Rivalry week was headlined by pivotal matchups with title game implications including the Apple Cup, Michigan-Ohio State and much more.
Oh hey there, and welcome – and what took you so long? When college football finally flipped upside down, it was spectacular. Ohio State ejected Michigan from the Football Four bracket, and the result was a pile of smoking rubble that was visible all the way to Ann Arbor.
There was more craziness in the final weekend of the regular season: Fights in the Egg Bowl! A wild, woolly Big 12 shootout in Morgantown! And finally, to cap everything off, seven overtimes in College Station! For all of that, though, not much changed in the Football Four. At least not at the top.
Alabama won. Clemson, too. Notre Dame won and, without a pesky conference championship to play for, cemented its spot. But finally, for at least one spot, we’ve got drama. Georgia? Oklahoma? Ohio State? Fight amongst yourselves, fellas. As always, remember we pick the bracket as if the season were over.*
1. Alabama – Ran away from rival Auburn in the second half, showing off the offense that has been the difference in a perfect regular season. Next up: Georgia in the SEC championship game. Will the Bulldogs plunge this whole operation into chaos? With Tua and company, it seems unlikely.
2. Clemson – The Tigers started slow but piled up more than 700 yards – and tacked on a gratuitous touchdown in the final minute instead of taking a knee, just because rivalry. As that other committee would say, this is a complete team. One last hurdle: Pittsburgh in the ACC championship game.
3. Notre Dame – The Irish struggled offensively, but their defense was more than enough to slog past a bad USC team. At 12-0, Notre Dame is in the clubhouse with a perfect season – and the Irish won’t be falling out of the Football Four for any reason. They’re in.
4. Georgia – After whipping rival Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs move into the bracket courtesy of Michigan’s loss. All they have to do to stay there is beat Alabama (no biggie). Otherwise, enjoy this week’s ranking.
Four More **
5. Oklahoma – Kyler Murray and the Sooners’ offense kept rolling. The defense kept rolling over – but oh wait, there were also those two defensive touchdowns; those seemed big in the win at West Virginia. Now, a rematch with Texas in the Big 12 championship game – which is also a chance to essentially cancel out the only loss of the season.
6. Ohio State – Oh there you are, Buckeyes! Welcome back! As Ohio State muddled through a tumultuous season, we wondered what it would look like if the obviously talented bunch ever put everything together, even for one game. Wonder no more. Wow. If Ohio State beats Northwestern in the Big Ten championship, we might have a huge debate about No. 4.
7. Central Florida – Despite losing star quarterback McKenzie Milton to a horrific knee injury, the Knights easily beat rival South Florida. Enjoy the ranking, but there is probably not enough potential chaos energy available for the Knights to move into the top four, even with a win against Memphis in the American title game – and sadly, all of it seems much more iffy without Milton.
8. Michigan – Don’t be fooled by the No. 8 ranking; there is not enough chaos available for Michigan, without a shot at the Big Ten title, to move back into the four-team bracket. Not after a supposedly (Alert: selection committee buzz phrase ahead) “complete team” suffered a complete beatdown.
CHANGING TIMES: The playoff committee’s need to evolve on how it values offense
A Few More After That ***
Texas – The Longhorns were not impressive in beating Kansas, but they earned a berth in the Big 12 title game and a New Year’s Six bowl berth. It’s a very nice Year 2 for Tom Herman – with a chance for even more.
Florida – A rout of rival Florida State in Tallahassee was doubly satisfying. It snapped the Seminoles’ 36-year bowl streak and it completed a nice first season as Dan Mullen rebuilds the program.
Washington – Retained Apple Cup supremacy while sweeping away Washington State’s Pac-12 and playoff hopes. No way around this: It has been a disappointing season. But if the Huskies beat Utah in the Pac-12 title game, they’ll be Rose Bowl-bound.
Washington State – There’s no playoff for the Cougars, no Pac-12 title, no Rose Bowl. Gardner Minshew’s hopes of a trip to New York for the Heisman might have vanished in the snow, too. But Wazzu’s season remains a success after 10 wins for the first time in 15 years.
Futile Four ****
Michigan – For the first time in the history of the Futile Four, a team inhabits two categories in the same week. But even at 10-2, the Wolverines go here. Even at 10-2 – especially at 10-2 – the season is a disaster. Jim Harbaugh has coached against Ohio State four times now, and lost all four. He brought what appeared to be the superior team into the Horseshoe, only to take a very public whipping. Ohio State has won seven consecutive and 14 of the last 15 against Michigan. It’ll be a very long offseason in Ann Arbor.
Florida State – For 36 consecutive seasons, the Seminoles went to a postseason bowl. But that streak – the longest in college football history (???) – is over, snapped in the harshest of ways: a 41-14 drubbing, at home, by rival Florida. Despite showing improvement down the stretch, Willie Taggart’s first season in Tallahassee goes down as disastrous.
Tennessee – Vanderbilt achieved bowl eligibility and emphatically prevented Tennessee from getting there, which means Jeremy Pruitt’s first season is officially a big disappointment. Vandy won 38-13, marking the Vols’ sixth loss by at least 25 points.
Oklahoma State – How to figure this team, which is the biggest enigma in college football? With a loss to TCU, Oklahoma State finished 6-6, and the Cowboys weren’t so much mediocre as meteoric. They beat Texas and West Virginia and could’ve beaten Oklahoma … but lost to Texas Tech, Kansas State, Baylor and finally TCU, a 31-24 loss that included a 61-yard, three-point first half.
* The season is ALMOST over – but not quite..
** Don’t be overly worried that your team sits just outside the cut. This is a weekly snapshot. And what do we know, anyway? But it IS getting pretty late, y’all.
*** See the previous note, but it’s OK to be very concerned or even angry. But what do we know, anyway?
**** No note necessary