by Matthew Thompson
I unfortunately haven’t had the chance to do anymore Takeaways since the football season started. Thinking up new features for the site, doing one or two entries, and then never doing them again is kind of my thing. And usually by the time I try to write one of these Takeaways the next week of football is already about to begin. That is true today, but I thought the wildness that was last weekend’s slate of college football action deserved a quick look.
It started on Thursday night… and I didn’t even realize it. I got some kind of illness on Wednesday and ended up sleeping through most of the next couple days. Including right through Arizona’s win over #2 Oregon. And that was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to upsets last weekend. In what must be one of the high points in Mississippi sports history, Ole Miss knocked off number 3-ranked Alabama while Mississippi State took down #6 Texas A&M. Oklahoma’s close loss to TCU means four of the top six ranked teams lost. Plus there were other upsets like Northwestern’s win over Wisconsin and BYU’s loss. The latter was a non-Power Five Conference team many thought might go undefeated and at the very least make things a little tougher for the selection committee.
The two top teams that remained unscathed were Florida State and Auburn, the two teams from last year’s National Championship game. The Seminoles (my favorite team for any new readers) got off to a slow start against Wake Forest before running away with the game. Having watched them all season, they just don’t look nearly as good as the 2013 squad. The running game finally got going against Wake, but the offense has lacked the balance of last season’s championship team most other weeks. Jameis has been more mistake-prone as a sophomore and the defense isn’t quite as dominant as in 2013 either. They have a soft schedule though. Notre Dame seems to be their biggest test to come. I think they will run the table again and make it into the playoff, but they are going to need to improve if they want to be able to win another championship, especially with the new playoff meaning two tough games to win at season’s end instead of one.
Auburn has certainly looked the part so far and dismantled what is likely a slightly down LSU team this season. But their remaining schedule is vicious in large part to playing in college football’s toughest division, the SEC West. It was already brutal last year, but with the emergence of the two Mississippi teams it has now reached absurd levels. I don’t see any of the teams making it out of here without a loss. That won’t be much of a problem as whoever wins the SEC (which I assume will be a West team) will be in the playoff. I guess the real question might be will a second one get in. Especially if there seems to be a great 1-loss team that doesn’t get into the SEC Championship game. The Western Division has the potential for some funky three-way tie scenarios I would think with various teams knocking one another off. We will have to wait and see how things play out.
I’d generally prefer using the conference play as sort of the playoff before the playoff. And I’m guessing we will see four different conference champions in when it is all said and done. So my prediction at the moment is FSU plus the champions of the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12. Baylor and TCU remain undefeated in the Big 12, but a 1-loss team could always be in the mix. The Pac-12 is looking messy. I haven’t much of a clue who will win that one. UCLA finally lost this weekend as well, but they’ve looked shaky all year. With Oregon’s loss, I doubt anyone will go undefeated out there (Arizona is the only unbeaten left). But what I could really see is lots of teams knocking each other off. If a 2-loss team ends up winning the Pac-12 that is probably the Big Ten’s best chance of getting back in the mix assuming a 1-loss team wins that one.
So I guess I ought to make some actual predictions for the playoff. I will say FSU and Baylor along with Alabama and Oregon climbing back in despite last week’s losses by winning their conferences. Alabama has the most friendly schedule left of the SEC West teams with their three big games all coming at home. The Pac-12 is a crapshoot, so I’ll just stick with Oregon since I think they are the most talented. I expect this all to blow up in my face in a week or so, but that is part of the fun of college football.
I was going to dive more into Heisman candidates, but I think I will give it another week and make that my Takeaways for next week. There are some big games on the docket this weekend. Hopefully it can be half as entertaining as last. What are your predictions for the four playoff teams? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!