What went down last week:
Remember on Tuesday when the playoff rankings came out and Louisville was ranked seventh and somehow Texas A&M jumped up to fourth?
Remember that wave of existential dread that flooded your conscious and washed away your hopes and dreams, leaving you feeling like you and everyone you know will eventually die and nothing matters?
Well turn that frown upside down kiddies, because Texas A&M lost and Louisville won. Actually, not only did Louisville win on the day the fourth ranked Aggies lost, the ‘Cards also racked up tons of coveted and highly elusive “style points” the liberal media never shuts up about.
Unfortunately, fifth ranked Washington obliterated a hapless Call squad and sixth ranked Ohio State ran through Nebraska like the Marines in Grenada. None of this is a death sentence for Louisville but it does mean that the ‘Cards are gonna need a little help. What all of this does mean however, is that Ohio State will leap frog Washington to number four in Tuesday’s playoff rankings because the committee isn’t going to respect the Pac-12 blowout over the Big-Ten blowout. It appears the Big-Ten is sitting in the pole position to send two conference members to the playoffs, which is bad for Louisville, who plays in the ACC, which is also hoping to send two teams to the dance.
If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about and how can the committee leap from an undefeated Washington again, here is why OSU will be ranked fourth:
Penn State, the team that handed OSU its only loss, ran roughshod over Iowa 41-14. I expect Penn State to jump up to ninth behind Wisconsin at seventh and Auburn at eighth in the playoff rankings Tuesday. This will give OSU a very quality loss to go along with quality wins over Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.
The Big-Ten will put four teams in the top nine setting the stage for two of their schools to make the playoffs if OSU knocks off Michigan. While the Big-Ten is number one in the hearts and minds of the playoff committee, the Pac-12 didn’t help clear up the playoff picture at all this week.
All of the PAC-12 games that mattered where blowouts and all the top teams (Washington, Washington State, Colorado, USC, & Utah) won. It seems that by surviving cannibalization this week, the Pac-12 champ still has a chance to make the playoffs but only if that champ is an undefeated Washington.
Washington destroyed Cal as Jake Browning threw for 378 yards and six touchdowns, 208 of those yards went to John Ross and 104 went to Dante Pettis as the pair split the six touchdowns equally, with three a piece. There isn’t much to read into with this one, Cal’s pass defense is highly suspect and the outcome of this one was pretty much what everyone thought it would be.
Meanwhile, USC put hands and feet all over Oregon in a 45-20 beatdown, led by Ronald Jones III’s 171-yards rushing and 4 touchdowns.
What you are rooting for next week:
Next week’s top national matchup will be in Seattle in the form of USC at Washington.
The Trojans will enter Husky Stadium on the strength of a five game winning streak with intentions of keeping their Pac-12 championship game hopes alive. USC is currently second in the Pac-12 South with a conference record of 5-2, trailing a 5-1 Colorado team they have already defeated head-to-head. Look for Southern California to treat this game as their redemption song. With their head-to-head win over the Buffs, and Colorado still having to face 7-2 Washington State as well as 7-2 Utah, USC is playing for a division title, Pac-12 championship, and a Rose-Bowl bid.
Louisville desperately needs USC to knock off Washington this week. The committee has shown they don’t respect the Pac-12’s strength this season and remember that they failed to put a team in the playoffs in 2015. If Washington loses to USC they will fall behind Louisville in the subsequent rankings. Washington will still have a playoff shot if they win the Pac-12 Championship with one-loss, but it isn’t necessarily a lock. That’s a discussion for later. Ideally, Louisville fans want to see Washington lose to USC and Washington State in the Apple Cup and this game is phase one.
My predictions for Tuesday:
I expect the College Football Rankings to shake out something like this:
*= Playoff spot is virtually locked up
- Alabama* – They have a very winnable schedule ahead of them with the only “challenge” being Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Even if they lose that game they will destroy the SEC East in the championship game. Their ticket is already punched for all intents and purposes.
