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Welcome to the second edition of the FOX Sports college football staff survey!
We’ve asked everyone — reporters, editors and more — to share their thoughts on the best and brightest across the nation.
Midway through the season, a couple things really stand out. One is that we are very much divided on what we think is the best team in the nation — Georgia or Ohio State?
We are completely unified, however, on who is running away from the field in the Heisman Trophy race (it’s Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud!), and we’ve been impressed by the midseason surge from the undefeated UCLA Bruins.
[FOX Sports Staff Survey: See how our picks have changed since Week 3]
We’ll check in later in the season for an update and to see if things change. Here are the results are six weeks.
What are your top four College Football Playoff picks in order after six weeks?
Note: We awarded five points for a first-place vote, four points for second place, three for third place and two for fourth place.
1. Ohio State (65 points)
1. Georgia (61)
3. Alabama (47)
4. Clemson (12)
Also receiving votes: USC (10), Tennessee (9), Michigan (5), Oklahoma State (2).
RJ Young’s Top 25: Ohio State stays No. 1
The Buckeyes top RJ Young’s top 25, but who else made the list?
“Since the CFP has shown it has no problem putting the two teams who play in the SEC title game into the semifinals — chalk leads us to believe Bama and UGA are going to go at it once more for the Deep South title belt — and Ohio State or Michigan could cancel the other out on Thanksgiving weekend, that leaves the door open for Clemson to grab the fourth spot. The Tigers have a clear shot to get to the ACC title game undefeated and have demonstrated they can beat the two teams most likely to face them in a rematch. But at least we could get a rematch because the ACC chose to abolish divisions this summer (because divisions are bad).” — RJ Young, College Football Analyst
“The Bulldogs nearly blinked in a 26-22 win over Missouri but have dominant wins over Oregon (49-3) and South Carolina (48-7) on their résumé. The Buckeyes move up a spot after Alabama nearly lost to Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide need quarterback Bryce Young (shoulder) back as soon as possible.” — Michael Cohen, College Football Writer
“It’s still so early, but I thought it was silly for Alabama to drop a couple spots after hanging on to beat Texas A&M over the weekend. Bryce Young should be back against No. 6 Tennessee and if they win that game on the road, the Crimson Tide jump right back up to No. 1 anyway.” — Laken Litman, College Football Writer
“If Michigan can remain undefeated with its upcoming slate, the Wolverines will sneak ahead of Clemson soon enough. Until then, I’m sticking with my original top four.” — Rob Rang, NFL Draft analyst
“It’s going to be fascinating to see where the selection committee has the final four contenders stacked up because beyond the big three, it’s really anybody’s case. I lean USC with the way the Trojans have played defense and their ability to pick up ranked wins down the stretch that a team like Clemson cannot. Watch out for Penn State, too, if the Nittany Lions can win what amounts to a quarterfinal at Michigan this week.” — Bryan Fischer, College Football Writer
Who are your top three Heisman candidates in order?
Note: We awarded five points for a first-place vote, four for second place, three for third.
1. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State (74 points)
2. Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee (29)
3. Caleb Williams, QB, USC (18)
Also receiving votes: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA (16); Bryce Young, QB, Alabama (15), Blake Corum, RB, Michigan (7); Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas (7); Will Rogers, QB, Mississippi State (4); Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina (3); Stetson Bennett, QB, Georgia (3).
