College Football Writers Round Table: Midseason
College Football Roundtable
Grab your favorite beverage. Pull up a chair. It's time for the the Rant Sports college football writers roundtable. Assembled are five writers from across the country ready to opine on the biggest storylines halfway through the 2012 season.
Paul Bentley is a general college football columnist.
Amanda The way it looks right now, Alabama is the clear choice as a National title contender. As it currently sits, I don’t believe there is an SEC team that is up par when it comes to picking someone to beat them. No. 2 Oregon has been winning and doing so very dominantly. They will have one of their biggest challenges on November 3rd with the USC Trojans, so depending how they fair will say something about their title shots.
Connor I think Alabama is a clear No. 1 team and teams will have a hard time knocking them off. I don't see another team beating them and passing them up. Oregon on the other hand is probably going to lose one by the end of the regular season. I just don't feel like they have what it takes to get the job done. Alabama on the other hand-- head and shoulders above the rest
Paul I do see Alabama remaining undefeated and making there way to a National Championship berth. Oregon, who arguably has the best offense in the country, will likely have to play the USC Trojans twice and we all know beating a team twice in football is an extremely difficult task. However, if Oregon wins the Pac 12 championship, I do think they can still make it to the National Championship with one loss as I feel the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will likely lose a game before the season is over. The Nat Championship last year featured two SEC squads and I am sure that if Oregon is in the mix, we will likely see the POWER offense of Oregon, get their crack at that Bama D.
Chris The match-up of both Alabama and Oregon in the title game is the most likely scenario. However, anyone can beat anyone on any given Saturday in college football. The Florida Gators are ranked no.2 in the BCS but still has the Georgia Bulldogs on their schedule, and if they get through unscathed, then they are given the unfortunate task of facing Alabama. They can crash Bama’s dream of consecutive titles. I would say that an SEC team will make it to the national championship, whether it’s an undefeated team or one loss team.
Justine With the BCS standings coming out, Bama and Oregon aren't the only two at the top. They might still meet up - I don't see another all-SEC title game happening again this year - but with the BCS rankings mixing things up right off the bat, there's a much better chance to see a different pairing, maybe even one than doesn't include either the Tide or the Ducks, than there would've been if those two teams were still unquestionably 1 and 2.
Is Alabama That Much Better Than Everyone Else?
Amanda Alabama is No. 1 for a reason; they have been playing great football on both sides of the field. The first game of the season, they absolutely dominated the then No. 8 Michigan Wolverines. Crushing any doubts as to why they should be the No. 1 team in the land. Their only game to have been tested in was against the Ole Miss Rebels, but literally only 15 seconds after being down 7-6, they took one to house and regained the lead and never looked back. They haven’t played anyone that could really challenge them yet, but with Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M all looming, the tables could turn. But right now, I don’t see any of those teams having the strength to take them out.
Connor Alabama is, in fact, better than everyone else by a long shot. With Florida being No. 2 in the BCS standings, it may be an easy season for them to win a national championship. They will have to face three ranked opponents in the next four weeks and LSU will be their biggest test, but I don't see this top-ranked defense letting an unimpressive LSU offense put up points.
Paul Alabama is better than everyone else. No way around it. They arguably have the best O-Line in the country, a quarterback who has won a National Championship, and a run game to keep the offense balance. Bama is scary good.
Chris Alabama is most well-rounded team in the country. Tennessee Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley made a comment in his weekly presser this week that Nick Saban drafts players and Dooley recruits. That’s how good Alabama’s athletes are. Yes, they have not been tested and are not immune to slipping. However, they are the closest thing to a complete football team in college football
Justine I think Alabama is better than everyone else, but their toughest games are still ahead. Michigan is the only team the Tide has played so far that's currently ranked, but they have Texas A&M, Mississippi State, LSU, and probably the SEC East Champion, still to come.
3. Who's been the biggest surprise team this year? Good or Bad?
Amanda I have two biggest surprise teams of the year. One being Notre Dame and the other being the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Year in and year out, everyone exclaims that this may be the year Notre Dame is back. This year they have the numbers to back it up. They currently sit undefeated and have beaten 3 Top 25 teams in the process. They have some challenges ahead with Oklahoma and USC, which how they do there, will determine if we can say they are back or not. Regardless, they are still playing well and we are getting to see a much-improved Irish team, which always makes things more interesting. College football has missed that. Texas Tech on the other hand has come out of nowhere and sits in a three-way-tie for 2nd place in the Big XII. I can’t say if anyone saw that coming. Since Tommy Tuberville arrived in Lubbock, the Red Raiders haven’t lived up to Mike Leach years on standards. Some assistant coaching changes and a new focus on the defense has paid off. They didn't play so well against Oklahoma a couple weeks ago, but completely shut down Geno Smith and the Mountaineers video game-esqe offense. Tech is on their way to being bowl eligible, but a rough road lies ahead with TCU, Kansas State and Texas. Their shot at doing something in the Big XII is as wide open as anyone else is at this point.
Connor The biggest surprise so far this season has probably been either Notre Dame or Florida. For rankings sake, I would have to say Notre Dame because of their huge jump in rankings. They started the season unranked and many thought they wouldn't even contend for a top bowl game, let alone an undefeated record halfway through the year, but they have done it and done it impressively. This team is for real and it seems like no one can stop them or even slow them down.
