Buying or Selling Every Top 10 Team as a BCS Championship Contender

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2013

Buying or Selling Every Top 10 Team as a BCS Championship Contender

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    The picture of the race for this year's BCS National Championship is growing clearer by the week.

    Alabama has passed another test with flying colors, and the Oregon Ducks continue to fly past everybody else. Georgia flexed its muscle as a one-loss team to watch after dispatching the LSU Tigers, while Ohio State passed its first test of the season. Other possibilities to hoist the trophy held fast as others emerged.

    A handful of teams remain alive, and with a wacky October ahead and most of those out-of-conference cupcakes out of the way, everybody will settle into conference play trying to make their mark and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.

    Who's got the goods to get to Pasadena?

10. LSU: Sell

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    A barn-burning loss to Georgia this past weekend didn't do the Bayou Bengals any favors, especially considering the brutal schedule that awaits.

    LSU's remaining ledger of games includes road trips to Alabama and Ole Miss as well as home games against Florida and Texas A&M. That's tough for anybody to face, even the nation's most talented teams.

    Though the Tigers are certainly not short on talent—few can trot out a wide receiver tandem like Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry—issues reared their ugly heads against UGA. LSU piled up just 103 rushing yards against the Dawgs, and the defense simply didn't have an answer for Aaron Murray.

    That doesn't bode well with A.J. McCarron and Johnny Football still on the slate. Sell LSU.

9. Texas A&M: Sell

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    Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

    Nobody in his right mind would doubt Johnny Manziel and that Aggies offense, which just continues to rack up point totals the size of Texas.

    But, oh, that defense.

    Even against an Arkansas team that has struggled at times this year, A&M gave up 33 points in a 45-33 victory. They can't consistently stop anybody. Also, there are too many potential road blocks on the Aggies' schedule to believe they have a legitimate chance to get to Pasadena.

    Thanks to a shootout loss to Alabama in College Station earlier this season, A&M doesn't control its own destiny in the SEC West anymore, and it's hard to imagine Manziel and his crew getting to the national championship game without playing in the SEC Championship Game.

    Though Bama has proven before that it can happen...

8. Florida State: Sell

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    A showdown with Maryland at Doak Campbell Stadium this weekend should give everybody an indication of whether Florida State is for real.

    But the Oct. 19 game at Death Valley against Clemson is the game circled as the ACC's game of the year. At this point, it would be hard to argue that FSU has played better than a Tigers team clicking along easily.

    With a national emerging megastar at quarterback in Jameis Winston, the Seminoles breezed through their first three games this season, but a 48-34 comeback win over Boston College in Chestnut Hill last weekend raised some questions.

    Jimbo Fisher's teams are always susceptible to having one of those forgettable games (see N.C. State last year), and that game against Miami on Nov. 2 looks a bit more interesting as well.

    Even with an able stable of running backs and Winston's magic, the 'Noles don't seem good enough to run the table. And one loss with their schedule is not conducive to playing in the championship game.

7. Louisville: Sell

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    Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals are a very dangerous team, as evidenced by their 33-23 win over No. 3 Florida in last year's AllState Sugar Bowl.

    Nobody disputes that.

    But a game that happened last season isn't going to help a UL resume that is ultimately going to cost the Cardinals a chance to play for this year's national championship.

    About the only team remaining on a cakewalk-laden schedule that could be a potential stumbling block for Charlie Strong's team is Central Florida in three weeks. But a win over the Golden Knights won't be enough to catapult them over any of the other undefeated teams.

    Also, if a team like Georgia, Oregon or Texas A&M is standing with just one loss at season's end, it's difficult to see the Cardinals getting in the BCS title game over them, either.

    The upside to Strong sticking with athletic director Tom Jurich and Louisville is a season of dominance. The downside is they'll have to wait until joining the ACC next season to have a real strong shot at a national championship.

    They'll finish undefeated and out of the equation.

6. Georgia: Buy

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    Of all the one-loss teams in the country, nobody is playing better football than Georgia.

    Arguably, nobody outside of Oregon, Clemson and Ohio State have played more consistently strong than coach Mark Richt's Bulldogs.

    UGA lost the season-opener to a very good Clemson team with a fifth-year starting quarterback and a slew of playmakers, and it did so in thrilling fashion. Since then, the Bulldogs have beaten South Carolina and LSU.

