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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.

College Football Returns: Questions to Be Answered

College-Football-profilebCollege Football is back!

Things got off to an exciting start Thursday night as North Carolina and Minnesota gave South Carolina and TCU a run for their money. With a season as successful as last year, we doubt Trevone Boykin and the Horned Frogs will be left out of the playoffs again; we picked Boykin to our 2015 Preseason Kickoff All-Americans list. As we predicted, Utah spoiled Jim Harbaugh’s debut at Michigan. Arizona, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Nevada, Oklahoma State, Utah State, UConn, San Jose State, Wake Forest and Western Kentucky all won their games Thursday night.

We are thrilled to see this weekend’s matchups and finally get answers to the questions fans have had all year: Will Alabama play well enough against Wisconsin to deserve their high pre-season ranking? Can Virginia Tech spoil Ohio State’s bid to repeat as National Champs? How will Boise State players react to Chris Petersen’s return with Washington? Can teams, coaches and players live up to the hype? Which young quarterbacks will best respond to the pressure?

Everett Golson, Baker Mayfield and Vernon Adams won their respective QB jobs at Florida State, Oklahoma and Oregon, but we’ll just have to see who Nick Saban and Urban Meyer send in for the first series.

Earlier this week, The Kickoff published our first issue of the college football season. No doubt some of you have already consulted our Power Ratings before making your picks for this weekend. It’s not too late to subscribe so you can receive 16 more weeks of our newsletter, plus an additional six issues published during the off-season. Each Monday, we push it to your email inbox in PDF form or mail the printed version to your home or office.

In the first issue, we listed our Kickoff 2015 Preseason Top 50. Here’s the Top 25 from that list:

  1. Ohio State
  2. TCU
  3. Auburn
  4. Alabama
  5. Baylor
  6. Oregon
  7. Michigan State
  8. USC
  9. Georgia
  10. Clemson
  11. Georgia Tech
  12. Arizona State
  13. FSU
  14. LSU
  15. UCLA
  16. Notre Dame
  17. Wisconsin
  18. Boise State
  19. Oklahoma State
  20. Arizona
  21. Tennessee
  22. Ole Miss
  23. Oklahoma
  24. Arkansas
  25. Missouri

To see picks for 26-50 (as well as our Power Ratings for the teams above and a comparison of how our Top 25 matches up with the Vegas rank and Coaches Poll ranking), subscribe to The Kickoff today: http://thekickoffstore.com/subscriptions/individual/

Just like you, we’ll be glued to our television sets this Labor Day weekend, feasting on football after a long fast. The faces on the tube are changing a bit. Former Alabama Quarterback Greg McElroy replaces Tim Tebow on SEC Nation. Rece Davis is poised to take over ESPN’s College GameDay, replacing longtime host Chris Fowler.  Love them or hate them, Mark May and Lou Holtz will be tough to replace on ESPN Gameday Final, but we’ll see how Joe Tessitore and Joey Galloway do.

Some of the breakout players we’ll be paying close attention to: Jeremy Johnson of Auburn, Derrick Henry at Alabama, Anu Solomon at Arizona, Seth Russell at Baylor, Jared Goff at Cal, Deshaun Watson at Clemson, Dalvin Cook at FSU, Brad Kaaya at Miami (Fla.), Malik Zaire at Notre Dame, Mason Rudolph at Oklahoma State, Royce Freeman at Oregon, Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Hurd at Tennessee, Kyle Allen at Texas A&M, and Cory Clement at Wisconsin.

Talk to us on social media this weekend and let us know which teams and players you think are overhyped, which upsets you expect to see and what your own predictions are. Our Facebook Page is https://www.facebook.com/TheKickoffZone , our Twitter is https://twitter.com/TheKickoffZone and you can find us on Google+ at https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/115092886371908088449/115092886371908088449/posts . Include the hashtag #thekickoff so we can follow your conversation.

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