College Football Update: Contenders have Survived but a Few Rising Teams May Be Able to Challenge Them

Tim Callahan, Staff Writer

Through 6 weeks of the college football season, little has changed at the top of the rankings; Alabama, Georgia, and “The” Ohio State University have emerged as clear favorites. Both 3rd ranked Alabama and top ranked Georgia have survived scares on the road with the Crimson Tide barley beating a young Texas Longhorn squad by a mere one point (20-19). Alabama later escaped an unranked Texas A&M – barley holding on for a 24-20 victory. On October 1st, Georgia had a late comeback to beat the struggling Tigers of Missouri; however they rebounded with a storming 42-10 victory over the Tiger of Auburn.  On the other hand, Ohio State has arguably had the best resume so far, including a gutsy home win against an underperforming Notre Dame team, as well as a 52-21 win over Wisconsin, 49-10 victory over Rutgers,

Image Courtesy of Ohio State Football

and a statement 49-20 win over Michigan State. We also can not forget about the 4th ranked Clemson Tigers who reminded 15th ranked NC State who runs the ACC, with a 30-20 victory. Also notable are the Michigan Wolverines, who are now ranked #5 in the AP poll, and have had mostly blow out victories including UConn (59-0) and Hawaii (56-10). Although each of these teams in the top 5 have remained undefeated, all of them still have huge games remaining on their schedule and may be poised for an upset. 


Currently, there are four SEC teams that sit in the top ten. Besides Alabama and Georgia, the Tennessee Volunteers are ranked 6th in the country while the Ole Miss Rebels sit at number 9. Both of these teams have had impressive victories in their own right, with Tennessee beating a ranked (at the time) Pittsburg

Image via the Southeastern Conference

team and a 40-13 win over LSU. They also hosted and defeated a Florida Gators team who had  previously beat a top 10 team in Utah. The Ole Miss Rebels also had some early season success and welcomed a young and feisty Kentucky Wildcats team into Oxford. Behind a strong rushing game, the Rebels pulled out a 3 point win against a currently ranked 22nd Kentucky team. The road to the CFP does not get any easier for both of these teams with their loaded SEC schedules.

Teams on the West Coast have also had some early season success meaning,  The Pac-12 is finally relevant again! The conference has a solid chance to make some noise down the stretch with three teams ranked in the top 12. The 7th ranked USC Trojans, who

Image via the PAC-12

are bound for the Big 10 in 2024, have no ranked wins, but pulled out a solid 3 point victory at Oregon State, and a dominant 41-28 win over Stanford. New head coach, Lincoln Riley, will have to lead this team to a road victory at Utah and a season finale clash with rival Notre Dame to have any shot at the playoff. Both the Utah Utes and the Oregon Ducks suffered heartbreaking losses to SEC teams early in the season. The now 20th ranked Utes lost a nail biting game to the Florida Gators in Gainesville, then were beaten by fellow Pac-12 team, UCLA. The Ducks were pummeled by the defending national champions in Georgia. Utah and Oregon will play on November 19th in a game that could decide who goes to the Pac-12 Championship game in Vegas. However, 11th ranked, undefeated UCLA threatens to change what the Pac-12 championship could look like, as they have a ranked win over Utah, and a 45-17 dismantling over Colorado. If USC or UCLA remain undefeated, and either Utah or Oregon keeps their one loss, the winner of the Pac-12 Championship has a legitimate chance of playing for a national title – although the chances of a Pac-12 team being chosen over a team from the SEC or Big 10 are slim.

Image via the Big 10

Speaking of the Big 10, three teams have emerged as the contenders for the Championship Crown. Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State are all undefeated and ranked in the top 10 teams in the country. Penn State is currently ranked 10 and has a massive matchup with the Wolverines looming on October 15th, at Michigan’s own “Big House”. The Nittany Lions will also host the Ohio State Buckeyes on October 29th, which will likely be the iconic whiteout game. If Penn State can take at least one of the two against the top 5 teams they will have a solid chance at the Big 10 Championship and more importantly, the College Football Playoff. Although trying to beat Ohio State is quite the task, a task that Michigan will try to achieve on the final Saturday of the regular season. Almost every year, this is the game that decides who will represent the Big 10 East in the conference championship game. If one of these two rivals come into the game with a loss, it will be a must win game which only makes the rivalry more important. If both teams go into the rivalry game undefeated, the Big-10 is looking primed to send a team, or maybe two, to the College Football Playoff. 

Image Courtesy of Bleacher Report

Finally, there have been many teams that have opened the eyes of college football fans. The Kansas Jayhawks started 5-0 and ranked for the first time since 2009! It has been a rough decade for Jayhawk fans, with them often times being the laughing stock of the Big 12 – but the future is certainly bright.

Image vis the Big 12

They picked up a win at West Virginia and survived a strong Iowa State team. College Gameday was in Lawrenceville for a massive top 25 matchup between Kansas and a TCU team that pummeled Oklahoma this past weekend. In this matchup, undefeated TCU gave 19th ranked Kansas their first loss of the year. 13th ranked TCU now poses as a real threat to the 8th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys – and the rest of the Big 12.


Like Kansas, The Syracuse Orange of the ACC are ranked in the AP poll for the first time in years. The Orange have survived Purdue, Virginia, and Louisville, to remain undefeated and are ranked 18th in the

Image vis the Atlantic Coast Conference

country. If Syracuse wants to stay ranked, they will have to win games against 15th ranked NC State, 4th ranked Clemson, unranked Notre Dame and 14th ranked Wake Forest. If they pick up a few wins against these talented teams, the Orange should find themselves ranked at the end of the year.  This teams will make the ACC interesting as, Wake Forest, NC State, Clemson and Syracuse will all compete to see who gets crowned as ACC Champion. 



Every year, college football never ceases to disappoint. This year is looking quite similar to years prior – with Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia all ranked at the top of the poll – which they have seemingly always been during the College Football playoff era (2013-14 season to now). However, rough up and coming teams such as Tennessee, Penn State, TCU, Wake Forest or even fan favorites like Kansas, or 25th ranked James Madison could shock the world and upset the powerhouses.