Yesterday was a big day in the world of football. Not only was it the NFL’s trade deadline, it was also the debut of the first set of College Football Playoff rankings. The CFB Playoff committee handed out their first set of rankings and it brought good news to campuses in Tuscaloosa, South Bend and two different Death Valleys.
Hell, we even saw the return of Tuesday Night MACtion! It was a great day all around. But what if we blended these concepts and looked at the missing link for teams looking to hold (or gain) a spot in the top four? Who would be some ideal trade targets, if college football allowed such a thing? And who would be the biggest threat to win the whole thing with a big move?
The stipulations are simple: trade targets are not allowed to come from teams ranked inside the Top-25 CFB Playoff rankings. Sorry, Kelvin Harmon, you’re not getting traded to a championship contender. So what imaginary player trades would shake up the 2018 CFB Playoff landscape the most?
Oregon QB Justin Herbert to #3 LSU Tigers
The Tigers are a factory for next level talent. Their rap-sheet of high draft selections is pretty darn close to literally any program you’ll find in the country. This season is no exception. With talented names like sophomore SAF Grant Delpit, junior CB Greedy Williams, senior LB Devin White, the Tigers have a championship defense.
Offensively, the Tigers like to slow it down and grind things out…but in part because they have to. Imagine taking a pro-ready passer like Justin Herbert and tossing him into the mix. Herbert’s pro projection is a bit blurry, but he’s got tremendous natural ability.
Herbert would make much better use of a talented crop of receivers, headlined by sophomore WR Justin Jefferson than is currently accomplished by graduate transfer Joe Burrow.
Burrow has stepped in admirably in his first season, but any time you can take a top flight college quarterback and insert him onto a team with this level of natural talent at the skill positions, it’s going to add legitimacy to that team’s ability to contend against the Alabamas of the world.
The Tigers have a big date looming with the Crimson Tide this weekend before the schedule softens. The Tigers cannot afford to lose another game the rest of the way if they sincerely hope to make the Playoffs.
Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr. to #5 Michigan Wolverines
We saw just how potent a passer Shea Patterson could be last season at Ole Miss, when he led the SEC in passing yards before an injury cost him the second half of his 2016 season.
Fast forward one year and the Michigan offense is humming with Patterson at the helm, but predominantly because they’re leaning on RB Karan Higdon (153 carriers, 831 yards entering Week 10) to run the offense. Michigan’s receiving group is a bit underwhelming, to say the least. TE Zach Gentry leads the team in receptions and receiving yards (23 receptions for 322 yards), while sophomore WR Donovan Peoples-Jones leads the team with 6 touchdown receptions.
Imagine adding a healthy Laviska Shenault Jr. to the landscape in Ann Arbor. Shenault, along with Peoples-Jones and the pending return of WR Tarik Black, would give Shea Patterson big targets to sling the ball around to who are able to break some yardage after the catch.
And adding that explosiveness would do wonders for a Michigan team that, despite their underwhelming passing offense, is 27th in scoring offense at this point (36.0 points per game).
Shenault owns 11 touchdowns in six games this season and was on pace for a whopping 120 catches for 1560 yards before a toe injury cost him two games. His presence would allow Patterson to let his receivers make plays, similar to how he was so effective last season in the SEC.
For Michigan, the schedule hardens significantly in November. A home game in Ann Arbor against #12 Penn State kicks off the final month of the season before a date with arch-nemesis Ohio State on 11/24.
All of the offensive firepower in the world would be welcomed to ensure the Wolverines run the table.
Stanford CB Paulson Adebo to #7 Oklahoma Sooners
If you don’t know who redshirt freshman CB Paulson Adebo is, shame on you! Well, maybe not…it’s a little early for him to be on your radar since he isn’t eligible until 2020. And unlike Laviska Shenault Jr, it’s unlikely Adebo becomes a household name this year because he’s not a shoo-in to win the Biletnikoff.
The Sooners are credited with four interceptions and 25 passes defensed this season in eight games. That’s…not great. I would even venture to say that is bad. They could use some ball-hawking skills in the secondary.
One problem. The vast majority of elite DB talent belongs to top contenders like Alabama, LSU and Michigan. Their talent isn’t available here. Enter Adebo.
A former Notre Dame recruit, Adebo played wide receiver, cornerback and special teams in high school. His elite ball skills have yielded 15 total passes defensed (one interception and 14 PBUs) in eight contests. His 1.88 passes defended per game is T-4th in the country, trailing two players from CFB Playoff ranked teams (Virginia’s Bryce Hall and Fresno’s Anthoula Kelly).
At a very lengthy 6-foot-1, Adebo has vines for arms and a massive amount of reach to extend and play the ball in the air. That size will come in handy in negating some the Big XII’s size receivers.
With Oklahoma still facing the likes of Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and #13 West Virginia, the pass defense will need to be on top of their game for the Sooners to run the table. Adebo would go a long way in accomplishing that.