College football has officially gone bananas. Week 7 brought an upset-filled Saturday and dramatically changed the outlook of the 2018 season’s stretch run.
One thing is clear: Under the leadership of Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama remains the class of the sport. Behind the Crimson Tide, however, it’s a mess. There are top-tier programs with glaring flaws and a bunch of teams flirting with two losses.
The second half is going to be wild. That’s the way we see it, at least.
From individual upsets to conference championships to award winners, we’re trying to predict the biggest stories to come as December steadily approaches.
West Virginia disappears in November
Heading into the season, the biggest concern for West Virginia was whether it could survive a road-heavy schedule. So far, not so good. The Mountaineers dropped a clash with Iowa State, mustering an embarrassing 152 yards in the loss. And in November, West Virginia travels to both Texas and Oklahoma State. Throw in dates with TCU and Oklahoma, and the Mountaineers are in danger of dropping at least two more contests. At 5-0, they had the captured part of the nation’s attention. But with three losses, they’ll hardly be on anyone’s radar.
Utah upsets Oregon
The prevailing theme of when upsets happen is simple: ranked team on the road. Oregon has enjoyed a 5-1 start to the campaign, but Mario Cristobal’s squad has only once left the comfort of Autzen Stadium. The second half includes trips to Washington State, Arizona, Utah and Oregon State. That third one is tricky because Utah’s defense is elite in every way. It’s one of few units actually capable of slowing Justin Herbert, and Oregon will struggle to find lanes opposite the nation’s No. 2 run defense. This matchup in Salt Lake City is a recipe for disaster.
Iowa takes the Big Ten West
Since Wisconsin holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, Iowa needs to take an outright lead in the standings to win the Big Ten West. But the Hawkeyes will get a little help. Both programs must travel to Penn State, and Wisconsin also heads to Northwestern. An upset of the Nittany Lions or Badgers loss in Evanston would provide the necessary boost for Iowa, which has an otherwise friendly schedule that ends with Illinois and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes haven’t garnered many headlines to this point, but they’ll quietly steal a few when it matters most.
LSU sputters, finishes 9-3
Behind Alabama, there isn’t a more impressive team than LSU. To survive an opening slate that included Miami, Auburn, Florida and Georgia — three of which happened away from Baton Rouge — with only one loss is remarkable. Unfortunately for LSU, the schedule hardly gets easier. The Tigers still host Mississippi State and Alabama before a brief respite leads to taking on Texas A&M on the road to close the regular season. This defense has been spectacular. But while the offense keeps doing enough, mediocre efficiency numbers say a letdown is coming.
Ohio State loses regular-season game
Ohio State managed to survive TCU and pulled off a comeback at Penn State. Winning every game, no matter how, is most important. But the cracks are obvious. The Buckeyes can’t rely on their running game, and those struggles are putting huge pressure on Dwayne Haskins to carry the offense. So far, no defense has successfully taken advantage. However, both Michigan State and Michigan are best prepared to sting Ohio State because of it. And if the Buckeyes can’t win the Big Ten East, they’re not headed to the College Football Playoff, either.
Oklahoma wins the Big 12
Deservedly so, Texas is all the rage right now. After the season-opening loss to Maryland, the Longhorns have rattled off six straight wins and surged atop the Big 12. They’re the only remaining team without a blemish in conference play, largely thanks to an upset of Oklahoma. The Big 12’s desire to hold a championship game, however, will be Texas’ undoing. Instead of being the outright champion, the Longhorns will be forced to play another game. Oklahoma will be that opponent, and the high-powered offense will upend UT this time around.
Notre Dame makes College Football Playoff
The way this season is headed, even a one-loss Notre Dame should have an excellent case for a College Football Playoff spot. Although the Fighting Irish can only look forward to one remaining true home game opposite Florida State, their travels are for Navy, Northwestern, Syracuse and USC. It would take a colossal failure to drop two contests, and victories over Michigan, Stanford and Virginia Tech make for a strong resume. As long as Notre Dame doesn’t become a primary factor in the chaos, Brian Kelly’s team will find itself in the championship tournament.
Texas A&M earns New Year’s Six bowl slot
Jimbo Fisher’s first season with the program is going about as well as possible. Through seven games, Texas A&M has only dropped tilts to Clemson and Alabama. There isn’t a more forgivable two-loss record in the country. Although the current three-game road trip ends with dicey matchups at Mississippi State and Auburn, the Aggies can ride their defense into a home-filled November. From there, it’s a matter of dispatching inferior opponents and clipping LSU. The progression of quarterback Kellen Mond will be the difference in that showdown.
UCF ends undefeated but left out again
College football loves underdogs. It hates when underdogs thrive for a whole year. Such is the life for Central Florida, which is riding a 19-game winning streak after its comeback win over Memphis. The Knights should cruise past their next three opponents, since the only road matchup is against East Carolina. To close the year, UCF will take on current unbeatens Cincinnati and South Florida, then likely a strong Houston team in the AAC championship. Get through that 12-0, and what more is there to prove? It still won’t be enough to sway the CFP committee.
Tua Tagovailoa earns most Heisman votes ever
Neither blowouts nor a knee injury have prevented Tua Tagovailoa from unleashing aerial fury on Alabama’s opponents. The sophomore leads the nation in yards per attempt (14.3) and rating (248.09) with 1,760 yards, 21 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Alabama’s average margin of victory is 38.4 points, and Tagovailoa still hasn’t thrown a pass in any fourth quarter. In 2006, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith garnered a record 91.63 percent of available points. Not only will Tagovailoa strike the pose, he’ll thoroughly dominate the vote.