Just when you thought Saturday would be uneventful.
It happens all the time, and it may end up happening again this week. This is why you can never sleep on college football. It always has a way of surprising you. How else can you explain a 30-point underdog winning on the road against Oklahoma?
Did the Big 12 just take itself out of the College Football Playoff?
The Big 12 is entering some dangerous waters as far as the College Football Playoff is concerned. Mind you, the conference still has a decent shot to get a team in the four-team field at the end of the year. Three viable contenders are in the mix right now between undefeated TCU and one-loss Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Here’s the problem for the Big 12: Two of those three are guaranteed to lose at least one game the rest of the year, as all three have to play each other at least once. Here are the key games to focus on the rest of the way in the Big 12:
- Nov. 4: Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma
- Nov. 11: Oklahoma vs. TCU
- (Dec. 1/2: Big 12 Championship Game)
Keep in mind the Big 12 championship game could arrange for a rematch between two of these three teams as well, which throws yet another loss into the mix for somebody. Although at this point, it is beginning to look as though winning the Big 12 will be the only way to reach the Playoff out of the conference barring massive meltdowns around the country in other conferences. The margin of error is already small in the Big 12, as the conference is not quite up to the bar of others like the ACC, SEC, and Big Ten, and perhaps the Pac-12.
It's the 7th straight season Oklahoma has lost a game outright as a double-digit favorite.
— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) October 7, 2017
— Michael (@OKCYanni) October 7, 2017
At the beginning of the season, I felt the Big 12 was going to miss out on the College Football Playoff despite having a one-loss Big 12 champion in Oklahoma. That was under the impression Oklahoma would have lost at Ohio State, so the Sooners winning in Columbus changed my outlook. But after losing to Iowa State instead, that changes the dynamic of the Big 12’s playoff outlook — unless you feel TCU really can run the table in the conference.
Penn State has done what they needed so far, but time to prove worthy is on deck
The defending Big Ten champions had one goal for the first half of the season, and they accomplished it. The Nittany Lions just needed to get through their first six games to head into the bye week without a loss, and that would likely put them in the position they need for the second half of the year. This season has always boiled down to managing their way through the first half of the year and then going into a home game against Michigan and a road game at Ohio State with the stakes as high as they can possibly be.
This is the key stretch for Penn State that will determine whether or not they are legitimately a Big Ten and College Football Playoff contender. Going 1-1 in those two games, in particular, is the bare minimum for Penn State to have any hopes of reaching the Big Ten championship game, just as was the case last year. We’ll dive into it more next week after Penn State’s bye week, but this is the three-game stretch that was always going to make or break their season.
Penn State is ranked third in the major polls, although I tend to think there are two other teams more deserving of being ranked ahead of them.
#3 Penn State’s FBS opponents to date have a record of 13-14. Just one team with a winning record (Iowa).
#5 Georgia: 17-10
#7 TCU: 13-8
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) October 8, 2017
TCU and Georgia also each have a road win against team currently in the top 25. Penn State hasn’t faced a ranked opponent yet.
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) October 8, 2017
My point here is simply this: I think Penn State is a really good team, but if I’m ranking teams with consideration given to their level of difficulty, I cannot justify having Penn State ahead of TCU and Georgia at this point in the season. But that can easily change once they get back from their bye week, just as I have been stressing all along. This is the start of Penn State’s season, for better or worse. If they go 3-0 in the next two games, start making those playoff reservations. If it’s 2-1, we’ll see. At 1-2, the Outback Bowl can still be fun.
It also will be the make-or-break stretch for Saquon Barkley’s Heisman Trophy campaign. Barkley heads to the bye week coming off his least impressive game of the season against Northwestern, but solid performances against Michigan and Ohio State (and Michigan State) will either make him a lock to go to New York as the Heisman frontrunner or leave his legitimacy in some doubt.
Stock Up, Stock Down
Stock up: Michigan State (which means Notre Dame, which means Georgia) — I said before the season started not to count out Michigan State causing some trouble in the Big Ten East. I had a good feeling the Spartans would not be down in the dumpster like they were last year, and while I am not throwing them atop the Big Ten East just yet, they have certainly proven to be an improved team this year. And that’s great news for Notre Dame, who beat the Spartans head-to-head this season. And that’s great news for Georgia, who beat Notre Dame head-to-head this year.
Stock down: Bret Bielema. Unfortunately, like LSU, the contractual obligations in ink may make it nearly impossible to make any coaching changes. Arkansas is now 2-3 after a miserable showing against South Carolina. The Razorbacks are 27-29 overall under Bielema in his fifth season with the program, but just 10-24 in SEC games.
