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Mid-Season College Football Report Entering Week 9

The Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0) proved they are the best team in the nation after their dominating home victory over previously unbeaten and 6th ranked Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa on Saturday (33-14). The Crimson Tide held the Aggies to 278 total yards of offense and scored a defensive touchdown in the team’s 12th consecutive game. Alabama now holds a 20 game winning streak heading into week 9 and has shown great consistency with freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts at the helm .

Hurts has shown maturity much beyond his age and is a lethal runner that has given offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffen, multiple options to attack opposing defenses. Hurts has completed 63% of his passes for 1,549 yards with 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Alabama has averaged 43.9 points per game and has had a balanced attack that is averaging 268 rushing yards per game and 229 passing yards per game.

The Crimson Tide’s road to the National Championship will depend on key games in November between the LSU Tigers (Nov. 5th) and the Auburn Tigers (Nov. 26th). Alabama is allowing 14.9 points per game to their opponents and is giving up 87 rushing yards per game. The Crimson Tide have recorded 32 sacks through the first 8 games and are +4 in turnover margin.

In order for Alabama to repeat as champions, they must be able to overcome adversity with the loss of senior safety Eddie Jackson in the victory over Texas A&M. Jackson is the leader of the secondary that is giving up 204 passing yards per game and was utilized as the team’s punt returner. Jackson broke his leg in the home win and will not be available if the Crimson Tide make it to the Playoff. On the season, Jackson had one interception that was returned for a touchdown along with a punt return for a score.

Alabama has beaten top 25 teams such as: USC, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M with ease and will rely on their top ranked defense to carry them into marquee battles in November that will dictate whether the Crimson Tide are to make the College Football Playoff.

From the “Vegas Angle”, Alabama has covered 5 of 8 games as a favorite this season and will be favorite throughout their remaining games for November.

Even though the Crimson Tide have looked like the clear front-runner to capture the crown, there are a number of teams in the top 10 that have an opportunity to hoist the trophy in January.

The Clemson Tigers (7-0) are happy to be undefeated after their narrow escape at home two weeks ago against NC State and face a major test in Tallahassee against the Florida State Seminoles this coming Saturday. Clemson has not looked liked the same team that challenged Alabama in the National Championship game last season. However, the Tigers still have one of the best quarterbacks in college football in DeShaun Watson.

Watson has completed 63% of his passes for 1,950 yards with 20 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. However, last year Watson rushed for 1,104 yards with 12 touchdowns on the ground. Entering the week 9 match-up with the Seminoles, Watson has rushed for 279 yards with one touchdown.

If the Tigers are to make a run at the Playoff, they will need to utilize Watson’s strengths to keep opposing defenses off balance. On the year, Clemson is averaging 36.6 points per game and is rushing for 169 yards per game along with passing for 304 yards per game. In comparison to last year’s offense, the Tigers had a more balanced offense last year rushing for 224 yards on the ground per game and passing for 291 yards per game.

If with the offensive inefficiencies this season, Clemson still has a solid defense that can carry them to the title. The Tigers are allowing 15.3 points per game and are giving up 132 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses. The strength of the defense has been the secondary that is allowing 166 passing yards per game and has recorded 11 interceptions through the team’s first seven games. More importantly, has been the fact that the defense is holding opposing quarterbacks to 50% completion percentage on the year.

Clemson has beaten two top 25 opponents in Auburn and Louisville this season. From the “Vegas Angle”, the Tigers are 3-3 ATS and will look to gain momentum this Saturday against the Seminoles. Clemson faces a November schedule that could propel them to the Playoff. Outside of the match-up against Pittsburgh (5-2), the Tigers face Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina.

The Michigan Wolverines (7-0) and Washington Huskies (7-0) both benefitted from the Ohio State (6-1) loss in Happy Valley (24-21).

Michigan has looked very sharp defensively, steamrolling opponents in the Big 10 this season. The Wolverines have allowed 10 points per game and are led by one of the best players in the nation-outside linebacker Jabril Peppers.

Peppers, is a physical speciman that is an all-around freak of nature. He is a fierce hitter that can run sideline to sideline to make plays in the run game. He has recorded 41 total tackles but what makes him unique is his ability to locate the football at all times.

Opposing offensive lines must account for Peppers on every play as Jim Harbaugh and the staff utilize him in multiple defensive looks because of his versatility. This puts pressure on offenses to adjust their play calling which plays right into the Wolverine’s strength as a defensive unit. Michigan is allowing 96 rushing yards per game and is giving up only 111 passing yards to opposing offenses. That statistic is mind boggling. When you think of spread offensive attacks that like to run up-tempo offenses that pass 70% of time for the defense to be holding opposing offenses to a little over a hundred yards per game makes them one of the stingiest units in college football.

