Looking Ahead: College Football Enters Its Second Half

Looking Ahead: College Football Enters Its Second Half

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Halftime is over for the 2014 college football season. Except for a handful of teams, most programs have now played six of their 12 regular season games. After that, it is the league championships, the bowls and, of course, the all-new four-team playoff system.

There have been a number of surprises this season, but what season hasn’t seen them? The best football in the nation is currently being played in Mississippi, not Alabama, where Mississippi State and Ole Miss are ranked 1-2 in the nation. Last year’s national champion, Florida State, is currently ranked No. 3 with Baylor and Notre Dame rounding out the top five. Oh, by the way, the top five are the last of the major unbeaten teams in the nation. Two of them, Florida State and Notre Dame, square off in Tallahassee this Sat.

Here’s what we can expect for the second half of the season:

Losing isn’t so bad after all. The quest for going 12-0 is on everyone’s mind, but as this season is beginning to show losing a game may not be so bad after all. After this weekend, there will be no more than four unbeaten teams left and it seems likely that number will dwindle over the coming weeks. However, if the Seminoles beat Notre Dame, they won’t face a ranked team for the rest of the season and will, therefore, be favored to go undefeated. As for the rest of the unbeaten teams each one has several challenges ahead of them. Notably, Ole Miss and Miss. State will battle it out on the last game of the season. We just may see a playoff field populated by one-loss teams this year.

Marshall gets no respect and none is deserved. If a team does go 12-0 this year, it could very well be the Marshall Thundering Herd. The Herd will likely coast through its remaining schedule of Conference USA games unscathed and will probably win the conference championship, finishing at 13-0. In years past, smaller programs that went undefeated complained bitterly about being left out of the major bowl picture and the Herd may do likewise. Cry all they want, but Marshall’s schedule has been unchallenging, with not one game against a Power 5 team. If the Herd want respect going forward, they’ll have to replace games against teams such as Rhode Island and Ohio, with games against West Virginia and Pitt. Regardless, look for a 13-0 Herd to get a New Year’s Day invite, falling short of playoff consideration.

The Big Ten isn’t so bad after all. Michigan State losing to Oregon early on and a host of other conference teams losing games to Power 5 conferences made the Big Ten look like the least of the power conferences. Today, the Spartans and Ohio State look like the class of the conference with Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern up there. Even Rutgers is a surprise and could stir things up by pulling an upset or two in the second half. The Big Ten’s best chance of getting to the playoffs may depend largely on the Nov. 8 meet up between the Spartans and the Buckeyes in Lansing.

There is too much looking ahead in college football. Yes, I said it. The college football season has turned into the race for the playoffs. From week one every prognosticator and pundit has offered his take on the post-season. Meanwhile, top teams were winning, losing or simply disappointing. A few surged, making things interesting. What is particularly annoying are the bowl projections that change every week. It would be better for the polls to launch once the first half of the season has been completed, as in this week, instead of teasing us with ever changing rankings early on. That won’t happen, but the thought is a good one.

The firings will continue. It probably is a good idea to keep your coach around until the regular season has ended. When the head coach is fired during the season, the program is effectively giving up on the rest of the season. Charlie Weis was fired by Kansas four games into the season after a 2-2 start. Two games later the Jayhawks are 2-4 and may only have a winning chance against Texas Tech this Sat. and Iowa State on Nov. 8. They’ll finish with a losing record as everyone turns their attention to Jayhawks basketball. Unless someone totally embarrasses a program in the coming weeks, the next round of firings will commence around the beginning of Dec. You can also bet that replacement coaches are currently being interviewed by a handful of schools, including Michigan, right now.

Beyond 2014

One thing this season has shown us and will continue to do moving forward is the importance of scheduling. If you want to succeed in the sport, it certainly helps that you belong to a Power 5 conference. For everyone else — BYU, Marshall, Boise State, et al — filling your schedule with as many games against such teams is ideal. And, if you get an offer to join the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac 12 conferences, you jump.

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