Woodshed Top 20 college football rankings: Week 8

BY foxsports • October 24, 2016

The talk around the water cooler is more heated this week as we get close to playoff time. The only thing we know right now is Alabama is on a level that nobody else can compete with. 

I told you the party would be over at Gatsby's in College Station. I was half wrong, those guys never stop partying over there! But let's just say they are drinking in sorrow now because their dreams of SEC greatness are over, finished, kaput.

There is one thing for certain, if I had to choose an eight-team playoff right now, it would be a simple pick. All of them could beat each other on neutral fields in weather-controlled climates. Don't get too caught up on who's going to be in the final four quite yet, there is plenty of football yet to be played.

By the way, can we just concede that they do not play defense in the Big 12? That Oklahoma-Texas Tech game was a shootout for the ages. Are you kidding me, 66-59? I'm going to challenge anyone in the Big 12 to develop a defense. Anyone? Bueller? As much as fans may have loved seeing the scoreboard light up, I'm a fan of great defense. It's why Clemson beat Louisville, or why pitchers win World Series in baseball. Defenses are the reason you win championships!

Playoffs? You want to talk about playoffs?

Boy it would be interesting if we see the following happen:

-- Alabama loses to either LSU or Auburn or, even better, BOTH! The Tide don't go to SEC title game and are left out of the playoff? Boy that would certainly stink, right? Ask Urban Meyer how that feels, that happened last year to them when they lost to Michigan State despite crushing Michigan in Ann Arbor 42-13.

-- What if Michigan loses to Ohio State. Same result as above. Michigan would be on sidelines playing in one less game. They too would not make the playoff despite being one of the best four teams in America. 

-- Clemson loses to Florida State or North Carolina. This just muddies the picture as to who the best team in the ACC is. I think the Louisville Cardinals are the best; one slip up by Clemson will make it interesting. The Tigers still go to the ACC title game because of a home victory over the Cardinals. But because of this, Louisville could steal the No. 4 spot in the playoff.

I believe you might have to brace yourself, there could be a playoff with two teams from the same conference in it. My point is there are still plenty of games left to be played.

To the Woodshed Top 20...

1. ALABAMA

As long as Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin keeps using Jalen Hurt as a running back, forgettaboutit! Yes, that's my best Donnie Brasco impersonation. Seriously, the only way a team will be able to beat the Tide is by shutting down the run and forcing Hurt to beat them with his arm. I've said it before and will say it again, I believe a team can make them one dimensional, and when that happens the great Alabama will lose. But until then, NEXT!

2. MICHIGAN

Jim Harbaugh is officially wearing glasses now, and he looks smarter than ever. The Wolverines have yet to have a real test other than the pesky Badgers. The defense is playing fast, but before Michigan fans beat their chests too loud, take a look at what offenses the Wolverines are facing, in the Big House no less. This week, the Wolverines have little brother, who is winless in the Big Ten this year. I should point out that the Wolverines have had six home games so far, now the fun begins as they head down the road to Sparty.

3. CLEMSON

The Tigers had a bye week to prepare for Florida State this week. That's the game of the week. Clemson is still counting their blessings from the NC State kicking game. Playing on the road in Tallahassee isn't easy, but if North Carolina can escape with a victory, so can Clemson, right?

4. WASHINGTON

It's really tough to measure the Huskies and their awesome start because the Pac-12 is down this year compared to the rest of the country. That hasn't stopped quarterback Jake Browning from throwing his name into the Heisman race. Browning threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns in a route of Oregon State. The tests start getting a little tougher for Chris Peterson's squad – at Utah and California before hosting the Trojans.

5. LOUISVILLE

Remember when everybody including myself said that you can't win a Heisman in September? Well, Lamar Jackson wanted to make sure his name was still on the ballot as he added four touchdowns against NC State. The Cardinals have an easy road the rest of the way. There is that date with Houston in Texas late in the year, but I wouldn't sweat that. As long as Clemson wins, Louisville is out. They will be stuck in the five hole as long as everybody ahead of them wins out.

6. OHIO STATE

I know, I know... the Buckeyes just got stunned on the road in front of 107,000 Penn State fans wearing white. When I look at the rest of the field behind Ohio State, I honestly believe they are a better team and would beat every one of them. Before you start hating on Urban Meyer, he was going for a record 20 straight road wins. Both Wisconsin and Penn State had bye weeks going into their matchups with Ohio State. And, of course, there were the weather elements. Cold rain and windy conditions kind of deter throwing the ball don't they? It may sound like excuses, but OSU lost because of two blocked kicks in the weather elements. The Buckyes aren't going to beat anybody if they don't get the ball to Curtis Samuels more than 10 times in the offense. His first rush was in the third quarter and 78 yards later he gave the Buckeyes breathing room (or so we thought). Meyer needs to reassess the play calling or it's going to be a long November. The good thing is their resume is still super strong and they control their own destiny. Oh, and Penn State is 5-2; not exactly a terrible team, eh?

7. WISCONSIN

The Badgers just beat the Hawkeyes in Iowa. Yes, they went into the Hayden Fry pink locker room and managed to put more points on the scoreboard than the black and gold. I wonder how many times the pink locker room story has been done? And I'm wondering why nobody has tried to get Victoria Secret to sponsor the locker room? The Badgers still have that wonderful victory over LSU, which gives the Big Ten a little bragging rights when it comes to the SEC.

