The season’s most anticipated college football weekend didn’t disappoint as the playoff picture comes into view. Here are five takeaways.
SEC Wild West
Auburn gave up two late-game fumbles in defeat one week after recovering two red-zone fumbles in victory. Was it coincidence? Was it the curse of Ole Miss? Who knows? What is known is that Auburn will fall in the playoff rankings and its season-ending Iron Bowl matchup against rival Alabama will lose some luster.
Texas A&M winning the game doesn’t prove the depth of the SEC, as some would like to spin it. Auburn had a bad game on the same day that A&M showed it still has some of the early-season spark it showed against South Carolina. The SEC remains the nation’s best conference, but every game doesn’t have to prove it.
A game that did display the SEC’s depth was #5 Alabama at #16 LSU. The two played to a tie before Alabama put together a touchdown drive in overtime, with LSU unable to respond. To put the conference’s depth in perspective, there are more SEC West teams than Big Ten teams in the playoff rankings.
Ohio State, #14, and Michigan State, #8, played an exciting game until OSU began to pull away late in the third quarter. Ohio State’s impressive win, however, muddles the Big Ten race as MSU ranked as the conference’s top team. Both reside in the East division and wouldn’t play against a ranked opponent until potentially seeing West-leading #13 Nebraska in the conference championship. The Big Ten will need considerable chaos in SEC West/Pac-12 as well as a quality championship game to put a team in the playoff.
Somehow, TCU has become the best team not only in Texas but also in the entire region. TCU didn’t show up in the AP Poll until week six. Now, the Horned Frogs appear as conference front-runners, a position solidified by defeating Kansas State.
Unfortunately for TCU, the hardest part of its schedule is in the past and the Big 12 does not have a championship game. The Horned Frogs play inferior competition and then sit at home while SEC and Pac-12 contenders play against top-flight competition.
ASU, #9, took advantage of early mistakes by #10 Notre Dame and QB Everett Golson en route to a complete domination of the Fighting Irish. ASU’s continued success will likely set up a Pac-12 championship game between the Sun Devils and the #4 Oregon Ducks. This game, which has the ability to short out the scoreboard, will decide which Pac-12 team represents the conference in the playoff.
Projected Selection Committee Rankings
1. Mississippi State: unchanged.
2. Florida State: unchanged.
3. Oregon: formerly #4; solidly positioned after a convincing road win at #17 Utah.
4. TCU: formerly #6; dominated a very good #7 Kansas State team. TCU hits its stride at the right time, although its remaining games feature lesser Big 12 competition.
5. Bama: formerly #5; thrilling OT win at #16 LSU. Will have ample opportunity to move up with remaining games against #1 Mississippi State and #3 Auburn.
For college football thoughts, opinions and reaction follow Daniel J. Freeman on Twitter @djfree.