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It is hard to believe that we are halfway through the 2021 College Football season. Week 6 was one of the most exciting Saturdays in a long, long time and will be hard to duplicate in the coming weeks. Let’s sift through what we think we know conference by conference and take an early look at how the playoffs might be shaking up.
Unbeaten Teams: Cincinnati and SMU The Bearcats are 5-0 and they are highly ranked after their marquee win over Notre Dame in South Bend. Their schedule definitely gives them the chance to finish the regular season undefeated. They play the conference’s other undefeated team, SMU, at home and should win the rest of their games going into the AAC Conference Championship Game. SMU is 6-0 but they have to play Cincinnati on the road and they also have a tricky road game against Houston who is red-hot. There schedule is much tougher than the Bearcats.
The Team No One is Talking About: Houston The Cougars have won 5 in a row since an opening week loss to Texas Tech. If they can beat SMU at home, they will likely be Cincinnati’s opponent in the AAC Conference Championship Game.
Atlantic Division: The three best teams as of now, are all in the Atlantic Division
Unbeaten Team: Wake Forest The Demon Deacons are 6-0 and have been the most consistent team in the league to date. Are they the best team in the league? Why not? They are as I write this on October 10th. They have games at Army, North Carolina, Clemson, and Boston College. Those games all will be hurdles for them. They have Duke and NC State at home. In order to win the ACC Coastal Division, they will have to beat both Clemson and NC State and beat all the rest. It’s doable, but not likely. Still, they are a good story.
The Main Contender: NC State The Wolfpack have a big advantage in the fact that they have already defeated Clemson. They have tough road games at Boston College, Miami, Florida State, and Wake Forest. Home games include, Louisville, Syracuse, and North Carolina. I doubt they run the table and win all of those games.
The Elephant in the Room: Clemson In order to claim an ACC championship, you have to beat Clemson. They have road games at Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and South Carolina. They have Florida State, UCONN and Wake Forest at home. With their offensive deficiencies, it is hard to imagine them winning all of those games.
The Coastal Division: This division of the ACC is a jumbled up mess. I have no idea who will come out of it and play for the ACC Conference Championship.
Unbeaten Teams: Michigan and Michigan State These two teams are still unbeaten and they play each other in East Lansing on Oct.30th. Both of these teams also have to play Ohio State. Michigan has the Buckeyes at home while Michigan State heads to Columbus. The rest of Michigan’s schedule includes home games against Northwestern and Indiana, and road games at Penn State and Maryland. That is still a difficult schedule to negotiate. And the same can be said for Michigan State. Besides Ohio State and Michigan, the Spartans are on the road at Indiana and Purdue, and have home games with Maryland and Penn State. Only one of these teams can finish unbeaten and it is highly unlikely either one of them will do it.
The Elephant in the Room: Ohio State After the early loss to Oregon, the Buckeyes have been quietly winning over inferior opponents and building momentum. The road to the Big-10 Conference Championship still runs through Columbus and the contenders will have to beat them in order to win the title. Ohio State has road games at Indiana, Nebraska, and Michigan. Their home games are against Penn State, Purdue, and Michigan State. Obviously, the schedule is going to get much tougher. Does anyone want to bet against them.
Still Unbeaten. Iowa Without any doubt, the Hawkeyes are in the easier division in the Big-10. Therefore, of the three unbeaten teams left in the conference, they have the best chance to go unbeaten in the regular season and take an unblemished record into the conference championship game. Their remaining schedule includes home games against Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois and road games at Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Nebraska. All of these games are winnable for sure, but with Iowa’s anemic offense they can get beat any week.
Unbeaten Teams: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State The two Oklahoma schools are still unbeaten and no one knows how good either one of them really is. Oklahoma has barely escaped for 5 of their 6 wins and have plenty of problems to worry about. Their remaining schedule includes home games with TCU, Texas Tech, and Iowa State and go on the road to Kansas, Baylor, and Oklahoma State. We will know a lot more about the Cowboys in the next two weeks as they go on the road to Texas and Iowa State. Their other road games are at West Virginia and Texas Tech. They have home games left with Kansas, TCU, and the Sooners. It’s hard to see either one of these teams emerging undefeated at this point in the season.
