The first College Football Playoff rankings came out last night with MSU debuting at #7, right about where most thought they would fall. The rankings aren't perfect however, so let's dive right in shall we? To the chart!
I take no umbrage with the contents or order of the top three, I think the committee actually nailed it. It's the next two spots, those would be Alabama and Notre Dame, I have some issues with.
Bama lost at home to a two-loss team while committing five turnovers. Their best wins are Wisconsin and Texas A&M, each of whom also have two losses. That resume, to me, doesn't deserve top four placement over an undefeated power five team (or three). Beat LSU and my tune changes drastically.
Notre Dame has an even weaker case. Yes, their loss to Clemson is about as quality as it gets but it is a loss. That seems important! Early season victories over Texas (3-5) and Georgia Tech (3-6) look irrelevant and the win over USC (5-3) doesn't hold much water either. Their "best" win? A neutral field victory over...Temple.
Ultimately, I would place Baylor, MSU and TCU ahead of at least Notre Dame, in some order, on the virtue of being undefeated but clearly the committee values other things at this point in the process. #Prestige.
Michigan State fans should take comfort in this one fact: If the Spartans win out, they will get in. Regardless of the criteria, a 13-0 Michigan State team with wins at Michigan, at Ohio State and on a neutral field against (presumably) Iowa is worthy of a spot in the CFP. I refuse to believe otherwise, at the risk of a brain aneurysm.
To be clear, winning out is the ONLY way Mark Dantonio's team will have a chance to play for the ultimate prize. That, for the record, is something we as fans should be fine with
Sure, it would be nice to know there is a backdoor into the playoffs, but controlling your own destiny is a wonderful thing...even if it requires marching into Columbus and coming out with a W.
1. Barring complete breakdowns, the SEC and Big Ten are each getting a school in
Each conference has three teams with clear paths to the CFP. In the SEC, Florida can get to the SEC Championship game with a win this weekend, but must win out to stay in the CFP picture. In the West, the loser of LSU-Alabama will face an uphill climb but the winner is in great shape.
In the #B1G, the loser of Ohio State-Michigan State is done for and Iowa can't afford to drop a game and remain in contention. However, the chances of one of these teams going undefeated are relatively high and if they do, the #B1G will once again be represented in the CFP.
2. If Clemson can win this week, they're getting in unless...
They CLEMSON all over the place! Seriously though, Syracuse, Wake Forest, South Carolina sans-OBC and either Duke or North Carolina is a weak, but VERY Clemson-able slate. ACC Football, everyone!
3. The Big 12 is in trouble
The League of One True Champion did not place a team in the top five this week and it looks like one of Baylor and TCU will have to go undefeated in order to get in. That is going to be difficult for either to do since they each have backloaded schedules.
Oklahoma is the dark horse here. If they can beat Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State they will have a strong case among the one-loss schools. Then again the Sooners DID lose to Texas this year, so who knows what will happen. They don't call it the wild west for nothing.
WHO TO ROOT FOR
Everyone is back in action this week, so let's start with the new top dog.
#1 Clemson (8-0) at #16 Florida State (7-1)
ROOT FOR: Florida State
WHY: Eliminate an unbeaten
Listen, I don't want to do this anymore than you do. Rooting for a whining penis like Jimbo Fisher brings me no joy. If noted crab thief Jameis Winston were still around, I would unabashedly root for Clemson, regardless of the impact on MSU. But, luckily for all of us, Jaboo is in Tampa and I am thinking with a "clear" head.
Clemson is deservedly the top team in the first poll. The Tigers are undefeated with a great win over Notre Dame to boot. The Noles don't own an impressive win, but can put themselves in the discussion by taking down the Tigers.
Another reason to root for Florida State: They still have a trip to Gainesville to deal with. The Gators aren't bulletproof (OH GOD ROBOT ALLIGATORS) but the Swamp is always a hostile environment unless you're Georgia Southern. Clemson on the other hand has that laughably easy schedule remaining and you have to like their chances of clinching a playoff berth if they can win in Death Valley this weekend.
#8 TCU (8-0) at #14 Oklahoma State (8-0)
ROOT FOR: Oklahoma State
WHY: DOWN WITH THE BIG 12
The Fightin' T. Boone Pickens' have ridden a multi-quarterback offense to an 8-0 start, most recently dropping a causal 70-spot on Ryan Gosling...sorry...Kliff Kingsbury's Texas Tech squad. This week they host the Horned Frogs of TCU who have had an impressive season in their own right, overcoming a litany of injuries on their way to a perfect record.
I mentioned it earlier (and said last week) that I think the Big 12 will once again miss out on the playoffs, and my confidence in that prediction will skyrocket if the Pokes can beat TCU. Both teams have tough games remaining after this week but I simply have more faith that Oklahoma State will lose another game on their schedule than I do that TCU will.
Yes, OK St gets to play both Baylor and Oklahoma in Stillwater while TCU has to go to Norman, but Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson give the Frogs a chance to win anywhere against any opponent. Needless to say, I don't feel the same way about the Cowboys signal-callers.
The winner of this one will remain in the thick of the conversation, but the loser is toast...TEXAS TOAST.
#2 LSU (7-0) at #4 Alabama (7-1)
ROOT FOR: LSU
WHY: Get Bama out of the picture A$AP
This is the marquee matchup of the week, if not the season. Arguments can be made for picking either side but since we are looking at this through green-and-white lenses, I'm going with LSU.
If you follow the Clemson-Florida State logic, Alabama would be the pick. The more one-loss teams the better, right? Plus, if Bama should win AND Ole Miss wins out, the Rebels, not LSU or Bama, would go to the SEC Championship game. In that case, it's hard to picture a two-loss Ole Miss making the playoff cut but...not so fast my friend!
In my view, it's better to get Alabama completely out of the discussion than to leave the picture murky. That Ole Miss scenario is admittedly a stretch, to say the least. The Rebs still have to host Arkansas and LSU and travel on the road for the Egg Bowl. More importantly, I think MSU would fare much better in a matchup against the Tigers than the Tide, especially defensively. I also just got over the night terror's given to me by the 49-3 2011 Capital One Bowl beatdown. Let's not do that again!
Leonard Fournette is a paralysis-inducing monster who can win a game by himself, but he is the only dimension of the LSU offense.
It's not like Jacob Coker has been lighting up the scoreboard in Tuscaloosa but he will take shots down the field and have you heard? MSU has had some secondary issues this season.
Brandon Harris and the Tigers' style plays to the Spartans defensive strengths. While Harris is a running threat and has yet to throw an interception, calling the Tigers' offense predictable might qualify as an understatement.
Case in point: Harris has 75 completions this season (58.6% completion percentage). Fournette alone has 176 carries. That's about all you need to know.
MSU could scheme LSU similarly to how they schemed Michigan; pinning their ears back, bringing constant pressure with their front seven and daring Harris to throw downfield. You still have to stop Fournette (much easier said than done) but doing so without having to worry about a dynamic passing attack should help.
This scenario is a long ways away, but hopefully we can revisit this discussion down the road. For now, Geaux Tigers.
Check back next week for more complaining!