Bret Bielema is 10-24 in the SEC yet Arkansas would owe him a $15.4 million buyout if they fired him this year. pic.twitter.com/akSDyVFXZa
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 7, 2017
Meanwhile, Bielema’s old program at Wisconsin just might go 12-0 this season.
— The Comeback NCAA (@TheComebackNCAA) October 8, 2017
In attendance at UNLV tonight: Flavor Flav, clock and all. pic.twitter.com/KbYXPKlRz2
— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) October 8, 2017
Box Score of the Week
The general rule here is if the game goes into seven overtimes, we’re probably going to highlight it in this section. Western Michigan had a 24-14 lead going into the fourth quarter, but Buffalo rallied to take a lead and then tied the game with 34 seconds left in regulation with a field goal.
Then in overtime, the goal quickly turned in to not settling for a field goal. The teams traded 10 touchdowns in overtime before Buffalo made the costly mistake of settling for a field goal in the seventh overtime. A Jarvion Franklin 12-yard run gave the Broncos a wild win that at one point earlier in the game also featured a player’s sister running on the field to celebrate her brother’s touchdown. If this isn’t what #MACTION is all about, I don’t know what is.
— The Comeback NCAA (@TheComebackNCAA) October 8, 2017
Troll jobs of the Week
Michigan lost at home against Michigan State. Some might call it a choke job.
Throw this GIF into the hall of fame pic.twitter.com/R6CVba6e3j
— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) October 8, 2017
Ole Miss voted to adopt the Landshark as its new mascot. Auburn helped give them a head start with their new mascot.
— AuburnUndercover (@AUUndercover) October 7, 2017
You know Miami is back when they come into Tallahassee, leave with a win and play air guitar on an opponent’s leg at the end of a play.
Using your opponent's leg to play guitar is an all-time move pic.twitter.com/9mgeNklRjG
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 7, 2017
ESPN and Washington head coach Chris Petersen appear to be at odds over Pac-12 TV scheduling, so ESPN commented on Washington’s non-conference slate during a sideline report with the help of some props.
In case you wanted to see the cupcake schedule thing for yourself: pic.twitter.com/U5RXEqwRDi
— Kevin Shockey (@KevinShockey) October 8, 2017
Group of Five Watch
My position here holds firm for another week. San Diego State continues to be impressive, and they also continue to benefit every time Stanford wins. With the Cardinal scoring a win on the road against Utah over the weekend, San Diego State’s marquee win remains the top non-conference win by any team in the Group of Five. I am bumping up UCF ahead of USF in my ranking, though, because Scott Frost has the Knights playing smashmouth football at home and on the road. No team in the AAC has been more impressive to start the season than UCF.
- San Diego State
If the College Football Playoff started today…
Two teams from the SEC if the playoff started today? Absolutely. Georgia has been on the rampage lately and has looked as good as any team in the SEC outside of Alabama. The Bulldogs are already running away with the SEC East as well, but the game I’m most looking forward to comes later in the season with a road trip to Auburn. Win or lose, the SEC East is theirs and they should be planning to face Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. And if the playoff started today, they’d be in my playoff field.
So would TCU. A second win against a top 25 team puts the Horned Frogs in a good spot for now. And I’ll keep Clemson ahead of Alabama based on having three wins against top 25 competition (Auburn, Virginia Tech, and Louisville) to Alabama’s one (Florida State) that continues to look weaker and weaker. (I’m not confident suggesting Florida State’s season would be too much better now, even with a healthy Deondre Francois.)
Of course, the College Football Playoff doesn’t start today. So here is my current College Football Playoff outlook based on how I see future games playing out and how I think the selection committee might respond. This week, the forecast is incredibly foggy as I found it difficult to convince myself of one four-team field over the other with a few options in mind. Here’s the one I ended up with, but I’ll probably change it next week anyway.
- Ohio State
Ohio State ahead of Oklahoma? Sure, that looks strange given the head-to-head result between the two, but at the end of the year I think Ohio State will have earned that spot ahead of the Sooners thanks to wins over Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin for a strong finish to the season.
I still think Ohio State beats Penn State to become the Big Ten’s frontrunner for the playoff (because I think they beat Wisconsin too in the Big Ten championship game), and I think the Pac-12 picks itself a part a little too much to hurt their chances to stay ahead of the Big 12, while Oklahoma rebounds from the Iowa State loss to go on a run.