The initial college football playoff rankings were released last night, and with it, the moans and groans of a million fans aggrieved. Along with those, here's where a couple of things stand on the college front as the buildup toward the 2016 NFL Draft continues along.
Bama still bangs
The big news was that 7-1 Alabama came in ahead of the other notables: 7-1 Notre Dame, 7-0 Baylor, 8-0 Michigan St. and 8-0 TCU. Controversy? Probably not, but it's fun to hate on Bama so let's.
Here are the big games and names to watch for Bama:
#2 LSU at #4 Alabama, Nov. 7 (8:00pm ET, CBS): Saturday's schedule is a monster, and this one's the icing on the cake. You get Bama LB Reggie Ragland trying to contain LSU RB Leonard Fournette which is straight up NFL Draft-ready scouting. The opposite is just as NFLish albeit with less headlines in Alabama RB Derrick Henry and LSU ILB Kendall Beckwith. Crimson Tide DTs A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed go against a very young LSU interior O-line flanked by NFL-ready OTs in LT Jerald Hawkins and RT Vadal Alexander. And you've got the LSU WRs up against the Bama secondary and the Bama WRs against the LSU CBs and holy mother just send them all to the draft on Sunday after this is over.
#4 Alabama at #20 Mississippi St., Nov. 14 (TBD)
#4 Alabama at Auburn, Nov. 28 (TBD): Both of these have the upset potential to derail Alabama's postseason hopes. And while both MSU's and Auburn's haven't gone to plan (especially the latter...woof), a win over Bama would at least put some sugar in the rebuilding medicine. Plus, Rams fans can catch their minor league program in Auburn along with Mississippi St. WR De'Runnya Wilson.
Prospects for Rams fans to watch: TE O.J. Howard. A bit more in the Lance Kendricks vein than the Jared Cook one, but a quality day 2 option here. WRs aren't coming until future drafts with ArDarius Stewart a redshirt sophomore who needs to stick around and Calvin Ridley a superstar in his true freshman season.
Three at the top
Lost in most of the controversy was the unquestioned playoff acceptance (though the seeding is up for argument) of #1 Clemson, #2 LSU and #3 Ohio St.
#16 Florida St. at #1 Clemson, Nov. 7 (3:30pm ET, ABC): Did I mention Saturday yet? The ACC Championship beckons, but this is the monster in the way. Clemson's defense will get the headlines including line-leading DE Shaq Lawson, but I fell for QB DeShaun Watson last year when he was a true freshman. If the Rams can find a way to come out of the 2017 NFL Draft with Watson, I shall be very happy. Very happy indeed.
#2 LSU at #18 Ole Miss, Nov. 21 (TBD)
#19 Texas A&M at #2 LSU, Nov. 28 (TBD): With the SEC Championship still to come, if LSU can get through Bama and these two unscathed, it would be almost unfair not to put them in the damn championship compared to the schedules their peers are playing.
#7 Michigan St. at #3 Ohio St., Nov. 21 (TBD)
#3 Ohio St. at #17 Michigan, Nov. 28 (TBD): The Buckeyes' schedule has been and will continue to be a bucket of hot poop until their final two games of the regular season. They're stacked draft-wise, though, so Rams fans could so worse.
Prospects for Rams fans to watch: LSU OL Vadal Alexander, Ohio St. WR Michael Thomas. With the Rams currently holding the last draft pick before the playoff teams and the Window of Opportunity offering the Rams the chance to stack up some wins in November, it might be time to move on from the top prospects of the draft. Likely no longer are the Rams in the top 10 jockeying for the top prospects at their position, it's time to up the scouting difficulty quotient.
The release of the rankings confirmed the selection committee's preferences (NO, THEY'RE CALLED BIASES DON'T YOU DARE) going into the thick of the schedule, and those preferences (BIASES!!!) clearly don't value the Big XII...yet again.
After being shut out a year ago, the Big XII is looking at a doomsdayish scenario where yet again the conference is unable to get its best team/s into the new postseason. Foolishly, the conference pushed a "One True Champion" marketing campaign despite the lack of conference championship. In college football terms, that's really effing stupid. It backfired when the lack of a conference champion meant 12-1 TCU who had lost to 11-2 Baylor earlier in the season saw them watching the playoff instead of participating. Both were 11-1 at the time of the selection.
Fast-forward a year, and looky looky. 7-0 Baylor is in at #6 while 8-0 TCU is all the way down at #8.
It's not all lost for the Big XII though. Oklahoma State is also 8-0 and ranked #14, one spot ahead of Bedlam brother OU at #15 sitting at 7-1.
All that said, games 'n names:
#8 TCU at #14 Oklahoma St., Nov. 7 (3:30pm, FOX): Say it with me. Saturday. Saturday. Saturday.
#6 Baylor at #8 TCU, Nov. 27 (TBD): The big one. If both can stay unbeaten (a tall task with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State remaining for both), this is the de facto conference championship even if it was screwed up from the go last year and probably is this year too.
#15 Oklahoma at #14 Oklahoma St., Nov. 28 (TBD): Bedlam doesn't need extra drama. If either of these can get through the Baylor/TCU gauntlet...
Prospects for Rams fans to watch: Baylor WR Corey Coleman is a video game creation, but Rams fans might have reservations about a sub-6' WR with Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey already on the roster and the lack of an impact plus-size (!) WR. His teammate, OL Spencer Drango, could be an option as well. But if we're honing in on the larger WR options to replace Brian Quick and/or Kenny Britt, TCU's Josh Doctson will be a popular name.
So what of #5 Notre Dame, #7 Michigan State and #9 Iowa? Well, they need things ahead of them to tumble without making a mistake of their own.
Gamin' and namin'!
#5 Notre Dame at #11 Stanford, Nov. 28 (TBD): The Irish get a test from Pitt this weekend, but the season-capping trip to Palo Alto looms larger.
As for Michigan St., they've got the big OSU contest...while Iowa might just walk into the Big Ten Championship with everything to play for. How unbelievable would that be...well, looking at their schedule, it's pretty damn beliveable.
Prospects for Rams fans to watch: Notre Dame C Nick Martin. The Irish's line is impressive, and Martin's part of the reason why.
It depends what you're hunting for. The good thing for the Rams is that with a well-rounded, young roster, they can start to shop exclusively. Do they go after a wide receiver on day one or two? Does the offensive line still need work? Will contractual departures require re-staffing at defensive end or cornerback? Will a Just Todd Gurley pop up who requires a Best Player Available pick regardless of team needs elsewhere?
When we last checked in on the TST community's sense of team needs, wide receiver was the clear favorite target with offensive line and tight end needs coming in thereafter. Hard to think that's changed wholescale in less than a month's time, especially given how the Rams have performed since the bye.
So with a huge day on Saturday, come join us in the college thread and let's keep an eye on the passing offenses across the college landscape as things start shaping up for the 2015 college football playoffs.