The happiest people about Navy’s upset of Houston – besides the giddy Midshipmen who get an extra school day off – are probably the members of the College Football Playoff selection committee. A potential giant headache has suddenly vanished into thin air.
The Cougars’ defeat eliminated them from the playoff race as well as any possibility of a Group of Five team crashing the four-team party. Louisville also became collateral damage of Houston’s 46-40 loss at Annapolis, as the Cardinals are now robbed of any signature victory on their resume.
With that, the playoff pecking order seems pretty clear now. The Big 12 has virtually eliminated itself from the race, leaving conference champions from the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC vying for the four spots. One other team is also lurking – the loser of the Michigan-Ohio State game. With both teams steamrolling toward their Nov. 26 showdown, it’s highly likely that neither will be defeated except in that one game.
So, to recap, this is where the playoff race stands, by conference:
- Big Ten: Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska
- SEC: Alabama, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Florida
- ACC: Clemson, Louisville, Virginia Tech
- Pac-12: Washington
- Michigan-Ohio State loser
- Big 12: Baylor, West Virginia
For all intents and purposes, these are the only 14 teams still in the hunt for a playoff spot. Houston’s loss has made the selection committee’s job that much easier.
As for the Cougars, not only are they completely out of the playoff picture, they’re in danger of missing a berth in the New Year’s Six bowl game. Remember, the Group of Five automatic entry is guaranteed only to the highest-ranked G5 conference champion, and right now Houston needs Navy to lose twice just to win its division.
Houston’s demise makes Boise State the frontrunner for that G5 automatic berth as the Broncos are 5-0, with a pair of victories over Pac-12 teams. Western Michigan would be right behind Boise, as those Broncos are 6-0 with a pair of victories over Big Ten teams.
Game of the Week
Texas A&M 45, Tennessee 38 (OT): Butch Jones’ Vols finally ran out of miracles after trailing big and then rallying for a third straight game. Tennessee came back from 21- and 17-point deficits to beat Florida and Georgia and was down 21 to the Aggies and looked out of it. But the Vols got a late fumble that went for a touchback to mount a drive to tie and survived regulation when A&M missed its game-winning field goal attempt. But they couldn’t carry on in overtime and must move on fast as Alabama is next.
Player of the Week
JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC: Forget his five catches for a game-high 113 yards, the best play was the yards that Smith-Schuster didn’t get after catching a pass for 25 yards with 1:15 remaining that allowed USC to seal its 21-17 victory over Colorado. JuJu could’ve walked into the end zone for a touchdown to put the Trojans up by 10, but that would’ve allowed the Buffs to get the ball back – and even if it’s unlikely – to have a chance to get back in the game. It was both an unselfish and smart play and deserve our highest praise.
The Weak I
A day after the 100-year anniversary of Georgia Tech’s 222-0 pasting of Cumberland, a game of equal absurdity took place in Michigan’s 78-0 rout of Rutgers. This is supposed to be a Big Ten conference matchup, but it was a mismatch more resembling of an FCS “body bag” blowout. Michigan outgained Rutgers in yards, 600-39, with the Knights getting 29 of those in the final two drives against the Wolverines’ third- and fourth-stringers. Or put it this way, Michigan had twice as many points as Rutgers had yards.
The Weak II
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey now has to scramble to figure out how he may reschedule the LSU-Florida game that was supposed to be played Saturday in the Swamp. But in a true display of master statecraft, outgoing Florida AD Jeremy Foley outmaneuvered Sankey to force a postponement that now looks like an outright cancellation, which serves to Florida’s advantage. There’s no easy solution to get the game made up, and likely Sankey will just have to pray that this unplayed game won’t affect SEC conference races.
1. Alabama, 2. Michigan, 3. Ohio State, 4. Clemson, 5. Washington, 6. Texas A&M, 7. Louisville, 8. Wisconsin, 9. Nebraska, 10. Boise State, 11. Baylor, 12. Tennessee, 13. Virginia Tech, 14. West Virginia, 15. Florida State.