A number of upsets shook up the college football landscape, but entering Week 7, no team suffered a bigger blow than the Oregon Ducks.
Losing at home to Arizona knocked them out of the playoff picture at the moment, dropping the Marcus Mariota-led Ducks from second to 12th in the AP Top 25 poll. A previously No. 8 UCLA team quarterbacked by another premier prospect in Brett Hundley lost 30-28 to Utah, falling out of the top 10 in the process.
Ole Miss also catapulted into the thick of the postseason race thanks to a rousing victory over the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide.
But with some of the letdowns for several premier programs, there were a number of sensational performances that saw drastic changes take place in the rankings.
Analyzing Best Top 25 Teams
No. 1 Florida State Seminoles
Falling behind 3-0 to Wake Forest in the first quarter was a bit of a scare for the reigning national champions, who'd had close calls in three previous games this season.
Then Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston led the team on myriad scoring drives, as FSU scored 43 unanswered points for a statement win. ESPN's College GameDay noted how steady coach Jimbo Fisher's team has been:
Winston has kept the passing attack operating at a high level, as it's averaged 325.4 yards per game. The concerning thing is that big-bodied ball-carrier Karlos Williams has had a hard time getting it going on the ground.
But Williams has been banged up, and Jared Shanker of ESPN reports that the running back likely won't be in action at Syracuse:
That might be fine for now. When Florida State plays host to Notre Dame in the game thereafter, it will be a different story. The Seminoles need balance to complement Winston, especially with a defense ranked 54th in the nation versus the run, per NCAA.com.
If top receiver Rashad Greene can't recover from a concussion in time for the Fighting Irish game, it will be all the more up to Winston to carry the weight.
As long as Winston is under center operating Fisher's complex, pro-style offense, though, FSU has a great chance to remain atop the rankings.
No. 2 Auburn Tigers
Apparently there isn't much of a hangover from Auburn's national title game loss to Florida State last year. Tigers coach Gus Malzahn continues to make magic with his run-heavy offense.
Against vaunted LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis in Week 6, Malzahn drew up a game plan that saw Auburn crush its SEC adversary 41-7. Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com highlighted how Auburn came flying out of the gates in that one:
Something similar will be necessary to seize the momentum on the road this next Saturday, when the Tigers take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. That will mark the biggest game on the 2014 college football slate thus far.
ESPN Stats & Info's numbers suggest the Bulldogs are the first of several potential pitfalls that could hamper Auburn's bid to return to the championship game:
But what does help is that the defense is vastly improved from a season ago, conceding just 14.4 points per contest, which ranks ninth in the nation. As long as QB Nick Marshall can avoid critical throwing mistakes and the well-oiled ground game stays intact, Auburn will be a tough out.
With the ability to defend so well and chew up a ton of clock on offense, opponents will be hard-pressed to get into any rhythm against the Tigers for the rest of the season.
No. 3 Mississippi State Bulldogs
Given the massive implications of their tilt with Auburn on Saturday, the Bulldogs are the team worth delving a bit deeper into among the two tied at No. 3 in the AP—not to take anything away from Ole Miss.
Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott has been playing like a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Former Florida signal-caller Tim Tebow took home that hardware wearing No. 15, and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport offered some insight in that context:
Prescott had five total TDs in the Bulldogs' rout of Texas A&M last week, but the defense was most impressive in slowing down Kenny Hill and the Aggies' air-raid offense until the outcome was well decided.
Most of Texas A&M's scores came in garbage time after the Bulldogs had taken a 41-17 lead into the fourth. The numbers reflect MSU's dominance:
ESPN's Mike Greenberg believes Mississippi State is the best overall team in the country:
The Bulldogs will certainly get a chance to prove that versus Auburn. If the strong front seven, led by linebacker Benardrick McKinney, can stuff the Tigers' prolific run game, that will open up Prescott to take the game over. MSU is yielding just 2.91 yards per carry through five games.
As deep and competitive as the SEC is, Mississippi State has the chance to protect its home Davis Wade Stadium and secure a landmark triumph for the program. It will justify the retention of coach Dan Mullen following three seasons of hovering around .500.
Most important, the turnaround from a 7-6 campaign in 2013 to national-championship contention this year would be among the most amazing achievements in recent college football history.
We will find out what the Bulldogs are truly made of come Sunday against an Auburn team whose nucleus rose from even greater obscurity to be an elite team a year ago.
