This week’s committee comedy show was delayed by nearly three hours because of a programming conflict with ESPN’s college basketball telecast. Reason No. 128 that the CFP weekly rankings are more comic relief than analytical powerhouse. Take this stuff seriously at your own peril.
Chairman Jeff Long’s latest gem is that Oklahoma’s loss to Texas “just doesn’t go away.” But a year ago Ohio State’s loss to similarly mediocre Virginia Tech did go away at the very last minute, in time to allow the Buckeyes to sneak in to the four-team playoff. We’ll see if in three weeks that OU loss to the Longhorns would be suddenly forgotten and vanish into thin air.
With the Pac-12 removing itself from the playoff picture, the last spot will be up for grabs between Notre Dame and the Big 12 champion. For the time being, the committee, with the backing of a strong Irish contingent, is not backing off its preference for 1-loss Notre Dame.
The Irish have a “home game” at Fenway Park this week against Boston College, the Big 12 continues its own four-team elimination tournament, while the SEC collectively takes the week off because it’s the mighty SEC. The committee will spend most of its weekend checking out the Big 12 and the Big Ten, out of all these on national TV, and a few others:
(Rankings by selection committee)
Game of the Week
10. Baylor at 6. Oklahoma State, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX
After being left out of the inaugural playoff, the Big 12 decided to backload its schedule this season, forcing its four best teams to duke things out in the season’s final three weeks. But so far all it’s done is allowing these teams to cannibalize themselves and putting the conference’s playoff hopes in jeopardy once again.
So now Oklahoma State is the only Big 12 team remaining undefeated, and it will be taking on a wounded Baylor team that lost its first game last week against Oklahoma. The Cowboys are the Big 12’s best hope to claim a playoff spot, but it must run through the gauntlet of Baylor and Bedlam to finish the season. If they do go down, then the Big 12 will need a Notre Dame loss to Stanford to have any chance to make the playoff.
Other games the committee will be watching
12. Michigan at Penn State, noon ET, ABC
9. Michigan State at 3. Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
24. USC at 23. Oregon, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
UCLA at 13. Utah, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX
18. TCU at 7. Oklahoma, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
The Big Ten East race is coming down to its top four teams facing each other in the final two weeks of the regular season. A victory by Michigan and Ohio State this week will set up a winner-take-all The Game next week in Ann Arbor featuring Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer and a television executive’s dream. But the Spartans, having already trumped Michigan with a miracle win earlier in the season, can spoil those plans by upsetting the Buckeyes.
All eyes on the Pac-12, now left with the Rose Bowl as the consolation prize, will be on the South, where a three-team race should be sorted out this week. If USC and UCLA win their respective games, next week’s L.A. City Championship will decide the South winner to take on Stanford in the conference title game.
In the Big 12’s undercard this week, Oklahoma must continue winning to make the Texas loss “go away.” And the Sooners should root for their rivals Cowboys to beat Baylor to make Bedlam much more meaningful in the eyes of the committee.
Also keep an eye on …
21. Memphis at Temple, noon ET, ESPNU
Temple is still in the driver’s seat in the American Athletic East race, but its grip is now tenuous after last week’s loss to South Florida. A loss to Memphis will eliminate the Owls from Group of 5’s New Year’s Six considerations even if they somehow come back and win the conference championship.
Having lost to both Houston and Navy, Memphis is out of the running for the AAC West title, so it can only play spoiler at this point, even though it’s still ranked by the committee. The Cougars and Midshipmen must avoid stumbling in trap games this week to set up next week’s winner-take-all game for the division title.
6 SEC games
While all other conferences – Power 5 or otherwise – are in the heat of their respective races, the SEC conveniently takes a breather with all of its top teams having a virtual bye before next week’s rivalry games.
The four teams facing ACC rivals (Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky) and the Iron Bowl combatants are all taking on either FCS or the dregs of Sun Belt and Conference USA. No other conference has a scheduling setup that allows such freebies this late in the season. In fact, among the other four Power 5 conferences there is only one nonconference contest in the entire month of November – this week’s Rutgers-Army game.
Of course, the committee will not punish the SEC for this scheduling abomination. It’ll be business as usual.
Last week’s Despicable Meet: TCU 23, Kansas 17.