To the surprise of college football fans around the world Saturday, the game in Athens, Georgia between UGA and South Carolina was actually worth watching. Well, let me rephrase: it was worth seeing to the result.
The football was not great and the coaching was even worse but everyone loves a good upset. South Carolina, a team which lost to North Carolina, went on the road to beat No. 3 Georgia.
The Bulldogs may still be the favorites in the SEC East and I bet they find themselves in Atlanta for the SEC Championship but the team we saw Saturday is not one that will contend for a national title. And we have not really seen that from Kirby Smart’s team all season.
However, other teams who are at the top of the rankings have proven themselves more worthy of their spot in the polls and they are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the country as title contenders. Just halfway through the regular season, we could already be down to as few as six teams who have proven themselves to be good enough to compete with anyone else in the country.
The biggest one that jumps off the page sits at No. 2. LSU is absolutely terrifying when it puts a more than capable offense on the field and the Tigers already have wins over Texas and Florida.
Sure, there are questions about the defense and they still have to play Auburn and Alabama but when you have that schedule and there’s still a belief you can run the table, you have to be pretty good.
Another team on the top tier is Ohio State because it just refuses to give us an exciting game to watch by blowing everyone else out of the water. Sure, it seems like the Buckeyes will drop some random game they are not supposed to but that’s an Urban Meyer thing and they fixed that.
Ohio State still has plenty of tough games to get through (Wisconsin, Penn State, at Michigan and the Big Ten Championship) but if it gets through those unscathed, it’ll go from top tier to clear favorite.
While the gap isn’t very big, there does seem to be a gap between those two teams and the next two teams. Alabama and Clemson aren’t on this list because of what they’ve accomplished this year but rather by their talents and the ability of their offenses to strike at any moment. I’m pretty sure DeVonta Smith just scored again while I typed that sentence.
Obviously Alabama and Clemson are still in the top tier and it may not be their fault they have not had the chance to prove themselves against other top-tier teams. However, Clemson’s struggles against North Carolina and Alabama’s holes on defense are enough to push them a notch behind LSU and Ohio State.
The gap between the fourth and fifth teams on this list is much bigger than the gap from third to fourth. Oklahoma has made easy work of decent teams and despite winning by just a touchdown, the Sooners looked like the much better team against Texas. The thing that helps them is if Texas cannot beat the Sooners in the Big 12, who can?
And while I don’t really know if I am fully convinced of Wisconsin’s threat to a national title yet, that defense is something else. And as we all know, defenses win championships and the Badgers probably have the best of anyone on this list.
There are certainly other teams to keep an eye on. While I will not be shocked to see an Auburn, Oregon, Penn State or someone else make it into the playoff, I will be surprised if someone outside of those top six finishes on top of the college football world in the.
Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for The Herald.