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What Teams Will Be Among the 4 in the Playoff for the 2015 College Football Championship?
November 11, 2015
1:42 pm
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Sparty1
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College Football Playoff Rankings: Tide up to No. 2, Irish join the party

November 10, 2015 7:00 pm ET

 

The second edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings was released Tuesday night, and there was a bit of a shakeup at the top, which was to be expected after Alabama's win over previous No. 2 LSU.

Clemson remained in the top spot following a win over Florida State. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers fare going forward. Their strength of schedule peaked this week with games against Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina, all of which are 3-6, remaining before the ACC title game.

Alabama jumped over Ohio State to take the spot previously held by LSU after pounding the Tigers this past weekend. The loss to Ole Miss aside, few teams have played a better schedule than Alabama.

Ohio State remained third after a pedestrian win over Minnesota this week, while Notre Dame slid up one spot to No. 4 after winning at Pittsburgh.

 CFP Selection Committee had something of an epiphany in the last week with Iowa jumping over Baylor; the Hawkeyes are now up to No. 5, while the Bears remain in the sixth spot. This must be a nod to the strength of Iowa's schedule, which is better than you think. However, the Hawkeyes' win at Indiana last Saturday didn't impact that strength in any significant way. There is nothing new in the data this week that would justify that move, other than that's what the committee should have done to begin with. It's only something of an epiphany though because Baylor is still ahead of a handful of more deserving teams, but at least the committee made a correction for one of them.

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November 11, 2015
5:04 pm
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The Sporting News'  Matt Hayes, Biletnikoff Award voter:

http://www.sportingnews.com/nc.....ohio-state

 

 

"Ohio State has the 68th toughest schedule; Iowa (56th) and Oklahoma State (61st), meanwhile, have tougher schedules and more “significant wins.”

Yet both trail Ohio State in the only number that matters: the CFP poll.

I mean, the CFP eye test."

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November 12, 2015
11:27 am
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KendraBaby
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HookEm said

The Sporting News'  Matt Hayes, Biletnikoff Award voter:

http://www.sportingnews.com/nc.....ohio-state

 

 

"Ohio State has the 68th toughest schedule; Iowa (56th) and Oklahoma State (61st), meanwhile, have tougher schedules and more “significant wins.”

Yet both trail Ohio State in the only number that matters: the CFP poll.

I mean, the CFP eye test."

ESPN's Heather Dinich weighs in with CF Playoff Doomsday Scenarios for the Conferences

The SEC avoided disaster in Week 10.

The SEC 's worst-case scenario would have been for a two-loss Ole Miss team to win the conference title -- especially following the drubbing Memphis took from Navy, which came three weeks after Ole Miss' loss to Memphis -- but Arkansas helped out by beating the Rebels, and now Alabama is four wins away from locking up a spot in the playoff.

Unless, of course, it loses on Saturday at Mississippi State -- and Ole Miss beats LSU.

Then the SEC is doomed.

 

With the latest rankings out, here are possible nightmare scenarios for how each Power 5 conference could get the snub from the College Football Playoff selection committee:

acc.png&w=110&h=110&transparent=true Doomed if: The same officials who worked the Miami-Duke game are assigned to the ACC championship game. OK, seriously: If Clemson loses, it's doomed. If North Carolina wins the league, it's doomed. It's undefeated Clemson or bust in the ACC.


big_12.png&w=110&h=110&transparent=true Doomed if: 1. Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama all run the table and win their leagues; 2. Notre Dame wins out AND Stanford wins the Pac-12; and 3. the Big 12 produces a one-loss champion. Follow all that? That would mean that Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama are in. The fourth spot would come down to a two-loss Pac-12 champ in Stanford (out), a one-loss Big 12 champ and a Notre Dame team that beat the Pac-12 champ and lost only to the No. 1 team in the country (in).


big_ten.png&w=110&h=110&transparent=true Doomed if: Undefeated Iowa wins the Big Ten -- including a win over undefeated Ohio State -- and is still left out. Last week we talked about the possibility of a two-loss Michigan team winning the Big Ten and being left out, but this is decidedly more painful. Fans would like to assume that an undefeated Power 5 conference champion is an automatic lock for the CFP, but the committee clearly has no problem putting a one-loss team ahead of several undefeated teams, and Notre Dame's schedule -- assuming the Irish win out and beat Stanford, and Stanford still wins the Pac-12 -- could trump Iowa's in the eyes of some committee members. Notre Dame's SOS is No. 12; Iowa's is 62nd.


pac_12.png&w=110&h=110&transparent=true Doomed if: Stanford beats Notre Dame and wins out, but is left out in favor of an undefeated Big 12 champ. Imagine that. You've got a surging Stanford team that knocks off what should be a top-10 Notre Dame team, beats Utah in the title game and finishes the season as a one-loss conference champ and one of the hottest teams in the country. But Baylor or Oklahoma State is undefeated with three wins over top-15 teams and is in the top four, along with a one-loss Alabama, undefeated Clemson and undefeated Ohio State. The same thing could happen to a one-loss Utah team that wins the Pac-12 by knocking off a ranked Stanford team that beat Notre Dame. Ouch.


sec.png&w=110&h=110&transparent=true Doomed if: A three-loss Ole Miss wins the SEC. Wait, you've heard that one before? Yeah, well, play it again. Picture this: Alabama loses at Mississippi State AND Ole Miss beats LSU. Seriously. It's not as far-fetched as, say, Toledo beating Arkansas, right? In that scenario, Ole Miss, Alabama and LSU would each have two league losses, and Ole Miss would own the tiebreaker over both of them.

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November 13, 2015
4:52 pm
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Dennis Dodd , Biletnikoff Award voter, points out that Notre Dame will not win a conference championship even if they were in the ACC--they lost to Clemson. So, how are they in the #4 spot in the college playoff now?

CBSSports.com
 

Inside CFB: Implications of Notre Dame in the playoff

November 12, 2015 8:56 am ET

Now comes the point in College Football Playoff history when Notre Dame becomes a contender.

Let the bleating begin.

Anything involving the Irish in the championship discussion is divisive -- one-third haters, one-third undying love, one-third reasoned analysis. But we've never had to consider Notre Dame as a playoff team, until now. It's clear now the No. 4 Irish (8-1) could get there ranked -- as they are -- for the first time in the CFP top four.

Now, what are the implications of Notre Dame participating in the playoff? Glad you asked. First, having the Irish in the (four-team) stew means that two Power Five conferences would be left out. At least.

That's two Power Five conferences that could be playing do-or-die 13th game league championship games, two Power Five conferences that slog through a league schedule. Notre Dame, an independent, is in the second year of its half-pregnant scheduling agreement with the ACC.

Just based on the latest rankings, the Pac-12 and Big 12 would be left out because of Notre Dame's inclusion. What you're already sensing is another round of Notre Dame envy. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel's questioned its unique status in the offseason.

“The bigger question is whether an 11-1 Notre Dame -- having lost only to Clemson -- is going to be deemed to be more worthy than a 12-0 Oklahoma State or Baylor,” said Jerry Palm, CBS Sports' playoff analyst and bowls expert.

Actually, that's the key question. The first criteria for the selection committee is conference championship. Neither Notre Dame nor the Big 12 play one. Baylor's Art Briles, among others, has been on record as saying an undefeated Big 12 champion will be in the playoff.

Not so fast. The committee's over-arching duty is to select the four best teams regardless. If it wins out, Notre Dame's only loss would be to the No. 1 Tigers on the road, in the rain, with a backup quarterback.

There's an apples to apples comparison. Both the Big 12 and Notre Dame will be evaluated on 12-game seasons. (The SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 obviously will have 13-game champions.)

And if you want to hold Notre Dame to a conference standard -- many will -- the Irish will have gone 5-1 against ACC competition. Does that make Notre Dame the one-loss independent better than a Big 12 team that goes undefeated?

“The reality is if Notre Dame is in the ACC this year, they don't win the ACC,” Palm said. “They lost to the [projected] conference champion [Clemson].”

“You've got all these coaches on the selection committee. They understand how hard going undefeated is. If it's not Oklahoma State, then it's Baylor [doing that in the Big 12].

“I am of the opinion they will not leave out a major conference champion for Notre Dame.”

