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Three-Point Stance: Playoff contenders, top Ds, Heisman talk

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Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell’s thought-provoking Three-Point Stance is here with some thoughts on the playoff contenders, the best defenses in college football and a Heisman update.

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1. PLAYOFF CONTENDERS 

Clemson's Tee Higgins
Clemson's Tee Higgins (AP Images)

My how things have changed. Prior to this past weekend, I thought Ohio State was going to be the team to represent the Big Ten in the college football playoff. I expected the Buckeyes to run the table, including a win over Michigan, and head into the final four undefeated as a legit contender to upend Alabama. Now? After a loss to Purdue, and a bad loss at that, Michigan is now my pick to emerge from the Big Ten. After watching that defense dismantle Michigan State and watching Ohio State flounder against an average Purdue team, I’m now on the Wolverines bandwagon. I now have Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and now Michigan as my playoff teams.

At the beginning of the season I picked Alabama to win it all and that hasn’t changed, not even by a little bit, but I thought Ohio State could make a run. They have now been displaced by Jim Harbaugh and his team. Oklahoma and/or Texas will be left out even if one of them runs the table and the Pac-12, as we know, is done. One intriguing situation remains. What if Alabama runs the table, Georgia runs the table and Georgia upsets ‘Bama in the SEC title game? Does Alabama really get left out? Many teams still control their own destiny, so we have numerous scenarios that could play out, but that one has me the most interested.

So here’s my official playoff prediction…

1) Alabama No one is going to touch the Tide. Not LSU, not Georgia, not anyone. I can’t see them losing a game this season.

2) Clemson Clemson has a great team and should get through the regular season unscathed. I can see the Tigers getting to the final again against Alabama only to fall short.

3) Notre Dame Notre Dame should run through its schedule, although of all the final four teams I’m picking I could see the Irish stumbling once (vs. USC, perhaps) and ruining their chances of making the playoff. But I’m still picking them to get through and lose to Clemson.

4) Michigan The defense is so good I’m going to ride it. The Wolverines will play Alabama in the first round of the playoff and lose, despite being the only team I can see having a chance of stopping that offense.

2. DEFENSIVE DOMINATION 

The best defenses in college football aren’t all about stats. It’s about the eyeball test and talent. Here are my six.

1) Michigan – This defense is nasty, led by Chase Winovich up front and Devin Bush at linebacker. Defensive coordinator Don Brown is a genius and has his team play so aggressively, it puts constant pressure on the offense.

2) LSU – The talent up front, especially at defensive tackle, is exceptional, and Devin White and Grant Delpit are two of the best at their positions in the country. The battle with Alabama should be a great one and would have been better had White not been suspended for a half.

3) Clemson – The defensive front is loaded with first-rounders and the secondary is underrated. The linebackers can run as well, and this defense has the ability to stop almost anyone. The front four gets much of the attention, but this is a well-balanced defense.

4) Florida – The secondary is awesome and Jacha Polite leads a strong front. They are overlooked by some, but don’t be fooled, this is the reason the Gators are in the top 10 nationally.

5) Notre Dame – Jerry Tillery and Tevon Coney are two of the best in the country at their positions and Julian Love is very underrated in the secondary.

6) Alabama – It’s rare to see the Tide this low on the list, but they haven’t been as solid as they have been in recent years. Quinnen Williams and Raekwon Davis lead a strong front and Deionte Thompson is very good at safety.

3. HEISMAN HOPEFULS 

Tua Tagovailoa
Tua Tagovailoa (AP Images)

It’s time for another Heisman update, with Tua still running away with things.

1) Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama His numbers are ridiculous, and I can’t see anyone taking this from him barring a complete meltdown.

2) Kyler Murray, Oklahoma Murray is the only one close to Tua when it comes to the Heisman, but I don’t think he’ll have the numbers or big games remaining to take it away from him. But he’ll be in New York for sure.

3) Travis Etienne, Clemson The nation’s leader in rushing touchdowns is the main force for the Clemson offense and should get the respect he deserves. But there’s a big drop-off from Murray down to Etienne.

4) Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State Haskins took a step down after the Purdue game, in which he showed he doesn’t handle pressure that well.

5) Gardner Minshew, Washington State He’s under-the-radar but shouldn’t be, as he’s one of the most efficient quarterbacks around and puts up monster numbers.

6) Rondale Moore, Purdue OK, this might be a little too high for the freshman, especially with his team’s record, but find me a better wideout who means more to his team.