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As the autumn leaves turn and November descends upon us, we enter what could undeniably be considered the crown jewel of the college football season. November is a make-or-break month for many schools, as playoff hopes rest in the balance.
Teams like Georgia, Michigan, and Florida State have demonstrated their might, securing victories in a fashion that can only be described as dominant.
In college football, unlike the NFL, there’s no room for indifference toward losses. When the playoff expands to 12 next year, there may be room for error, but in the four-team playoff era, you still need to be near-perfect.
This article looks at the top five teams in the College Football Playoff Poll, highlighting what has gone right along with some looming concerns.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Maintaining a perfect record of 9-0, Ohio State is ranked No. 1 in the latest College Football Playoff poll. The primary reason for this has been their strength of schedule, with huge victories over Notre Dame and Penn State, both ranked in the top 10 when they beat them. Despite trailing at halftime this past weekend against Rutgers, they found a way to rally in the second half, beating them 35-16.
Usually an offensive firepower, it’s been the Buckeyes’ defense showcasing their muscle this season. The unit’s potential has not passed unnoticed, with even Greg Schiano highlighting the NFL-worthy players. Against Rutgers, the offense came through when it mattered most. The Buckeyes found a rhythm in running the ball with TreVeyon Henderson, and the return of Emeka Egbuka should expedite the offense’s progress moving forward.
Yet, the team’s success is not without its concerns. There’s a pressing need for Kyle McCord to continue improving. His development is vital for the Buckeyes’ journey going forward. They will need to step it up if they are to have any chance of knocking off the Wolverines in a couple of weeks.
The Bulldogs have consistently showcased their relentless drive this season. By beating Missouri 30-21 last week, they extended their regular season winning streak to 34 games and overall winning streak to 26. Their success is not anchored in past glories but in their ability to adapt and overcome challenges.
This season’s Bulldogs may not mirror the exceptional teams of the past two years, but it’s important to appreciate their unique strengths. They’ve had to show more resilience this year, coming behind from second-half deficits three times this year, including last week against Missouri. Quarterback Carson Beck has been a key player in helping Georgia inject some offense into this team when it needs it most. Their next two games, however, will determine whether they can defend a title for the third time. They face No. 9 Ole Miss on Saturday and then travel to No. 13 Tennesse on Nov. 18. A looming SEC Championship game with Alabama also awaits next month.
Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles have emerged as a team that simply knows how to win, even under challenging circumstances. Despite being without key players Johnny Wilson and Keon Coleman, the Seminoles clinched a spot in the ACC Championship Game with a 24-7 triumph over Pittsburgh. This result, while commendable, did not reflect the typical dominance expected of top teams. The halftime score of 10-7 against Pitt, a team that lost 58-7 to Notre Dame the week prior, was an eyebrow-raiser. But the Seminoles pulled through, underscoring their resilience.
The Seminoles’ performance this season has been marked by fortitude rather than flamboyance. Their record of 9-0 reveals a tenacity that should not be underestimated, even if it lacks the domineering superiority of other top teams. Despite any lingering skepticism, Florida State is still very much in the game, and their potential should not be overlooked. However, given the stacked teams behind them and their underwhelming schedule, they cannot afford a loss.
When we think of domination this year, there is no doubt Michigan is the first team that springs to mind. Their most recent 41-13 victory over Purdue extended their regular season winning streak to 22 games. The Wolverines have shown time and again that they can beat you on both sides of the ball, outsourcing their opponents by a mind-boggling 366-60. However, Michigan is yet to play a ranked team this season, so while they’re destroying the teams they’re supposed to, how they do against the cream of the crop will define their fate.
Consistency has been the key for the Wolverines, with no game won by a margin of less than 24 points. Purdue’s late touchdown against Michigan’s backups put their point total to 13, the most any team has scored on Michigan this year. The Wolverines are showing no signs of slowing down and continue to be a force to reckon with in the college football landscape. The FanDuel NCAAF Odds have the Wolverines as favorites to not only win their conference but also the national title. Still, their big game against No. 1 Ohio State awaits on Nov. 25.
After a thrilling 52-42 victory over USC, the Huskies maintained their position in the top ranks. However, this victory has raised eyebrows, prompting a closer examination of the team’s overall balance. The Huskies’ performance against USC saw them caught in a shootout, similar to what happened a week ago with Stanford and a few weeks ago with Oregon.
The Huskies’ victory over Oregon may have been impressive, but the question remains whether they can replicate this success, especially given their defensive struggles. A rematch with the Ducks is all but certain in the Pac 10 Championship Game next month, and they won’t have their home field to rely on this time. In four of their last six games, Washington has allowed over 30 points. On the brighter side, Michael Penix Jr. showcased his talents, and the run game, led by Dillon Johnson, was phenomenal. However, the Huskies needed to score a whopping 52 points to shield off USC. While they’ve found a way to win this weekend, it’s clear that they’ll need to bolster their defenses to be counted among the more well-balanced and impressive teams.
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