It seems so long ago that Deondre Francois took that first snap in a Florida State-Alabama game anointed as a national championship preview.
The first half of the 2017 college football season went by as fast as you switch stations every time the Dr. Pepper dude comes on.
We’ve already had Iowa State win at Oklahoma as a 30-point underdog, South Carolina score three touchdowns on defense in one game and Western Michigan beat Buffalo in seven overtimes.
And that was just last Saturday.
Looking back and peeking ahead features all the color and pageantry, minus the traffic congestion.
What the College Football Playoff should look like this week: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Washington State in the Sugar Bowl, No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl.
What the College Football Playoff would probably be if the committee met his week: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, No. 2. Alabama vs. No. 3 Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
I just think Washington State has a better win (Southern Cal) than Penn State or Georgia. And the more Mike Leach quotes the better.
Final CFP shakeout: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Washington State in the Sugar Bowl, No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
So many variables. But if Alabama soundly beats highly-ranked Auburn and Georgia teams in the two weeks before the final committee vote, the Tide probably jumps Clemson for the No. 1 spot. A lot might come down to the Apple Cup – Washington State at Washington on Nov. 25.
All this Alabama-Clemson III talk: Yes, and then some. Because while Tigers-Tide III is very possible this year, it’s likely that we will see IV and V, too. Maybe not in consecutive seasons. But as long as Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney are running their respective winning machines, a January clash is always a strong possibility.
Odd playoff paths:
Auburn: Win out and there’s joy on The Plains.
N.C. State: Yeah, that South Carolina loss. But if the Wolfpack wins out, it will have a 12-game win streak, an upset of No. 2 Clemson and a solid ACC Championship Game win as lobby tools.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies at 12-1 would have avenged a Clemson loss with an ACC Championship Game conquest.
Wisconsin: 13-0 with a win over Ohio State or Penn State in the Big Ten title game is hard to argue with, weak regular-season schedule and all.
Alabama vs. Georgia, back-to-back: If the Bulldogs’ only loss is a respectable SEC Championship Game setback to Alabama, metrics might force the Sugar Bowl issue.
Swinney and Muschamp
Clemson’s first-half grade: Smothering defense was expected, but not this good. And few people outside of family members and Deshaun Watson – including the coaching staff – saw Kelly Bryant’s quick emergence as such a reliable quarterback. No. 2, 6-0 and no team has three better wins (Auburn, Virginia Tech, Louisville). A+
South Carolina’s first-half grade: What were your expectations? I forecast a seven-win season so a 4-2 start is on par. The defense is better than expected with the likes of T.J. Brunson, D.J. Wonnum and D.J. Smith coming through. The offense is less dynamic and the injuries are worse. A win at Tennessee changes things. A lot. C+
Symbolic Clemson quote: Dabo Swinney post-Wake Forest on why he uses so many players: “I’m trying to win. I’m trying to have a great program. If (fans) get bored with winning, then that’s their problem. I’m playing the guys that deserve to play.”
A huge part of Swinney’s “Clemson culture” is about harmony. It’s working.
Symbolic South Carolina quote: Will Muschamp explaining to me Saturday that a penalty for too many players on the field was not “wacky” (my description): “No, that was dumb (bleep). Inexcusable coaching is what it is and I’ll get it corrected. That’s on me.”
A huge part of Muschamp’s South Carolina rebuilding project is accountability. He takes it seriously 24/7 from the top down, even on something that happened in a touchdown drive during a 48-22 SEC rout.
Best individual performance in a game: Iowa State senior quarterback/linebacker Joel Lanning in the Cyclones’ 38-31 at Oklahoma completed 2 of 3 passes, rushed 9 times for 35 yards, had eight tackles, sacked Baker Mayfield and recovered a fumble.
Best feel-good story: Jacob Olson, Southern Cal’s blind long-snapper, snapped the ball on the final extra point in the Trojans’ 49-31 victory over Western Michigan.
The one that got away: Rock Hill’s Mason Rudolph is a star quarterback at Oklahoma State, projected by some as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. In an ideal world, he is the Gamecocks’ starter as Jake Bentley gets some snaps this year as a redshirt freshman.
Heisman Trophy trip to New York status: 1. Luke Falk, QB, Washington State; 2. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State; 3. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford; 4. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 5. Dorian O’Daniel, LB, Clemson.
It could just as well be Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant or Dexter Lawrence but someone representing Clemson’s defense deserves mention.
Five hot seats, in order of sizzle: 1. Bret Bielema, Arkansas; 2. Mike Riley, Nebraska; 3. Butch Jones, Tennessee; 4. Joe Alleva, Athletic Director, LSU; 5. SEC supremacy.
By the way, Bielema is 10-24 in the SEC and Jones 14-20. Bielema lives in the SEC West but Jones plays Alabama every year.
Five coaches ready for the big time: 1. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest; 2. Mike Houston, James Madison; 3. and 4. Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott, offensive co-coordinators, Clemson; 5. Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff