What does Nick Saban think about being No. 2? Don't ask | College football watch
Alabama's laser-focused coach tersely declined to offer an opinion after the Crimson Tide showed up second in the initial playoff rankings.
Well, if the College Football Playoff selection committee wanted to get attention with its initial rankings of the season this week, it certainly achieved its goal, placing Georgia ahead of Alabama to spark a lot of national conversation.
Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt, chair of the committee, said the debate by the panel "was some of the most passionate discussion that I've seen the selection committee have in my two-plus years" of involvement.
Hocutt went on to explain that Georgia's wins over No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 16 Mississippi State gave it the edge over the Crimson Tide, who haven't played a ranked opponent yet but now get three in a four-week span, starting Saturday night with Louisiana State.
Of course, Alabama coach Nick Saban couldn't have been more delighted to discuss CFP rankings when they were brought up Wednesday at his news conference.
"It's like getting three-quarters of the way up the mountain," Saban said, "and you're standing on an icy slope and you're worried about some airplane flying by and you fall and bust your ass. That's basically what it's equivalent to, rather than focus on what you need to do to keep climbing.
"I don't think I can make it any clearer, and I know you all want to make this a big story," he added, his voice now rising. "Make it one, but don't make it about me because it's not going to be about me."
The Heisman debate
The prevalent thought is that Penn State's struggles in its rushing attack is causing some concern for those who think Saquon Barkley should be a lock for the Heisman Trophy.
Undoubtedly, Barkley has his own impressive highlight reel, especially the last two weeks, when he had a pair of touchdowns on a 69-yard run and a juggling 42-yard catch against Michigan, and returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score at Ohio State.
But his season-low 44-yard rushing output last week, when he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage eight times in the second half, compelled one member of ESPN's "Heisman Watch" poll to vote him fifth. Barkley remained atop the standings, but his six first-place votes were his lowest of the season.
Bovada, the online gambling site, increased Barkley's odds a bit from 4-11 to 4-7. Odds of other top contenders are Stanford running back Bryce Love, 4-1; Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, 9-2; and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, 15-2. Notre Dame running back Josh Adams, the pride of Central Bucks South High, moved into the field at 10-1.
That crazy Big 12
Iowa State, Texas Christian, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State are tied for the lead in the Big 12 with 4-1 records, which means the return of the conference championship game for the first time since 2010 could knock out a worthy CFP contender. Or maybe they'll just KO each other before that.
The Sooners will have "Bedlam" Saturday at Oklahoma State and return home the following week to host TCU. The Cowboys will take on Iowa State next Saturday.
Of course, with the Horned Frogs, Sooners, and Cowboys each at 7-1 overall, a second loss will virtually eliminate them from CFP consideration. No team with two or more losses has ever been selected for the playoff field. Even if one of the four co-leaders advances to the conference championship with one loss, the pressure figures to be enormous.
Wishing and hoping — again
Penn State fans remember last year, when they were looking for help from Iowa and the Hawkeyes responded, upsetting Michigan at Kinnick Stadium and beginning the process that allowed the Nittany Lions to win the Big Ten East.
The Hawkeyes will host Ohio State on Saturday, and Nittany Nation is pulling for them again, hoping they can touch off a series of events resulting in two Big Ten defeats for the Buckeyes and another date for the Lions in the conference championship game. An unlikely series of events, to be sure.
"They have as good of talent as anybody," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Then on top of that, I'm trying to think of the last time they had a coach or staff that you said, 'Boy, that's an OK staff.' They've had really good coaches, good players, and that's a good combination."
In near-desperation mode to make it to a bowl game, Florida will start Malik Zaire, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, at quarterback against Missouri. Zaire, the Gators' third starting quarterback this season, lost his starting job with the Fighting Irish last season to DeShone Kizer before transferring. He has played in two lopsided losses this season. "This is his opportunity to get this team where it needs to be and not to be satisfied just because he's the starter," interim coach Randy Shannon said.
Expatriate of the week
Lafayette linebacker Brandon Bryant, a graduate of Cherry Hill East High School, has been among the Football Championship Subdivision leaders in tackles all season. Bryant, a 5-foot-11, 225-pound senior, ranks second in the nation in total tackles, averaging 13.6 per game, and third in solo tackles (7.5 per game). He posted a career-high 19 tackles last month against Harvard.
Games of the week for Saturday
Clemson at North Carolina State, 3:30 p.m., 6ABC: The Tigers grabbed the fourth spot in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, but their more immediate goal is grabbing control of the ACC Atlantic Division, which they can clinch by beating the Wolfpack and then Florida State next week.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, 4 p.m., FS1: It's "Bedlam" in Stillwater. The matchup of quarterbacks Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma and Mason Rudolph of the Cowboys should be something. The loser of this game stays in the Big 12 championship race but has little hope of making it to the CFP.
Louisiana State at Alabama, 8 p.m., CBS3: The Tigers see this as an opportunity to put some heat on the Crimson Tide in the SEC West race behind a running game headed by Derrius Guice, who rushed for 276 yards in their last game. But the Alabama rush defense has allowed just 66.4 yards per game.
Virginia Tech at Miami, 8 p.m., 6ABC: The Hurricanes probably didn't appreciate landing at No. 10 in the CFP rankings despite being unbeaten, but the fact is this will be their first game against a Top 25 opponent. The Hokies are second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 11.5 points per game.
RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame, 6-2, 225, Jr., Warrington
The Central Bucks South High School graduate has moved into the Heisman Trophy conversation with a running style that combines speed with power. Adams enters the weekend fifth in the nation in rushing with 1,169 yards, and his 8.9-yard-per-carry average is third. He has made seven runs of 60 yards or more this season, and has one 70-yard dash in each of his last four games. Against the top-10-ranked rush defense of North Carolina State last week, Adams piled up 202 yards on the ground. He needs 63 yards Saturday to become the sixth Notre Dame back to rush for 3,000 in his career.
The Inquirer Top 10
Notre Dame (7-1)
Ohio State (7-1)
Penn State (7-1)
Texas Christian (7-1)