunteers that are working in these hard-hit areas, and we should only return to the field in the affected areas when we are certain we aren’t putting athletes and fans at risk by draining emergency resources that are needed elsewhere.

That being said, a return to normalcy is a part of the healing and recovery process, and like every football fan, we look forward to getting back to a regular schedule as soon as it is possible.

FOOTBALL FLASHBACK

Carrier Dome, home of the Syracuse Orange

Looking back to last week, our staff took in a couple of major college games as College Football America as I was at Middle Tennessee’s 30-23 upset win at Syracuse while CFA Editor-in-Chief Matthew Postins was on-hand for TCU’s big 28-7 win at Arkansas. (I commented to Matthew that it felt like a “statement” win by TCU, and he was in full agreement after witnessing the Frogs’ domination in person.)

Chuck Cox, meanwhile, took in Texas Wesleyan’s first game in Fort Worth since 1941 as the Rams have returned to the gridiron this year for the first time in 76 years. You can get his take on the scene in Fort Worth by listening to our RoadTripReplay: College Football America Week 2 Podcast, and you can also get Matthew’s first-hand recap of his visit to Fayetteville, Ark. It’s worth your time.

We’ve seen a little bit of college football at almost every level already this season:

NCAA FBS: 19 out of 130 teams
NCAA FCS: 5 out of 124 teams
NCAA D2: 1 team out of 169 teams
NCAA D3: 1 team out of 249 teams
NAIA: 3 teams out of 88 teams
Juco’s: 3 teams
out of 135 teams

NCAA FOOTBALL BOWL SUBDIVISION

Louisville QB Lamar Jackson

There aren’t a lot of match-ups between top-ranked teams this week with No. 3 Clemson at No. 14 Louisville headlining the marquee. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting matchups.

Take Texas at No. 5 USC, for example. The ‘Horns were just plain bad in their season opener at home against Maryland which received a single vote in the latest FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll. They bounced back last week with a 56-0 win over San Jose State last week, but of course, the Spartans are one of the Football Bowl Subdivision’s cellar dwellers. USC, on the other hand, was sluggish in a season-opening win over Western Michigan a couple of weeks ago before finally meeting expectations in a 42-24 win over Stanford last week. Texas, theoretically, should be a much deeper team than that WMU squad, and so, while an upset is not expected, the game will certainly draw some attention if the Longhorns manage to keep it close. If they pull the upset, well, that early heat that Tom Herman felt after the Maryland loss will start to feel like a cool Pacific breeze this weekend.

No. 8 Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh also feels like a game that has upset potential as the Cowboys usually stumble somewhere along the way. No. 10 Wisconsin can’t afford to take BYU for granted on the road even with the Cougars’ early troubles, and No. 13 LSU at Mississippi State could be a potential trap for the Tigers on the road. Our trusty pal John Fineran has all the FBS standings, results and upcoming schedules for you here.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

We’re still weeks away from the first official rankings by the College Football Playoff selection committee. In the meantime, however, we debuted our 2017 College Football Pool last week. This is our playoff “eliminator” and lists the teams that theoretically haven’t been eliminated from playoff contention yet. It is not a ranking of how good we think teams are, but rather a ranking of teams within specific groups that will be considered for the playoff if they remain in that group. The rankings change weekly based on how likely a team is to remain in that group another week. You can check out the full list of the remaining 75 teams in our College Football Playoff Pool by clicking the hyperlink here. You can also read how the pool works and how teams are listed in the order of priority they are likely to receive from playoff committee members. By the time the committee releases its first rankings in early November, you’ll already know which teams are likely to be there based on the list of teams that are in our pool at that time.

Group 1 teams

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer

We went into last week with 51 Group 1 teams – that is, undefeated teams from the Power 5 conferences. By weekend’s end, 16 of them had fallen by the way side leaving us with just 35. Each week, teams are listed by how likely they are to remain in that group, and the pool worked well – the 17 highest-ranked teams in Group 1 were still undefeated at the end of the weekend.

