The calm is before the storm.
With the first selection coming out this week for the playoff, the week had really some uneventful match-ups. 5 remaining undefeated teams (LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, Minnesota) all had byes while two more unbeatens from non-power 5 conferences took a hit to the chin. The rest of the contenders from the 1-loss group (Utah, Oregon, Georgia) continued building their resumes to get back in the mix. But the week still had some moments and some jolts for certain teams.
TOP 5 WINNERS
(1) GEORGIA: Pretty much following the moniker of their season, the Bulldogs won in a not-so-pretty form, but are now firmly in the driver’s seat in the SEC East. November is a rough schedule regardless despite having two home games (Missouri, Texas A&M) and then having Auburn at Jordan-Hare. If they do not have another trip-up game somewhere, the Bulldogs lone loss won’t matter if they win out, if that means winning against either LSU or Alabama in the SEC Championship as they will be in the Playoff. A nice win for sure.
(2) UTAH: Do NOT sit on the Utes. The defense knows how to grind games out and play tough. On the other side, Tyler Huntley may not be considered for a Heisman, but he is as tough as they come. A win in Washington, while the Huskies aren’t the same squad as they were in 2016, is still a great feat. The Utes may control their own destiny the rest of the way and finally break the Playoff drought the PAC-12 has.
(3) OREGON: I was going to make it 2A & 2B because really the Ducks had a similar accomplishment of winning a tough road game and just exploding in the second half at USC. The Ducks also have a great shot at controlling their own destiny and look out for a possible Utah/Oregon PAC-12 Championship. One side note: Justin Herbert doesn’t get enough love. I guess in part because his name isn’t Tua, Burrow, or Fields.
(4) MEMPHIS: Keep an eye on the Tigers for a push to the New Year’s Six. A few things need to go their way, but Memphis already has a big win against SMU on a big stage. The American Conference really wants to make a point they are as good if not better than any Power 5 program and this one is a good one.
(5) WAKE FOREST: I flip-flopped between the Deacons and Baylor, but the W was very impressive against a decent NC State squad. The hope is Wake can sneak in the New Year’s Six bowl game (perhaps Orange?) but Clemson looms in two weeks in Death Valley. But a win would be a major landmark for Wake Forest, who is having an amazing 2019 season.
HONORABLE MENTION: BAYLOR
TOP 5 LOSERS
(1) FLORIDA: Dan Mullen HAS to improve his coaching style. Yes, it’s a far cry from the days of Muschamp and McElwain at Florida where the Gators were just slightly above mediocre at best. But Mullen’s coaching decisions/style doomed Florida. And this hasn’t been the first time. Just check how he coached at Mississippi State when he had Dak, notably against Alabama in 2014. Go back to the fourth quarter of that game, compare it to the 4th quarter of this recent game and it showed Mullen hasn’t learned his lesson. Which means….Florida is pretty much eliminated from the Playoff and likely the SEC race. And until Florida (and Mullen) figures out how to beat Georgia, it will continue that way.
(2) SMU: No, I don’t think the Mustangs would have crashed the Playoff party. But, SMU was in the driver’s seat for a New Year’s Six game. I mean things can still bounce their way, but now the road to get to that game is very bumpy.
(3) APPALACHIAN STATE: Hard to even consider them on here, but the Mountaineers were undefeated and ranked #20 with hopes of a New Year’s Six game too. Instead, they lose at home to their long-time foes in Georgia Southern. So the hopes of the Sun Belt getting love for a New Year’s game is now eliminated.
(4) WASHINGTON: You have to wonder at this point that the Huskies window has passed under Chris Petersen. Jacob Eason is not the problem, but that defense isn’t the same defense that gave even Alabama fits. And with Oregon rolling under Mario Cristobal, the Huskies need something to fix it or they will remain second fiddle under the Ducks.
(5) FLORIDA STATE: Yeah, the Noles have had it rough the last few seasons. Willie Taggart was the scapegoat for the issues in Tallahassee. But he inherited a mess. But he could not clean it up. Florida State has just looked like a shell of itself over the season despite some moments. And pretty much getting embarrassed by a mediocre Miami squad at home, well that isn’t going to cut it down for the faithful at Florida State.
