The Road to the National Championship
Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC Tags:
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Ok, so it is a bit early for this, but who cares! We have played five weeks of games and the top teams in the land - by this point - have all played a challenging game or two. So after the first third of the regular season, what teams have the best chance to play for the crystal football? Here is a breakdown...
BEST CHANCE - Alabama (4-0) - With back-to-back national titles and three crowns in four years, as well as being undefeated with a road win over a top ten team already in 2013 (Texas A&M, 49-42), the Crimson Tide are clearly the leaders to get to the biggest game of the year. But despite all that they have going for them, they must keep winning, as I don't know - at this point - if a one-loss SEC team will make the title game this season as there are many teams that look like they might go unbeaten. Then again, it is waaaaay too early to tell as the number of unbeatens will go down, and the number of one-loss teams will go up, as the weeks go on....At this point, though, with AJ McCarron playing smart, TJ Yeldon running the ball hard, and the Tide defense good as normal, you have to think 'Bama will be in one of the two top spots. Toughest games remaining: LSU, at Auburn, SEC Championship Game.
VERY STRONG CHANCE - Oregon (4-0) - With wins over four easy teams, it is still tough to gauge the Ducks. Granted, all four teams were destroyed (average score of 60-9), but it is still tough to say what a team trulyhas when a lesser opponent shares the field. I know, I know, Oregon beat SEC Tennessee's brains out. But Tennessee is awful and is a huge rebuilding job away from being anywhere close to a big-time win for Oregon. The Pac-12 presents several challenges this year, mainly UCLA and Stanford. The Ducks get the Bruins at home but must travel to play Stanford away. I honestly think this Oregon team is super potent and they have the numbers to back it up. But until they play an opponent that is a real top five caliber team, I cannot dive head first into what is going on in Eugene. Speed and sparkling uniforms create a lot of talk, but will it hold up to the end? Toughest games remaining: UCLA, at Stanford, Pac-12 Championship Game.
VERY STRONG CHANCE - Clemson (4-0) - It is tough for me to put an accurate meter on the Tigers of Clemson because I do see things - as a fan - through orange-colored glasses at times. But I also try to be extremely realisitc concerning Clemson because it is no fun to kid myself, either. So far in 2013, I am as excited about the Tigers as I ever have been (I was three years-old when CU won it all in 1981 so that is a cloudy memory). The weapons are there as QB Tajh Boyd (1,150 total yards and 13 TDs) is playing well and WR Sammy Watkins (355 yards and 2 Tds) appears to have matured greatly compared to last year. The defense isn't the Steel Curtain, but they play hard and have some bad dudes up front (Vic Beasley)...Clemson is the only team in the country so far to have a win over a top five team (Georgia, 38-35). By season's end, the Tigers may play a total of five teams in the top ten. That is a tough river to paddle through, but win'em all and a crystal football is yours. Toughest games remaining: Florida State, at Maryland, at South Carolina, ACC Championship Game.
VERY STRONG CHANCE - Ohio State (5-0) - Coach Urban Meyer knows a thing or two about taking teams to the promised land. He did it at Utah (2004) and Florida (twice, 2006 and 2008). Now, he is looking to take his third program to the BCS and I think he can do it. OSU is filled with players who will eventually play on Sundays and Meyer is the kind of coach who brings a gameplan to win every game. His teams don't beat themselves. It would be my guess that at the end of the season, the Buckeyes are undefeated and looking to go to Pasadena. The biggest question for Ohio State is if they can jump ahead of an unbeaten ACC team, an unbeaten Pac-12 team, an unbeaten Big-12 team or a one-loss SEC team to get to play for the whole thing. Toughest remaining games: at Northwestern, at Michigan, Big Ten Championship Game.
VERY STRONG CHANCE - Stanford (4-0) - In the Pac-12 in 2013, I see two heavyweights (Oregon and Stanford) and a team that is getting close to heavyweight status (UCLA). Whoever can come out of that triad of games with an unblemished record could have a serious shot at playing for a national championship...After Stanford went up on Arizona State 29-0 at halftime, I was thinking the Cardinal were a clear contender to challenge for #1. But they let the Sun Devils storm back and with six minutes to go there was a close game. The next week, Stanford dismantled Washington State on the road for the convincing win I needed to see. Stanford will be in the national title taks if they win out, but it will be tough to do. Toughest remaining games: Washington, UCLA, Oregon, Pac-12 Championship Game.
OUTSIDE CHANCE - Florida State (4-0) - FSU is getting an awfully large amount of love, but I have to wonder a bit if it is deserving yet. The Seminoles host a Maryland team this weekend that is on a roll at 4-0, so they better be ready. Win this one big, and I will take FSU a bit more seriously. Win at Clemson in three weeks and I will take them very serious. But four ho-hum wins with a freshman at quarterback (Jameis Winston, 1,220 yards and 14 TDs) isn't going to hve me putting FSU in Pasadena just yet. Toughest remaining games: Maryland, at Clemson, Miami, at Florida, ACC Championship Game.
