Tag Archives: Christian McCaffrey

Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are Looking Out for Themselves

Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey have each opted-out of participating in their team’s bowl games. To be honest, I can’t say that I blame either one for their decision. Fournette is considered to be the best running back prospect in the 2017 draft and McCaffrey is rated as the third-best running back prospect. What does either player have to gain from playing in an extra game? Nothing.

The argument against supporting their decisions is that football is a team sport and they are letting their teammates down. That seems to be a noble argument, but it’s one that isn’t in the best interest of either player. Neither Fournette nor McCaffrey have anything to gain from playing additional college games but have plenty to lose. Not only do I not fault them for looking out for themselves, I commend them for deciding to do what is in their rational best interest.

Both players have dealt with injuries during their careers. With each additional game they play, they risk additional injuries. And nobody knows if those potential injuries would be severe enough to end their playing careers or just bad enough to cause their draft stock to slide. Either way, they risk losing a substantial amount of money.

I have previously written about Fournette and how I thought he should manage his college eligibility. It wasn’t a popular opinion, but I stand by it. Fournette had absolutely nothing to gain by playing multiple years of football at LSU. The argument was made that he would never consider sitting out a full year because playing at LSU is what he really wanted to do. I’m sure he did want to play at LSU, but to assume that he wanted the wear and tear of college football on his body isn’t an assumption that I was willing to make.

For players like Fournette and McCaffrey, there was nothing to gain by continuing to play college football. NFL scouts knew what they brought to the table and that hasn’t changed. And for all of those people that say that NFL scouts care deeply about on-field performance? I say that is over-blown. All too often we see marginal players shoot up the draft board after wowing NFL general managers at the combine. That’s right. How fast a prospect runs the 40-yard dash in their underwear carries weight with a player’s draft position.

This would have held particularly true with players the caliber of Fournette and McCaffrey. Pretend you’re an NFL general manager for just a moment and ask yourself which version of the player is most attractive. Is it a version of Fournette and McCaffrey that have as much wear and tear on their bodies as possible or is it a version of each player that has stood minimal physical abuse? And remember, the version with minimal wear and tear will run the 40 in their underwear and will pump out as many bench press reps as possible at the combine.

Todd Gurley is an example of what an injury can do to a players reputation and draft stock. Gurley was once believed to be the first or second best player in the 2015 draft.  But his injuries scared teams away. His weaknesses included durability due to his ACL tear. The ACL tear was an injury that occurred during his junior year after having nagging injuries during his sophomore year.

I’d say that an NFL general manager would take the proven but preserved version of Fournette and McCaffrey. Especially considering that we’re talking about running backs. These players are investments and running backs are not players that a general manager invests in with a long-term mindset. The average career length for an NFL running back is just under three years. Perhaps a player like Fournette or McCaffrey can give their NFL team an additional year or two if they enter the draft with more tread on their tires.

While others may label Fournette and McCaffrey as selfish, I won’t be one of those critics. I’ll instead applaud each player for doing what is in his best interest because sometimes it should be all about you.


E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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Jabrill Peppers Is Not a Heisman Candidate

Enough with the “Jabrill Peppers for Heisman” talk.

A lot of media members peg Michigan’s “do-it-all” super (red shirt) sophomore as one of the best players in the nation.

There are likely two reasons for that:

  1. Beyond Lamar Jackson, there aren’t many other worthy candidates out there. As a result, the media needs someone to help them create a compelling “Heisman Race” story.
  2. People are too blinded by the fact that he can play 10 different positions that they fail to recognize that he is only good, not great, at each of those positions.

The first reason is a topic for another day.  I’d like to paint a better picture of just how “good” Peppers really is at each position he plays.

His impact at each position is no greater than the impact of any other teammate that plays that position.

Peppers is not a Heisman-caliber player.

People like to compare Peppers to Charles Woodson, who became the only defensive player to win the Heisman in 1997.  Woodson played defense, offense and special teams, just like Peppers does.  However, Woodson was at the top or near the top of most defensive categories that season, both on his team and nationally.

Woodson led the team with seven interceptions (including a few very acrobatic picks), which was good for second in the nation. He also finished the ’97 season with 11 receptions for 231 and a receiving touchdown, as well as a touchdown on the ground.

My Campus Pressbox colleague Mitch Gatzke thinks these comparisons have only been drawn because Woodson also played at Michigan.  That’s really the only comparison that can be made.

Defensively, Peppers (listed as a linebacker on the depth chart) leads the team in solo tackles, but is third in total tackles behind fellow linebackers Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray.  Both Gedeon and McCray have .5 sacks more than Peppers.

Peppers does have more tackles than each defensive lineman on the team, but there are four defensive linemen with more sacks than him.

