Ten Things - Week Eleven
Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL Tags:
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Upsets, upsets everywhere. Goodness, what a crazy weekend of football. What looked on paper as a relatively slow day (the only top ten team playing another ranked team was #4 Washington), but by the end of it chaos broke out. In what seemed to be the year where the playoff could nicely produce exactly four undefeated conference champions, all it took was one week to have that number dwindle to one. But hey, such is life in the world of college football. Here’s a review of the week that was in this edition of Ten Things…
1. Blewitt Doesn’t Blow It – It started with the #2 Clemson Tigers let Pittsburgh stay in the game way too late, a situation more urgent when Deshaun Watson threw an interception on the goal line that was returned 70 yards to set up a touchdown to cut Clemson’s lead to two. It continued on 4th and 1 when Clemson failed for the second time in a row to gain a yard. It culminated in Chris Blewitt nailing a 48-yard field goal with six seconds left to win 43-42 and put a dent in Clemson’s playoff hopes. Or did it…?
2. A Tale of Two Big Ten Teams – On the one hand was Michigan, undefeated with an inside track to the playoff. All that stood in their way were games against 5-4 Iowa and now 5-5 Indiana, then of course that school up north. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Iowa also had a clutch kicker and pulled the 14-13 upset as time expired. Meanwhile the Buckeyes were pummeling a second straight opponent 62-3. After a few weeks of plodding through (including a loss to Penn St), arguably no team has looked better the past two weeks than the Buckeyes. Funny thing, though. Even after Michigan lost and Ohio State won in a blowout, Michigan is the only team in the division that controls its own destiny. How’s that work? Glad you asked…..
3. The Buckeye Dilemma – One would think that since Ohio State and Michigan are the only 1-loss teams, the winner of their game in two weeks goes to the conference championship game. Right? Not so much. Even though Penn State has two losses, only one of those is a conference loss. That means that if Ohio St and Penn St win out, the Nittany Lions win the tiebreaker and play for the Big Ten championship. If the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes, then they win the tiebreaker over Penn St. And if you think that’s a lot to keep track of, check out #6 for some potential brain teasers for the committee.
4. Playoff Four – The rankings have come out this week, and it’s a wonderful example of how useless and a detriment to the integrity of the committee. Yes, there’s a bunch of chaos but if you ask me there’s a simple way to arrange the top four. Here’s my top four, comprised of the only four teams that control their own destiny with respect to the playoff picture. (You’ll notice it looks very similar to last week’s committee rankings)
Alabama – This is the only no brainer of the group. Regardless of any SEC bias or Saban-envy, the fact is that Alabama right now is the only undefeated power five team. Four of the teams they’ve beaten are currently ranked, and the way the rest of their schedule looks they stand the least likely to get beaten between now and the final playoff standings. Even if they lose to Auburn, I doubt that even a late loss would keep a one loss SEC champion out of the top four completely.
Michigan – Yes the Wolverines lost, so why in the world keep them in the top four? Quite simply, they are the only team in their division that can win out and will go to the Big Ten championship game without any help. And right now, it looks like Michigan is in the most difficult division in the deepest conference win college football. If they win the Big Ten with only one loss, they’re in.
Clemson – The defending national runner-ups got caught playing with fire last week in the loss to Pitt. But here again is another team with one loss that controls their own destiny. The Tigers have the best single win of any team in the top four here (Louisville), and that win looks better with each Cardinals blowout. To cap off a solid season with another ACC title would be a sure way to get into the final four teams.
Washington – This is probably the most controversial on the list, I’ll grant you. The Huskies have played the weakest schedule of any contender thus far, and getting beat soundly at home by a three loss USC has done them no favors in the eyes of the committee. But the fact remains that a 12-1 PAC-12 champion will not be left out of the mix.
5. Next Four – Should any of the above four teams falter, these teams are in the best position to move up. Truth be told, you could probably fill this section up with Big Ten teams, but we’re gonna try to spread it out a bit.
Wisconsin – The Badgers have just two losses, Michigan and Ohio State, and both by just a touchdown. If revenge is taken on one of them in Indianapolis, that could be just the shot in the arm needed to get them from #7 into the top four.
Oklahoma – I went back and forth between the Sooners and West Virginia, but Oklahoma is already ranked higher in the committee’s eyes and finishes the season with two top-15 opponents – just the ticket to shoot up the rankings in the last week should the committee deem that a conference title is more important than head-to-head results.
Colorado – Who would’ve thought the Buffaloes would be in this position just a year after going 4-9? It’s actually been over a decade since the Buffs have finished with a winning record. Should they beat Washington St this weekend and Washington in the PAC-12 championship, the committee would be hard pressed to leave them out. One caveat, though, is the 45-28 loss to Michigan.
