Ohio State has best chance to spoil SEC's national championship party

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 									college football								,  									georgia bulldogs								,  									ohio state buckeyes								,  									penn state nittany lions								,  									zach to school

C.J. Stroud celebrates his touchdown pass to Chis Olave. Getty Images

It lost to the best team it faced. Its last three league wins have come over teams with a combined one conference victory. Its defense was shredded for 66 points by the two best offenses it has seen.

And, yet, Ohio State has looked every bit the way Ohio State is supposed to look over the past month, scoring 231 points and holding its last four opponents to 44. Freshman C.J. Stroud has emerged as a Heisman Trophy contender, the latest quarterback that coach Ryan Day has molded into an elite playmaker. The previously suspect defense has found its swagger, producing seven turnovers in the last four games. The skill positions are loaded with future pros such as Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson.

It gives me reason to believe the national champion isn’t a lock to come out of the SEC. Georgia is the clear-cut favorite and Alabama is the team many have pointed to as giving the Bulldogs the most trouble.

Ohio State, though, has played better over the last month than the Crimson Tide. It certainly has been more consistent than Nick Saban’s team, which lost to Texas A&M and struggled at home against mediocre Tennessee on Saturday.

We’ll learn more about the Buckeyes in the coming weeks, with games still remaining against the two undefeated Michigan teams, the Wolverines and Spartans, and a potential Big Ten title game with one-loss Iowa.

 									college football								,  									georgia bulldogs								,  									ohio state buckeyes								,  									penn state nittany lions								,  									zach to school

Steele Chambers dives for a fumble in the second quarter against Indiana.

Getty Images

Since losing to Oregon on Sept. 11, Ohio State has reeled off five straight wins over Tulsa, Akron, Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana. It has put up at least 41 points in all of those games. Now the caveat: Of those five, only Maryland, at 4-3, has a winning record. Its best win was the 45-31 season opener at Minnesota, which is tied with Iowa for the Big Ten West lead.

Day’s team still has a lot of proving to do. The résumé needs work. Plenty of questions remain. But the pieces are clearly there to make another national championship game run. Supposed top teams have struggled against the kind of weak opponents Ohio State has destroyed in recent weeks.

The Buckeyes are college football’s X factor — the team standing in the way of an all-SEC party in the College Football Playoff.

Over it

College football’s new overtime rules, intended to prevent extra-long games, is so poorly designed MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is in favor of it.

It gave us nine overtime sessions in the disaster that was Illinois’ 20-18 upset of Penn State. Of course, it wasn’t a true nine overtimes. The rules have changed that. After the first two overtime periods, instead of each team starting at the other’s 25-yard-line, we go right into two-point conversions.

Penn State and Illinois combined to miss on their first 10 two-point tries before both converting in the eighth overtime. Illinois mercifully ended it on Brandon Peters’ scoring strike to Casey Washington in the following stanza.

It made a mockery of the sport and gave extra attention to a game that really didn’t deserve it. I’m praying college basketball doesn’t get any ideas from this.

Eyes on the prize

The College Football Playoff may come down to Oklahoma or Cincinnati, one team leaving the Big 12 and another joining it. You’re going to hear so much about Cincinnati’s strength of schedule, the level of opponent it faces in the AAC. On social media, there was plenty of criticism of the Bearcats’ underwhelming victory over one-win Navy this weekend.

But let’s not forget how badly Oklahoma struggled with Big 12 punching bag Kansas. How underwhelming it has been all year against inferior opponents, beating the likes of Tulane, West Virginia, Nebraska and Kansas State by a single score. Cincinnati, meanwhile, has won six of its seven games by at least 11 points, including a road victory over Notre Dame. The AAC program wins the eye test and game-control comparison, which you hear so much about from the playoff committee every year. Hopefully, they remember that if it comes down to these two schools.

Top 10

1. Georgia (7-0) (Last week: 1)

Florida is the last roadblock between Georgia and a perfect regular season. The Gators may have three losses, but they are capable, particularly if Dan Mullen finally gives the ball to fantastic freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson.

2. Alabama (7-1) (3)

The Crimson Tide defense has alternated between stifling and porous. It dominated Ole Miss and Mississippi State, and was lit up by Texas A&M and Tennessee.

3. Ohio State (6-1) (5)

Ohio State’s last four wins, over Akron, Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana, have come by an aggregate of 231-44. It’s not elite competition, but it is certainly elite results.

4. Cincinnati (7-0) (2)

Yes, it was just one poor performance, an ugly showing in a narrow victory over one-win Navy. but Cincinnati really can’t afford any more of these.

 									college football								,  									georgia bulldogs								,  									ohio state buckeyes								,  									penn state nittany lions								,  									zach to school

Lincoln Riley

Getty Images

5. Oklahoma (8-0) (4)

The Sooners held a five-point lead over Kansas with 3:20 remaining, and the ball was at the Oklahoma 46-yard line. Instead of punting on fourth-and-1, Lincoln Riley went for it, which says all you need to know about what he thinks of his defense.

6. Michigan (7-0) (7)

Now we finally start to see what this Michigan team is made of, beginning Saturday in East Lansing against Michigan State. The Wolverines have beaten the teams on their schedule, but don’t have a single win that really stands out.

7. Michigan State (7-0) (8)

The last time Michigan State and Michigan were both ranked in the top 10 entering their annual showdown was 1964. The atmosphere at Spartan Stadium will be electric.

8. Ole Miss (6-1) (NR)

Lane Kiffin’s team has responded to the ugly loss at Alabama by beating Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU, keeping itself alive in the SEC West race.

9. Kentucky (6-1) (9)

Prior to Mark Stoops’ arrival, Kentucky had won double-digit games just twice in program history. It is on pace to do that for a second time in five seasons this year. He’s a name you don’t hear enough during the coaching carousel.

10. Oregon (6-1) (NR)

The Ducks’ playoff dream isn’t dead, but it has come close to being extinguished in nail-biting victories over Cal and UCLA the last two weeks.

Dropped out: Penn State (5-2) and Oklahoma State (6-1)

Heisman Watch

(in alphabetical order)

QB Matt Corral, Ole Miss

Playing through injuries, the junior produced two touchdowns in a win over LSU, extending his streak of at least two scores to 17 consecutive games.

QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

Two games up on Virginia, Pitt is in position to win the ACC Coastal division with Pickett leading the way. He’s thrown 23 touchdown passes and just one interception, emerging as one of the premier quarterbacks in the country.

 									college football								,  									georgia bulldogs								,  									ohio state buckeyes								,  									penn state nittany lions								,  									zach to school

Kenny Pickett

Getty Images

QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

It’s getting harder to imagine Stroud not getting a New York City invite as he stacks one eye-popping performance upon another, now with 14 touchdowns over his last three games without an interception and a 73.8 completion percentage.

RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State

This week Walker can make a statement by lighting up Michigan’s second-ranked scoring defense which has allowed just one 100-yard rusher in seven games.

QB Bryce Young, Alabama

The Heisman remains Young’s to lose, as he continues to pile up huge numbers. He had his best day yet on Saturday, producing four touchdowns and 413 total yards.

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