Week 14 NCAA football preview: The Whole Nine Yards with Mia O'Brien
By MIA O'BRIEN
College Contributor Network
Miss State gets "stuffed"
While the rest of us recovered from our Thanksgiving food comas, there was still a bit of "stuffing" to go around in the state of Mississippi -- and unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it cost them an SEC West title.
After losing three of their last four, the Rebels of Ole Miss came out on fire in their final game of the 2014 regular season, cruising to an eventual 31-17 win over their instate rivals. Perhaps most intriguing in this win was that (once-) heralded quarterback Bo Wallace didn't even have to do it in the air (he was 13-of-30 on the day) for Ole Miss to pull out the win.
Heck, although they did amass 205 yards on the ground on Saturday, 148 yards came courtesy of Jaylen Walton -- and 91 of those yards came on one play. Although Dak Prescott did not throw an interception in the game, it was the inability of the Missisippi State offense -- or, rather, the stymying Ole Miss defense -- that led to the outcome.
Both teams will now have to wait and see where the postseason takes them, but one thing is for sure: if nothing else, the Magnolia State proved it deserves to be among the best in the country when it comes to college football.
Will FSU ever fall?
Once again: Rome did, so how have the Seminoles yet to falter?
Sure, they've had their fair share of close games -- some might say they've had too many close calls. Yet they remain the only undefeated team in the AP Top 25 as we enter Week 15.
Last week started out like so many others: Florida jumped out to an early nine-to-nothing lead and Jameis Winston threw a trio of interceptions in the first quarter alone. But have no fear -- once the pressure is on, Jameis is here -- as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner went on to throw two touchdowns (although only accounting for 125 yards in the air).
Is Winston or Jimbo Fischer the modern-day Houdini? Following Winston's lack-luster performance this week, one can't say for sure. Either way, the Seminoles will have another test on their hands with No. 11 Georgia Tech coming to town this weekend. The Yellow Jackets proved they belonged with an overtime win over No. 9 Georgia last week, and have built a nice, five game win streak against all ACC opponents. Can FSU be victim number six -- and the empire finally fall? As history has taught us... only time will tell.
Big complications in the Big 12
So here's the breakdown: Baylor defeated Texas Tech last weekend to move to 10-1 on the year, 7-1 in conference play.
TCU defeated Texas on Thanksgiving night to move to 10-1 on the year, 7-1 in conference play.
Both teams still have one game to play each on Saturday. With wins, they both could finish 11-1.
Sensing a pattern?
The Big 12 officials are. And they're leaving the debate in the hands of the College Football Playoff selection committee to decide which team should be ranked and regarded as the "higher" of the two.
The conference has stated that should both teams win this weekend, they will inform the selection committee that the conference has co-champions (even though Baylor did defeat TCU on Oct. 11) -- but that's only so long as one of the two teams cracks the top four teams in the nation.
Heading into this weekend, it's the Horned Frogs who have earned the No. 3 spot in the CFB playoff rankings, and the No. 4 spot in the AP Top 25. They'll have an easier task with 2-9 Iowa State this weekend, while Baylor will have to do battle with the third-place team in the Big 12: Kansas State.
How good is Ohio State, really?
Once again, kind of like we used to say about Michigan State (and still do): the Buckeyes play in the Big Ten.
Their signature wins are over, yes, the Spartans, as well as Penn State (6-6) in double overtime and Minnesota.
They're now without their starting quarterback, J.T. Barrett -- aka their second-string quarterback.
So, as has become the big debate across the nation: where do you rank the Buckeyes?
Certainly, being the likely champion of their conference means they deserve some sort of higher-end ranking. But does being the champion of the Big Ten mean they deserve any sort of free pass to a playoff spot should any of the current teams in those positions falter? Absolutely not.
