Pac-12’s Playoff Prospects in Muddled Waters

For now, UCLA saved the committee from one huge headache, but there’s another one that’s not going away anytime soon.

BYU finally ran out of comebacks at the Rose Bowl, as freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum was unable to pull off another fantastic finish. Otherwise, the Cougars would’ve had the best 3-0 resume of any team after having won at Nebraska and beaten Boise State at home.

While BYU is out of playoff contention, Notre Dame certainly is not. Despite playing with DeShone Kizer, a freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start Saturday, the Irish easily dispatched Georgia Tech to improve to 3-0.

With the possible exception of its Oct. 3 game at Clemson, Notre Dame will be favored to win its remaining games. While the Irish likely will have to run the table, there is almost no chance that the playoff committee can keep out a team that’s beaten nine Power 5 opponents, including possibly two conference champions.

If Notre Dame is included in the playoff, that means at least two Power 5 title winners will be excluded. For now the committee should just be thankful that it no longer has to deal with a possible 12-0 BYU team as well.

Senseless polls

The single best thing about the playoff era is that it’s rendered the polls meaningless. During the BCS era, two polls accounted for two-thirds of the standings and therefore always dictated the top two teams at the end of the season (after the formula was fixed for the final time in 2004). The worse of the two was the Coaches poll, which has always been short on transparency and long on conflict of interest.

Or just simply lacking in credibility.

Somehow, Auburn is still ranked in the top 25 in the latest Coaches poll (at No. 25). Missouri, coming off lackluster wins over Arkansas State and UConn, also stays ranked at No. 23. And USC is six spots ahead of Stanford even though both teams are 2-1 and the Cardinal just beat the Trojans in L.A.

Is there any reason for this poll to continue to exist?

The AP poll isn’t all that much better, with also USC ahead of Stanford and Missouri still ranked. But the good news is, in the grand scheme of things these polls mean absolutely nothing now, not even a little bit.

Pac-12 Network mess

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was on hand for the Stanford-USC game at the L.A. Coliseum and conceded to the media before the game that talks with AT&T to get the Pac-12 Network on DirecTV have collapsed and that there is no chance to increase the network’s paltry 12 million subscribers “in the foreseeable future.”

After hopeful signs in the preseason following AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV, the sides could not come an agreement. AT&T, one of the conference’s major sponsors, wanted an equity stake in the currently 100 percent conference-owned network. Scott brought the proposal to the leaders of the conference’s 12 schools and said it was unanimously rejected.

Now in its fourth season of existence, the Pac-12 Network has been a disappointment if not a colossal failure in terms of being a revenue generator. While BTN (Big Ten Network) and the SEC Network are minting money for their respective conferences with more than 60 million subscriber each, the Pac-12 Network is dragging down the conference in other ways.

On select Saturdays one Pac-12 team is subjected to an 8 p.m. kickoff so its game may be televised on the Pac-12 Network. Judging by the disappointing attendance for that time slot in the first three weeks, fans were staying away from those late games in droves even if they couldn’t see it on TV anyway.

Game of the Week

Cal 45, Texas 44: In a game where the teams combined for almost 1,200 yards of offense, the Bears nearly blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter only to be rescued by Longhorns kicker Nick Rose’s shanked PAT that should’ve tied the score with 1:11 left in regulation. Instead of an embarrassing collapse, Cal remains the only unbeaten Pac-12 North team after winning all three of its nonconference games.

A close runnerup goes to Miami-Nebraska, a game between two erstwhile powerhouses that played each other four times for the national title (1983, 1988, 1994 and 2001). The Huskers rallied from 23 points down with less than 10 minutes left in regulation to send the game to OT, only to lose it on a Miami field goal, 36-33. Nebraska’s now 1-2, having lost both games in walkoff fashion (the other to BYU on a Hail Mary pass).

Player of the Week

Leonard Fournette, LSU: Auburn players piped up before Saturday’s game that it shouldn’t be “difficult” to defend LSU’s sophomore running back. All Fournette did was rushing for 228 yards and three TDs on just 19 carries. He played only three quarters but produced one highlight reel run after another as LSU crushed Auburn, 45-21.

Our Rankings

1. Michigan State, 2. Ole Miss, 3. TCU, 4. Ohio State, 5. LSU, 6. UCLA, 7. Notre Dame, 8. Georgia, 9. Oregon, 10. Alabama, 11. Clemson, 12. Florida State, 13. Utah, 14. Oklahoma, 15. Texas A&M.


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