“It’s hard to look beyond Stroud’s video game-style numbers. He’s thrown for 24 touchdowns compared to only three interceptions; he’s completing 70.6% of his passes; he has three games with at least five touchdown passes. That he’s done it without No. 1 receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba is just silly.” — Cohen
“Stroud has been nearly flawless and will have the numbers to win it, but don’t discount Thompson-Robinson given the narrative around his ability to lead a revival of the Bruins this season.” — Fischer
“Stroud has thrown six TDs three times in his last six games. He’s the only quarterback with a passer efficiency rating over 200 (207.57). The man has reached that upper level, where your mind, body and soul must be one — the Bruce Leroy glow-up Willie Hutch warned you about.” — Young
“Stroud threw six touchdown passes last week against Michigan State, DTR has everybody paying attention to UCLA and Young could have a big moment against Tennessee this weekend if he’s healthy enough to play.” — Litman
“It really is remarkable what Stroud has done this season with last year’s top targets selected 10th (Garrett Wilson, Jets) and 11th (Chris Olave, Saints) in the NFL draft. Stroud’s accuracy is remarkable. At this point, he is my ‘easy’ top choice.” — Rang
RJ Young’s top five Heisman contenders
RJ Young explains why he believes Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud is the clear favorite at this point, followed by Michigan RB Blake Corum and Georgia QB Stetson Bennett, respectively.
What is the most surprising team so far?
The pick: UCLA Bruins
“UCLA, with a tip of the cap to fellow top-25 teams Syracuse, Kansas and Illinois. Perhaps we should have expected this from the Bruins, as Chip Kelly is a proven difference-maker at head coach, and he has one of college football’s elite 1-2 punches at quarterback and running back in Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet, but few of us did, especially given all the attention heaped upon fellow-undefeated crosstown rival USC.” — Rang
Also receiving votes: Kansas, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Syracuse, TCU.
“Kansas. No one but no one is more thrilled for KU, Lance Leipold and a fan base starved for good fortune, good football and good results. The Jayhawks are not just 5-1 but ranked at a time when perennial national power Oklahoma is not.” — Young
“Tennessee. Three wins over ranked opponents — including a 40-13 pummeling of LSU in Death Valley — means the Volunteers are way ahead of schedule under second-year head coach Josh Heupel. They have a legitimate chance to beat Alabama this weekend.” — Cohen
“The Vols are ranked No. 6 and have a legitimate chance of beating rival Alabama this weekend for the first time in the Nick Saban era. UT has beaten three ranked teams, two on the road, and has a quarterback in Hendon Hooker who leads the SEC in QB rating, has completed 70% of his passes without throwing an interception and could be a Heisman frontrunner soon depending on how the rest of the season shakes out.” — Litman
“Even the most optimistic of orange-clad fans probably didn’t expect the Vols to be the biggest threat to Alabama and Georgia in the SEC in Year 2 of the Josh Heupel era. Hendon Hooker playing near flawlessly has been a big reason and the tempo the offense operates at will give anybody problems. There was some skepticism about this staff being able to get the job done in the conference, but they’ve been impressive in turning this team into one of the more impressive groups to watch each Saturday.” — Fischer
Preview: No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 6 Tennessee
Joel Klatt discusses how Alabama struggles on the road compared to home games, Tennessee’s strength on offense, and what this outcome would look like with Bryce Young as quarterback.
What is the most disappointing team so far?
The pick: Oklahoma
“I think I have to say Oklahoma. Were we realistically expecting them to win the Big 12 with a new head coach and starting quarterback? No. But we also weren’t expecting them to give up in the Red River Showdown and get shut out 49-0 by Texas.” — Litman
“Sure, OU is 3-3. But if this is the bottom for OU it shows just how spoiled fans have been by a near-quarter-century of excellence. There are 22-year-olds who don’t know what it means for OU to spend the postseason at home. Brent Venables is in Year 1 at a place that was turned upside down last November. But his back is strong, his will is stronger and he ain’t the type to flinch. Give him time and resources, and let him work.” — Young
“Like many, I expected some dropoff from the Sooners after Lincoln Riley left but, not to this extent. Yes, injuries have been a factor, but there’s no way a Brent Venables-coached team should be allowing so many big plays defensively. You have to reach back to the John Blake era to find a team that looks this bad between the lines, which says all too much about OU’s current predicament.” — Fischer
Also receiving votes: Texas A&M, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Miami, Notre Dame.