How about defending passes? Peppers is eighth on the team in passes defended and doesn’t have an interception.

On the offensive side of the ball, Peppers is fifth on the team in rushing yards (163) and rushing touchdowns (3).

Peppers does do a nice job returning punts. His 15.2 yards per return average is good for seventh in the nation. He, like Woodson in ‘97, has returned one for a touchdown.

Peppers’ all-around effectiveness is definitely a big part of Michigan’s success, but remember last season when Christian McCaffrey led his team in rushing yards, receiving yards and touchdowns, as well as kick and punt return yardage, and still finished second in the Heisman voting results?  No, he didn’t play defense, but he was the best player on the team in several categories.

Without McCaffrey, Stanford would not have had nearly as much success as they did. Without Peppers, Michigan would still have players to fill those voids.

So, go ahead — try to convince me that a defensive player that doesn’t lead his team in total tackles, sacks, passes defended, interceptions, forced fumbles or fumble recoveries should win the Heisman, especially when he also doesn’t lead his team in a single offensive category either.

An invite to the ceremony due to the lack of other dynamic players this year? Maybe.

He wouldn’t make my invite list, though.

E-mail Evan at evan [dot] skilliter [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @evanskilliter.

Photo: Maize & Blue Nation, Flickr


Attention College Football Fans: The Heisman Trophy Isn’t a Race

In the wee, wee hours of Sunday morning, I found myself unfortunately watching Danny Kannell on ESPN. He was joined by Joey Galloway, who I rather enjoy. But Danny Kannell? Not so much.

Somehow, in the wee, wee hours of Sunday morning, Danny Kannell inspired within me a furious sportsrant. Attention college football fans: college athletes are not horses, the Heisman Trophy isn’t a race. Stop treating it like one.

In the wee, wee hours of Sunday morning, Kannell began a hopeless, long-winded, ESPN-ish adjudication about the current state of the Heisman race. His bold conclusion? Neither Lamar Jackson or J.T. Barrett had helped or hurt themselves in action this week. Thrilling.

Sure, completely ignore the fact that Barrett defeated the #8 team in the country on the road, in overtime, primarily thanks to his play. Ignore the fact that Lamar Jackson barely defeated Duke this week. If you ignore both of those plain facts, Kannell is actually correct.

It’s not Kannell’s fault that 24-hour sports media like ESPN ruins the sanctity of an award like the Heisman Trophy. A lot of things are Kannell’s fault, but, to his credit, this isn’t one of them. College football’s dependence on rankings – AP, Coaches Poll, CFP, FPI, etc.  – creates a culture where analysts feel the need to adjudicate everything as far in advance as possible. Should that bother me? Probably not. But it does.

Remember last season, when the college football universe had all but anointed Leonard Fournette a Heisman trophy winner? Yeah, then Alabama happened. Continuously ranking players in respects to the Heisman ceremony defeats the purpose of the award. If Lamar Jackson can’t score six touchdowns in a given game, the talking heads like Kannell will declare it a regression. That’s not realistic.

Not only is it unfair to frontrunners like Jackson, but take a player like Christian McCaffrey for example. In 2015, McCaffrey wasn’t considered to be a pre-season Heisman favorite. After eclipsing 2,500 all-purpose yards, you’d expect McCaffrey to be a strong contender. That trophy, of course, went to Derrick Henry. I certainly don’t mean to take anything away from Henry, but if McCaffrey had been a favorite at the season’s beginning, would Henry have the edge? I think not.

Plus, calling the Heisman Trophy a “race” implies a comparison to, say, a 400-meter dash. That’s simply not the case. Greg Ward Jr. is turning in another impressive season, yet the most difficult part of his schedule has already passed. Jabrill Peppers, however, wishes he could say the same. The playing fields aren’t even at any given time, so the snapshots of a Heisman race at those times intentionally mislead.

Obsessing over day-by-day rankings for the Heisman Trophy pollutes one of organized sports’ greatest honors. Let the players play a full season of football. Then, when it’s all said and done, objectively review all statistics and accomplishments to determine a winner. The only need for weekly rankings is to provide Danny Kannell a paycheck.

From what I gather, he’s doing alright.

NOTE: Although this article documents my dislike for Danny Kannell, let it be known that I unequivocally consider Mark May to be the worst, major television analyst of my lifetime.

Email Cole Hankins at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

Photo courtesy – Wikipedia

College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 5

Welcome back to the 5th hebdomadal publication of the Campus Pressbox 2016 Playoff Rankings. As always, the previous rankings can be found here.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)

Week five brought what may have been the least impressive victory thus far for the Crimson Tide. Alabama only managed to beat Kentucky by 28 points…so yeah, that’s its worst win this season. ‘Bama still remains the top team in the country, but with three top 20 teams on the docket (plus LSU) before the end of the month, Paul Finebaum’s analysis may be spot on.

