Things we know about this college football season
If you’re a college football fan, you probably listen to the Corso’s and Herbstreit’s of the world tell you which teams have realistic shot to win a national championship before the kickoff of the first game. A couple of weeks into the new season, there are five things college football fans should already know about this year’s national championship landscape.
First, in the SEC, there is Alabama, and everyone else is playing for second place. I realize the LSU is ranked No. 2 in the latest polls, but their wins against North Texas, Idaho, and my beloved Washington Huskies did not look nearly as impressive as the Crimson Tide’s victories against Western Kentucky, and perennial powerhouses Michigan and Arkansas. When teams take the field against Alabama this season, they will know that the starting 22 players for the Crimson Tide may all have the opportunity to play on Sundays.
Second, the ACC is going to be decided this weekend when Florida State and Clemson clash in Tallahassee. Virginia Tech looks like they are in a rebuilding year after their 35-17 loss to Pittsburgh, Miami looked like a high school team against Kansas State, and Georgia Tech doesn’t look like they have the athletes to compete with the Tigers or the Seminoles. Whoever wins this weekend’s game has a chance to go undefeated the rest of the season, and play in the national championship game against an SEC school (we all know at least one of their teams is going).
Third, UCLA and Stanford can compete with Oregon for the Pac-12 title this season. The Bruins shocked the football world by knocking off Nebraska in Lincoln, and have a favorable schedule up until the end of the season when they play USC and Stanford for their final two games, which are both at home.
If UCLA can even split their last two games, and finish 11-1, they are likely to earn a spot in a BCS game, and first-year coach Jim Mora will be a strong candidate for national coach of the year honors. In comparison, the loss of Andrew Luck hasn’t slowed down Stanford, who just defeated USC for the fourth straight year.
However, unlike UCLA, Stanford has to play Oregon, a team they have lost to in four out of their last five meetings. Though they also have to play against a tough Notre Dame squad, Stanford has shown they do have the players to win ten or more games this season, and can earn themselves another trip to a BCS game.
Fourth, and speaking of Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish have looked solid in their wins against Navy, Purdue, and Michigan State so far this season. I’m not totally sold on Notre Dame playing in the national championship game, but this 2012 squad is playing much better than any of the Irish teams in the last five years.
Though they still have tough games against Michigan, Stanford, USC, and Oklahoma this season, Notre Dame has a strong chance of winning at least nine games, which would likely influence voters to help get them ranked in the top 14 in the BCS standings, thus making the Fighting Irish eligible to play in their first BCS bowl game since the 2006 Fiesta Bowl.
And fifth, special teams may influence the outcome of conference and the national championships this season.
Already in 2012, fans have seen Penn State lose to Virginia because their kicker missed four field goals in a single game.
BYU lost to Utah after the its kicker missed two consecutive attempts that would have sent the game into overtime, and Missouri still managed to pull out a win against Arizona State despite the Tiger kicker missing three field goals that allowed the Sun Devils to stay in the ball game.
Many head coaches have said they don’t believe in giving a scholarship to a kicker, but if a team ends up in a situation like Boise State did in 2010 and 2011 (losing games against Nevada and TCU, respectively, after their kicker missed makeable field goals), they may want to rethink the importance of having a reliable player who can get them three points on the board. For this reason, Florida State may want to be cautious about the Clemson kicker, Chandler Catanzaro, this weekend.
The junior from Greenville, South Carolina has made 76 percent of his career field goal attempts, and is 6-for-6 so far this season.