8. NEBRASKA

The Cornhuskers are still unbeaten. That's the good news if you support the Big Red. Now the ugly; the Huskers have a date at Camp Randall with Wisconsin this weekend. If they escape with a victory there, they still have to face the Buckeyes in Columbus a week later. I believe there are two losses coming which will drop them down the polls to around 16. I'm thinking a Nebraska vs. Pac-12 team in a bowl will be a nice game. That's about all the respect I'm giving Nebraska.

9. TEXAS A&M

The Aggies really couldn't stop Alabama. They boys from College Station still have a potent offense that can beat up on a lot of people. TAMU will run the table until it faces off against LSU at the end of the year. Oh, and if you were watching the 'Bama game closely, the targeting rule needs to be amended so a guy isn't ejected. If you're a conspiracy theorist, this is how SEC officials in Birmingham can control the outcome of a game. The targeting call came from the booth, not the field, in the second targeting call incident in the game. I'm just not a fan of the rule in general. The Alabama hit to me was more serious than the Texas A&M hit. Texas A&M lost their kick returner and best defensive back, 'Bama not so much.

10. FLORIDA STATE

The 'Noles season comes down to one game. They were off this week, preparing for the undefeated Clemson Tigers. Jimbo Fisher can save the season by taking the orange and purple down. Another loss would give the fans in my office reason to go on vacation the rest of the fall.

11. FLORIDA

It's a great time to be a Gator. That's what I keep hearing anyway. I told my Gators fans they'd lose to both Tennessee and Georgia at the beginning of the year. I'm half way there on that prediction. The boys from Gainesville also are at a crossroads in their season. A loss to Georgia gives Kirby Smart an edge in recruiting. A win not only gives Florida the edge over Smart and Georgia, but can also give them momentum over FSU and Miami. Oh, if you're a Gators fan still thinking you're going to go play Alabama in the SEC runner-up bowl, you are not right in the head. Luke Del Rio is back at quarterback, so no more excuses. We will find out who Florida is this week in Jacksonville, the biggest cocktail party in the south.

12. LSU

I'm drinking the Ed Orgeron Kool-Aid. The purple and gold look like a different team than when Les Miles was coaching. The main reason is the return of a healthy Leonard Fournette, who broke LSU's single game rushing record on just eight carries. These are Heisman type of numbers by the way -- 284 yards rushing and three TDs against a Top 25 team in Ole Miss. The real test is in two weeks when they host Alabama. The Tigers have the athletes to compete with the Tide. Heismans are won in November, if Leonard trucks Alabama like he did Ole Miss, I would consider inviting him to New York to compete with Jackson.

13. NORTH CAROLINA

The boys from Chapel Hill looked good on the road in Virginia. Mitch Trubisky with another 300-yard day slinging the pigskin with three touchdowns. They have what it takes to win out and face Clemson in the ACC title game. Losses to Georgia and Virginia Tech will keep them out of the playoff though, but the role of the spoiler is a fun one.

14. AUBURN

Just when you thought that Alabama had an easy road to perfection, Auburn went and got themselves a football team. A running attack from the Tigers is what they found. Auburn ran for 543 yards in a 56-3 rout of Bret Bielema's Arkansas Razorbacks. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Bielema is on the hot seat after that loss, especially with Les Miles out there. I doubt Auburn wins out, but they have saved their season thus far with their only losses coming to Clemson and Texas A&M.

15. OKLAHOMA

Again, I still believe that the Sooners are the best in the Big 12. That means Baylor, TCU, West Virginia are all looking up at Bob Stoops' gang. The Sooners, who have the fifth best offense in the nation, won a shootout vs. Texas Tech. I know Baylor and West Virginia fans won't be happy with the lack of respect. When they play somebody, and have impressive wins, they will be ranked higher in the Woodshed.

16. TENNESSEE

The Vols got a much needed bye week after getting beat up by the Crimson Tide. This is where the orange and white belong in the rankings. They will win out. A bowl matchup with the Cornhuskers or Badgers is their destiny.

17. UTAH

The Utes took care of the UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl this past week 52-45. Again, lack of defense in this conference. If the Utes want respect, then they will have to take down the unbeaten Washington Huskies this week. Perhaps the greatest story untold is Utah's Joe Williams, who quit the game of football earlier this season because he was sick of the injuries he was enduring while playing. What's ironic is the team asked him to come back because the rest of the running Utes were injured as well. Williams rushed for a school record 332 yards and four touchdowns vs. the Bruins. I don't condone quitting in the middle of your season, but Williams is a blessing in the making if he can continue to find success the rest of the year.

18. WESTERN MICHIGAN

Bonus points for anybody who knows somebody that graduated from Western Michigan. The most impressive win on the schedule is over Northwestern, who is now coming back to life. The Broncos should run the table and save a date for somebody like Boise State. They are the best of the non-power five teams, I suppose.

19. WEST VIRGINIA

I'm torn here. While I know they can play some competitive football in Morgantown, the Mountaineers have had an easy road through the Big 12 thus far. They do own a win over Missouri to start the season. So put that in your SEC pipe and smoke it. If the Mountaineers are to be taken seriously, they will need to win home games with Oklahoma and Baylor in November. Until then, they are ranked right where they should be.

20. BAYLOR

I still believe Oklahoma is the team to beat. Baylor to me is like Michigan in the Big Ten. Who have they have beaten? The Bears schedule gets a little more competitive with Texas, TCU and Oklahoma in the next three weeks, and then they finish with West Virginia. Perhaps we'll be asking ourselves on Dec. 3, remember when both Baylor and West Virginia were undefeated?


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