Six Teams That Can Win the CFB National Championship
by Trevor Whenham - 09/27/2006
There is still a long, long way to go in the college football season, but there is one thing you can be fairly sure of. One of six teams - Ohio State, Auburn, USC, West Virginia, Florida or Michigan - will be the national champion. Those are the top six teams in the rankings, and they are all undefeated. There are other undefeated teams, like Louisville and Georgia, that are knocking on the door, but a lot of things would have to go awfully wrong for those teams to move past the top six.
Those six teams have something else in common, too - they all had pretty bland performances in week four of the season. They all won, of course, but none of them were very overpowering or impressive. Ohio State was the only team of the six to cover, and they only managed that late and in ugly fashion. So, is it time for fans of those six programs to get concerned? More importantly, are we likely to see these teams struggle to cover some more, and can we make some money from it? Here's a look:
Ohio State - The Buckeyes were supposed to have a very good offense and a defense that could struggle this year. Against Penn State the offense never really fired and it was the defense that saved them. Troy Smith looked uncomfortable and was largely ineffective. Only Antonio Pittman was able to do what he does, running for 110 yards and a touchdown.
The spread against Iowa this week is seven in favor of the Buckeyes. Luckily for Ohio State, the Hawkeyes offense is far from perfect as well. They struggled against lowly Illinois, so the Ohio State defense will be a big test for them. The Buckeyes covered a 17-point spread against Penn State, so seven seems reasonable here, especially since we know that the offense can be much better.
Auburn - They didn't cover last week, but they did beat Buffalo by 31. Of course, a game against Buffalo tells us almost nothing. This week they are 13.5-point favorites against South Carolina.
The more interesting thing to look at, however, is the O/U. The number is a reasonably low 37, but Auburn has gone under three weeks in a row, and South Carolina was shutout by a Georgia team that doesn't have the defense which Auburn does, so the under is a distinct possibility again. You won't want to watch this one if you are looking for high scoring action.
USC - USC is a 17-point favorite over Washington State. The Cougars are 3-1, but that record is deceptive. They have beat three teams they outclass - Stanford, Idaho and Baylor - and were crushed by there only real opponent in Auburn.
USC won't have to worry about their opponent, but they have to worry about themselves. The offense didn't fire last week, and now Dwayne Jarrett is going to be out. They have the depth to overcome that loss, but it means yet another inexperienced player in a key position. On the plus side, Arizona couldn't score so there is no reason to think that WSU will do much better, and the spread is lower this time around.
West Virginia - The Mountaineers have a week off. Hopefully the time will let the very young team mature a bit. Last week, for the first time this season, they looked like what they are - a team that is relying upon very green but incredibly talented players in key offensive positions. They didn't cover against East Carolina, and the opponent was in the game for far too long. They have three soft games when they come back to tune up for Louisville. They are good, but we'll see how good they are.
Florida - Chris Leak is legitimately in the Heisman conversation, yet many Gators fans are calling for him to be replaced by Tim Tebow. Tebow made a couple of eye-popping runs last time out, and Gators fans have no patience (you can't blame them after the Ron Zook era), so this could become a problem for the team if the situation doesn't settle itself.
This time out they are 13.5-point favorites against Alabama. Florida hasn't covered the last two games, and Alabama has in their last two. Alabama lost their last game against Arkansas, and that was their first real opponent all season. They bring an inexperienced young QB into Florida that could be very overwhelmed. Florida was a touchdown away from covering last week, but this spread is almost two touchdowns smaller, so Florida has given us no reason to run away from them here.
Michigan - Michigan is a notoriously bad team ATS. They are just 1-2-1 this year, despite having won all four games fairly easily. Against Wisconsin last week the offense seemed to hibernate through the first half before firing up to pull away.
There are a couple reasons to feel good about Michigan, however. First, Chad Henne and Mario Manningham connected two more times for touchdowns, showing that the chemistry is alive and well. Second, the run defense for Michigan is stifling. Wisconsin managed just 12 net rushing yards, and no team has managed more than 42. Minnesota lost badly to Cal and lost to an unimpressive Purdue team last week, so the 10-point spread in this game, four less than last week for Michigan, seems at least reasonable, and maybe even attractive. Given their record, however, Michigan will find a way to blow the spread and win by seven.