The final weekend of the regular college football season has come to a close, and for fans of favorites, it happily ended with few surprises. For fans of drama, it ended with six teams who all have a legitimate claim for one of four spots in the College Football Playoff, and this should make for some compelling television Sunday.
Closer to home, Mississippi State will learn of its bowl destination Sunday afternoon, and the possibilities should be quite limited once the College Football Playoff Rankings are released. The Bulldogs seemed all but destined to head to the Cotton or the Peach Bowls, but there could be a slight shot at the Orange Bowl. However, if the committee wants to throw geography to the wind, or if they severely punish Arizona, who knows, the Fiesta Bowl is still technically a possibility.
Three Things We Learned Saturday:
1. Ohio State has no competition in the Big Ten. Big Ten supporters might as well look at Ohio State as their overlords. Other than tripping up against Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten Championship, Ohio Statr has blasted the conference. Yes, there have been close games, but overall, no one in the conference is in the same league as Ohio State.
2. PR slogans do not mean anything in the Big 12. The conference that trumpeted "One True Champion" celebrated two teams winning a championship Saturday. No, it does not make sense. The Big 12 had a procedure in place to determine the champion for their contract bowl, but the conference seemed as if it could not do so for the College Football Playoff. That sounds fishy. It sounds like the Big 12 was more concerned about having the right team be a conference champion.
3. Alabama looks awfully good right now. As much as most fans do not want to see it, Alabama looks like the best team in the country right now. Do not be shocked when they walk away as the national champions.
Three Questions for the Playoff Committee:
1. How do you place six teams in a four team playoff? The idea of a four team playoff was doomed to create drama from the get-go. With five power conferences, one conference was always assured to be left out of the conversation. Yes, there was a long-term contract signed, but if someone like Florida State or Ohio State ends up on the outside of the playoff, expect the revolt to be loud enough to force a change to six or eight teams soon. However, the same may not ring true if TCU or Baylor are left out as sentiment has not been with the Big 12 this season.
2. How badly to you punish teams for bad performances in a conference championship game? Arizona fans will be very interested in this thought process. On one hand, if a team gets shellacked by another top-team, that has to make one wonder a bit about their standing with the other top teams in the country. No one wants to see the Wildcats get eviscerated in a New Years Six Bowl game. On the flip side, how harshly should a team be punished for losing in a game they have to play because other teams were not good enough to make it to a championship game.
If the committee decides to come down hard, teams like Ole Miss, Georgia, and UCLA will be quite excited at the possibility to jump into the fray, but if the committee decides to play nice, the Wildcats may not fall too far, and Ole Miss would most likely be the only team to jump into the rankings.
3. How important are outright conference championships? All six of the teams with a claim to be in the playoff have a conference championship under their belt, even if the Big 12 issued out a co-championship. The two teams with the fewest flaws are Alabama and Oregon. Those two are in. Undefeated Florida State has a perception problem. Ohio State plays in the soft Big Ten, but did answer some questions about playing with another new quarterback. The Buckeyes also have a 14-point loss at home to explain away. TCU and Baylor have the co-champions problem. Baylor also has a not-so-good-looking loss on the road at West Virginia, and TCU lost to Baylor.
If the committee decides to put stock in outright champions winning the conference championship game, the Bears and Horned Frogs will be on the outside of the system. The committee's job could be easiest if it says neither team distinguished itself enough above the other four conferences' champions.
Projecting the Rankings:
At the end of the day, the only rankings that will truly matter will be the top-ten, so those are all that are projected. Why are they the only ones that matter? Only the top-ten will end up in a New Years Six bowl since Georgia Tech is headed to the Orange Bowl and Boise State is headed to a bowl as well. Since both of the teams will be outside of the top-ten, the entire top ten will head somewhere.
3. Ohio State
4. Florida State
7. Michigan State
8. Mississippi State
9. Ole Miss