College Football Blue-Blood Dominance
In the four years of the college football playoff era, Alabama has made the playoff every time and has won twice (in 2015 and 2017). Clemson has made the playoff three times and has been either the No. 1 seed or the No. 2 seed each time. Ohio State and Oklahoma have each made it twice.
Throw Georgia in the mix, who made the college football playoff last year, and you have college football's top five teams through the first two weeks of the season.
It seemingly doesn’t matter who these five schools lose to graduation, or the NFL, they are simply are in the hunt every year.
Oklahoma lost the Heisman trophy winner and the No. 1 overall pick in April’s Draft, Baker Mayfield, and they've won 63-14 against Florida Atlantic in Week 1 and 49-21 in Week 2 against UCLA. They have put up 1,135 yards of offense in the first two weeks alone. In their first two games last year against UTEP and Ohio State, the Sooners put up 1,116 total yards. That means through two weeks they've put up more yards than an offense in 2017 that ranked 3rd in the nation in scoring.
Ohio State has played the first two games of its season without head coach Urban Meyer - suspended for the first three games stemming from his mishandling of the sexual abuse case involving Zach Smith - while starting a new quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, who took over for four-year starter J.T. Barrett. All that has led to a combined score of 129-34 in the Buckeyes' two games.
Alabama has pulled off its usual reboot after seemingly losing every player on its roster to the NFL. The Crimson Tide return just two players on defense who started more than half of the games in 2017. That didn’t stop them from rolling Louisville in Week 1 51-14.
In addition, they have relegated junior quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has a 29-2 record in his career starts, to backup duty for sophomore Tua Tagovailoa, the second-half hero of the 2017 national championship game. Alabama now has an embarrassment of riches at quarterback too. Good luck college football.
Georgia traveled to No. 24 South Carolina last weekend and absolutely handled the Gamecocks, winning by a score of 41-17 in a game that was never really all that close. The Bulldogs' quarterback, Jake Fromm, is just a sophomore.
Clemson was the only team that has even had a slight scare thus far. The Tigers went to College Station to face a Texas A&M team coached by Jimbo Fisher, a man who has faced Tigers coach Dabo Swinney eight times (and was 4-4) previously running the Florida State program.
The Tigers were victorious after a late Texas A&M comeback push. Clemson, like Alabama, also has two quarterbacks on its roster that could seemingly play for any college football team in the country - senior Kelly Bryant and five-star freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence -- and they won’t face a team currently ranked in the AP Top 25 for the rest of the season.
The moral of the story? Get ready to see a familiar group of teams making the playoff this season. The blue-bloods of college football are rolling and it doesn't look like anyone will be able to slow them down.
Difficulty Of Non-Conference Road Games
The last five times Michigan and Notre Dame have played, the home team has emerged victorious, including the Irish this year in a 24-17 week-1 victory.
Big Ten teams are a combined 0-10 all-time at Sun Devil Stadium, with No. 15 Michigan State becoming the latest victim to Arizona State on Saturday.
No. 23 Texas lost to Maryland at FedEx Field in Week 1 despite the Terrapins going through a school-wide crisis and playing without their head coach; Terrapin head coach D.J. Durkin is on paid administrative leave while the investigation into the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair is conducted.
Playing non-conference games on the road is tough, even as a ranked opponent facing an unranked team.
The examples are everywhere. Clemson, a team so talented that all four of their defensive lineman could be selected in the first round of the NFL draft, nearly lost to unranked Texas A&M on the road.
That is why you have to give credit where credit is due to teams who are willing to schedule difficult road games.
Clemson knows that with its ACC schedule, if it goes undefeated it doesn’t matter who the Tigers played in the non-conference slate.
The same is true for both Michigan and Michigan State. Yet year in and year out, you have what feels like the same teams playing difficult opponents in home-and homes, while the Alabama’s of the world always opt for neutral-site games where they might not be at an advantage but they're not at a disadvantage.
