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NCAAF Notebook: Clemson's collapse has been shocking

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Dan Halverson

September 30th, 2021

The conference season is underway in college football, and that means the wackiness is just getting underway. Conference play puts together teams that are very familiar with each other and, more often than not, know precisely how to exploit one another's vulnerabilities.

As we eagerly anticipate the start of Week 5, here are a few of the top stories from around the country.

Week 4 featured a slew of upsets

Week 4 was filled with many upsets, and several more near-upsets. Oklahoma and Iowa continue to look like very unconvincing Top 5 teams, barely skating by as huge favorites against West Virginia and Colorado State, respectively.

Texas A&M’s quarterback situation allowed Arkansas to overwhelm them, North Carolina State upset Clemson, and Iowa State took their second loss of the season and derailed what was expected to be a dark horse playoff run in 2021.

Notre Dame stayed undefeated with a blowout fourth quarter in which they scored 31 points against Wisconsin, and Alabama and Georgia provided about the only predictable and stable result by blowing out far inferior opponents. Below Alabama and Georgia, don’t be surprised by continued chaos from the entire rest of the sport.

The cream has risen to the top

Speaking of Alabama and Georgia, both teams have distanced themselves significantly from all other contenders. Each team is listed at +150 to win the national championship at TwinSpires Sports, with the next closest contender, Oklahoma, coming in at a distant +1200. It is one of the biggest gaps in performance and subsequent future odds that I can recall in quite some time.

NCAAF Championship 2021/2022

Sun, December 5 2021, 10:55 AM

Alabama Crimson Tide


Georgia Bulldogs


Oklahoma Sooners


Oregon Ducks


Ohio State Buckeyes


Ole Miss Rebels


Penn State Nittany Lions


Michigan Wolverines


Texas Longhorns


UCLA Bruins


Alabama has been the best team of the last 10 years by a large margin, so the Crimson Tides' dominance is hardly unexpected. They are second in points per play on offense, and while the defense hasn’t yet emerged as an immovable object, the makings of another truly elite unit are there and will continue to improve.

Georgia, meanwhile, looks to have the best defense in college football, and has a veteran quarterback leading a talented offensive group. They are the best in opponent points per play.

Both teams seem destined for yet another memorable SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. And given the dominance they’ve shown thus far, each is still likely to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. When that time comes, the committee will have to decide if the strength of schedule and accomplishments will warrant a three-seed for the loser, or if they will force an immediate rematch in the round of four.

Clemson Struggles

One team that we have grown accustomed to seeing in the playoff is the Clemson Tigers. They have put a lot of players in the NFL, and have a former 5-star quarterback and a number of highly regarded players at every level of their offense and defense.

Despite those accolades, the defense has looked far from elite, and the offensive attack has been abysmal. We may now be realizing in real time that Dabo Swinney has not actually been doing as much as assumed, but rather his two superstar college quarterbacks were responsible for raising the caliber of the team.

Clemson is almost certainly removed from playoff contention following the Tigers' double overtime loss to North Carolina State.

Top High School Recruits are skipping their senior year

In a second notable story from the high school ranks in Texas, the third-rated prospect in the class of 2022, wide receiver Evan Stewart has opted out of the remainder of his senior year.

This follows a similar announcement from Ohio State quarterback prospect Quinn Ewers, who is likewise a 5-star recruit and projected phenom for a powerhouse college football program.

It is a choice that in past years would have been considered unthinkable as recruits pursued as much recognition in their high school Friday nights as possible. But with the institution of the NIL financial opportunities, it makes perfect sense to save yourself for playing football at a collegiate institution that can get you paid over a million dollars (or more). 

Saturday's slate features several must-see games

There is an incredible lineup of games this weekend. Arkansas vs. Georgia, Cincinnati vs. Notre Dame, and Ole Miss vs. Alabama to name just a few. There will be three different games pairing Top 12 ranked teams, not to mention some interesting contests between Florida and Kentucky, Baylor and Oklahoma State, and Arizona State vs. UCLA.

From start to finish on Saturday there will be highly anticipated and important games taking place across the country, and it looks like the best week we’ve had so far by a wide margin. Find a comfortable spot to sit and enjoy what should be another thrilling Saturday of college football.