College Football Playoff race heating up

Christopher Bean, Sports Writer

It’s Oct. 24 and that means in six days the first College Football Playoff rankings will come out in the 2018 season. Since the 2014-2015 season, college football has moved to this format moving on from the BCS rankings.

Before these rankings come out on Oct. 30, the AP Polls determine the top 25 teams in the country for now. The current top 10 consist of UCF at 10 followed by: Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas, Michigan, LSU, Norte Dame, Clemson and Alabama. Below is my current top 10 through eight weeks of the season.

Coming in at No. 10 is the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes are coming off one of the worst losses of the season in their 49-20 loss to Purdue, who started the season 0-3. Urban Liar I mean, Meyer has lost his third game by four or more touchdowns in his tenure with the Buckeyes. Before the loss to the Boilermakers, they found out they lost their All-American defensive end, Nick Bosa, for the year. Bosa went down with injury and decided to leave school to focus on the NFL Draft. This is a huge hit for them, because with him they ranked 117th in the FBS in giving up big plays. It showed on Saturday in their loss. However, OSU still controls their own destiny behind one of the most eclectic quarterbacks’ in the nation, redshirt sophomores Dwayne Haskins. He’s thrown 30 touchdowns and almost 3,000 passing yards. There is no question they will need to win out to make the CFP.

My No. 9 pick is the Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma is coming off a 12-2 season, where they fell to Georgia in the National Semifinals last year. This year QB Kyler Murray has done a fine job of replacing former Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. The offense has not been a problem after averaging 48.6 points a game. Just like every Big 12 team the problem is defense. In the Sooners loss, they gave up 48 points to Texas in their three-point defeat. The Sooners can still make the playoff, but will have to win out, and that includes beating No. 13 ranked West Virgina on the road on the last week of the regular season. They will also have to win the Big 12 Championship game, which will most likely be Texas or West Virginia.

At No. 8 is the 6-1 Florida Gators. Since the Gators lost to Kentucky, they have been on an impressive five game winning streak, including wins over Mississippi State on the road and beating LSU by eight. Their schedule doesn’t get any easier, as they take on the Bulldogs from Georgia. Their season is on the line this weekend, and if they lose, they won’t make the playoffs.

At No. 7 are the Central Florida Knights (7-0). It’s a shame that UCF is only No. 10; they’re 20-0 over the last two seasons. Yes, I know they’re not in a power five conference, but it doesn’t matter, they haven’t lost a game in two seasons; they deserve the recognition. They have the most underrated player in the nation, junior QB McKenzie Milton. All Milton has done in his college career is throw for 7,817 yards and has 63 touchdowns. The good news for UCF is their schedule does get tougher when they play Cincinnati and the undefeated No. 21 South Florida. If the Knights go undefeated from here on out, there is no doubt they should be in the four-team playoff.

At No. 6 are Georgia Bulldogs (6-1). The Bulldogs are coming off a 13-win season and the national runners up. Sophomore QB Jake Fromm, had a lot of expectations coming into the season after posting a 12-2 record in his freshman year. This year Fromm has only thrown 1,409 yards. They lost to LSU by 20 on the road two weeks ago. They are now coming off a bye week heading into their biggest game of the year against the Florida Gators. Expect head coach Kirby Smart to open up the playbook for the promising QB and give them momentum in the second half.

Coming in at No. 5 are the 7-1 Michigan Wolverines. Heading into the year head coach Jim Harbaugh got a lot of criticism for not being able to beat his rival and the good teams. It did not get off to a great start with their 24-17 loss at Norte Dame. But since then U of M has been on a seven-game winning streak, and is arguably the best team in the country. Junior QB Shea Patterson, who transferred from Ole Miss, has improved week by week becoming the most dynamic offense in Harbaugh’s tenure. Since only scoring 17 points in week one, they are now averaging 38.7 points a game, but their offense doesn’t tell the whole story.

The best defensive coordinator in the country, Don Brown, leads them. Brown is only in year three, but his defense gets better year in and year out. Fifth year defensive end Chase Winovich has been one of the many stars on Brown’s defense. Last year Michigan lost to Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State. Two weeks ago, after dominating Wisconsin 38-13, Winovich said it’s a “revenge tour” for the Wolverines. The very next week, Michigan demolished MSU 21-7 on the road. Winovich said, “you just gotta put them in place,” referring to them as their “little brother.” Michigan still has PSU and OSU to accomplish, but if they complete the “revenge tour,” they will be favorites to win the National Championship.

My pick for No. 4 are the Norte Dame Fighting Irish (7-0). Norte Dame has one of the best wins in college football this year in their 24-17 victory over Michigan in week one. But after that they haven’t looked particularly strong. Yes, they have blown out two other top 25 teams at that time, one being No. 7 Stanford by 21, but Stanford is now only 5-2 and only No. 24 in the current rankings and Va. Tech is no longer in the top 25.

They will have to win out and win convincingly from here on out. But they have the QB to do so in Ian Book. Book took over for Charlie Wimbush in week four, and in his four games as a starter, ND has averaged 39.5 points a game. He will need to continue his performance along with a stellar D if they want to be one of the four teams competing for the national championship.

At No. 3 are the 7-1 Louisiana State Tigers. The Tigers strength of schedule is one of the best in the country. They are 4-1 against top 25 teams led by head coach Ed Orgeron in his third season with the Tigers. Their only loss was on the road against Florida. The Tigers most impressive win was their 20-point blowout against the Georgia Bulldogs two weeks ago. The Tigers head into their bye week after their 19-3 win over Mississippi State. It’s a perfect time to have their bye, as they will host the undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide the current No. 1 ranked team in the country. Vegas has them as 14-point underdog heading into this biggest game of the year. LSU has a great opportunity to prove that they can hang with the best of the best. This is a must win game in Death Valley.

At No. 2 are the Clemson Tigers (7-0). Clemson is undefeated, but not without controversy. Head coach Dabo Swinney decided to bench QB Kelley Bryant for freshman QB Trevor Lawerance early in the season. Bryant led the Tigers to a 12-2 record last season as his first year as a starter. But when he got benched, he decided to quit the team and will eventually transfer from the University. This obviously hasn’t affected the team as they haven’t lost a game all year and are coming off their best game, in a 41-7 win against No. 16 NC State. Just like Norte Dame, Clemson doesn’t have to face a top 25-team left on their schedule. It’s looking like Clemson will be headed to their fourth straight CFP appearance.

Finally, at No. 1, are the Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0). It’s no shock that Alabama is the best team in the country. The defending National Champions have destroyed every team in sight. Their closest game was their 22-point win against Texas A & M. Yes, they’ve had a weak schedule so far, but they will have a great challenge coming up in their next game against LSU. The Crimson Tide have the best player in the country, sophomore QBTua Tagovailoa.

All he’s done this year is thrown 25 touchdowns and even more impressively he hasn’t thrown an interception. We will see how good this team is when they head to Death Valley in two weeks. Even if they lose this game, it does not mean that they still can’t make the playoffs. Last year they went 11-1 and didn’t even play in their conference championship. But if Tua keeps playing the way he does, I don’t see the best team in the country losing any time soon.