Are you taking Alabama or Clemson, or will you go with the field?

Through one month of college football, there seems to be one conclusion that feels pretty safe. Alabama and Clemson are the best teams in college football. Everybody else appears to be playing for third place. Alabama continues to demolish their opponents and Clemson has now picked up three wins against ranked opponents, and two of the more impressive wins have come on the road.

Alabama has opened SEC play with back-to-back 59+ point victories over Vanderbilt and Ole Miss after this past weekend’s 66-3 win over the Rebels. And the Tide has already derailed Florida State’s season with the opening week victory in Atlanta. Is there anyone in the SEC who can challenge Alabama? Your first reaction might be Georgia, given the way the Bulldogs have played this season, but even the Bulldogs could be in for a rude awakening if and when these two teams meet in the SEC Championship Game.

Meanwhile, Clemson continues to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and they’re all out of gum. Make no mistake about it, Louisville and Virginia Tech are good programs this season, but Clemson went into their houses and beat them up from the start to return home with 14+ point victories. The Tigers remain the class of the ACC with few worthy of challenging them.

As a result, both Alabama and Clemson continue to receive the most favorable odds to win the national championship, which means your bigger payouts are going to come by taking someone else in the field, like Oklahoma, Penn State, Washington, Ohio State, etc. So let me ask you this: If forced to choose between Alabama and Clemson or The Field, which way do you go? As good as Alabama and Clemson are, you might be wise to take The Field to play the odds. I’m not sure I’d advise it, but sometimes you have to risk some money to make some money.

Here’s why Alabama and Clemson appear to be locks for the College Football Playoff. You figure at this point each team probably has to lose not once, but twice to be knocked out of the Playoff hunt. Do you see either team losing two games the rest of the way? Clemson has NC State and Florida State for back-to-back weeks in November, and could have to play Virginia Tech again or Miami in the ACC championship game. Alabama will play at Auburn in the Iron Bowl and maybe Georgia in the SEC Championship game. I’d feel pretty good about those chances for Clemson and Alabama to tie down the top two seeds.

Who gives either team the biggest hurdle outside of their conferences? Michigan might hold their own on defense. Penn State and Oklahoma might score a few points. But there may not be a team ready to go four quarters in all facets to prevent Alabama or Clemson. But we still have two more months to sort this out.

When do we start legitimately asking “Is Miami back?”

Last week, we took a look at emerging TCU and Georgia, but the focus may soon shift to the Miami Hurricanes, right on schedule. Prior to the start of the season, I said at some point this year we are going to be forced to address the seemingly annual question of whether or not The U is back. We may be gearing up to address this notable topic of conversation.

Miami has looked pretty good in their first three games of the season, which includes a win over a pretty good Toledo team and now a 25-point road win against Duke. It’s about par for the course for what we should have expected from Miami this season, but this is the week we have supposedly been waiting for. Miami travels to Tallahassee to play Florida State, a week after the Seminoles picked up their first win in a bizarre start to the 2017 season. This game was originally scheduled a few weeks ago, but was pushed back due to the storms working through Florida last month.

So now, Miami goes on the road for a second straight week in conference play and this week faces a team with some talent and issues, and is desperate to get their record back to .500. This is a good test for Miami, and if they come out of it with a win, then we can begin to truly analyze Miami as a legitimate contender in the ACC. (In this case, we’re talking about simply getting to the ACC Championship game, a feat not yet accomplished by Miami since moving to the ACC.)

But let’s see if Miami beats Florida State before we go too deep into this analysis.

Watch out for Pac-12 cannibalization

As USC took a hit after narrowly escaping landmines throughout the month of September, Mike Leach and Washington State put the Pac-12 on notice Friday night. These Cougars are not to be dismissed. And to be fair, many had probably done that when discussing top Pac-12 contenders. The attention was on defending champion Washington, a rising USC, and maybe some threw Stanford (or Utah) into the mix.

But not the Cougars. Lest we forget, Washington State was right in the hunt for the Pac-12 title a year ago, but a Friday night victory over USC made the Cougars a team well worth our attention.

At the end of the year, it may still prove to be Washington vs. USC, but that is far from a certainty at this point. The Cougars looked like a team that can beat you a few different ways on Friday night, instead of relying on winning high-flying shootouts the way Leach teams have been known to do over the years. We know USC is not quite the dominant force they were hyped to be. We know Stanford is still a threat with Bryce Love. Oregon has looked better but is probably about to move forward without their quarterback.

Whatever happens, the Pac-12’s margin for error was reduced as far as the College Football Playoff is concerned. Already trailing in the polls behind four teams from four other power conferences, the pressure is on for the Pac-12 to make some moves to put a team in playoff position. We already know Washington or Washington State is guaranteed a loss since they will play at the end of the regular season. And we also know Washington or Stanford is guaranteed a loss, since they have yet to play. Utah is 4-0 but still must play USC, Washington State, and Washington.

