Every Friday, NCAA.com will run ‘Third and Long,’ a look at three different questions facing the college football world. This week, our three respondents are Joe Boozell, Courney Martinez and Eric Vander Voort.
1. We’re less than a week from the first College Football Playoff rankings. How different do you think they’ll be from the AP poll?
Joe Boozell: I don’t think it’s going to look a whole lot different, though it wouldn’t surprise me to see TCU and Baylor swapped. Baylor is currently No. 2 in the AP poll, while TCU is No. 5. These teams are usually grouped together, and though the Bears have looked more formidable than the Horned Frogs this season, TCU has played a (slightly) tougher schedule to date.
The Big 12 schedule will really start to get interesting once November rolls around, and the committee knows that. But to start, I’ll think they’ll reward TCU for traveling to Minnesota early on in the season.
Courtney Martinez: I don’t think the top four will be any different from this week’s AP poll, but the order definitely will be. Before the season started, many had Ohio State as their No. 1 team and expected them to be ranked as such by the playoff committee too. But things have changed over the nine weeks. The Buckeyes may have kept the No. 1 ranking each week in the AP Poll, but it will be a different case when the committee releases its rankings. I think the case will be made to place the Tigers at the top, whether that’s LSU or Clemson.
Eric Vander Voort: This is why I love the CFP rankings, and the fact that they wait until November to put them out. While preseason expectations play such a major role in the AP Poll (see: Ohio State), this is a fresh slate. It’s about this year, and this year only. To me, LSU has been the most impressive team. I’m predicting the top four to be, in order: LSU, Clemson, TCU, Ohio State. The committee keeping in mind Seth Russell’s season-ending injury could keep Baylor just on the outside edge of the top four. I also think other undefeated teams, like Iowa and Oklahoma State, could be slightly higher in these rankings than they are in the AP poll.2. What’s the most intriguing conference/division race in the country?
CM: OK, I’ll take a step back from your typical Pac-12/SEC response and go with the AAC West. The two teams atop the division in Memphis and Houston have had stellar seasons so far and Navy is still a contender as well. All three teams have yet to face one another, so November should be a great division race. In the case of the Tigers and Cougars though, it would be hard to overlook them in the playoff picture with an undefeated record, division and conference titles. Regardless of who wins between those teams on Nov. 14, I can guarantee you that Justin Fuente and Tom Herman will get looks at the end of the season for the potential job openings.EV: The Big Ten East. Ohio State ends its regular season with two huge games against Michigan State and Michigan. The Spartans are still undefeated, and depending on how that game goes, the Wolverines could still have something to play a week later. Penn State is not out of the race, either, as the Nittany Lions also end the season against UM and MSU. The winner of the division gets a berth in the conference championship, where a win could cement a spot in the College Football Playoff. But without even making it there, there’s no shot at being a part of the final four teams. Those final two weeks will be huge.
JB: I’m going to stay in the Big 12 for this one. Up until this point, TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have all avoided each other, and the four teams have one loss between them. The Sooners have looked outstanding all season outside of their Texas slip-up, and they could easily take down a Baylor or a TCU.
It’s the most intriguing because the Big 12 has four teams that could reasonably make the College Football Playoff, but in all likelihood, only one team will. All of the schools will square off in the next few weeks. This November ‘round-robin’ of sorts is going to all kinds of fun to watch.3. The coaching carousel is getting an early start this year. If you were a candidate, which potential job opening would you find most interesting?
EV: I’m fascinated by what’s going to happen at Miami. The aura of “The U” may be faded, but it’s it’s not completely gone. It’s not like the Canes haven’t been getting top-level talent -- Duke Johnson was one of the top backs in the country last year, and Brad Kaaya is showing he’s among the most talented QBs in college football. So, what will happen with a fresh start and a new approach? This is a program that has yet to win a division title. If the Canes find the right fit at head coach, I don’t see why they can’t become an elite ACC team again.
JB: Sometimes, the obvious choice is the right choice – so I’m going with USC. The Trojans are still loaded with talent, as they proved in throttling then-No. 3 Utah on Saturday.
Though the program has had its internal struggles in recent memory, USC’s glory years were still recent enough that they resonate in elite recruits’ minds. I’m not sure if you can say the same thing about a school like Miami. Los Angeles is obviously a major draw in itself, and for those reasons, USC is the most attractive job opening.
CM: Well, my dad is from Miami, so in my completely biased opinion, it would be the Hurricanes opening. But the lack of fans and the fact the stadium is far from campus aren’t ideal circumstances with the job. Honestly, I would apply for the USC job -- no, not the one out west, but in the Carolinas. It’s impossible to fill Steve Spurrier’s shoes but it still seems like a sweet gig in the SEC. There is plenty of talent in the state, even if Clemson has owned the state recently in that regard. If I was a coach looking to make a jump to the big leagues, I would love to compete at South Carolina against Clemson and the powerhouses in SEC East.