SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg provides his opinion of the top three programs in the history of college football.
In the locker room, an ecstatic Gus Malzahn informed his Auburn team – at the top of his lungs – “this is a big boy road win!” Then all the Tigers yelled: “Boom!” And again. And again. Malzahn was correct, of course. And the coolest thing was, Auburn’s 28-20 win at Texas A&M was just some of the big boy football we got this weekend.
Boom! Notre Dame gave Georgia all it wanted – but the Bulldogs were better. Boom! Wisconsin gave Michigan a clinic in beefy boy football – and the Badgers were much, much better. Boom! Utah knocked out another Southern California quarterback – but then USC knocked Utah (and maybe the Pac-12) right out of the chase for the Football Four bracket.
There was more. But the results from those matchups began to reveal contenders, while shedding some pretenders. And at least one contender might have emerged despite a loss (hello, Notre Dame). Of course, we’ll still have to wait for some of the other Football Four favorites’ first real challenges. For those, we have to keep using the eye test. But it never fails, right?
As always, remember we pick the bracket as if the season was over today.*
1. Clemson – Another weak – oh sorry, we meant week – another opportunity for the Tigers to feast on an outmanned opponent. This time it was Charlotte. And here’s the stat of note: Clemson used 110 players. That’s one hundred ten. Now comes the, uh, meat of the ACC slate, which should be a little more challenging. Right?
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2. LSU – Oh nothing, just another six touchdown passes from Joe Burrow. If you want to quibble, LSU’s defense gave up a ton of points to Vanderbilt, too – but hey, you start playing shootout-style offense, you often start getting shootout-style defense.
3. Alabama – If there are issues for Alabama (like having to play a bunch of five-star freshmen), they’re not exactly debilitating. Not against this upcoming, uh, gauntlet: Home against Ole Miss. At Texas A&M. Home against Tennessee and Arkansas (not at the same time, though that might make them interesting). And then, finally, a showdown with LSU.
4. Georgia – The Bulldogs beat Notre Dame (but did not, as some predicted, beat up Notre Dame). It wasn’t a dominant victory, but it was an impressive win. Now, given the state of the SEC East, we might have to wait until November to learn more about Georgia.
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5. Oklahoma – The Sooners took the weekend off. They dive into Big 12 play this week, when Texas Tech visits Norman. The non-conference schedule was very light, but Jalen Hurts has been terrific and the defense seems improved.
6. Ohio State – Another very impressive performance – 76 points is a lot – albeit against another soft non-conference opponent in Miami (Ohio). The Buckeyes look every bit like the Big Ten’s best.
7. Auburn – While others have feasted on delightfully soft pastries, the 4-0 Tigers have two very impressive wins away from home. Led by Derrick Brown, Auburn’s defensive line crushed Kellen Mond and the Aggies for most of the game. If the offense keeps developing, what could Auburn be come November?
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8. Wisconsin – Led by a fast, ferocious defense, the Badgers dominated Michigan in a supposed showdown. They might just be more than the Big Ten West’s best. They might be the real deal.
TRUTH REVEALED: Wisconsin joins contenders while MIchigan is pretender
A Few More After That***
Texas – Kept things on track by beating Oklahoma State in Austin – which sounds like what should happen, but which snapped an odd five-game home losing streak in the series (oh, and four in a row to the Cowboys, period). Texas’ banged-up defense did just enough to prevent a full-blown shootout.
Notre Dame – Lost in Athens, but the Irish were not lost in Athens (except for those procedure penalties). A very good Notre Dame team gave Georgia all the Bulldogs wanted until late (but likely cannot reach the Playoff without a lot of odd stuff happening elsewhere).
Florida – Even if Tennessee is bad – and Tennessee is bad – winning 34-3 is impressive. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask was solid in his first start in seven years (seven years!).
Oregon – The Pac-12 might not have much hope left of reaching the Playoff (yeah, we see you Cal), but as long as Auburn is winning and the Ducks keep winning, too? Hmmm – it’s worth considering.
Futile Four ****
Arkansas – Not much was expected of the Razorbacks, but losing to San Jose State is a very, very bad thing. The Hogs’ continued flailing against Group of Five opponents does not inspire confidence in Chad Morris’ rebuilding process. Year 2 looks very much like Year 1.
Michigan – A demolition by Wisconsin revealed what we already suspected: It feels like the Wolverines reached a plateau a couple years back that was juuuust shy of where they thought they were headed – and then slid some, and now they’re still sliding, and … well, they’re nowhere close to those Big Ten title/Playoff goals.
HARSH REALITY: Face it, Michigan: You’re no longer a blue blood
Utah – This is a very good team that can have a very nice season – and might win the Pac-12. But the chance for a special season was likely lost Friday at the Coliseum, when the Utes could not contain a third-team quarterback and a desperate Southern California.
Texas A&M – Remember how Texas A&M was gonna win at Clemson and then contend for the SEC We—yeah, sorry, never mind. There was a late comeback, but the Aggies were dominated for most of the day at home by Auburn. A&M might be headed in the right direction, but it’s not nearly as fast as the Aggies had hoped.
* The season is not over today.
** Don’t be worried that your team sits just outside the cut. This is a weekly snapshot. And what do we know, anyway?
*** See the previous note, but it’s OK to be slightly concerned or very angry. But what do we know, anyway?
**** No note necessary.