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes (2)

Honestly, I wish I could have titled Ohio State’s No. 2 Ranking as No. 1B, as the Buckeyes are not quite at the level of the Crimson Tide, Ohio State’s season up until now has been worthy of more than the No. 2 spot that the Buckeyes continue to hold. This weekend, the Buckeyes host Indiana, who continues to improve, culminating with a home upset of Michigan State last week. Ohio State cannot afford to be caught off-guard, as the Hoosiers will certainly be looking for the upset.

  1. Clemson Tigers (4)

This was the college football world’s reaction to Clemson’s victory over Louisville Saturday night. Though it wasn’t a flawless victory, it was the one the Tigers needed. The team that so many of us had picked to do well finally came back to full form. Clemson may finally be the team we all expected it to be, and I am predicting Clemson to come out and drub Boston College this weekend. The path is now clear for the Tigers to waltz into the College Football Playoffs.

  1. Washington Huskies (10)

The King is dead, long live the King! Washington dethroned Stanford (and especially Christian McCaffrey) on Saturday. The Huskies proved how dominant its defense is when it shut down the single most impressive player in the NCAA. If Washington keeps up its winning ways, and doesn’t lose more than a single game, it would be hard for anyone else to nab the 4th spot in the CFP. That is, of course, if the Huskies can survive staring at these for three hours on Saturday

  1. Michigan Wolverines (6)

And somehow, despite a win over a top 10 Wisconsin Badgers team, Michigan is still on the outside looking in at the rest of the Playoff teams. Most of this has to do with the fact that the Wolverines have been playing second fiddle all season in the Big Ten, as Ohio State has refused to give up the reigns. It’s very safe to say, unless chaos ensues, since Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa have all been seemingly eliminated from contention, that the Wolverines and Buckeyes clash the last week of the season will determine which Big Ten school makes it to the Playoff. Terrell, you can handle this one.

  1. Houston Cougars (5)

Ahh, the poor Houston Cougars. The now forgotten child of the Playoff race. After gaining everyone’s attention in week one, monster win after monster win hasn’t been enough to stop everyone from ignoring the sixth-ranked Cougars once again. If Houston wants to side step its way into the Playoff, a lot needs to happen. The Cougars also cannot afford to be fighting one another. For now, Houston continues to be a long shot.

  1. Texas A&M Aggies (8)

The Aggies suffered slightly from “September Sumlin” on the first day of October, as A&M struggled a bit more than it should have against South Carolina. In a crowded SEC West, it is still hard to see anyone other than Alabama winning.  The Aggies also need to do its best to fight off the injury bug that has started to plague the team. However, a strong win against Tennessee this week would certainly improve the morale going into the make or break game for the Aggies, a visit to Tuscaloosa.

  1. Louisville Cardinals (3)

I’m going to be honest. I’m still sitting here yelling at my screen anytime I try to re-watch the final play (courtesy of SB Nation) of the Cardinals loss at Clemson. I don’t necessarily blame James Quick, but come on, really? JUST TAKE ANOTHER STEP, FOR GOODNESS SAKE. …sorry about that. Anyway, Louisville still honestly has a chance at the Playoffs. Just like a lot of teams on this list, the Cardinals do need a good number of breaks, but if Louisville can win in Houston week 11, there may still be a chance for (still) Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson and his Cardinals.

  1. Tennessee Volunteers

So the Volunteers are officially this years version of the 2013 Auburn Tigers, right? If that’s true, and the wacky ending to the Georgia game seems to suggest that’s the case, the Volunteers may have an actual chance of getting out of the Alabama game in two weeks without a loss. Though that certainly would seem a miracle, after the Georgia game, I feel that I’ve lost my right to doubt the Vols.

  1. Miami Hurricanes

The U is back!…pending the next three weeks of football. Many, including myself, certainly want to believe that the Mark Richt lead Hurricanes are finally back to full force, but until its matchups against Florida State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech, it is not a sure thing for the ‘Canes. This next stretch is certainly the most important of Mark Richt’s young tenure at the U. Right now, Miami is a growing tropical disturbance, time will tell if this one will become a hurricane.

Drop Outs & Honorable Mentions

Wisconsin and Stanford unsurprisingly and unceremoniously dropped off this weeks list following losses to Michigan and Washington respectively. Miami fought off the aforementioned Badgers, as well as Nebraska and Baylor, in order to grab the No. 10 spot this week. All four teams, including the Hurricanes, are volatile, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a new team in at No. 10 next week.

