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.
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL AMERICA SPOTLIGHT
I was at the Carrier Dome earlier this year when the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders upset the Syracuse Orange. That day, the hosts felt like a team that was a long way away from making even a minor difference in the ACC – let alone making an impact that could be felt throughout major college football.
But there they were last Friday night as I drove up through Western Kentucky making my way up toward Southern Illinois on my way to St. Louis. Somewhere around the time I passed by the Marion, Illinois, area, the Orange were putting the final touches on a 27-24 upset over No. 2 Clemson.
I pulled off at Mount Vernon, Illinois, and then watched the second big upset of the night as the California Golden Bears waylaid the No. 8 Washington State Cougars 38-3.
And that was just Friday night.
By the end of the weekend, the No. 5 Washington Huskies would also go down in a 13-7 loss to the Arizona State Sun Devils while the No. 10 Auburn Tigers were held scoreless in the second half of a 27-23 loss at the LSU Tigers.
Four unranked squads took down four Top 10 teams in one of the wilder weekends in recent memory, but there’s no doubt that Syracuse’s win, which ended Clemson’s 11-game winning streak, was the biggest of all. It leaves the defending national champion in the precarious position of needing to win out to have a shot at a third-straight appearance in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
For Syracuse, it means the Orange are above .500 seven games into the season with a realistic shot at nailing down a spot in the postseason as Head Coach Dino Babers works his magic at yet another stop.
Last week we covered a lot of ground from Tennessee to Texas again, but also California and Missouri.
The week started out with a Thursday night high school game for me when the Battle Ground Academy (Franklin, TN) Wildcats crushed the Franklin Road Academy (Nashville, TN) Panthers to get to 8-1.
Then on Saturday, I knocked out a couple of new places in the St. Louis area with the Missouri Baptist Spartans hosting the Concordia-Ann Arbor Cardinals at Christian Brothers College. The Spartans were beaten handily by the visitors 66-21, and the Cardinals were rewarded in the NAIA poll jumping from No. 21 to No. 17. They’re also No. 1 in the NCCAA Victory Bowl rankings so they’ll likely have a post-season offer somewhere.
I made my to Lindenwood’s beautiful setting in nearby St. Charles after leaving the Missouri Baptist game, and watched an exciting second half between the host Lions and the Emporia State Hornets. The visitors had an answer for every Lindenwood score including an exciting fourth quarter where the Hornets outscored the Lions 21-16 to secure a 41-30 victory.
College Football America Yearbook Editor-in-Chief Matthew Postins covered the UTSA-North Texas game at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas, Saturday afternoon. It was an exciting game with North Texas going on a 98-yard drive in the game’s final minute to get the game-winning touchdown in a 29-26 duel.
Associate Publisher Chuck Cox was delayed a couple of hours in Dallas trying to fly out late Friday night for a trip to California. They finally loaded up the plane and left late, and Cox made the most of the trip with a CCCAA junior college game between Fresno State and Chabot before taking in New Mexico at Fresno State later in the evening. Both Fresno schools won big.
Our game/team count to date:
57 High School and College Football Games
NCAA FBS: 36 out of 130 teams
NCAA FCS: 7 out of 124 teams
NCAA D2: 7 out of 169 teams
NCAA D3: 11 out of 249 teams
NAIA: 10 out of 88 teams
Juco’s: 11 out of 135 teams
NCAA FOOTBALL BOWL SUBDIVISION (NCAA FBS)
Week 8 will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday with Louisiana at Arkansas State on ESPNU. Memphis and Houston will take center stage, however, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN in a key American Athletic Conference West Division contest.
Friday night brings a lineup of four games including double-headers on both the CBSSN network and ESPN2. Western Kentucky and Old Dominion will get things started early with a 6 p.m. ET kickoff on CBSSN followed by Air Force and Nevada at 9:30 p.m. ET. On ESPN2, I’ll be on the sidelines for Marshall at Middle Tennessee kicking off at 7 p.m. ET, and then Colorado State at New Mexico will follow at 10:15 p.m. ET.
Finally, Saturday’s action will kick off at 12 noon ET, and the most interesting early game will feature FWAA-NFF No. 10 Oklahoma State in a dangerous road trip to Austin, Texas, to face the Texas Longhorns, ranked No. 39 in our College Football America 130.
