College football at midseason: Best players? Best games? And how about that playoff four?

How did we get here? Where are we headed? Read on.

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J.J. McCarthy and Michigan romped 45-7 at Nebraska in September.

J.J. McCarthy and Michigan romped 45-7 at Nebraska in September.

Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

College football is 90% preparation, momentum and luck. The other half is physical.

Or something like that.

Anyway, we’re going to call this here a midseason column because now is as close as we’ll get to being halfway through the 12-game schedule. Of the 133 FBS teams, 86 have played at least six games (with six, including Notre Dame, having played seven times each, and one, Louisiana Tech, kicking off game No. 8 Tuesday night). Folks in the American conference, where nine of 14 teams have played only five games, might quibble with this timing, but in the MAC — where all 12 have played six — they’re nodding their heads in approval. So there you go.

Is Georgia, winner of the last two national championships and still unbeaten and ranked No. 1, going to take everybody’s lunch money again? That’s the simplest way to look at the season — it’s the Bulldogs against the field.

There are five 6-0 teams: Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, USC and Louisville. There are nine 5-0 teams: Ohio State, Florida State, Penn State, Washington, Oregon, North Carolina, Air Force, Liberty and “the Father of the Constitution.” Come on, people, it’s James Madison.

Nobody is 0-6, but two teams are 0-5. We’ll give you $8.4 billion if you can name them without firing up your trusty google machine. Not even going to try? Fine, the correct answers are Nevada and the only American ever to be elected governor of two different states. Come on, people, it’s Sam Houston.

All right, enough already with the preamble. How did we get here? Where are we headed? Read on.

Teams of the first half

Texas had the win of the first half, a courageous 34-24 effort at Alabama that convinced everybody the Longhorns finally were ready to knock heads with the best of the best. But then Oklahoma — just 6-7 last season — pounded the gas pedal in a last-ditch drive for the ages last weekend to steal all of Texas’ mojo. Why do these great rivals have to leave for the SEC again?

Teams of the second half

1. Georgia: Circle Nov. 18 on your calendars. If the Bulldogs haven’t lost a game by then, a visit to Tennessee could be when it finally happens.

2. The Big Ten’s Big 3: It’s all about the round-robin among Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, at least one of which will get to the College Football Playoff. The rest of the conference is playing for glitz and giggles.

3. The Pac-12’s Big 3? Don’t buy the hype that it’s all about the round-robin among Washington, Oregon and USC. This league has four or five other squads capable of knocking off one of the top 10 trio. It’s no sure thing any team will make it through cleanly enough to get into the playoff.

Players of the first half

Too soon to hand Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. the Heisman Trophy? Yes, though the fact he’s throwing for 400 yards per game is bonkers. We can’t get enough of college QBs, with the list of household names including reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams of USC, Bo Nix of Oregon, Drake Maye of North Carolina and, of course, Shedeur Sanders of Colorado.

USC’s Caleb Williams is gunning for back-to-back Heismans.

USC’s Caleb Williams is gunning for back-to-back Heismans.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Players of the second half

1. Williams: Can he repeat as Heisman winner? More important for the Trojans, can he outduel Penix and Nix back-to-back in November (and, for that matter, Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman on Saturday)?

2. J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan: Ohio State’s Kyle McCord is a big-time player. Penn State’s Drew Allar is, too. But McCarthy has a bit more superstar in — and higher expectations from around the country on — him.

3. Carson Beck, QB, Georgia: His predecessor, Stetson Bennett, never failed to make the needed play at the crucial time. Beck hasn’t faced many such moments yet, but they’re coming.

Coaches of the first half

We’ll let Oklahoma’s Brent Venables and Louisville’s Jeff Brohm share our nonexistent first-half award. Congrats, fellas. Northwestern moved on without Pat Fitzgerald, and Michigan State soon did likewise without Mel Tucker. Now, shouldn’t we be talking about Colorado’s Deion Sanders? Everybody else is.

Coaches of the second half

1. Sanders: The 4-2 Buffaloes could fizzle out to a 6-6 finish if they aren’t careful. Sanders will really have to coach ’em up to do better than that.

2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: Thanks to his three-game suspension to start the season, we haven’t heard much from the Khaki King. Is there still any doubt he’s the best in the Big Ten? No, don’t you even think about bringing up the Bears.

3. Nick Saban, Alabama: He doesn’t have an NFL QB, doesn’t have an offense that can run the football and — for once — doesn’t have any pressure on him to deliver a national title. Better have some confetti ready anyway.

Game of the first half

We mentioned Texas over Alabama and Oklahoma over Texas. Ohio State’s win at Notre Dame was thick with drama — especially the last few minutes — as was Georgia’s win at Auburn. Colorado 45, TCU 42 and Ole Miss 55, LSU 49 were wall-to-wall wild.

Games of the second half

1. Oregon at Washington, Saturday: It feels almost like the opening round of the playoff. The winner certainly will control its own destiny.

2. Michigan at Penn State, Nov. 11: The Wolverines will roll into Happy Valley at 9-0. Will they leave miserable?

3. Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 25: Sorry, not sorry, if our Big Ten bias is showing. Besides, you know how huge this one is.

Playoff projections

Semifinal 1: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Georgia, New Orleans, Jan. 1.

Semifinal 2: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Michigan, Pasadena, California, Jan. 1.

National championship: Michigan vs. Georgia, Houston, Jan. 8.

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