Ten Things - Week Seven
Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL Tags:
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My, my, my, how quickly things can change. At the end of September, it was a legitimate question to ask which Power Five conference would be snubbed for an undefeated Houston team in the playoffs. Just two weeks later, Houston is out and it’s even more likely that one conference will get two teams. The pool of undefeated teams is dwindling, and the probability of a couple two or three-loss conference champions is an increasing possibility. And while the playoff picture looks to get muddied up even further, the Heisman race couldn’t be clearer. But we’re just halfway through the season…
1. The Kings Reign – There’s no legitimate dispute that the best two coaches in the sport right now are Alabama’s Nick Saban and Ohio State’s Urbane Meyer. The past few weeks have seen no shortage of debate as to which team deserves the #1 spot in the polls. Last week, both took their teams on the road against a top ten, conference opponent. The Tide, as you may have heard, had the most impressive win at Tennessee, 49-10. But the Buckeyes showed resilience in overcoming a ten point deficit to beat Wisconsin in overtime 30-23. So for now, it’s these two and everyone else.
2. Big Twelve Over the ACC? – Through four games into the season, the Big Twelve had effectively played itself out of the playoff picture. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Kansas State (winners of 12 of the past 14 conference titles) all had two losses by that time. Meanwhile, the ACC had Louisville step up to join Clemson as the cream of the conference. Even after a close loss to the Tigers, the Cardinals still seem to be a better playoff option than the bluebloods of the Big Twelve. The only exception? Well, there’s two, and both are undefeated – Baylor and West Virginia. While no one expected the Bears to play this well in the wake of a coaching change, they still have yet to get to the meat of their schedule. The Mountaineers, though, have some key wins out of conference and are now #12 in the polls. That’s a prime spot to make a late season surge to the top four.
3. Evergreen State Resurgence – For the last seven years, the PAC-12 champion has been either Oregon or Stanford. Over that span, Washington State has averaged 3.9 wins a season and Washington has done a little better at 6.7 wins. As of now, the Cougars are 4-2 and the Huskies are 6-0 and ranked fifth in the country. Both of them have convincing wins over both Stanford and Oregon. If this keeps up, the Apple Cup winner will earn a chance at their first outright conference title since Washington had it in 1991.
4. More PAC-12 Upheaval – Prior to Oregon and Stanford’s dominance in the conference, USC won at least a share of the PAC-10 (this was before expansion) from 2002-2008. Since the conference expanded to add Colorado and Utah, the newbies have been the only two teams that have not represented the South division in the championship game. Guess who sits at the top of the South division? That’s right, Utah (who has already beaten USC) and Colorado. Utah travels to Colorado the day after the Apple Cup, so we could conceivably be watching both PAC-12 divisions decided by two teams that haven’t so much as sniffed any conference title since Utah won the Mountain West in 2008.
5. Playoff Four – If the playoff committee were to pick teams today, here’s the four they should pick
Alabama – After a 49-10 shellacking of ninth ranked Tennessee, there really shouldn’t be any argument at this point. The defending champs have won with a defense and special teams unit that has scored as many touchdowns as it has allowed (11).
Ohio State – This may wind up being 1a and 1b by season’s end. The Buckeyes have two road wins (Oklahoma and Wisconsin) that rival just about anyone else in the country. Can we just fast forward to Nov 26th already?
Washington – The Huskies’ surge is surprising to some, but after a lackluster nonconference slate and needing overtime to beat Arizona their back-to-back pasting of Stanford and Oregon have gotten the nation’s attention.
Clemson – The Tigers have been underwhelming at times, but the win against Louisville is the single best victory of anyone else on this list. They’re one remaining test is a trip to Tallahassee in two weeks. Win that, and it’s a straight shot to the playoff.
6. The Next Four – These four teams are in the best shape to move into the top four should one of those teams stumble
Michigan – You could probably make a decent argument to include Michigan in the playoff today, but they don’t have quite the resume of Ohio State and they do have the opportunity to replace the Buckeyes themselves. And if Colorado wins the PAC-12, that 45-28 win will look even better.
Texas A&M – The Aggies are one of the more pleasant surprises, giving coach Sumlin a reprieve from the hot seat. A victorious trip to Tuscaloosa this week will all but punch their ticket to Atlanta, and then the playoff.
West Virginia – The Mountaineers are the most underrated undefeated team in the country (only because Nebraska is still ranked six spots above them). The best thing they can hope for is to give Baylor their first loss on championship weekend.
