Schroeder: Blink, and you miss it

Writer: College football season full of surprises

USA Today college football reporter George Schroeder follows the sport as close as anyone in the national media.

And the 2015 season, Schroeder said, has unique characteristics.

Schroeder gave his take Monday to members of the Little Rock Touchdown Club.

"It's been a wild, did-you-see-that-game season," Schroeder said, speaking at the club's weekly luncheon at the Embassy Suites Hotel.

Schroeder, who is from Little Rock, mentioned the last-minute finishes for Michigan State at Michigan, the Miami-Duke game and the Arkansas' 4th-and-25 lateral against Mississippi in overtime.

"Arkansas, it was the wildest lateral that actually worked," Schroeder, 47, said. "We don't know what's going to happen."

Schroeder revealed a top four of Clemson, Alabama, Iowa and Oklahoma when talking about the weekly College Football Playoff rankings, which will be released tonight.

He ranks Michigan State, Notre Dame and Baylor as Nos. 5-7, respectively.

Iowa, which is 10-0 and the only undefeated team remaining from the Big Ten Conference, has clinched a spot in the Big 10 Championship game Dec. 5. The Hawkeyes are a nice team with a good resume, Schroeder said, but he understands why some national analysts have questioned whether Iowa is a top-four team.

But then again, Schroeder said that there isn't a great team in college football, calling Alabama "very good" but not great.

"You could draw the top four out of a hat," Schroeder said.

The College Football Playoff's four-team structure is in its second season, and Schroeder said that while he's opposed to increasing the number of teams to 8, he said he does feel that the playoff will have eight teams at some point in the future.

"It's the best regular-season in sports," Schroeder said, backing his stance about the merits of a four-team playoff. "But it is going to go to eight sometime.

Regarding Arkansas' 2015 season, Schroeder said he and several analysts overlooked the Razorbacks' losses of defensive linemen -- Trey Flowers and Darius Philon and linebacker Martrell Spaight -- instead believing they could win 9-10 games team this season.

"This is a team, despite what happened [against] Mississippi State, that nobody wants to play right now," Schroeder said. "They have every shot to be 7-5 and win a bowl game.

"They've looked better than the teams they've beaten. It's not a fluke. They've just been flat better than Ole Miss and LSU. It should be encouraging to Arkansas fans."

Schroeder, who has worked at USA Today since 2012, started his career at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from 1991 to 1999. He became the Oklahoma football beat reporter at The Oklahoman, where he worked from 1999 to 2007. Schroeder was hired as a sports columnist at The Register Guard in Eugene, Ore., in 2007 and spent five years at that paper before being hired at USA Today.

Schroeder said that if Arkansas (6-5) had three fewer losses, it would hold its own in a bowl game against teams that will play in the New Year's Six bowls. Instead, the Razorbacks will play in a non-New Year's Six bowl for the second consecutive season. Arkansas beat Texas in last year's Texas Bowl to finish 7-6.

"They're likely to get some opponent who can't handle them," Schroeder said. "They're likely to catch an opponent that they can roll, which is not a bad way to end the season. If you can't play in the playoff, a New Year's Six game or in Florida, then go win big.

"If they're not disappointed in themselves, then they can go do that."

Sports on 11/24/2015

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