The Road Report is College Football America/RoadTripSports.com Publisher Kendall Webb’s weekly review of the college football landscape – from the major colleges of the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision to the small colleges of the NCAA’s Division II and III along with the NAIA and the junior colleges of the NJCAA and CCCAA.
Things settled down a bit in Week 5 with most of the top favorites taking care of business last weekend. Some of the games may have been a little more lopsided than expected – we’re looking at you Ole Miss and Tennessee – but ultimately, most of the favorites prevailed.
Even Washington State’s Friday night win over USC wasn’t a complete surprise as the Cougars were ranked No. 16 in the FWAA-NFF Super 16 poll. Sure, the Trojans were favored in that one, but their struggles this season (and particularly, Sam Darnold’s problems including his sagging confidence) indicated they might be ripe for an upset. There was no better place for that to happen than an out-of-the-way destination like Pullman, Washington, on a Friday night, and the Cougars happily obliged.
And, no, we haven’t forgotten. There was one huge upset Saturday, and you can thank the Troy Trojans for that as they went into Death Valley and took down the LSU Tigers in a 24-21 upset. It wasn’t a fluke kind of win either as the Trojans dominated on the ground, built a 17-0 lead, and then held on with an opportunistic defense sealing the deal down the stretch.
The upset by the Trojans ended LSU’s 49-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents. And it earned the visitors their first FWAA National Team of the Week award.
College Football America Editor-in-Chief Matthew Postins got things started for us last Thursday night with a visit to Ames, Iowa, to see the Texas Longhorns take on the Iowa State Cyclones. It was Texas’ first game since their near upset at USC which already seems like eons ago. The Longhorns, by the way, got the road win 17-7 with another stellar effort by the defense leading the way.
On Saturday, Matt switched gears and took in a D3 game where Wartburg made a huge statement in a 34-7 win over the defending IIAC champion Coe Kohawks. Meanwhile, I was also plowing the D3 fields with a stop at Thomas More in Crestview Hills, Kentucky, to see the Saints take on visiting Westminster (PA). And I made a stop at another D3 game across the river in Cincinnati as Mount St. Joseph hosted Hanover.
Finally, I got in a little NAIA action as well with Cincinnati Christian entertaining Lindsey Wilson at Stargel Stadium near downtown Cincinnati.
That leaves CFA Associate Publisher Chuck Cox who managed to squeeze in SMU’s game against UConn in Dallas before taking in a concert later that evening.
Our game/team count to date:
44 High School and College Football Games
NCAA FBS: 31 out of 130 teams
NCAA FCS: 7 out of 124 teams
NCAA D2: 5 out of 169 teams
NCAA D3: 11 out of 249 teams
NAIA: 8 out of 88 teams
Juco’s: 3 out of 135 teams
NCAA FOOTBALL BOWL SUBDIVISION (FBS)
Week 6 got off to an early start Wednesday night as the Arkansas State Red Wolves went on the road and whipped the Georgia Southern Eagles 43-25. The Wolves are always a contender in the Sun Belt, but beyond that, the game doesn’t have any effect on the national scene.
Louisville and NC State, meanwhile, are playing Thursday night in a game in which the loser will be eliminated from playoff consideration.
Troy’s win over LSU was, no doubt, the biggest stunner of the week, but the shock valley was ultimately bigger than the result itself. LSU’s 37-7 loss at Mississippi State two weeks prior followed by State’s big 31-3 loss to Georgia meant that LSU was in a deep hole in terms of the College Football Playoff. They weren’t likely to dig out of it, and the loss to Troy hammered that point home last Saturday.
No, the bigger deal in terms of the playoff race was Washington State’s upset over USC which was in one of the passenger seats (let’s face it, Alabama’s the driver here with Clemson riding shotgun) for a trip to the College Football Playoff. No doubt, it was still a long trip, but if USC had won out, they would have been a shoo-in for the playoff.
