As we step further into mid-November with the unveiling of the 3rd edition of the College Football Playoff Committee Rankings, one fact remains clear: within the rankings, specific teams stand as genuine contenders, while others that offered glimpses of promise during this journey are merely November stand-ins.
Now, let’s delve into the present cream of the crop:
The Mississippi State University (MSU) Bulldogs continue their unbeaten streak, holding onto the top spot after what some have called an ‘active bye week’ against UT Martin.
Quarterback Dak Prescott’s strong performance and evident return to health after a couple of weeks must come as a relief for many Bulldog enthusiasts.
If they keep their perfect record, Prescott could secure this year’s Heisman trophy.
Nevertheless, my confidence in their ability to go undefeated remains unshaken, especially after last week’s unexpectedly tight first half.
This only reinforces my belief that MSU might lack the overall talent required to maintain an unblemished record in the fiercely competitive SEC West.
Their impressive streak is poised to meet its end this week as they head to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to face the formidable #5 Crimson Tide.
Alabama’s home record this season, averaging 48 points and 610 yards per game, is nothing short of staggering.
This production level poses a significant challenge for a defense that recently struggled against the UK.
In facing the best wide receiver in all of College Football, Amari Cooper, I find it hard to believe that the Bulldogs will fare any better.
The Ducks have surged past Florida State to claim the #2 spot in this week’s rankings.
\Their victory against Utah, a team that has captured the committee’s admiration this year despite having three losses in the Pac-12, is a notable achievement.
It raises questions about why Utah, with its less-than-perfect record, still maintains a presence in the Top 25.
While Oregon continues to earn accolades for its triumphs in the Pac-12, a conference many argue is the most fiercely competitive in college football, I agree that parity is a defining feature.
However, this doesn’t automatically translate to their top performers being on par with those from other conferences.
The Ducks’ status as one of the nation’s premier teams is primarily attributed to the exceptional performance of their quarterback, Marcus Mariota, throughout this season.
In my view, he is currently the most deserving candidate for the Heisman trophy and is likely to emerge as the winner. However, if circumstances dictate otherwise, a strong contender waits in the wings (as mentioned above).
The Ducks have shown vulnerability when facing strong passing teams, exemplified by their struggle against a struggling Cal football team a few weeks back.
This weakness, however, seemed to be overlooked in games against Stanford and Utah, both of which featured less formidable passing offenses.
Oregon’s Achilles’ heel lies in their limited ability to apply pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, consequently leaving their secondary exposed.
If they aim for a shot at the National Championship, the Ducks must devise strategies to ramp up their pass rush.
The potential litmus test for Oregon could come from Arizona State, especially if the Sun Devils secure victories and advance to the Pac-12 Championship game.
Still, there’s a chance that the Ducks might face UCLA, given that the Bruins hold the tiebreaker with ASU. In either scenario, I believe the odds tilt in favor of the Ducks.
After another less-than-impressive victory over an unranked opponent in Virginia, FSU has finally relinquished their #2 spot.
In my opinion, this decision by the committee sets a troubling precedent by placing a one-loss team ahead of an undefeated one.
It seems the committee is undervaluing the ACC and the fact that Florida State has been securing wins, albeit not always in a dominant fashion.
It’s evident that the committee may be overlooking a few key factors.
Firstly, FSU boasts the longest active win streak at 25 games, a commendable feat.
While this streak extends back to last year, it’s worth noting that, aside from the freshman class, the current team members were all part of the National Championship-winning squad.
Additionally, FSU still has a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, and Jimbo Fisher remains at the helm as head coach.
These elements contribute to the team’s continued strength and should be considered.
Secondly, the ACC has four teams in the Top 25 of the Committee’s rankings.
You could almost include Notre Dame in that group, as they play a heavy ACC schedule. As a comparison, the Big 12 only has 3 teams in the Top 25, and the SEC has the most with 7.
Thirdly, Oregon lost. They lost! AT HOME to Arizona. Some have justified this loss by saying the Ducks were missing key players on the offensive line, referring mainly to left tackle Jake Fisher.
Yes, your blind side is critical, but that doesn’t compare to FSU having to play without Jameis Winston vs Clemson this year.