The last seven seasons Alabama has opened up its schedule with a neutral-site game against schools from Power Five conferences. The Tide have won those games by a combined score of 271-91. Not including Louisville, who Alabama beat this season at a neutral site, only three of those teams have finished the season in the AP Top 25.
Who is to say if they had played Michigan at The Big House or Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium or USC at the Coliseum -- all opponents the last few years -- that they wouldn't have tripped up and put themselves at a disadvantage for making the playoff?
Remember, Alabama canceled a planned home-and-home with Michigan State for 2016-17 in favor of two neutral-site contests.
College football scheduling is done years in advance and is in general, really unbalanced. However, in recent years it feels like the teams who are scheduling tough games are being rewarded less and less.
Look no further than Ohio State in 2017, when they went out and scheduled an extremely tough home-and home with Oklahoma. They lost 31-16 to the Sooners in Week 2 and then were essentially knocked out of the playoff after a loss on the road at Iowa.
Yes, the bad loss at Iowa was eventually what eliminated Ohio State from the playoff. But considering that a two-loss team has never made the college football playoff, once the Buckeyes lost to Oklahoma they knew they had to be flawless the rest of the way.
It is still early in the college football season, so both Michigan and Michigan State still have a chance to make the college football playoff, but their odds of doing so has dropped drastically since their non-conference road losses to Notre Dame and Arizona State.
If either Michigan or Michigan State have college football playoff aspirations, they will essentially have to run the table from here on out to have any chance or they will be in the exact same boat as Ohio State in 2017.
If those teams had just scheduled non-Power Five teams, or weak Power Five teams, would they both have rolled into the Big Ten season with an unblemished record? The odds are yes.
Winning on the road is hard. Winning early season non-conference games on the road seems to be even harder. That leaves the question, is it worth it to schedule top-tier programs in home-and-homes anymore, or is it just more smart to do what Iowa does and play a weak Iowa State program and two cupcakes every year?
It seems like if you truly only care about making the college football playoff, where two losses all but eliminates you from the competition, option B is now the move.
Is The Big Ten West Even Worse Than We Thought?
Everyone knows how it goes in the Big Ten these days. The East division has four programs that expect to compete for a division championships each year: Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State. The West division has Wisconsin.
This year, the gap between Wisconsin and the next best team might be even greater.
Before the season, there were three teams who were expected to at least give Wisconsin a little bit of a fight -- Iowa, Northwestern and Purdue. Iowa went 8-5 in 2017, Northwestern went 10-3 and Purdue went 7-6.
Purdue is not a traditional power in football, not even close. But in year 2 under Jeff Brohm, everyone was expecting the Boilermakers to be at least as good as they were in 2017 and possibly better. So far that has not been the case.
In Week 1, Purdue lost a close one to Northwestern, 31-27, a tough Week 1 matchup. The Boilermakers followed that up with a loss to Eastern Michigan at home on a game-winning field goal as time expired. With the 0-2 start, including the loss to a MAC opponent, it’s not looking good in West Lafayette.
Northwestern beat Purdue in Week 1 as previously mentioned, but they followed the Big Ten opener win with a 21-7 loss at home to Duke. Northwestern scored first but then allowed 21 unanswered points and never scored again. The Wildcats’ quarterback Clayton Thorson is still recovering from a torn ACL and will likely get better as the season goes on but it has looked less than stellar thus far for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern.
Before the season, Vegas sportsbooks predicted how many games each college football team will win. These numbers are called over/unders. When you add up the projected win totals for every team in the Big Ten East, you get 51 projected wins, or 7.3 wins per team in the division. For the West division, that win total is 45, or 6.4 wins per team.
In other words, before the season, the experts in Vegas expected the teams in the West to win a full game less on average.
Northwestern and Purdue were both set at 7.5 wins before the season. If they both hit the under on their win totals, it will further hurt the reputation and prominence of a division that is already getting very little respect.