2018 College Football Roundtable: It’s Time To Get Serious About This Season

Welcome back to the College Football Roundtable — Week 8 edition. This week’s panel is HUGE and we talk a lot about the top end of the AP Top 25 and a little bit about Virginia! Settle in, folks!

Mitch did his answers in audio that you can listen to at the bottom of this post.


How the hell did Virginia beat Miami?

Kristen: A) Miami is coached by Mark Richt. Years ago, in a post about SEC coaches, I said he was, “always the bridesmaid but never the bride.” And there was a reason I said that. B) Miami just plain overrated. It barely beat a pretty ugly Florida State team. And aside from that one meh win, the rest of its wins are garbage.

Damon: Miami hasn’t really been The U since they lost to Ohio St. in the 2002 National Championship game, so this really isn’t a total shock.  Coming off an emotional come from behind victory over Florida State, the ‘Canes just didn’t bring their “A game” to Hooville.  Despite their ranking, nothing about Miami really screams “elite”, so they really just fell victim to an ACC, mid-season road game, let down.

Bird: It appears that the Cavaliers have a pretty decent football team. Look at the updated records of the two schools. Miami is 5-2 overall with a 2-1 record in the ACC. Virginia is 4-2 with a matching 2-1 mark in conference play. One of those losses was to undefeated and highly ranked, NC State. Miami lost, badly, to LSU. More on the Tigers later in the column. Virginia played great defense against what has been a most formidable offense in Miami. It will be interesting to watch these two teams in the second half of the season.

Courtney: Virginia had the best time in the world to play Miami. The Hurricane’s just came off of their biggest win of the season with a physically taxing comeback win against Florida State. The Cane’s left so much on the field during that game they were running on empty while possibly overlooking Virginia.

Virginia has not been a bad football team either this year so far. Their only conference loss has been to NC State who is still undefeated. Plus, it really is not difficult to get up for a ranked Miami coming to town.

Seth: Can we call it the Mark Richt Effect? Odd losses were why the Georgia fans wanted him out of town. Maybe this fits who his teams are. But credit needs to go to UVA and Mendenhall. He’s a great coach who lived in some obscurity at BYU and, for many fans, was a head-scratcher of a hire for UVA.

David: Hustle, great defense, timely offense. Virginia held Miami under 400 yards of total offense…and had under 300 yards themselves. Virginia was situationally effective on offense and did not beat themselves. Great win for Virginia. Miami probably looked past UVa. Great win for Bronco Mendenhall’s band of over-achievers.

The wheels are officially off Auburn, should the Tigers fork over $32 million dollars to right the ship? If not, Gus Malzahn then who?

Kristen: No. I think Malzahn has won enough games (some really big ones) in past seasons to warrant some leniency here. And $32 million is just A LOT of money. Losing to Tennessee was bad, but it shouldn’t be absolutely catastrophic for a perennially good/great program like Auburn. Not to mention, I just really don’t know who Auburn could bring in right now that would be much of an improvement. I’m all for Auburn bringing in Lane Kiffin instead, though… just for the entertainment factor.

Damon: In short, no I wouldn’t fire Gus Malzahn, but in the SEC, the leash is always going to be short, especially when you’re archrival is competing for National Titles every single year.  Auburn is one of those programs that bounces around from elite to generic bowl game to horrible season cyclically, so paying that huge buyout doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Perhaps a new voice will do the trick, but at what a price.  If they do fire Malzahn and bring in someone new, please tell me they make it Lane Kiffin if only for pure entertainment value.

Bird: This is the football reality in which I now live, along with thousands of Auburn fans across the globe. It ain’t pretty, folks. Damien, you’ve asked the multi-million-dollar question that fans across the country, and particularly in Auburn, are asking. Football generates 85% of the athletic department revenues at Auburn. The new AD, Allen Greene, is a sharp fellow and he will not let big-time boosters begin to walk away in droves. First of all, he will probably wait until the season has been completed, sit down with Gus Malzahn, and evaluate the football program. What happens will depend on how the Tigers fare in these remaining five games. If they are competitive and win a couple more, play in a bowl, and look good doing it, then he will, most likely, salvage his job. He might salvage it, regardless, because of the $32 million buyout. Its wait and see, as we speak. If Gus completely loses the fan base and support, then Greene will be forced to do something, sooner than later, IMHO. And, if Greene and the powers that be decide to replace Gus, as you asked, who will it be? I would make Dabo Swinney tell me no more than once. If that didn’t turn out I would look to another proven entity at the Power 5 level. Mike Gundy? Bob Stoops? I don’t know. We shall see.

