Sometimes, we like cutting through the fat and getting to the good stuff!
The good stuff, in this case, is the A Lot of Sports Talk College Football Poll, ranking the Top 25 teams going into Week 8 of the season. Last week was supposed to be a sleepy, uneventful sort of week. Historically, when we expect those types of weeks is when a lot of chaos happens in college football. That almost occurred in the Palmetto State version of Death Valley last week, as NC State had a short field goal attempt (33 yards) at the end of the game to pretty much derail Clemson’s national title hopes. Kyle Bambard wound up missing a 33-yard field goal and Clemson went on to win the game in overtime, 24-17. Talk about sending a shockwave through college football when what was expected, outside of games involving ranked teams, was sunny skies and fair weather.
This Saturday’s slate seems like more the same in terms of expected smooth sailing, as most of the contests involving ranked teams against unranked opponents don’t really offer too much of a chance for an upset – at least on paper. If any game between ranked opponent vs. unranked opponent looks like an intriguing matchup, Wisconsin vs. Iowa might be the game to look at. The Hawkeyes, ranked as high as No. 13 in the AP Poll this season, have fallen off the radar after their loss last month to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, but are still a quality side. Wisconsin is coming off a hard-fought loss at home to Ohio State, and a road trip to Iowa City one week after that is beyond daunting. Also, the TCU vs. No. 12 West Virginia match should also be something to watch. How good are the undefeated Mountaineers? We really don’t know, and A Lot of Sports Talk was at a Mountaineers’ game in person to try and figure that out! Over the past three years, TCU can be described as the class of the Big 12 Conference on the gridiron as much as Oklahoma and Baylor can. Though not as good this year as in the (very) recent past, the Horned Frogs should still pose a serious threat to West Virginia’s undefeated start to the season.
But are there games in the NC State-Clemson variety this week, a contest where there really isn’t any thought that a monumental upset can take place, only for that to exactly happen? We can start in Happy Valley, with No. 2 Ohio State being a 19-point favorite as they take on Penn State. State College on a Saturday night is something special, so that element alone could make that game tighter than most expect.
But my money for a total shock to take place is in Lincoln, where the No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers are at home taking a on Purdue Boilermakers team that’s currently in transition, as Darrell Hazell was fired earlier this week after three-plus seasons in West Lafayette as head coach. Morale should be down with the Boilermakers, and the talent level for Purdue isn’t what it is with Big Red. Blowout city expected!
AHA! Maybe this is it! Yes, it’s a stretch, but that’s exactly what we’re looking for. Maybe the Boilermakers play inspired, looking to salvage some pride after realizing their poor play was, in large part, why the head coach took the fall. Moreover, Nebraska, while in the Top 10, hasn’t necessarily been lighting the world afire, especially when starting games. The Cornhuskers lead the FBS in scoring margin during the fourth quarter and overtime, at a combined plus-75. In the first three quarters, their point differential combined is just plus-27, including being outscored 57-37 in the second quarters of games. It wouldn’t surprise this journalist at all if the Boilermakers make things uneasy in Lincoln. And if no one is expecting it, that just makes it even juicier to take in.
We’d like to think that the A Lot of Sports Talk College Football Poll panel is able to sniff out an upset coming from a mile away. As always, the panel consists of journalists, former college football players and coaches as well as knowledgeable fans who continually have a finger on the pulse of college football. For this week’s poll, our qualified quintet remains the same: Evie Van Pelt (managing editor at The Rebel Walk Magazine), Basil Mitchell (former TCU and Green Bay Packers RB), Sandy Weintraub (super fan, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards at the University of Oregon), Nick Mancuso (patent attorney who attended USC as an undergrad and Oregon for law school) and, yours truly, Adesina Koiki (Football Writers Association of America member/voter, A Lot Of Sports Talk editor-in-chief).
Here is ALOST‘s 2016 College Football Top 25 for Week 8. (All comments this week made my Adesina O. Koiki) If you have any comments and/or complaints, write them below on the Facebook window or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
1. Alabama (124, four first-place votes)
In four games against ranked teams this season, the Tide has scored 52 (USC), 48 (Ole Miss), 49 (Arkansas) and 49 (Tennessee) points. Good luck today, A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis!
2. Ohio State (121, one first-place vote)
Saturday night in Happy Valley could be the equalizer Penn State needs to keep up with the Buckeyes. Ohio State’s talent on both sides of the ball and how they passed its primetime test last month in Norman might neutralize the noise that’s sure to envelop State College.
3. Michigan (112)
Could the Wolverines be the team expected to win big that gets a rude awakening? It almost happened at home against Colorado last month at the Big House.
4. Clemson (110)
The Tigers are unscathed, but they have a lot to clean up in this bye week. Turning over the ball four times, like they did against NC State, probably won’t cut it next week in Tallahassee.
5. Washington (106)
Nope, I don’t see the Huskies getting a stern test from Oregon State in Seattle…which may mean I’m totally setting up my lead to this story to be genius if and when the Beavers spring a trap.
6. Texas A&M (100)
Though in a different uniform, quarterback Trevor Knight hopes to recreate the magic of his MVP-worthy Sugar Bowl performance of 2014, when he led Oklahoma to a shock upset win over Alabama, who was favored by 17.5 points going into that game. The spread for Saturday’s game is pretty much the same.