The 3:30 ET lineup will bring a struggling Tennessee squad into the spotlight on CBS at No. 1 Alabama while last week’s team of the week, Syracuse, will get a crack at undefeated FWAA-NFF No. 9 Miami (FL). An AAC East Division battle between undefeated CFA No. 24 UCF (5-0) and CFA No. 35 Navy (5-1) will also have our attention.
At 4 p.m. ET, FWAA-NFF No. 8 Oklahoma will try to avoid the upset bug at CFA No. 43 Kansas State before we head into the big evening games.
Taking center stage on ABC at 7:30 p.m. is the FWAA-NFF No. 16 Michigan Wolverines at the FWAA-NFF No. 3 Penn State Nittany Lions. Over on NBC, the FWAA-NFF No. 12 USC Trojans will head to South Bend to take on the FWAA-NFF No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Both the Trojans and the Irish each have a single loss making it a College Football Playoff eliminator in our College Football Playoff Pool.
And while there are no late-night games with serious playoff implications, the FWAA-NFF No. 14 Washington State Cougars will have to beat the CFA No. 49 Colorado Buffaloes to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They’ll square off in the final contest of the weekend kicking off at 10:45 p.m. ET on ESPN.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF
Last week, we entered the weekend with 28 teams still alive in our College Football Playoff Pool, and we trimmed that down to 22 teams by the end of the weekend.
We’re guaranteed to lose at least one more team as there is a Group 2/Playoff Eliminator on the board. Other than that, it’s theoretically possible that 21 teams could remain in the pool next week. There are some tough games for our Group 2 teams, however, and UCF in Group 4 will have a tough road trip to face Navy.
Group 1 teams
We lost three more Group 1 teams as Clemson, Washington and Washington State all lost for the first time to fall to Group 2. That leaves just six undefeated teams from Power 5 leagues with Georgia ranked at the top of the pool this week on a bye week. That guarantees the Bulldogs will be part of this group for at least another week.
Of the six remaining undefeated teams in this group, five are on the list of teams that previously have won a national championship. Wisconsin stands alone as the final undefeated team that does not have any national titles during the poll era dating back to 1936.
The best matchup involving one of these six teams is Penn State’s home game with Michigan of Group 2 Saturday evening. A Michigan loss would knock the Wolverines from the CFP Pool while a Penn State loss would send the Nittany Lions to Group 2. Therefore, it’s not an eliminator per se (as both teams could remain in the pool depending on the result), but the loser will see their playoff hopes severely damaged, and in Michigan’s case, it would almost certainly knock the Wolverines out of the picture.
Group 1 Eliminators
None of the five Group 1 teams in action this week play each other so there are no Group 1 eliminators. There are, in fact, no more Group 1 eliminators possible for the remainder of the regular season.
Group 2 teams
Group 2 picks up the three Group 1 losers (Clemson, Washington and Washington State) from last week. We had 15 teams in this group a week ago, but we also lost four of those teams to Group 3 with their second losses of the season including Auburn, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and Utah.
The net difference means we have 14 teams remaining in Group 2, and the four teams listed in our pool positions from 7 through 10, are idle this week including Clemson, Ohio State, Washington and NC State. All of those teams are guaranteed to make it at least one more week in this group, but there is one eliminator between two of the remaining 10 teams in this group.
Group 2/Playoff Eliminators
USC survived our only Playoff Eliminator last week in an exciting 28-27 win over Utah at home. Utah actually scored a late touchdown and went for two to go for the win, but the Trojans’ defense held, and Utah was moved to Group 3 and essentially eliminated from playoff consideration.
Now the Trojans have to do it again, and this time they’ll have to do it on the road in South Bend against their rivals from Notre Dame. The Irish are ranked No. 17 in our current playoff pool, and USC is No. 18, and the winner will be in decent shape to make a run down the stretch at a playoff bid. The loser, however, is almost certainly out of the picture.
- CFP Pool No. 18 USC at CFP Pool No. 17 Notre Dame
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
And then there were two.
