Midterm Grades

The month of October brings to mind special memories on the college campus. Chilly mornings snap students awake for early morning classes. Leaves change colors, tumble from the trees, and rustle across the quad. Homecoming festivities welcome alums back to the alma mater for the big game.

Oh yeah, students get midterm grades.

Well, not all memories read like a Hallmark card.

What a memorable college football week we just experienced. Top-ranked teams fell like those autumn leaves following a storm. Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Stanford, LSU, BYU … those are among the top teams that lost last week. Luckily for those teams, the new college football playoff allows for makeup work. So, a squad that lost for the first time is not out of the championship chase.

In the spirit of midterms, let’s assign a few marks for the season. Does your team make the grade?

Summa Cum Laude – Auburn and Baylor are the teams with highest honors at mid-semester. The Tigers probably should have won the national championship last season, and they have arguably been at the top of the class in 2014.

Dean’s List – Florida State, Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, TCU, and UCLA. Those teams are listed alphabetically, but whether any of them are playoff worthy will not be determined until after fall break.

Solid Bs – Alabama, Arizona, Michigan State, Oklahoma, and Oregon. Do not be surprised if one, or even a couple, of teams from this group buckles down and makes the playoff at season’s end.

Gentlemen’s Cs – Georgia, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and USC. These teams can go either way during the second half; they either push through some setbacks and earn good grades and a New Year’s Day bowl, or do just enough to get by and coast till Christmas.

Failing – Michigan and Texas … although different vibes surround each program. Brady Hoke seems to have lost the program in Ann Arbor, while Charlie Strong is grabbing control of the Longhorns in Austin.

Playoff Projections – Since we are midway through the 2014 campaign, we can start projecting the teams most likely to make the four-team college football playoff. Those teams are Auburn, Florida State, the winner of Baylor-Oklahoma, and the winner of the Pac-12 (or a second SEC team). Keep in mind this projection is just one man’s opinion on the most likely scenarios to play out over the last half of the season and the conference championship games. They are not based solely on current records or rankings.

Around the Nation

While it will be difficult to duplicate last week’s zaniness, several outstanding matchups are on the docket. The SEC schedule is simply brutal for the West Division teams as virtually every game is a must win at this point. Starkville hosts a second straight huge game between unbeaten teams when Mississippi State welcomes Auburn. Alabama tries to recover at Arkansas. The Rebels of Ole Miss travel to Texas A&M hoping to return to earth after the terrific win over Alabama. Georgia goes to Missouri in a key SEC East game, while Florida hosts reeling LSU.

The Red River rivalry lost a little luster when Oklahoma fell to TCU, but anytime OU and Texas meet it is always fun. The Big 12 also offers up TCU at Baylor. Out West, the Pac-12 features Oregon at UCLA in what is now a playoff elimination game for the Ducks. USC travels to unbeaten Arizona.

Note – this column originally appeared in The Blitz (Volume 4 Issue 7; Oct 9-11 2014)

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