• The Tailgating 25: A College Football Attempt

    Every year, most of the college football consuming population complains that we should really wait a couple weeks into the regular season before polling a Top 25. It makes sense, because defining teams before anyone has even played tends to define the range for a team that season, barring some major victories; it doesn’t make sense, though, because the only thing college football fans like more than making making fun of their rivals is arguing about meaningless rankings, the planet around which the entire idea of the College Football Playoff still pretty much orbits.

    I could claim I’ve waited a few weeks out of devotion to principle, but really, I’m just busy and a little lazy. Brian and I are still figuring out the future of Tailgating, which as you can probably imagine was a pretty exhausting undertaking. While we do that, I’ll try to write something occasionally, and the first installation of My Top 25 feels like a decent place to land after an extended summer vacation. At least I avoided doing something dumb, like proclaiming Texas back and ranking them in the Top 10 for defeating a Top 10 Notre Dame that just lost its third game. To Duke. At home. (And I say this as FP’s resident Duke football evangelist, you know.)

    Anyway, let’s try this. I’ll rank teams, make some snarky comments, and pick some games, I guess. If you want to skip ahead to my embarrassingly bad predictions, which will be made against the spread, click here.

    1. Alabama: Okay, so, groupthink still rules. It’s hard to argue with the Tide at this point, but there is a weird scheduling tick with Saban. He’s definitely been at the forefront of the neutral-site, early-season game, which I kind of hate, for a long time, and Alabama’s done a really great job of scheduling impressive-sounding opponents in the first week of the season for a while who are actually a few years away from being good—for example, Michigan (2012, in Dallas), Virginia Tech (2013, in Atlanta), West Virginia (2014, in Atlanta), Wisconsin (2015, in Dallas), and Southern California (this year, in Dallas)—and mostly grinding them into oblivion. I guess my point is, they’re good enough, consistently enough, that they can get the benefit of the doubt, but how much does destroying USC really mean and how good is Ole Miss, honestly?

    2. Ohio State: The Buckeye defense is very good. The unit has outscored opposing offenses 28-23 through three games this season, and one of those games was at Oklahoma, where the Sooners rarely lose and basically never get run out of the gym as they did two Saturdays ago.

    3. Michigan: Wilton Speight, esq., gentleman of Richmond, sounds more like a character in a harlequin romance than a quarterback at Michigan, but that’s fine. The Wolverines haven’t left home yet, but at least they’ve played a sneaky-good Colorado team. I believe in these guys, but road dates late in the year at East Lansing, Iowa City, and Columbus will make running the table difficult.

    4. Clemson: I think we were a little hard on Clemson for sputtering early at Auburn and even against Troy State, in view of the fact that the Tigers are 29-2 since September 27, 2014. I know we’re all in love with Lamar Jackson at the moment, but we’ll see where we are after Saturday.

    5. Louisville: Lamar Jackson is probably going to have 3000 passing yards and 1000 rushing yards by Halloween, which is more than a little insane.

    6. Washington: The Huskies were a popular sleeper in the Pac-12 North heading into this season and that looks justified. For the last quarter of the twentieth century, this was one of the most successful programs in college football. It’s been a long road back after Gilbertson and Willingham, but this is an experienced, talented team coached by one of the better in-game managers in the sport in Chris Petersen.

    7. Wisconsin: In retrospect, it should have been obvious that a bunch of kids from Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest weren’t losing in, like, the first major college football game played at Lambeau Field. They’ve struggled against Georgia State and drubbed Michigan State. Whatever, they’ve earned this.

    8. Houston: Greg Ward and Tom Herman are great, but he who marries the spirit of the age soon becomes a widow, Big XII. Or, you know, maybe leaves for LSU.

    9. Stanford: Christian McCaffrey is in real life what Danny Woodhead is in @PFTCommenter’s head.

    10. Tennessee: I know how talented Tennessee is after three years of top-level recruiting, and I know how excited we are that they finally beat what has been more or less an average college football team since about 2009 for the first time in eleven years. I don’t like the way this squad sleepwalks through the first quarter or first half, because eventually they’re going to run into a team that’s as talented as they are, say, in the Third Week in October.

