Huddle up!

Huddle up!

Each week, Illinois football beat writer — and AP Top 25 and Heisman Trophy voter — Bob Asmussen breaks down the sport he loves:


If the playoffs started today, these schools would be in

1. Alabama — Poor Nick Saban couldn't win in the NFL. So, instead, he has dominated the college game at both LSU and Alabama. His current Crimson Tide pounded Florida State in the opener and came back with an easy win against Fresno State. Saban must like playing FSU. This week, he breaks the streak with a game against Colorado State, aka CSU. If the offense picks up the pace, and it might, Alabama could hit 60. Team Saban won't be challenged again until back-to-back games against Tennessee and LSU.

2. Southern Cal — My preseason No. 1 struggled in the opener against Western Michigan, winning just 49-31. There were Trojan doubters before the Stanford game. Not anymore. Southern Cal controlled the Cardinal, winning 42-24 at home. So much for Sam Darnold and friends being vulnerable. The Trojans take an 11-game winning streak into Saturday's game against Texas.

3. Oklahoma — No team has a more impressive win early this season than the Sooners, who went to Ohio State and planted their flag against the Buckeyes. Literally. Baker Mayfield and friends took control in the second half and quieted Ohio Stadium. Not an easy thing to do to an Urban Meyer team. Apparently, the Sooners are having no trouble adjusting to life after Bob Stoops. The former coach did his school a huge favor, stepping aside early so Oklahoma could hire Lincoln Riley. He was going somewhere as a head coach soon. Stoops wanted that to be in Norman.

4. Clemson — Notice which conference is currently missing from my playoff participants. That's right, the Big Ten. The Tigers earn the fourth spot for now after Saturday's win against Auburn. If Auburn is as good as H.U. thinks it is, the win is going to gain value for Clemson throughout the season. Yes, the defending national champions lost their star quarterback to the NFL. But Dabo Swinney has been piling up talent in South Carolina. After an impressive defensive-dominated win against Auburn, Clemson gets no rest. It is off to Louisville (see below) for a game against the Cardinals. Oh, yeah, Louisville is the home of the returning Heisman winner. Win this one, and Clemson should have smooth sailing until Florida State visits on Nov. 11.

FOUR Heisman candidates

1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville — He was better than ever in a win against North Carolina, throwing for 393 yards and running for another 132. Keep it up and Archie Griffin will have company in the Two Heisman Club. Current member: One.

2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma — All the Texas Tech transfer did against Ohio State was throw for 386 yards and three touchdowns. With no interceptions. He more than doubled the output from Ohio State hotshot J.T. Barrett, who is no longer a Heisman candidate. Mayfield figures to put up big numbers this week at home against Tulane.

3. Sam Darnold, Southern Cal — He wasn't perfect against Stanford, getting picked off twice. But he had four touchdown passes and 316 yards. Stanford knew it was in trouble when he hit his first 11 passes.

4. Josh Rosen, UCLA — Yes, the quarterbacks in Los Angeles are very, very good. Rosen has the signature moment this season, leading the Bruins to an impossible victory against Texas A&M. Fresh off a win against Hawaii, Rosen and the Bruins travel to Memphis on Saturday thankyouverymuch.

FOUR Coaches on the hot seat

1. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame — Would have helped himself a lot with a win against Georgia. This week's game against Boston College seems crucial. Especially with Michigan State, Southern Cal, Miami and Stanford to follow.

2. Todd Graham, Arizona State — You can't lose at home against a Mountain West school. Even one that has been as good as San Diego State. This week's trip to Texas Tech is followed by Oregon, Stanford, Utah, Southern Cal, Colorado and UCLA. Buh-bye.

3. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M — Hard to believe he isn't No. 1 after the meltdown against UCLA. But the guys above him are extra special. He can win back the fans — well, some of them — with a victory against Alabama on Oct. 7. That might be the only way to save his job.

4. Bret Bielema, Arkansas — We all wondered what he was thinking when he left Wisconsin for the Razorbacks. Last week's thumping by TCU didn't help his case. He's got two weeks to get ready for a must-win against A&M.

FOUR Games TO WATCH this weekend

1. Clemson at Louisville — Winner, especially if it's Clemson, moves up in the playoff race. The loser starts thinking about the nice, warm bowl trip.

2. Texas at Southern Cal — Can the Longhorns be as bad as they looked against Maryland? Even the best coaches might not be able to win in Austin. But the music is sure good.

3. Tennessee at Florida — Anybody else miss the old days when Steve Spurrier and Phil Fulmer went at it? Spurrier drove his rival bonkers when he said "You can't spell Citrus without U-T." Awesome. Too bad coaches don't take more shots at their opponents these days. Everyone is so polite.

4. Stanford at San Diego State — It's a huge game for the 2-0 Aztecs, who are trying to go 2-0 against the Pac-12 after winning at Arizona State last week. Beat the Cardinal and San Diego State moves into Top 25 contention.