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Tag Archives: 2015 college football season

CFP: Clemson’s QB versus Bama’s Defense?

trophyIt all comes down to this: #1 Clemson vs #2 Alabama to decide college football’s national champion. Kickoff is at 8:30 pm Eastern on January 11 from University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. The game will be televised on ESPN.

The Kickoff Editor Tommy Duff expects a good game, although “I’m not really sure what to expect from Clemson at this point because it’s very difficult to get a read on just how they match up.”

The knock on Clemson was that they had not played anyone of note that jumped out, he said, but that was before the Tigers convincingly beat #4 Oklahoma 37-17 in the Orange Bowl to extend their win streak to 17 in a row, tied for the second-longest streak in ACC history.

“Oklahoma was an eye opener, so I could go with what the numbers say, which would be Bama, but I’m not that confident in the numbers because I think Clemson is as talented as anyone in the SEC at this point,” Duff said.

The game could be summarized as Alabama’s front seven versus Deshaun Watson.

“Mobile quarterbacks have been more successful against Bama’s defense, and Clemson has the best mobile QB in the nation. It comes down to the battle in the trenches, Alabama’s defensive line against Clemson’s offensive line. They have to neutralize Watson’s ability to improvise with his legs, both his scrambling ability as well as his ability to complete passes outside the pocket.”

The Crimson Tide shut out #3 Michigan State 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl. Their sole loss was in week three against an Ole Miss team that ended the year ranked #12 with a 10-3 record, losing to Florida, Memphis and Arkansas.

The Tide – picked as a 7-point favorite by Vegas — will seek to dominate Watson and Clemson with the best passing defense in the country. Alabama claims 15 national titles, Clemson’s only title came in 1981 under Danny Ford. It’s a new day, though, under Dabo Sweeney as the Tigers have won 10 games in five straight seasons and prepare to take on Sweeney’s alma mater.

Back in August, The Kickoff picked Ohio State and TCU as our top two teams, but we had Alabama ranked #4 and Clemson ranked #10. We predicted Watson would be one of 2015’s breakout players, along with eventual Heisman winner Derrick Henry, who is sure to be unleashed once again. In the preseason, Vegas had Clemson ranked at #20, while the Coaches’ Poll had the Tigers coming in at #12.

Our 2015 Kickoff All-American first and second teams included Watson and Henry, as well as Alabama’s Ryan Kelly, A’Shawn Robinson, Reggie Ragland, and Eddie Jackson, as well as Clemson’s Jordan Leggett and Shaq Lawson.

There are some parallels between the FBS and FCS championship games this week. The Crimson Tide isn’t the only team from the state of Alabama looking for a trophy. Jacksonville State is playing North Dakota State in the FCS national title game Saturday. And like Nick Saban’s squad, NDSU goes into its game with a reputation for reloading each year with the nation’s best players. This is the fifth straight appearance by the Bison.

JSU Quarterback Eli Jenkins has run for 13 touchdowns and passed for 19 with 2,484 passing yards and 1,030 yards rushing. Running back Troymaine Pope has also shattered records. For North Dakota State, Quarterback and potential first round draft pick Caron Wentz goes into the game with experience, having won the last four NCAA FCS Championships, and fellow Quarterback Easton Stick has kept NDSU in the hunt after injuries to Wentz. The Gamecocks beat Sam Houston 62-10 on Dec. 19 to advance to the final. The Bison defeated Richmond 33-7.

The Kickoff has followed JSU and NDSU throughout the year in our Select Division I FCS Schedule listings. In week 2, pre-season #3 ranked Auburn barely survived an overtime clash with the Gamecocks (JSU’s only regular season loss) while NDSU’s only losses were to Montana and South Dakota. JSU has made the FCS playoffs three straight years, but hasn’t advanced past the second round since 2013 when they fell in the quarterfinals – a win Saturday would be their first FCS title.

The FCS Championship game will kickoff at noon eastern at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The game will air on ESPN2.

The final issue of The Kickoff this season will include Bowl recaps with final records.

We will publish six monthly issues during the Off Season (February-July). We will look at recruiting, preseason injury reports, breakout players, Heisman hopefuls, and break down the Top 10 high school prospects by position so you know what needs the top teams are hoping to fill. We predict which prospects have the potential to be future stars, elevate programs, or at least contribute right away. Just as we show you the future high school and JUCO stars in the making, the Kickoff reports on which players won’t be around to help their teams in the fall. We also enhance your enjoyment of NFL games by letting you know where your favorite college players may end up in the fall.