The previously undefeated Navy Midshipmen committed five turnovers in a 30-27 loss at Memphis to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. Later that evening, the San Diego State Aztecs were also tagged with their first loss at home in a 31-14 setback versus Boise State.
Navy’s loss ended the potential for an eliminator game against UCF this weekend. UCF of the American Athletic Conference is one of the only two unbeaten teams remaining in this group which is composed of undefeated teams from the American, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt. UCF will still play at Navy Saturday, however, in a game that looks like a tough road trip for the Knights.
USF, meanwhile, is the only other unbeaten team from this group, and they are also members of the AAC. The Bulls will have to be alert to the possibility of an upset at Tulane Saturday evening, but if they survive and UCF can beat Navy, then the possibility of a Group 4 eliminator between UCF and USF on Thanksgiving weekend will remain alive for at least another week.
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 will be no more of these matchups in 2017.
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 will be no more of these matchups in 2017.
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 at home this Saturday against Tennessee. You can read this week’s update on the poll changes here.
FWAA-NFF Super 16 Schedule
- Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama
- No. 2 Georgia, Idle
- No. 16 Michigan at No. 3 Penn State
- Kansas at No. 4 TCU
- Maryland at No. 5 Wisconsin
- No. 6 Ohio State, Idle
- No. 7 Clemson, Idle
- No. 8 Oklahoma at Kansas State
- Syracuse at No. 9 Miami (FL)
- No. 10 Oklahoma State at Texas
- No. 11 Washington, Idle
- No. 12 USC at No. 13 Notre Dame
- Colorado at No. 14 Washington State
- North Carolina at No. 15 Virginia Tech
ROADTRIPSPORTS.COM GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 12 USC at No. 13 Notre Dame had a lot of appeal in this slot due to the fact that it’s a must-win for both teams since they each have a loss, but ultimately we settled on this Big Ten matchup featuring two other Super 16 squads. In this one, Michigan enters in a slightly more desperate position than Penn State having already lost a game at 5-1. The Nittany Lions are 6-0, and while a loss wouldn’t end their playoff hopes, it would put them in the same position as Michigan the rest of the way – that is, needing to win out to have a shot.
Penn State is led, of course, by Heisman candidate Saquon Barkley at running back, but the Lions’ national title hopes are, perhaps, even more dependent on a defense that leads the nation with only 9.0 points allowed per game. They are No. 9 in total defense yielding just 285.2 yards per game, and that’s likely to be a huge problem for a Michigan offense that has been inconsistent throughout 2017. The Wolverines rank No. 86 in the country in total offense, partially the result of a unit that can’t convert consistently on third downs to maintain possession. Michigan ranks No. 116 in third-down conversions moving the chains just 29 times on 92 third-down opportunities (.315). A passing offense that ranks No. 94 in the country with quarterback John O’Korn struggling at the controls certainly doesn’t help.
Penn State, on the other hand, ranks No. 33 in total offense thanks in large part to Barkley’s output – 649 yards rushing on 102 carries with six touchdowns. Barkley’s last two outings, however, have been more average affairs with just 56 yards against Indiana and 75 against Northwestern – a game in which he had negative yardage well into the second half before finally breaking a long run. That could be problematic because Penn State’s defense isn’t the only good one that will be on the field in this one. Michigan’s defensive rankings are just as good as Penn State’s if not better as the Wolverines lead the nation in total defense yielding just 223.8 yards per game. They are No. 8 in scoring defense allowing just 14.7 points per game.
It all adds up to an interesting matchup, but perhaps, the biggest advantage for Penn State is they get to play this one at home. We’ll go with the Nittany Lions in what’s shaping up to be a bit of a defensive battle.
THE BOWL PICTURE
We track the bowl status of all 130 major college teams throughout the season with our Bowl Eligibility List. Last week, six more teams reached the six-win plateau making them bowl eligible. NC State, Ohio State, TCU, USC, USF and Wisconsin all joined the seven previous teams that had reached bowl eligibility the previous week making for a total of 13 teams that are eligible for the 78 postseason bowl slots.
For the full report on bowl on bowl eligibility, check out Chuck Cox’s Bowl Eligibility Report.