Yet, FSU managed to triumph over Clemson even in their quarterback’s absence — a testament to the strength of their team.
So, I find it hard to accept claims that their team was significantly “banged up.”
In football, injuries are par for the course, and the best teams find a way to win regardless.
From this point onward, Florida State arguably has the smoothest path to securing a playoff spot.
While they face a challenging test against Miami this week and a formidable opponent in the ACC championship game, I’m confident they’ll make it in.
The Horned Frogs have earned a spot in the Top 4 for the first time, and I’m pleased to witness this diversity at the pinnacle.
Finally, the Big 12 has a contender in the playoff race, even though I personally believe it might not be the most deserving team.
TCU’s sole loss came against Baylor, currently ranked 7th. The committee’s criteria included head-to-head play in determining the Top Four, but it appears not to have been applied in this case for some undisclosed reason.
In the event that both Baylor and TCU secure victories in all their remaining games, Baylor would technically be crowned the Big 12 Champion due to their tiebreaker advantage in head-to-head play.
It’s worth noting that the Big 12 is unique in lacking a conference championship game, unlike the other conferences.
Anticipating how the Committee will rationalize keeping TCU at #4 without being the conference champion is uncertain.
However, I believe they might not face this dilemma for the following reason: Baylor’s last game is against Kansas State in early December, while TCU concludes its season against Iowa State.
This allows Baylor to impress the committee while TCU faces a less competitive team.
If Baylor manages to win out, it could be the opening they need to surpass TCU in the rankings.
To illustrate, consider last week when Nebraska held the #13 spot.
Following a bye week, they dropped three spots to #16 in the rankings.
Baylor might have an advantage here, potentially benefiting from a strong performance while their main competition maintains a holding pattern.
The Crimson Tide currently holds the #5 spot, and their pivotal match-up against Mississippi State this weekend is arguably the biggest game of their season.
As previously mentioned, Alabama demonstrates exceptional performance when playing at home.
The lingering question is whether they’ll be tired from their overtime victory last week in Baton Rouge.
Significant victories in challenging away environments can undoubtedly take a toll and have a lasting impact on the subsequent week.
Personally, I have confidence that Nick Saban knows how to prepare his team for a game of this magnitude.
Following the clash with MSU, the Tide’s schedule eases up somewhat, facing Western Carolina before the highly anticipated Iron Bowl against Auburn.
The Tigers stumbled in last week’s game against Texas A&M, a detail that may have been pointed out in a previous column… ahem.
While the Crimson Tide has showcased itself as the premier team in the SEC, this year’s twists and turns suggest that such distinctions are week-to-week affairs.
Blake Sims must maintain his solid ball security, a feat he’s achieved throughout the year, for Alabama to remain competitive in the home stretch.
Sims has subtly shown improvement throughout this season, and some credit for this progress should be attributed to offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
Games to watch that will shape the CFB playoff
Alabama vs. Mississippi State
Will ascertain the probable SEC Champion.
Minnesota vs. Ohio State
This victory would add another significant accomplishment to OSU’s record, a much-needed boost for them. Minnesota has just recently earned a spot in the Top 25 this week.
Wisconsin vs. Nebraska
If Nebraska wins, they will face OSU in the Big 10 Championship.
This holds significance because not only will it be a noteworthy win for Nebraska, but it will also assist them in climbing the polls.
Furthermore, it benefits OSU as they’ll face a higher-ranked opponent in the Big 10 Championship, potentially bolstering their own standing.
While OSU still requires some assistance, they are by no means out of contention in this season of unpredictability.
FSU vs. Miami
Throughout history, this matchup has given rise to some memorable games.
While FSU currently possesses more talent, Miami boasts a standout running back in Duke Johnson.
If Miami can dominate the line of scrimmage and effectively run the football, there’s a potential for them to keep pace with the Seminoles, who have tended to sluggish starts in recent times.
Oregon State vs. Arizona State
In the past, Oregon State has demonstrated its capability to upset leading teams in the Pac-12.
Their quarterback, Sean Mannion, is astute and possesses impressive passing skills.
While his senior season may have been somewhat underwhelming, Mannion is well-equipped to handle the blitzes that ASU will likely bring.
I’ll return next week to investigate the College Football Playoff Committee’s rankings.
Enjoy the games!