“The easy answer would be Texas A&M, as Jimbo Fisher’s squad began the season ranked No. 6 in the AP preseason poll. I think Oklahoma and Michigan State both deserve ‘dishonorable mention’ in this category, however, with just as many high-profile transfers and struggles this season.” — Rang
“Miami. Ranked 16th in the Preseason AP Top-25, the Hurricanes have lost three consecutive games to stumble below .500 near the midway point of the season. Their 45-31 home loss to Middle Tennessee State — a game in which Miami trailed by 21 on multiple occasions — showed how much ground head coach Mario Cristobal still has to cover.” — Cohen
Can Oklahoma get back on track?
RJ Young is joined by Geoff Schwartz to preview the biggest matchups in Week 7 of the college football season, including Kansas vs. Oklahoma.
Who is the most surprising player so far?
The pick: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA
“Dorian Thompson-Robinson is now UCLA’s career leader in touchdowns (76) and has led the Bruins to the program’s best start in 17 years at 6-0. Beat Oregon in Eugene in a couple of weeks and the 11th-ranked Bruins could find themselves in the top 10.” — Litman
Also receiving votes: Bo Nix, QB, Oregon; Jalon Daniels, QB, Kansas; Adrian Martinez, QB, Kansas State; Abdul Carter, LB, Penn State; Michael Penix, Jr., QB, Washington; Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pitt, Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama; Max Duggan, QB, TCU.
“While it’s always easy to bet on the transfer Nick Saban chooses to take out of the portal — his hit rate is absurd — it’s fun to see in action. This year, it’s Jahmyr Gibbs — a player most college football fans wouldn’t know about if he had stayed at Georgia Tech. Gibbs leads the Tide in rushing at 8.3 yards per carry and is the Tide’s best receiver, averaging 10 yards per catch on a team-leading 22 receptions. With his ability to return kicks, Gibbs is good for 144 all-purpose yards per game, and is apt to draw comparisons with Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey. — Young
“Israel Abanikanda carried 123 times for 651 yards and seven touchdowns last season in a solid sophomore campaign. This year, his production has exploded on virtually the same number of carries: 129 rushes, 830 yards, 12 touchdowns.” — Cohen
“You knew that TCU’s Max Duggan had the physical talent to be a top-tier quarterback, but he never quite could put it all together and thrive up until this season. He’s such an efficient passer, but his ability to force defenses to respect him as a runner has really changed the calculus for the Horned Frogs’ offense on every snap.” — Fischer
Bonus: Rob Rang couldn’t decide: “This is the kind of question that I struggle with as I’d love to list players at every position. So, that’s what I’m doing.”
QB: Drake Maye, North Carolina
RB: Raheim Sanders, Arkansas
WR: Jacob Cowing, Arizona
TE: Ja’Tavion Sanders, Texas
OL: Kelvin Banks, Texas
DL: Michael Hall, Ohio State
Edge: Laiatu Latu, UCLA
LB: Daiyan Henley, Washington State
CB: Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama
S: Bentlee Sanders, Nevada
UCLA’s new all-time passing TD leader
Dorian Thompson-Robinson becomes UCLA’s all-time passing TD leader with a 70-yard catch-and-run to Logan Loya against the Utah Utes.
What is your favorite moment of the season so far?
The pick: Appalachian State’s Hail Mary win over Troy
“Appalachian State’s Hail Mary walk-off win against Troy is pretty outstanding.” — RJ Young
“Things haven’t turned out great for the Mountaineers since the win over Troy, but when you add everything that happened prior and the euphoria going around Boone before kickoff, it was one of the coolest walk-off wins in some time with the way it unfolded.” — Bryan Fischer
Watch: Appalachian State’s IMPOSSIBLE Hail Mary TD
The Appalachian State Mountaineers pick up a gritty 32-28 victory against the Troy Trojans thanks to Chase Brice’s 53-yard TD pass to Christian Horn as time expired.
Also receiving votes: Oregon State’s walk-off win vs. Stanford, Marshall’s upset of Notre Dame, Alabama’s narrow win over Texas, and these three below …
“Florida State defeats LSU, 24-23 on Sept. 4. Hard to find a more exciting ending than a last-second touchdown as time expires followed by a blocked PAT to win the game. It was the perfect encapsulation of what makes college football awesome.” — Cohen
“Clemson defeats Wake Forest, 51-45 in 2OT on Sept. 24. Both quarterbacks — Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei and Wake’s Sam Hartman — were brilliant, completing a combined 66% of their throws for 708 yards and 11 touchdowns against zero interceptions. The game also featured several stellar defensive plays, including a critical pass deflected at the line of scrimmage by Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, who was playing with a heavy heart as this was his first game back after losing his sister, Ella, to brain cancer. It was a physical, emotional, well-played game that neither team deserved to lose, pitting some of the best players in the country. It was awesome.” — Rang
“Honestly, this viral moment of Nick Saban breaking down the final defensive play against Texas A&M right after the game.” — Litman
Which coach has done the most with the least?
The pick: Lance Leipold, Kansas
Others receiving votes: Dino Babers, Syracuse; Curt Cignetti, James Madison; Bret Bielema, Illinois; Kalen DeBoer, Washington.
“In JMU’s first season at the FBS level, Cignetti has the Dukes 5-0 and ranked in the AP Top 25. Impressive still? He’s done this in the Sun Belt — aka the Little SEC — where giant-killers Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Group of 5 elites Coastal Carolina and Louisiana play their football.” — Young
“Bret Bielema at Illinois gets the award for me with the Illini currently 5-1 and sitting atop the Big Ten West. Given Bielema’s previous track record for developing dynamic rushing attacks, many correctly forecasted that he’d guide the Illini to a big jump in this area, but his back, Chase Brown, currently leads the country in rushing yards (879) with 200-plus-yard games in half of Illinois’ six contests so far this season, and 100-plus rushing yards in every game.” — Rang
“Babers entered the year on thin ice after winning 11 games in his last three seasons combined, including a 1-10 debacle in 2020. Few people — if anyone — expected the Orange to reel off five straight wins to open the 2022 campaign. Syracuse has already beaten Louisville, Purdue and Virginia this season.” — Cohen
“Babers. Syracuse is 5-0 for the first time in 35 years! We’ll learn a lot more about this team over the next two weeks when they face N.C. State and Clemson.” — Litman
“The Orange do not have a great roster and are especially light on the defensive side of the ball. And yet here Syracuse is, authoring one of the more impressive turnarounds in the country and ranked in the top 20. We thought Babers might be a candidate to be on the hot seat, but that narrative has been completely turned on its head thanks to what he and the staff have done.” — Fischer
What’s the deepest conference?
The pick: SEC
“In terms of ranked teams, future NFL draft picks and anticipated bowl wins, this answer is the easiest of all the questions — the SEC reigns supreme.” — Rang
“It feels like it could be the SEC every year, right? The emergence of Tennessee as a legitimate playoff threat alongside mainstays Alabama and Georgia gives the SEC some added muscle at the top of the league. Undefeated Ole Miss has crept into the top 10 as well.” — Cohen
“The answer is always the SEC.” — Litman
Also receiving votes: Big 12
“There’s little question in my mind that the Big 12 is the toughest league week-in and week-out. Every team is a difficult out between style of play and talent level to the point where there’s not really any bottom-feeder like the Pac-12 has with Colorado, or the SEC has with Vanderbilt. When half the conference is ranked, but Oklahoma is not among the group, that kind of underscores the point no matter the state of things in Norman.” — Fischer
– Everything to know about ‘Big Noon Kickoff:’ Penn State at Michigan
– Nick Singleton, Penn State’s run game a threat to No. 5 Michigan
– Week 7 of the college football season, by the numbers
– How Alex Grinch’s defense “flipped the script” for No. 7 USC
– RJ Young’s top five Heisman Trophy contenders
– UCLA’s Chip Kelly among coaches thriving in second act
– College football rankings: Ohio State tightens grip on No. 1
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