College Football Playoff Path: Who's in after Week 5
Seriously, who's No. 1?
It doesn't matter a lick right now, since all that matters is who wins their respective conference championships and what everyone's final record is – appearance don't matter if you're 13-0 – but after this weekend, there's no one who deserves the Best Team In America tag.
Ohio State? The Buckeyes have looked sleepy and off all year, and now, with Virginia Tech stinking it up, there's absolutely nothing of note on the resume. No, you don't come that close to losing to an Indiana team without its starting quarterback and running back and be called No. 1.
Michigan State? The Spartans have the Oregon win, but they've played like hot garbage.
TCU? Ehhhhh, okay, but blowing up bad defenses doesn't really mean much. The same goes for Baylor.
Ole Miss, Notre Dame, UCLA, Georgia ... gone, gone, gone, way gone.
Does Utah deserve to be No. 1? Maybe. Oklahoma? Possibly. Northwestern, thanks to that Stanford win, it's a thought. Clemson, after surviving Notre Dame? Florida? After it beat the team (Ole Miss) that beat what's probably the best team in college football (Alabama)?
No, really, who's No. 1?
Who's No. 1? How about who are the top four? The College Football Playoff committee is going to have some fun with this one in a few weeks on the Path To The Playoff.
Ole Miss, Georgia, Notre Dame and UCLA lost, and it kinda, sorta doesn't matter
Notre Dame's loss to Clemson hurts, but the way it fought back and came within one yard of tying it late, and considering it was about as tough a gut-check comeback as it gets in a rainstorm in one of college football's most hostile environments, it was forgivable. There's no more margin for error now if the Irish want to get into the playoff, but if they beat an unbeaten Navy next week, and then beat USC, and beat a Temple team with a ton of juice, and finish up the season with a win at Stanford, they're going to have a great shot at getting in at 11-1 – especially with the way Power 5 conference teams are losing left and right.
Ole Miss still has the Alabama win, and the loss to Florida was against a team from the East. The only two SEC road games the rest of the way? Auburn and Mississippi State. Hold serve at home against Texas A&M, Arkansas and LSU, and all is fine.
It's the same deal for Georgia. The loss to Alabama doesn't matter a lick as long as the Dawgs win at a soft Tennessee next week and beat Florida in a few weeks. The remaining West game is at Auburn – take care of the East games, and get to the SEC title game.
Arizona State is going to lose at least one more Pac-12 game. UCLA was begging to get tagged after the key defensive injuries and the inconsistency in the passing game, but this particular loss isn't the problem, and neither is the road trip against Sanford in two weeks. All that matters is whether or not the Bruins keep improving and are good enough to beat Utah and USC on the road to end the season. Even at 10-2, if they roll through the rest of the South schedule, they'll be fine.
Does Florida deserve to be No. 1?
If Alabama probably is the nation's best college football team – or close to it – and Ole Miss beat it, and Florida just stomped the team that won in Tuscaloosa, it has to be one of the highest-ranked SEC teams. At the very least, it has to be ranked ahead of Alabama and Ole Miss, for now. However, it took a missed kick to get by Tennessee, it was a struggle to beat Kentucky, and a mediocre East Carolina team lost by seven in The Swamp. If the Gators had roared through their first four games, they'd be the no-question No. 1 team. With road trips to Missouri and LSU up next before facing Georgia, they can push for the top spot before October is out.
The really, really, really, really big loser this weekend was ...
The 10-6 Iowa loss is one of those you just don't get back, with mistake after mistake after mistake at home. No, the Badgers don't deserve to be anywhere near the top four at any point this year, but if they could've come up with one simple handoff on the goal line, or could've stopped giving the ball away in other key moments, that was a win they didn't served on a platter that they didn't want to take.
They don't play Michigan State, Ohio State or Michigan, and going to Nebraska next week now looks like a light scrimmage. Minnesota isn't any good, Illinois isn't any good, Purdue, Maryland and Rutgers aren't any good, and Northwestern has to come to Camp Randall. So if Bucky literally didn't trip away a loss this week, 11-1 was right there with a puncher's chance against a suddenly beatable-looking East champ, whomever that turns out to be, with a shot at 12-1 and the playoff.
There's still plenty of time to win the West and take the Big Ten title, but 11-2 probably won't get it done.
Alabama is probably the best team in college football
We're all adults here, so let's just be honest with each other.
Alabama is the best team in the country.
It's neck-and-neck with Ohio State as the most talented team in college football, and if it plays with the motivation and focus it appeared to have at Georgia, forget about it – no one in the country can play at that level right now, at least until Ohio State once again proves it can.