    11. Texas A&M: Miraculously, a college football team in the state of Texas appears to have a defense. I’m really not sure they should be this high, but stonewalling Arkansas on the goal line more than once in a game is worthy of respect.

    12. Nebraska: Tommy Armstrong, Jr., is pretty much a lock for this Rudy Carpenter Award, which I bestow annually upon the college football quarterback who has managed to start for a major program and be noticed for what feels like a decade without ever really being that great.

    13. Florida State: Deondre Francois might have played the single best half of football I’ve seen this year when the Seminoles came back to torch Ole Miss on Labor Day. I mean, their season is probably over already, at least in terms of the national championship and even the conference, but hey, that’s college football: even good teams, not just the Browns and the Dolphins, can be irrelevant before the leaves change.

    14. San Diego State: Donnel Pumphrey is probably going to finish in the top five in rushing yards all-time—he’s a senior with nearly 4900 at this point—and the Aztecs are a deceptively good potential New Year’s Six party crasher. Rocky Long looks to have taken the next step at San Diego that he should have taken with New Mexico, where he resigned as head coach in 2008.

    15. Miami (Fla.): Yeah, I actually don’t really believe this yet, they’re just here.

    16. Baylor: Impressed as we all are every year with Baylor’s rigorous out-of-conference schedule, featuring Trashfire Falls State (which doesn’t exist) and Marquette (which dropped football in 1960), I’m not sure what to make of Baylor. The program is a disgrace, filled with great athletes and coached by an empty suit whose headset probably isn’t even on during games, as evidenced by the fact that he couldn’t even get his team to punt on 4th & 2 on his own twenty yard line last week. Anyway, someone please beat these guys before they get in playoff contention and obnoxiously tell us about all the ‘adversity’ they’ve had to face this year.

    17. Boise State: You know, this is a team I actually would consider for the Big XII, if they ever decide to do that.

    18. Ole Miss: We’re already a couple teams into the I-actually-have-no-idea-how-good-this-team-is section of the Top 25. Yes, they blew three-touchdown leads to pretty good teams (Alabama and Florida), but they still blew three-touchdown leads at home and at a neutral site. Of course, the Rebels were teetering and ran into a grossly overrated Georgia team at home, who steadied the voters and convinced everyone that Ole Miss was actually good. The SEC has some very good teams, but the conference has a tendency to turn into an echo chamber to prop up a couple teams every year.

    19. Arkansas: At this point, I’m pretty much just naming SEC West teams.

    20. Utah: They beat USC, in large part, because the Trojans punted on 4th & 3 on the Utes 37 with a lead late in the fourth quarter; they marched 93 yards on fifteen plays over the next five minutes and passed on a chance to send the game to overtime by going for it on 4th & 1 from the USC 23 with :45 to play. We get what we get.

    21. Michigan State: The Spartans have had a rough last five quarters.

    22. Louisiana State: I know, I know.

    Don’t you know?
    Don’t you kno
    Don’t you kn O
    Don’cha O
    Docha O
    Doach O
    Da Coach O.

    23. Texas Christian: TCU outgained Arkansas 572-403 in a double-overtime game in Fort Worth. They lost.

    24. Navy or Air Force: The three military academies are a combined 9-1 (with Army contributing the lone loss, but still a very respectable 3-1, falling in overtime to Buffalo, which is just as depressing as it sounds. Still, Navy and Air Force will square off this weekend in the first installment of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy series this season, and I’m putting the winner here.

    25. Colorado: It’s been a long road back for the Buffaloes, but they hung tough in the Big House for three quarters and just upset Oregon at Autzen playing their second-string quarterback. Patience in Mike MacIntyre is paying off and with upcoming games against Oregon State, Southern Cal, and Arizona State, they may be bowl-eligible by the time they visit Stanford on October 22.

    26. Central Michigan or Western Michigan: Bonus round! The winner of this game this weekend will be king of the directionals in the peninsula and should have the inside track on the Mid-American’s western division.

    CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE TO PAGE 2 (OR MY ILL-CONCEIVED, ATS PICKS!).