Although the tease these next few weeks could be compelling, Notre Dame is safely in this week. Remember, though, TCU was safely in at No. 3 last year, until it wasn't in the final rankings.

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November 15, 2015
8:56 am
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Stanford, LSU, and Baylor out. Despite Oklahoma State's win (still unbeaten), Big 12 may get shut out of playoff again. Notre Dame is out first-downed and out-gained by....Wake Forest! Only good team Notre Dame has beat is Navy, yet ND looks like they may sneak in even though they lost to Clemson and will not win a conference championship (even if they were in one, like the ACC). The other supposedly good team they played? Temple. Temple lost to a not very good South Florida team yesterday 44-23.

Iowa still hanging around.

OU ought to be ranked high and still has a chance if they run the table.

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November 16, 2015
12:15 pm
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Heather Dinich:

 

As it turns out, the Pac-12 is the conference on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff. #Pac12AfterDark struck again, leaving Utah and Stanford -- the league's top playoff contenders and front-runners in their respective divisions -- with two losses each and little hope of cracking the top four.

They weren't the only ones who took a playoff punch on Saturday, though.

Here's a look at your Week 11 winners and losers in the College Football Playoff picture:

Winners

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are the only undefeated team remaining in the Big 12 after they avoided an upset at unranked Iowa State, but they still have just one win against a team currently ranked in the selection committee's top 25 (vs. TCU). They can really impress the committee down the stretch with potential back-to-back wins against Baylor and Oklahoma, and there is definitely some wiggle room after the Pac-12's disastrous weekend.

 

Oklahoma: The Sooners earned a statement win against Baylor, proving to the committee that they're a much better team than they were when they lost to Texas on Oct. 10. Another factor in their favor is that the committee set a precedent last season when it put Ohio State in the top four in spite of its embarrassing home loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2. OU's loss to Texas is similar, but the Sooners need to win out and beat TCU and Oklahoma State to have a chance to overcome it.

Houston: Down 20 points in the fourth quarter to Memphis -- with a backup quarterback? No problem. First-year coach Tom Herman found a way to keep his team undefeated and a front-runner for a New Year's Six bowl bid as the highest-ranked Group of 5 conference champion. Houston is the only undefeated team remaining in the American Athletic Conference heading into games against UConn and Navy.

Florida: Don't forget about the Gators. They fell into the shadows after a pedestrian performance against Vanderbilt in Week 10, but they've already clinched the SEC East and should be favored in their two remaining games, against FAU and rival Florida State. If a one-loss Florida team can knock off Alabama in the SEC title game, it should be in the top four.

North Carolina: The Pac-12's collapse opened the door to all kinds of possibilities, including an opportunity for UNC should the Tar Heels run the table and knock off a No. 1-ranked Clemson team. If that happened, and UNC was up against a one-loss Notre Dame, the Tar Heels would be able to show they claimed a victory the Irish couldn't -- against the ACC's top team.

Losers

Pac-12: Not one but two top-10 Pac-12 teams crashed on Saturday, as No. 10 Utah lost in double overtime to Arizona, and No. 7 Stanford lost at home to Oregon. It was a devastating blow to the league's chances of finishing in the top four, as the Pac-12 is now guaranteed to have at least a two-loss conference champion. That doesn't bode well when the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 still have undefeated teams and one-loss Alabama continues to dominate in the SEC West.

LSU: Forget about the top four; LSU is trying to hang on to second place in the SEC West. The loss to Arkansas coupled with Alabama's win against Mississippi State was a dagger to LSU's playoff hopes. The Tigers have lost back-to-back games, Leonard Fournette is no longer the Heisman front-runner, and a road trip to Ole Miss looms.

Notre Dame: The Irish beat Wake Forest but lost in the big picture because they needed Stanford and Temple to continue winning to boost their own résumé. The committee has liked Notre Dame even though it lacks a marquee win on its résumé, so it didn't do anything to hurt its position this week, but its best wins right now are against Navy, Pitt and USC. Even North Carolina could make a case for a stronger résumé if it wins out, and it might not have an edge over even a one-loss Big 12 champ. The good news for Notre Dame? It beat Texas and Oklahoma didn't, so if it comes down to a debate between those two teams, the committee would have a common opponent to compare.

 

Baylor: A one-loss Big 12 champ isn't out of the mix, especially considering it would still have an edge over a two-loss Pac-12 champ, but the best-case scenario obviously would have been for the Bears to stay undefeated and eliminate the Sooners from the conversation. Baylor should drop in the committee's rankings this week, and it is staring down back-to-back road trips against Oklahoma State and TCU. Maybe that backloaded schedule wasn't such a good idea after all.

Temple: The Owls have now lost two of their past three, but losing to unranked USF likely cost them a shot at a New Year's Six bowl. Temple still leads the East by one game over USF with home games remaining against Memphis and Connecticut, but after Memphis lost again, a win against the Tigers will also be devalued.

Memphis: And Houston stands alone. The Tigers lost for the second week in a row, a devastating turn for the Group of 5 team that once was in the playoff conversation with a win over Ole Miss. Memphis trails both Houston and Navy in the American's West Division and has dropped out of the New Year's Six bowl picture.

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November 16, 2015
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Oklahoma ascending: Can the Sooners' late-season surge produce a playoff berth? Punt, Pass & Pork

[Image Can Not Be Found]By Andy Staples

15 November 2015



WACO, Texas—Eric Striker paused for a moment Saturday night. "Let me try to explain how good this feels," the Oklahoma senior linebacker said.

Then Striker offered his explanation of how the Sooners' 44–34 win at Baylor felt for a team that had been clobbered by the Bears in each of the previous two seasons. "You ever been out all day, working in camp or working on something?" Striker asked no one in particular. "You ain't been home all day. You're in the humidity and everything. It's just hot. You feel the stickiness—the funkiness—because you've been out all day. Then you get home and take that shower. You get out of the shower and just kind of go, 'Hooooooooooooooooo. Man, that feels good.' The Sooners should feel refreshed, because they look like a new team. They barely resemble the team that needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Tennessee 31–24 in double overtime on Sept. 12. They look nothing like the team that got humbled by Texas 24–17 in Dallas on Oct. 12. The question now is whether the College Football Playoff selection committee will recognize the difference between the October Sooners and the November Sooners. If there is a team 2015 Oklahoma (9–1) resembles, it might be '14 Ohio State. Last year, the Buckeyes lost at home in September to a Virginia Tech team that ultimately lost six games. By early December, Ohio State bore little resemblance to the group that lost to the Hokies. Could Oklahoma—with its loss to a Texas outfit that will likely finish 5-7 or 4-8—be on a similar path?

After the Texas loss, Sooners coach Bob Stoops invoked last season's Buckeyes. He knew his team was better than it had shown during a seven-point defeat at the Cotton Bowl. Stoops hoped his players would believe it, too. "That was really the first thing that coach Stoops told us in the locker room after the Texas game," Oklahoma junior quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "We took that to heart. Ever since then, we've just been grinding it out."

Even Saturday night, after he accounted for 346 yards with four touchdowns—including the game-clinching pass on a third-and-goal from the seven-yard line when a field goal might have opened the door for the Bears—Mayfield was asked to explain the Texas loss. "Trying to do too much," Mayfield said. He did not mention that an offensive line that was mostly new this season has jelled or that defenders such as senior end Charles Tapper (six sacks in Oklahoma's past three games) have hit their stride, but that overall improvement was heavily implied. "We've kind of come together," Mayfield said. "We've meshed well, and we realize that's not how we should play. We know the standard now."

While the Texas loss continues to hang over the Sooners, it may not matter if they keep winning and chaos keeps picking off potential rivals for playoff spots. On Saturday, Stanford's 38–36 loss to Oregon and Utah's 37–30 double-overtime defeat at Arizona guaranteed the Pac-12 would have at best a two-loss champion. That thins the herd. LSU's 31–14 loss to Arkansas means Alabama and Florida are probably the only two SEC teams that remain in contention for a playoff spot. Assuming Alabama clinches the SEC West by beating Auburn on Nov. 28, either the Crimson Tide or the Gators will hand the other a loss in Atlanta. (And Florida may yet lose to Florida State on Nov. 28.) A Michigan State win at Ohio State next Saturday or an Ohio State loss at Michigan on Nov. 28 could further complicate the playoff picture for the Big Ten teams. And Notre Dame, which suffered its only loss at top-ranked Clemson, must play at Stanford on Nov. 28. That's no gimme. So, even with an ugly loss, Oklahoma doesn't seem to need much help if it keeps winning.

