Oklahoma, Ohio State vs. Alabama, Clemson: Give us “O’s” in tag-team match of contenders
The Big 10: a look at college football’s playoff race, plus the halfway Heisman, an Ohio State-Wisconsin dream scenario, CeeDee Lamb’s breakout and the next giant test for Illinois coach Lovie Smith.
The latest Associated Press poll came out Sunday, with Alabama (30 first-place votes), LSU (12), Clemson (11) and Ohio State (nine) holding down the top four spots. No other team had a first-place vote.
But there’s no real value in having a consensus top four at this point, is there? All the biggest games are yet to come.
Also, each of the 6-0 teams in the top four has an imperfection that could prove costly. Alabama’s defense is subpar by Nick Saban’s standards. LSU’s defense is a cut (or more) beneath Alabama’s. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence keeps turning the ball over. Ohio State has played a relatively soft schedule.
There’s so much more watching of football to do. For you fine people, I shall do it.
On to the rest of the ‘‘Big 10’’ (where 10 actually means 10):
2. ‘‘O,’’ baby: Lots will change in the coming weeks, but if you threw all the playoff contenders into a steel cage today, right now, this very moment, bub, who the heck would emerge?
Ugh. Even as I typed the previous paragraph, I knew I wouldn’t be able to come up with a strong answer. But I’ll say this: I’m feeling the ‘‘O’s’’ — Oklahoma and Ohio State — this season. If any team busts up the Clemson-Alabama joint championship streak, which is at four years, it probably will be an ‘‘O.’’
3,Halfway Heisman: If I were voting today, I’d fill in my three-man ballot with, in order, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
4.Still in it: Some folks are saying Georgia, upset at home by unranked South Carolina, is cooked as far as the College Football Playoff. They’re dead wrong. If the Bulldogs finish 12-1, with a victory in the Southeastern Conference title game, they’ll be in the final four — zero question about it.
What about Notre Dame, whose lone loss was at Georgia? If the Irish finish 11-1, it might not be good enough. Take care of business and keep watching that out-of-town scoreboard.
5.Big Two? It’s not unthinkable the Big Ten could get two teams into the playoff. Let’s say Ohio State and Wisconsin play twice — Oct. 26 in Columbus and again in the league title game in Indianapolis — and split two heavyweight classics, each team finishing 12-1.
Meanwhile, the SEC cannibalizes itself, which could be a simple process: LSU loses to Auburn on Oct. 26, and Alabama — which still must play LSU and Auburn — runs the table to get to 13-0. Every other SEC team has at least two losses.
What else must happen? A size-XXL surprise in the Atlantic Coast Conference or the Big 12.
Boom — done.
6. Don’t forget about us: Penn State and Minnesota are unbeaten, too, you know. Can’t they be plugged into the same Ohio State-Wisconsin scenario?
Sure. Not with a straight face, but sure.
7.CeeDee Lamb, your table is ready: The Oklahoma junior caught 10 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-27 victory against Texas. This is the first time in a while the Sooners have had such a clear, dominant No. 1 receiver. Lamb is playing even better for quarterback Jalen Hurts than leading receiver Marquise Brown did for Heisman winners Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018).
8.Yesterday’s news: Michigan State was outscored 72-10 by Ohio State and Wisconsin the last two weeks. Iowa’s offense buried itself somewhere in the Mesozoic (or is it the Paleozoic?) in losses to Michigan and Penn State. Maybe next year, Mark Dantonio and Kirk Ferentz. Maybe never again?
9.That’s what he said: ‘‘We feel we can score, we feel we’ve got athletes in space and we’re not going to stop.’’
That was LSU coach Ed Orgeron, whose Burrow-led offense kept rolling in a 42-28 victory against previously unbeaten defensive powerhouse Florida.
10.And another thing: Illinois coach Lovie Smith doesn’t get a parade in his honor just because his woebegone team scored 25 points in a row on Michigan after falling behind 28-0. But it’s something a good coach would use effectively heading into a test such as the one awaiting the Illini on Saturday, when Wisconsin comes calling. If the Illini don’t at least compete against the Badgers, it should be over for Smith.