What to make of the college and pro football scene:
▪ It’s so early, and so much will happen, but here are the teams I’d love to see in the College Football Playoff on New Year’s Eve. Alabama, Ohio State, Louisville, Houston. That won’t happen, of course. There will be mix-ups along the way. Louisville and Houston meet on Nov. 17, at Houston, so one of those teams is likely to fall by the wayside. If I had to handicap, I’d say the most likely four teams to make it to the playoff are Alabama, Ohio State, Louisville and — are you ready for this — the winner of the Stanford-Washington game coming up on Sept. 30 in Seattle.
▪ Why Stanford-Washington? Because the winner has a pretty decent chance of running the table in the marginal Pac-12. Stanford’s final eight regular-season games are against teams currently not ranked, although the Cardinal will play at Notre Dame on Oct. 15. Washington has a road game against No. 24 Utah on Oct. 29 and both teams will pay Cal in Berkeley. But compared to the other contenders, Stanford and Washington have smooth sailing following their head-to-head matchup in 11 days.
▪ There are a lot of games, of course, that will impact the playoff picture in the coming weeks. Here are a few of the best: Louisville at Clemson, Oct. 1; Louisville at Houston, Nov. 17; Wisconsin at Michigan, Oct. 1; Michigan at Michigan State, Oct. 29; Michigan at Ohio State, Nov. 26; Ohio State at Wisconsin, Oct. 15; Ohio State at Michigan State, Nov. 19; Clemson at Florida State, Oct. 29. And Alabama, which impressed with its come-from-behind win at Ole Miss on Saturday, faces a demanding four-game stretch against ranked teams that starts on Oct. 8 with a game at No. 17 Arkansas. The Crimson Tide then goes to No. 14 Tennessee (Oct. 15) before a home game against 10th-ranked Texas A&M (Oct. 22) followed by another one on the road against No. 18 LSU (Nov. 5).
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▪ The Big 12 is pretty much out of the playoff picture, unless No. 16 Baylor is better than we think. The Bears and West Virginia are the only unbeaten teams remaining in the conference, and Saturday might have been the worst day ever. Not only did Oklahoma get run out at home by Ohio State, but Texas proved that the hype from its season-opening win over Notre Dame was blown way out of proportion by losing at Cal, 50-43. There’s not a team in the Big 12 that appears capable of playing defense, which is a big reason why Baylor is the only Big 12 team residing in the Top 20 this week. OU? The Sooners are still hanging on at No. 25, but begins Big 12 play on Oct. 1 at TCU before taking on Texas in Dallas. Could OU be 1-4 going into its home game against Kansas State on Oct. 15? How safe is Bob Stoops’ job if that happens?
▪ If the Heisman Trophy balloting were held today, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson would win going away. He’s electrifying and has made the Cardinals the early must-see of the college football season. Oh, and it looks like Bobby Petrino can still coach an offense, huh? But another guy on the Heisman radar is San Diego State running back D.J. Pumphrey, who opened the season with 281 yards against Cal and had 220 on 23 carries last week in a win over Northern Illinois. Pumphrey has passed Marshall Faulk as the Aztecs’ all-time leader in rushing, total offense and touchdown runs. San Diego State, from the Mountain West, is ranked No. 22 at 3-0.
▪ Just when Alex Smith had quieted some critics while leading a spirited comeback against San Diego in Week 1 of the NFL season, he invited them back on board with a meager Sunday performance during Sunday’s 19-12 Kansas City loss to the Houston Texans. There are going to be times when this offense, which still lacks wide-receiver impact, looks mundane. And Houston has a strong defense, holding Chicago and Kansas City in check to start 2-0. It will be interesting to see whether Jamaal Charles, who seems likely to return from his ACL injury next Sunday against the New York Jets, can give the Chiefs’ offense the spark it needs. And the spark it didn’t get from its quarterback against Houston.
▪ What’s with all the premature celebrations in the NFL and college football. I saw three instances over the weekend of players dropping the ball before they had entered the end zone for touchdowns. Why aren’t coaches getting a handle on this? And how about the Houston celebration after an interception of an Alex Smith — a pick that was not a pick because of a Texans’ penalty — that resulted in at least four Texans players doing an impromptu dance? That excessive celebration was also penalized. I’m all for exuberance, but not at the expense of penalty yardage or potential points on the scoreboard.
▪ I currently trail in my fantasy football matchup this week, 136-46. I thought I drafted a good team and it turns out I didn’t. I drafted a terrible fantasy team. So, after this year, I’m giving up fantasy. Because apparently I’m no good at this stuff. I don’t work the waiver wire the way I should. I don’t look to pull off trades. It’s fun to draft a team and torturous to operate one throughout a fantasy season. I believe that’s because I attempt to have some semblance of a life. Or I could just be fooling myself. What if my team was off to a great start? What if I was 2-0 and scoring points out the wazoo? Would my outlook be different? Those are valid questions and I choose not to answer them.
▪ Through (almost) two weeks of the NFL season, Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford and Jimmy Garoppolo rank first, second and fourth in quarterback rating, Pittsburgh’s DeAngelo Williams is the league’s leading rusher and the Vikings’ Stefon Diggs leads in receiving with 16 catches good for 285 yards. Meanwhile, Cam Newton (17), Aaron Rodgers (22) and Russell Wilson (24) rank among the bottom half of QBs in QB rating.
▪ The Los Angeles Rams are 1-1 without having scored a touchdown. There are only two unbeaten teams in the NFC — Minnesota and the New York Giants — after just two weeks, although Philadelphia could improve to 2-0 with a win Monday night against Chicago. Houston and New England play Thursday night in the most interesting game of the season to date. Pittsburgh might be unstoppable. Adrian Peterson, my first pick in our league’s fantasy draft FYI, might be done. Garoppolo injured a shoulder just when we were really starting to pay attention. We’re just getting started here.