America’s Navy isn’t just a “global force for good.” It might make you wait an extra week to make your New Year’s plans.
In its first year as a member of the American Athletic Conference, Navy is isn’t playing like a novice but a seasoned juggernaut, going 6-0 in conference play and 8-1 overall, with its only loss to No. 4 Notre Dame. The Midshipmen face a showdown at Houston the day after Thanksgiving to decide the AAC West title and if they win that game, they’ll play for the conference championship a week later.
And here’s the rub, if Navy wins the AAC, it’s nearly assured of claiming the New Year’s Six bowl slot guaranteed to the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion. But Navy actually has another game the week after the College Football Playoff committee is supposed to release its final rankings – the rivalry game against Army.
This presents a dilemma for the committee. But worry not, a protocol is all set up just for this scenario, CFP executive director Bill Hancock told The PostGame.
According to Hancock, “if the committee believes the result of the Army-Navy game could affect Army’s or Navy’s ranking and therefore its place in the playoff or its selection as the group of five representative, only the pairings that affect Army and Navy would be delayed until after the Army-Navy game.”
In this year’s case, if Navy were to win the AAC title and deemed to be worthy of an NY6 slot after the games on Dec. 5, the committee would release the rankings, the playoff pairings and parings for all other bowls except one. Since the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl have conference affiliations, either the Fiesta or the Peach bowl pairings will be withheld when the announcement is scheduled to be made on Dec. 6.
The committee then would convene by phone on Dec. 12 after the Army-Navy game, before releasing the final pairings that night on ESPN. If Navy wins the game, it would presumably keep its NY6 bowl slot. But if the Midshipmen were upset by Army (2-8 with a game against Rutgers on Saturday), they might lose that spot to another G5 conference champion.
Got all that? The gist of it is that you might not get to make all your plans by Dec. 6, thanks to Keenan Reynolds and his shipmates who are having a sensational season.
Pac-12 Goes Dark
That train whistle you heard Saturday night at Stanford was the playoff express departing the west coast, never to return for the 2015 season. The Pac-12 will not take part in the four-team playoff this year, so it’ll be the Rose Bowl or bust.
The Pac-12 is done after Stanford’s agonizing loss to Oregon combined with Utah’s overtime defeat at Arizona. Both teams were leading their respective divisions, though needing some help to get into the playoff picture. After Saturday, no Pac-12 team will be in the playoff committee’s top 10 rankings, and no chance to make it back to the top four by the season’s end.
Let’s begin with Stanford. The Cardinal had an early lead, blew it, but still were in prime position to win in the fourth quarter. But quarterback Kevin Hogan, who has been steady and at times spectacular this season after the opening-game loss at Northwestern, fumbled the snap twice in the game’s final eight minutes. He still engineered a last-minute drive with a chance to tie, but his hurried throw in the face of a blitzer on the two-point conversion attempt was off target.
With that loss, the Cardinal are no longer in the conversation for a playoff spot, and now it must win the Big Game on Saturday just to clinch the Pac-12 North. They will get to play spoiler in the regular-season finale against Notre Dame, but that showdown will have playoff implication only for the Irish.
The loss was even more costly for Utah, as it’s no longer in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 South race. The Utes held a late lead against an Arizona team playing without injured QB Anu Solomon, who was knocked out by a helmet-to-helmet hit. But the Wildcats rallied late and then won it in overtime when backup Jerrard Randall completed his only pass of the game in the second OT for the winning score.
As a result, the South title likely will be decided by the USC-UCLA game in two weeks. The Utes now must beat the Bruins on Saturday and hope either Oregon or UCLA knocks off the Trojans to win the South. Otherwise, Utah is staring at a minor bowl berth after spending much of the season ranked in the top 10.
The Pac-12 is in this predicament because it has the toughest scheduling structure of any Power 5 conference. Every team plays nine conference games and then there’s the conference title game. On top of that, nearly all Pac-12 teams play at least one, sometimes two, nonconference games against Power 5 opponents. No other conference faces that kind of scheduling gauntlet.
Commissioner Larry Scott has been complaining about the inequity of Power 5 scheduling, and he has a point. This coming weekend, while Pac-12 teams are knocking heads against one another, the presumptive SEC title game combatants have virtue byes before their season-finale rivalry games: Alabama plays Charleston Southern (FCS) and Florida faces Florida Atlantic (2-8).
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Game of the Week
Washington State 31, UCLA 27: In another edition of #Pac12AfterDark, quarterback Luke Falk drove his Cougars 75 yards in seven plays, hitting Gabe Marks on a 21-yard strike with 3 second left to win the game. Falk personified this season’s Wazzu team that just never gives up, despite taking several hard hits that nearly knocked him out of the game. And in true Mike Leach fashion, the Cougs didn’t settle for a game-tying field goal and instead went for the win in regulation.
Player of the Week
Jake Rudock, Michigan: In the span of less than a full season, the former Iowa graduate transfer QB has transformed from a mere game manager to record setter under the tutelage of Harbaugh. Rudock threw for 440 yards and school-record six touchdowns, including a 5-yard connection with Jehu Chesson as time expired in regulation to send the game into overtime as Michigan rallied to beat Indiana, 48-41 in 2 OTs.
With Baylor, LSU, Stanford and Utah all losing on Saturday, the committee’s top 10 will be quite a bit different from last week, though the top half should remain the same:
1. Clemson, 2. Alabama, 3. Ohio State, 4. Notre Dame, 5. Iowa, 6. Oklahoma State, 7. Oklahoma, 8. Florida, 9. Michigan State, 10. Baylor.