Of course, almost half of the bottom 34 teams in the group – 16 of 34 to be exact – fell to Group 2 with their first losses of the season. The Ohio State Buckeyes were the highest-ranked team in the pool to lose at No. 18, but that’s why they weren’t ranked higher. We didn’t expect Oklahoma to win, but an Ohio State win over the Sooners was less certain than a win by any of the 17 teams ranked above the Buckeyes in our estimation. It proved to be true.

All of the Group 1 teams that lost automatically moved to Group 2 which is for Power 5 teams with one loss. The full list of teams that fell from Group 1 to Group 2 includes: No. 18 Ohio State, No. 22 Northwestern, No. 26 Arkansas, No. 27 Notre Dame, No. 28 Boston College, No. 30 Missouri, No. 33 Syracuse, No. 36 Iowa State, No. 37 Nebraska, No. 39 Stanford, No. 42 Virginia, No. 43 Auburn, No. 44 Arizona, No. 45 Arizona State, No. 48 Pittsburgh and No. 51 Kansas.

Miami (FL), Michigan State and Maryland hold down the top three spots in the pool this week by virtue of the fact they each have a bye week and are guaranteed to be undefeated headed into next Week 4. Among the teams that are in action, there are four matchups between Group 1 teams. The four losers of those games will fall to Group 2 meaning we are guaranteed of having no more than 31 teams in Group 1 by weekend’s end and possibly fewer if there are any other losses by teams in this group.

The dividing line this week starts with No. 28 – that is, we expect the Top 27 teams to be favorites with the vast majority winning their games. The bottom eight teams in Group 1 could feature more losers combined than the Top 27.

Group 1 Eliminators

Group 2 teams

Bret Bielema’s Arkansas Razorbacks have the week off.

Group 2 is reserved for teams from Power 5 leagues that have a single loss. If any of these teams run the table to finish with one loss, they will receive consideration from the playoff committee if there are not enough undefeated teams or if one of these teams is deemed to be more deserving than an undefeated team.

At the top of this group are No. 36 Florida State and No. 37 Arkansas, both of whom have a bye week. There are 23 other teams in this group, and there are two matchups between members of this group. The losers of these games will fall to Group 3 which is reserved for Power 5 teams with two or more losses. However, unless the committee doesn’t have enough undefeated or one-loss teams from which to choose, these teams will essentially be eliminated from the College Football Playoff. For that reason, we consider these games to be, essentially, Playoff Eliminators at this point.

Group 2 Eliminators/Playoff Eliminators

  • No. 45 Notre Dame at No. 57 Boston College
  • No. 54 Purdue at No. 52 Missouri

Group 3 teams

We won’t list any Group 3 teams until it becomes apparent they might receive consideration for the College Football Playoff.

Group 4 teams

Charlie Strong’s USF Bulls might be the best of the Group 4 teams.

Group 4 is reserved for undefeated teams from Group of 5 conferences. Undefeated teams from this group would likely receive playoff consideration only if there were not enough undefeated or one-loss teams from Power 5 leagues. It’s also likely they would be passed up for a playoff spot by any Power 5 champion with two or more losses as well. The playoff rules, however, indicate that every team is eligible for the playoff, and taking the CFP folks at their word, that means there has to be some threshold a Group of 5 team can meet to make the playoff field.

We entered last week with 30 undefeated Group of 5 teams, but that number was cut in half by the end of the weekend. The following teams were officially eliminated from playoff consideration with their first loss last week: No. 68 Idaho, No. 71 New Mexico, No. 72 Boise State, No. 75 Louisiana, No. 77 Western Kentucky, No. 79 North Texas, No. 82 Marshall, No. 83 LA Tech, No. 85 Ohio, No. 89 Hawaii, No. 90 Cincinnati, No. 91 Tulane, No. 92 UAB, No. 93 Texas State and No. 94 Fresno State.

Of the remaining 15 teams in this group, No. 61 Navy and No. 62 Eastern Michigan lead the way as both are on a bye this week. Of the remaining 13 teams in this group, there are no match-ups pitting any of them head-to-head.

Other games involving undefeated teams

There are a handful of games involving undefeated teams from Group 1 against undefeated teams from Group 4. These are elimination games for the Group 4 teams who can’t afford the loss while any Group 1 teams that lose here would fall to Group 2.