Paul I think Notre Dame is the biggest surprise of the year. They have played a ridiculously tough schedule and their defense has been outstanding. The Irish single handedly pooped on the Big 10 this year as they held Michigan and Michigan State to zero touchdowns. The Irish do have a tough game against Oklahoma and even if they can pull that win out, they close the season on the road having to play USC at the Colosseum. I expect Oklahoma or USC to play spoiler on the ND dream season.
Chris The biggest surprise to me is the Auburn Tigers. No, Auburn wasn’t expected to do great things but the hiring of Bryan VanGorder as defensive coordinator gave the team hopes of a stouter defense. They were never going to win ten games this season based on the strength of the SEC West but to be 1-5 at the midpoint of the season is disappointing. Auburn is a perennial look to seal a bowl berth but the Tigers have a tough hill to climb to get themselves there. This is a team that has no identity on offense and can’t stop anyone on defense. No one likes to be compared with the Kentucky Wildcats in the SEC, but Auburn really is just that bad.
Justine The Oregon State Beavers. The Beavers were 3-9 last year, and just about everyone wondered if they'd be able to have a .500 year and save Mike Riley's job. They're 6-0, with a handful of quality wins, in and out of conference. Their starting quarterback, Sean Mannion, is out for a few weeks with an injury, but so far, there hasn't been any drop off with backup Cody Vaz. He's only had one start, but he kept the team going, which is a great sign for the team as they move through the next few weeks.
4. What team has been the most disappointing thus far?
Amanda Biggest disappoint hands down goes to Arkansas. Preseason Top 10 team losing to ULM and having their stud QB go down for the season all in one game was the nail in the coffin. With 4 losses already on the season and taking a look at their schedule, chances are, things aren’t going to get any better in Fayetteville.
Connor The most disappointing team is easily the Arkansas Razorbacks. They started out the season ranked in the top 10 and were supposed to be a team to beat in the SEC. What happened after that? Lose to the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks at home and then lose three more games in a row after that, getting blown out 52-0 against Alabama in the process. John L. Smith has this team underwater and struggling to find the surface.
Paul Arkansas has easily been the biggest disappointment of the year. Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis both had Heisman hype coming into the season and the Razorbacks took themselves out of contention before a quarter of the season even elapsed with their loss to Louisiana-Monroe. Yes, you read that right, Louisiana-Monroe.
Chris The biggest disappointment to me also comes out of the SEC West and it’s the Arkansas Razorbacks. A lot is made of coaching changes and the effect it can have on a team but did anyone really expect the loss of Bobby Petrino to affect the Hogs like this? Wilson did miss some time earlier in the season with a head injury but Arkansas had trouble even with Wilson at the helm early in the season. The Hogs have gotten back on the right track recently but they will fall miles short of their national title aspirations.
Justine The Virginia Tech Hokies still have time to turn things around and get to a bowl game, but it won't be the BCS Orange Bowl (or title game) like they hoped. The first few weeks were disastrous, one of the worst starts under Frank Beamer. Two of their three losses were to Big East teams, though, so VT isn't in bad shape in conference play. The next few games are against three of this year's most successful ACC teams - Clemson, Miami, and Florida State - and will determine if the rest of the season goes better than the disappointing first half.
5. Will Notre Dame finish undefeated?
Amanda I don’t think so. They have two Top 10 teams left to play on their schedule with Oklahoma then USC. They will lose to one if not both. They also play both teams on the road. The Oklahoma defense has been playing very well and despite some of the struggles USC has seen offensively, they still have one of the best QB’s in the country. Notre Dame will have their hands full with both teams.
Connor Will Notre Dame finish undefeated? That is the question of the year. I'm going to have to say no just because they play USC. I think USC still has a chance at a national title and with Matt Barkley, they can beat anyone, anywhere. Notre Dame also faces Oklahoma and that is another chance for a loss. At most they will have two losses this season. Will they go undefeated? No. Will they go to a BCS bowl? Yes.
Paul Notre Dame will not go undefeated. The have a QB debacle and still have two tough games against Oklahoma and USC. If they can get by the Sooners, I do expect Matt Barkley and the Trojans to play spoiler in Barkley's last game at the Colosseum.
Chris The Fighting Irish will mostly likely finish undefeated but I do not see them making a national championship. Finishing in the top 5 is very likely for Notre Dame because of their stout defense but I don’t see them punching a ticket to Miami. Notre Dame boasts one of the better defenses in the country and even with a subpar offense, the defense should be enough for the Irish to win out.
Justine No, I don't think Notre Dame goes undefeated. I think they'll trip up against either Oklahoma or USC. Oklahoma is up first, and after a slow start and a loss to KState, OU has been gaining steam. If they make it past the Sooners, the Irish have a much better chance of going undefeated, but USC's waiting at the very end of the season and it definitely won't be a "gimme."
6. Who would you hand the Heisman to halfway through?
Amanda Was holding onto Smith to see if they turned it around against KState. It was a toss-up between the two for me before the game. Collin Klein clearly proved himself the more complete guy. Two huge road wins help his case.
Connor Easy-- Geno Smith of West Virginia. He has had unbelievable numbers so far this season. These numbers are very similar to RG3 last season.
Paul Collin Klein literally grabbed the Heisman from Geno Smith with his 7 TD performance in the thrashing the Wildcats gave the Mountaineers. Matt Barkley has a chance if the dominoes fall. K State would have to lose and Barkley would have to STUNT in the Oregon game and ND game.
Chris Optimus Klein as well. Reminds me of Tebow in 2007. He is the heart and soul of that team.
Justine If it's not too late, I'll change to Collin Klein. He's been my personal fave since last season but you just couldn't ignore Geno's numbers + winning.