Courtney: Auburn has had two very puzzling defeats in back to back weeks. Mississippi State who is not a bad football team and Tennessee who seems to be playing better week by week under first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt. Auburn under Malzahn has always been as good as their quarterback. Jarrett Stidham seemed to be the next one to lead them back to competing for a playoff bid, however, he has not taken the jump many expected after last year’s defeat of Alabama.

I do not think Auburn should look to fire Malzahn yet. Let the season play out. $32 million dollars to get rid of him is steep but manageable for that school. However, he is the only coach in America to beat Nick Saban multiple times. That is pretty remarkable to put on a resume. Auburn has a championship defense and if they can somehow catch the offense up and beat Alabama again this year, I say keep him for one more go-round. If not, who has the Coaching acumen to handle an SEC program like Auburn? Justin Fuente would be my top choice if Auburn has the money to spend after letting go of Malzahn.  Fuente’s offenses at Virginia Tech have been putting up yards and points, and if you marry that with Auburn’s defense that could be a special team in the future.

Seth: Ah, Auburn and Gus Malzahn. The fans don’t think he can win a Natty. But let’s not forget that Auburn was runner-up in his first year at Auburn. To borrow Damien Bowman’s line – Who will Auburn get that is better? There are only a handful of elite level coaches and none have a reason to leave their current schools. The truth is that everyone in the SEC West is chasing Saban and Alabama. It’s magnified with Auburn because of the rivalry. Malzahn is fine. Save the buyout money for another day.

David: The wheels are off and only in the SEC would the prospect of forking over $ 32M even be in the conversation. I would hold tight and ride out the rest of the season.

Georgia lost to LSU 36-16. Is it time to write off Georgia and all other teams from the SEC other than Alabama or can another SEC team make a legitimate push for the College Football Playoff?

Kristen: I wouldn’t write off a few SEC teams aside from Alabama when it comes to the College Football Playoff. But I also wouldn’t bet any money on even just one of these teams making it in. But, LSU could definitely make a push (especially with a win over Bama). On the other side of the conference, Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky could all make pushes by winning out and winning an SEC Championship Game. I don’t think any of that is particularly likely, but I also couldn’t entirely count out any of those four teams right now.

Damon: Nah.  Certainly getting smacked isn’t good for the resume, but the Bulldogs are still a strong squad with some opportunities to reestablish some footing.  They get a bye week to recover, then come back with two straight ranked opponents in Florida and Kentucky.  Georgia would have to win out and beat Bama in the SEC Title game, but that could put the Dawgs back in the Playoff picture.

Bird: I don’t think you can write Georgia off. If the Dawgs beat both Florida and Kentucky, it will be right back in the thick of it. It is a very talented and well-coached team. But, I think LSU can, and very well may beat Alabama In Baton Rouge on November 3rd. That will be a sexy upset pick. Kentucky or Florida could win the East but I don’t think either of them would have a good chance to beat Bama. Those are the possibilities as I see them.

Courtney: Alabama is the only team from the SEC that will make the playoff. Even with a loss, the committee will know they will get a great showing from Saban’s machine. I do not know if any team but an NFL roster has the defense to slow down Alabama. Tua has been the first quarterback under Saban to make their offense into something not really seen before by Alabama standards. Pretty crazy to think eh?

Seth: The SEC and the playoff. The simple answer is that it’s Alabama and everyone else. But…UGA’s loss to LSU isn’t a “bad loss.” If it’s the only loss UGA has and they win the SEC Championship game, I can still see UGA and Alabama both in the playoff.  And much of it has to do with the next question on the Roundtable board…

David: If the SEC has a problem it is that Alabama seems to be separating themselves from the rest of the conference. It is not complete domination by Bama yet, but it is heading in that direction…which is not much fun for the rest of the SEC fans or college football fans who appreciate the competition in the SEC. It is going to take a big upset for Alabama to not win the SEC.