But if you bought a copy of our College Football America Yearbook, you also know we proudly featured Washington as our preseason No. 2 (right behind you-know-who), and we still think the Huskies are the team to beat in the Pac-12. Things got potentially a whole lot more interesting, however, with Washington State’s win, and if the Cougars can somehow win out, then this year’s Apple Cup game between the two Washington schools could be between two undefeated teams. The winner would have a ticket to the playoff.
As for this week, there aren’t any really big matchups between ranked teams, but there are a handful of games that have upset potential that could shake up the playoff picture. We’ll start with Thursday night’s game between Louisville and NC State. The loser is out of the hunt, and Lamar Jackson’s bid for a second Heisman would also be on life support with a loss.
Then on Saturday morning, No. 2 Clemson will host a tough Wake Forest squad that took Florida State to the wire before losing at home last weekend. No. 4 Penn State is a solid favorite at 2-2 Northwestern, but the Nittany Lions will have to show up and take care of business just like they did in Iowa a couple of weeks ago. Then West Virginia checks in at No. 36 in The College Football America 130, and the Mountaineers will pay a visit to TCU, No. 9 in the latest FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll.
The afternoon will feature No. 15 Miami (FL) at Florida State in a game that might be the best matchup of the day. We were tempted to make that our RoadTripSports.com Game of the Week, but ultimately settled on No. 11 Washington State’s visit to CFA No. 15 Oregon since both of those teams are still in our College Football Playoff Pool.
Finally, while we’re not expecting any big upsets, CFA No. 25 Michigan State at No. 7 Michigan has the potential to be interesting with Michigan looking a bit sluggish early in 2017. And No. 1 Alabama at CFA No. 24 Texas A&M, No. 9 Wisconsin at Nebraska and Stanford at Utah which is receiving votes in the Super 16 will all be worth checking in on.
All in all, it feels like the kind of week that might sneak up and bite one of the playoff contenders, and we can’t wait for Saturday to see how it all shakes out.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF
We entered last week with 52 teams in our College Football Playoff Pool, but by the end of the night Saturday, a quarter of those teams were gone. We’re down to 39 contenders as we hit the halfway point, and that includes five unbeaten teams from Group of 5 leagues that really are long shots to make the playoff.
That leaves 34 teams from Power 5 leagues still in the running, and 19 of those teams are on the list of 33 teams that have previously won a national title. Additionally, there are 12 undefeated teams from Power 5 leagues in Group 1, and 10 of those teams have previously won a national title. We’re still convinced that this year’s national champion is probably somewhere in Group 1.
Group 1 teams
And then there were 12.
Yes, only a dozen major college football teams from Power 5 leagues remain undefeated as six previously undefeated teams in this group lost for the first time last week including USC, which was the highest-ranked team at No. 12 in the pool but No. 5 in the FWAA-NFF Super 16. While USC’s loss to Washington State was a small upset, none of the other five results were too surprising:
- Virginia Tech lost to Clemson 31-17
- Duke lost to Miami (FL) 31-6
- Minnesota lost to Maryland 31-24
- Wake Forest lost to Florida State 26-19
- Texas Tech lost to Oklahoma State 41-34
Of the 12 remaining undefeated teams in this group, nine have previously won a national title including the top seven in the latest FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll – No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Penn State, No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 Washington and No. 7 Michigan. No. 9 TCU, No. 10 Ohio State and No. 12 Auburn are also on the list of previous champions in the poll era.
No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 11 Washington State are the only remaining undefeated Power 5 teams that don’t have a national title to their credit in the poll era. Both of them face stiff road tests this weekend as we noted above.
Group 1 Eliminators
All of the 12 teams in Group 1 are in action this weekend, but none of them are playing against each other. That means there are no Group 1 eliminators this week making it possible for all 12 of these teams to remain undefeated for at least another week.