For now, even with Barrett, the Big Ten and the competition those teams play is simply not on the caliber of the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, and, yes, even the ACC. This is not a Notre Dame of 2013 scenario: Ohio State will succeed against its competition, but that's the only reason it's averaging 44 points a game.
With all that said, do they deserve the fifth spot in the latest College Football Playoff rankings? Baylor and Arizona fans will tell you no -- especially after the competition their teams have had to face this season. But, logistically, save for the aforementioned "tie" atop the Big 12, the leaders of the five major conferences are currently in the five top spots vying for the playoffs. Logistically, it makes sense -- and in making this decision, the committee is only looking back at the previous 14goo weeks, not the unknown future.
If the season were to end today...
Kind of spelled it out above, but it would be Alabama, Oregon, TCU, and Florida State earning the four coveted spots in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
The first two are essentially no-brainers at this point, having withstood quite the schedule in the regular season. TCU makes sense, even if, again, Baylor has the head-to-head advantage. Thus, should the long-awaited fall of Florida State come at the hands of Georgia Tech, don't be surprised if its Baylor and TCU both playing in the postseason.
Just like the Buckeyes (who should not fill the void potentially left by FSU for all the reasons outlined above), the Seminoles strength of schedule cannot compare to that of Baylor and TCU, let alone Alabama and Oregon. Moreover, the fact that so many of their games have been close calls could very well come back to bite them.
But, of course, that's if Rome falls and a 28-win streak comes to a close.
What to watch for
Title game weekend for a lot of conferences this weekend, most notably (and not receiving nearly the press it deserves) is No. 2 Oregon against No. 7 Arizona. Surely, a lot of folks felt that after Marcus Mariota's near-superhuman performance last week that there was no way the Ducks could possibly fall to the 'Cats twice in one season -- especially since the Wildcats two losses came at the hands of up-and-down UCLA and lackluster USC. Still, they've had a string of tough-fought wins over Utah and Arizona State, and the momentum very well could carry Arizona -- and shake up everything I previously said about the playoff scenario.
Alabama has Missouri in what should be an easy game for the Crimson -- again, remember that whole "SEC West > SEC East" debate?
As mentioned, FSU-Georgia Tech will pit the Yellow Jackets as America's last great hope to dethrone Jameis Winston in the regular season.
But it's those regular season games out in the Big 12 that could be the most fun to watch this weekend. In particular, pay close attention to that Kansas State-Baylor game as the Wildcats look to play spoiler and take this Big 12-standings madness to a whole new level (they're 9-2 overall, 7-1 in conference). And although they might not be playing for a shot at the conference title, the eternally beloved Oklahoma-Oklahoma State matchup will surely be a fun one to watch.
Who to watch for
Don't worry, Wisconsin, I haven't forgotten about how you snuck into the Big Ten Championship game -- and how, with a talent like Melvin Gordon running the ball, you very well could take down the Barrett-less Buckeyes.
Gordon's run for over 2,200 yards this year for the No. 13 Badgers, who haven't lost a game since Oct. 4. The junior is averaging 8 yards a carry, and has rushed for at least 150 yards in his last four games -- including that dominating, 408-yard performance against Nebraska three weeks ago.
Wisconsin can do it in the air, too, but going up against a team that has allowed 21 rushing touchdowns this season -- and nearly 145 yards on the ground per game -- its safe to say the Badgers will know who to give the ball to on Saturday... and the Buckeyes should be ready.
The team of destiny
It's been a whirlwind of the last three weeks for the Linfield College community. Not only are they onto NCAA Division III's quarterfinals after knocking off No. 4 Mary-Hardin Baylor, but they'll be doing it just weeks after the death of one of their own. Linebacker Parker Moore was stabbed to death outside a 7-Eleven store across the street from campus on Nov. 15.
This piece is from two weeks ago following the team's first round win, but the sentiments and story rings all the more true.
The last laugh
...let's be real: Navy gives a ship about it's match-up this weekend (didn't forget you either, Midshipmen!)
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