  • No. 74 Air Force (1-0, Group 4) at No. 13 Michigan (2-0, Group 1)
  • No. 71 SMU (2-0, Group 4) at No. 14 TCU (2-0, Group 1)
  • No. 17 UCLA (2-0, Group 1) at No. 73 Memphis (1-0, Group 4)
  • No. 35 Illinois (2-0, Group 1) at No. 65 USF (2-0, Group 4)

Other Playoff Eliminators

There are a handful of games between Group 2 and Group 4 teams. Any Group 2 losers would move to Group 3 where they would only receive playoff consideration under the most extreme circumstances while the Group 4 losers would be eliminated from playoff contention. These games are essentially playoff eliminators.

FWAA-NFF SUPER 16 POLL

As members of the FWAA, we rely on the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll as our official rankings at RoadTripSports.com. Of course, it’s no surprise that Alabama is still No. 1 in the latest poll with 44 out of 47 first-place votes, and Oklahoma was the big mover of the week taking Ohio State’s place at No. 2 after beating the Buckeyes in Columbus. The rest of the Top 10 in order is Clemson, Penn State, USC, Michigan, Washington, Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

FWAA-NFF Super 16 Schedule

  • Colorado State at No. 1 Alabama
  • Tulane at No. 2 Oklahoma
  • No. 3 Clemson at No. 14 Louisville
  • Georgia State at No. 4 Penn State
  • Texas at No. 5 USC
  • Air Force at No. 6 Michigan
  • Fresno State at No. 7 Washington
  • No. 8 Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh
  • Army West Point at No. 9 Ohio State
  • No. 10 Wisconsin at BYU
  • No. 11 Florida State (BYE, Game vs. Miami, FL, postponed)
  • Samford at No. 12 Georgia
  • No. 13 LSU at Mississippi State
  • Mercer at No. 15 Auburn
  • No. 16 Miami (FL) (BYE, Game vs. Florida State postponed)

GAME OF THE WEEK

Last year’s game featured arguably the game’s top two quarterbacks in a shootout at Clemson as Deshaun Watson out-dueled Lamar Jackson in an epic battle. Clemson ultimately won the game 42-36 after blowing a 28-10 halftime lead. Jackson bolstered his Heisman credentials that day leading the Cardinals on five straight scoring possessions to eventually take a 36-28 lead halfway through the fourth quarter.

But then it was Watson’s turn to shine as he rallied Clemson down the stretch with two touchdown passes to reclaim the lead. The game ended with Jackson and the Cardinals inside Clemson’s 10-yard line when they were unable to convert on a fourth-down play.

Of course, Watson is in the NFL now where he led the Houston Texans to a win over the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday night in his first start as a professional. Jackson is back, however, and if last year’s game lived up to the pregame hype as a battle of quarterbacks, this year’s game is being sold as a battle of wills between Jackson and the Cardinals’ offense against a stout Clemson defense featuring Austin Bryant, last week’s Nagurski Trophy and Bednarik Award Defensive Player of the Week. But what if that matchup is a bit of a stalemate?

Don’t be surprised if a new hero emerges from one of the other two units to help decide this contest. Maybe new Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant steps into the spotlight today and makes some big plays to help the Tigers win a big game on the road? Or maybe it’s an unheralded Louisville defender who makes a big play down the stretch to help the Cardinals pull off the upset at home?

Or maybe it really will be all about Jackson vs. that Clemson defense. Either way, this one feels like it could be just as fun as last year’s game, and that’s why it’s an easy pick for RoadTripSports.com’s Game of the Week.

THE BOWL PICTURE

Yeah, yeah, we know, it’s way too early for this. But we’re just letting you know you can keep up with bowl eligibility status of all 130 major college teams throughout the season with our Bowl Eligibility List. Our Associate Publisher Chuck Cox will begin issuing a weekly report as soon as the first FBS teams reach five wins.

NCAA FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SUBDIVISION

James Madison continues to lead the way in the FCS collecting 24 of 26 first-place votes in the latest FCS Coaches Poll. Not surprisingly, North Dakota State checks in at No. 2 this week followed by Sam Houston State and South Dakota State. All of those teams are 2-0 to start the season while No. 5 Youngstown State is 1-1.