That remains the biggest if. The Sooners still must beat TCU and Oklahoma State—current combined record: 19–1—in consecutive weeks. Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson said Saturday that he expects senior quarterback Trevone Boykin to play in Norman even though Boykin missed the final three quarters of TCU's win 23–17 win over Kansas with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, the Bears will try to bounce back from their loss to the Sooners in Stillwater against the undefeated Cowboys.

While the Sooners can control how they play, they cannot control how the selection committee members perceive it. They entered the weekend at No. 12 in the committee's rankings and will certainly move up after beating the No. 6 team on the road. Where they rank relative to Oklahoma State will be irrelevant because if both teams win next week, they'll face off for the Big 12 title in Bedlam on Nov. 28. The bigger question will be where Oklahoma ranks relative to Notre Dame. Should the Fighting Irish win out, they might wind up with wins over both Pac-12 title game participants (USC and Stanford) and both American Athletic Conference title game participants (Navy and Temple). Notre Dame also beat Texas 38–3 in its season-opener on Sept. 5, and the committee is supposed to compare common opponents. But the committee is also supposed to take into account championships won. In this scenario, Oklahoma would have a conference title and Notre Dame, an independent, would not. Neither would have the apparently magical 13th data point, though.

The problem with speculating what the selection committee will do is we have no idea what the selection committee will do. Yes, the committee placed a team in the bracket last year that had lost at home to a six-loss team. That doesn't mean it will act the same way with a similar team this year. Yes, the committee left the Big 12's two best teams just outside of the bracket last year. That doesn't mean it will hold some sort of grudge against the Big 12's champ this year. The committee has seeded the field exactly once, and any attempt to use a one-time occurrence to predict future behavior is probably fruitless.

Oklahoma's Striker offered the best plan for predicting the bracket on Saturday night. "Let whoever handles that handle that stuff," he said. All the Sooners can concern themselves with now is TCU. And if they keep winning, everything else might take care of itself. "We're one of those teams that has a chance," Stoops said. "We're going to keep trying to improve and give ourself an opportunity next week to play as well or better. Again, you come into an undefeated team's [stadium] ranked that high waiting on you like they were and win by 10, it's got to be a positive."


Projected College Football Playoff

1. Alabama (9–1)

I went back and forth about whether to leave Clemson at No. 1 or replace the Tigers with the Crimson Tide, but the question I kept coming back to was this: Based on what we've seen this season, who do I think would win if those two teams met on a neutral field? The answer at the moment is Alabama. After watching the Tide clobber LSU on Nov. 7, I wondered if that performance was Alabama's peak or its new normal. After Saturday's 31–6 rout of Mississippi State, it's quite possible this level of suffocation is to be expected from the Tide.

2. Clemson (10–0)

The Tigers let Syracuse hang around into the fourth quarter of a 37–27 win, and a bit of a letdown on the road is certainly understandable after a victory as big as the one against Florida State the previous week. Still, it's tough to picture anyone beating Alabama given the way the Crimson Tide are playing of late. Even though someone already beat Alabama and no one has beaten Clemson, the Tide seem to have found another gear. Besides, if I'm wrong, the Tigers would have a chance to prove that in the playoff.

3. Oklahoma State (10–0)

Yes, the Cowboys needed another comeback to beat Iowa State 35–31. But they still have a top-notch win over a TCU team that then featured a healthy Boykin. Did the trip to Ames expose some potential issues? Sure. But with games against Baylor and Oklahoma coming up in the next two weeks, the Cowboys will either maintain their grip on this spot or show why someone else should take it.

4. Notre Dame (9–1)

The Irish just keep rolling. They'll face Boston College this week before traveling to Stanford for their regular-season finale on Nov. 28. Should Notre Dame finish 11–1, it will have a decent shot of getting in the playoff as long as there aren't three undefeated Power Five conference champions. Why do I have the one-loss Irish ranked ahead of Ohio State? Because the Buckeyes have yet to face a tough opponent, and they have been underwhelming in most of the games they've played. If they whip up on Michigan State, then they could leapfrog one or two of the teams I have listed here. We know Ohio State has talent. It just needs to show how good that talent can be against quality competition. It'll get its chance this week.

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November 16, 2015
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November 15, 2015
Pac-12 Likely Out of Playoff Race by Matt Brown

As college football's 2015 regular season heads down the home stretch, Week 11 made sure to deliver more chaos. The top five teams all won, but four of the top 10 teams in the College Football Playoff top 25 lost on Saturday, likely eliminating the Pac-12 from playoff contention, while the Big 12 continues to be unpredictable from week to week.

 

1. Pac-12's playoff hopes might be finished

One by one, the Pac-12's ranked teams fell on Saturday, likely taking the league out of the playoff race. First, No. 7 Stanford lost 38-36 to Oregon, coming a two-point conversion short of forcing overtime. Then, No. 10 Utah lost 37-30 in double-OT at Arizona. If that wasn't enough, deep into the night, No. 19 UCLA lost 31-27 to Washington State after Gabe Marks caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Luke Falk with three seconds left.

The Pac-12 is a good league with depth. It has a lot of quality teams. It also, unfortunately, has no great teams, which means it is going to get left out of the four-team College Football Playoff, barring complete chaos over the last three weeks of the season that allows a two-loss team to sneak in.

Strangely, the league's playoff chances were ruined Saturday by the two disappointing teams that won their divisions last year. Oregon has three losses -- including one by 42 points to Utah -- but it has hit its stride behind a healthy Vernon Adams at quarterback, and it delivered with very Oregon-like big plays in taking down the Cardinal, who, for a stretch, had played as well as any team in the country around midseason.

With injuries and other issues, Arizona had fallen off the map with five losses, but it recovered to stun Utah at home, becoming bowl-eligible in the process, and turn the South Division into a mess. Technically, USC now controls its own destiny in the division, with both the Trojans and Utes sitting at 5-2 in the league.

It's been a fun season of Pac-12 football, and Saturday night was one of the most entertaining stretches of the fall. That will have to serve as a consolation for the Pac-12, because it is highly likely now that the league will be at least one of the conferences left out of the second-ever playoff. As the Big 12 knows too well, it's not a position that any conference wants to be in.
2. Oklahoma State is Big 12's last unbeaten … barely

Week 11 both helped and hurt the Big 12. On one hand, Stanford and Utah losing knocked a couple teams from the one-loss ranks, and it would be hard to see a two-loss Pac-12 champion jumping a one-loss Big 12 champion. If three playoff spots go to the SEC, ACC and Big Ten champions, the debate could come down to Notre Dame (who still plays Stanford) vs. the Big 12 champion for the fourth bid.

Notre Dame beat Wake Forest 28-7 on Saturday, but its resume may ultimately get devalued a bit, as one of its best wins, Temple, lost to South Florida, and its best remaining opponent, Stanford, also lost.

Of course, the Big 12 is still a mystery for the next few weeks as the backloaded schedule continues. Oklahoma upset Baylor 44-34 on the road in Waco on Saturday, while Oklahoma State survived what was almost another disastrous trip to Ames, beating Iowa State 35-31. With that win and Baylor's loss, Oklahoma State is the only undefeated team in the Big 12, sitting at 10-0 but still searching for respect.

The next two weeks, Oklahoma State has more chances to earn respect, as it welcomes both Baylor and Oklahoma to Stillwater. If the Cowboys finish undefeated, they will not get left out of the playoff. But they've also had an uncommon number of comebacks and close wins this season, and it's still hard to see them actually winning both of these next two games. With one bad loss to Texas but a nonconference win over Tennessee, it's possible that Oklahoma is the Big 12's best hope -- especially with Baylor QB Seth Russell out for the season and TCU QB Trevone Boykin's status unclear after he hurt his ankle in a close win vs. Kansas. All four teams are still in the mix, though, and while the Big 12 should understandably be nervous about its playoff hopes, Saturday proved that we can't make any assumptions just yet.
3. Big Ten frontrunners all survive

On a day in which four top-10 teams lost, the Big Ten can breathe a sigh of relief. The Big Ten entered Saturday with six ranked teams. All five that played won, setting up an enormously important final two weeks of the regular season for the conference.

