Welcome, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, to the unveiling of perhaps the greatest technological innovation of our time: THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF HOPE-O-METER! Over the course of the 2019 season, we will put our ultra-violet spectrum of college football emotion to the test, processing each weekend's scoreboard—and it's array of hopes, dreams, and delusions—to determine the state of the all-important CFP push. Here's where things stand today...
Week 2 of the 2019 college football season is in the books, America, and hoo boy, what a week it was. The big dawgs (and the actual Dawgs) rolled, LSU staked their CFP claim, and, best of all, a few proud programs limped home with a serious case of road rash. After 14 days of intern football, here’s where things stand on the trusty CFP Hope-O-Meter (Jeff, you remembered to change the batteries, right?)
But before we get to business of breaking it all down, let’s introduce our newest segment: The Hopeful College Football Moment of the Week.
This week the inaugural honor goes to Purdue, who unveiled their new Tyler Trent Student Gate at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday, a tribute to their late superfan, inspiration, and honorary captain Tyler Trent who passed away in January following a long battle with bone cancer. Over the course of the season, we’ll be featuring one moment from each college football weekend that inspired the most hope, however fleeting, but it goes without saying that none will be as important as this.
There’s a very real chance that this section is going to be a Clemson and Alabama status update every week, and for that we apologize. Both teams passed their week two “test” in competent fashion on Saturday. Alabama took New Mexico State behind the woodshed (I assume they still have those is Tuscaloosa) 62-10 while Clemson shoved Texas A&M’s pale Namath mimicry back up where it came from with a measured 24-10 victory over their other maroon-hued SEC foes. So far neither look quite as dominant as their 2017 vintages—Trevor Lawrence has complete just 37 passes with two touchdowns and three interceptions over the first two weeks, for instance—but the Tigers' biggest remaining test gave up 63 points to Maryland and 'Bama has the CFP committee wrapped around their pinky finger, so there’s no reason to believe these two will slip any further than three come December. Oklahoma, however, is somewhat more interesting. They had an off-week this week (and by off-week we mean South Dakota), but their only real remaining test is a Red River Showdown with Texas in October 12th. Get past that, and those Jalen Hurts revenge headlines will be all but inked.
The biggest win of Week 2, meanwhile, belonged to LSU, who, in vintage LSU fashion, pummeled Texas into dust with Coach O’s high-flying air-raid attack—sorry sorry sorry, couldn’t get that out with a straight face. Who knows what they’re putting in the Gatorade coolers down there in Baton Rouge, but LSU has gone from from the producers of ‘21-0: The 2011 National Championship Story’ to Chiefs South, hanging 45 on Texas in the first top-10 matchup of the season. Joe Burrow looks like the real deal, there’s a Fournette running the rock, and after a couple of middling seasons, honest-to-goodness expectations are have hit Death Valley like a runaway Mack truck once again. What could possibly go wrong?
Flying considerably farther under the radar are Wisconsin, who have outscored their opposition, get this, 110-0 through two weeks. We won’t know if they’re the real deal until after the Michigan brouhaha this weekend (and maybe not even then, more on that in just a second), but there's a non-zero chance that the Badgers are the actual best team in the Big Ten, and the actual best team in the Big Ten is bound to eventually get a shot at this CFP thing again.
You know what rhymes with pessimistic? Michigan, who are somehow 2-0 despite being 0-2 in the minds of literally every living, breathing football fan in America right now. Following a ho-hum performance in their Week 1 opener against Middle Tennessee, Michigan needed the ghost of Beau Schembechler to go full Angels in the Outfield against Army on Saturday. Army threw a red zone interception late in the 4th quarter and missed a potential game-winning field as the clock expired to grant the Wolverine and, by proxy, Jim Harbaugh (and, by proxy, his parachute khakis) a temporary stay of execution. This was supposed to be Harbaugh’s Year™ according to everyone and their second cousin, but a road trip to Camp Randall and a 17th-ranked Badgers team threatens to cut that all short next week. Harbaugh won’t lose his job for a loss to Wisconsin, of course, but if they go down and the Wolverines start to spiral, Harbaugh might not get another shot at Ohio State, let alone the CFP.
OK, so Nebraska never really had a chance, but now they definitely don’t after blowing a 17-point halftime lead to their biggest rival Colorado on a road trip to Folsom Field that they turned into a practical home game. We were all blinded by ‘90s nostalgia and visions of mesh crop tops dancing in our heads, but the Cornhuskers just aren’t ready and Saturday proved that. And as long as we're on the subject of sh*t we already knew, Cal and USC drove another pair of nails in the Pac-12's conference’s coffin on Saturday, upsetting #14 Washington and #23 Stanford on Saturday. That leaves Utah as the conference’s final remaining hope, which dims with each and every hit to their upcoming strength of schedule. Maybe if the SEC and Big 10 self-immolate and Oregon wins every game like they did on Saturday (77-6 over Nevada), the Ducks still have a chance, but realistically we’re going to have to mint a sci-fi category just keep to the West Coast in contention every week.
Dishonorable Mention: The Tennessee Volunteers, who one week after dropping their opener to Georgia State, lost 29-26 to an unranked BYU team playing two time zones ahead in a hostile environment. Rocky Top has hit rock bottom, folks.