7. Louisville (96)
The Cardinals don’t need too much motivation for Saturday’s game, as seeing NC State almost pull off the upset against Clemson last week should have gotten Louisville’s attention going into the matchup against the Wolfpack.
8. Nebraska (89)
While the Cornhuskers are great starters (+37 in first quarter) and great finishers (+75 in fourth quarter/OT, best in FBS), it’s the middle of games that can be a slog for Big Red. They have to avoid that later on if they want to be seen true title contenders in the B1G.
9. Baylor (82)
So when do we start taking the Bears seriously as a national championship contender? Or do we at all?
10. Wisconsin (77)
The Badgers remain in the Top 10 despite their loss last week. A bounce-back win over Iowa in Iowa City not only would be impressive, but a sign that they’re still a legit B1G contender going into the home stretch.
11. Houston (75)
Probably the biggest loser in the Big 12 deciding not to vote on expansion is the University of Houston, as not having a chance to be affiliated with the Power 5 may very well be the catalyst that sees head coach Tom Herman leaving the school at season’s end.
12. Boise State (65)
What a zany win for the Broncos on Thursday against BYU, blocking a kick – though recovered by BYU – and having to see another attempt at a game-winning field goal miss to finally get by the Cougars. They’re still undefeated, and still in good shape to make the New Year’s Six if they win out.
13. West Virginia (63)
See note at Baylor. Beating TCU on Saturday definitely would help in getting some more national attention.
14. Florida State (62)
The Seminoles’ bye week couldn’t have come at a better time: The offense has struggled in the past two weeks and their next two opponents are Clemson (home) and NC State (away), with the latter well-versed in pulling off upsets of ranked Seminoles teams in Raleigh.
15. Oklahoma (51)
It’s the “Blake Mayfield Bowl” in Lubbock this week, with the Sooners QB taking on the school (Texas Tech) he started six games for in 2013 before a less-than-amicable split with the Red Raiders and an eventual transfer to Oklahoma.
16. Florida (50)
In line with the national perception of them, the Gators are the most polarizing team in our poll; They’re ranked as high as ninth in one pollster’s poll and as low as 21st by one of our other pollsters.
17. Utah (40)
If they had their way, the Utes’ trip to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA will be the first of two trips Utah will make to the Rose Bowl this season. They’re definitely in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 South right now.
18. Arkansas (38)
The Hogs have alternated wins and losses over the past month. They won last week at Ole Miss, so that means they might be in trouble on The Plains Saturday night.
19. Tennessee (37)
After a two-month stretch of near endless heart-stopping action, the Vols deserve the bye week they enjoy now. Looking at their schedule the rest of the way, Tennessee should not lose another game before bowl season.
20. Western Michigan (36)
Warning to the young men of Kalamazoo: Eastern Michigan, Western’s opponent on Saturday, is 5-2 and more than capable to cause a shock. Could a rivalry end the Broncos’ hopes of a magical, undefeated season?
21. Navy (20)
Navy’s game with East Carolina last week, postponed due to Hurricane Matthew, has been rescheduled for Nov. 19. That actually now causes a backlog in the Midshipmen’s schedule, as they’ll have to play seven games between now and Dec. 10. The first three of that stretch are tough: Memphis (home), South Florida (away) and Notre Dame (in Jacksonville, FL).
22. Ole Miss (18)
Is there any consolation in being the best 3-3 team in America? Not really, but, after their visit to Baton Rouge Saturday night, the Rebels definitely hope not to be the best 3-4 team around!
23. North Carolina (14)
I want to believe that the real Tar Heels in 2016 are the ones that went on the road to win at Florida State and handle Miami, not the ones that laid a massive egg at home against Virginia Tech in the middle of those FSU and Miami games. Welcome to life in the ACC Coastal Division!
24. Auburn (11)
Are the Tigers really a resurgent group? Or do we just not have enough quality teams after the Top 20 that the Tigers are here by default?
T-25. LSU (7)
See note at Auburn. That would change a little bit if they’re able to win against Ole Miss. Having Leonard Fournette return to the lineup – which is expected to happen Saturday night – would sure help the Bayou Bengals.
T-25. South Florida (7)
The Bulls’ spot here won’t last long at all after their Friday night loss to Temple. Before that, the Bulls were one of the most lethal offenses in all of college football; According to ESPN Stats and Information, they had scored 35 points in 11 straight games (longest active streak in FBS), rushed for at least 200 yards in a game for 12 straight games (longest active streak in FBS) and had recorded at least 425 yards in 12 straight games (longest active streak in FBS) before Friday.
Others receiving votes:
Colorado (5 points), Washington State (4), Troy (2), Pittsburgh (1), Stanford (1), USC (1)
* – To break ties, we used a three-step criteria; 1) higher number of first-place votes, 2) higher number of ballots (out of six) the teams appeared in, 3) highest single ranking by an individual pollster (e.g. if Team A and Team B are tied cumulatively and appeared in all six polls, but Team A’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 7 and Team B’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 9, Team A wins tiebreaker)
[Cover photo (Lovie Smith) courtesy of Rich Schultz/Getty Images]