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What one-loss teams have best chance to make a playoff run?

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It was just two seasons ago many around the college football world declared the Big Ten’s playoff hopes dead after just two weeks of college football action. Obviously, that turned out to be false. Ohio State went on a tear and hit a hot streak at the best possible time to sneak into the first College Football Playoff as Big Ten champion, then proceed to take out SEC champion and No. 1 seed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl semifinal and then Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and Pac-12 champion Oregon for the national championship.

So here we are once again, analyzing the thin ice a number of conferences and perceived playoff contenders continue to march forward on after two weeks of football action. The question remains, what one-loss teams still have a glimmer of hope to make a playoff run? Here are some worth watching, in no particular order.

Oklahoma

The Sooners get a chance to redeem themselves after losing the opener against Houston. Oklahoma hosts Ohio State this weekend in one of the top games of the week. Having already lost once in Week 1, it is pretty safe to suggest Oklahoma has to win this week in order to keep any hope of a second straight playoff berth alive. A win against Ohio State would still probably have to be followed up by an undefeated run through the Big 12, which is no guarantee given that will include games against undefeated West Virginia, Texas and Baylor, not to mention Oklahoma State and TCU. Even if Oklahoma does win all of their remaining games, if it comes down to handing a playoff spot to a one-loss Oklahoma and an undefeated Houston, which way would the selection committee go?

Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish have a load of key games that can help generate a playoff push. They get Michigan State this week and still have games against Stanford, Miami, Virginia Tech and USC on the schedule to help provide some likely quality wins. A road loss in overtime against Texas may not end up looking too bad if the Longhorns continue to show they are improving. But like any team from the Big 12 playing a 12-game schedule, the margin for error is very thin after taking an early loss for the Golden Domers.

UCLA

When it comes to UCLA being a legitimate playoff contender, I will believe it when I see it. UCLA can keep themselves on the radar this week with a win at BYU to generate some momentum, but losing on the road at Texas A&M and still having games against Stanford, Utah and USC after playing BYU this week means UCLA will have to be on top of its game the rest of the way. The Bruins cannot afford another loss, and running through the Pac-12 without a loss for any team (including Stanford and Washington) is no easy task. Keep in mind, UCLA might be in a position in which it has to defeat Stanford twice, once in the regular season and again in a Pac-12 championship game (or Stanford in the regular season and Oregon or Washington in the championship game). Do you like those odds? Neither do I.

And just to note, I’m taking a hard pass on USC after being obliterated by Alabama and still having to play at Stanford this week and then Oregon later on followed by road trips to Washington and UCLA before hosting Notre Dame. Nope. Not happening.

Ole Miss/LSU

Ole Miss and LSU each lost against power conference opponents away from home in not-so-neutral fields in Week 1, and each still has to play each other and Alabama. If either one of these two can go 2-0 against the other and the Crimson Tide, that is all that will be needed to get back in the playoff hunt. Of course, this is no small feat. Ole Miss gets their first crack to jump back in the fun with a home game against Alabama this week. Win that and then it is on, starting the following week at home against Georgia. Back-to-back road games against Arkansas and LSU later also pose a serious threat to Ole Miss’ playoff hopes if Alabama doesn’t crush them first. LSU has a more favorable path to making a playoff with one loss and has the luxury of getting both Ole Miss and Alabama at home, albeit in back-to-back weeks later on. If LSU has figured out its passing game and Leonard Fournette comes back healthy soon, LSU could enter those two pivotal SEC West matchups with just one loss and have momentum to work with. A road game at Florida should be the only real threat before that.

Purdue

Nah, I’m just kidding.

 

Do you think any other one-loss team through the first two weeks of the season has any real chance to remain in the playoff picture in November, or is all hope already lost?

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

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Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

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Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.

SEC commissioner confirms graduate transfer rule changes will be discussed at spring meetings

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We’re still over a month away from the SEC’s annual spring meetings down in Destin, Fla. but one item we might be able to confirm is on the agenda will be the graduate transfer rules for the conference.

It’s a hot topic around the league and particularly so at Florida, which is in the mix to land Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire but can’t officially take him due to restrictions from the conference office.

That may change however, as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey confirmed in a radio interview on Friday with ESPN Gainesville.

“It will come up,” Sankey said, according to SECCountry.com. “I do think we need to look where we’ve been restrictive in the past because of the absence of national rules and look at reducing some of those restrictions. I’m one who would position it as interest in freeing things up without just removing every restraint, because I think the restraints have been healthy for us.”

At the heart of the issue is a rule that limits schools from taking additional graduate transfers if previous graduate transfers failed to meet academic requirements after enrolling. The move was designed to prevent a number of situations where players would transfer over just to play and not really go through coursework at their new school.

Other NCAA conferences have failed to follow the SEC’s lead in this area however and now the league is being put at a bit of a disadvantage on the graduate transfer market. This is particularly an issue with the Gators this offseason but it seems as though there will be quite the discussion down in Destin among athletic directors and head coaches about changing the rules to be on more of a level playing field with other conferences on this front.