This College Football season has been just as bizarre as 2020 itself. A worldwide pandemic shifted the starting dates for conferences and keeps fans out of many stadiums across the country. Players have opted out for the 2021 NFL Draft, and others are making the most of their opportunities as teammates, unfortunately, miss time with the COVID-19. But one thing for sure is the actual football being played is as wild and unpredictable as ever. That being said, as the November slate begins, let’s take a look at the current top 10 teams in the country…
The Current Playoff Field
1. Clemson (7-0)
Yes, the Clemson Tigers were without quarterback Trevor Lawrence (due to COVID-19) this past weekend. Yes, they narrowly escaped Boston College. But, Clemson remains not only the best team in the country, but are in a position to make a statement this upcoming weekend. Led by the now all-time ACC leading rusher Travis Etienne, the team heads to Notre Dame to take on Ian Book and the Fighting Irish. Head coach Dabo Swinney has already confirmed Lawrence will be out again, leaving the team in the hands of freshman DJ Uiagalelei. The five-star recruit held his own in their comeback win over Boston College, throwing for 342 yards and scoring three total touchdowns. With Notre Dame playing in the ACC during this odd season, this game has huge ACC Championship and playoff implications.
2. Alabama (6-0)
After a rather slow start to the season, the Alabama defense has been in the zone. Over their past three games, they have outscored the likes of Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi State 130-41. And while potential 2021 NFL Draft first-round pick receiver Jaylen Waddle is now out the season, Alabama remains in good hands. Quarterback Mac Jones continues to prove he is not just a stop-gap between Tua Tagovailoa and five-star recruit Bryce Young. Running back Najee Harris continues to build on his own Heisman campaign, with 14 touchdowns in just six games. Moreover, wide receivers DeVonta Smith and John Metchie III have shown they will be just fine without Waddle in the rotation. With only one top 25 matchup the rest of the season, Alabama has the SEC Championship game in sight.
3. Ohio State (2-0)
Two weeks into their season, Ohio State has looked as advertised – the best and only Big Ten team with a shot at the College Football playoff. Having dismantled Penn State, the only two currently ranked teams on their schedule are Indiana and Michigan. Their offense has performed well, and the defense continues to dominate. To the other teams looking at the playoff field, it may be a while until Justin Fields and company even come close to losing their spot.
4. Notre Dame (6-0)
This year, Notre Dame qualifies as an ACC team, given they are playing an ACC conference schedule. That being said, this week’s game against Clemson is going to be must-watch TV. Quarterback Ian Book has been efficient as ever, while their magnificent backfield led by Kyren Williams will need to have their biggest performances of the year against a somewhat streaky Clemson defense. Though Uiagalelei will only be making his second start, he looked fantastic last week, and Notre Dame’s defense has not had an opponent anywhere as good offensively as Clemson is. At 6-0 facing the only other ranked ACC team, this game will determine both team’s seasons.
Knocking on the Door
Any loss in the days of the College Football Playoff era hurts. Then again, for Georgia, it came against Alabama. This weekend, they will have a game that can make or break their season. Going against Florida, their defense will need to slow down the duo of quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts. Meanwhile, Georgia’s offense is going to need to figure something out. Florida’s defense may not be dominant, but quarterback Stetson Bennett must put his Kentucky game behind him. He went 9-13, for 131 yards and two picks. Over the past two games, Bennett only has 410 yards and five interceptions. If Georgia is going to be taken seriously as a deserving team in the playoff, Bennett must step up. Otherwise, a quarterback change will be coming for the Bulldogs.
Never before has a non-power five team made the college football playoff. The odds are slim of that changing in 2020, although this year, more surprising things have happened. The Bearcats defense has been fantastic this year, holding all opponents to an average of 12 points per game. Coming off back-to-back convincing wins against SMU and Memphis, Cincinnati has the best odds of any non-power five conference team to make the playoff. For Cincinnati, it comes down to quarterback Desmond Ridder staying hot and the hope one of the five teams ahead of them stumble.
Texas A&M (4-1)
Could this be the year where Texas A&M joins the College Football Playoff party? Quarterback Kellen Mond is having a career year and the Aggies defense continues to impress. The team does not face a ranked opponent until their regular-season finale against Auburn, leaving a control-their-own destiny type path for Texas A&M to have a shot. After all, since their Week 2 loss to Alabama, they have continued to quietly climb the rankings. This could be the year that head coach Jimbo Fisher finally makes this program a legit threat going forward.
Outside Looking In
Prior to their loss on October 10th to Texas A&M, Florida seemed bound for the playoff. Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts have led a high-flying offense that could outscore anyone, which is good because their defense has been far from perfect. The Gators gave up 35 points to Ole Miss and 24 to South Carolina and now going up against Georgia, this is easily their biggest test of the season. If Florida has any chance of working their way back into the playoff picture, it must begin with a win at home against Georgia.
One of this season’s biggest surprises has been the utter dominance of BYU and quarterback Zach Wilson. Going from a borderline draftable prospect to potential day one pick, Wilson has BYU fighting for national respect. Like Cincinnati, being a non-power five program hurts their playoff chances, leaving going convincingly undefeated as their only chance to even garner consideration. The Cougars have not yet faced a ranked opponent, leaving this weekend’s contest at #21 Boise State that much more important.
Even though they have only played one game in 2020, this season has already been quite a rollercoaster for the Badgers. Long-time starter Jack Coan was announced to be out indefinitely before it even began with a foot injury. Then, Graham Mertz went 20-21 for five touchdowns in a season-opening whooping of Illinois. However, the excitement of Wisconsin with a dominant quarterback was short-lived, as Mertz, backup Chase Wolf, and 20 others in the program will be out 21 days after testing positive for COVID-19. Who knows when the Badgers will be back playing, let alone who will be starting. There simply is too much mystery around the status of this team to solidify themselves as a playoff contender at this point.
It has been a long time coming, but the Pac-12 is finally set to join the 2020 season this weekend. The conference has two ranked teams, being #20 USC and #12 Oregon. With a handful of contenders already falling, Oregon, despite a seven-game schedule, has a chance to return to the CFP for the first time since 2014. Oregon is a very talented team that is coming off of an 11-2 campaign, that saw them finish sixth in the final rankings. But, the Ducks have lost a handful of players via opt-out, including potential first-round picks in offensive tackle Penei Sewell and defensive back Jevon Holland. Nevertheless, first-year starter Tyler Shough has flashed a strong arm in limited action last season, and Oregon remains a very competitive team. The last thing anyone should do is count out a very talented Oregon squad and head coach Mario Cristobal.