Many questions yet to be answered before College Football Playoff
By EVAN BUDROVICH
College Contributor Network
Two weeks away from the official unveiling of the first-ever College Football Playoff poll, everything we thought we knew about college football has been thrown out the window. Two months of the college football season have passed, and the Cinderella story may actually take center stage as one of the final four teams to somehow survive this wild, unpredictable, knock-down slugfest.
Strength of victories, confidence heading into the final stretch, and quality of victory will all be taken into account for the first college football poll on Oct. 28, but there's still plenty of unpredictable football to play even before we begin launching body blows at the easily scrutinized rankings. Let's be real here, the inaugural College Football Playoff may have so many bubbles bursting, that teams outside the top-10 may be able to sneak right back into the discussion in no time at all.
Over in the Southeastern Conference, touted as the nation's best assortment of talent, it turns out that the state of Mississippi might ultimately decide whether the conference can continue a near decade-long dominance of winning national championships. It would almost be as if Auburn and Alabama, the two most-feared programs in the conference, might play the role of bubble-burster this season.
Has anyone noticed the disparity between the two SEC Divisions? It's like when the Citadel rolls into Florida State trying to keep the spread under 70 points. But in all seriousness, the stacked nature of the West will make for an exciting month where everything we thought we knew will come tumbling down...maybe even opening the door for an underdog to emerge.
In the Pac-12, it seems more and more likely that a two-loss Oregon or Arizona squad may take home the crown. Maybe even the Stanford Cardinal (once left for dead, but still standing) could track down a third-straight conference championship.
It should really be called the conference of unknowns, especially after road teams have accumulated a staggering 14-4 record. No conference is more rewarded, but also tarnished, by the parity. How does the College Football Playoff committee take this test case? The results could say a great deal about nine-game conference scheduling across the nation.
Sure the Big Ten has perennial favorites, Michigan State and Ohio State, but neither team has been overly impressive this season. But think about it, both those teams play in the East Division, which means upstart Minnesota (5-1) or tough-minded Iowa (5-1) could see themselves fighting for a trip to the Rose Bowl. While Michigan State's loss to Oregon has left many to assume that no team from the Big Ten can make the playoff, what happens if the perennial favorites come crashing down in front of them?
For all the talk of high-and-mighty offensive attacks in the Big 12, the conference lacks a legitimate powerful victory to alleviate a troublesome trend. In a conference filled with top-heavy parity, the likes of Oklahoma State (which gave Florida State a good test in Jerry's World) and Kansas State (which nearly upset Auburn) could be teams prime to burst a bubble later in conference play.
Also, anyone notice that Baylor plays current No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 15 Oklahoma State and No. 14 Kansas State over the final four games? This late-season gauntlet is prime for at least one, if not two 51-48 upset specials.
Only six teams remain among the ranks of college football's unbeaten, and by the end of this weekend that number will cut down even further following the much-anticipated Florida State and Notre Dame game.
Those Lou Holtz inspired four-leaf clovers believe their team has the (magical) pieces in place to follow a path of the 2012 squad that made the National Championship Game. East Carolina has a nice win against UNC but nothing about the Pirates strikes fear into your heart. Although we must admit, watching Tulane and ECU battle for the American Conference crown would make for some thrilling mid-week football.
"We are (All) Marshall," though the passing prowess of Rakeem Cato, who has thrown for 1698 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, does not bear any real consideration for the Final Four. But what does the committee do with all these teams? The first poll is designed to rank the entire top-25 rankings as a barometer for the second (but not chopped liver) strata of sponsored games: Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl, Orange Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl.
There may not be the Chris Petersen "hook and ladder" Boise State or "Red Rifle" TCU powerhouse squad ready to crash the party, but that doesn't mean all of the Power Five conferences are safe from the postseason chopping block. I can't wait for the moment when the best (that survive) of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC make their 30-second elevator pitches to play in the inaugural Final Four.
Something tells me a lot of people's feelings are gonna be really be hurt. Yet someone has to rise among the ashes of parity, competitiveness and a brutal 13-person examination to earn a spot in the playoffs.
Evan Budrovich is a senior at the University of Southern California. He has a passion for the 49ers, Dodgers baseball and all things USC athletics. Follow him on Twitter: @evanbud