No. 17 Oregon beat No. 7 Washington 30-27. With that lost has the Pac-12 effectively eliminated itself from the playoff? Which team still has a chance to make the playoff?

Kristen: I think after that, the Pac-12 has eliminated itself from playoff contention. There are no undefeated Pac-12 teams left. And I believe (and hope) that the powers that be are far more likely to take a one-loss Big 12, Big Ten, or SEC team than a one-loss Pac-12 team. Plus, Notre Dame (if it wins out) would also likely be selected before any one-loss Pac-12 team. Better luck next year?

Damon: Playoff hopes are probably dashed for Washington and very slim for the rest of the Pac-12.  The remaining schedule doesn’t offer a lot of marquee opportunities to make up for their two losses, and the early-season loss to Auburn no longer looks all that good.  Oregon will have a shot, but again the upcoming schedule isn’t overly impressive, so the Ducks will need some outside help.

Bird: I believe the Pac-12 is baked like a tater. I can’t see Oregon or Washington State running the table and making the kind of movement necessary to find itself in the CFP. Then you’ve got Notre Dame to consider. It will also be very interesting to see how UCF finishes the season.

Courtney: The Pac-12 does not have a team that will make a playoff spot or even push the committee to give them an honest look. Washington has lost twice. Both to ranked teams at the time, but the Auburn loss is looking more and more painful since Auburn cannot seem to do anything right. The loss to Oregon will finish them off from consideration.

Oregon now has the best chance but a Loss to Stanford, which is not a bad loss until you see that Stanford can’t win right now either. Stanford is not losing pretty getting their doors blown off by Notre Dame and Utah. Oregon’s remaining schedule does not help their case. A bad Arizona, UCLA, Oregon State remain on their schedule that will not wow anyone. Sorry, Pac-12. Maybe next year.

The other Conference that might be on the outside-looking-in is the ACC. If Clemson loses a game I do not know if their schedule is good enough to get them in. NC State is the only other ranked team in the ACC but has played an even weaker schedule than Clemson. Their game vs. West Virginia was canceled earlier in the year which hurts. They play each other this weekend and one of those two will be eliminated. The winner still has games they can stumble in.

Seth: The Pac-12 has some entertaining games. That doesn’t mean they deserve a spot in the playoff. Between no clear dominant team and officiating that appears to lack integrity, the conference is a bit of a joke and after-thought on the national scene.

David: Although it was a name drawn out of my hat, I had the Pac-12 getting snubbed in the playoffs this year. I stand by that projection and don’t see the Pac-12 being relevant in the national picture in 2018.

Alabama and Ohio State are FBS’ only two remaining unbeaten teams. Which is likely to lose first and to what team will that loss come to?

Kristen: Of Alabama and Ohio State, I’d expect Ohio State to lose first. While I think LSU will be a challenge for Alabama on November 3rd, I do expect the Tide to remain undefeated during the regular season. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, may very well lose to Michigan later in November. And when it really comes down to it, Ohio State is just more beatable than Alabama is. Plain and simple.

Damon: Despite the fact that Bama is the best team in the land, they’re still more likely to lose first.  The Crimson Tide has No. 5 LSU in early November on the road.  Although Nick Saban’s team will be coming off of a bye, beating the Tigers in Death Valley will be no easy task.  Ohio State may not face a serious challenge until Michigan to end the regular season, so the Buckeyes have a good chance of running the table.

Bird: Clemson and Notre Dame are also undefeated. But, back to the Buckeyes and the Tide. Alabama would be the most likely to lose first and that would be to LSU, as I mentioned earlier. Clemson has a chance to lose Saturday. It plays NC State Saturday, but the game is in Death Valley. Notre Dame has a decent chance to run the table. Of course, it plays USC in the final game of the season.