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.
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Washington Huskies Look for the Upset Against the Stanford Cardinal

As college football fans turn the corner into October, we start getting into match-ups that will determine division titles. The Washington Huskies and the Stanford Cardinal will battle each other on Friday night to gain an advantage in the Pac-12 North division.

The Washington Huskies are the team on the rise. It’s been a long time since the Dawgs have been even remotely relevant. Washington will have the opportunity to make a statement against the team that is the current big dog in the conference.

The Huskies have a lot going for them. The Huskies have a quarterback that one could argue is the best in the conference,  have running backs that can break off a big play at any moment, and have a physical defense that can also make plays.

Jake Browning, Husky quarterback, is one of those dual-threat quarterbacks that makes life miserable for defensive coordinators. He has led the Huskies to perfect start so far and was instrumental in the Huskies overtime win last week against Arizona.

However, Browning has his first big test of the season with Stanford. The Cardinal defense will certainly try and go the physical route with trying to contain Browning. The Cardinal have to make sure Browning doesn’t get out and extend plays. If Jake Browning is able to extend plays and make big plays it will be a long night in Seattle for Stanford.

Not only do the Cardinal have concerns with Browning, Stanford doesn’t have either starting cornerbacks. Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder went down against UCLA last weekend. That plays right into the hands of the Husky offense. The receivers are fast and having new cornerbacks on the perimeter will be something to watch as the game progresses.

The offensive line for Washington has to hold strong on enough plays so the Huskies can make plays down the field with Jake Browning’s accurate arm. In my opinion, the offensive line of Washington will be the key to victory for the Huskies.

Husky Stadium will be loud and rocking. I’ve been there for games and it is one of the loudest stadiums in the country. You can’t underestimate the effect that a loud crowd can have on an opposing team. Stanford is experienced in playing in big games, but having a new quarterback in this type of situation can be an adventure.

Myles Gaskin, the ultra-quick running back for the Huskies, has not gotten off to the start that he had hoped for. Gaskin is listed as the starter and certainly could make this game his 2016 coming out party. However, look for running back Lavon Coleman to get some more touches. Coleman came into the game last week against Arizona and ran for 188 yards. Having a combination like these two could prove deadly against a weakened Stanford defense. I look for the Huskies to try and exploit this advantage when the Washington offense is on the field.

Defensively for the Huskies, the goal will be to hold Christian McCaffrey in check. I know, easier said than done. Look for head coach Chris Peterson to try and make some adjustments in the kicking game. Peterson will want to limit McCaffrey to as little return yards as possible. I would kick at angles to make the sideline an extra defender. We all know all dangerous Christian McCaffrey is when he is on the field, so controlling him is a must. The Huskies have to limit McCaffrey to 150 all-purpose yards to be in the game. With the speed the Huskies have, this is a possibility.

When it’s all said and done at Husky Stadium, I believe this will be the first big upset in the Pac-12 this year. The Dawgs will come out on top in a tight game. Huskies win 35-24.

Email Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

Image: Courtesy of Mike Wilson

The Pac-12 Earned this Smack

No. 7 Stanford travels to No. 10 Washington in what could be the must-see game of this weekend.  That is if it weren’t scheduled for the Friday night graveyard shift.

This is going to be a hell of a game between two Pac-12 North opponents with early aspirations of a berth in the College Football Playoff.  It’s tough to pick but I’ll have to go with the Stanford Cardinal.  Mostly because I like to rely on what I know, rather than what I think I might know.

I know Stanford is a solid, well-coached team that’s not afraid of playing big games on the road.  I know the Cardinal is good for about 24 points on any given, and I know its opponent is normally held around 13.  I know Christian McCaffrey is the most electric player in college football.  I know I can count on Stanford.

I think I might know that Washington has the talent to win this game.  I think I might know that the secondary is lights-out.  I think I might know this could be the year the Huskies sneak up on everyone and end up in a semi-final.  What I do know about Washington is that I don’t know enough about Washington.

U-Dub has beaten up on three teams that didn’t belong on the same field and escaped Tucson with a 35-28 win over an awful Arizona Wildcats team.  This weekend is our best opportunity to see what the Huskies are really made.  I hope you didn’t have Friday night plans.

Still, as much as Washington needs to prove itself to a national audience, so does Stanford.  The Cardinal will also be looking to impress the committee, having robbed UCLA last weekend.  Again, I’m going with Stanford, but this one’s a win-win for me.

All this is to say, I don’t want to smack down Stanford or Washington.  This is going to be a great game and I’ll be happy either way it goes, honestly.  No, the real chump here is the Pac-12.

