In college football there are always certain teams at the top of the ladder. Teams like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State seem to always be in the mix, but thanks to a lot of upsets, this season has been anything but predictable.
There are two teams that have risen to the top of their conferences and surprisingly, have a very good chance of having a shot at the playoffs: Iowa and Cincinnati.
Coming into this season Iowa was ranked number 10 in the AP poll, but no one expected their recent level of success. With their victory against Penn State, Iowa has a very strong chance of at least making the Big Ten championship game.
Iowa’s offense has looked very solid this year. Quarterback Spencer Petras has been a very solid game manager who really showed how he fights back after a rough start against Penn State; he bounced back and led Iowa to victory. This season he has a 60% completion percentage, 1138 yards and nine touchdowns.
Iowa’s running game has been shaky this year but their starting running back Tyler Goodson has had a very solid season so far. He has been inconsistent, but good enough to put up respectable stats. He has 518 yards on 124 attempts and five touchdowns.
Their receiving game has had no real standouts, but like many years, Iowa’s tight end position has been a strength. This year it is Sam Laporta, who is having a solid season with 23 receptions for 271 yards and two touchdowns.
The main reason Iowa has done as well as they have is because their defense has been great all season long. Led by potential Jim Thorpe winner Matt Hankins, Iowa’s defense has not given up more than 23 points in a single game all season. They have looked like one of the best defenses in the country this year.
In the front seven, Lukas Van Ness leads the team with four sacks. Linebacker Jack Campbell currently leads the team with 55 total tackles. Led by Hankins, the secondary has 14 interceptions, with four of them coming against seventh ranked Penn State.
Since the college football playoffs started back in 2014, there has always been a debate if a non-power five school can or should make it to the playoffs, but if any team could it would be Cincinnati after this season where they’ve successfully knocked off Notre Dame, who were ranked number nine in the country at the time.
Cincinnati is led by star quarterback Desmond Ridder, who is continuing his successful career for the Bearcats by completing 65.5% of his passes for 1304 yards and 12 touchdowns. If the Bearcats are to make it to the playoffs, it’ll be because of Ridder, who has the potential to be a top quarterback prospect in next year’s draft.
Cincinnati’s run game has been very good this year as well. Their run game is led by Jerome Ford, who is in his second season with the Bearcats after transferring from Alabama. In five games this season, he has had 82 carries for 516 yards and eight touchdowns, although he has not contributed much in the receiving game.
The receivers for the Bearcats have not been outstanding, but they get the job done. Their leading receiver is Alec Pierce, who has 21 receptions for 387 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Young is also a contributing receiver with 15 receptions for 163 yards and one touchdown.
The Bearcats defense has been outstanding this year, only giving up over 20 points one time all year. Impressively, they held a very good Notre Dame offense to just 13 points. Deshawn Pace leads the team in tackles with 40, Darrian Beavers leads the team in sacks with three and Arquon Bush, Pace and Ahmad Gardner are tied with two interceptions each.
This college football season has been extremely unpredictable thanks to all the upsets, leaving the playoff race wide open. But considering both Iowa and Cincinnati have easy schedules to finish the season, they have very good odds of reaching the college football playoffs for the first time.