No. 3 Ohio State, with J.T. Barrett back at quarterback after his one-game suspension, beat Illinois 28-3, in a game that wasn't always pretty but got the job done with ease. Ezekiel Elliott racked up 27 carries for 181 yards and two touchdowns, setting up a late-season Heisman push, and the Buckeyes held the Fighting Illini out of the end zone.

No. 5 Iowa, Ohio State's fellow unbeaten team, held off Minnesota to win the Floyd of Rosedale 40-35. The teams traded touchdowns for the last 16 minutes, but Iowa built enough of a cushion in the first half to hold on, behind 195 rushing yards and three TDs from LeShun Daniels.

No. 14 Michigan survived a thriller 48-41 in double-OT at Indiana, keeping its playoff hopes alive behind 440 yards and six touchdowns passing from Jake Rudock, and despite an uncharacteristic 307 rushing yards allowed. The Wolverines forced OT on a touchdown from Rudock to Jehu Chessen -- who had 10 catches for 207 yards -- as time expired in regulation. Michigan has won games with incredible finishes in two of the last three weeks, joining the Minnesota game, to stay alive in the Big Ten title race.

No. 18 Northwestern beat Purdue 21-14, and No. 13 Michigan State beat Maryland 24-7 despite a shoulder injury to quarterback Connor Cook, who is expected to be OK going forward.

No top Big Ten team lost in Week 11, and a bunch of big games are coming up. Next Saturday features Michigan State at Ohio State, Michigan at Penn State and Northwestern at Wisconsin. The following weekend features Ohio State at Michigan, Iowa at Nebraska and Penn State at Michigan State.

In an ideal world, for the Big Ten's playoff hopes, Iowa and Ohio State would both win out, setting up a Big Ten Championship Game showdown that serves as a play-in game for the College Football Playoff. A one-loss Big Ten champion could easily get into the playoff, but everything would be a lot easier if either the Buckeyes or Hawkeyes go 13-0.
4. Alabama distancing itself from rest of SEC

You could look at Saturday and say that Alabama's best win took a hit, and that would be true. No. 9 LSU, who was No. 2 when Alabama demolished it a week ago, got demolished again by unranked Arkansas … the same Arkansas that lost to Toledo and Texas Tech back in September. In other words: The SEC isn't nearly as strong as hoped this year.

It's Alabama … then Florida … then everyone else. But despite Alabama's loss to Ole Miss in September, it's hard to take anything away from the Crimson Tide, who look every bit like a top-four team and playoff frontrunner. Now ranked second, Alabama followed up its impressive win over LSU with an impressive 31-6 win at No. 17 Mississippi State. The Tide sacked Dak Prescott nine times and shut down the Bulldogs running game, and they made a handful of big plays to make it all look easy. The charge was led by tailback Derrick Henry, who racked up 204 rushing yards -- his third 200-yard game in four weeks -- and is a Heisman frontrunner as Alabama bolsters its playoff resume.

Groan about Alabama in the top four all you want, but it's abundantly clear that this team is one of the best in college football. Henry might win the Heisman, and the defensive front is one of the best we've seen in years.
5. Top-ranked Clemson moves to 10-0

By no means was it a great win, but there is no bad win on the road in a conference game, even if that games is against Syracuse. Clemson struggled to put Syracuse away all afternoon, as the Orange kept responding to the Tigers' runs. Clemson scored twice in the first three minutes, but the game was tied 10 minutes later. The game went on like this, with Syracuse chipping away at Clemson's leads but never quite closing the gap, until the Tigers finally won 37-27.

It's hardly the finest win for the No. 1 team against a team that is 3-7, but Deshaun Watson threw for 360 yards and ran for 105 yards -- his second straight game with over 400 total yards -- and Clemson emerged unscathed, avoiding a colossal letdown after last week's emotional win over Florida State. Alabama may have made up some ground this week, but 10-0 Clemson still deserves to be ranked No. 1.

* * *
Contact Matt at matt.brown5082

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Unbeaten Oklahoma State gives Big 12 best shot at CFP
SI contributing writer Zac Ellis explains why Big 12 fans should root for Oklahoma State to go undefeated.
The top five teams in last week’s College Football Playoff rankings all won, but four of the next five lost, which shook up the potential playoff field. No. 6 Baylor, No. 7 Stanford, No. 9 LSU and No. 10 Utah each fell, which significantly cut down the number of legitimate playoff contenders and opened the door for an unlikely team to crash the final four.

Before the Week 11 rankings are released on Tuesday, here’s a look at the cases for and against eight teams in playoff contention, ordered by their likelihood of appearing in the top four.

CLEMSON (10–0)

Strength of schedule (via Sagarin): 34
Last week: Won 37–27 at Syracuse
Next week: vs. Wake Forest
Best wins: vs. No. 4 Notre Dame, vs. No. 16 Florida State
Losses: None

Case for: It wasn’t the prettiest of wins last week at Syracuse, but a conference road win is a conference road win. We’ve already seen how much the committee values Clemson and what Dabo Swinney’s team has been able to do so far this year, and as long as the Tigers keep winning—and they should, as their final two regular-season opponents have a combined 6–14 record—Clemson is a lock for the playoff.

Case against: The teams behind Clemson in the rankings all have huge games coming up to end the season. If those teams win, they will not only boost their respective résumés, but also make impressive closing statements. The Tigers, meanwhile, finish on the lighter side. Clemson will get in if it wins out, but its No. 1 seed certainly could be in jeopardy.

Consensus: In. An undefeated Clemson is a no-brainer for the committee.

ALABAMA (9–1)

SOS: 3
Last week: Won 31–6 at No. 17 Mississippi State
Next week: vs. Charleston Southern
Best wins: vs. No. 9 LSU, at No. 17 Mississippi State, vs. No. 25 Wisconsin (in Texas)
Losses: vs. Ole Miss

Case for: Alabama may be the most dangerous team in the country at this point in the season. The Crimson Tide are two months removed from their lone defeat and have convincingly taken down ranked opponents in back-to-back weeks, winning by a combined margin of 61–22. Nick Saban & Co. look poised to make another appearance in the playoff.

 

Case against: Alabama isn’t in the clear yet. After an easy nonconference game against Charleston Southern this coming week, the Tide visit Jordan Hare Stadium to face Auburn before a potential SEC Championship Game date against No. 11 Florida. Even though Auburn has struggled mightily this year, the Iron Bowl is always anyone’s game (See: Newton, Cam; Six, Kick). Plus, expect Auburn to be playing with an extra amount of pride, knowing that knocking Alabama out of the playoff could be a nice consolation prize to an otherwise disappointing season.

 

Consensus: In. Alabama continues to strengthen its candidacy for a spot in the top four and doesn’t look to be letting up anytime soon.

OHIO STATE (10–0)

SOS: 67
Last week: Won 28–3 at Illinois
Next week: vs. No. 13 Michigan State
Best wins: vs. Penn State
Losses: None

Case for: The wins keep on coming in Columbus and an undefeated Ohio State won’t be missing out on a chance to repeat as national champions. J.T. Barrett is back at quarterback following his one-game suspension, Ezekiel Elliott is still doing Ezekiel Elliott things and the defense has been steady as well.

Case against: This week’s matchup against No. 13 Michigan State is the first time that Ohio State will play a ranked opponent all year. Its nonconference schedule was a joke, and its best win so far was against a Penn State team that is currently in 4th place in the Big Ten East. Three tests await the Buckeyes—vs. No. 13 Michigan State, at No. 14 Michigan and a potential Big Ten Championship Game meeting with either No. 5 Iowa or No. 25 Wisconsin. Ohio State has chances to prove itself but also could suffer a costly loss.

Consensus: In. More difficult opponents are coming, but an unbeaten Ohio State will receive a playoff bid.