You’ve got two top 10 teams facing off in the best game your conference has to offer all season and you’ve fumbled it into a 9 p.m. Eastern start on a Friday night in September.  Forget about the ratings.  Those numbers will be laughable.

As a conference, you’ve got one shot at sending a team to the playoff in this, a “down” year.  You need an undefeated team that cannot be denied a spot.  The best way to do that is to showcase your big boys beating up on each other and let everyone see which team emerges.  In the Pac-12’s case, it had this one shot to do so, and the game is being stashed away on a Friday night.

The idea might have seemed cool at the time, but how ‘bout now?  Yeah, as it’s turned out, not such a good idea after all.  Think back to Stanford’s opening week, too.  Oops, another Friday night fireworks special.  This is not high school football.

So, Pac-12, stop with the Friday night nonsense.  Get your primetime games on Saturdays like the other Power 5 conferences, or surrender your membership to the club.

I guess there is a bright spot here.  At least the game won’t be broadcast on the Pac-12’s failure of a network.  That thing will take you longer to find than it’ll take an eight-year-old to pick all the choice pieces in his or her giant pillow case of upcoming Halloween candy.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him @GreatGatzke.

Photo: Wikipedia

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At .500, Cal is at a Crossroad

After four games last year, the California Golden Bears were sitting pretty at 4-0. Hopes were high. The necessary talent was there with an elite quarterback, swift, sticky-handed receivers, and four diverse, yet effective, running backs. Cal had all the offensive firepower to make some noise in the Pac-12.

Of course, their Achilles heel, a much-improved, yet not-quite-there defense, was exposed too often to make Cal a legitimate contender in the Pac-12. However, Cal was good enough to post its first winning record since 2011’s 7-6 mark. To boot, Cal reached and won a bowl game (a 55-36 win over Air Force Academy in the Armed Forces Bowl).

I mentioned all of that to say this: Cal is not undefeated after four games this year. It doesn’t have world-beaters on the offensive side of the ball as in years past. Yet, it has the rarest of opportunities to mask those two blemishes in the loss column this Saturday.

Currently, the Golden Bears are 2-2, with a notable win over previously 11th ranked Texas.

Not bad.

In their two losses, both coming in the waning moments of each contest, Cal had the opportunity to change its fate. Against #19 San Diego State, Cal quarterback Davis Webb had the Bears knocking on the door for what would have been the go-ahead score and win. Unfortunately, Webb threw a costly interception that sealed the deal.

Last week at Arizona State, costly turnovers and a returned onside kick foiled what should have been a decisive victory. In retrospect, any time you give up 31 points in a quarter, you deserve to lose, hands down! Great game, Sun Devils.

Now at .500, facing what will no-doubt be a very difficult stretch to close out the season, Cal is at the inevitable crossroads all .500 teams encounter.

Which way will it go?

Currently on a two-game skid with #18 Utah coming to Strawberry Canyon, Cal is in quite the predicament. Utah (4-0, 1-0) is a talented bunch with an impressive defense and an effective run game, all the tools necessary to slow down that Bear Raid offense and make this one a real grinder.

If there was ever a statement game of the season, this one against #18 Utah would be it. This could be the monumental upswing that they have been looking for. If the Bears can knock off another ranked opponent, they will clearly show that they can hang with the “big boys” and be in prime position to make a run at the Pac-12 title.

If Cal can pull off the upset this weekend, I believe the preseason consideration it received will be reinstated. Cal would have to be recognized as a quality program worthy of a national ranking.

All (and I do mean all) the teams in the Pac-12 are in a down year. There are no clear favorites and every game is ripe for the taking. It just depends on which team is willing to reach for it. I know some may argue #10 Washington is very much worthy of the ranking and void of criticism. After Friday’s game against # 7 Stanford, we’ll have a bit more meat to chew on in that regard.

As far as Stanford is concerned, it goes as Christian McCaffrey goes.

Until then, I stand by my words. Every team in the Pac-12 is ripe for the taking. And it just so happens that both teams are on Cal’s upcoming schedule. Foreshadowing much?

Of course, if Cal lays an egg this Saturday, all won’t be lost per se.  They would have to gather themselves and march on to the next opponent. A third consecutive loss definitely affects the psyche. It very well could lead to a spiraling and eventual bottoming out. The season will go up in flames.