- Clemson* – Nothing left on their schedule but pastries. This week they face Pitt, a team with a decimated secondary who was just shredded by 5-4 Miami. Even if they drop a cupcake and win the ACC championship they’re in. If they go undefeated then lose in the ACC Championship game, I don’t think the committee will punish them for playing and extra game and they will likely get in at four in that scenario. Like Bama, their ticket is pretty much punched.
- Michigan – The Wolverines need to beat Ohio State. Win that and they’re in no matter what happens in the Big-Ten title game. If they lose to OSU, they may still get in if Washington losses two games or if they fail to win the Pac-12. More on that in below but Michigan controls their own destiny for the moment.
- Ohio State – They will jump Washington in the rankings this week because they have beaten Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Nebraska. The committee put a one loss Texas A&M team over undefeated Washington last week and they will do the same thing this week.
- Washington – It’s looking like Washington must go undefeated to make the final four. If they’re only loss comes in the Pac12 championship, they may still get in but not if Ohio State beats Michigan then wins the Big-Ten. The Huskies are starting to feel like 2014 TCU or Baylor. While I said that I think Clemson gets in if their only loss comes in their conference championship, I don’t think the committee will give the Huskies the same benefit. Clemson has knocked off Louisville and Auburn, two teams I expected to be ranked in the top-ten come season’s end. Washington has beaten Utah and that’s it. Even if they beat both USC (which will be the Trojans’ fourth loss) and Washington State, their strength of schedule and lack of quality wins mandates an undefeated Pac-12 championship season for them to obtain a playoff berth, in the event of two one loss Big-Ten teams.
- Louisville – The Cards need Michigan to knock of Ohio State and for Washington to lose two games. If that happens and the ‘Cards win out they will sneak in at four. However, if those two things don’t happen there is no way they will be in the playoffs. Fortunately for the ‘Cards, there is a very good chance all three of those things happen. If not, they will be playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl, which isn’t such a bad consolation prize.
- Wisconsin – The Badgers being ranked seventh on the strength of their win over LSU and overrated pseudo-conference-foe Nebraska is the greatest thing that could have happened for the Big-Ten this season. Since Wisconsin lost to both Michigan and Ohio State by seven points respectively, the Big-Ten has created a self-insulated/self-sustaining heir of superiority within the minds of committee voters. This works forwards and backwards for the conference as it bolsters both Michigan’s and Ohio State’s rankings by giving both teams a quality win over a top-ten conference opponent. At the same time, it helps the conference put their non-playoff qualifiers in New Year’s Six bowls.
- Auburn – Even though they almost lost to Vanderbilt, Auburn will either be at eight or nine. Auburn boasts wins over LSU and Arkansas, the win over Arkansas being an impressive blowout, plus Arkansas just smashed 11th ranked Florida, 31-10.
- Penn State – Auburn may be ranked here and Penn State may be eighth but that doesn’t really matter. Penn State is top-ten based on their flukey upset of Ohio State, and recent blow outs against Purdue and Iowa. I wouldn’t have Penn State this high personally, but the committee put them at 12 last week and three teams ahead of them (Texas A&M, Florida, and Nebraska) lost in convincing fashion. Also, see Wisconsin above for the Big-Ten bias theory I cooked up.
- Oklahoma – The Sooners round out what I think will be the top-ten. This spot could probably go to a number of teams, and this could very well be where Texas A&M lands, but Oklahoma has corrected course since dropping two games in September, one of which was a road loss to Ohio State. They did however struggle against Iowa State Thursday night in Ames so that could prevent them from cracking the top ten. Oklahoma’s presence in the top ten isn’t that important on Tuesday and this piece is running long.
Louisville’s roadmap to the Playoffs:
I think Michigan knocks off Ohio State on the road and Washington drops two games while Louisville runs the table. If this were to happen, two ACC schools would make the playoffs, turning college football on its head and giving everyone the David v Goliath matchup they all want to see, Lamar Jackson and the ‘Cards v. the might Alabama Crimson Tide.
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