Louisville – Quite possibly the least likely of these four to make it by way of conference title, since it would require Clemson to lose this week against Wake Forrest. So long as Clemson is in the top spot in the division, the Cardinals are on the outside looking in. But it’s no secret that the committee is high on the Cardinals. Sitting at #5 in a nice way to sneak in ahead of the Big Ten teams waiting in the wings. I mean, just think of what the committee would do if Louisville and Ohio State both finish 11-1 with no shot at a conference title.
6. Who Wants Chaos? – With the weekend playing out like it did, I can’t help but think of all kinds of different scenarios that would push the committee to the limits. It’s easy to say that if my top four win out that they’d make the decision easy. Wisconsin beats Penn St for the Big Ten title. Will the committee take the conference champ with two losses or the one loss Buckeyes who beat them head-to-head but didn’t win their conference? And what if Oklahoma wins the Big Twelve at 10-2. Do they get in as a conference champion while the Buckeyes get cut? Or let’s suppose that Colorado rides this wave they’re on to win the PAC-12. Do they make the cut over Oklahoma? But isn’t the PAC-12 considered more difficult than the Big Twelve? Could we realistically be looking at a playoff field that has Bama, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Clemson but no Louisville and no Ohio State? And should such an occurrence come about, there is an obvious question….
7. Eight Playoff Teams – Could this year be enough to spark the flame of expanding the playoff? You think Big Ten commish Jim Delaney wouldn’t mind having potentially three teams in that field? You think the Big Twelve would love the thought of guaranteeing at least one spot every year? Because you know that five spots would go to conference champs of the Power Five with three at-large slots. Sure, it’s too soon to expect it to happen next year. But the SEC dominance down the stretch in the BCS needed just that one LSU-Bama rematch to get enough support to enact change. And the current format will always leave at least one Power Five champ out simply due to a lack of space.
8. Heisman Lock: Lamar Jackson – With all this talk about the playoff, and also very likely due in no small part to the relative mediocrity across the board, it seems that the Heisman race is already settled. Sure, there are a few names of folks who will get a free trip to New York and the pleasure of a front row seat for Jackson’s acceptance speech. He’s a runaway favorite, with 46 total touchdowns already, an electrifying playmaking ability that comes out the most in his biggest games (see: Clemson and FSU), and he plays for the #5 team in the country. That never hurts.
9. SEC Rundown – For all the talk about how deep and talented the SEC has been, it’s time to face the music. The SEC is a one horse stable right now. And if it weren’t for the juggernaut of Alabama, the league might as well be the American Athletic. Seriously. Only three teams have seven or more wins right now. Last year, the league had seven teams with nine or more wins; this season, they’ll be lucky to get about half that. And for every big win, there was at least just as bad a loss. Ask Texas A&M, who lost to 4-6 Mississippi State. Or Mississippi State, who lost to South Alabama. Or Tennessee, who went from the top ten to losing to now 3-9 South Carolina. Blame coaching turnover. Blame the talent gap. Wherever you place the blame, though, just recognize that this isn’t the BCS’s SEC.
10. Three To See – We’re in that space where games that looked so promising two months ago are now….meh. We’re looking at you Louisville at Houston. Still worth the watch on a Thursday night, but maybe not if you already have plans.
#23 Florida at #16 LSU – This game makes the list not for the talent on the field, though the 1-2 combination of LSU’s Fournette and Guice could be something special. No, this game should’ve been played on October 10th in Gainesville. Now, it’s moved to Baton Rouge with no small amount of drama in the process. Florida can secure the East with a win, but an LSU win could be another reference on the resume of Ed Orgeron as he continues his quest to remove the “interim” from his head coach label. Gators are overwhelmed by the Tigers, 23-10
#22 Washington State at #10 Colorado – I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do with myself seeing the Cougars play before 9pm Central time. In all seriousness, both teams are showing surprising resurgences this season and could very well meet again in a few weeks for the conference championship, as both of them lead their respective divisions. Crazy, right? Colorado has shown that a good offense can score on them, and the Cougars’ Luke Faulk is leading the most efficient passing game in the country. Cougars win their ninth game in a row, 45-24
#9 Oklahoma at #14 West Virginia – The recent chaos at the top has given the Big Twelve the faintest glimmer of hope for representation in the playoff. The winning team still has a slim chance, while the other will simply hope to play in a bowl game around New year’s Day. Sooners ride the wave of Baker Mayfield’s arm to win 31-17.
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