The Wolverines enter week 9 with a turnover margin that has helped them create short fields for their offense (+7 in turnover margin in 2016). This is probably the biggest turnaround from the past two seasons. In 2014, Michigan had one of the worst margins in the nation with former head coach Brady Hoke at -16. In 2015, even though the Wolverines won 10 games, the team still finished the season at -4. Now with the ability to create turnovers, fans are seeing the offense put up over 48 points per game in 2016. Michigan is rushing for 257 yards per game and passing for 225 yards per game.

If the Wolverines are to make the Playoff, it starts with arch rival Michigan State in East Lansing. Michigan has three top 25 opponents this season in Colorado, Penn State and Wisconsin. However, only the Badgers were ranked at the time the Wolverines played them. Both Colorado and Penn State have entered the top 25 in recent weeks. Should the Wolverines make it through the Spartans they still must get past Iowa and Ohio State, both on the road to close out the month of November.

From the “Vegas Angle”, Michigan is 4-3 ATS and has been favorite by double digits in every game in 2016.

Washington faces its stiffest test this Saturday on the road in Salt Lake City against Utah (7-1). The Huskies have looked very impressive after their domination earlier in the year against Stanford (44-6). The Huskies have a balanced offense led by sophomore quarterback Jake Browning. On the season, Browning has completed 68.6% of his passes for 1,709 yards with 26 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. The offense is averaging 48.3 points per game and is rushing for 227 yards per game on the ground along with passing for 259 yards per game through the air this season.

Washington has brought a physicality back the PAC-12 this year not seen in recent years. This could possibly be the team from the West to challenge Alabama for the title. Defensively, the Huskies are allowing 14.6 points per game and are among the top in FBS in sacks (25) and turnover margin (+14). The defense is allowing 145 rushing yards per game and only 173 passing yards to opposing offenses.

If the Huskies win this weekend in Salt Lake City, the road to the Playoff still has major hurdles with games against USC, Arizona State and arch-rival Washington State in the month of November.

From the “Vegas Angle”, the team is 4-2 against the number this season.

Outside the top 4, there are a number of teams that can make their claim to be in the Playoff come December. Louisville and Heisman front-runner Lamar Jackson are waiting in the wings. The Cardinals lost a close game in Death Valley earlier in the season (42-36) and have to win out in the month of November to stake their claim as one of the four best teams in the nation.

Jackson, is the catalyst for the Louisville offense. As he goes so does the Cardinals. The offense is averaging 52.6 points per game with Jackson accounting for 34 of the team’s 47 total touchdowns in 2016 or 72.3%.

Jackson has completed 68.6% of his passes for 2,161 yards with 18 passing touchdowns while rushing for 908 yards on the ground with 16 scores.

The Cardinals biggest win this season was the complete domination of top-ranked Florida State at home-63-20.

From the “Vegas Angle”, the team has covered 5 of 7 games this year and must face Virginia this weekend along with November games against Boston College, Wake Forest, Houston and Kentucky to round out their year.

Entering the season many believed the Buckeyes would struggle with only 6 total starters returning (3 offense, 3 defense). However, after their dominating road win in Norman, the team catapulted into the top 5 and had many fans thinking the Buckeyes would be in a position to shock the college football world like they did in 2014.

However, those dreams were put on hold when the team suffered a shocking 24-21 loss to 20 point underdog- Penn State.

Even though Ohio State lost this past weekend, the Buckeyes still have the schedule to make the Playoff. The Buckeyes face Northwestern, Nebraska, Michigan State and Michigan. Ohio State will need some help and will be rooting for the Wolverines to run the Big 10 schedule up until the November 26th game with their arch rival.

Ohio State has had quality wins over Oklahoma and Wisconsin both on the road this year and will look to rebound after key breakdowns in the special teams unit this past Saturday. Quarterback J.T Barrett is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the nation and has accounted for 23 total touchdowns (17 passing, 6 rushing).

From the “Vegas Angle”, the Buckeyes are 4-3 ATS and have lost three straight games against the number.

 

Stock Report:

Up: Wisconsin

The Badgers started their year with an upset win over top 5 LSU in Green Bay and followed that up with a dominating win over Michigan State 30-6 in East Lansing. Wisconsin is sitting in the top 10 after narrow losses to both Michigan and Ohio State both by 7 points each. The Badgers are coming off of a solid road win in Iowa 17-6 and can make their claim if they are to make it to the Big 10 Championship game. The Badgers will need to win this weekend against Nebraska and hope for a little luck the rest of the way. Their November schedule is very manageable with remaining games against Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois.

From the “Vegas Angle”, the Badgers are 6-1 ATS entering week 9.

