Who Wins the First Playoff Elimination Game? Big Questions for Week 10 in College Football
With this week’s release of the College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings, every game suddenly takes on new importance. Here are some of the big questions going into this week:
How Much Impact Will the Playoff Committee’s Rankings Have?
Probably not much. If Mississippi State and Florida State win out, they’re likely to be the top two seeds -- we already knew that. Beyond that, we also knew that a whole lot of one-loss SEC teams will knock each other off in the coming weeks. With that said, however, we do now have an idea of how the committee is thinking.
The biggest loser (besides Marshall who, despite being undefeated, didn’t crack the Top 25) appears to be Notre Dame who, despite having just one close loss to Florida State, clocks in at No. 10. Those wins over Stanford and Michigan don’t look nearly as impressive as they did at the time, so the Irish are getting knocked down due to their weak schedule. The biggest winner, on the other hand, looks to be TCU. After their fourth-quarter collapse against Baylor, many thought the Horned Frogs’ chances were dead. But checking in at No. 7, there's a good chance TCU could sneak in the back door if the SEC West cannibalizes itself over the next few weeks.
And for everybody outside the top four, don’t panic -- there are still lots of potential pitfalls for the teams ahead of you.
How Will the SEC Handle Its First Play-In Game?
The playoff committee didn’t waste any time giving us our first elimination game, with No. 3 Auburn taking on No. 4 Ole Miss. Both teams already knew that a second loss would likely doom their playoff hopes. But this week’s rankings set in stone that a playoff spot is theirs to lose. SEC West games are always exciting, especially this year, but these playoff seedings will only add another level of drama and pressure.
This should be a fun one, with Auburn’s physical rushing offense (10th nationally) going against the Rebels top-ranked defense (10.5 points per game).
Can Florida State Keep Its Championship Hopes Alive?
After yet another run-in with the Tallahassee Police Department, Florida State can’t wait to start playing again and stop coping with off-field scandals. But the Seminoles could have their hands full this week, going on the road against a talented Louisville squad that ranks fourth nationally in total defense. With almost two full weeks of dealing with the controversial ending of their win over Notre Dame and the police blotter, it will be interesting to see the Seminoles’ mind-set going in. With a weak schedule, Florida State probably can't afford a loss this year if it hopes to get back to the title game.
How big is this game for the Cardinals? At least one Louisville restaurant has announced that crab legs will not be available on its raw bar as long as Jameis Winston is in town:
How Far Can Texas A&M Fall?
Remember back to Week 1 when Texas A&M went on the road, upset South Carolina, and Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill surged to the top of the Heisman polls? Well, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, and it swept A&M’s high hopes away with them. Hill’s performance has declined each week, to the point that coach Kevin Sumlin has re-opened the quarterback competition and may bench Hill this week.
After losing three in a row, the Aggies should be able to get past a weak Louisiana-Monroe team this week, regardless of who is under center. But it could be a rough ending to the season with matchups at No. 3 Auburn, vs. Missouri and vs. No. 19 LSU, making a .500 season a real possibility. Somewhere rich Aggie boosters are already trying to figure out how many autographs they’d have to buy to convince Johnny Manziel to come back.
Who Survives the Pac-12 Showdowns?
For all the focus on the SEC, don’t lose sight of the fact that this is a big week in Pac-12, with two games between ranked teams and No. 5 Oregon taking on its longtime nemesis Stanford. The last two years, Stanford has knocked the Ducks out of championship contention and, with three disappointing losses this year, the Cardinal would love nothing more than to do it again.
Elsewhere, No. 17 Utah travels to No. 14 Arizona State in a battle of one-loss teams while No. 22 UCLA hopes to defend its home field and give No. 12 Arizona its second loss.
It’s appropriate that Halloween is coming up -- if the cards break the wrong way for the Pac-12 powers, this weekend could result in a scary bloodletting that will haunt the conference come playoff time.