Group 2 teams
Last week Group 2 (Power 5 teams with a single loss) jumped from 24 teams to 28 thanks to a large number of Group 1 losers. This week, however, Group 2 drops to 22 teams despite picking up the six losers above from Group 1. That’s because 12 of those previous 28 teams in this group lost last week to fall to Group 3 and essentially out of the playoff picture. The teams that were eliminated include California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, LSU, Mississippi State, Northwestern, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech are ranked at the top of Group 2 this weekend as both teams have a bye week. The other 20 teams in this group are in action this weekend including the Group 2/Playoff Eliminators below.
Group 2/Playoff Eliminators
There are three Group 2 eliminators this week, and the losers of these games will fall to Group 3 (Power 5 teams with two or more losses). These games are essentially playoff eliminators.
- No. 34 Maryland at No. 16 Ohio State
- No. 24 Duke at No. 29 Virginia
- No. 25 Louisville at No. 27 NC State
Group 3 teams
As usual, we won’t list any Group 3 teams until it becomes apparent they might receive consideration for the College Football Playoff.
Group 4 teams
There was one Group 4 Eliminator last weekend as UCF pummeled Memphis 40-13 in Orlando to knock the Tigers out of the playoff pool.
USF is ranked at the top of this group on a bye this weekend. That ensures they’ll still be undefeated when they host Cincinnati on October 14.
With only four other teams left in this group (undefeated teams from the American, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt), there are only two possible Group 4 Eliminators for the rest of the season. Both of those matchups involve the UCF Knights, and the loser in either of them is eliminated from the playoff pool.
Group 4/Playoff Eliminators
The first potential Group 4 eliminator is on October 21 when Navy hosts UCF. Navy has two challenging games before then – a home date with Air Force this Saturday and an October 14 trip to Memphis. UCF, meanwhile, has a potential stumbling block at Cincinnati this weekend before returning home on October 14 to host East Carolina which should be a win. If either Navy or UCF loses either of their games on October 7 or October 14, then the potential for an eliminator between the two teams would be gone.
Additionally, if it’s UCF that loses, it would also do away with a potential matchup between an undefeated UCF and an undefeated USF on November 24 in Orlando. (And that’s one we’d really like to see!)
Other games involving two undefeated teams
These are games between undefeated Group 1 teams and undefeated Group 4 teams. Group 1 losers in this case would fall to Group 2 while Group 4 losers would be eliminated. There are, however, no such matchups this week.
Other Playoff Eliminators
This category is for games between Group 2 and Group 4 teams. Any Group 2 losers in these games 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. There aren’t any games in this category on the schedule this week.
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 supplemented by our own College Football America 130 where we rank every team in the FBS (essentially, the Top 16 of our CFA 130 reflects how I would vote if I was voting on the FWAA-NFF Super 16). The Alabama Crimson Tide are still the nation’s No. 1 team heading into their game against Ole Miss. You can read this week’s update on the poll changes here.
FWAA-NFF Super 16 Schedule
- No. 1 Alabama at Texas A&M
- Wake Forest at No. 2 Clemson
- Iowa State at No. 3 Oklahoma
- No. 4 Penn State at Northwestern
- No. 5 Georgia at Vanderbilt
- California at No. 6 Washington
- Michigan State at No. 7 Michigan
- No. 8 Wisconsin at Nebraska
- West Virginia at No. 9 TCU
- Maryland at No. 10 Ohio State
- No. 11 Washington State at Oregon
- Ole Miss at No. 12 Auburn
- Baylor at No. 13 Oklahoma State
- Oregon State at No. 14 USC
- No. 15 Miami (FL) at Florida State
- No. 16 Louisville at NC State
ROADTRIPSPORTS.COM GAME OF THE WEEK
With their 30-27 win over No. 5 USC last Friday night, the Washington State Cougars served notice that they should be taken seriously by the other top contenders for the College Football Playoff. And they’ve put themselves in prime position to possibly make a run during the second half of the season.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that they’re going to have to do some of the heavy lifting away from their cozy Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington, and it starts Saturday evening in Eugene, Oregon. The Cougars will face a 4-1 Oregon Ducks team that could start working itself into the playoff conversation with a win over their visitors who shot from No. 16 to No. 11 in the latest FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll with the win over USC.
