It feels as though the first five weeks of College Football was more dress rehearsal than live performance. The upsets were tame, the rivalries were dull, and far too many games were still to be played before the playoff picture started to come into view. Well, that’s no longer the case as week six delivered a bevy of note-worthy moments that sent shock waves throughout the country. Let’s see who’s trending up, and who’s trending down as CFB nears the halfway mark.
Stock Up: NC State
As Thursday Night Football in the NFL featured the glitz and glamour of Tom Brady, the college game was treated to a more blue collar performance from one of the nations most unheralded squads. The NC State Wolfpack stifled the reigning Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson and established themselves as potentially the biggest threat to Clemson’s ACC championship dreams. This wily pack of wolves are a senior-laden side that has a ferocious front seven and a balanced offense that allows them to score through a variety of different avenues. The down to the wire loss to South Carolina early in the season is the only reason NC State isn’t currently in the discussion as a top ten team but make no mistake about it, the power void created by the struggles of FSU and Louisville has been filled in nicely by this tenacious Wolfpack side.
Stock Down: Big-12 Playoff Dreams
I like the Big-12 this year, I really do. It’s a deep conference playing surprisingly quality defense and features the resurgence and intrigue from it’s bell cow programs that is necessary to make a conference nationally relevant. With that said, something is wrong with the structure of the Big-12. After Oklahoma’s surprising upset at the hands of a feisty Iowa State side, the Big-12’s last playoff hope is TCU, a very capable program but one that has a brutal schedule moving forward and barely escaped against WVU over this past weekend. Even if a one loss or undefeated team makes it through the regular season on the fringe of playoff contention, the newly instituted Big-12 championship game serves as just another roadblock to the playoffs rather than the springboard it was designed to be. The conference needs a make over. Switch to divisions and trash the round robin schedule. Try expansion as a way to introduce new blood and variety into the Big-12. Just do something because the conference will be on life support if it misses out on three of the first four CFB playoffs. In case you want to get radical about it, I’ll just leave this link right here…
Stock Up: Miami Hurricanes
That’s right, it’s going to be more ACC talk but the conference really earned it over the past weekend. I’m hesitant to say that the U is back considering they beat a three loss Florida State side starting a true freshman quarterback but, rivalry wins mean something extra and you can’t get caught up in excuses (I’m looking at you Michigan…) Miami won what may have been the most exciting game of the season so far and kept pace with NC State and Clemson at the top of the ACC hierarchy. Mark Richt has his alma mater on the right track and the buzz in Corral Cables is reverberating around the country. With Florida floundering and the Seminoles hitting an unusual rough patch, the U has all the momentum in-state, both on the recruiting trail and on the field.
Stock Down: Michigan
The rebuild is still very much going on in Ann Arbor no matter what certain national pundits proclaim or what hopelessly optimistic maize-n-blue faithful want to suggest. Michigan’s loss to their second biggest rival this weekend, regardless of the unflattering weather, shows just how much work needs to still be done in Ann Arbor. The offense is stagnating, and that’s probably being generous. The play-calling is shotty and the offensive line has remained an issue for about a decade now. My assumption is still that Harbaugh will turn things around at some point, becuase it’s what he has always done, but this loss is the most adversity the program has faced since it hired the eccentric coach roughly three years ago. The absence of a capable quarterback is worrisome and the inability to capitalize on arguably the nations top defense only exaggerates the deficiencies on the opposite side of the ball. The CFB season is not yet at the halfway point, and with a smothering defensive group led by coordinating genius Don Brown it’s hard to expect Michigan will be unable to reach double digit wins, but regardless of this seemingly high floor, the Wolverines have a serious amount of doubt they must address.