Two weeks to go and there is still quite to battle to take place for the four slots in the College Football Playoff. The worst loss amongst the top seven contenders is held by Ohio State, but its hard to hold it against them too much considering how much they’ve improved since Sept. 6.Baylor also has an underwhelming loss to West Virginia. TCU, on the other hand, has an impressive win against Kansas State, but lost head-to-head to Baylor. All three of these teams are going to need someone in the top four to maintain hope. Mississippi State and Alabama each only have one win against a top 25 opponent, but with losses to quality opposition have the edge over Baylor, Ohio State, and TCU.
A few seasons ago, the world of baseball analysis was swept up by an increasingly popular way to analyze player performance. Used by some as a key stat to determine season ending award winners and player contract values, Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, shows the extent of a player’s contribution to their team. Some people love this sabermetric; others still aren’t buying into it. Similarly, a new stat has become a key component involved in selecting the four participants in the new College Football Playoff.
As a whole, sports fans love stats, and we love finding ways to analyze which player is better than other players, and which team is better than the other teams. If you’ve been keeping up with the college football playoff talk, especially on the ESPN networks, you may have noticed a new phrase being thrown around by analysts and reporters — game control.
It was about that time. Mississippi State was bound to lose soon enough. They’ve played one of the tougher conference schedules in the SEC, and battled through perfectly, until Alabama. Before the season the writing was on the wall, MSU would be a winning team. But no one expected them to do this well. Against a greater talented Alabama they couldn’t pull out another surprising victory and a week after putting them in my top spot, they’ve now fallen to No. 5. Florida State, after another shaky performance, takes over No. 1. Why, you ask? Because they keep winning. The final three weeks of the season are going to provide an exciting race to make the playoffs between the top seven, and my betting favorites are my current top four.
Three weeks into the weekly College Football Playoff Rankings, strength of schedule is the phrase on everybody’s tongue. Unlike the traditional polls, the playoff committee has proven to have no problem with ranking certain teams ahead of others with fewer losses, based on SOS. Likewise, other teams with weaker schedules have suffered the consequences. With such an apparent heavy emphasis on body of work, it would seem we are working towards finding the best four teams. However, there are some interesting dilemmas at hand. Florida State, Baylor and Nebraska are three teams I’ve yet to figure out, and I think the committee too.
The Playoff Committee’s week 11 ranking is out, so in fitting time here is mine. There are some small differences between ours, most notably at the No. 1 position. Mississippi State is the consensus top team in the nation with very strong wins over LSU and Auburn, but watching FSU in their last two I saw a team who at the flip of a switch can turn into the most dominant team in the nation. MSU on the other hand, has been the most consistent team throughout the season. If it came down to it, I think FSU would beat MSU head-to-head. At No. 3, Auburn is the most dangerous team in the country and has the body of work to prove it, but that one loss is keeping me from placing them first. The entire rankings are as follows, and this week promises to shake things up, but also provide more clarity in regards to teams like Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State, and even Alabama, who also has yet to defeat a top 20 opponent.
I’m introducing my top 15 this week and it starts off with last year’s national champion at the top. Florida State is not my No. 1 team because of last year’s accomplishments, but because they have great talent and have arguably defeated the best competition with their win over Notre Dame Saturday. Of the one loss teams, Oregon is still my favorite. It’s been well covered that their offensive line was hurting at the time of their loss to Arizona (now in the top 15 themselves) and they have a strong win over Michigan State. The entire ranking is as follows.
Rarely does a national champion repeat in college football. The intervening factors that come between a 105-plus man roster and an undefeated season are so abundant, that the odds of repeated glory are against that team. Even so, Florida State brings back 13 starters, including Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston, arguably the nations top defense, and another manageable schedule. For these reasons, many are tabbing them defy the odds. I’m not. Though they have their weaknesses, Oregon has, in my opinion, the best player in the nation, Marcus Mariota. The Ducks’ supporting cast is great with a strong offensive line, 1,000-yard rusher, and playmakers on defense. I think this is finally their year. My other two projected playoff teams are Georgia and Oklahoma. I may be taking a small leap with these two teams, but the talent is there for both win their conferences. Potential playoff spoilers that I have listed in my top 25 are Notre Dame, Mississippi, Michigan, and Texas.
After watching the Alabama vs. Georgia game this past Saturday, I find it hard justifying Ohio State as the No. 2 best football team in the country despite being undefeated. It wasn’t just that Alabama looked like the better team, but also that the best team Ohio State played all year — Nebraska — lost 70-31 to five-loss Wisconsin. By now we all know the Big Ten is weak, and with Ohio State not defeating any non-conference team of significance, I decided that Alabama’s two wins over Top Ten teams, as well as Florida’s three wins, warranted them both a higher ranking than Ohio State. It was a hard decision to make, but boy did Florida earn it with that brutal conference schedule they played. They lost to Georgia, whom Alabama defeated, but they also beat Texas A&M, whom ‘Bama lost to. With the better non-conference and conference schedule, I feel that Florida deserves the No. 2 ranking.