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Michigan (2-4) football is in total collapse following three straight losses on the gridiron and embroiled in the swirling controversy of quarterback Shane Morris’ delayed concussion diagnosis. Two games into its conference slate, Michigan is dead last in the Big Ten East Division and is desperate for a win.
The team’s struggles on and off the field have both coach Brady Hoke and athletic director David Brandon fighting for their jobs. But the team is not giving up, vowing to “win the week” for their embattled coach. The Wolverines rallied against Rutgers, falling short after a potential game-winning field goal was blocked in the closing minutes.
Next up is a game under the lights at venerable Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines have been able to muster some magical moments during previous home night games and will need some to beat Penn State.
The game has no impact on the national rankings—neither team is ranked—but Michigan will be under the microscope for its performance on the field and at the gate. Hoke is trying to spark his team back to life in an attempt to salvage the season while hoping for a boost from the home crowd. The crowd’s size will also be a factor—Michigan’s streak of consecutive 100,000 crowds is on the line, with rumors of protest against Michigan’s increasingly unpopular athletic director.
Date: Saturday, October 11, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT
Place: Michigan Stadium (109,901), Ann Arbor, Mich.
Series vs. Penn State: Michigan leads 10-7
Radio: Michigan Sports Network, Sirius (113), XM (195)
Spread: Penn State by 2 via Odds Shark
Live Stats: MGoBlue.com GameTracker
Last Meeting vs. Penn State
Last year’s 4OT 43-40 loss marked the beginning of a downward spiral for the Wolverines that has carried over to this season. Michigan is 4-9 since that loss at Happy Valley. The Wolverines lead the all-time series (10-7) but have lost the last four games versus the Nittany Lions.
*Information according to University of Michigan Wolverine Football game notes.
The Super 16 poll is one of the truly great theoretical situations going. It's as fun as wondering who would win in a fight between Batman and Wolverine, or one bear versus 300 organized Yorkies (the organization is a very key caveat in such a fight).
It's just fun to imagine which 16 teams would deserve to be in a College Football Playoff if the sport ever undertook such a format. Thankfully, a group of voters does just that each week in the Super 16 poll.
Let's take a look at how they voted this week.
Well, anything you might have thought you knew about a theoretical 16-team playoff and how it might have shaped up by the end of the year changed this week.
Just consider this, from SportsCenter on Twitter:
Or this, from Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press:
That's the AP poll, though, and of course, we're more concerned here with the Super 16 Poll and what a 16-team playoff might look like. The above tweets provided a nice context for the historical number of upsets we saw this weekend, sure, but in truth, the weekend that was wouldn't have completely altered the state of a larger playoff format.
Yes, there has been some moving and shaking around on the rankings. After this weekend, there was always bound to be. Oregon was always going to drop down the rankings after losing to Arizona. Alabama was going to take a hit losing to Ole Miss. Ditto for Texas A&M and UCLA.
Of course, the beauty of a 16-team playoff is that one loss wouldn't really hurt the top teams in the nation and would instead give them the chance to prove themselves on the field against the other top 15 teams at the end of the year. This might negate the impact of certain victories on the national level, but it would add a whole new level of drama to the final tournament.
Obviously, the story of the week is Ole Miss after its stunning victory over Alabama on a Saturday that saw the SEC West truly shaken and stirred and turned on its head.
“It’s one of the greatest victories in the history of our school," Hugh Freeze said on his postgame radio show, per Rusty Hampton of The New York Times.
It sure was. And it sure opened up things in the SEC West, where Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are all looking to earn the top billing, while Alabama and Texas A&M are left wondering if they can fight their way back into a place in the SEC Championship.
It's basically a given that at least one team from the SEC West is going to be represented in this year's College Football Playoff. And that's a shame, because in a 16-team playoff, it currently looks as though five teams from the toughest conference and division in college football would have the chance to prove on the field against other conferences that they were the best team in the country.
It's fun to dream.
More than a few schools in the Big Ten and Pac-12 would be left dreaming in this format, as it appears each conference lacks a truly elite team, and quite a few squads would be left fighting it out for one of the last spots. That, of course, is where the Super 16 Poll would become truly intriguing—for the teams around 12-21 on the polls and rankings looking to prove they deserved a shot in the big dance.
Alas, for now it's only a top four, and one that looks as though it will include Florida State, two SEC teams and either Notre Dame, the top Big 12 team or perhaps Michigan State.
It's a better format than we had before. It's just not as compelling as it could be.
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