College Football

Buying or Selling Every Top 10 Team as a BCS Championship Contender After Week 3

Jeff BellCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2013

Buying or Selling Every Top 10 Team as a BCS Championship Contender After Week 3

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    Alabama celebrates after a touchdown
    Alabama celebrates after a touchdownDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    If college football was run like the stock market, is your team a "buy" or a "sell"?

    After just three weeks, it may be hard to tell, but the list of teams that can actually hold up the crystal ball at season's end is getting smaller each Saturday.

    Spoiler Alert: Some teams, like Alabama, are obviously major contenders to make the BCS Championship Game in early January. Other top programs still have a lot to prove if they hope to be in a similar situation.

    We're taking a look at the Top 10 teams in college football and deciding who you should buy and who you should sell right now in the running for a BCS title game appearance.

    But remember, it's only three weeks. Fortunes can change, and if your team is on the wrong side of this list, it doesn't necessarily mean they'll stay there. What it does mean is that there's a lot of things to improve upon.

     

    Note: The Top 10 is based on the most recent version of the AP poll.

     

10. Texas A&M: Sell

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    Texas A&M is coming off a 49-42 loss to Alabama last Saturday, and on a scale of losses, this one isn't too bad.

    The Crimson Tide are the top-ranked team in the country and have won back-to-back BCS titles. Even in defeat, Johnny Manziel and Co. proved the ability to shred elite defenses.

    But the defense is clearly an issue here. A&M is giving up 36 points per game, and while that stat looks misleading because of what the Tide did, remember that the Aggies gave up 31 and 28 to Rice and Sam Houston State, respectively.

    While the defense may have plenty to work on, what makes Kevin Sumlin's team a "sell" (in the most respectful sense of the term) is that it now sits a game behind Alabama in the standings. Unless Alabama loses twice (or LSU throws a wrench into things), there isn't a clear path to the title game.

    When you add in a road trip to Death Valley, it's tough to see this team making it to Pasadena in January.

9. Georgia: Buy

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    QB Aaron Murray
    QB Aaron MurrayScott Cunningham/Getty Images

    If Georgia and Texas A&M met on a neutral-site field today, the Aggies might very well be the favorites. But, again, part of the consideration in separating the buys from the sells is looking at how they can get to the title game, and for Georgia, the answer is clear.

    The Bulldogs' only loss came to an out-of-conference opponent in Clemson, and they've already knocked off another SEC East contender in South Carolina. A visit from LSU on Sept. 28 and a neutral-site contest against Florida in November are the only remaining ranked teams on the schedule.

    If Mark Richt's team wins out, it will be in the SEC Championship Game, and it's difficult to imagine the winner of that one not having a place in Pasadena.

    In addition to a clear path to the title, Georgia is more battle-tested than any other team in the country. It has faced a hostile road environment at Clemson and knocked off a Top 10 team in the Gamecocks.

    The Bulldogs could fall on the other side of the spectrum if they drop the game against LSU, but right now this is a tough team that has an obvious route to the title game.

8. Florida State: Buy

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    FSU QB Jameis Winston
    FSU QB Jameis WinstonMelina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

    Right now, Clemson is the darling school of the ACC and the Tigers are getting plenty of national buzz.

    However, if Florida State is able to beat Dabo Swinney's team in October, the roles will be reversed. Then it will be the Seminoles garnering the title talk, and with two other ranked teams in Miami and Florida also on the schedule, you can see how Jimbo Fisher's club might make it to the season finale in Pasadena.

    Of course, there are going to be comparisons with anybody else looking to go undefeated, such as Ohio State out of the Big Ten or Oregon/Stanford from the Pac-12, but it's far too early to drum up that conversation.

    Instead, let's look at why this version of Florida State might be different than its predecessors. For one, it has outstanding leadership at the quarterback position in redshirt freshman Jameis Winston. The young gun already has six touchdown passes and just five total incompletions in two games.

    The defense is also playing well, having given up a combined 20 points to Pittsburgh and Nevada. Obviously the 'Noles still have a lot to prove, but if they can find a way to win against the Tigers, they'll have a serious chance to make the BCS title game.

7. Louisville: Sell

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    QB Teddy Bridgewater
    QB Teddy BridgewaterMark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Louisville sure is a fun team to watch this year. They win games easily and look good in the process with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the helm.

    So why aren't they a buy? Well, stop me if you've heard this before, but the schedule is a major thorn in the Cardinals' side. There isn't a ranked opponent on it, and the best team Louisville plays might be Central Florida.

    With apologies to the Knights, a win in that one isn't going to convince anybody of this team's worth. Of course, we could go back to the end of last season when the Cardinals knocked off Florida in the Sugar Bowl. But 2013 is a new season, and unfortunately for Charlie Strong's team, there aren't going to be any opportunities to really show how good they are.

    Plus, a 27-13 win over Kentucky doesn't look too great either. Mind you, the Wildcats are the same team that already lost to Western Kentucky at home.

    Louisville's best shot at a title is to hope that every other team around them drops at least a game. Then it must hope that voters favor victory margin over strength of schedule and decide to give this team a chance.

    But that's a lot to hope for, and while this team will likely get a date against a solid opponent in a BCS game, it needs way too much to go right to make it to the Rose Bowl.