NOTRE DAME (9–1)

SOS: 25
Last week: Won 28–7 vs. Wake Forest
Next week: at Boston College
Best wins: vs. No. 20 Navy, at No. 22 Temple
Losses: at No. 1 Clemson

Case for: Notre Dame did what it needed to do last week by handling its business against Wake Forest. The Irish shouldn’t move out of the top four this week, and if they beat Boston College at Fenway Park like they should, they’ll get one final chance to impress the committee at No. 7 Stanford.

Case against: Stanford’s loss to Oregon on Saturday hurts the Irish, as a higher-ranked Cardinal team would have registered as a better win for Notre Dame. The Irish also don’t get a conference championship game, which could give other teams behind them an edge on selection day.

 

Consensus: In. Notre Dame was included in the top four last week, and a three-touchdown win on Saturday keeps it firmly there.

IOWA (10–0)

SOS: 55
Last week: Won 40–35 vs. Minnesota
Next week: vs. Purdue
Best wins: at No. 18 Northwestern, at No. 25 Wisconsin
Losses: None

Case for: Despite glaring disrespect from college football pundits, Iowa continues its impressive winning streak. The Hawkeyes can wrap up the Big Ten West Saturday with a win over lowly Purdue and secure their spot in the Big Ten title game. Iowa doesn’t play flashy football, but it plays winning football. An undefeated, Big Ten-winning Hawkeyes team would earn a bid to the semifinals.

Case against: While Iowa can claim two top-25 wins, it missed East division crossover games with three of the Big Ten’s best teams, so it’s difficult to gauge just how good the Hawkeyes actually are. Wrapping up the season against 2–8 Purdue and 5–6 Nebraska shouldn’t be difficult, but it also won’t boost Iowa’s résumé. Win the Big Ten West and defeat Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan, and it’ll be a different story. Easier said than done, though.

Consensus: Out. Iowa struggled in its win over Minnesota and wasn’t convincing enough to surpass Notre Dame. The Hawkeyes have not done enough just yet to crack the top four.

OKLAHOMA STATE (10–0)

SOS: 58
Last week: Won 35–31 at Iowa State
Next week: vs. No. 6 Baylor
Best wins: vs. No. 15 TCU
Losses: None

Case for: Oklahoma State racked up another win on Saturday and improved its perfect record. The Cowboys’ offense still ranks among the nation’s best, and despite trailing for much of the game against Iowa State, they showed a resiliency that championship-caliber teams typically possess.

 

Case against: The Cowboys’ defense that was so good against Trevone Boykin and No. 15 TCU two weeks ago struggled on the road against the Cyclones. If not for a 14-point fourth quarter, the Cowboys would have suffered their first loss and effectively ousted themselves from playoff contention. Nevertheless, they survived and advanced with a win in Ames—they fell in overtime there as the No. 2 team in the country in 2011—to stay unbeaten and welcome No. 6 Baylor to Stillwater next week. If a game against Iowa State was tough, a two-game stretch of Baylor and No. 12 Oklahoma to end the season will be much more difficult.

 

Consensus: Out. Oklahoma State can prove its worth in the coming weeks, but as of now, it’s still on the outside looking in.

OKLAHOMA (9–1)

SOS: 44
Last week: Won 44–34 at No. 6 Baylor
Next week: vs. No. 15 TCU
Best wins: at No. 6 Baylor
Losses: at Texas

Case for: Oklahoma looked like the best team in the Big 12 in its win on the road at No. 6 Baylor on Saturday. Quarterback Baker Mayfield entered the Heisman discussion. Running back Samaje Perine ran with the conviction he showed when he set the FBS single-game rushing record last season. And the Sooners’ defense shut down a prolific Bears offense as well as any team has all season. Losses by Baylor, Stanford, LSU and Utah—all teams ahead of Oklahoma in last week’s rankings—give the Sooners as good a chance as any one-loss team currently on the outside looking in to make a push for the top four.

Case against: Oklahoma’s loss to Texas in the Red River Rivalry may end up costing it a playoff spot. It’s debatable whether even an undefeated Big 12 team would make the top four, let alone one that has lost. With the tendency for the committee to downplay the Big 12, even wins against No. 15 TCU and No. 8 Oklahoma State to end the season may not be enough.

Consensus: Out. The Sooners won the first of their gruesome three-game stretch to end the season and move up accordingly, but they’ll need two more wins to make a run at the playoff.

FLORIDA (9–1)

SOS: 31
Last week: Won 24–14 at South Carolina
Next week: vs. Florida Atlantic
Best wins: vs. Georgia
Losses: at No. 9 LSU

Case for: Florida took care of business against South Carolina last week and has what should be an easy game against Florida Atlantic on Saturday. This sets the Gators up for their final two tests of the season and an incredible chance to impress the committee should they win both and get a little help. Florida has a home date against rival No. 16 Florida State on the final day of the regular season before taking on the winner of the SEC West in the conference title game a week later. If the Gators emerge as a one-loss SEC champion with wins over FSU and in all likelihood No. 2 Alabama, they’d have made a strong case for a playoff bid while eliminating the Tide from contention.

Case against: Florida still doesn’t have a top-25 win, and the offense in Gainesville still leaves much to be desired. The Gators’ have looked pedestrian with the football since Treon Harris took over for the suspended Will Grier, and Florida is going to need to find the end zone often against Florida State and in the SEC title game. Florida may not have the offensive firepower to keep up.

Consensus: Out. The opportunity is there for Florida, but it needs to win to capitalize.

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November 18, 2015
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The third set of College Football Playoff rankings is out, and the top four (actually top five) held firm despite plenty of fluctuation elsewhere. What do we make of the latest rundown? Here are five observations by ADAM RITTENBERG, Biletnikoff Award voter and ESPN commentator:

1. Notre Dame-Stanford still could be a CFP play-in game

The juiciest debate on Dec. 6 could be Notre Dame versus Oklahoma if both squads win out. But for now, Notre Dame is in great shape at No. 4, and selection committee chair Jeff Long said there was little discussion about moving the Irish down after their win against Wake Forest. Oklahoma, meanwhile, sits three spots behind Notre Dame with two big games remaining. The Sooners really need Oklahoma State to beat Baylor this week to set them up for another signature road win in the Bedlam game on Nov. 28.

 But Notre Dame also should have a chance for a signature win that day, perhaps against a top110 team. Stanford only fell to No. 11 after its second loss at home to previously unranked Oregon. If the Cardinal win this week against Cal, it could re-enter the committee's top 10 before Notre Dame visits Stanford Stadium on Nov. 28. Notre Dame really needs that to happen, as its overall résumé looks weaker by the week.

Stanford's moderate drop also leaves the door open for a CFP spot if it wins out and the Oklahoma schools both lose once more. A two-loss Stanford team that finishes with wins against Notre Dame and possibly Utah, which sits at No. 13 after its second loss, could leapfrog a one-loss Baylor, Oklahoma State or TCU for a playoff spot.

Bottom line: The Pac-12 can breathe a little, as it still has a playoff pulse. And Notre Dame-Stanford should have significant implications unless things get nutty this week.

2. The Big 12's best bet: stability in the Sooner State, chaos elsewhere

The committee's rankings of Big 12 teams have been puzzling, to say the least. Baylor clearly resonates in the room, as the Bears remained in the top 10 despite a 10-point home loss to Oklahoma. Many expected the Sooners to sniff the top four after their seemingly big victory, but they sit a safe distance away. The committee still thinks more of Iowa, which lacks a bad loss (or any loss, for that matter) but also no win that should resonate as much as Oklahoma's at Baylor.

The Big 12 needs both Oklahoma schools to defend their home fields Saturday. An Oklahoma win against TCU wouldn't help much, as the 18th-ranked Horned Frogs are falling fast in the committee's eyes, but it would keep OU alive for the playoff. The Bedlam game, then, would become a virtual play-in for Oklahoma State and a possible play-in for Oklahoma. But it would help to have some chaos elsewhere, namely Stanford beating Notre Dame but then losing in the Pac-12 championship game. The Big Ten also remains vulnerable, especially if Michigan wins out and Ohio State beats Michigan State this week. The Big 12 also could use an assist from its former member, Nebraska, which hosts Iowa on Nov. 27.

3. Clemson is the ACC's only real CFP contender

Dabo Swinney's team remained No. 1, as expected, although the committee discussed the possibility of moving Alabama into the top spot. But if Clemson wins out, it has nothing to worry about and should be the host team for a semifinal. But what if North Carolina upsets Clemson in the ACC title game?

