Welcome to the first Football Four Projection of 2018. Each week we’ll pick the Playoff bracket as if the season was over.* There’s not much body of work yet – only one data point per team – but some statements were made in Week 1. And there’s always the eye test, which mainly means we think this team is really, really good and so we’re putting them here.
1. Alabama – In a terrifying development for the rest of college football, the Tide was terrific with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, though let’s be honest. Louisville was not going to present much of a challenge. Still, we saw more than enough to know Alabama has a potential difference-maker at quarterback. Nick Saban can tiptoe around the truth and get peeved at the questions all he wants, but we already saw the answer.
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2. Auburn – There’s work to do, especially on offense. But Auburn’s win against a very good Washington team was the biggest statement of opening weekend, because the only unit that had more trouble getting from the red zone into the end zone than Auburn? Washington, which got close but kept coming up empty. Auburn’s defense has a chance to be dominant. The schedule is rugged, but Week 1 goes to the Tigers.
3. Ohio State – No Urban Meyer, no issues in the opener against Oregon State. But the bigger revelation was third-year sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who threw for 313 yards and unveiled the return of the deep passing game that, for all J.T. Barrett’s attributes, was absent during his tenure. Yeah, it was Oregon State. And the Buckeyes gave up some points. But after everything these last few weeks, a 77-31 victory resounds: Is it possible Ohio State can weather all the turmoil and be as good as we’d suspected they could be, anyway?
4. Oklahoma – The questions about how good the Sooners might be after Baker Mayfield’s departure were not answered in a 63-14 rout of Florida Atlantic – it was hard to tell whether OU was terrific or FAU was terrible – but Kyler Murray was very good in his debut, showing off those multi-dimensional tools. The Sooners’ defense seemed improved, too. Next up, UCLA.
5. Clemson – It’s possible the Tigers have two superb quarterbacks in Kelly Bryant and freshman Trevor Lawrence, but sure looks like Lawrence is the future – which might be very soon, though perhaps not this week, given an interesting test: a road game in College Station, where Texas A&M’s Fightin’ Aggies are fired up about Jimbo Fisher’s arrival.
6. Georgia – Another possible two-QB scenario? Probably not; Jake Fromm is the guy. But freshman Justin Fields showed why everyone has been very excited about his promise as the Bulldogs cruised past Austin Peay like they’re supposed to treat an FCS opponent.
7. Notre Dame – Yes, we know. The Fighting Irish must be overrated because Notre Dame. Or because never mind a new quarterback, Michigan seemed like the same, old offensively challenged bunch. Both of those things may be true. But we’ve got one week to go on, and that was a very impressive performance.
8. Wisconsin – In a 34-3 victory over Western Kentucky, the Badgers did what Badgers do: Bash their way to victory. The revamped defense was very good, but tougher tests await.
A Few More After That: ***
Washington – At 0-1, the Huskies’ margin for error may be gone, and the idea they’ll roll unbeaten through a nine-game Pac-12 schedule and then a conference title game? Yeah, it’s difficult. But even in a loss, Washington why it might be good enough to get there.
LSU – Yes, the domination of Miami (Fla.) counted as a Top 10 win … if we’re now suggesting preseason polls are super meaningful. Joe Burrow’s debut was unspectacular but promising, but offensive questions remain. Win at Auburn in two weeks and we’ll believe.
Penn State – Whew. That was close. Penn State teetered oh, so near the edge of an upset by Appalachian State, and then escaped in overtime. That defense that replaced eight starters gave up a ton of yards and points, but Trace McSorley made plays in very critical moments. There’s stuff to clean up, but the win is the thing. And did we say whew?
West Virginia – Quarterback Will Grier was as good as expected, and he’s got an array of playmakers to choose from. The Mountaineers were clearly superior to Tennessee, which was making its first outing under Jeremy Pruitt.
Virginia Tech – Well, that was impressive. A young bunch of Hokies traveled to Tallahassee and spoiled the debut of Willie Taggart at Florida State. Look down the schedule and at least for now circle Notre Dame in Blacksburg on Oct. 6. Could be sorta big.
Nowhere Close: ****
UCLA – Oh my.
Arizona – That was.
Michigan – Not good.
Texas – At all.
* The season is not over. It has only just begun.
** Don’t be worried that your team sits just outside the cut. This is a weekly snapshot. And what do we know, anyway?
*** See the previous note, but it’s OK to be slightly concerned or very angry. But what do we know, anyway?
**** No note necessary
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