Kent State (MAC) at Northern Illinois (MAC)
UCLA (PAC 12) at Stanford (PAC 12)
Texas (Big 12) at Kansas St (Big 12)
South Alabama (Sun Belt) at Hawaii (Mountain West)
Nicholls St (Southland) at Oregon St (Pac-12)
Kansas (Big 12) at West Virginia (Big 12)
Oklahoma (Big 12) at TCU (Big 12)
Louisiana (Sun Belt) at Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt)
Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt) at Arkansas St (Sun Belt)
Boise St (Mountain West) at Nevada (Mountain West)
Cincinnati (Big East) at Connecticut (Big East)
Pittsburgh (Big East) at USF (Big East)
Oklahoma St (Big 12) at Baylor (Big 12)
New Mexico St (WAC) at Texas St (WAC)
I went 36-8 on my week 13 picks. That’s a correct picked percentage of 81.8. The most notable upset I called was Mississippi over Mississippi State.
The Notre Dame–USC primetime broadcast on ABC garnered a 10.3 national TV rating. That made it the most watched college football game of the season, and is even higher than last year’s Rose and Sugar Bowls.
I don’t know if I always believed Notre Dame could make it back to a National Title opportunity, or if I had deep down accepted that it may never happen in my lifetime. I’m inclined to say the former. As a close follower of the team, it’s clear now how far away Notre Dame was from being a contender in years past, which also makes it clear now why being a championship caliber team seemed like such a faraway thing that I doubted it’s possibility altogether. What remained constant through it all was faith. Deep down I always had faith that the ship would be righted and the echoes awoken. Nevertheless, there is still one more game to be played, and I hope the players haven’t settled, but for now, it’s good to be back (Or if you were born post-1988 like me, it’s good to finally make it).
Manti Te’o is the unquestionable leader of the Notre Dame team, but on the offensive side of the ball, Theo Riddick was the Irish’s MVP against USC. Numerous times he broke 10-yard runs to extend drives, made quick cuts to avoid defenders and pick up first downs, and turn positive gains out of potential plays for lost yards. Cierre Wood was the premiere back heading into the season, and is an NFL talent averaging 7.1 yards per carry heading into the game, but the smaller Riddick has been the pleasant surprise turning into the Irish’s power-back option toughing out carries between the tackles.
With Stanford’s 35-17 victory over UCLA, they have now defeated three top 20 teams in a row. They are in my opinion the best two-loss team in football. Had they not slipped versus Washington, I don’t doubt that they could be in competition with the Alabama-Georgia winner for the No. 2 spot in the BCS rankings and a rematch with Notre Dame in the National Championship game.
Stanford senior running back Stepfan Taylor is having another excellent season. It is his third 1,000 yard rushing and double-digit touchdown season in a row.
Just when you thought Texas was back on track, they lose 20-13 to TCU. Quarterback David Ash struggled going 10/21, 104 yards, and two picks. Case McCoy didn’t do much better, but enough to earn the start for this weekend’s game against Kansas State.
Why was there no Denard Robinson sighting in Michigan’s final offensive drive against Ohio State which resulted in an interception? I understand his passing ability is limited even without the arm injury, but he’s one of the most dynamic players in the country, and has come through numerous times in the clutch, coach Brady Hoke needed to find a way to get the ball in his hands.
How good is Ohio State? I’m still not even sure I completely know. It’s almost as if they are an undefeated mid-major. I understand that is an unfair comparison for the Buckeyes, but it’s hard to name a player from this squad off the top of your head other than Braxton Miller and John Simon, a big contrast from teams in years past. Every week seemed like the week their true colors would show, yet they would still find a way to win. Granted, they only truly faced tough competition in Nebraska and Michigan, those victories as well as wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State exceeded my expectations. Penn State turned out to be better than thought, but for the most part, the Big Ten was much weaker than expected which likely aided the Buckeyes in their undefeated campaign.
I was very close to picking Pittsburgh in my Week 13 FBS Picks, and by the result of their 21-point victory over Rutgers, I should have. Pittsburgh is much more talented than their 5-6 record would tell, but I think the effect of so many coaching changes (three different coaches for the past three seasons) showed in the Panthers’ performance this year.
In a matchup of SEC teams playing with a fired head coach, Tennessee defeated Kentucky 37-17. Nothing more to say about these two teams.
Talking about disappointing Big Ten teams, Michigan State is one of them. Can you believe their victory over Minnesota Saturday brought them to the same record and the Gophers?
It was a rough first year in the SEC for Missouri. But that’s what you would expect for a lowly Big Twelve team making the transition to big boy ball in SEC, right? Well tell that to Texas A&M, the team that defeated them by 30 on Saturday and took down a vaunted No. 1 Alabama in their first year in the SEC as well.
Louisiana Tech and San Jose State played in a great Western Athletic Conference matchup Saturday, and SJS came out on top 52-43. Tech is now 9-3 on the season and State is 10-2, not bad for two mid-majors. What catches the eye even more is that neither of them are in first place in the WAC; that honor belongs to 10-2 (6-0) Utah State. Tech played Texas A&M very close earlier in the season losing 59-57 – they are also the No. 1 scoring team in the nation. If you’re a big fan of college football, the replay of the game is available on WatchESPN.com. I’ll be tuning in later this week.
Not to leave out recognition of any other mid-major teams, Kent State improved to 11-1 with their win over Ohio University Friday and are now sitting at No. 17 in the BCS Standings, one spot shy of qualifying for a BCS bowl game. What that means, is you now have reason to tune into their game with another 11-1 MAC team, Nothern Illinois, in the MAC Championship game this Friday. Not only is it a matchup of two top-25 MAC teams, but the implications are big as well. Kent State owns a win over Rutgers, but also an ugly loss to Kentucky. NIU’s lone loss was by one point to Iowa in the first game of the season.