Why Baylor deserves to be in the top four
1:27 | College Football
Why Baylor deserves to be in the top four
Tuesday December 2nd, 2014

As a college English major always looking for independent studies in order to spend more time off campus covering the football and basketball teams, the idea of an honors thesis appeared to be the perfect plan. I was already writing, so what damage could more writing do? Plus I was getting a bunch of credits and never had to step in a classroom!

Like many college kids, I didn’t quite think things through. My thesis was on paranoia in Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, and after immersing in the text on the third or fourth reading, I started to get paranoid myself. Somewhere in between a rambling essay written after about 13 PBRs at the Blue Moon Diner in Charlottesville and wandering around Little Havana in a haze after Wake Forest was upset by Cleveland State at the NCAA tournament in March, I lost myself a little bit. Okay, I lost myself a lot.

That’s how I’ve started to feel this late in the season.

(O Brave New World.,

That Has Such Playoffs In’t)

So my mind drifted back to that spring and honed in on a quote from Gravity’s Rainbow that sums up we college football fans in the first year of the College Football Playoff better than anything I can write. “Paranoids are not paranoids because they’re paranoid,” Pynchon writes, “but because they keep putting themselves, f****** idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.”

We asked for this. We got exactly what we asked for. Now it’s time to see what hath college football wrought.

• ELLIS: Bowl Projections: Who's likely to make the playoff, all bowls?

College Football Power Rankings
  • 1
    1Alabama Crimson Tide
    last week: 1
    record: 11-1
    The Crimson Tide gave up 630 yards to Auburn, the most in Alabama team history, and still won by 11 points. So that’s a plus, although it was probably about 400 more yards than Nick Saban wanted to allow. Say what you want about the Iron Bowl, it certainly wasn’t the “old-fashioned ball” Saban said he loved after beating LSU, 20-13, in overtime back on Nov. 8.
    Last game: Beat Auburn, 55-44
    Next game: Saturday vs. Missouri (SEC Championship)

  • 2
    2Florida State Seminoles
    last week: 2
    record: 12-0
    I don’t know what else to say about Florida State. The Seminoles are on a crash course for either a repeat title or a bittersweet finish, and the only thing I’m sure of is that it won’t be boring. That, and that James Winston can’t go out and throw four picks against the Yellow Jackets and win. Probably. Right? Maybe?
    Last game: Beat Florida, 24-19
    Next game: Saturday vs. Georgia Tech (ACC championship)

  • 3
    3Oregon Ducks
    last week: 3
    record: 11-1
    Chances are Marcus Mariota is going to win the Heisman Trophy. He has only two interceptions this season and a 99:12 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his career. But because he does it so quietly and without fanfare, it almost seems boring. As I tweeted Saturday while Mariota was shredding Oregon State to the tune of 367 yards and four touchdowns (with two rushing scores), I mean boring as the highest compliment I can give.
    Last game: Beat Oregon State, 47-19
    Next game: Friday vs. Arizona (Pac-12 championship)

  • 4
    4Baylor Bears
    last week: 4
    record: 10-1
    The Bears’ playoff hopes almost went kaput after Bryce Petty exited Saturday's game against Texas Tech in the second half following a helmet-to-helmet hit. The Red Raiders mounted a comeback while Petty was diagnosed with a minor concussion on the sideline. The Bears survived Texas Tech, barely, but they likely won't be so lucky against Kansas State if Petty can’t play Saturday.
    Last game: Beat Texas Tech, 48-46
    Next game: Saturday vs. Kansas State

  • 5
    5TCU Horned Frogs
    last week: 6
    record: 10-1
    Rather than beguile you with a bunch of Thanksgiving puns to describe TCU’s dominating win over Texas, I’ll just mention that Gary Patterson did his best mic drop after the game, saying, “You want style points? The style points tonight were defense, turnovers, doing the things you needed to do.”
    Last game: Beat Texas, 48-10
    Next game: Saturday vs. Iowa State

  • 6
    6Ohio State Buckeyes
    last week: 7
    record: 11-1
    The Buckeyes will be the biggest test for the committee if they can beat Wisconsin and move to 12-1 with a Big Ten title. Ohio State isn't the same team without J.T. Barrett -- but it wasn't the same team without Braxton Miller, either, and that new team did enough to go undefeated in Big Ten regular season play once again and earn a trip to Indianapolis.
    Last game: Beat Michigan, 42-28
    Next game: Saturday vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten championship)

  • 7
    7Arizona Wildcats
    last week: 13
    record: 10-2
    Does Arizona have a shot at the playoff? Let’s go to Rich Rodriguez himself to evaluate his team’s odds:

    Last game: Beat Arizona State, 42-35
    Next game: Friday vs. Oregon (Pac-12 championship)

  • 8
    8Michigan State Spartans
    last week: 8
    record: 10-2
    Congrats are in order to Spartans wide receiver Tony Lippett, who won Big Ten Receiver of the Year, and Kurtis Drummond, who earned Defensive Back of the Year honors. Both have been critical to a Michigan State team that won double-digit games for the fourth time in five seasons under Mark Dantonio.
    Last game: Beat Penn State, 34-10
    Next game: Regular season complete

  • 9
    9Kansas State Wildcats
    last week: 10
    record: 9-2
    Two years ago Kansas State came into its game against Baylor 10-0 and ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings with national title hopes on the line. The Bears shocked the Wildcats, 52-24, knocking Kansas State out of the BCS championship picture. Now Bill Snyder’s team has a chance to get payback with Baylor gunning for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
    Last game: Beat Kansas, 51-13
    Next game: Saturday at Baylor

  • 10
    10Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
    last week: 17
    record: 10-2
    The Yellow Jackets have a legitimate shot to pull the upset over Florida State in Charlotte, but they’ll have to do it without their big, physical receiver DeAndre Smelter. Coach Paul Johnson announced Monday that the senior has a torn ACL.
    Last game: Beat Georgia, 30-24 (OT)
    Next game: Saturday vs. Florida State (ACC championship)

  • 11
    11Wisconsin Badgers
    last week: 14
    record: 10-2
    The Badgers do a great job on Twitter, so in this space I want to make sure I highlight the work they do on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s dropping a casual Melvin Gordon Heisman pose into a tweet or tucking the Paul Bunyan Axe into bed, there’s always something new and fun to follow.
    Last game: Beat Minnesota, 34-24
    Next game: Saturday vs. Ohio State (Big Ten championship)

  • 12
    12Missouri Tigers
    last week: 19
    record: 10-2
    The Tigers may seem like heavy underdogs against the Crimson Tide, but there’s at least one reason to root for Missouri: We might get to see Gary Pinkel dance again like he did after the Cotton Bowl last year.

    Last game: Beat Arkansas, 21-14
    Next game: Saturday vs. Alabama (SEC Championship)

  • 13
    13Ole Miss Rebels
    last week: 21
    record: 9-3
    Despite playing on a sprained ankle, Bo Wallace bounced back in a big way to lead the Rebels past Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Said tight end Evan Engram after the game about Wallace, “He's our leader. He's a winner. You could have chopped his ankle off, and he would have played."
    Last game: Beat Mississippi State, 31-17
    Next game: Regular season complete

  • 14
    14Mississippi State Bulldogs
    last week: 5
    record: 10-2
    The Bulldogs not only had to deal with their loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, they also got into an accident on the bus ride home. Luckily everyone was okay, but that’s scary stuff.

    Last game: Lost to Ole Miss, 31-17
    Next game: Regular season complete

  • 15
    15Georgia Bulldogs
    last week: 9
    record: 9-3
    The loss to Georgia Tech stings, but Nick Chubb continues to find himself in good company during his sparkling freshman campaign. Chubb rushed for 129 yards against the Yellow Jackets, giving him seven straight 100-plus yard efforts, the most by a Georgia player since Herschel Walker did it in 11 consecutive games in 1982.
    Last game: Lost to Georgia Tech, 30-24 (OT)
    Next game: Regular season complete

  • 16
    16UCLA Bruins
    last week: 11
    record: 9-3
    Jim Mora said he was sure Brett Hundley was ready for the NFL on Monday, and Hundley has indicated that the bowl game will be his last with the Bruins. The redshirt junior quarterback participated in Senior Day activities before the team’s loss to Stanford, which kept UCLA out of the Pac-12 championship game.
    Last game: Lost to Stanford, 31-10
    Next game: Regular season complete