It’s sad, because there was optimism in this year’s Golden Bears. In the end, it’s up to Coach Sonny Dykes to rally the troops regardless of this weekend’s outcome. If Cal takes another loss this Saturday, you can kiss all hopes of a Pac-12 title away. However, consecutive trips to a bowl game are not entirely out of the picture. But we’re trying to aim high here! Bowl games are secondary to a conference title. Hell, you can make a bowl game and get the brakes beat off you. Where’s the fun in that? If you capture a conference championship, that accomplishment can never be taken away. That’s forever. As Michael ‘Squints’ Palledorous from “The Sandlot” put it, it’s “foooooreevvvvvvvvver”

Looking at the entire college football landscape, there are improbable wins and losses every week. It really has come down to which team shows up on Friday or Saturday. For Cal, it showed up to each and every game thus far. Admittedly, they checked out a bit early on a couple games. Nonetheless, Bears have demonstrated that they are a competitive and resilient bunch.

It’s time Coach Dykes makes good on the extension he received this offseason and gave a little return on investment to his employers. If he’s able to pull off the improbable, they will sing his praises for seasons to come. If not, well, cue the familiar song of ineptitude that has been playing in the background for quite some time.

E-mail David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @VirgosAssasin

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 4

Welcome back to the fourth week of Campus Pressbox’s College Football Playoff rankings. Check out the previous rankings here.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)

In a result that surprised no one, the Crimson Tide blew out Kent State by the tune of 48-0. There isn’t a whole lot to discuss regarding this win, to be honest, as Alabama did exactly what it was supposed to do against one of the worst teams in College Football right now. Other than a handful of injuries, this game was nothing to write home about. Frankly, last week was pretty much a bye week and with Kentucky this week, Alabama should be safe. Any fluctuations with the play out of Nick Saban’s squad would be a shock. Alabama remains a lock for the College Football Playoff, though Tennessee and Texas A&M continue to gain ground in the SEC.

  1. The Ohio State Buckeyes (2)

The Buckeyes were off last week after winning big against the Oklahoma Sooners two weeks ago. The Buckeyes only have to beat out Rutgers this weekend, a game between the best and worst team (that just lost key players to injury) in the Big Ten. Just like Alabama, seeing anything other than a blowout would be troubling and could hurt the Buckeyes’ CFP hopes. However, it looks like Ohio State is really taking its time with its game prep this week. As things stand now, the Buckeyes are a lock for the Playoff.

  1. Louisville Cardinals (3)

Louisville (unsurprisingly) continued to impress the college football world with a 31-point win over Marshall. Though Lamar Jackson never seems content with his own performances, everyone else is, and Jackson continues to be the Heisman front-runner by a very wide margin. Louisville travels to Clemson this weekend in what is probably the game of the weekend. This is another tough test, but if their demolition of Florida State showed us one thing, it’s that we should never underestimate the Cardinals. If the Cardinals manage a win this weekend, expect changes to the top of next week’s standings.

  1. Clemson Tigers (5)

Clemson is finally starting to look more and more like the team we expected to see at the beginning of the season and, as stated above, that has come just in time. Clemson opens as a slim favorite over the Cardinals, but I think most of the college football world will see Clemson as the underdog for this game. Clemson must win this game in order to fully dispel any and all memories of the Tigers’ struggles in the early season.

  1. Houston Cougars (4)

After becoming a household name following their win over Oklahoma in Week 1, the Cougars have begun to slip, slowly, back into a bit of obscurity. So many Power 5 teams have proved themselves thus far that Houston’s big wins over bad teams are starting to mean less and less. Houston really cannot afford to lose any games this season. With their weak schedule, compared to some Power 5 schools, doing so will most certainly eliminate the Cougars from playoff contention. The biggest concern for Houston right now is LSU’s open head coaching job.

  1. Michigan Wolverines (6)

Well, would you look at that, the Michigan Wolverines finally have a challenging game coming up this weekend. Michigan really hasn’t been tested at all this season, a large part of that due to the fact that it hasn’t left Ann Arbor so far. However, the Wolverines have to beat Wisconsin, which has to be one of the most “proven” teams in college football right now. We will finally be able to see how legit the Wolverines are this weekend and be able to really figure out their playoff odds.

  1. Stanford Cardinal (7)

Stanford continues to sit pretty at No. 7, as the Cardinal has more or less just sat back with a bag of popcorn and watched Christian McCaffrey continue to prove that he is a cut above everyone else in college football, even if his spotlight is getting stolen. If Lamar Jackson were not putting up out-of-this-world numbers right now, there is no doubt that McCaffrey would be leading the Heisman charge. Stanford has a big chance to gain national attention with its visit to Washington this week. While this game is bigger for the Huskies than for Stanford, the Cardinal’s Playoff argument would unquestionably be bolstered with a big win on Saturday.

  1. Texas A&M Aggies (9)

Following an explosive fourth quarter, the Aggies’ win over Arkansas went from decent win to a huge win for A&M. A&M has officially racked up a number of impressive wins versus competitive opponents. Still, Kevin Sumlin needs his team to keep up its pace if it is to have any chance of prying the SEC West away from the grip of Alabama. The next several weeks of difficult matchups will truly show whether or not the Aggies are Playoff contenders.

