Sunday, October 05, 2014

10/05 CFB Hangover Quickie

Submitted while trying not to think about last night's 18-inning Nats loss...

From Oregon's late-night loss to Arizona on Thursday to UCLA's late-night loss to Utah early this morning -- with losses by Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas A&M -- this was as voluminously wild of a week of Top 10 upsets as we've seen in years, if not ever.

(That doesn't even count Wisconsin or USC - who were already out of the playoff discussion but experienced shocking losses, relatively for the Badgers and absolutely for the Trojans - or LSU and Stanford, who lost to still-in-the-playoff-mix teams.)

There is a single clear controls-their-own-destiny playoff scenario left - if ridiculously tenuous:

(1) SEC champ.
(2) Unbeaten FSU-ND winner.
(3) Unbeaten Baylor-TCU winner.
(4) Unbeaten Arizona.

That's it -- and the chances that next week's Baylor-TCU winner runs the table is meh (Baylor still has to play Oklahoma, TCU still has Oklahoma State and Kansas State), and Arizona going 13-0? Please.

And so we are left with the idea that as long as everyone is losing, then many of the losers still at least have a shot. That's not entirely true. It's a small pool of eligible candidates:

Presuming Arizona will still choke away at least one regular season game (if not more), Oregon is not finished.

And it seems totally absurd that a 1-loss SEC (West) runner-up would be ineligible, simply because the Playoff Committee wants the false equivalency of regional balance in its first playoff field.

Let's digress about the SEC for a sec: Mississippi State throttling Texas A&M (my pick as the No. 1 team going into yesterday) followed by Ole Miss's stunning win over Alabama was as exciting as it gets for back-to-back games on a Saturday afternoon.

If the season ended today, based on resume, I'd have both Mississippi teams in my playoff:

(1) Mississippi State
(2) Ole Miss
(3) Auburn
(4) TCU

Of course, that's not how it works.

The SEC West now becomes a round-robin thresher: Mississippi State playing Auburn, Ole Miss playing Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss playing each other, with Alabama cranky and still good enough to spoil Mississippi State or Auburn's season and with Texas A&M cranky and still good enough to spoil Ole Miss or Auburn's season.

Consider next week's SEC schedule: Auburn at Mississippi State and Ole Miss at Texas A&M. Setting aside the fact that those games are harder than any single game any of the non-SEC playoff "contenders" will play this season -- let alone next week -- yet are part of a standard gauntlet for contenders in the SEC West, that's like a de facto playoff. (Although let's just stipulate that even if the SEC champ - presumably from the West - finishes with one loss, it is guaranteed a playof spot.)

Layer in that TCU plays at Baylor in a de facto playoff playoff -- the winner retains "control-their-own-playoff-destiny" status -- and that Arizona could easily lose to a ticked-off USC that can feel entitled to hate anything related to the State of Arizona (yuk yuk) -- and next week could see at least four Top 10 teams (and four off the quickly dwindling list of playoff contenders) lose.

It's glorious.

Look: We could still end up with a reasonably projectable playoff field of the SEC West champ (with however-many losses), unbeaten FSU, unbeaten TCU and WHYTHEMNOTUS (say, Oregon).

But we'll always have yesterday, when the long-held physics of college football -- particularly down in Mississippi -- were upended.

-- D.S.

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