Courtney: Ohio State will be my pick for the first team to lose a game. Ohio State has struggled for two quarters before putting Indiana away. The next week against Minnesota the Buckeyes had a dogfight for three quarters. Is Ohio State way more talented than those teams? Sure, but they tend to overlook teams a little more than Alabama does. Saban seems to have his teams dialed in week in and week out. The Tide are destroying teams at a better clip than the 95 Huskers did. And that is really saying something. Ohio State will get another shot from Purdue that has been playing very well under second-year coach Jeff Brohm. After that, Michigan State and Michigan will be chances for them to lose. I think Michigan stands the best chance in beating Ohio State. I do not see a team that stands a chance against Alabama.

Seth: And back to the SEC…Ohio State stands the greatest chant of losing.  I’ll say it’s to the obvious choice; Michigan. Rivalry game and Michigan is pretty good(not elite though). And there’s no apparent internal soap opera going on in Ann Arbor. If Alabama loses, it’s to Auburn. Like tOSU/UM, it’s a rivalry game, Auburn is decent, but there’s the previously discussed soap opera there and Saban has that team dialed-in this year.

David: I am not sure I see a loss for either. Alabama has to travel to LSU, so that will be a good test, but I just think the Tide has too many weapons. As much as it pains me to say it, I don’t see a loss of Ohio State unless Harbaugh can figure out how to beat the Buckeyes…but I am not betting on it.

No. 12 Michigan heads to East Lansing to face Michigan State this week plays Penn State at home on November 3. If the Wolverines beat both are they in contention for a playoff spot despite losing to Notre Dame in Week 1?

Kristen: If the Wolverines beat both those teams AND also beat Ohio State, then yes. But I don’t see any Big Ten team taking a playoff spot unless said team beats Ohio State. Again, plain and simple.

Damon: Beating the Spartans and Nittany Lions will definitely put the Wolverines in the Playoff discussion.  Assuming Michigan avoids stumbling against Rutgers or Indiana, the table will be set for the matchup with Ohio State.  None of the other wins will matter if Michigan can’t knock off the Buckeyes.

Bird: Absolutely!

Courtney: Michigan will have to be in huge contention for a playoff spot if they get past Michigan State and Penn State. But they will have to beat Ohio State before getting into the playoffs. All three are manageable I think for this Michigan defense. Their offense is starting to catch up and the beat down they put on Wisconsin was very impressive. Losing to Notre Dame is not horrible. To Michigan fans it is, yet, Notre Dame has played the toughest schedule up to this point in the year which bodes well for the Wolverines. How much fun would a first-round playoff game be if they had a rematch? If it was anything like the first game, could be another game to go down as one of the greats in that rivalry.

Seth: Michigan is absolutely in the playoff hunt. They don’t suffer from the Notre Dame loss since ND is also in the conversation. Beat MSU and PSU and Harbaugh needs to get over the Ohio State hump as well. It’s not the SEC West but it’s still daunting.

David: I think Michigan might need a little help to get into the playoff picture…and they will have to beat Ohio State to stay in the picture, so while I like the Wolverines, I am not bullish on their chances to be a playoff contender. Notre Dame has a cakewalk the rest of the way, Clemson should be able to navigate the rest of their schedule, Bama is Bama and if Michigan cannot beat Ohio State the rest of their wins become moot. It makes for nice bar-chatter in Ann Arbor, but Michigan is not on par with the other programs vying for a playoff spot, even if they beat MSU and Penn State.

Which are your top FIVE teams?

Kristen:

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. LSU
  5. Michigan

Damon:

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. LSU
  5. Notre Dame

Bird:

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. Notre Dame
  5. LSU

Courtney:

  1. Alabama – Best college football team since the 95 Huskers.
  2. Ohio State – Could be the most talented team in the nation besides the Tide.
  3. Notre Dame – Has beat 3 ranked teams in 6 games.
  4. Michigan – Only Loss is to Notre Dame and they are getting better.
  5. Clemson – Very weak schedule. ACC might not make the playoff if they lose.

Seth:

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. Notre Dame
  5. LSU

The caveat being that I see a drop off between 4 and 5. I don’t love ND and could have ranked 3-5 other teams at 5.

David:

  1. Alabama,
  2. Ohio State,
  3. Clemson,
  4. LSU,
  5. Notre Dame