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Ohio State-Michigan State Could Shake Up Playoff Rankings

Ohio State (No. 2 in the Kickoff Top 25, No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings) faces a test this weekend as it hosts Michigan State (No. 11 on the Kickoff Top 25, No. 9 in the CFP rankings) in one of our Kickoff Games of the Week. The Buckeyes lead the series 29-13, and we expect them to prevail again this week. We’ll see, though, as the kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 pm, televised on ABC.

ohio-state-michigan-stateAn Ohio State loss would shake things up in the Playoff picture. ESPN’s College GameDay will broadcast from Columbus Saturday morning, the first time on campus since 2010. Clemson (10-0) and Alabama (9-1) are ahead of Ohio State with Notre Dame (9-1) immediately trailing.

The Kickoff Top 25 has Oklahoma State (10-0) ahead of the Fighting Irish in the No. 4 spot. Their game against Baylor (8-1, No. 10) is our other Game of the Week. When hosting, as they are Saturday, the Cowboys have a 12-4 record, and Oklahoma State leads the series all-time 19-14. A look at the Kickoff Power Ratings suggests the Bears may leave disappointed, which would end their playoff hopes. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM in Stillwater with the game airing on FOX.

If you subscribe to The Kickoff, you have a powerful resource at your fingertips for making your weekly picks. It’s not too late to subscribe to the rest of the 2015 college football season. A 6 week subscription, which includes this week’s issue, is just $7.08. As mentioned above, there’s still a lot of football left to play. Visit http://bit.ly/1Hbl1Rr to get a prorated subscription or call us at (423) 267-0953 if you prefer to do it that way.

Other big games worth checking out this weekend: No. 18 TCU at No. 7 Oklahoma, California at No. 11 Stanford, No. 15 LSU at No. 22 Ole Miss, No. 24 USC at No. 23 Oregon, No. 20 Northwestern at No. 25 Wisconsin, and No. 17 North Carolina at Virginia Tech in Frank Beamer’s final home game.

In this week’s issue of The Kickoff, we looked at last weekend’s upsets as Arkansas topped LSU, Oklahoma beat Baylor, Oregon topped Stanford, and Missouri beat BYU, among others. The Kickoff Thermostat showed Pittsburgh, Oregon and Iowa on the rise, with the stock of Auburn, Duke and Stanford falling.

In our Top 25, Alabama, Notre Dame, Houston, Northwestern, and Iowa jumped two spots. Michigan State, USC, Florida, and Arkansas jumped 3 spots. Oklahoma jumped 7 spots. Falling after last week’s upsets were Baylor, Stanford, LSU, and Utah, while BYU dropped out of our Top 25.

The Kickoff looked at the overall trends through last week, listed the complete FBS and select FCS schedules and standings, examined the average points allowed by teams and strength of schedule, broke down the conferences’ winning percentages, and offered Power Ratings for this weekend’s games. We also looked back to the rankings in November 1963, when Texas led the nation with a 9-0 record. In News and Notes, we recognized the superlatives of Ezekiel Elliot, Brandon Radcliff, Jake Ruddock, Derrick Henry, Jehu Chesson, Jordan Howard, Alex Collins, and Sterling Shepard.

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Watch this week for our announcement of an exciting new contest for new newsletter subscribers as well as existing subscribers.

Use the hashtag #thekickoff on Facebook and Twitter so we can follow your conversations about this week’s games.

Midseason Reflections on College Football Season

We are midway through the 2015 College Football Season and the stakes of each game are getting higher as we inch closer to the Playoffs!

Tommy Duff, Editor of The Kickoff, reflected on the season thus far and the challenges ahead for teams still in the hunt…

In the Oct. 19th edition of Kickoff Top 25, we had TCU and Ohio State replaced in the top spots by Utah and LSU. There were 14 undefeated teams in our Top 25, with single-loss Alabama ranked at No. 9. Our Strength of Schedule analysis in that issue showed that Ohio State played a schedule with the largest difference between their ranking and their average opponent ranking in 2015. This indicates that the Buckeyes may not have the “easiest” straight schedule, but in regards to their official rating, they have more of a schedule advantage than any other team in the country.

“Ohio State hasn’t looked good against lower rated teams and does not have any quality wins, plus they have two quarterbacks, which means they don’t have a quarterback,” Duff said. “TCU has been inconsistent. They only beat Iowa State (which had a 2-4 record) by 24 points last week. That’s the second time they’ve nearly been knocked off by a lower rated team.”