Other Contenders: Texas and Iowa State. Both of these teams will have plenty to say about the who wins the Big-12 Conference Championship. Texas can beat Oklahoma State this week and play their right back into the hunt. Meanwhile, everyone has forgot about Iowa State and they always play better in the 2nd half of the year
Best Team: Oregon The Ducks are the best team in the weaker division of two weak divisions in this mess of a conference. They have the schedule to win out and be 11-1 going into the PAC-12 Conference Championship game. But in this wacky league, does anyone really think they can win 7 straight games? I sure don’t.
Arizona State. The Sun Devils have the best chance to go 11-1 into the PAC-12 Conference Championship game. They have a big win at UCLA in their back pocket. Their remaining schedule includes home games against Washington State, USC, and Arizona and they go on the road to Utah, Washington, and Oregon State. These are all very winnable if they are good enough. Will they do it? Probably no
Unbeaten Teams: Georgia and Kentucky The Bulldogs have simply been awesome and are acing every test that they been facing. They are so impressive and are improving on offense and their defense is dominant. And then there is Kentucky, who no one thought would be undefeated at this point. Kentucky heads into Georgia this week so one of these two will lose on Saturday. Besides Kentucky, the Bulldogs have their annual match in Jacksonville against Florida, home games against Missouri and Charleston Southern and road games at Tennessee and Georgia Tech. One would think if they win the next two weeks they will be 12-0 heading into the SEC Championship game. Almost everyone expects Kentucky to lose this week against Georgia but if they win they have a shot to run the table. They will have road games at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Louisville and home games with Tennessee and New Mexico State. Kentucky in the SEC championship game?? Stranger things have happened.
Don’t Plan Alabama’s Funeral Yet: If you think the Crimson Tide is finished, you might want to think again. If you are in shock at what happened in College Station against Texas A&M, join the crowd. But, the West Division is not very strong and if they can recover from this loss, they should win the rest of their games. Defensively, it is apparent that they have problems and they will have to solve those issues to finish at 11-1. They have road games at Mississippi State and Auburn and they have Tennessee, LSU, New Mexico State, and Arkansas at home. Anyone want to bet against them?
Undefeated Teams: San Diego State, Coastal Carolina, and UTSA Can any of these teams run the table and finish undefeated? Let’s look at their schedules.
San Diego State: The Aztecs are 5-0 and the Mountain West is a tough conference. They are fortunate that the three main contenders in the Mountain West (Fresno State, Nevada, and Boise State), all have to come to San Diego. They have road games at San Jose State, Air Force, Hawaii, and UNLV. Very unlikely they can go unbeaten.
Coastal Carolina: This bunch has their biggest hurdle on Oct. 20th as they journey to Boone, NC to take on Appalachian State. If they win this one they should win the rest of their games and win the East Division and go into the Sun Belt Championship 12-0.
UTSA: The Roadrunners are an unknown to most of the country but they are 6-0 in the West Division of the Conference USA. They have home games against Rice, Southern Miss, and UAB. Their three road games are at Louisiana Tech, UTEP, and North Texas. Since most of us don’t follow Conference USA, their toughest tests will be at La Tech and UTEP, and UAB at home. The East Division of the conference is weak and if they can get through their division they could go 13-0.
One More to Watch: Notre Dame The Irish have lost one game and they could still sneak into the playoff picture if they run the table and they can do it. They have home games with USC, North Carolina, Navy, and Georgia Tech. They have to play at Virginia and Stanford. There is no doubt they can win all of those.
This is where we see it at the halfway point. I can’t wait to see what the final half of the season has to offer. It is going to take a lot to beat the first half.
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