The whole nine yards with Mia O'Brien, Week 7 preview

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By MIA O'BRIEN
College Contributor Network

Oh how the mighty have fallen...

What a difference a week makes.

Oregon. Alabama. Oklahoma. Stanford. Heck, Texas A&M -– you simply can't make this stuff up. But it's exactly what went down in Week 6.

Now, there are two sides to this coin, and both revolve around the fact that this all happened in Week 6. There's plenty of time for these perennial powerhouses to bounce back. But can the underdogs who triumphed last week continue to do so -- especially those playing in that dreaded SEC West division?

We'll get to some of those underdogs a little later, so let's take a quick look at the rest of the way for the previously unbeatens.

The first Top-10 team to fall last week has perhaps the toughest remaining schedule of any team vying for a BCS playoff spot -- let alone one of the top teams to lose last weekend.

Oregon has to play the likes of UCLA, Cal, and Stanford within a one-month span. If they survive... then a BCS playoff spot is almost a guarantee.

Oklahoma does have Texas, Kansas State and Baylor all on its radar, but, aside from that, it's a relatively easy schedule ahead (such are the perks of playing in the Big-12).

Stanford, like Oregon, has to make its way through the likes of the Pac-12 and Alabama has a similar task ahead with the SEC.

Oklahoma's your safe bet to survive the remaining schedule, but if one of these other teams dominates -- and doesn't lose again -- you can count them in for January.

Mississippi: do you have a pulse?

Was there a football game in Oxford last weekend?

Judging by the pictures following the game, you'd never have guessed.

I'm not one for "storming the field" (and/or court) unless it's a big time, groundbreaking win for the program (biased when I say this, but ala Rutgers-Louisville in 2006). Was Ole Miss ranked when they beat No. 3 Alabama last week? Yes. Were many predicting they could win the game? Yes. In most case scenarios, this means storming the field is not warranted.

But this was a win over Alabama, so it was one-hundred percent warranted. Now, the Rebels have to do it two weeks in a row (not the storming the field part...) when they head to College Station to take on Texas A&M -- the same team their Magnolia State counterparts defeated last week.

Speaking of the Bulldogs (whose fans didn't storm the field), they actually might be a more complete team than Ole Miss -- they just have to prove it now against a Top-10 team after their first win over a Top-15 opponent in over fifty years. Even if Mississippi State loses to Auburn this weekend, I'm still not counting the Bulldogs out of the playoff picture -- but this matchup certainly is, if there ever was one this early in the season, the SEC West title game.

Who is actually "big" in the Big-12?

For as much as I mock the Big Ten in this column, as of a few weeks ago, it actually was the Big-12 with more question marks as to who was "legit," who was not, and if Oklahoma was the only team with a chance at a playoff spot.

Enter Week 6. Suddenly, things just got a whole lot more entertaining.

Yes, they have a much easier schedule as compared to their SEC counterparts. Yes, only Oklahoma State and Kansas State have played any SEC opponents. But the reality is that those same SEC teams are inevitably going to continue to knock one another off -- giving way for one of these teams to have a shot at the postseason.

Is the Big-12 the second strongest conference in the NCAA? Certainly not -- that distinction belongs to the Pac-12. But could they be a strong third? Time will tell.

(And for the record, I don't think the Sooners are dead just yet. Wins over Texas and K-State could bring them right back into this. Bold prediction: Oklahoma and Baylor meet in the conference title game).

If the season ended today...

...well, for starters, you'd have two teams ranked "third" as per the AP Top-25. You'd also have three teams in the SEC West (yes, not even the SEC as a whole) making the postseason.

The team we have yet to touch upon this week is the lone wolf in that pack of the four potential playoff teams: No. 1 Florida State. They survived without Jameis Winston. They survived with Jameis Winston. And now they actually have to play some legitimate opponents in back-to-back weeks (with all due respect to the Clemson Tigers, of course).

Syracuse may have a 2-3 record heading into this weekend's matchup, but two of those losses were to the two teams the Seminoles play after they face the Orange: Notre Dame and Louisville. I'll believe Florida State is legit after this next month; but even then, they do play in the ACC...

