Could the Clemson Tigers reign victorious if a playoff were today?
Saturday's college gridiron thrills sent fans to bed with BCS dreams.
As many awoke—red-eyed and confused watching Sports Center replays—thoughts turned into bigger question marks. Which team really is the dominant force in college football? Who'd win if there were a playoff of the Associated Press' top six teams?
Would Dabo's Clemson Tigers' survive a faceoff with Stanford? Could Boise's offense out-smart Bama's tough defense and score enough points to shed the plague of schedule ease?
Welcome to Dreamland, where we travel to an imaginary stadium.
We've picked our own top teams for a playoff that starts now.
LSU is the voters pick for No. 1, but are they really the dominant team?
The stage for our playoff is set.
The contenders are spread from east to west, north to south. But undeniably, there is a standout. The LSU Tigers, ranked No. 1 in all major polls—appear as a clear-cut opponent in this self designed playoff game.
But let's look at the other list of standout teams. Falling beneath LSU in the top six slots are Alabama (8-0), Oklahoma State (7-0), Stanford (7-0), Boise State (7-0) and Clemson (8-0).
As LSU stands tall, don't take it for granted that if they played for the top slot today, they would emerge victorious. Texas Tech's Tommy Turberville knows better. His team has proven that it is possible for a top-ranked team to be dethroned by unranked visitors.
And if you still don't believe it, ask the Spartans, who ended Wisconsin's run for No. 1 in a stunning final play 44-yard catch for touchdown (37-31). Dreams really can come true, we're told.
Let the speculating begin.
Although Clemson stands with a perfect record, could they match up to an Alabama or LSU?
So we've marked off the field, the sprinklers are turned off. Our imaginary playoff search committee is fielding the applicants. Let's look to the ACC and the Clemson Tigers. Could this Tiger team—if challenged today—be No. 1?
They've climbed the ladder to No. 6 in this week's AP ranking, defeating the University of North Carolina in a 59-38 fan-pleasing and offensively excelling win yesterday at home, but have they actually played highly ranked teams? One could argue, yes. They beat No. 21 Auburn (38-24) and then, No. 11 Florida State (35-30), and pounded Virginia Tech (former No. 11) by a whopping 20 points.
Thirty years ago, a remarkably similar Clemson team won the national championship. Remember "The Fridge," aka William "Refrigerator" Perry? Today, Tiger fans are reliving that occasion after team members from that championship team were revered yesterday...inspiring them to forge on.
Clemson has started 8-0 for the fourth time in school history, and it has been 30 years since they won a national championship. They're hungry. Ironically, it's Tigers' head coach Dabo Swinney—a former walk-on wide receiver at Alabama— who has touched the crystal enough to know how sweet it is. He was a part of the Gene Stallings' '92 Tide National Championship team.
This weekend, the former Tide standout player-turned-coach carries his orange and white team into Yellow Jacket territory. Taking on a tough Tech team rebounding from their 24-7 loss to Miami, it will be Clemson's chance to show their worth as a No. 1 contender...or not.
Boise forged forward in its quest for No. 1, defeating Air Force 37-26
Kellen Moore's 338-yard passing game versus Air Force on Saturday is just one more reason to add them to our serious playoff contender list. Dazzling the naysayers week after week, Saturday was a record-breaking day for this team clamoring to tackle a team from the SEC West.
Moore walked away with his 45th game as the starting quarterback, tying Colt McCoy for the most wins by a starting quarterback in FBS history. With a schedule that lightens with each week, look for this Boise team to hang tough through the end of the season, emerging as one of the powerhouses in college football.
If you're wondering if this Boise team is ready for a chance to show they're real-time holiday entertainment, look at this frustrating stat. If they're not invited to play in the top of the BCS bowls this year, it will be their third time going undefeated and unchallenged since 2002.
Patience is wearing thin.
The Luck is still on their side. The Stanford Cardinals are fighting to stay atop the polls.
With Oklahoma and Wisconsin out of the way, look for this Stanford team to rank high in our list of visionary playoff contenders. Stanford is only allowing 11.2 points a game, and they're knocking off their opponents by 35 points each game.
(Andrew) Luck is on their side, too. Luck passed for 336 yards against last week's No. 25 Washington (44-14) on Saturday, gaining strength and BCS points. They get the USC Trojans on Oct. 29, and watch out for this televised game to give the Cardinals a holy challenge. We're putting them on upset alert and taking them out of our imaginary playoff game.
Kenny Bell is one of many reasons the Tide tops our playoff pick pick
If we stopped the season here and picked two teams to show their stuff, the buck would stop in Tuscaloosa and be colored with the purple and gold of LSU.
Between the two teams' stats, they're almost equal. Both teams have the record and the talent. But if a playoff were today, we would pick the Tide.
The Alabama Crimson Tide has emerged as one of college football's greatest Cinderella, or Saban-ella—stories. In a spirited first eight games of the season, they've grown faster and stronger and equally—or more—dominating as their 2009 national championship predecessors.
Alabama has given up just one touchdown in the past 15 quarters. They've outscored their opponents by 260 points this season. They've scored 315 points and given up 55 points. Including their 37-6 beating over the unranked Tennessee Vols, they allowed only 84 total rushing yards in its first three SEC games.
This is a team who has bought into Saban's philosophy of winning. They're stacked with talent and power on both sides of the ball, and regarding depth, they've got playmakers that can outshine the starters. They've proven that they can play 60 minutes—and then some—often exploding even as the game-clock winds down.
And because of that, at this point in the season, the Alabama Crimson Tide gets our vote for No. 1, defeating LSU in a conjured-up playoff that will become reality in just a little less than two weeks.