Giving it the old college try
By Ryan S. Pugh
CLARION NEWS Sports
It's been a while since I have discussed college football in this column space and I felt it was time (if you're not into the whole college thing, skip down to my picks).
I think we've gotten to the point in the 2019 season where we know which teams are contenders and which teams are pretenders when it comes to the national title race.
In the pool of contenders are Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, Louisiana State (LSU), Ohio State and Wisconsin.
I'm guessing if you are a fan of college football, you will have a problem with this list because of my omission of Penn State and Florida.
Both the Nittany Lions and the Gators are unbeaten. However, there are reasons why I don't think either team can be moved up to the upper tier just yet.
Penn State's opponents have a combined record of 12-16 with one of its opponents Idaho putting together a 2-4 record against Football Championship Series opponents. The Nittany Lions' most impressive win was the 59-0 road thrashing of Maryland. Penn State gets a test this Saturday at Iowa. If the Nittany Lions come out of Iowa City unscathed, then I can see moving them a little higher. But the Nittany Lions still have a date on the road with Ohio State in November, which will determine the fate of the Penn State season.
Florida, on the other hand, just handled then Associated Press No. 8 Auburn at the Swamp and the Gators' defense looked pretty dominant doing it. However, Florida has to play at LSU this Saturday (Oct. 12) and the game is at night. Anyone will tell you, LSU's home stadium in Baton Rouge (also known as Death Valley) is one of the most intimidating places to play after the sun goes down. If Florida comes out of Death Valley with a win, then the Gators will be firmly in the contenders' pool. But Florida does have a date with Georgia looming in Jacksonville in what used to be known as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." The Southeastern Conference East division crown will likely be decided that day.
There will be some teams in the contenders list who will cancel each other out like Ohio State and Wisconsin since the Buckeyes and the Badgers play each other in Columbus later in the season.
It is more likely Wisconsin would be damaged more by a loss than Ohio State because Wisconsin's strength of schedule is Mama-June-thumbs-down-gif worthy.
The way I see it playing out is the SEC will get two teams in the playoff. I think Alabama and LSU will be those two teams. Georgia could sneak into the mix if the win the SEC East and topple either Alabama or LSU in the SEC championship game.
I figure the two remaining spots in the playoff will go to Clemson and either Ohio State or Oklahoma. And I think Ohio State gets the nod over the Sooners because the Big Ten is a tougher conference than the Big 12. Oklahoma's sternest test will come this weekend in Cotton Bowl in Dallas against rival Texas.
And once again, there will be discussion after discussion and think piece after think piece that college football needs to expand its playoff to an eight- or16-team field. I don't agree at all.
I am looking forward to watching the games this weekend because almost every game involving a ranked team will impact which teams are playing for the national title in January. With an expanded field, this weekend loses most of its significance. Let me ask you; when was the last time a men's regular season college basketball game meant something? Sure, the 68-team team tournament is fun for March but November through February is filled with games that are almost insignificant. I don't want that to happen to regular season college football.
I had my worst week of the year last week going 7-3 and dropping my overall record to 62-8.
District 9 Large School
Bradford (1-6 overall, 1-6 District 9 Large School) at Clarion (6-1, 6-1)
Clarion needs a win after the 42-0 loss the Bobcats suffered at Ridgway.
It is not known if Clarion tailback Austin Newcomb will be available for this week's game after he missed last week's contest for undisclosed reasons.
Bradford comes into the week with a win under its belt after the Owls trounced visiting Punxsutawney last week. I hope Bradford enjoyed the winning feeling.
Clarion 30, Bradford 7
Ridgway (6-1, 6-1) at Karns City (5-2, 5-2)
Ridgway staked its claim to a share of the District 9 Large School title last week with its convincing 42-0 win over Clarion.
Karns City had its own convincing win at Kane last week setting this up to be in the running for game of the week.
I think the Gremlins play the Elkers tough for a half but Ridgway's experience comes through in the end.
Ridgway 28, Karns City 21
Moniteau (2-5, 2-5) at St. Marys (3-4, 3-4)
After a nice, little win streak, St. Marys has lost two in a row and is needing to shore some things up to get back in the playoff chase.
Moniteau will give the Flying Dutch a battle but in the end I think St. Marys finds a way to the win.
St. Marys 28, Moniteau 27
Brockway (1-6, 1-6) at Punxsutawney (0-7, 0-7)
At this point, both teams are just finishing out the string. Transitive property would make Brockway the predicted winner because the Rovers beat Bradford two weeks ago and Bradford beat Punxsutawney last week. Transitive property is good enough for me.
Brockway 35, Punxsutawney 13
Kane (5-2, 5-2) at Brookville (6-1, 6-1)
Brookville has quietly moved into a tie for the top spot in the District 9 Large School race. The visiting Wolves could spoil the Raiders' rise but I don't think so.
Brookville 38, Kane 20
District 9 Small School crossover
Redbank Valley (7-0) at Coudersport (6-0), Saturday
This has been the game Redbank Valley has been waiting for since Coudersport hung 51 points on the Bulldogs in the opening round of the District 9 Class A playoffs.
Redbank Valley's first year head coach made stopping the run his first priority due to the Falcons running all over the Bulldogs in that game. Saturday will be the proving ground for the Redbank Valley defense.
I believe the Bulldogs have something to prove in this one and I think they will prove it.
Redbank Valley 21, Coudersport 20
Smethport (5-1) at Keystone (6-1)
Keystone's running game could not be stopped last week in the Panthers' 30-point win over Union/A-C Valley. Keystone put up almost 350 yards on the ground with Nick Weaver finding the end zone thrice.
Smethport's run defense will provide a stern test for Keystone and its offensive line but I believe the Panthers will have enough to extend their win streak to seven games.
Keystone 22, Smethport 7
Cameron County (0-6) at Union/A-C Valley (5-2)
The Falcon Knights need a win to salve last week's 30-point setback to Keystone.
Cameron County is still looking for win No. 1 on the season. Spoiler Alert: the Red Raiders aren't going to get it here.
Union/A-C Valley 40, Cameron County 6
Otto-Eldred (1-6) at Curwensville (1-6)
It's been a rough go of things for playoff teams from a year ago. I give Curwensville the edge because the Golden Tide is at home.
Curwensville 14, Otto-Eldred 13
Elk County Catholic (3-3) at Sheffield (2-5), Saturday
Don't look now but Sheffield has won two of its last three. Something tells me an Elk County Catholic team that needs wins wherever it can find them to earn a playoff berth will let the Wolverines push it to three of four wins. Just a hunch.
Elk County Catholic 36, Sheffield 14