As of today, on the bubble for those four playoff spots are: Baylor, Alabama, Michigan State, and, yes, the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame seals its fate with a win over FSU in two weeks (from there, they have relatively smooth sailing the rest of the way). Baylor needs to, for lack of a better term, not mess up and earn a big win over Oklahoma on Nov. 8. The Crimson Tide play in the SEC West. Nothing else to say there.

Michigan State, as alluded to in many a column this season, has the privilege to play in the Big Ten and faces the likes of Purdue and Indiana before back-to-back weeks of Michigan-Ohio State (if that's the toughest part of your 2014 schedule, you've got a problem).

What to watch for

The biggie: Auburn-Mississippi State. If you haven't gotten your fill of the SEC West already, this afternoon match-up is for you.

What you should really be watching: TCU-Baylor, also in the 3:30 pm EST time-slot, but with equally as large implications. At this point of the season, and with Oklahoma dropping in the rankings, it's time for one of these two teams to break out. This is the stage to do that on.

As if you didn't have enough to watch Saturday afternoon, Oregon-UCLA will be played to a similar tune as TCU-Baylor. It's a great opportunity for either team to dust off their one loss for good and re-emerge as a Pac-12 frontrunner.

And, yes, if you're not emotionally exhausted by 9 pm, there's Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Both certainly have a shot at the postseason, but this is merely a bump in the road in the grand scheme of these two teams' schedules.

Who to watch for

I'm personally not a fan of looking at "who's the favorite to win the Heisman," but, if you are, then pay close attention to heralded Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota this weekend.

As mentioned, this is a make-or-break game for the Ducks following their loss to Arizona last weekend -- more than just determining Mariota's Heisman value. At the same time, how college football views the junior will be determined this weekend: can he showcase his intangibles, rally the Ducks, and get them back on track? Or does this team drop to 4-2 and suddenly, all dreams of postseason hardware are dashed away?

For your reading pleasure...

Didn't believe me about this whole "SEC" being good stuff? Here's USA Today's Paul Myerberg's take.

Watch the West

I hit on it a lot throughout this column, but as strong as the Big-12 may become, as much as the ACC likes to think it's legit, the Pac-12 has quickly established itself as a close third in entertainment value to the SEC and HBO.

The nationally-televised matchup between Oregon and Arizona will be classified by many in the coming months as the conference's "break-out" game, but, in reality, it's only a small blip on the radar. The Ducks have the Bruins this weekend; Arizona hosts always-threatening USC; Cal is somehow top of the heap in the Pac-12 North (and somehow still in the mix).

As the temperatures continue to hover around 100 degrees (and the hype around the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants burns out), things are about to heat up out West.

Cheesehead domination

D3football.com recently released its amended rankings for the 27 conferences in Division III football.

The two hotbeds: Wisconsin and Minnesota.

America's Dairyland is home to defending-national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater, but also UW-Stevens Point, featured in last week's column. The Pointers had a big win over perennial power North Central, and have jumped into the Top-20. Joining them: sister state-school UW-Platteville, who, at 3-1, have only lost to North Central.

Somehow, the Pioneers are in the bottom of the pack in this conference -- but still in the Top-25 nationally. I guess they don't say "milk leads to strong bones" for nothing.

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is more of a surprise to be ranked this high, given only four of its teams rank in the Top-25 nationally -- and three of them are ranked 23rd, 24th, and 25th, respectively. However, with a 12-5 non-conference schedule (and St. Thomas' shutout over -- dare I say -- a Wisconsin school in UW-La Crosse), the MIAC is proving it can play with the best of the best.

Rounding out that top three: my beloved Empire 8, where No. 7 St. John Fisher was upset by two-time conference champion Salisbury last week, making the Ithaca College Bombers the lone undefeated team in the conference.

The last laugh

...no laughs this week. Just something to get you pumped.


Mia O'Brien is a senior at Ithaca College's Roy H. Park School of Communications, where basically everyone calls her "Mobrien." She's a fan of country music, a good debate, and French dressing -- in no particular order. For sports updates, random musings, and many a creative hashtag, follow her on Twitter: @OBSportsLive16
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