On Tuesday, the first school playoffs for college football that disrupted the pandemic were revealed on Tuesday. Then came all sorts of righteous self-esteem, ritualism, and anger. The coming days will come with games that will fuel the cycle.
But this cycle – a staple in a sport that has sparked generations of fans with weekly displays of what is completely predictable and ridiculous – is more fragile than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Winning” might not be a sure way to sidewalk in the semi-finals of the Sugar Bowl or the Rose Bowl. Games can disappear from the schedule with only hours of warning, new matches may be added, and postponed matches may be revived. The team may miss the opportunity to play for a conference title due to the virus outbreak.
If the season continues, the final standings are expected to take place on December 20, shortly after several of the top teams have played for the leagues and only a year after the playoff list has received few complaints.
Meanwhile, the sound you hear, along with some of his cousin’s stuttering during a video chat or a smoke detector announcement that sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, may be just a real bickering between college football fans. Here are the best bands to argue about because, well, not everything is different in 2020.
No.1 Alabama (7-0)
Remaining matches: No. 22 Auburn in Arkansas
Nick Saban needs another national championship in Alabama to equal the six Bear Bryant titles with the Crimson Tide. Saban, one of the nation’s best defensive minds for years, has a road to that season with the best attack in Power 5 and 3rd league ever. Quarterback Mac Jones got into the mix in the race for the Heisman Cup, and Nagee Harris is a human highlight reel. But never sleep in the Iron Bowl match against Auburn, scheduled for Saturday in Tuscaloosa. However, Saban will not be on the sidelines: On Wednesday, Alabama said Saban, 69, had tested positive for the virus.
No. 2 Notre Dame (8-0)
The Remaining Games: No. 19 North Carolina, Syracuse, at Wake Forest
The Irish fighter, who plays at the Atlantic Coast Conference this year, passed his biggest test of the regular season this month when he defeated the underweight Clemson. Stay tuned, Kirin Williams, a returning sophomore, especially on Friday when Brian Kelly from Notre Dame and Mac Brown from North Carolina face each other for the first time. And remember, Notre Dame’s dealings with Clemson may never end: the Tigers may have been waiting for the Irish in the ACC Championship match.
The Remaining Games: Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech
Regardless of what the Clemson followers might claim, there is no serious person to ignore or underestimate the show that has made it to the National Championship match in four of the past five seasons. This year, Travis Etienne became the captain of the career dash at ACC, and Clemson nearly outgrew Notre Dame, even as midfielder Trevor Lawrence was sidelined after hitting the virus. Defense allows about 305 yards for a match, which is much better than some of the top teams, such as Alabama and Georgia, with defensive coaches at the top. Coach Dabou Sweeney is sometimes under fire – he sparked outrage this week for his comments after Florida refused to play Clemson due to virus concerns – but he’s proven to be more than capable of guiding his team through the biggest stages.
No. 4 Ohio State (4-0)
Remaining matches: Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan
Ohio wanted to play this fall and because of soccer. Having narrowly lost their appearance in last season’s National Championship match, Buckeyes’ team is in a position to exit the regular season without a defeat: their remaining opponents have a collective record of 5-9. Indiana tested the pass-defense for Ohio State last weekend, but Justin Fields directs the best attack in the Big Ten and has one of the highest midfield ratings in the country.
No.5 Texas A&M (5-1)
Remaining matches: Louisiana at No. 22 Auburn, Tennessee
Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team could have been left to die after Alabama hit the Aggies, 52-24, in October. Then Texas A&M pestered Florida, overpowered Mississippi and Arkansas and humiliated South Carolina. The question for Texas A&M is whether the two virus-related postponements after that tour will reverse its momentum when it hosts Louisiana this weekend. The Isaiah Spiller darted 643 yards this season, placing him among the nation’s elite, and the Aggies’ defense sheds the lowest yards of any team at the Southeastern Conference.
Remaining matches: Kentucky, Tennessee, LSU
The Coronavirus outbreak slowed down the Gators but didn’t stop them, mostly because Kyle Trask went on to thrive to become a superstar in the center. Injuries cost him matches early in his career, but he took charge of the Florida attack last season after injuring Felipe Franks, now in Arkansas, and ultimately led the team to victory at the Orange Bowl. So far this season, Trask leads the country with 31 transient touchdowns. The Kadarius Toney Wide Receiver has more catches than any other Gator, but the Kyle Pitts, a narrow end, makes the most of 24 receivers and averages about 17 yards per catch. Florida has already crushed Georgia, its closest rival in the Eastern Division of the SEC.
No. 7 Cincinnati (8-0)
Remaining match: No. 25 Tulsa
No team outside of Power 5 got such a high rating in the final. Now Cincinnati, a member of the American Athletic Conference, has a real chance to reach the semi-finals, having impressed the committee with its national scoring and defense scoring rankings. Midfielder Desmond Ridder has been the conference’s best offensive player in four of the past five weeks, aided by a forward line that has only given up nine bags. (By contrast, Alabama gave in 11.) But in a reminder of just how messy this season has been, Cincinnati Announced Wednesday morning That weekend’s match at Temple has been canceled due to the pandemic.
No.8 Northwestern (5-0)
Remaining matches: Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois
Talk about a team that came back from last year. Wildcats, who scored 3-9 in 2019, were exemplary but not dominant. Their victories were rarely a heavy blow – just one win, 43-3 for Maryland on October 24, was by more than 10 points – but Northwestern had already beaten Wisconsin, the pre-season favorite in the Big Ten’s West Division. Northwestern’s defense, which had made life miserable for Wisconsin when the Badger was third, was the defining, allowing less than 13 points per game. Brandon Joseph, the defensive returnee from College Station, Texas, has five interceptions, the most of them being in the Power 5.
No. 9 Georgia (5-2)
The Remaining Games: South Carolina, Vanderbilt
Georgia has two losses, but they were in Alabama and Florida. The problem with the Bulldogs is that Florida must tumble to make it to the SEC, and the Gators don’t have a totally spooky schedule. Whether Georgia can get something hinges in part on JT Daniels, the second-year red jersey midfielder who only last week made his debut as a Bulldog. It went well – throwing 401 yards and four touchdowns – but Georgia still beat Mississippi (2-5) once it landed.
Remaining games: Wake Forest, No. 19 North Carolina, Georgia Tech
Just like Northwestern, Miami rebounded after a disappointing 2019 in which hurricanes, a great national force over the past decades, set a record 6-7. D’Eriq King, a senior red shirt player who plays his first season in Miami, passed 2,086 yards and 17 touchdowns. But Miami was alternating between huge wins – think a 52-10 win for Florida – and narrower margins, like the 25-24 win over Virginia Tech.
Probabilities and endings
No. 11, Oklahoma (6-2) is the highest ranking among Team 12. The Sooners reached the playoff match last year, but lost easily to LSU at Peach Bowl. They had no ranks left.
No. 14 Brigham Young, independent footballer, 9-0. But the selection committee appears to be concerned about the strength of the cougars’ schedule. Their best win so far, according to Gary Barta, Iowa State Athletic Director and Chair of the Selection Committee, was a 51-17 win over Boise State.
The Pac-12 has not reached the playoffs since the 2016 season, when Washington ranked fourth. The first rankings weren’t particularly nice with Pac-12 – Oregon, at 15th, was the best performer in the league – but the Conference started its season late.