Three thoughts on the College Football Playoff race after Week 13
The weekend before Thanksgiving often provides some of the more lopsided results in any given college football season, as several SEC and ACC teams play FCS opponents to secure an easy win in the lead-up to rivalry week. This Saturday proved no exception. Alabama waxed Western Carolina, Auburn rolled Samford and Georgia dominated Charleston Southern.
However, Week 13 did bring a few noteworthy results, and at least one top-10 team watched its College Football Playoff hopes fall by the wayside. Here are three takeaways on how Saturday’s games impact the race moving forward.
1. The top seven should remain completely the same
Six of the top seven teams in the College Football Playoff rankings took the field on Saturday. All six emerged victorious.
|1||Alabama||Western Carolina||W, 48-14|
|3||Florida State||Boston College||W, 20-17|
|4||Mississippi State||Vanderbilt||W, 51-0|
|6||Ohio State||Indiana||W, 42-27|
|7||Baylor||Oklahoma State||W, 49-28|
Some contests were closer than expected -- Ohio State trailed Indiana late in the third quarter, while Florida State edged Boston College on Roberto Aguayo’s game-winning field goal with three seconds remaining -- but the contenders did what they needed to do. This was the type of week that can produce a shocking upset, and the teams vying for the playoff made sure one didn’t happen.
The biggest question is whether Baylor will climb past Ohio State, or whether Baylor or Ohio State will jump TCU, which had a bye. It’s certainly possible, but I’d bet on the top seven holding firm when the new rankings are released on Tuesday.
2. UCLA is the two-loss team best positioned to make a playoff push
Here’s a look at how the top-ranked two-loss teams fared in Week 13.
|8||Ole Miss||at Arkansas||L, 30-0|
|10||Georgia||Char. Southern||W, 55-9|
|11||Michigan State||Rutgers||W, 45-3|
|12||Kansas State||at West Virginia||W, 26-20|
|13||Arizona State||Washington State||W, 52-31|
The Bruins seemed dead in the water after losing back-to-back games to Utah and Oregon in early October, but have made a strong surge since. They’ve now beaten Cal, Colorado, Arizona, Washington and USC in succession, and quarterback Brett Hundley and the offense have started to live up to their preseason billing. UCLA would need at least three of the teams in front of it to fall, but it could work its way into the thick of the conversation if it beats Stanford (Nov. 28) and Oregon (Pac-12 title game on Dec. 5) to close out its campaign.
The other two-loss team that has a realistic playoff shot is Georgia. The Bulldogs have two very questionable losses -- 38-35 at South Carolina on Sept. 13 and 38-20 against Florida on Nov. 1 -- but the committee holds them in high regard. And coach Mark Richt’s team could potentially have two more opportunities to state its case: against Georgia Tech (Nov. 29) and in the SEC Championship Game (Dec. 6). Of course, it would need Missouri, which improved to 9-2 (6-1 SEC) after beating Tennessee 29-21 on Saturday, to lose to Arkansas first. Mizzou is likely out of playoff contention with two bad home losses, to Georgia and Indiana.
Ole Miss is obviously out of the hunt following its shellacking at the hands of Arkansas, but it has plenty to play for: The Rebels could derail rival Mississippi State’s playoff chances on the road in the Egg Bowl next Saturday.
3. Next week’s rivalry games will have higher stakes than usual
Rivalry week typically comes with championship implications: Take Auburn’s historic win over Alabama last November, or Ohio State’s narrow escape over Michigan on a failed two-point conversion. But the first rivalry week of the playoff era has even more on the line. All of these games could alter the four-team field:
• No. 5 TCU at Texas (Thursday)
• No. 14 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama
• No. 2 Oregon at Oregon State
• Florida at No. 3 Florida State
• No. 4 Mississippi State at No. 8 Ole Miss
• Michigan at No. 6 Ohio State
• No. 18 Georgia Tech at No. 10 Georgia
With only a few weeks left until the final rankings are revealed on Dec. 7, a lot is left to sort out. The stage is set. Now it’s up to the top teams to keep on winning.