Nebraska – I wanted to put Louisville in this spot, but the truth is Louisville needs too much help at this point. The Cornhuskers, meanwhile, control their destiny. Travelling to Wisconsin and Ohio State in back to back weeks is grueling, but to remain undefeated would no doubt set them on a collision course with Michigan or an OSU rematch.
7. Playoff Implosion Scenario – As much as we love the playoff, especially as a step forward from the days of the BCS, as college football fans we still love a bit of chaos. So as neat as the playoff could be, I got to thinking what could happen to turn everything upside down. Here goes. North Carolina wins the ACC, ensuring that neither Clemson nor Louisville can claim conference champion and each have at least one loss. Oklahoma continues its streak to win the Big Twelve with two losses. Washington State upsets Washington in the Apple Cup, then wins the PAC-12 at 10-2. Both Alabama and Texas A&M win out after their game this week. The winner of Ohio State and Michigan wins the Big Ten, and the other team finishes 11-1. Clearly the SEC and Big Ten champs get in. But does a 1-loss Ohio State or Alabama? Would the committee put in a North Carolina team that lost to Georgia, or a two loss Oklahoma team over the Buckeyes? Would anyone be comfortable having a PAC-12 champ in after losing to an FCS Eastern Washington team? Imagine that, four teams from two conferences and another potential rematch for a national title OR the first (and second?) two loss team in the playoff.
8. The Mighty Have Fallen – Remember at the beginning of the season when it was such a turning point for Texas to beat Notre Dame? Well not only has that not been a sign of things to come for Texas, but the Irish are 2-5 after falling to Stanford. And speaking of Stanford, who would’ve thought that after humiliating losses to both Washington schools would need a win over that same Notre Dame team to get back on track? And has anyone seen Sparty? Michigan State, just a few years removed from a Rose Bowl win and a year after making the playoff semifinal, is looking at their worst record since going 7-6 in 2012.
9. SEC Rundown – Sure there was some football played in the SEC. Aside from Bama-Tennessee, Arkansas survived Ole Miss, Georgia fell unexpectedly to Vanderbilt, and Florida somehow still controls their own destiny to the SEC Championship. But the big news is that there’s some drama brewing in the SEC office. Last week, commissioner Greg Sankey stressed the importance of rescheduling the LSU-Florida game in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. The next day, LSU AD Joe Alleva attempted to assert his own power by effectively drawing a line in the sand that LSU would not be travelling to Gainesville. This kind of public battle is not one that looks favorably for either party, but this is certainly more of a black eye for LSU as it comes off making them look like spoiled brats who whine to get their way. Sankey can afford the consolation for now, but it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out down the road.
10. Three To See – Here are three quality games to catch this weekend. (Note: the only games involving two ranked teams are in the SEC, but there are a couple quality games featuring an unranked team that might be more worth your trouble. But if not, feel free to watch Arkansas club Auburn and Ole Miss and LSU duke it out for 5th best in the SEC West if you must)
- #6 Texas A&M at #1 Alabama – If not for the SEC’s megadeal with CBS, this would surely be a prime time kickoff. As it is, the best game you will likely see will be done around sundown. The Aggies quarterback, Trevor Knight, is one of the few who can say they’ve torched an Alabama defense, but he can look no further than Chard Kelly to see how even that migha622445 lucky777842745t not be enough. With Bama’s ability to score on offense and defense, it’ll take a lot of skill and more than a little luck for the defending champs to fall. That said, of the past three championships Saban has won with the Tide, all of them have included a loss – one of those was to the Aggies. Texas A&M pulls the upset, 45-40
- Memphis at #24 Navy – The Midshipmen derailed Houston’s playoff hopes a couple weeks ago, and now the Tigers stand in the way of an unblemished conference record. A loss for Navy could give Houston hope of a three-way tie if they can beat Memphis later this season. A win by Navy puts them potentially in a prime spot for a New Year’s Day bowl. Navy holds firm, 27-17.
- TCU at #12 West Virginia – Given the parity in the Big Twelve and other conferences, the Mountaineers find themselves rocketed to just outside the top ten. A win here keeps them in line for their first conference crown in the Big Twelve, while a TCU win means that 1) Gary Patterson’s crew isn’t dead yet and 2) makes Baylor the lone hope for a playoff team. Horned Frogs get it done on the road, 34-20.
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