Nov 5

Ten Things - Week Nine

Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL  Tags:

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Normally each week, Ten Things look at various storylines and nuggets from the weekend of college football.  Given the advent of this season’s college football playoff rankings (and the subsequent questions and concerns that result), this week takes a different spin.  Instead, here are some reactions to the rankings - including the curious top four. 


1. Clemson At The Top – It’s been awhile since the Clemson Tigers ranked at the top of a football poll (more than 30 years, actually).  So it should come as no surprise that this team is one of, if not THE best, Tigers team during that span – at least relative to its peers.  With quarterback Deshaun Watson leading the way completing 70% of his passes and a beast of a defense, Clemson is in prime position to hold onto the top spot.  With a win over Florida State this week, there are three games against teams with losing records (Syracuse, Wake Forest, and South Carolina) and a solid win in the ACC Championship game away from finishing in the top four.


2. LSU At #2 – The second Tigers team to make the list has been the most impressive team thus far this season.  They are undefeated, have arguably the best player in the country (Leonard Fournette), and next to Clemson’s victory over Notre Dame have the best win of any other unbeaten team.  Playing in the SEC doesn’t hurt, since the committee seems to have an unusual bias in that direction (more on that later).  A trip to Tuscaloosa this weekend will likely be the biggest hurdle until a rematch with current top ten Florida in the SEC Championship game.


3. Ohio State Debuts At #3 – Even though they sit atop the AP and Coaches’ polls, as they have all season, the Buckeyes don’t get the same respect in the playoff rankings.  Granted, they haven’t looked dominant but this is just the kind of chip on their shoulder that could propel them to a strong finish – much like last season.  Big games still loom on the horizon; Michigan State, Michigan, and a possible Big Ten Championship game close out the season.  They’ll need to finish strong to make it through that gauntlet without a loss.


4. Alabama Crashes The Party – In a move that (unfortunately) didn’t surprise too many people, Alabama gets the nod over eight unbeaten teams.  Sure a loss to LSU this weekend makes this inclusion moot, but it still is an intriguing addition to the short list.  Some would argue that Notre Dame, whose only loss is to #1 Clemson rather than a two loss Ole Miss, is a better team.  Others would rightly wonder why Florida, who beat the same Ole Miss team like a drum and only has one loss (to LSU) ranks so much lower.  Probably more than anything, this will be little more than a foreshadowing of what’s to come in later polls.


5. Big Twelve Snub Won’t Last – One notable exclusion from the top four is one of the unbeaten form the Big Twelve – Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma State.  The Cowboys don’t even crack the top ten.  Considering these teams have yet to play each other (or one loss Oklahoma), the conference will have a chance to place one, maybe two, teams in the playoff come December.


6. It Takes More Than Unbeaten – One could easily say that there’s SEC bias, but that’s too simplistic.  After all, Florida is way down at #10.  One could say there’s a bias towards the brand names, but Clemson sits right there at the top.  More likely the committee, whether they know it or not, is sending the message that simply being undefeated will not be enough.  Even though Alabama and Notre Dame lead the way, unbeaten Memphis and Oklahoma State are behind one loss teams as well.  One thing Bama, Notre Dame, Florida, Stanford, and Utah have in common is a good record against a tough schedule.


7. PAC-12 May Be Shut Out – Last year, the Big Twelve got snubbed when two teams (Baylor and TCU) finished with one loss and were granted the dubious honor of co-champions of their conference.  This season, it seems that the PAC-12 may be that conference but for a different reason.  The only teams left with less than two losses are Stanford and Utah, and neither open up in the top ten.  While the Cardinal must play Notre Dame to close the season, Utah has a very losable game against UCLA on Nov 21st.  Best case scenario, they meet in the conference championship game without another loss.  If Stanford wins after dropping the game to the Irish or the Utes (or Bruins) win as a two loss team, the conference might prove to be so tough it cancels itself out of the mix for the playoff.


8. Memphis Might Make The Cut – It’s a long shot, sure, but look at their schedule.  With a debut at #13 in the rankings, the Tigers still have games against current undefeated Houston and one loss teams Navy and Temple.  Having a win over an SEC team that could wear the conference crown doesn’t hurt, either.  Which leads to a possible nightmare scenario…


9. Ole Miss Could Break The Playoff – While we’re talking about long shot scenarios, let’s not forget that the Rebels still control their own destiny.  Even if the win over Bama proves to be a fluke, they still get LSU with a bye week before.  A win there and a second straight win over rival Mississippi State would send the Rebels to Atlanta where they could very well exact revenge on the same Florida team who beat them.  If Ole Miss wins the SEC and LSU or Bama is sitting with one fewer losses and not even a division crown, would the committee really put them in over the Ole Miss team that beat both of them? Or would that simply punch the ticket for Memphis, should the Tigers remain undefeated?  Add that to the possibility of the Pac-12 being shut out completely and the fact that this would likely require Notre Dame and/or the Big Twelve being replaced by Memphis.  I would not envy the committee if this is how things go down.


10. Three To See – You didn’t think we’d have a Ten Things without some recommended watching for the upcoming weekend did you?


#5 Notre Dame at Pitt – Early kickoff.  Top five team on the road.  Last time the Irish played Pitt on the road, they lost 28-21.  Last year, a one loss Irish team faltered down the stretch, losing its last four games.  Pitt doesn’t have a signature win yet, but the Panthers also haven’t lost a game by more than a touchdown.  This is the kind of year where this game screams upset.  Panthers shock the Irish, 31-27.


#16 Florida State at #1 Clemson – This game really needs no introduction.  The Seminoles are a blocked field goal away from an undefeated record.  The Tigers are a two point conversion away from a potential loss.  The winner stays on track for a conference championship and a potential birth in the playoff.  The team that doesn’t win will be playing for the best bowl berth it can get.  Tigers win going away, 45-24.


#2 LSU at #4 Alabama – Gameday comes to T-town for the second time this season, and the home team hopes to keep playoff dreams alive.  Both teams have had a week to rest, and a rainy forecast looks to put the game into the hands of the running backs – Fournette for the visitors and Derrick Henry for the home team.  Expect classic smashmouth football with a heaping helping of defense and a smidge of trickery (Les Miles in involved, after all).  And if you’re in town for the game, hope to see you there.  I’ll bring an LSU fan buddy to watch the Tide roll in person.  Bama wins 23-17.

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