The Kickoff was high on Utah and LSU based on several factors, including wins against quality opponents in top-rated conferences, including the Tigers’ win over a Florida team that was undefeated until last week. “At this point, Utah has the most quality wins” over teams like Michigan, California, Arizona State and putting up 62 points against Oregon. Utah ended up losing Saturday to USC 42-24. LSU beat Western Kentucky 48-20.

In the Oct. 26 issue, LSU lept to the top of our Top 25 while Clemson jumped from No. 7 to No. 4. FSU, which lost a heartbreaker to Georgia Tech, fell from No. 8 to No. 15. Alabama moved up two spots after beating Tennessee in a close one. 

Duff said he expects the winner of the Alabama-LSU game to be in the Playoffs. “Leonard Fournette is one of the best players we’ve seen since Bo Jackson in terms of pure natural talent, speed and size. He just demolishes people, which is very rare. He hasn’t had less than 150 yards in a game all season. It is possible LSU is going to fall a bit in the ratings as their schedule eases up. When you look at strength of teams played, they benefitted from their opener against McNeese State being cancelled due to weather on Sept. 5th.”

In other words, we still have a lot of football left to play.

The weeks ahead will determine which coaches get pink slips or trophies. We’ve already seen Steve Spurrier and Steve Sarkisian leave their teams after 2-4 and 3-2 starts respectively. “I knew Spurrier wouldn’t last long with the way South Carolina was performing, but I was surprised he quit in the middle of the season,” Duff said.

Ohio State was atop our Preseason Top 25. Our No. 3 pick, Auburn, is perhaps the biggest shocker of the year, now at 4-3 and out of playoff contention after Saturday’s 4-Overtime game at Arkansas. The Tigers still have Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia, Idaho, and Alabama  remaining on their schedule.

“The media, including The Kickoff, bought into a lot of hype about Jeremy Johnson based on the limited amount of work he did last season as a starter, which looked fabulous and suggested he had better skills than Nick Marshall, but the kid lost his confidence after throwing interceptions, plus Auburn lost Carl Lawson, who was supposed to be their leader on defense and an All-American. Gus Malzahn forgot how important a mobile quarterback was in his system,” Duff said.

Comparing the preseason and last week’s Kickoff Top 25s, Oregon, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Arizona State, Boise State, and Tennessee, all have failed to meet their potential in 2015. Teams that haven’t disappointed so far include TCU, Ohio State, Baylor, Michigan State, Clemson, FSU, Oklahoma State, and Arizona.

Our games of the week last week were Clemson at Miami, FL and Tennessee at Alabama.

We went with undefeated Clemson, which enjoyed a 13.6 difference in Power Ratings with the 4-2 Hurricanes. “Clemson could be in the playoffs, as they have done their thing under the radar this season. They’ll need better quarterback play to get past Florida State on Nov. 7th,” Duff said. The Tigers shut them out 58-0, leading to Al Golden being fired this week.

We assigned the Crimson Tide (6-1) a 9 point difference in Power Ratings over the Volunteers. Duff expected the game to be a close one. “Butch Jones has taken the leash off Josh Dobbs and let him play his own game. Statistically, Tennessee ran the ball all over Georgia. Alabama’s defense is set up to stop a classic pro offense and has problems whenever they face a spread offense with a mobile quarterback,” he said. Bama ended up winning 19-14.

It’s not too late to get our Halftime Subscription so you can arm yourself with knowledge when you face off at your family’s Thanksgiving Dinner against your know-it-all uncle who went to that rival school! We have nine issues left to publish this season. Pay just $10.62 to get a Mid-Season Email/PDF Subscription ($19.58 for printed issues sent 1st Class mail to your home or office).  As the season progresses, we’ll lower the price weekly so you only pay for what’s left of the season. Hey, better late than never to get in the game! Email kickofforders@gmail.com to sign up today.

Also, test your knowledge of college football by participating in our Thursday Throwdown trivia on Facebook. We stumped quite a few people this week with our question about the 1985 Fresno State team that was the only unbeaten Division 1-A team in the country, ranked 16th in the Coaches Poll that year.

Talk to us this weekend while we watch the games. Which upsets are you expecting? How is your team doing so far this year? Sound off! Use the hashtag #thekickoff on Facebook and Twitter so we can follow your conversations.

Enjoy this weekend’s games. We’ll be watching alongside you.

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