OUTSIDE CHANCE - Oklahoma (4-0) - This "outside chance" is looking more and more like a "strong chance" as the weeks go by. OU went into South Bend and left with a two-touchdown win on the road. The other three wins weren't much to talk about, but the slate gets tougher soon. Oklahoma is one of the biggest names in the sport. If they get on a roll they will vault up the polls. Toughest remaining games: Texas Tech, at Baylor, at Oklahoma State.
OUTSIDE CHANCE - UCLA (3-0) - By season's end, UCLA could have a "very strong chance" to play for the crown. They have impressed me so far in 2013, but the biggest win, on the road at Nebraska, won't stand up in court as NU is struggling. Brett Hundley is for real at quarterback, and I sure wouldn't want to play the Bruins right now. Keep a very close eye on this team! Toughest remaining games: at Stanford, at Oregon, Washington, Arizona State, Pac-12 Championship Game.
DECENT CHANCE - Miami (4-0) - While it is exciting to see the "U" back playing good football, I am hesitant to say they are "back" among the national title alks. A win over Florida - at home - is what has the 'Canes in the top 15. I just need to see a little bit more before making any kind of real decision on Miami's chance on a national crown. Toughest remaining games: at Florida State, Virginia Tech, ACC Championship Game.
DECENT CHANCE - Michigan (4-0) - The biggest thorn in Michigan's side at this point is letting Akron come into the Big House and scare the living ya-ya out of 115,000 Wolverine fans in week two. Yes, when you are trying to jockey for national title position, letting the Zips nearly beat you isn't the way to do it. QB Devon Gardner is for real, but UM has some work to do to change voters' minds. Toughest remaining games: at Michigan State, at Northwestern, Ohio State, at Iowa, Big Ten Championship Game.
SLIM CHANCE - Louisville (4-0) - I hate it for Louisville, but the schedule fills people's minds with uncertainty and that uncertainty leads to lack of votes in the polls. I get beat up sometimes because I don't rank Louisville higher. But it isn't my fault that after five weeks it is as if they are still scrimmaging. The schedule is the problem with this team's chances. It is what it is, no reason to beat a dead horse. UL will probably go unbeaten, and will probably play in the BCS. The problem is they won't play for a crystal football unless something crazy happens. Toughest remaining games: None.
SLIM CHANCE - Northwestern (4-0) - I love seeing the academically badass schools show out on the athletic fields, as well. Northwestern is solid each and every year under Pat Fitzgerald, and I would love to see them break through and play in the big game! Unfortunately, I think they lose a game or two along the way. But this is college football, and until I see them with an L, there will be a glimmer of hope in Evanston. Toughest remaining games: Ohio State, at Wisconsin, at Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State.
SLIM CHANCE - Washington (4-0) - The Huskies have Stanford (away), Oregon (home), and Arizona State (away) on the schedule the next three weekends. Although I like what is going on in Seattle, let's review this article in a month and see where we are with UW! Toughest remaining games: at Stanford, Oregon, at Arizona State, at UCLA.
SLIM CHANCE - Baylor (3-0) - Although Baylor will drop 70 on you in a heartbeat (scored 69, 70 and 70 in games so far this year), the Bears don't have that big national name to help them in the polls (even with a Hesiman trophy winner two years ago in RG3). This team is exciting, but I don't know if it can go unbeaten and reach the biggest game of the season. Toughest remaining games: Oklahoma, Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, at TCU.
ONE-LOSS TEAMS - This category is pretty much exclusively held for SEC teams. If an SEC team has one loss, they will most-likely still be in the discussion come season's end if there is a spot open and no remaining unbeaten teams. If a team from any other conference takes a loss, chances are they will be on the outside looking in unless every team in college football also has at least one loss. Louisville, I hate to even say this out loud, but a one-loss SEC team could jump an unbeaten Cardinals team. I wouldn't be for it, but it could happen...
STRONG CHANCE - Georgia - The Dawgs' schedule full of tough games will allow them to get back in the title talks. But they have to win all of those games.
OUTSIDE CHANCE - LSU - Like South Carolina, LSU could go through the season with its only loss being at Georgia. Alabama and the SEC Title Game are tough games to win, though.
OUTSIDE CHANCE - Texas A&M - If the Aggies go unbeaten with their only loss to Alabama, they could be a draw for the national title game as Johnny Manziel and crew are a popular program right now.
OUTSIDE CHANCE - South Carolina - The Gamecocks only loss, at Georgia, will not hurt them too badly if they are able to win the rest of their games.
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