Can you believe it?
We are already halfway through season five with some undefeated teams, as well as some winless teams. We have had some record-setting performances as well as some performances not so great. Overtime games have been the norm this season while preseason favorites have struggled so far.
If the season ended today, the playoffs would look like this:
Ohio State (4-0) – Bye
Notre Dame (2-2)
Clemson (4-0) – Bye
*Notre Dame gets in over Washington due to NET points until the teams play each other.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some key takeaways from this past week.
1) THE UNDEFEATED AND THE WINLESS
At beginning of the season, it was pretty much a given that Clemson would be one of the teams going undefeated but they are not the only ones. Ohio State has shot out of the gate with their running offense and suffocating defense. Their wins have come over Penn State, Florida and TCU, teams that have combined to go for 1-11 so far this season. Ohio State faces a big matchup with Notre Dame this week that will determine if their offense and defense are for real, or if they have just played really bad teams. Clemson, on the other hand, has looked good but not great so far. Their offense has struggled through the first half in each of the past couple games but their new offensive coordinator should fix that this week as they take on Miami in a big SEC matchup. Can Clemson regain their offensive prowess or will Miami continue to build their dynasty?
As far as winless goes, where did Michigan come from? The Wolverines picked up a national title-winning quarterback in the offseason in Dewey Ainge, but they have struggled mightily so far with a net point differential of 116, the worst in the league. TCU has also struggled this year but looked a lot better last week in the overtime loss to Clemson. They face a big test at home against Texas this week and will need a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The last winless team is Penn State, and you have to feel for them. The Nittany Lions have played in overtime games the past three weeks, all losses. They have played Miami, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, all playoff front-runners. While their playoff hopes are slim, this team can certainly upset a few Big 10 title hopefuls down the line.
2) OREGON’S TRANSFORMATION
Speaking of Big 10 teams, how about these Oregon Ducks? Playing Notre Dame this week the Duck offense put up 526 yards of total offense with Cribbs and Tickle leading the way. The best part of that 526 number? How evenly Oregon is running their offense. The Ducks passed for 288 yards and rushed for 238. This has been a far cry from previous Oregon teams that were built on defense first, then offense. It helps when your quarterback is having an absolute career year, leading the league in QBR as well as completion percentage. The Big 10 title battle will likely come down to the Ohio State-Oregon winner in two weeks.
3) AUBURN COULD MISS THE PLAYOFFS
Listen, I like the Tigers a lot. Their AD is one of the best and they have been a staple in the league since the CFSL creation. This week the Tigers had a chance to prove that they belong on top of the SEC with Texas’s and the Clemson’s, unfortunately, an offense that looked so good against TCU and Michigan fell flat against a really good Miami team. Auburn could only muster 14 points and went scoreless in the second and third quarters. Quarterback Griffin Jelkic completed 23 of 31 passes, but for only 226 yards. Billy Carter rushed for 67 yards and has not topped 100 yards since week one, where he rushed for 176 against Michigan. Now, this loss does not hurt Auburn completely, but with only the top three teams entering the playoffs from the SEC, Auburn goes into a must-win situation in their three SEC games against Florida, Texas, and Clemson. The latter two, Texas and Clemson, Auburn has never beaten.
4) CAN TATUM DO IT AGAIN?
The reigning OPOY quarterback, Ray Tatum, had another ho-hum game in which he passed for 500 yards and five more touchdowns in the win over Flordia, 48-7. That brings up his mark this season to 18 passing touchdowns and 1523 passing yards. Four weeks into this season, Tatum has passed for five touchdowns three times and only three touchdowns in the loss against Notre Dame. Not only is Tatum on a blistering pace for a whopping 38 passing touchdowns in a shortened season, but he could also better his numbers from last season where he threw for 4655 yards and 42 touchdowns if Texas makes the playoffs. While many may consider Tatum a “system” quarterback, it’s no secret that Tatum could be the first player ever to win two OPOY awards. Something that will surely make him Hall-of-Fame worthy if there ever was one.
5) Every week from now on is a must-win week
While this piece is about takeaways from last week, you cannot help but look forward to next week as well. Because of Auburn’s loss to Miami, the Tigers will head to the swamp in a must-win game. Miami will look to secure their place among the SEC elite with a visit from the Clemson Tigers. Win that game, and Miami has an inside track into the SEC title and a bye. Ohio State takes on a Notre Dame team that has lived and died on the one-score games this season. Penn State takes on Washington and will look to finally turn the corner from overtime losers to winners while Washington will look to build the momentum of their own. The end of the season is near and we are just getting started. This week will separate the playoff contenders from pretenders. Buckle up, everyone.