NCAA Football News
Step right up and state your case for this year's College Football Playoff. One-loss teams will be considered. Heck, before everything is done and dusted, two-loss teams might be considered, too.
Strength of schedule? You'll need that. Marquee wins? Vital. Head-to-head matchups? They matter, until they don't. Passing the eye test? We're still trying to figure out what the parameters of that test are.
But come forward, college football teams, and bring forth your resumes. While we have to wait a few days until the playoff committee unveils its rankings, the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls are out for this week. Let's take a look at each below, along with Bleacher Report's official Top 25, and analyze the weekend that was.
You really don't want to be the No. 3 team in the country this season. At some point this year, Oregon, Oklahoma, Alabama, Ole Miss, Baylor and Auburn have been in that position in one poll or another, and all have lost.
This week it was Auburn, dropping a heartbreaker to Texas A&M, where—please excuse the cliche—the magic seemed to run out for War Eagle.
"We just didn't get it done when we usually do," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told Brandon Marcello of AL.com after the team's 41-38 loss to Texas A&M that included two Tigers fumbles in the last three minutes of the game.
That's perhaps the difference between reaching the playoff and watching it at home—uncharacteristic fumbles at the worst possible moment against a team you're supposed to beat. But that's been this season in a nutshell.
That finish—along with several other key results over the weekend—has left the quest for the playoff in upheaval. Sort of like it was in upheaval last week. And the week before that. And the week before... Well, you get the point.
Mississippi State and Florida State will remain atop the rankings until they slip up, which could be coming this week for the Bulldogs when they face Alabama. Speaking of Alabama, it leads a contingent of one-loss teams that will be screaming their playoff qualifications to anyone who will listen, including Oregon, TCU, Arizona State, Ohio State and Baylor.
It's amazing to think we had anything but a four-team playoff for all these years. How compelling has this season been?
And how compelling is it yet to be? This week alone, Mississippi State faces Alabama, Auburn faces Georgia and Nebraska takes on Wisconsin.
Sure, it's far from a week that saw Auburn lose, Alabama barely survive LSU, Ohio State knock off Michigan State, TCU thwart Kansas State and Arizona State eliminate Notre Dame from the playoff picture, but that Mississippi State versus Alabama game alone is worth the price of admission.
It's also potentially worth a ticket to the SEC Championship. And in the muddled SEC West, that ticket is an SEC team's best shot at reaching the playoff. Everything else will be left up to the playoff committee to sort through.
Given the past few weeks, there is going to be a lot of sorting to be done. We're amid the madness now, folks, but the best is yet to come.
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The madness continues.
Each week of the college football season has begun to feel like a playoff, with major upsets and marquee matchups changing the top four on a consistent basis. At this point, one loss for a team could be catastrophic, while one big win could be exactly what a school needs to put some shine on its resume.
It's all up in the air. This past week, that was readily apparent. Let's take a look at how the Associated Press ranked these teams, along with Bleacher Report's official Top 25, and analyze the major outcomes after a wild weekend of football.
Bleacher Report Poll
As they should, the top two teams in the nation remain unchanged, as Mississippi State and Florida State stayed unbeaten over the weekend. While Mississippi State will become a major discussion point if it loses on the road to Alabama next week—how far down the standings should the Bulldogs drop if they lose to one of the top teams in the country away from home?—for the moment the school deserves to be No. 1.
But which teams deserve to be Nos. 3 and 4?
While the AP voters made their decision this week, the playoff committee has yet to weigh in, and that's the real decisive factor. It's hard to imagine Oregon will be leapfrogged by any teams after a solid away win over Utah, though Alabama (win over LSU), TCU (win over Kansas State), Ohio State (win over Michigan State) and Arizona State (win over Notre Dame) all make strong cases.
Even Baylor kept its name in the running with a decisive victory over Oklahoma.
"We have to control what we can control," Bryce Petty told reporters after the Bears smoked the Sooners, 48-14. "If we go out and win these last three games, we put up a fight. But we have to win."
That's the mantra for most of the one-loss teams: Win out and you'll probably get your shot at the College Football Playoff.
That's no small task, of course. Alabama nearly learned that lesson the hard way against LSU Saturday night in an overtime thriller. SportsCenter on Twitter passed along the highlights of that contest:
More and more, it feels like a two-loss team could end up sneaking back into the Top Four. There are still many huge matchups left on the schedule, and that's before you consider the conference championships—many of those will be playoff games in their own right.
Of course, it could play out much cleaner than that. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports certainly thinks it will:
That wouldn't be very much fun, would it?
So far this year, we've had crazy upsets, head-scratching outcomes and, well, utter madness throughout. The end of the season may play out with a bit more stability and predictability, but that would be out of character for a year that has consistently defied expectations.
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