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Tim Crone: Anything is possible in weird pandemic college football season

The Examiner

Although challenges are tough to overcome, college football is having an actual season.

Last Saturday Virginia Tech and North Carolina were starting to warm up when they found out that Tech had 17 players who had tested positive for COVID-19. The Hokies gave up 56 points in that game with a makeshift team.

The playoffs should prove interesting. So far the same old teams are leading in the AP Top 25. Clemson is No. 1 with Alabama in the No. 2 spot. It seems like this is about the same year in and year out.

Tim Crone

It was refreshing to see LSU win the national championship last year but they lost many players to the NFL draft and are back in a rebuilding phase.

Georgia appears to be a formidable foe for the top ranked two teams. The Georgia team always has the talent but has difficulty getting over the hump in the tough Southeastern Conference. They notoriously seem to falter at the end of the season.

Florida was ranked fourth but they got beat by an exceptionally good Texas A&M team. The Gators are explosive on offense but are struggling on defense, and defense has been the Gators’ calling card the past five years.

Big Ten teams Ohio State and Penn State should factor in as playoff teams but they are both playing a schedule that could hurt them in playoff contention.

Notre Dame is looking solid, but they will get lit up when they have to play a team like Clemson. North Carolina is 3-0 with an incredibly talented young quarterback, but Mack Brown’s team has to prove it can win a big game in order to be thought of as a threat in a playoff run.

Miami is on the comeback road and seems to be playing with a lot of discipline for the first time in many years. The Hurricanes are beginning to look like the national power that they were once known to be in the past. Florida is the home of amazingly fast athletes ripe for recruitment. The Hurricanes should be a team to be reckoned with in the next three years.

Tennessee is also a historically good program that has really struggled the last 10 years. This year’s Volunteer team is very physical and will make things tough for everyone they play in the SEC.

n the Big 12, Oklahoma and Texas, the big money teams, are just average with each team having an early 2-2 record. Texas is consistently the most underachieving program in the country. They have more money than any other program in the entire country but this year they have a defense as soft as toilet paper. Oklahoma is in a rebuilding year on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. OU’s offense looked good in a win over Texas last weekend but that is against an exceptionally soft defense.

You have to like what Iowa State and Kansas State are doing with less talent than the Longhorns and Sooners. TCU plays everyone tough. But at this stage of the early season, Oklahoma State may be the best team in the Big 12. The Cowboys always seem to stub their toe against Oklahoma and lose to a solid program during conference play. Two losses always leaves the Pokes on the outside looking in.

It is impossible to try and figure how a Pac-12 team could fit into the national playoff picture. They are going to start later than any other league and they get extraordinarily little national exposure with late start game times in the western part of the country. Oregon is ranked No. 12 in the country right now although they have not yet played a game.

It is almost ridiculous to try to rank teams at this point of a strange pandemic season. Although fans are acting like everything is normal, nothing is normal about this football season. It is a major accomplishment for a team to get through a whole week of practice and still have available players on Saturday.

Both Clemson and Alabama have more quality depth than most other programs, which is most likely the reason they are ranked so high so early.

The old saying “only the strong survive” may hold true this season. The powerhouse teams will most likely dominate, but a surprise team – like LSU last year – might still jump up and surprise everyone.

• The quote of the week comes from Hall of Fame NFL coaching icon Don Shula: “Success isn’t final. Past performance is forgotten in every new competition. It is harder to stay on top than it is to get there.”

– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.