The Tar Heels are suddenly a threat to Clemson. They're one of the nation's hottest teams behind one of the nation's hottest quarterbacks in Marquise Williams. They've bounced back nicely from an unsightly opening loss to South Carolina, which is now 3-7. But they don't appear to be a viable CFP contender, even if they run the table and beat Clemson. Rising from No. 17 into the top four with three weeks to play seems too steep of a climb, and wins against Virginia Tech and NC State won't do much to help the Heels' cause.

Long said the committee is very aware of North Carolina's unusual nonleague schedule, which features two Power 5 opponents (South Carolina and Illinois) and two FCS opponents (North Carolina A&T and Delaware). Regardless of the circumstances, two FCS foes on the slate always looks terrible. Coupled with an underwhelming ACC Coastal division schedule, North Carolina won't have enough substance to vault into the top four. So it's Clemson or bust for the ACC.

4. Ohio State needs to validate the committee's faith like Alabama did

Many of us were surprised when Alabama debuted in the initial CFP rankings at No. 4. Perhaps the committee knew something, as the Tide have recorded their two most impressive wins the past two weeks against LSU (which amazingly remains in the committee's top 20) and Mississippi State. It's time for Ohio State to reward the committee the same way.

The Buckeyes are this year's ultimate eye-test team. They've beaten no one of substance, struggled against some inferior opponents but rarely looked to be in real danger. The committee is steadfast that it doesn't project, but how else can they explain why the Buckeyes, moderately impressive against mostly woeful competition, remain at No. 3? Every other team near the Buckeyes in the rankings has done much more than they have.

Ohio State's chance to impress is finally here. Urban Meyer's team could finish with three top-10 opponents, beginning Saturday with No. 9 Michigan State. The committee thinks Ohio State could be CFP-worthy, but the Buckeyes need to validate that view, much like Alabama has done.

5. Houston is the victim of an unlucky schedule

 

The Cougars did what Group of 5 teams are supposed to do to get national recognition: beat Power 5 opponents. But a road win against Louisville, normally a nice jewel in the portfolio, hasn't worked out, as the Cardinals are just 6-4. Thumping Vanderbilt also hasn't helped, as the Commodores sit at 4-6. So Houston is only ranked No. 19, despite being the lone remaining unbeaten from the Group of 5. Five two-loss teams are ahead of Houston, including LSU, which is absurd.

Houston's path to the golden ticket and a New Year's Six bowl remains pretty clear: win out against Connecticut, Navy and then Temple or South Florida in the American Athletic championship game. The committee is clearly impressed with Navy, which thumped Memphis on Nov. 7 at the Liberty Bowl and has a respectable loss at Notre Dame. The 16h-ranked Midshipmen will land the golden ticket if they win out, but they'll need another signature road win against Houston on Nov. 27.

The Group of 5 surprise Tuesday was Memphis, which remains in the rankings despite consecutive losses. The Tigers need a ton of help. Could Toledo be in the Group of 5 mix next week following its big win against Bowling Green?

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November 22, 2015
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Clemson

Alabama

Oklahoma (but give TCU credit--without Doctson, arguably the best receiver in college, and Boykin and playing in Norman--- the Frogs almost won)

Iowa (but would be mildly surprised if Iowa won the BIG10)

Then

Notre Dame (another pitiful win)

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KO said
Clemson

Alabama

Oklahoma (but give TCU credit--without Doctson, arguably the best receiver in college, and Boykin and playing in Norman--- the Frogs almost won)

Iowa (but would be mildly surprised if Iowa won the BIG10)

Then

Notre Dame (another pitiful win)

Michigan State kicked a field goal on the last play of its game on Saturday to topple the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes — and made the College Football Playoff picture more complicated. You may have some unanswered questions: What does the upset of the Buckeyes mean for the eventual Big Ten champ’s chances? Does it help or hurt Notre Dame’s playoff position? And what about the Big 12? Fear not! FiveThirtyEight’s college football model has some (probabilistic) answers. Here are our updated projections following Saturday’s games (these numbers will change again on Tuesday night after the new committee rankings are released):

      Ranking   Probability of …
  Team   CFP Elo FPI   Conf. Title Playoff Nat. Title
Image Enlarger Clemson 11-0   1 4 6   60% 69% 16%
Image Enlarger Alabama 10-1   2 1 3   59% 66% 22%
Image Enlarger Oklahoma 10-1   7 5 1   63% 55% 10 22%
Image Enlarger Michigan St. 10-1   9 2 17   47% 44% 33 6%
Image Enlarger Ohio State 10-1   3 3 4   10% 33% 29 9%
Image Enlarger Notre Dame 10-1   4 7 8   a 31% 6%
Image Enlarger Iowa 11-0   5 12 29   37% 29% 6a 3%
Image Enlarger Baylor 9-1   10 9 2   16% 19% 7%
Image Enlarger Florida 10-1   8 10 19   32% 17% 5a 3%
Image Enlarger North Carolina 10-1   17 8 16   40% 11% 2%
Image Enlarger Stanford 9-2   11 11 9   52% 11% 2%
Image Enlarger Oklahoma St. 10-1   6 14 14   20% 9% 16 2%
Image Enlarger Michigan 9-2   12 13 15   7% 6% <1%
Image Enlarger Navy 9-1   16 16 38   26% <1% <1%
Image Enlarger Mississippi 8-3   22 17 7   9% <1% <1%
Image Enlarger Florida State 9-2   14 19 13   0% <1% <1%
Image Enlarger TCU 9-2   18 18 5   0% <1% 5a <1%
Image Enlarger Northwestern 9-2   20 21 55   0% <1% <1%
Image Enlarger Memphis 8-3   21 52 49   0% <1% <1%
Image Enlarger Houston 10-1   19 28 44   31% <1% <1%
Image Enlarger Wisconsin 8-3   25 31 28   0% <1% <1%
Image Enlarger Utah 8-3   13 37 26   0% <1% <1%
Image Enlarger Oregon 8-3   23 6 24   0% <1% <1%
Image Enlarger LSU 7-3   15 38 12   0% <1% <1%
Image Enlarger USC 7-4   24 26 10   33% <1% <1%
 
College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings as of Nov. 17. Playoff probability changes are since Nov. 18; only changes greater than 5 percentage points are shown.

 

(But first, a reminder: Our predictions are probabilistic for a reason. There’s a lot we don’t know! With only one year of data to work off, it’s not clear how the playoff committee weighs winning a conference championship against not playing in one, or how it judges a one-loss team in a strong conference versus an undefeated squad from a weak one. We’ll learn a lot more on Dec. 6 when the committee makes its picks.)

Clemson and Alabama cruised on Saturday and retain pole position to make the playoff at 69 percent and 66 percent, respectively. Oklahoma sweated out a thrilling TCU comeback and remains the best bet from the Big 12 to make the playoff: The Sooners’ odds have risen to 55 percent. If they can win at Oklahoma State next Saturday, the Sooners make the playoff in 85 percent of our simulations.

After that, it’s a pair of Big Ten teams — and things get hairy. Our model now gives Michigan State the inside track to be the fourth team in the playoff (with a 44 percent likelihood). Right behind the Spartans are the Buckeyes, at 33 percent. Luckily for Michigan State, it has a clear path to the playoff: Beat Penn State next week (the Spartans are 80 percent favorites) to wrap up the Big Ten East and then win over Iowa in the conference title game. Should Michigan State win out, our model gives them a 92 percent shot to make the playoff.

Ohio State is not out yet, however. The Buckeyes’ path is just much less clear. They first need to beat Michigan at The Big House next week — no easy task, as the Buckeyes are only 58 percent favorites. Then they need the Spartans to lose. In a scenario in which Michigan State does slip up and a one-loss Ohio State team wins out — including over Iowa — the Buckeyes make the playoff in 96 percent of those simulations.

But that is not the Buckeyes’ only way to the playoff. Should they win out and be excluded from the Big Ten championship game, they still make the playoff 54 percent of the time. As I explained last week, Ohio State as a one-loss defending national champion presents an impressive résumé for the committee to consider, even if the Buckeyes are prevented from vying for their conference title. It’s possible that two Big Ten teams make the playoff.