NCAA FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SUBDIVISION (FCS)
It was a big Saturday in Harrisonburg, Virginia, as ESPN’s College GameDay paid a visit for No. 1 James Madison’s big home game against No. 14 Villanova. The host Dukes lived up to their ranking, too, in a 30-8 romp past the visiting Wildcats.
The Dukes had been one vote shy of being a unanimous No. 1, but this week, they finally wrestled that single vote away from the No. 2 North Dakota State Bison. Not that the Bison did anything wrong, mind you, except maybe having a bye week at the very moment the spotlight was shining its brightest on the Dukes. In fact, the Bison had the harder chore last weekend traveling to No. 8 Youngstown State and outlasting the Penguins in a 27-24 overtime win. It wasn’t enough to convince that one holdout to give the Bison that single No. 1 vote again, however.
Either way, they’re both undefeated moving forward and in control of their own destinies. The rest of the Top 6 – No. 3 Jacksonville State, No. 4 South Dakota, No. 5 Wofford and No. 6 Central Arkansas – was also unchanged in this week’s poll.
There were some changes beyond that starting with No. 7 South Dakota State’s shocking 38-18 loss to Northern Iowa at home. The Jackrabbits dropped to No. 13 with the loss, and combined with No. 8 Youngstown’s loss to North Dakota State, it opened up an opportunity for a couple of teams to move up. Sam Houston State and Eastern Washington were tied at No. 9 in last week’s poll, but they settled into the two spots that opened up in that order. Even with their third loss, Youngstown State didn’t fall far settling into the No. 9 slot left vacant by Sam Houston and Eastern Washington, and Richmond jumped from No. 13 into the final spot to round out the Top 10.
There are some great games this week in the FCS including No. 3 Jacksonville State’s visit to Eastern Illinois – unranked but 5-2 with the home field advantage. No. 4 South Dakota is at No. 24 Illinois State, and No. 5 Wofford will host No. 14 Samford. No. 8 Eastern Washington’s visit to a Southern Utah team that is receiving votes is no cakewalk, and No. 9 Youngstown State will have to hit the road and face a Northern Iowa team receiving votes that just upset South Dakota State last weekend.
Finally, No. 10 Richmond will have its Top 10 status tested in a road trip to Delaware which is receiving votes, and No. 17 Grambling will host an Alcorn State team receiving votes.
Yep, it’s a heck of a week in the FCS, and that brings us to our FCS Game of the Week when No. 2 North Dakota State hosts No. 12 Western Illinois. This is one of those weekends that will help shape the FCS playoff field.
NCAA FCS Game of the Week: No. 12 Western Illinois at No. 2 North Dakota State
SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL
NCAA Division II
After a couple of close calls in recent weeks, the No. 1 Northwest Missouri State Bearcats finally got a little bit of break in a 42-14 win over Northeastern State. Instead, it was No. 2 Shepherd that found itself in a too-close-for-comfort 28-23 win over unranked Fairmont State.
A win’s a win, though, and Shepherd held onto the No. 2 spot followed by Indiana (PA) and Minnesota State holding steady in the Nos. 3-4 positions. Indiana boosted its resume with an impressive 34-17 road win at No. 9 Slippery Rock in our D2 Game of the Week while The Rock slipped to No. 17 after the loss.
No. 5 Midwestern State and No. 6 Indianapolis traded positions this week despite the fact that Midwestern beat Angelo State in a 41-27 battle while Indianapolis pummeled Quincy 55-0. No. 7 Grand Valley State and No. 8 Fort Hays State each won to hold onto their previous positions for another week.
With Slippery Rock evacuating the No. 9 position, Central Washington and Texas A&M-Commerce each moved up one spot into the Nos. 9-10 slots to round out the Top 10.
There aren’t a lot of high-profile matchups this weekend, but we do like No. 7 Grand Valley State at No. 12 Ferris State. It’s a solid pick for our NCAA D2 Game of the Week.
NCAA D2 Game of the Week: No. 7 Grand Valley State at No. 12 Ferris State
NCAA Division III
No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor made quick work of Howard Payne Saturday in a 65-0 shellacking. No. 2 Mount Union kept pace with an equally impressive 72-14 annihilation of Capital. The two D3 powers continue to set the pace in what appears to be a two-horse race at the top of the NCAA’s lowest division.