Up: LSU

After a disasterous start to the season that saw the Tigers lose to Wisconsin and Auburn, the Tigers could be one of the hottest teams entering November with interim coach Ed Ogeron. After the disappointing road loss in Auburn 18-13, the Tigers have reeled off three straight wins over Missouri, Southern Mississippi and Ole Miss outscoring them 125-38. LSU has the schedule to make its claim for the Playoff with November games with top ranked Alabama and top 10 opponent Texas A&M. If the Tigers can win both of those games and get some help with an Auburn loss in conference, LSU will represent the West in the SEC Championship game. Running back Leonard Fournette returned to the lineup this past weekend and rushed for 284 yards with 3 touchdowns in the home win over the Rebels 38-21. If Fournette can remain healthy, this team could be peaking at just the right time for a post season berth.

From the “Vegas Angle”, the Tigers are 3-4 ATS this season.

Up: Texas A&M

The Aggies are sitting at 6-1 after their road loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide (33-14). However, the team has had top 25 wins over UCLA, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee this season and still faces a November schedule that has Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU on tap. The Aggies have played very well this year with the addition of quarterback Trevor Knight. Knight has brought stability to the offense and has transformed it into one of the most balanced offenses in the nation. Texas A&M will need help to reach the Playoff, but must first root for both LSU and Auburn to knock off Alabama later in the month. If that plays out and the Aggies win their remaining games on their schedule, they will represent the SEC West in the Championship game holding the tie-breaker over Auburn.

Texas A&M is averaging 36.1 points per game and is allowing 21.1 points per game. From the “Vegas Angle”, the Aggies are 3-2-1 ATS.

Up: Auburn

Gus Malzhan has turned things around after a slow start this year. Auburn is fresh off of a 56-3 dominating home win over top 25 opponent Arkansas in which the offense rushed for over 500 yards on the ground. The Tigers are averaging 35 points per game and are allowing 14 points per game this year. There seems to be great optimism in recent weeks surrounding this team, however, the November schedule will dictate whether this team is in fact a legitimate contender in the SEC West. Auburn faces Ole Miss this weekend and must play Vanderbilt, Georgia and Alabama to close out their year. If the Tigers are to win out and receive a little help from its SEC counterparts, the Tigers could represent the West in the SEC Championship. Auburn defeated LSU earlier in the year and enters week 9 sitting at 5-2 overall.

From the “Vegas Angle”, the Tigers are 6-1 ATS this year.

Up: Colorado

After the Buffaloes 10-5 win over Stanford this weekend, the Buffaloes are sitting atop the PAC-12 South division. The team has bought into head coach Mike McIntrye’s philosophy and the Buffaloes are bringing a blue collar mentality to the conference with their physicality on defense (18.1 points per game allowed) and their ability to run the football between the tackles (216 rushing yards per game).   Colorado lost to Michigan and USC on the road this year but has quality wins over Oregon, Arizona State and Stanford.

From the “Vegas Angle”, the Buffaloes have made their backers very happy covering all of their games this year (8-0 ATS).

Up: Western Michigan

The Broncos are in the top 25 and have quality wins over Northwestern, Illinois, Central Michigan and Akron on their 2016 resume. The Broncos are +12 in turnover margin and have feasted on creating turnovers this season. Quarterback Zach Terrell leads a potent offense that is averaging 44 points per game. Terrell has completed 72% of his passes for 1,995 yards with 20 touchdowns and only one interception. If the Broncos win out their November schedule and win the MAC Championship, the team can make its claim as the non-Power 5 invite to the New Year’s Bowl game. However, that schedule still includes a November 25th match-up with the Toledo Rockets.

Up: West Virginia

While many are not even considering a Big 12 team to crack the Playoff this season, the Mountaineers are slowly going about their business and are undefeated entering week 9. The Mountaineers have quality wins over Missouri, BYU and TCU. The most impressive part about this team has been the defense’s ability to force teams to methodically work down the field and kick field goals instead of touchdowns. Defensively, the Mountaineers are allowing 17 points per game and are very solid at the point of attack this season. However, the stakes will kick up a notch with a road trip to Stillwater this Saturday along with a November schedule that includes: Oklahoma and Baylor.

From the “Vegas Angle”, the Mountaineers are 3-2 ATS.

 

Down: Notre Dame

This team was a top 10 team entering the 2016 season and after week 8 , the Fighting Irish are fighting to become bowl eligible at 2-5 overall. Notre Dame lost to Texas week one along with home losses to Michigan State, Duke and Stanford. In order to make a bowl, the Fighting Irish must win 4 of 5 games against Miami, Navy, Army, Virginia Tech and USC.

Notre Dame is 2-5 ATS from the “Vegas Angle”.

