Football is a game of attrition, and the season is a marathon. It’s only Week 3 on the college schedule, and while we have a long way to go, most teams are starting to show their true colors.
I will take a shot at projecting the four teams we’ll see in the College Football Playoff in early January.
One of my initial picks, Wisconsin, is out. The Badgers ended up red-faced after choking in their season opener against Louisiana State. So, it’s time to find a replacement for Wisconsin, and unfortunately that means I have to look to the Southeastern Conference.
My final four teams:
• Baylor — Yes, the Bears opened the season by feasting on two cupcakes — Southern Methodist and Northwestern State — and they are expected to bully Buffalo today. The Baylor offense might not be as prolific as it was last year, but coach Art Briles will step on the gas when needed.
If quarterback Bryce Petty stays healthy, the Bears have a realistic chance to win the Big 12 Conference. Briles has what it takes to take his team that far. Baylor went 8-5 in 2012, and in 2013, Briles catapulted the Bears into national title contention. The key game for Baylor is Nov. 8 at Oklahoma.
• Oregon — I picked the Ducks to win the national championship, and their runaway victory over Michigan State last week was a big step in the right direction. Oregon showed the ghost of Chip Kelly is still present. The Ducks broke open a close game and handed the Spartans’ backers a losing ticket. Just remember, good teams win and great teams cover.
A great quarterback will be needed to reach the playoff, and Oregon has one of the best in Marcus Mariota.
• Florida State — If quarterback Jameis Winston can keep his off-the-field activities to a minimum, the Seminoles should be playing for their second straight championship. This team has an unfair advantage by playing in the soft Atlantic Coast Conference.
After escaping against Oklahoma State to start the season, Florida State should coast until facing Notre Dame on Oct. 18. The Fighting Irish will be double-digit underdogs.
• Georgia — The Bulldogs were in my top 10 to open the season. In the second half of the Clemson game two weeks ago, running back Todd Gurley really made me hate life, because I was on the underdog. Gurley is a stud and a potential Heisman Trophy winner, and Georgia should represent the SEC East in the league title game.
The Bulldogs will defeat South Carolina on Saturday, and eventually they can think about getting past Auburn and Alabama.
Each week, I recommend three underdogs to win outright. I call it my “Hottie threesome,” and I also parlay the teams on the money line (Home team in CAPS):
• East Carolina (+10½) over VIRGINIA TECH: The Pirates, 2-0 against the spread, are an impressive team. There’s some overreaction to how good Virginia Tech really is after it beat a mediocre Ohio State team a week ago. The Hokies are horrendous home favorites, covering six of their past 19 in that role.
• CENTRAL MICHIGAN (+6½) over Syracuse: The Chippewas made it look easy last week against Purdue, an awful Big Ten team. With Michigan transfer Thomas Rawls at running back, Central Michigan can maul an Orange defense that is weak against the run.
• RUTGERS (+3) over Penn State: I was on the Scarlet Knights to upset Washington State to start the season, and they got it done. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova has improved since last season, and he will outplay Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg.
NFL best bet
• BUFFALO (+1) over Miami: The perception of the Dolphins is exaggerated after they beat a New England team that is not that good. The Dolphins almost always play poorly in Buffalo. I like the Bills, who are confident after upsetting Chicago, to win as home ’dogs.
Kelly Stewart of Kellyinvegas.com can be reached at Askkelly@reviewjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kellyinvegas.