6. LSU: Sell

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    RB Jeremy Hill
    RB Jeremy HillStacy Revere/Getty Images

    LSU is a darn good football team being overlooked by everybody. They have a youthful but nasty defense, and the offense is finally catching up.

    But even darn good teams can't make it through games against Georgia, Ole Miss, Florida, Alabama and Texas A&M unscathed. That's a murderers' row if there ever was one.

    And the problem, even if LSU wins four out of those five, is that the game at Alabama is a must-win. If the Tigers fall in that one, they'll join the Aggies in hoping that the Tide somehow lose two games by the end of the season.

    Unlikely.

    The Tigers are a solid team with everything to play for, and they're better than every other team on the sell list. But the 2013 lineup is just too difficult.

5. Stanford: Sell

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    Stanford QB Kevin Hogan
    Stanford QB Kevin HoganRon Antonelli/Getty Images

    There were a lot of questions about Stanford's offense coming into the season. Were there enough weapons for Kevin Hogan to distribute the ball to? Could he become more than just a game manager? Could the unit keep up with teams like UCLA and Oregon?

    Through two games, those questions haven't really been answered. The Cardinal scored 34 points in both their wins, against San Jose State and Army.

    Perhaps more alarming is that the vaunted Cardinal defense allowed 20 points to the Black Knights. An elite defense should never let that happen, and it begs the question: What will happen against the Bruins and Ducks?

    Heck, do we even know how they'll contain the Sun Devils on Saturday? A dominant performance this weekend might make this slide look foolish. To fans of the Cardinal, it probably does already.

    But while other Pac-12 teams have notched impressive wins, Stanford has looked average in its two games. And average doesn't equal contender for the national championship.

4. Ohio State: Sell

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    RB Jordan Hall
    RB Jordan HallThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The Ohio State Buckeyes are yet another team to sell in the Top 10, for several reasons. Let's start with the offense, which many feel is greatly improved and ready to dominate the Big Ten. But what has it proven, aside from the fact that it can beat up on bad defenses?

    The Buckeyes scored 40 and 42 against Buffalo and San Diego State, respectively. A Kenny Guiton-led offense then put up 52 on the road at Cal, but the Bears allowed 30 to Portland State just a week before. That would be FCS Portland State.

    Then there's the defense, which gave up 34 points to the Bears. Anytime Sonny Dykes is the coach of the opposing team, you know you're in for a wild one. But that total is unacceptable for Urban Meyer's team, especially with all the talent on the defensive side of the ball.

    Braxton Miller hasn't proven he can stay healthy for an extended period of time, and while Guiton is playing better than a lot of starters out there, the Buckeyes need Miller at 100 percent in order to really make national noise.

    Games against Wisconsin and at Northwestern are going to be a test, but a trip to the Big House at the end of the season might be the toughest of them all. Ohio State has the talent to make it to the end, but right now, it isn't showing it.

     

3. Clemson: Buy

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    QB Tajh Boyd stretches over the goal line
    QB Tajh Boyd stretches over the goal lineJoshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson is a clear championship contender, and that became apparent the moment the clock hit zero in their Week 1 tilt with Georgia.

    Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins are the best quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the country, and the defense actually kept up with the Bulldogs, who are led by quarterback Aaron Murray and arguably the best running back in the country in Todd Gurley.

    Plus, the schedule sets up nicely for Clemson to keep impressing voters. It will host Florida State in October and travel to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks in November. Tack on a potential victory in the ACC Championship Game and you have a great team with a solid resume.

    It also helps that the Tigers have already climbed to No. 3 in the polls. Right now, Clemson has a very good chance at making it to the title game in January.

2. Oregon: Buy

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    RB De'Anthony Thomas
    RB De'Anthony ThomasJonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Boy have the Oregon Ducks looked good in dispatching Nicholls, Virginia and Tennessee through three weeks. Others may point to the caliber of opponent, but the way the Ducks earned the victories tells us everything we need to know about the team in Eugene.

    In the game against the Volunteers, Oregon fell behind 7-0 before scoring 59 unanswered points. Marcus Mariota is a serious Heisman contender, and running back De'Anthony Thomas is still the most electrifying player in the game.

    Like Clemson, the schedule sets up nicely for this team to impress the nation. A trip to Washington in October will be tough, as will a home date with UCLA. An early-November, Thursday night showdown with Stanford will be the Ducks' best chance to make a statement, and if they are victorious, they'll likely get either Arizona State or UCLA for a second time in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

    The defense has allowed just 27 points in three games, and the offense may be better than ever with an experienced Mariota at the helm.

     

1. Alabama: Buy

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    Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon
    Alabama RB T.J. YeldonScott Halleran/Getty Images

    Surprised you with this one, didn't I?

    In the most obvious choice ever, Alabama falls into the buy portion of this list, and any college football fan can probably tell you why.

    Start with the fact that Nick Saban's team has won back-to-back national championships and three out of the last four. Then look at quarterback AJ McCarron, a battle-tested star who's as experienced as they come.

    What have they done this season? Oh, they only smoked Virginia Tech and beat Texas A&M in College Station.

    Alabama has the talent, the clout and the experience to reach a third straight title game. Tricky dates with Ole Miss and LSU remain on the schedule, but both games are in Tuscaloosa. The hardest game left might be the SEC championship.

    The Tide's path to the title is clear, and they are the best bet to make it there.

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