    Comments 14 Comments
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Great stuff, Matt. College football is still awesome, but this hiatus has been needed. That said, I look forward to restarting our collaborative efforts at some point in the near future.

      Washington is housing Stanford. They and Tennessee were two of the major hype teams heading into the season, but they're absolutely living up to it. As long as they avoid a hiccup, they're in a great spot to be the first Pac-12 rep in the CFP.

      In the other 2 big games, I'll lay the 11 with Michigan and I can't believe Clemson is a home dog to Louisville. The Cardinals have been very impressive and have earned that ranking, but let's go ahead and slow that roll a bit. Clemson wins by 10.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Washington is really pushing Stanford around guys. I was pretty confident in my Washington pick, but 30-0 is really impressive. Stanford is driving, though.

      BYU and Toledo are in an interesting mid-major contest over on ESPN2.
    1. hobbes27's Avatar
      Yeah you can't really judge a team til at least mid October. The first month of the year is mostly nonconference games, a lot of which is against meaningless nonconference opponents. We think teams look good in September, such as Michigan State who beat Notre Dame, then then get housed the following week by Wisconsin.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Be careful taking those eleven points and the Wolverines. I caught a replay of the Wisconsin/MSU game. It is rare to see a Mark Danotnio coached Spartans squad get slapped around he way they did last Saturday. I don't give a **** if that game was played at Lambeau, Camp Randall, or Spartan Stadium. That ass-whuppin' was impressive.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      No September mention of the Heisman Trophy? Only two references to the CFB Playoff?

      The College Football Writer's Association of America is gonna be sending you some hate mail, Matt.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Syracuse and Notre Dame are off to quite the start. Two touchdowns in the first two and a half minutes of play, game tied at 7. I'm on the Orange +10.5 in the noon window.

      Ohio State should beat Rutgers comfortably, but they're laying an absurd 39.5 points in Columbus. That's going to be hard to cover, especially with former Ohio State defensive assistant Chris Ash manning the helm at Rutgers.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Sullivan View Post
      No September mention of the Heisman Trophy? Only two references to the CFB Playoff?

      The College Football Writer's Association of America is gonna be sending you some hate mail, Matt.
      I only discuss the Rudy Carpenter Award.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Matt Kocsan View Post
      Syracuse and Notre Dame are off to quite the start. Two touchdowns in the first two and a half minutes of play, game tied at 7. I'm on the Orange +10.5 in the noon window.

      Ohio State should beat Rutgers comfortably, but they're laying an absurd 39.5 points in Columbus. That's going to be hard to cover, especially with former Ohio State defensive assistant Chris Ash manning the helm at Rutgers.
      So, this is what happens you assume someone is going to make an extra point. Cuse's PAT is blocked and Notre Dame runs it back for two points, which they did against Texas, as well. I'm wondering what the record for two-point inversions (a technical term, obviously) for a team is in a college season. I'm honestly not sure how you'd find that out, though.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Syracuse cannot cover Equanimeous St. Brown. He is a tall man.

      Also, I went to Catholic and Jesuit schools for the first eighteen years of my life. Who the hell was St. Brown?
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Notre Dame brings a replica of their famous 'PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION TODAY' sign on the road and have the players touch it before leaving the locker room. I love college football traditions, but that is super lame.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Notre Dame and Syracuse have accounted for 36 points in less than five minutes of football over on ESPN.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Curtis Samuel (H-Back, RB, WR) of Ohio State could legitimately get to 1000 rushing yards and 1000 receiving yards this season. Kid didn't see much time behind Ezekiel Elliott last year, and Mike Weber is the starting runningback this season, but this kid is a special kind of good.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      By the way, over on FS1, Iowa State has jumped out to a 21-7 lead over Baylor. Worth flipping to, occasionally, to see if they can make it interesting down the stretch.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      So, I went 6-4 ATS and 8-2 straight-up, with my only misses being Central over Western Michigan (admittedly, I was way off there) and TCU over Oklahoma. I had kind of a bad beat on Tennessee-Georgia, but considering I said the Vols would house them (even if they were terrible in the first half, which they were, again), I'm not complaining, I was just wrong.