Down: Michigan State

This was one of the four best teams in the nation in 2015 making the Playoff last season. After their disappointing road loss in Maryland this past weekend, the Spartans have lost five straight games against Wisconsin, Indiana, BYU, Northwestern and the Terps. The schedule does not get easier with remaining games against Michigan, Illinois, Rutgers, Ohio State and Penn State to end November.

The Spartans are 1-6 ATS this year from the “Vegas Angle”.

Down: Florida State

The Seminoles were picked by many to win the ACC this year with 10 returning starters coming back on offense. However, after a blowout loss to Louisville and a home loss to North Carolina, the Seminoles seem to be walking through the motions. Florida State still plays Clemson and arch rival Florida to end the season, but this team will need major help to make the Playoff. The Seminoles best win on their 2016 resume is a week one win against Ole Miss who now has lost 4 games this season.

Defensively, the Seminoles are allowing 28.6 points per game and are giving a mind boggling 233 passing yards per game this year.

FSU is 3-3 ATS from the “Vegas Angle” in 2016.

Down: Oklahoma

Big game Bob Stoops has seemed to lose his identity over the last five seasons. For a coach that made his mark on the defensive side of the ball the Sooners have a team that is allowing 36.7 points per game and 342 passing yards to opposing offenses which ranks 125th of 126 teams in FBS.

An Oklahoma quality win in 2016 is a 52-46 road win in Fort Worth over the TCU Horned Frogs.

Oklahoma has lost both games to top 25 teams this year Ohio State and Houston. From the “Vegas Angle”, the Sooners are 3-4 ATS.

Down: Texas

See Oklahoma above. This was supposed to be the season that head coach Charlie Strong cultivated all of that freshman talent on the defensive side of the football that allowed 30 points per game in 2015 (highest since prior to 2008). Last year, Texas allowed 219 rushing yards per game and 233 passing yards per game (most since 2008-259ypg). All of the experts commented it was just a matter of time until the “kids” got the game experience. Well, the Longhorns are giving up 32.6 points per game in 2016 along with 263 passing yards to opposing offenses. Texas is sitting at 3-4 overall and its one quality win is over Notre Dame week one who is 2-5 overall.

If the Longhorns are to make a bowl they will need to rip off three wins of their remaining five games against Baylor, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU.

From the “Vegas Angle”, Texas is 4-3 ATS this season.

 Down: Oregon

The Ducks have proved that 147 uniform combinations do not run, pass or tackle contrary to popular belief. While many college athletes want to go to the school with the flashiest uniforms and best turf field- they realize that they still have to play the game. The uniform is not a suit of armor like a Marvel comic book story.

Head coach Mark Helfrich seems like a “deer in the headlights” and is overmatched by better coached teams within the conference (case in point-CAL with head coach Sonny Dykes). Helfrich has not coached talent up in Eugene, but rather coached it down. Oregon is allowing 43 points per game to opposing offenses along with 290 passing yards per game.

The Ducks have no quality wins (UC-Davis and Virginia) and must face a November schedule that includes: Arizona State, USC, Stanford, Utah and Oregon State. The team must win four of the last five to become bowl eligible.

Down: Stanford

Remember when all of the media on the West coast was handing the 2016 Heisman Trophy to running back Christian McCaffrey?

Well, since that demoralizing 44-6 loss in Seattle the wheels have come off the Cardinal. Stanford enters week 9 coming off a disappointing home loss to Colorado 10-5 and is a paltry 4-3 overall in 2016. The offense is averaging 17 points per game and sorely misses former quarterback Kevin Hogan who brought big game experience to the huddle.

McCaffrey has not been able to stay healthy and has accounted for 4 touchdowns on the season. The Cardinal have remaining games against Arizona, Oregon State, Oregon, CAL and Rice. The team should be a favorite in almost every game and if they run the table will still make this list for pre-season expectations and hype surrounding their running back.

Stanford is 3-4 ATS this year from the “Vegas Angle”.

About Joseph Lisi

Joseph Lisi is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America), the Maxwell Football Club and the National Football Foundation. He is the owner of the website: www.goforthe2.com and hosts a weekly college football radio show on SB Nation Radio and FNSTY Sports Radio from 10-12pm EST every Saturday morning. Listen live at: www.sbnationradio.com or www.fntsy.com/radio. Joseph is a former college football researcher for ABC Sports and has been featured on: SportsXRadio with Ken Thomson, ESPN Radio, Sirius XM Radio, FNTSY Sports Network, the Sid Rosenberg Show (640 AM Sports-South Florida), 1560 AM CBS Sports Melbourne, FL and multiple media outlets throughout the nation. Joe appears every Friday with Ken Thomson on SportsXRadio for the Football Fiasco in which every game on the college board is broken down during the show. Follow Joe on Twitter: @goforthe2

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