Watch out, Pac-12. You may be about to pick your Playoff hopes apart unless you trust Washington or Washington State to run the table.

Coaching Carousel begins seasonal operation

While plenty of knives will be pointed at Tennessee head coach Butch Jones and LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, the first official coaching change of the week has been made. UTEP head coach Sean Kugler resigned on Sunday to officially begin this year’s edition of the Coaching Carousel. The job may not be the most earth-shaking position now on the market, but we are now ready to start firing up some coaching rumors and throw names against the wall to see what sticks.

This is, of course, just the beginning of the coaching rumor mill season, and the momentum will surely pick up as the higher profile jobs see changes made.

Stock Up, Stock Down

Stock Up: Neal Brown. The head coach of Troy should already have been on the radar for some programs in need of an upgrade at head coach, but a road win at LSU that was clearly not a fluke will only help boost Brown up the list of potential candidates for a few jobs. Heck, maybe even the LSU job.

Stock Down: Sam Darnold Heisman Trophy hype. I’m not ready to say Darnold won’t come back and run wild in Pac-12 play, but the preseason favorite for the Heisman Trophy had eight interceptions in September and USC’s loss at Washington State puts a slight dent in USC’s Pac-12 title plans.

Box Score of the Week

I honestly just can’t stop looking at this result. I know Alabama is great, and I didn’t expect much from Ole Miss this season. But dang.

Burns of the Week

Your weekly reminder that college football can be great

The eternal connection between former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano (now Ohio State’s defensive coordinator) and Eric LeGrand is always touching to see. The two shared a moment Saturday night before Ohio State obliterated Rutgers in Big Ten play.

So that’s why James Franklin insists on using Saquon Barkley on kickoff returns

It was bound to be just a matter of time before Saquon Barkley broke free for a kickoff return as long as James Franklin insisted on using him in that capacity.

On Saturday, Barkley returned the game’s opening kickoff 98 yards for a score. Indiana may have held Barkley to just 56 rushing yards, but the new Heisman front-runner ended his day with over 200 all-purpose yards, including a 16-yard touchdown pass to pad the Heisman highlight reel. We’re just a few weeks away from Penn State’s make-or-break stretch in Big Ten play, which just so happens to be Barkley’s make-or-break stretch in the Heisman race with a home game against Michigan, road trip to Ohio State, and a road game at Michigan State.

Group of Five Watch

It was a good week for San Diego State, even though they had to scratch together a win at home against a Northern Illinois team that already has a road win at Nebraska. But the Aztecs did what they needed, even if they had to win ugly. In this game, a win is a win and you take it however you can.

But the biggest win for San Diego State was probably courtesy of Stanford and Bryce Love. Any week that sees the Cardinal win is a good week for San Diego State because it will continue to boost up San Diego State’s victory over Stanford in the Group of Five resume battle. Stanford may have two losses, but the Aztecs’ win over them is still the most notable win this season by a Group of Five program. That can go a long way.

The biggest threats to San Diego State may still reside in the AAC, where Scott Frost and UCF are rocketing up the charts after a blowout win over Memphis. Remember that UCF also owns a win over Maryland, and the Terrapins are off to a nice 3-1 start.

Here’s how I currently rank the top Group of Five contenders in the hunt for a spot in the New Year’s Six.

  1. San Diego State
  2. UCF
  3. USF
  4. Navy
  5. Houston

My Top 4

I’ll keep this short and simple this week. If the College Football Playoff started today…

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Georgia

How I currently am forecasting the College Football Playoff…

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Ohio State

Whoa, the Buckeyes? Yeah, the Buckeyes.

I know Ohio State hasn’t exactly been tested in the last couple of weeks, but since the loss to Oklahoma, I feel Ohio State has taken advantage of their schedule to get back on the right track. At the beginning of the season, I predicted Ohio State would go undefeated, which means I have them winning games against Penn State and Michigan the rest of the year. The loss to Oklahoma didn’t quite take me away from that stance, although I had been putting Penn State in the playoff the last few weeks.

The reason I’m sliding Ohio State back in is that, for now, I’m sticking with my preseason game prediction against the Nittany Lions because we have seen holes in Penn State’s offensive line. That’s a weakness Ohio State can exploit to their advantage. Also, Urban Meyer in revenge games is pretty good, and Ohio State gets a bye week to prepare while Penn State comes off their own revenge situation against Michigan (another defense that could pose problems for Penn State).

We are getting close to witnessing the College Football Playoff selection committee releasing their first batch of rankings, though, so my outlook for the Playoff could drastically change once we get an understanding of just how they see things playing out. And by then, we will have seen Ohio State vs. Penn State, among many other notable games.

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Previously contributed to NBCSports.com. Host of the Locked On Nittany Lions Podcast. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.