The playoff selection committee will have its first in-season meeting this weekend, followed by the release of its first rankings on Tuesday. But there’s just one problem. The committee members will be trapped in their Metroplex hotel conference room with not a lot of interesting games to break down.
Of the top seven teams in this week’s AP poll, five of them have a bye this week. That’s right, five – Ohio State, Baylor, LSU, Michigan State and Alabama. And of all the teams currently in contention for a playoff spot, only one is playing against a ranked opponent.
So the committee will be playing a lot of attention to just a handful of contests, out of all these games on national TV this weekend:
Game of the Week
Notre Dame at Temple, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
No one possibly could have envisioned this being the game of the week, in the only matchup pitting ranked foes. Even more shocking is that No. 21 Temple is the one arriving at this showdown undefeated, even though Notre Dame is ranked higher at No. 9.
The Owls have a chance to really solidify themselves as the frontrunner for the New Year’s Six bowl bid reserved for the top Group of Five champion. Having already beaten Penn State, they might even enter the conversation for a playoff spot should they defeat Notre Dame at home.
For the Irish, this is a must-win game if they want to entertain any thoughts of being in the four-team playoff, after having already lost to Clemson. A defeat in Philly will not only eliminate Notre Dame as a playoff contender, but put its hopes for an NY6 bowl bid in peril as well.
Other games the committee will be watching
West Virginia at TCU, 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday), FS1
USC at California, 3 p.m. ET, FOX
Florida vs. Georgia at Jacksonville, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Clemson at NC State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
Stanford at Washington State, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Once upon a time, the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party was almost always the game for the last week of October, but this rivalry fell on hard times after Urban Meyer’s departure from Florida. Now it’s back, and the surprising Gators are carrying a better record and a No. 11 ranking entering the game. The wounded Dawgs, though, can salvage their season by beating their rivals and winning the SEC East.
Another matchup of importance that nobody saw coming will be this week’s “Pac-12 After Dark” special. Both Stanford and Washington State were left for dead after season-opening disasters: The Cardinal were desultory in a loss to Northwestern while the Cougs lost to FCS team Portland State. But both teams have righted their ships and at stake is the top spot in the Pac-12 North. More importantly, for Stanford, it must win to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Also keep an eye on …
Vanderbilt at Houston, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN 2
Of the 12 remaining unbeaten teams, three of them are in the American Athletic. While Memphis has the best chance at staying undefeated this week with a game against Tulane, the other two teams face high-profile nonconference opponents.
Tom Herman has done a remarkable job of turning around a Cougars team that’s now 7-0 and vying for a NY6 bowl spot. A victory over Vanderbilt will continue to build momentum for a high-flying offense that’s scored at least 34 points in each game. While the Commodores are generally considered the doormat of the SEC, they still play in the SEC and are coming off an upset win over Missouri.
Tennessee-Martin at Arkansas, 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network
If it’s almost November, it must mean it’s time for the SEC to again take a break from its rigorous conference schedule. After beating up on cupcakes for most of September, SEC teams play a few conference games but then save a spot at a critical time for glorified scrimmages.
UT-Martin’s visit to Fayetteville begins a slate of nine SEC games against low-level nonconference foes – including seven against FCS teams. (The other Power 5 conferences combined to have just one such game for the remainder of the season – Chattanooga at Florida State.) And oh, by the way, this isn’t the Skyhawks’ first trip to SEC-ville in 2015 – they were throttled by Ole Miss, 76-3, in the season opener.
Last week’s Despicable Meet: Ohio State 49, Rutgers 7.