Other takeaways from our model: Notre Dame, even if it wins out, is not assured a playoff spot. Three teams ranked behind it by the committee — Iowa, Michigan State and Oklahoma — have a good chance to leapfrog the Irish if they win out. Still, if the Irish beat Stanford next week to finish their regular season, their chances jump noticeably, to 69 percent.

Baylor notched an impressive win over undefeated Oklahoma State on Saturday, but it didn’t help its playoff chances much. Currently, the Bears’ chances are 19 percent. Florida, on the other hand, had an overtime scare against Florida Atlantic, but despite a Gator victory, the model revised Florida’s playoff odds down to 17 percent.

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November 23, 2015
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Stanford still might have shot at College Football Playoff

 

“So you’re telling me there’s a chance.” — From the cinematic classic “Dumb and Dumber.”

Oops, maybe we penned the obituary for the Pac-12 a week too early. It looks like there’s still hope for the conference to make this year’s playoff. Stanford, after winning Saturday night’s Big Game, still might find a way to punch its ticket to the semifinals.Thanks to a suicide pact to wrap up the season, the Big 12 is now left with no undefeated team and two playoff contenders heading into next weekend’s rivalry games possibly without their starting quarterbacks. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield might have sustained a concussion and Baylor’s Jared Stidham has a hand injury. Neither finished his respective game Saturday.

 

This leaves the door open for the Cardinal, whose sixth straight win in the Big Game clinched their third Pac-12 North title in four seasons. Should two-loss Stanford defeat Notre Dame on Saturday and then the USC-UCLA winner in the conference title game Dec. 5, that might be enough to push it past a one-loss Big 12 champion.

Here’s how it might happen: If Oklahoma State defeats Oklahoma and Baylor beats both TCU and Texas to finish the season, the Bears will clinch the Big 12 title with an 11-1 record (thanks to the conference’s decision to install a tiebreaker after last season). The committee has indicated several times that it’s unimpressed with Baylor’s schedule, which leaves the door open for Stanford.

And the Cardinal have powerful advocates on the committee. Former Stanford head coach Tyrone Willingham and current professor Condoleezza Rice are among 12 committee members, and though Rice must recuse herself (Willingham does not have to recuse himself) when Stanford is discussed, she still wields influence in the room. Had USC athletic director Pat Haden stayed on the committee, Stanford would’ve had an even larger lobbying group.

But none of this matters if Stanford does not beat Notre Dame and knock the Irish out of the playoff field, which means Saturday’s matchup on the Farm is almost a playoff play-in game.

SEC chokes on cupcakes

While other power conferences effectively were eliminating each other Saturday, the SEC enjoyed basically a week off before rivalry week — at least that was the plan.

Six SEC teams — Alabama, Auburn and four others facing upcoming ACC rivals — played either FCS or overmatched nonconference foes Saturday, but a few got more than a light workout. South Carolina lost to the Citadel, and Florida and Georgia needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern, respectively.

The committee has shown no inclination to punish the SEC’s scheduling practices, but consider this: For all the talk about Alabama’s “eye test” superiority, the Tide probably will have beaten only one of the committee’s Top 25 teams when the rankings are revealed Tuesday.

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November 26, 2015
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FiveThirtyEight blog: 13 teams still have a shot

http://fivethirtyeight.com/fea.....13-preview/

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ESPN's Heather Dinich: Doomsday Scenario

 

The College Football Playoff selection meeting room is all business in Grapevine, Texas. No cell phones, no work emails, no outside distractions.

Now we're about to turn the lights out on them too.

 

This final edition of Doomsday will leave the 12 members of the selection committee completely in the dark about who should be the top four teams in the country. It's the ultimate head-spinning, scenario-scrambling, conference-crushing playoff possibility. For the past three weeks, Doomsday has presented the ultimate nightmare playoff scenario for how each of the Power 5 conferences could get left out of the top four.

This time? It's the committee that's doomed.

Imagine this snowball scenario:

  1. North Carolina beats No. 1 Clemson to win the ACC title AND
  2. Florida loses to Florida State AND beats Alabama to win the SEC title AND
  3. Iowa loses to Nebraska and beats Michigan State to win the Big Ten title AND
  4. Notre Dame loses to Stanford, which loses the Pac-12 championship AND
  5. The Pac-12 produces a four-loss conference champion in USC.

If the worst thing that happens in the Big 12 is a one-loss Baylor or Oklahoma State winning the conference, then that one true champion would be on top of the world in this particular playoff meltdown.

Let's help the committee sort it out.

It's not that improbable to think Stanford beats Notre Dame and goes on to lose to USC in the Pac-12 title game. The Cardinal beat the Trojans during the regular season, so there would certainly be a revenge factor. It would be easy for the committee to scratch a four-loss Pac-12 champ from the top four.

If Notre Dame loses to Stanford, it's out with two losses and no conference title.

Florida would be a two-loss SEC champ.

Iowa would be a one-loss Big Ten champ.

UNC would be a one-loss ACC champ (with two FCS wins and a dreadful loss to South Carolina).

The Big 12 is guaranteed a one-loss champ.

So who's in?

Iowa, the Big 12 champ, North Carolina and Florida?

We're all doomed.

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November 28, 2015
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The winner of Notre Dame-Stanford could crash the Playoff top 4

Neither the Cardinal nor the Fighting Irish is clearly win-and-in for the College Football Playoff, but both will put legitimate title hopes on the line Saturday night.

Notre Dame and Stanford play on Saturday night, in a game that's suddenly a lot bigger than it looked last week. And it already looked reasonably big.

The Irish had been No. 4 in the College Football Playoff selection committee rankings. Now, they're No. 6. That's not quite good enough for a spot in the dance, but the Irish might actually be in a better spot. Previously, the looming specter of an undefeated Big 12 team, Oklahoma State, looked likely to knock Notre Dame out of the top four.

Well, the undefeated problem is over with. It's still very, very possible that No.3 Oklahoma, with a win against the Pokes next week, ultimately settles ahead of Notre Dame and stays in the top four. But it's less likely than an undefeated Oklahoma State's chances were before losing to Baylor.

Oklahoma does have better wins than Notre Dame, as its Playoff dreams would hinge on a triple-dip against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. Notre Dame has beaten USC, Navy, Temple and Pitt — all good teams, but not comparable to the murderer's row that's faced down Oklahoma in recent weeks.

But both Oklahoma and Notre Dame have a single loss, and neither has a conference championship game to play. However, Notre Dame lost to Clemson, the No. 1 team in the country, and the Sooners lost to Texas.

Except, there's the matter of Stanford. The Irish winning in Palo Alto Saturday night (7:30 p.m. EST, FOX) is a 50/50 proposition, per S&P+.

 The Cardinal have a couple of resume problems: their season-opening loss to Northwestern and a loss this month at home to Oregon. Neither is a brutal loss, but that's still two trips to the 'L' column.

And yet, Stanford still has its own very plausible path to the Playoff. The Cardinal wrapped up the Pac-12 North for a third time in four years last weekend, so they'll face either UCLA or USC for all the Pac-12's marbles on Dec. 5. If Stanford wins against Notre Dame and its Californian neighbor in the title match, it'll be 11-2 and a league champion.

Stanford is the committee's No. 9 team this week, but a couple of teams in front of it are automatically losing more games or otherwise falling backward. Of the teams in front of the Cardinal, three come from the Big Ten, and only one — or, perhaps zero, if No. 10 Michigan gets lucky — can actually win that league. That's at least two teams out of the way if Stanford wins out, maybe three, plus No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor aren't going to both stay ahead of a Pac-12 champion Stanford. Maybe Florida beats Alabama in the SEC title game, and then there'd be true chaos.

If Stanford beats Notre Dame and then wins a conference championship game, No. 9 could pretty reasonably become No. 4 by next month. It's not likely, but it's not outrageous.

Saturday's game would be fun under any circumstance, but it's even better given the offensive bonanza the game will probably offer. The teams average a combined 70 points and 905 yards of offense per game. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Notre Dame receiver Will Fuller are nearly the best of the best at their positions, and each team ranks in the top 15 in offensive S&P+.

So, the Irish and Cardinal are about to play one of the biggest games of the season. Neither team is win-and-in, but both teams are win-and-have-a-shot. At this time of year, that's all either can ask.

