Contenders or Pretenders? - LSU Season in Jeopardy. Fighting Irish, Fighting Chance at CFP?

By JusticeLee
Sep. 06, 2016

The first week of college football left many more questions than answers. Eight top 25 teams either won by only a touchdown or outright lost, not exactly the type of opening performance they were looking for.

Today, we’ll look at which top 25 teams can still salvage their season and which will be left behind.

No. 3 Oklahoma: Contender (33-23 loss to No. 15 Houston)

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Sooners had the unfortunate task of taking on one of the hottest teams in the nation. Analysts around the country have been singing their praises for Houston, and for good reason.

Oklahoma didn't play particularly bad, with their defense even making the dynamic Greg Ward Jr. a non-factor in the running game.

Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield put up a respectable stat line of 323 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.

That being said, the loss is still a setback for the third ranked Sooners. They face a daunting schedule in the next four weeks, but if they can emerge unscathed, they will be a playoff worthy team.

No. 5 LSU: Pretender (16-14 loss to Wisconsin)

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

What should have been a cake walk for the number five team in the nation, quickly turned into a nightmare way to start the season. LSU’s playoff hopes took a major blow with a loss to unranked Wisconsin.

The only positive takeaway was the performance of Leonard Fournette. His 138 yards on 23 carries were the only thing going well for the Tiger offense.

LSU quarterback Brandon Harris was horrendous, posting a measly 6.9 QBR. The fact that they only scored one offensive touchdown is a testament to their inefficiency in that phase of the game.

They don't have a particularly difficult first half of their schedule, which means they could make a run back into the top five if other contenders start to lose.

No. 9 Tennessee: Pretender (20-13 OT win over Appalachian St.)

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

A truly disappointing start to the season for a Tennessee team that had high expectations entering the year. Although they secured a win, it took a lucky fumble recovery to do so.

Joshua Dobbs only had a 26.3 QBR and was a non-factor in the running game. The Vols need better production out of him if they want to succeed this season.

A win next week against Virginia Tech could restore some of their confidence, but not necessarily their standing in the polls, which is sure to fall slightly after this week.

No. 10 Notre Dame: Contender (50-47 loss to Texas)

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

In the game of the week, Notre Dame unfortunately came out on the losing end. However they shouldn't fall too far in the rankings due to the competitive contest and the extremely hostile Texas environment.

The biggest takeaway for the Irish was the emergence of DeShone Kizer. He shined for Notre Dame with 292 total yards and 6 total touchdowns. His performance likely vaulted himself near the top of the Heisman conversation.

Their biggest issue of the night was defending the run as the Longhorns were able to score five times on the ground, including the game winning touchdown.

The Irish will need to stay nearly perfect the rest of the season if they want to make the playoffs. However, if Kizer can continue to perform, that may not be so difficult.

No.11 Ole Miss: Pretender (45-34 loss to Florida State)

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a half makes.

The Rebels started off strong against the Seminoles, scoring 28 points in the first half. Then came halftime. They completely lost their rhythm on offense and were getting gashed on defense, leading to a Florida State victory.

Their offense has the ability to put up big numbers, but is heavily reliant on tempo and the decisions of quarterback Chad Kelly. The senior signal caller will need to take better care of the football as his 3 interceptions spelled disaster for his team.

No. 16 UCLA: Contender (31-24 OT loss to Texas A&M)

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Although they nearly completed the comeback, the Bruins offense simply took too long to get going.

Josh Rosen didn’t look anything like the quarterback people believed he’d be this season. While he did face pressure all night, 3 interceptions is still unacceptable. The Rosen we saw in the two UCLA touchdown drives will need to show up much more often if they want to succeed.

The good news is that the Bruins face an easy schedule the rest of the way out, minus a matchup with Stanford in Week 4.

No. 20 USC: Pretender (52-6 loss to No. 1 Alabama)

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojans drowned under the Crimson Tide.

This one was never close, the final score accurately reflects the dominance of Nick Saban and Co. USC only managed 194 total yards of offense, compared to the 465 put up by Alabama.

Unfortunately things won’t be much easier going forward. The Trojans have a meeting with Stanford in two weeks and a brutal Pac-12 schedule in weeks nine to eleven.

They’ll be fighting to stay in the top 25 all season and a playoff berth is near impossible.

No. 22 North Carolina: Pretender (33-24 loss to No. 18 Georgia)

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Chubb stole the show in this game, running all over the Tar Heels to the tune of 222 yards and 2 touchdowns.

As for North Carolina, their offense never really gained momentum. They threatened the Bulldogs briefly in the third quarter, but it wasn't nearly enough.

The Tar Heels won’t be a threat to take the ACC crown and will struggle mightily to make it back into the top 25. 

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