  1. Wisconsin Badgers (10)

Wisconsin’s string of impressive wins continued on Saturday with a devastation of the Michigan State Spartans. The Badgers have proved themselves a legit contender for the Big Ten championship. Wisconsin’s matchup against Michigan in Ann Arbor this weekend will truly prove whether or not it deserves to be the Big Ten favorite to make the Playoff. The Badgers, much like the Aggies, cannot afford any type of regression now, especially considering the Badgers upcoming schedule.

  1. Washington Huskies (8)

The Huskies, sitting at the bottom of this week’s list, remain the biggest enigma competing for a spot in the Playoff. None of Washington’s victories thus far have proven whether or not it should be seriously considered. However, Washington hosts Stanford this weekend. As big as this game is for the Cardinal, it is exponentially more important for the Huskies. A victory this week would cement Washington as a household name and help begin to build the Huskies’ Playoff resume.

Honorable Mentions

Though none were close to beating out any of the teams that made the list, Tennessee, Baylor, and Miami are the next teams in line, all pretty much waiting for the three Top 10 face-off games to play out this weekend.

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

Image courtesy of Andrew Horne – Wikimedia Commons

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The Stanford Cardinal is the Big Dog in the Pac-12

We are beginning conference play in college football now. In the Pac-12, the Stanford Cardinal is showing why it’s their conference to lose.

They are still my top team in the Pac-12, by far. They have already used their bye week in week two. That extra time allowed them to get ready for USC. The extra time gained was put to good use. Stanford made the Trojans look like a team that didn’t know what they were doing on the field.

Christian McCaffrey is up to his usual game day highlights. I don’t think there is a defense in the Pac-12, or the country, that can shut this guy down. McCaffrey had 265 all-purpose yards against the Trojans, but it could have been much more. Having stats like those is becoming the norm for him. Coming into the Pac-12 season, head coach David Shaw was adamant about using his star player in different ways, but didn’t want to overuse him.

“We plan to get Christian the ball whenever and however we can. We have many sets that we plan to use to utilize his talents,” Coach Shaw said at the Pac-12 Media Days.

Shaw is becoming a master at getting his star player the ball. He’s used him in the backfield, slot, out on the perimeter, punt return, and kick-off return. If he could play defense, Coach Shaw would use McCaffrey there as well.

Players of Christian McCaffrey’s caliber don’t come along very often, but when they do they are fun to watch.  Going into his sophomore season I talked about him as a potential play-maker for the Cardinal. However, nobody foresaw the type of play-maker he has become. He has exceeded all expectations set forth by his coaches and it has allowed Stanford to reach heights only dreamed of before.

However, football is not a one-man show. Behind every great team is a great coach.

The other part of the equation for Stanford has been head coach David Shaw. Coach Shaw has a vision for his program and he doesn’t waver from it. He goes after players that fit that vision, but doesn’t stray from the vision he has.

“If a player doesn’t fit the culture we have at Stanford. He’s not for us,” Shaw said recently.

In my opinion, David Shaw is the best coach in the Pac-12 and possibly the entire country. Sorry, Alabama fans.

Shaw has shown that he is flexible in his offensive and defensive schemes. He’s not afraid to be different from the rest of the Pac-12 Conference. While Stanford is known for its physical play and pound the ball type of offense, it has shown that running some tempo offense is not out of its repertoire.

“Most people don’t know about the speed we have on this team. It’s an overlooked facet of our team. We have people that can flat out fly down the field. We would be crazy not to take advantage of the speed we have,” Shaw said.

Coach Shaw has a monster growing in Palo Alto, so he will continue to feed the beast at Stanford to make them the class of the West Coast.

Rumors swirl every year that he might leave for the NFL. He isn’t going anywhere, so keep wishing NFL fans. Stanford is full of intelligent people and to let David Shaw escape campus would be the worst move the school could make.

With the coaching ability of David Shaw and the playmaking ability of Christian McCaffrey it is little wonder why the Stanford Cardinal is the big dog of the Pac-12 Conference.


E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

Image: Creative Commons

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 3

Welcome back to Campus Pressbox’s weekly College Football Playoff rankings.

Note: any numbers in parenthesis are the team’s ranking from the previous week.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)
  2. The Ohio State Buckeyes (3)

The Buckeyes and Crimson Tide had similar, yet both immensely impressive weeks. Both beat a ranked opponent in its own house, and I would say both teams did so in style.