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November 29, 2015
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IntheTrench
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Oklahoma's in the playoff, with a 58-23 rout of Oklahoma State: Hope Stoops can keep his braggard mouth shut. He has won 1 National Championship in 18 years.

http://newsok.com/oklahoma-rol.....le/5463550

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November 30, 2015
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Cowgirl
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IntheTrench said
Oklahoma's in the playoff, with a 58-23 rout of Oklahoma State: Hope Stoops can keep his braggard mouth shut. He has won 1 National Championship in 18 years.

http://newsok.com/oklahoma-rol.....le/5463550

 

The ending of Saturday night’s Notre Dame-Stanford game could not have been more dramatic. But the Cardinal’s last-second victory coupled with Oklahoma’s rout of Oklahoma State could produce a fairly anticlimactic College Football Playoff field.

 

With just a handful of Championship Saturday games left to play, the race could not be more clean.

 

Current No. 3 Oklahoma, now officially an 11-1 Big 12 champion, is in. The only question left is whether the Sooners play their semifinal game in Dallas or Miami.

 

The winner of next week’s Big Ten championship game between No. 4 Iowa (12-0) and No. 5 Michigan State (11-1) is in. There’s half your field.

 

No. 2 Alabama (11-1) is in if it wins next week’s SEC championship game against offensive horror show Florida (10-2).  Unless Derrick Henry misses the bus to Atlanta, the Tide are in.

 

And if No. 1 Clemson (12-0) beats No. 14 North Carolina (11-1) at the ACC title game in Charlotte — there’s your field.

 

The latter, of course, is hardly a given. So those of you who perennially root for chaos, or want an eight-team playoff yesterday — better root for the Tar Heels. Because the committee’s given no indication it would lift Larry Fedora’s team into the final four.

 

All of this would have been far more controversial if not for 10-2 Stanford’s 45-yard field goal with no time remaining to dash No. 6 Notre Dame’s last remaining playoff hopes. Had the 11-1 Irish prevailed, we’d be having a much different conversation today.

 

 

Notre Dame fans would be endlessly reminding us that Oklahoma lost to 4-7 Texas. Sooners fans would be endlessly reminding us that their team just beat three straight top-20 foes. We’d go round and round up until Tuesday night’s show, and then whoever the committee ranked lower (most likely Notre Dame) would just up its lobbying that much more.

 

As it is, Oklahoma is already the first team to punch its ticket. So much for the Big 12 needing a championship game.

 

But what happens if North Carolina wins this week? Even more intriguing, what if the Tar Heels — completely dismissed to this point — come out and blow the No. 1 team off the field?

 

It would not be as simple as “UNC takes Clemson’s place.” Not with that loss to 3-9 South Carolina, those two FCS opponents on the schedule and zero Top-25 wins to date.

 

Suddenly No. 8 Ohio State (11-1), who most of us penned obits for just a week ago, jumps back into the equation. Ditto No. 9 Stanford if it beats USC in the Pac-12 championship game.

 

Oh, and what if Florida beats Alabama? Bye bye, SEC, for one thing.

 

There’s plenty to be interested in next Saturday. In the meantime, Tuesday’s rankings show will be the least suspenseful to date.

 

Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for FOXSports.com. He covered college football and basketball for 15 years at Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter @slmandel and Facebook. Send emails and Mailbag questions to Stewart.Mandel@fox.com.

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December 1, 2015
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AND Notre Dame has now won 1 National Championship in 38 years. They really aren't relevant except to drunken Irishmen and coaches who beat up assistants on the sideline like Kelly.

Matt Hayes--here are words of wisdom from Ryan McGee: Notre Dame, shut up. You have 2 losses. Stanford, if it beats USC, deserves to go more than ND. And even if you were to beat Clemson in a rematch for the ACC championship, you would still have 2 losses and would not get into the playoff.

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When my daughter was little, she had these Disney princess jigsaw puzzles she really loved. She loved them so much she'd open them both at the same time. I warned her over and over not to do it, that she'd mix up the pieces. She ignored me.

Then one night, I heard her screaming. When I found her, she had one of the puzzles nearly done, but one piece was missing. The final piece she had in her hand was from the other puzzle. It wouldn't fit, no matter how many ways she turned it or flipped it or how hard she hammered on it.

"Sorry, kid," I told her. "It's never going to fit. You need to work on finding the missing piece."

"But Mommy sucked it up with the vacuum!"

"Well ... then you need to start another puzzle. This one's as done as it's ever going to be."

On Saturday night, as the dust settled on Week 13, I found myself having that same conversation, over and over again, on Twitter and through email. Only the tear-stained pleas weren't from my daughter -- or any kids at all. They were from grown men and women, fans of Notre Dame, who'd just been dealt a dagger of a defeat by Stanford. We've only lost to Clemson and Stanford and to both with no time left on the clock! The selection committee can see how good we really are, right?! And they were from Stanford fans, mere moments after Conrad Ukropina's 45-yarder sailed through the uprights, hollering, We have two losses, but we can still be a conference champion! You keep saying that's the most important thing to the playoff committee, right?!

And Florida fans: We can still win the SEC, that'll do it, right?!

And Baylor fans: We went through three quarterbacks ... just like Ohio State last year, right?!

And North Carolina fans: The committee knows it's not our fault that South Carolina is awful and that teams backed out of deals and stuck us with two FCS teams, right?!

And Oklahoma State fans: We were 10-0 just two weeks ago! Remember?!

But easily the loudest, most frustrated, drowned-in-helplessness fan base is located in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes' supporters continue to point out how great they looked against Michigan, when they actually gave Ezekiel Elliott the football more than a dozen times (more on that later). They have reminded me that they've lost only once in the last two seasons. And, dang it, McGee, didn't you see that doggone rain during the Michigan State game?! All of that has to matter to someone, somehow, some way ... right?!

I know it hurts, to be so close for so long but to now be on the outside looking in, watching someone tapping the keg at what was supposed to be your party. I know so-and-so is a great kid who has worked hard and he's your favorite player of all time. I know he has given you great memories. I know your team had tough luck, with those key guys who were injured at the wrong time, or even worse, those guys who decided to break a team rule at an even worse time.

And yes, I know Mother Nature wasn't kind.

I also know the summer preseason magazines predicted December would feel better than this. I know when we digitally chatted earlier this year, we worked through a few potentially awesome scenarios. We did that right up until a few days ago. But I also warned you two weeks ago the playoff had already started, that the regular season meant more than ever. When that bracket was still sprawled out and there were still teams for Mark Schlabach to actually eliminate in his Eliminator, it meant there were still plenty of scenarios to sift through. Now there's only wreckage.

The 2015 college football funnel is officially down to the skinny end. On Labor Day weekend, we started with 128 teams that technically had a shot. Now that list is probably down to five: Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Iowa and Michigan State. OK, we might get to six or even seven, assuming Stanford wins the Pac-12 and an unlikely upset happens in the SEC or ACC title games.

The wackiest of those scenarios could even allow Ohio State to slip back in. That's the one that would need the Tide, the Tigers and the Cardinal to all lose, and for the committee to still have no problem with sending an invite to a team that isn't its league's champion, and two teams from the same league.

It feels downright cruel to type that, something that dares to bring a false flicker of hope. Because the hard, cold fact of the College Football Playoff is this: Not everyone gets to keep playing, no matter how unfair it feels or how you were once able to hold that spot in your hands, only to see it slip away like it was being handled by Notre Dame in the red zone.

You know, this is how postseasons work. It's supposed to be hard. In the end, only one team -- or in this case, four teams -- will be standing at the end of next weekend. For the other teams -- including, most likely, your team -- it's time to focus on what remains. There's a bowl game to win. There's a chance to say goodbye to your favorite players. And hey, the games will still be awesome, even if your team isn't playing in them.

I'm sorry, y'all. Like I told my weeping daughter, it's never going to fit. You need to start working on another puzzle. This one's as done as it's ever going to be.

Now let's get on with Flipping the Field.

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December 1, 2015
11:29 am
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KendraBaby
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ODDS of Winning the National Championship:

http://national.suntimes.com/n.....nship-game

Bama is 11 to 10 and OU is 5 to 2.

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