College football has been a beloved pastime in the United States for over 150 years. From the first game of Rutgers vs. Princeton in 1869 to the upcoming matchup between Tennessee and Georgia, it has always been a favored choice for how to spend a Saturday afternoon. This season has been full of surprises and feel-good stories. With only four weeks left before conference championship week, there is a lot to discuss.
Ever since the NCAA moved to the College Football Playoff format in 2014, there have been four teams that play in a mini-tournament, with a semi-final and a championship game. Week 10 is the first week that the CFP committee ranks the top 25 teams to determine how close each individual team is to making the playoffs. This poll usually lines up with the typical form of rankings done by the Associated Press as well as the collection of coaches. This week the top four consists of all undefeated teams which include, in ascending order, Tennessee, Ohio State, Georgia and Clemson. Michigan and Alabama are trailing right behind.
This week we have the assumed best game of the season coming up with the aforementioned Tennessee and Georgia game. Georgia is the defending national champion and Tennessee is undefeated in addition to knocking off Alabama three weeks ago, a feat that not many teams have done at all in the last 15 seasons during the Nick Saban era. Georgia was able to accomplish this same feat in January to win the national title, something the school hasn’t done in over 40 years. Tennessee has also beaten some solid teams including Kentucky, LSU and Florida in addition to the Crimson Tide. This has been the hottest start in Volunteer history and a complete turnaround for a program that has been mediocre for decades now. They have been able to do it because of their Heisman Trophy-hopeful quarterback Hendon Hooker, who has thrown a grand total of 21 touchdowns compared to just one interception through nine games.
Other Heisman hopefuls this season include Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud, the reigning Heisman-winner Alabama QB Bryce Young, USC QB Caleb Williams and UNC QB Drake Maye. Stroud and Young are predicted to be the top three picks in the upcoming NFL draft and the others remain a question on where they will land.
There have been plenty of good and bad surprise teams this year. Starting with the bad, Oklahoma has been a complete disappointment. They currently sit seventh in the Big 12 and are not ranked, which is a very rare occurrence for the storied Sooners. They were ranked No. 6 after week four, but losses in four conference games to Kansas State, TCU, Baylor and Texas have put the proverbial nail in the coffin for their season. Staying in the Big 12 for a good surprise, Kansas has clinched their first winning record since 2008. The Jayhawks have had a complete turnaround due to the fantastic coaching of Lance Leipold.
There are only four regular season games left before conference championship week. A lot can change over the course of a month, but here are the predictions for future matchups based on the current standings. In the ACC, Clemson looks to host UNC, a matchup we have become accustomed to over the last decade or so. In the Big 12, it looks to be a matchup that neither team has seen in a while with TCU looking to go against Texas. For the Big 10, Illinois has the West division on lock, but in the East, both Ohio State and Michigan are undefeated. A week 13 matchup will decide the fate of who represents them in the championship game. In the PAC 12, Oregon, USC and UCLA sit at 8-1, but unless anything crazy happens, it will most likely be the first two teams fighting it out to end the conference play season. Finally, for the SEC — the best conference in the nation — it may be a rematch of the national championship between Georgia and Alabama. However, both of those teams are not as strong as they were a year ago and have Tennessee and LSU nipping at their respective heels.