It’s not hard to imagine the Cougars having a bit of a letdown after the emotional victory last Friday, but there is one major situation that works in Washington State’s favor. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is out with a broken collarbone sustained in the first quarter of the Ducks’ game against Cal last week. Oregon still managed to put up 28 second-half points with backup quarterback Taylor Alie running the show, but then he left the game with an injury of his own in the fourth quarter.
The game ended with the Ducks turning to true freshman Braxton Burmeister to close the game out burning his redshirt in the process. To make matters worse, Ducks’ star running back Royce Freeman also left the game with an injury although it was reported that he could have returned. He’s been listed as day-to-day, and the expectation here is that he will play. If he’s not at full speed, however, the Ducks’ offense could grind to a halt on a night when they’ll likely need to score a lot of points to keep pace with Washington State’s high-octane offense.
That offense, by the way, is No. 2 in the country in passing with quarterback Luke Falk at the controls. The Cougars average 414.0 yards per game through the airways, and the senior Falk is fifth in the country with 1,718 passing yards through five games. He’s also thrown 16 touchdown passes with just two interceptions.
But it’s not just offense this year as the Cougars showed late Friday night when they forced a game-ending turnover on a forced fumble by Jahad Woods. Woods broke through the USC line untouched and leveled USC quarterback Sam Darnold, a potential No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft who’s known for engineering late comebacks.
The Cougars defense enters the Oregon game ranked No. 11 in the country in total defense, and it’s that unit matched up against Oregon’s second- or third-string quarterback that figures to be the difference in this one. We’re going with Washington State on the road to figure out a way to get it done.
THE BOWL PICTURE
We track the bowl status of all 130 major college teams throughout the season with our Bowl Eligibility List. There are currently eight teams with five wins – all of them 5-0 – and this is the first week that any teams have an opportunity to get to six wins, the minimum for bowl eligibility without a waiver. Seven of them – Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Penn State, San Diego State, Washington and Washington State – are in action this weekend, and we’re projecting that all seven of them should get to 6-0 this weekend. USF, meanwhile, has a bye week and will have to wait at least one more week to reach bowl-eligible status. Chuck Cox’s bowl eligibility report will cover all the details on Friday.
NCAA FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SUBDIVISION (FCS)
The James Madison Dukes made it through another week in the pole position with a scrappy 20-10 win over Delaware on the road. They’re still one vote shy of being a unanimous No. 1, however, as North Dakota State is still clinging to a single first-place vote. The Bison were big winners at home against Missouri State in a 38-11 rout.
There was some upheaval in the next two spots, however. The No. 3 Sam Houston State Bearkats lost 41-30 at the No. 12 Central Arkansas Bears who were rewarded with a jump to No. 8 this week. The Bearkats dropped to No. 11 with the loss. Then in the No. 4 slot, South Dakota State dropped to No. 9 this week after being shut down on the road at No. 5 Youngstown State in a 19-7 loss in our FCS Game of the Week.
That allowed Youngstown to move up into the No. 3 slot out of a tie in the No. 5 position with Jacksonville State which took over No. 4. Wofford was up two slots to No. 5 while South Dakota and Illinois State settled into the next two positions at No. 6 and No. 7. With Central Arkansas and South Dakota State in the Nos. 8 and 9 positions, Eastern Washington actually slid two positions to No. 10 despite beating Sacramento State 52-31 at home.
This week, the top game on the FCS schedule will once again feature the No. 3 Youngstown State Penguins at No. 6 South Dakota. But there are some other gems on the FCS schedule. In particular, we’re interested to see what 4-1 Western Carolina (which is technically No. 26 in the poll finishing at the top of others receiving votes) can do at undefeated No. 5 Wofford. We’re also interested in a game a little further down the rankings as No. 18 Western Illinois pays a visit to No. 21 Northern Iowa.
