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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.

Week 4 Top 25 Reflects Teams on the Move

2016 college football

olemissAs we enter week 4 of the college football season, we’re seeing major disruption in The Kickoff Top 25.

After being upset last week by Ole Miss, who we had ranked at No. 15, Alabama slipped from No. 3 on the Kickoff Top 25 all the way to No. 12 (The AP poll now has Ole Miss ranked third behind Ohio State and Michigan State, while the Crimson Tide is also ranked No. 12 there).

Last week’s No. 13 team, Auburn, dropped out of our Top 25 altogether after losing so badly to LSU, 46-21, that Coach Gus Malzahn benched his quarterback (a pre-season Heisman candidate) this week in favor of a freshman who has never played a game at the college level but will have to rise to the challenge as the team that LSU beat by 2 points in week 2, Mississippi State, comes calling. Auburn dropped out of the AP Top 25 completely but hung on to No. 25 in the Coaches’ Poll. A mighty fall for a team that many predicted in the pre-season would earn a spot in the playoffs.

The win in Baton Rouge shot LSU from No. 11 to No. 4. AP has the Tigers ranked at No. 8. They play Syracuse on Saturday. RB Leonard Fournette was one of our superlatives this week, as he had 19 carries for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns versus Auburn, fueling LSU as the hottest team in the SEC.

While Auburn and Alabama fans are in shock, at least they did not fall as hard as USC, which has vanished from the Top 25 after losing 41-31 to then-unranked Stanford (USC was our No. 6 last week; Stanford is No. 21 on AP’s poll, No. 25 on ours). Other shocking upsets last week: UCF lost to Furman, Arkansas fell to Texas Tech, Iowa State lost to Toledo, and Colorado bested Colorado State.

Power ratings aside, Georgia has replaced Alabama and Auburn as the SEC teams most likely to be Top 4 Seeds from the Playoff committee, along with Ohio State, TCU and Notre Dame. Our pick of the first 4 out? Probably UCLA, Michigan State, FSU and LSU.

In terms of conferences, the Big 12 leads with the highest percentage of wins, followed by the Pac-12. The SEC comes in third, then the ACC, Big 10, American, Independent, MAC, C-USA, Sun Belt, and MWC.

TCU and Ohio State swapped places on our Top 25 this week as the Horned Frogs edge the Buckeyes on our Power Ratings. Georgia Tech fell from No. 9 to No. 19 in our Top 25, while Oregon, Oklahoma, FSU, Arizona, Utah, and Wisconsin are all on the upswing.

Our No. 14 team, Oregon, plays our No. 18 team, Utah, is one of our Kickoff Games of the Week. Oregon leads the series 20-8, including last year’s 51-27 rout. We’re picking them to repeat again on Saturday. Our other game of the week features two teams that have struggled in recent years but are rebuilding, Tennessee at Florida. We’re picking the 3-0 Gators to win in what might be a close one. They lead the series 25-19 over the Vols and narrowly edge them in our Power Ratings, so it should be a pretty good game with both teams about even.

In our most recent edition of The Kickoff, published Sept. 21st, we have news and notes, a listing of the 78 most highly paid coaches in college football, complete FBS and select FCS schedules and results thus far in the season, our Kickoff Top 25, information on those games of the week, our Kickoff Playoff Seeds, information about the “targeting” rule (which we’ve seen applied in some games this year), and, of course, our Kickoff Power Ratings with the teams playing this week, along with our picks to win, comparative ratings, and last year’s score so you have the data you need at a glance to make your selections in your office pool.

To subscribe, visit http://thekickoffstore.com/subscriptions/individual/ . You’ll get all of our issues so far in the season and a new newsletter each Monday (email/PDF subscribers only, during the week for first-class mail subscribers to our printed edition). For a limited time, when you subscribe to our email/PDF version for just $20, you can sign up a friend to receive The Kickoff in his or her email inbox for FREE. What a great buddy that would make you!

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Also, test your knowledge of college football by participating in our Thursday Throwdown questions. We’ll see whether we can stump you (no cheating).

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.

Written by Steven Stiefel

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