But that hardly means anything unless the Crimson Tide roll through the rest of their schedule unscathed. What's left on the road? Texas A&M in two weeks, Mississippi State, and Auburn. The Aggies are unbeaten and good, but no. Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU have to come to Tuscaloosa, and going to Mississippi State in mid-November could be a landmine, but no way, no how will the betting public make the mistake again of making Bama the underdog the rest of the way.
This was the big piece to the puzzle. Beating Georgia was supposed to be dangerous, but this wasn't just some good SEC team rising up on the right day. This was Alabama playing like Alabama again.
If Ohio State and Michigan State are really this mediocre ...
Is Michigan really a player in the playoff chase? I wrote the Michigan Path To The Playoff in the spring and was mocked and ridiculed for even suggesting it – BTW, I did the same type of piece for Iowa, too – but now, this doesn't look like the insane impossibility it appeared to be back in March.
Beating up a sad Maryland team hardly qualifies as anything special, but all of a sudden, Michigan has won its last four games by a combined score of 122 to 14 and has established a identity of toughness.
The remaining road games are at Minnesota, Indiana and Penn State – you roll through those three if you even think you're playoff-worthy. Northwestern, Michigan State and Ohio State are all probably better than Michigan – even if they don't always look like it - and it's asking way too much for this limited Wolverine team to win all three games, but they all have to come to Ann Arbor.
Put it this way – Michigan fans, it's October, and the playoff isn't out of the question. Imagine thinking that ten months ago.
The Big 12 November schedule is looking AMAZING
You keep your gimmicky, money-grab conference championships. Give me the final month of the Big 12 season.
Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU and Oklahoma State are all unbeaten, and Texas Tech, Kansas State and West Virginia can all ball. At the very least, no conference looks like it's going to be more week-in-and-week-out fun than the Big 12.
There will be some hiccups along the way, but just imagine what November might look like if the league's four unbeaten can somehow stay that way.
November 7th: TCU at Oklahoma State
November 14th: Oklahoma at Baylor
November 21st. Baylor at Oklahoma State, TCU at Oklahoma
November 27th: Baylor at TCU. November 28th: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
If at least two of these games involve unbeatens, they'll be among the biggest showdowns of 2015.
Florida State vs. Clemson on November 7th is suddenly looking special
Okay, Clemson, you got your win, now don't blow it.
The schedule up until Florida State comes to town?
Georgia Tech – who lost this weekend. Boston College – who also lost this weekend. Wake Forest, at Miami, at NC State – who all lost this weekend.
Clemson, there is no excuse not to be 9-0 after Halloween.
Stop me if this sounds familiar – Florida State doesn't look any good, but it's unbeaten.
The way the Seminoles are playing, and with Dalvin Cook banged up, they could absolutely lose to Miami or Louisville at home, or at Georgia Tech in three weeks. But once again, this is a team that seems able to rise up and play when it has to with a tremendous defense and with Everett Golson not making any mistakes. And if they're just okay and not really that great, then Clemson, with your schedule, it's all there for the taking.
Based On What Happened So Far, RIGHT NOW, The College Football Playoff Four Would Be ...
Uhhhhhhh, ummmmmm, uhhhhhh. Let the dart throwing commence.
1. Oklahoma. The Tennessee win now is no big whoop, but the West Virginia victory would get more weight in that room than it will in the other polls.
2. Utah. Beating Oregon doesn't seem that great now, but it's still a blowout win at Eugene. The Michigan victory is suddenly looking fantastic.
3. Ohio State. The committee would overlook how bad the team has been and would take the 5-0 record, the running game and the defense into account, even if the resume isn't there.
4. Alabama. Remember, the committee is supposed to make a call and put in the teams it thinks are the four best. The dominant wins over Wisconsin and Georgia would stand out, and the Ole Miss loss would probably be considered an aberration because of all the mistakes.
At The End Of The Fun, The College Football Playoff Will Be ...
1. Ohio State/Michigan State winner. I'm not as sold on this as I was throughout the first month, but if one of them is 13-0, there's your No. 1 spot.
2. Alabama. Last week I said, "the Crimson Tide will run the table, Ole Miss will lose twice along the way." No reason to change that up.
3. Oklahoma. I'm still not sold that TCU will survive the defensive injuries, and if Baylor can even play defense. There will be a loss along the way, but OU will still find a way.
4. Clemson. It'll lose once, but it's not going to be to Florida State, and that's all that matters. A 12-1 Clemson makes it in over a two-loss Pac-12 champ.
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