NCAA FCS Game of the Week: No. 3 Youngstown State at No. 6 South Dakota
SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL
NCAA Division II
No. 1 Northwest Missouri State survived a scare last week scoring with just seven seconds remaining to beat unranked Central Missouri in a game played at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium. Northwest wasn’t penalized by any voters, however, retaining all 34 of its first-place votes in this week’s poll.
The close outcome could be a good thing for a team that’s used to big wins, and we’ll see if there’s any hangover in this week’s game when Northwest hosts Central Oklahoma.
Our D2 Game of the Week, meanwhile, featured No. 8 Colorado Mesa at No. 17 Colorado State-Pueblo. The hosts were up to the challenge taking Mesa down 30-24 and exacting some revenge for a close loss in 2016. Mesa tumbled all the way to No. 21 in this week’s poll while CSU-Pueblo inched up three spots to No. 14.
This week, the biggest game on the D2 schedule is down in Texas where No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce will pay a visit to No. 10 Midwestern State.
NCAA D2 Game of the Week: No. 2 Texas A&M-Commerce at No. 10 Midwestern State
NCAA Division III
No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders blew out Southwestern 44-10 last Saturday to hang on to the top spot in Division III. No. 2 Mount Union is still receiving a handful of first-place votes, however, and a convincing 43-14 win over Ohio Northern was enough to hang on to them.
In our D3 Game of the Week, Wisconsin-Oshkosh throttled unranked Wisconsin-Whitewater 37-20 underscoring the fact that, at least for now, Whitewater’s unquestioned dominance of the WIAC is a thing of the past.
This week, we’ve actually got several T0p 25 battles including No. 2 Mount Union at No. 22 Heidelberg, No. 15 Concordia-Moorhead at No. 6 St. Thomas, No. 7 Delaware Valley at No. 24 Albright and No. 20 Wesley at No. 9 Frostburg State. But the top game on the board also features the top team in Division III as No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor pays a visit to No. 5 Hardin-Simmons.
NCAA D3 Game of the Week: No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 5 Hardin-Simmons
No. 8 Marian jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the No. 1 Saint Francis (IN) Cougars last Saturday, but the Knights were unable to close the deal eventually losing 30-24. It was a game worthy of our NAIA Game of the Week designation, and in the end, the Cougars outscored Marian 28-7 down the stretch to get the win.
Marian was actually the highest-ranked team to lose last week although No. 10 Arizona Christian was flattened 43-6 by SAGU. Marian settled in at No. 12 in this week’s poll while Arizona Christian tumbled all the way to No. 18. No. 11 Langston and No. 12 Georgetown (KY) took advantage of the two open spots in the Top 10 to move up two notches to No. 9 and 10, respectively.
There aren’t any Top 10 battles this week so we’ll stick with Saint Francis again in our NAIA Game of the Week as they host No. 20 Concordia-Ann Arbor.
NAIA Game of the Week: No. 20 Concordia-Ann Arbor at No. 1 Saint Francis (IN)
It was a tough week for Top 10 teams in our College Football America Juco Top 30.
Four of the teams in the Top 10 lost including No. 5 San Mateo, No. 6 Saddleback, No. 7 Holmes and No. 10 Siskiyous. It was the first loss for each of those teams who are all 4-1.
San Mateo’s loss came in a 21-20 setback to No. 19 American River in our CCCAA Game of the Week. American River jumped 10 spots to No. 9 in our latest rankings while San Mateo settled in at No. 11.
In our NJCAA Game of the Week, the No. 8 Tyler Apaches knocked off the No. 15 Blinn Buccaneers 34-22, and were rewarded with the No. 5 position in our latest rankings. Blinn dropped to No. 18 with the loss.
This week, most of California’s CCCAA programs are idle for fall break, but there is one interesting game between two unranked squads as 3-1 Hartnell will pay a visit to 3-2 Yuba in our CCCAA Game of the Week. The NJCAA Game of the Week features a high-profile matchup with No. 3 Arizona Western on the road at N0. 8 Snow.
CCCAA Game of the Week: Hartnell at Yuba
NJCAA Game of the Week: No. 3 Arizona Western at No. 8 Snow
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