    Aaron Murray is playing as well as any quarterback in the country right now, and if running back Todd Gurley's lower leg injury doesn't linger, Georgia will be tough to handle down the stretch.

    They're at least the class of the SEC East, and if they can get to the conference championship game and beat an undefeated Alabama team, they could be on their way to the Rose Bowl.

5. Stanford: Sell

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    Stanford's path to the national championship game would have to run directly through the mighty Oregon Ducks, and that's not good news for the Cardinal.

    Coach David Shaw's team should patent the blueprint for beating Oregon after the Cardinal handled the top-ranked Ducks 17-14 last season, but Mark Helfrich's bunch looks stronger across the board this season.

    That tilt will be one the nation watches on Nov. 7, and it's difficult to see Stanford winning that one unless something happens to Marcus Mariota or De'Anthony Thomas prior to that game.

    Even if Stanford somehow gets through Oregon, it will have to run the gauntlet of a difficult schedule to get to Pasadena.

    Behind the play of quarterback Kevin Hogan, the Cardinal are very, very good, as you saw if you tuned in to last Saturday's 55-17 thumping of Washington State. But with Notre Dame, UCLA and Washington on its schedule, there are too many hurdles to overcome.

4. Clemson: Buy

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    Everybody is just kind of waiting for Clemson to choke away a championship season against a team it is supposed to annihilate.

    That isn't going to happen this year.

    With fifth-year senior quarterback Tajh Boyd and all the products of those recruiting wars Dabo Swinney won playing all over the field, this Tigers team is good. Really good.

    That Florida State game is obviously circled, but when you've struggled to be consistent week-in and week-out the way the Tigers have during Swinney's career, you're on upset alert every week. This Clemson team looks seasoned and poised, and that win over Georgia to open the season is aging like a fine wine.

    South Carolina always looms at the end of the year, but Clemson really will only be tested once before them with a road trip to Maryland on Oct. 26. If the Tigers are undefeated at season's end, they'll be in Pasadena.

3. Ohio State: Buy

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    Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    Urban Meyer still hasn't lost a football game as Ohio State's head coach.

    He's 17-0 through the past two years, and though the Buckeyes couldn't go to a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions last year, it's time to recognize them as a legitimate candidate to make the Rose Bowl this season.

    The nation tried to toss a quarterback controversy into Ohio State's lap leading up to last weekend's game, but Meyer went with his star in Braxton Miller, and Miller certainly didn't disappoint in a 31-24 win over Wisconsin that really wasn't as close as the score indicated.

    Now, the Buckeyes know they've got their star quarterback back and a very able backup in Kenny Guiton if anything were to happen.

    Given that the Big Ten is pretty weak again this year, the season-ending battle against Michigan looms large. OSU should run the table, then wait to see what happens with Alabama, Oregon and Clemson.

2. Oregon: Buy

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    If you blink, chances are the Ducks scored a touchdown. They're that fast.

    Everybody knows their offense plays at a breakneck pace with future NFL stalwarts like Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas, but the fact is this season's defense has played better than any that Oregon ever had under Chip Kelly.

    That doesn't bode well for the rest of the Pac-12 or whatever team awaits the Ducks in Pasadena. 

    Though Oregon hasn't played anybody really good yet, it destroyed the decent opponents it played such as Virginia, Tennessee and California. 

    None of those teams will pose the threat that Stanford will, and the Cardinal slowed them considerably last season. Get past that one and Washington, and Oregon will be quacking to the championship game. They look like the best team in the nation, but will the Ducks lay an egg?

1. Alabama: Buy

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    They've won the past two national championships and three of the last four. Quite simply put, they're the kings of college football.

    So, until somebody unseats Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, they'll be the favorite again this season. The college football world can talk about them playing uninspired football against Virginia Tech or Colorado State, but then Bama goes out and wins a high-scoring affair against Texas A&M and then shuts out upstart Ole Miss.

    They've got all the talent in the world, and they are the best-coached team in the country.

    Lose All-American safety HaHa Clinton-Dix (reported by ESPN's Alex Scarborough) to an indefinite suspension? No matter. Former 5-star players are lined up behind him awaiting their chance. 

    It's the nature of the machine Saban's built. Somebody has to pull the plug to stop it from churning up everybody else.