| March 17, 2018

Opinion: Upset fatigue

October 16, 2017

Chaos is normally glorified as one of college football’s main attractions.

This year, however, there is too much of a good thing.

Week seven of the college football season initially appeared to be a ho-hum week with the possibility for a few upsets, not the carnival of calamity that it turned out to be. None of the games featured matchups between top-25 teams. There was so little competition expected that College GameDay selected FCS matchup James Madison vs. Villanova as their marquee matchup of the week. Not even the Red River Rivalry between perennial contenders Oklahoma and Texas generated much buzz, as the Longhorns have underperformed all season and the Sooners lost in disappointing fashion to Iowa State.

Too many scripts were flipped on Friday and Saturday, with disastrous implications for postseason college football.

Washington State and Clemson’s losses to vastly inferior opponents on Friday were both fun to watch, but both erased most of their national title hopes. Washington’s loss to Arizona State was entirely uncharacteristic of them, as the tenth best scoring offense in the nation (Washington) failed to put up more than one touchdown against the 120th ranked scoring defense that Arizona State put on the field Saturday. Three different title contenders lost in stunning fashion, and although their playoff hopes may be dead, their championship aspirations should be all but finished.

Chaos in college football is only good when it strikes randomly and spares no one. The University of Alabama Crimson Tide have had no such adversity yet this season. Alabama has yet to even sniff some sort of competition this year, trailing for less than two minutes throughout the seven games they have played. Their offense has faced no trouble, putting up more than 42 points a game behind the improved play of sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts and an ever-punishing run game. The Crimson Tide have won by margins as large as 59 and 63, and Texas A&M has been the only team to lose by less than three touchdowns thus far. The rest of their schedule does not feature any particularly stiff challenges, and their most intimidating opponent left on the schedule, Auburn, lost to an unranked LSU team on Saturday.

Teams like Clemson and Washington are not hopelessly sunk by one loss in their drive to the playoff, but one loss does make their slim chance of beating a reloaded Alabama team seem even slimmer. Clemson defeated Alabama last year by playing flawless football and benefiting from some significant luck. This year’s Alabama team is more experienced and better on offense, and the bad taste of a championship loss only further motivates the team.

The other contenders needed to play their best football every Saturday to look like real championship contenders, but so far nobody looks up to the task of taking on Alabama. Ohio State already lost in uninspiring fashion to an Oklahoma team that went on to choke against a Big 12 after thought. Pac-12 contenders Washington, Washington State, and USC are all unable to produce consistently on offense. Georgia and TCU are the only unbeaten teams left in the top ten besides Alabama, and both seem too untested to be taken seriously as title contenders. There is no real contender to Alabama’s preliminary claim to the national championship, and untimely losses by each would-be contender makes it harder and harder to believe that anyone will actually emerge to challenge the Crimson Tide.

This weekend’s massive upsets were fabulous for television ratings, and the less-heralded schools that stunned the nation have a season-defining victory to hang their hats on. But for the rest of college football, more attrition at the top only means that Alabama appears to be that much more ahead of the field. It would be forward to hand them the trophy now, but the carousel of competition rounding out the rest of the top ten inspires very little hope that any will challenge them.

Jonah Baker can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @jonahpbaker

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