While the Buckeyes’ win, capped off by a so-so catch by Noah Brown, was much larger and flashier than ‘Bama’s, the Tide still showed their excellence and ability to perform in tough match-ups, as it trailed the Ole Miss Rebels by 21 points.  Alabama scored two touchdowns on the defensive side of the ball.  Those, combined with the 21-point comeback, keep it at No. 1 over the equally impressive Buckeyes. Jalen Hurts also continues to improve

Three weeks into the season, I can officially say that for the 2016 CFP race, Alabama and Ohio State are the front runners.

  1. Louisville Cardinals (9)

Unsurprisingly, the biggest mover in this week’s poll is the Louisville Cardinals. The team whom I openly doubted proved me and all the haters wrong by almost literally walking over the Florida State Seminoles. The Cardinals trounced FSU so bad that the Seminoles have completely dropped out of the top 10.

Lamar Jackson, who has been better than possibly anyone ever, is clearly the real deal, and the front-runner for this year’s Heisman Trophy. Louisville still has some ways to go, with games against the two teams ranked immediately below it.

If this weekend taught me anything, though, it’s that the Cardinals are legit, and cold spoil more playoff dreams in thier drive towards the 2016 playoff.

  1. Houston Cougars (4)

Houston stays sitting at No. 4 this week. The Cougars’ win over Cincinnati was impressive, but Houston’s chances of making the playoff have dropped dramatically with the emergence of Louisville.

Houston plays Louisville on November 17, and cannot lose that match-up if the Cougars want any chance at a Group of 5 playoff berth. While UL could, with a potential win over Clemson, lose to Houston and still make its way into the playoff, Houston does not have the privilege of the Cardinals’ schedule.

Houston should spend the next seven weeks of the season preparing solely for this match-up (the Cougars fans clearly have), as it will decide the fate of the Cougars.

  1. Clemson Tigers (6)
  2. Michigan Wolverines (5)

Clemson and Michigan both remain in the middle of the pack as of right now, both following good wins. Clemson forced South Carolina State to take part in a phenomena that’s more common than most think, while the Wolverines invited an obscure alumni to be its honorary captain.

However, both Clemson and Michigan are clear second fiddles, in regards to their conferences, to Louisville and Ohio State, respectively. In order for either team to make it to the playoff, they require a win over said conference opponent.

Whilst Clemson gets to take on Louisville in just a few weeks’ time (at home), the Wolverines must wait until the last day of the regular season and travel to the Horseshoe to try and upset the Buckeyes’ hopes. Without a win in those games, both Clemson’s and Michigan’s playoff chances are little to none.

  1. Stanford Cardinal (8)
  2. Washington Huskies (10)

Stanford, and to a lesser extent Washington, is the most under-the-radar team thus far in terms of playoff rankings. Both have clearly impressed in the season so far. However, both play in the Pac-12 North, meaning that there is no way both can manage to make it to the College Football Playoff.

That being said, the match-up between these two teams, which occurs at the end of the month, will directly determine which, if any, Pac-12 team has the chance to qualify for the College Football Playoff. Washington’s lackluster out of conference games thus far sure doesn’t help them make a case.

If I had to bet, I would put money on Christian McCaffrey and the Cardinal to beat out Washington in the North and have a chance to be playoff qualifiers.

  1. Texas A&M Aggies

Another surprise this year has been the play of the Aggies. A&M, following the win over Auburn, already has two quality wins this year. That, as well as the Aggies’ domination against its FCS opponent, allowed the boys from College Station to make it on to the tail end of this list.

Big games await the Aggies, as three of their next four match-ups are against currently ranked teams, culminating with a game down in Tuscaloosa on October 22. Texas A&M still has a long way to go to warrant a consideration for the playoff, but the first three weeks of the season have helped the Aggies to prove they belong in the top-tier of college football.

  1. Michigan State Spartans AND Wisconsin Badgers (7)

Before anyone asks, yes, this is 100 percent cheating on my part. However, I have very good reason to include two teams at the final spot on this week’s list. Both the Spartans and the Badgers have convincing wins over ranked opponents, but they both also struggled vs. FCS opponents. There is honestly no way to separate the two so far this season, so that is why they are sharing this spot.

Both are long-shots at the playoff, as the Buckeyes and the Wolverines lead the Big Ten charge. However, if either MSU or UW get its act together, there is a chance that team could spoil someone’s dreams and sneak into the playoff. These teams both have very interesting match-up this week.

Drop Outs & Honorable Mentions

Florida State, following what has to be one of the worst losses for a top five team in college football history, drops out of the top ten, and most likely out of the CFP race.

Georgia is the only other team that was considered for this week’s rankings, but was ultimately left off.


E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.
Image Courtesy of University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band – Flickr
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