TOP 5 QUESTIONS
(1) ASSUMING UTAH AND OREGON WIN OUT UNTIL THE PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP, WILL ONE OF THEM TAKE A PLAYOFF SPOT? It all depends on what happens with the loser of the LSU/Alabama game does the rest of the way. LSU doesn’t have a rough schedule the rest of the way (Arkansas, Ole Miss, Texas A&M at home) while Alabama still has their Iron Bowl trip at Auburn. So if you’re a PAC-12 fan, you are hoping Alabama loses to LSU and Auburn as especially it will nullify the Ducks loss against the Tigers to begin the year. So, if LSU wins, yes. If LSU loses, that’s bad news for the PAC-12 honestly.
(2) ASIDE FROM LSU AND ALABAMA PLAYING EACH OTHER, ARE THERE ANY UNDEFEATED SQUADS OR 1-LOSS TEAMS IN MASSIVE DANGER THE REST OF THE WAY? Oh yes. If anything, EVERYONE needs to be scared. If LSU loses, it may not do massive damage, but if Alabama loses it will be VERY hard to win in Auburn. Ohio State and Penn State play each other but the Nittany Lions also get Minnesota who is playing their best ball. The Buckeyes may also have to go to Michigan against a team who is playing very inspired right now. Oklahoma still has to travel to Baylor and if the Sooners lose, they may not even make it to the Big 12 Championship. Georgia sees Auburn in Jordan Hare. And a few interesting quirk games that if the contenders don’t watch it they could be primed for an upset: Clemson against a Wake Forest team who is firing on all cylinders (granted that game is in Death Valley) and while it may look like a mismatch on paper, keep an eye on that Civil War game with Oregon and Oregon State. The Ducks are rolling but the Beavers are playing very tough and have a shot at being bowl eligible. Do not sit on this game if you are a Ducks fan.
(3) BAYLOR, MINNESOTA, AND WAKE FOREST COULD END UP BEING SLEEPERS IN THIS COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RACE. WHICH OF THEM HAS THE BEST CHANCE TO CRASH THE PLAYOFF? IF Minnesota beats Penn State then the Golden Gophers could go to Indianapolis at 12-0 vs. all likelihoods Ohio State. A stunning win would obviously put Minnesota in (which would net wins vs. Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State). Is it the team with the BEST shot? I think it’s probably Baylor if they can beat Oklahoma and Texas. And better, they would probably avoid the Sooners in the Big 12 Title game as Oklahoma would lose the tiebreak to Kansas State. Wake needs to beat Clemson obviously which I don’t think it will happen but even with that notch under their belt the Deacons resume would be unimpressive especially when they see that 62-59 loss to Louisville at home.
(4) CHRIS ASH AND WILLIE TAGGART ARE THE FIRST TWO POWER 5 COACHES TO GET THE AX. WHO IS NEXT? Chad Morris at Arkansas. I never understood the hire at all as he struggled at SMU. He turned the Mustangs program around at 6-6 but really it wasn’t overly impressive. The style of play doesn’t fit for the conference especially with the talent that the rival schools have. Yes, Arkansas is already on the hook still for Bieliema but yikes. The Razorbacks cannot afford to languish like they are where the last few seasons it is “when does basketball season start?” when kickoff happens.
(5) WHO WILL THE SEMINOLES GET FOR A HEAD COACH NOW? Ideally, Bob Stoops. The Seminoles view themselves as one of the college football bluebloods. They will go after the biggest available name out there like how Alabama did with Saban, Ohio State did with Meyer, and Michigan did with Harbaugh. The names of PJ Fleck, Josh Heupel, Mike Norvell, and Matt Campbell are brought up (Fleck & Campbell are at Power 5 schools while Heupel and Norvell have put UCF and Memphis at the forefront of the American). Is it getting mouths water for Noles fans with those guys? Not really. But they have to start somewhere. Norvell should be the one they need to go after. While Fleck has done a great job in his third year at Minnesota, I’m not sold he can mix it up in the recruiting wars in Florida having to deal with Miami, Florida, and the neighboring states of Alabama and Georgia. Campbell is also in that same boat. Norvell has gotten his players in Memphis rolling and right now you can make an argument American Conference is top-to-bottom better than the ACC. Well, after Clemson.
PLAYOFF COMMITTEE PREDICTION TUESDAY:
(2) OHIO STATE
(3) PENN STATE
NEXT 2: CLEMSON, OREGON
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat