First & 20: CFP poll debut to make November fun

Anthony Gimino

November 01, 2015 at 2:36 pm.

Oct 31, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs during the first half as North Carolina State Wolfpack cornerback Justin Burris (11) pursues at Carter Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 31, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs during the first half as North Carolina State Wolfpack cornerback Justin Burris (11) pursues at Carter Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Five of the top seven teams in the AP poll were idle, and nobody in the Top 20 lost Saturday — thanks to thrilling finishes by Notre Dame, Stanford and Michigan — and now we’re ready to play our new November guessing game.

What will the College Football Playoff selection committee think?

It releases its first standings Tuesday, so the countdown to picking and seeding the final four teams is definitely on. Remember, the 12-person committee (it was 13 until USC athletic director Pat Haden stepped down last week), takes into account strength of schedule, games against common opponents, all manner of advanced statistics, etc., etc., while leaving ample room for the eye test.

As for head-to-head results, those matchups will be coming fast and furiously, starting this week.

Who will the committee have leading the way? Here is the snapshot for the first week of November.

1. Clemson (8-0). The Tigers’ win over Notre Dame looks better all the time and is the Tigers’ ticket to the top. The rest of the body of work is solid, and putting up 114 points in the past two weeks on the road against Miami and North Carolina State isn’t shabby. Can we get quarterback Deshaun Watson some Heisman love?

2. LSU (7-0). The early win over Auburn doesn’t mean what everybody thought it would at the time, but there’s still the victory over Florida and a road win at Mississippi State. Ohio State and the Big 12 schools don’t have two wins as good as those.

3. Ohio State (8-0). Here is where we get into the “this is as much art as science” part of the discussion. The Buckeyes’ resume to this point is thin, and they haven’t stomped on teams like we think a unanimous preseason No. 1 team should. But, man for man, don’t you still like coach Urban Meyer and Ohio State over everybody? No. 3 seems like a reasonable placeholder for OSU, for now.

4. Michigan State (8-0). Sparty, largely underwhelming, does have a better resume than Ohio State — a win over Oregon and a gift from the heavens against Michigan. We’d say the wiggle room allowed the committee via the eye test keeps Ohio State on a higher rung for now, while those good victories trump everyone from the Big 12, pending more information.

That’s the key part right there: Pending more information.

Speculation will start giving away to de facto elimination games. Florida State-Clemson. LSU-Alabama. Notre Dame-Stanford. None among TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma — a combined 28-1 — have played each other yet in the Big 12.

Saving the best for last, November will be a blast.

5 things we think we learned in Week 9

1. ACC officials got it wrong. The Miami Miracle should be the Miami Mis-Call. The Hurricanes’ eight-lateral kick return for a touchdown to beat Duke was a beauty, a welcome addition to the great finishes in sports history. But it shouldn’t have counted. Enough video evidence exists that replay officials should have ruled a Miami player down before one of the laterals, and picking up the flag for an illegal block in the back was either poorly explained or a blatant violation of what can and can’t be reviewed.

2. The Pac-12 survives. The league’s best hope, Stanford, escaped Washington State when the Cougars’ Erik Powell, who made five field goals in the game, hooked a 43-yarder as time expired. The Cardinal held on 30-28, their seventh consecutive victory. Stanford has beaten USC and UCLA, and could knock off Oregon, Notre Dame and the Pac-12 North champ to finish 12-1. How could you leave THAT team out of the playoff?

3. Florida has won the SEC East. The Gators shoveled dirt onto Georgia’s grave with a 27-3 beat-down that moved first-year coach Jim McElwain into the 99.9 percentile of winning the league’s Coach of the Year honors. Florida is one league victory (or one Vanderbilt loss) away from advancing to the SEC title game. That should happen this Saturday when Florida plays host to the Commodores.

4. Ohio State has more QB drama. Having finally identified J.T. Barrett as the starter, Ohio State had to suspend the sophomore for this week’s game against Minnesota after he was cited for a misdemeanor offense of operating a vehicle while impaired. Will Urban Meyer extended the punishment into the final three games?

5. Dana Holgersen can’t make up his mind. A couple of weeks ago, he called Baylor receiver Corey Coleman “the best player in college football.” He said the exact same thing Thursday night about TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, who scorched his defense for 388 passing yards and 84 rushing yards. If only Leonard Fournette played against the West Virginia defense.

5 true freshman QBs to watch

Eleven teams in Power 5 conferences (that’s roughly one out of six) have already started a true freshman at quarterback this season, and that will become 12 this week as Baylor has to replace injured Seth Russell, out for the season.

Here are five critical QB rookies to keep an eye on down the stretch:

1. Jarrett Stidham, Baylor. We’ll find out if the Bears truly have a plug-and-play quarterback system as they head into the difficult part of their schedule with Stidham at the helm. One of the top recruits in the 2015 class, Stidham has looked good — “very polished” is the way coach Art Briles put it — in a limited role.

2. Josh Rosen, UCLA. A starter from the opening game, “The Rosen One” has the 6-2 Bruins still in the hunt for the Pac-12 South crown. His biggest mistake came off the field, when he posted a picture of his dorm-room hot tub, a violation of the school’s housing rules. It had to be removed. Rookie move with the social media.

3. Kyler Murray, Texas A&M. He won a three-way race in practice last week and supplanted Kyle Allen, who had started 12 consecutive games. Showing poise and ball security, Murray accounted for 223 passing yards and a team-high 156 rushing yards in a 35-28 win over South Carolina in his starting debut.

4. Lamar Jackson, Louisville. He’s taken charge of what had been a wide-open position for the Cardinals, although he had to leave Saturday’s win over Wake Forest because of an ankle injury. He has three 100-yard rushing games and a 300-yard passing effort (307 vs. Florida State) to his credit.

5. Jake Browning, Washington. Browning, overshadowed by Rosen in the Pac-12, was considered an elite prospect in his own right, and he’s coming off a five-touchdown performance against Arizona (four passing, one rushing). Exhibit A for why Chris Petersen will get things rolling in Seattle: A true freshman backfield of Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. Big game for Washington this week, hosting Utah.

5 top Heisman candidates

1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU. He’s averaging 193.1 rushing yards per game, 45 more than second-place Dalvin Cook of Florida State. His front-runner status is on the line Saturday at Alabama.

2. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU. The senior is closing the gap on Fournette, and his latest evidence was 388 passing yards and 88 rushing yards against West Virginia. High fives all around.

3. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford. The nation’s leader in all-purpose yards (244.25), McCaffrey had a somewhat quiet game in the close call at Washington State. But he had a key 30-yard run on the go-ahead drive, and his mere presence likely cleared the way for QB Kevin Hogan to make hay on the ground.

4. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor. With 18 touchdown receptions, he now has to establish a new sixth sense with freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State. He’s topped 100 yards rushing in each game, is averaging 6.8 per carry, and has rushed for 13 TDs. And it seems like he hasn’t really even gotten hot yet.

5 best week 10 games

1. LSU at Alabama. Big. Boy. Football. The Tide has won four in a row in the series, and the Tigers haven’t topped 17 points against Nick Saban’s defense in any of the previous five.

2. Florida State at Clemson. The Tigers are in position to beat the Seminoles for the first time since 2011 and clear their biggest remaining hurdle en route to the College Football Playoff.

3. TCU at Oklahoma State. The round robin at the top of the Big 12 begins. First to 60 points?

4. Notre Dame at Pitt. The Irish have to stay “up” after a rivalry win over USC and a physical game against Temple. Pat Narduzzi’s Pitt team is playing good defense (shocking, we know) and its only losses were close calls to Iowa and North Carolina, teams with a combined one loss.

5. Duke at North Carolina. How does Duke bounce back from that gut-wrenching loss to Miami? No time to waste, because the Blue Devils still control their destiny in the ACC Coastal, which is led by the Tar Heels at 4-0 in the league and 7-0 overall. Film Room Review

Analyst Rob Rang’s five prospect takeaways for this week. Players listed including position, school, year (Height, weight and current overall rating and by position).

5. LB Tyler Matakevich, Temple, 6-0, 232, Sr. (#73 overall, #8 OLB): In reaching 100-plus tackles for the fourth consecutive season, Matakevich displayed his trademark toughness in overcoming his lack of elite size and speed. He plays with great anticipation and made several plays in coverage, although he does make too many tackles while falling backward.

4. DT Jonathan Bullard, Florida, 6-3, 283, Sr. (#41/#6): Alternately lining up at left and right tackle, Bullard shut down Georgia’s rushing lanes, helping to limit the Bulldogs to just 69 yards. Bullard is appropriately named as his game is about bullish power, and his value lies in his ability to hold up at the point of attack in the running game.

3. CB Tavon Young, Temple, 5-9, 180, Sr. (NR/# 88): Shadowing Irish wide receiver William Fuller much of the night, Young showed the quick feet, hand-eye coordination and self-confidence to project as a nickel defender at the next level.

2. DT Matt Ioannides, Temple, 6-3, 292, Sr. (#242/#21): He attracted as many as three Notre Dame linemen while eating up blockers all night. Ioannides gives terrific effort and while he lacks ideal bulk, he causes problems with his quickness and technique.

1. WR Dosh Doctson, TCU, 6-2, 195, Sr. (#37/#4): Scouts from more than half the NFL teams and at least one general manager were on-hand to watch Doctson set a new school record for receptions in a season against West Virginia. Big numbers are expected for the featured target in TCU’s offense, but Doctson has an athletic and well-developed physique that will translate well to the NFL.