No. 3 Wisconsin-Oshkosh delivered in our D3 Game of the Week fending off No. 7 Wisconsin-Platteville in a 28-14 road win. No. 4 North Central didn’t fare as well in a 42-20 loss to Wheaton. The loss dropped North Central to No. 15 and allowed Wheaton to climb back into the Top 25 at No. 23.
No. 5 St. Thomas was idle, but the Tommies moved up a notch this week into the spot vacated by North Central. No. 6 Delaware Valley followed suit easing up a spot behind St. Thomas.
With Platteville’s loss dropping the Pioneers from No. 7 to No. 12, the bottom five teams in the Top 10 each jumped up two spots from last week including No. 6 Hardin-Simmons, No. 7 Saint John’s, No. 8 Linfield, No. 9 Wittenberg and No. 10 Washington & Jefferson.
No. 3 Wisconsin-Oshkosh has another interesting matchup this week with a visit to Wisconsin-La Crosse to face an Eagles’ squad that is receiving votes. We’ll keep an eye on that, but we’ll go with fast-rising No. 24 George Fox at No. 8 Linfield in our D3 Game of the Week.
NCAA D3 Game of the Week: No. 24 George Fox at No. 8 Linfield
The NAIA was a model of consistency last weekend with the Top 14 teams maintaining their positions in this week’s poll.
That included the No. 1 Saint Francis (IN) Cougars, of course, who had an easy go of it last week in a 36-9 win over Siena Heights. It also included No. 6 Grand View which whipped up on Peru State in a 47-7 thrashing in our NAIA Game of the Week.
Of course, part of the reason for the consistency is that there weren’t many high-profile matchups in the NAIA universe last weekend. No. 15 Sterling was the highest-ranked team to lose in a 30-28 homecoming setback against Bethany (KS), and No. 16 Arizona Christian also went down in a 33-28 upset to Oklahoma Panhandle State.
There’s better games to choose from this week like No. 22 Cumberland at No. 5 Lindsey Wilson; No. 15 Northwestern (IA) at No. 19 Doane; No. 23 Arizona Christian at No. 8 Langston; and No. 24 Kansas Wesleyan at No. 20 Tabor. But we’ll go with No. 13 Marian at No. 17 Concordia-Ann Arbor, as the up-and-coming Cardinals try to knock out one of the NAIA’s powerhouses at home.
NAIA Game of the Week: No. 13 Marian at No. 17 Concordia-Ann Arbor
There was a big upset at the top of the juco world last weekend as the No. 1 East Mississippi Lions were blown out at the No. 12 Northwest Misssissippi Rangers in a 61-38 stunner in our NJCAA Game of the Week.
That opened the door for a CCCAA program to move into the No. 1 spot in our College Football America Juco Top 30 as California’s Fullerton Hornets have been on a season-long rampage. That includes a 78-9 win at Grossmont last Saturday. Arizona Western moved up a spot into the No. 2 position as the top-ranked NJCAA team in our rankings followed by two more CCCAA members in No. 3 Riverside and No. 4 Bakersfield.
No. 5 Snow’s only loss is to Arizona Western in NJCAA action, and No. 6 American River is a solid 5-1 in CCCAA play after beating No. 19 Siskiyous 33-7 in our CCCAA Game of the Week. Three of the last four Top 10 teams are NJCAA members including No. 7 Trinity Valley, No. 8 Northwest Missippi and No. 10 East Mississippi sandwiched around No. 9 San Mateo of the CCCAA.
This week, there aren’t a lot of NJCAA games featuring ranked teams, but we like the matchup between undefeated No. 21 Hinds at No. 24 Jones County which has a single loss. The better matchups are definitely out in California, however, including No. 6 American River at No. 11 Sacramento City and No. 25 Butte at No. 30 Siskiyous. But we’ll take No. 13 Saddleback at No. 1 Fullerton in the Hornets’ first test as the nation’s No. 1-ranked team for our CCCAA Game of the Week.
CCCAA Game of the Week: No. 13 Saddleback at No. 1 Fullerton
NJCAA Game of the Week: No. 21 Hinds at No. 24 Jones County
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