  • 17
    17Arizona State Sun Devils
    last week: 12
    record: 9-3
    Todd Graham went with quarterback Mike Bercovici late in the game against Arizona, but the Arizona State coach was loyal to Taylor Kelly almost to the end. The Sun Devils now have a whole lot of time to decide which quarterback to go with in their bowl game. A victory over Arizona would have won them the Pac-12 South.
    Last game: Lost to Arizona, 42-35
    Next game: Regular season complete

  • 18
    18Oklahoma Sooners
    last week: 20
    record: 8-3
    A well-rested Samaje Perine going up against an Oklahoma State defense that allowed 317 rushing yards to Baylor on Nov. 22? While the freshman probably won’t break his own FBS single-game record, he could still be in for a big day.
    Last game: Beat Kansas, 44-7
    Next game: Saturday vs. Oklahoma State

  • 19
    19Clemson Tigers
    last week: 22
    record: 9-3
    Freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 269 yards on 73.7 percent passing and had four total touchdowns against South Carolina -- with a torn ACL. He’s been terrific when healthy and has earned some much needed rest until the Tigers go for their fourth straight 10-plus win season in their bowl game.
    Last game: Beat South Carolina, 35-17
    Next game: Regular season complete

  • 20
    20Louisville Cardinals
    last week: 23
    record: 9-3
    Rivalry games are always heated, but it was a little surprising to see just how much Louisville and Kentucky were scuffling before the game even started. The Cardinals got bragging rights, though, thanks to a monster effort from Kyle Bolin (381 yards, three touchdowns) in relief of Reggie Bonnafon.
    Last game: Beat Kentucky, 44-40
    Next game: Regular season complete

  • 21
    21Boise State Broncos
    last week: 24
    record: 10-2
    We haven’t talked enough about Jay Ajayi this year and we take full responsibility for that. After exploding for 229 yards and five scores against Utah State, the junior rightfully earns his place among college football’s top backs heading into the Mountain West title game.
    Last game: Beat Utah State, 50-19
    Next game: Saturday vs. Fresno State (Mountain West championship)

  • 22
    22Auburn Tigers
    last week: 15
    record: 8-4
    The Tigers wasted no time in dismissing defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson after giving up 55 points to Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Johnson released a statement, saying, ”This is part of the business and I totally understand. I did think we were good in several areas, but overall it wasn't good enough."
    Last game: Lost to Alabama, 55-44
    Next game: Regular season complete

  • 23
    23LSU Tigers
    last week: NR
    record: 8-4
    Welcome back to the rankings, LSU. It’s your week to bring the two-liter bottles of soda, and please don’t buy that generic stuff again. It just gets flat so fast, and the name brands aren’t that much more expensive. It’s not like we’re skimping on pizza toppings and just getting all cheese for everybody over here.
    Last game: Beat Texas A&M, 23-17
    Next game: Regular season complete

  • 24
    24Memphis Tigers
    last week: NR
    record: 9-3
    After winning their sixth game in a row, the Tigers clinched a share of the American title. Memphis has quickly moved from a 3-9 team last year to a 9-3 team this year heading into their bowl game. That’s a heck of a job out of Justin Fuente, who SB Nation’s Bill Connelly profiled as one of six coaches in his “Blueprint For A Rebuild” piece earlier this season.
    Last game: Beat UConn, 41-10
    Next game: Regular season complete

  • 25
    25Marshall Thundering Herd
    last week: 18
    record: 11-1
    The Thundering Herd’s Group of Five access bowl dreams slipped through their fingers with their overtime loss to Western Kentucky, but Marshall can still win the Conference USA title by beating Louisiana Tech this weekend. A 12-1 regular season with a chance to match the 13 wins of Bob Pruett’s undefeated 1999 Motor City Bowl champion squad is no small feat.
    Last game: Lost to Western Kentucky, 67-66 (OT)
    Next game: Saturday vs. Louisiana Tech (Conference USA championship)​

Next five: Utah, Minnesota, Nebraska, USC, Duke

1:55 | College Football
College football roundup: Week 14

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