Bob Asmussen's Huddle Up!

Bob Asmussen's Huddle Up!

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

Top four teams

If the playoffs started today, these schools would be in:

1. Alabama — After pounding Vanderbilt and Mississippi in consecutive games by 125-3, the Crimson Tide had a tussle at Texas A&M. At least, that's what the scoreboard said, with Alabama winning 27-19. The reality: the game wasn't that close. The Crimson Tide took a 24-3 lead in the third quarter and surrendered a couple of late TDs. A&M scored its final touchdown with 17 seconds left. No harm there. Alabama didn't dominate statistically, outgaining the host Aggies by just 355-308.But Alabama won the turnover battle 3-1. Surly Nick Saban has all sorts of stuff to complain about as the Tide prepare for gasping Arkansas on Saturday. Just a hunch that it will not be an eight-point game.

2. Clemson — The Tigers picked up a bit more ground in the AP Top 25 voting despite a closer-than-expected 28-14 win against Wake Forest. Like Alabama-Texas A&M, it was more lopsided than the final score. The Demon Deacons scored both their touchdowns after falling behind 28-0. The potentially bad news for Clemson: starting quarterback Kelly Bryant left the game early with an ankle injury. But it sounds like he is improving and might be able to play this week. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they travel to Syracuse for a Friday night game against the Orange. Better heal fast. The winning team will be wearing the color of H.U.'s favorite popsicle flavor. Despite missing time, Bryant continues to lead the Tigers in passing and rushing.

3. Penn State — Two weeks after escaping Iowa with a last-play win in front of a night crowd at Kinnick Stadium, there was no drama in Penn State's next road game. The Nittany Lions drilled Northwestern 31-7 on Saturday. Trace McSorley threw for 245 yards and a touchdown and Saquon Barkley ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Penn State's defense came up big, holding the Wildcats to 67 rushing yards. And Penn State won the turnover battle 3-0. James Franklin likes that. The Nittany Lions take the weekend off before a critical Big Ten East game against Michigan on Oct. 21.

4. Washington — In a close call for the final spot over Georgia. Most of the Huskies' games have been blowouts, including a 38-7 win against Cal. The closest game, oddly enough, was in the opener against Rutgers, which visits Champaign on Saturday. Chris Petersen takes his team to Arizona State this week for a game against the desperate Sun Devils. If Jake Browning, Myles Gaskin and Dante Pettis play their usual games, it will be another blowout. The next real game is Nov. 4 against Oregon. The Huskies figure to be 8-0 at that point.

Top four Heisman candidates

1. Luke Falk, Washington State — The big guy remains at the top as long as the Cougars keep winning. He played well in a crucial victory against Oregon, throwing for 282 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. For the season, he has 19 touchdowns and just two picks. He will likely pad those numbers when the Cougars travel to Cal on Friday night.

2. Bryce Love, Stanford — The junior running back is having a monster year with 1,240 yards after six games. He has a 247-yard advantage on the nation's No. 2 rusher. Love is averaging more than a first down every carry. Stanford coach David Shaw can work with that. His fewest yards, 152, came in Saturday's win against Utah. The Wake Forest, N.C., native made a wise move leaving ACC country for the Pac-12.

3. Rashad Penny, San Diego State — The nation's No. 2 rusher gained 170 yards and scored two touchdowns in a win against UNLV. He is a big reason the Aztecs are undefeated and rising in the polls.

4. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma — His numbers are so good he stays on the list despite a stunning loss to Iowa State. At home. Makes no sense. Mayfield threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, he has 15 TD passes and no interceptions. But he would happily trade all those stats to have another shot at the Cyclones, who likely took the Sooners out of the College Football Playoff race. Mayfield will try to get a bounceback win in Oklahoma's most important game of the season Saturday in Dallas against Texas.

Four coaches on the hot seat

1. Bret Bielema, Arkansas — Not a good week to be a former Wisconsin head coach. On Monday, former Badgers boss Gary Andersen agreed to leave Oregon State. He knew his time was running out. Iowa native Bielema could be the next to go. The Razorbacks are 2-3 this season going into Saturday's game against Alabama. So make that 2-4. Arkansas also has games left against Auburn and LSU. Bielema is looking at a sub-.500 finish and an uncomfortable call to a Fayetteville real estate agent.

2. Todd Graham, Arizona State — The losses during a 2-3 start have all been close, by 10 points or less. And they came against ranked teams San Diego State, Texas Tech and Stanford. But the only significant win was a close game against Oregon. To return in 2018, Graham might need a special season. That means three or four wins in the final seven games against a brutal schedule that includes Washington, Southern Cal, Utah and Colorado. Luckily, no game against Pac-12 power Washington State.

3. Butch Jones, Tennessee — Peyton Manning's alma mater likes to be ranked and contending for the SEC West title. At 0-2 in the conference so far, both appear unlikely. Saturday's game against South Carolina might determine his future. It is likely the Vols will lose their Oct. 21 game at Alabama. But the rest of the schedule is manageable with games against Kentucky, Southern Mississippi, Missouri, LSU and Vanderbilt. A 4-1 finish might earn him another season. Barely.

4. Mike Riley, Nebraska — The Cornhuskers had a chance to get their coach off the hot seat Saturday against Wisconsin. They were tied 17-17 early in the third quarter and playing well. But they got outscored 21-0 the rest of the way. The defense, which had played well in recent games, allowed Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor to gain 249 yards. Wisconsin outgained Nebraska on the ground 353-110. Folks in Lincoln hate it when the home team gets run over. Things working against Riley's future: upcoming games against Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa and the locals desire to bring Central Florida coach Scott Frost back to his alma mater before somebody else hires him. Tick, tick, tick.

Four Games to watch this weekend

1. Georgia Tech at Miami — Because of their run-first offense, the Yellow Jackets are never fun to play. Only Navy gains more than Georgia Tech's 396 yards per game on the ground. If Paul Johnson's team pulls the upset, H.U. promises to move it into next week's Top 25. By the way, good move by the Hurricanes when they hired Mark Richt.

2. Utah at Southern Cal — The winner takes control in the Pac-12 South, especially if it's the Trojans. They bounced back from a loss at Washington State with an easy win against Oregon State. Utah dropped its first game of the season Saturday against improving Stanford. Southern Cal is hoping for better decisions from quarterback Sam Darnold, who has nine interceptions this season.

3. Auburn at LSU — Nice to see LSU pick up a big win against Florida. It has been an up and down season for the Tigers, who earlier lost to Troy. Though it lost early in the season to Clemson, Auburn still has visions of reaching the College Football Playoff, and it is not a crazy idea. Auburn can impress the voters with wins against Georgia and Alabama and a likely rematch with Georgia in the SEC title game. There is hope.

4. Texas Tech at West Virginia — The Red Raiders jumped into the Top 25 this week but they need a signature victory. They score points in bunches, which is good. They also give up points in bunches, including 41 in their lone loss against Oklahoma State.

 

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