Richmond and Jacksonville State are tied at No. 6, and Villanova, Wofford and North Dakota round out the Top 10 in that order.

We’ve got the full FCS standings, results and schedules here courtesy of John Fineran.

NCAA FCS Game of the Week: No. 10 North Dakota at No. 23 South Dakota

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL

NCAA Division II

Defending national champion Northwest Missouri State collected all 34 votes in the latest AFCA Division II Coaches Poll. The rest of the Top 10 in order are Ferris State, Texas A&M-Commerce, Shepherd, California (PA), Indiana (PA), Sioux Falls, Minnesota State, LIU Post and North Alabama.

NCAA D2 Game of the Week: No. 8 Minnesota State at No. 20 Minnesota-Duluth

NCAA Division III

Mary Hardin-Baylor and Linfield meet for the third time in two years in our D3 Game of the Week.

Defending national champion Mary Hardin-Baylor got the season started with a 23-7 win over Sul Ross State, and they still remain No. 2 in the College Football America Top 30 behind perennial powerhouse Mount Union. The Purple Raiders also have one game under their belt – a 58-0 whitewashing of North Carolina Wesleyan.

More surprising than either of those results is preseason No. 5 Wisconsin-Whitewater’s rough start. The Warhawks are 0-2 for the first time in who knows how long, and they’ve still got two road trips to St. Louis, Mo., to face Washington University and to No. 3 Wisconsin-Oshkosh before they even host their home opener on October 7. Several other D3 powers are off to slow starts including preseason No. 4 John Carroll (0-1), No. 6 St. Thomas (1-1) and No. 7 Wesley (0-1).

NCAA D3 Game of the Week: No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 6 Linfield

NAIA

The first NAIA poll of the season has been released, and the following teams hold down the Top 10 spots: Saint Francis (IN), Baker, Reinhardt, Morningside, Montana Tech, Lindsey Wilson, Doane, Marian, Grand View and Southeastern. We’ll see No. 6 Lindsey Wilson Saturday night on the road at Union (KY).

NAIA Game of the Week: No. 19 Benedictine (KS) at No. 16 MidAmerica Nazarene

JUCOS

East Mississippi (NJCAA) currently sits atop our College Football America Juco Rankings with Butte (CCCAA) still ranked No. 2 where they started the season. Preseason No. 3 Garden City (NJCAA), however, has dropped to No. 22 after a 27-23 loss to Independence. No. 4 CCSF (CCCAA) has dropped completely out of our rankings after an 0-2 start.

NJCAA Game of the Week: No. 18 Snow at No. 11 Mesa
CCCAA Game of the Week: No. 9 Riverside at No. 14 Bakersfield

ODDS AND ENDS

My trip to Syracuse last week was my 109th major college stadium out of 130. You can keep up with the FBS Stadiums We’ve Visited here.

Baker Mayfield … he’s got my early vote for the Heisman/Maxwell/Walter Camp trophies and awards right now. It’s easy to overlook Mayfield over the past couple of years with Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson kind of stealing the quarterback spotlight the last couple of years, but don’t forget he set the all-time single-season quarterback rating last year. And he shattered the previous record doing it.

I’m a voter on the Biletnikoff Award selection committee, and I haven’t issued the Publisher’s Biletnikoff Watch List yet. But it’s early, and I did see one of the leading candidates last weekend. Middle Tennessee junior wide receiver Richie James is off to another fast start with 18 receptions for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on a key touchdown late in the Blue Raiders’ rally, and if he continues on his current pace, it wouldn’t be surprising if he emerges as a semifinalist for the award later this year.

NCAA Division III member Occidental has called off its game against Pacific (OR) this weekend. The Tigers started the season with 49 players, but two players have since left the team and another 11 are nursing injuries. That left the team with just 36 players to take the field this weekend, and school officials decided to contact Pacific and tell them not to come to California for the game scheduled for Saturday. At least one player speaking anonymously according to D3Football.com indicated that the team is outraged by the decision.


 

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