Mizzou was off this week, which was nice, but so were a lot of other teams. They just all happen to be ranked in the Top 5.
Let’s recap a little bit of what happened to the teams that did go to work, shall we?
What We Learned
The Door Could Be Wide Open for Oregon
Let’s preface this by stating what should be obvious: If Oregon loses a second game, none of what you’re about to read will be true.
Currently, the Ducks are ranked seventh in the AP Poll, situated behind five unbeaten teams and one-loss Georgia. Fresh off its dominating performance on the road against USC, the path for Oregon to sneak into the College Football Playoff is clear— and could be made much clearer once the initial Playoff rankings are released Tuesday.
But it’s also very narrow, and the Ducks’ margin for error is zero.
For the fun of it, though, let’s assume Oregon wins out the regular season and then beats Utah in the PAC-12 championship game.
With the exception of No. 4 Clemson, each of the schools currently looking down at Oregon will play each other in some fashion between now and the second week of December.
Alabama and LSU play next weekend. Ohio State and Penn State play each other on November 23.
And despite the fact they still have to play No. 12 Auburn, Georgia is the presumed East participant in the SEC title game, meaning the Bulldogs will play either LSU or Alabama for the conference.
That’s a lot of turmoil yet to go down.
Are the Ducks Playoff-worthy?
This poll is closed
Get real, brah!
Yeah, but they need a lot of charity
Win out, they’re golden
kU basketball sucks
And while the game of college football almost never makes sense, what we do know for sure is that, come five weeks from now, at least three of the teams currently ranked higher than Oregon will finish the season with at least one loss.
What would that look like? Well, it would be chaos.
Assuming Oregon is one of a host of one-loss teams, they’d likely get the playoff nod ahead of a team like Clemson — based simply off strength of schedule (8th vs. 41st) — but what about someone from the SEC or Big Ten?
To take it a step further, what if, after a surprising Championship Weekend, more teams entered the one-loss fray?
1. Either LSU or Alabama wins this coming weekend but loses its first game against Georgia in the SEC Championship
2. Either Ohio State or Penn State wins on Nov. 23 but loses its first game against Minnesota in the Big Ten Championship
3. Clemson loses its first game in the ACC Championship to
Miami North Carolina Pittsburgh Virginia
4. Georgia wins the SEC, finishing with only one loss
Meanwhile, there’s Oregon, saying “Sorry, not sorry,” as it gently tiptoes through the rubble toward that No. 4 spot.
Surely, if the college football season ends similarly to that scenario — and we’ve seen it happen before — Oregon would have a strong argument.
The Ducks could stack up well to the nation’s best teams in several important categories used as criteria by the selection committee, including strength of schedule and the fact it would have a conference championship. But, at the same time, it could also get dinged for the season-opening Auburn loss, which would affect its common-opponent rating.
Time will tell.
Of course, if Oregon slips up between now and the final poll, we won’t need any time at all to tell the Ducks they’re cooked.
What We’d Still Like to Know
Where Does Memphis Go From Here?
Watching the events of yesterday unfold in Memphis was reminiscent of that October day in Columbia nine years ago.
When Mizzou defeated No. 1 Oklahoma in 2010, nothing about that day wasn’t perfect. For a lifelong fan, it felt almost surreal.
I imagine people in Memphis have woken up on Sunday feeling the same way.
A reflection of the mood at College Gameday on Beale Street earlier in the day, the atmosphere at the Liberty Bowl last night was electric, and the largest crowd (59,506) to watch an American Conference game was treated to a dandy.
Memphis’ pulse-pounding 54-48 win over No. 15 SMU may have easily been one of the most entertaining games of the season so far, but when the dust settles, where will the Tigers find themselves Tuesday when the College Football Playoff selection committee reveals its first rankings?
More importantly, what effect will arguably the most significant win in program history mean for the rest of the season?
Entering Saturday, three other Group of Five teams were ranked higher than No. 24 Memphis.
Appalachian State lost to Georgia Southern on Thursday, so they’re booted from the discussion. Boise State won narrowly at San Jose State Saturday to hang around, but it’s possible they may not have necessarily amassed nearly enough style points.
And then there’s No. 17 Cincinnati, who escaped death against East Carolina yesterday but remains perhaps the biggest roadblock between Memphis and a New Year’s Six berth.
So, where does that leave Memphis? That will depend on how much weight the committee wants to assess to the SMU win, but even if the Tigers do not leapfrog either the Broncos or Bearcats, it may not really matter.
Much like Cincinnati, Memphis has an extremely manageable schedule from here on out, playing at Houston and South Florida before hosting Cincinnati in the season finale, a game that could be a preview of the AAC championship— and a chance to supplant other Group of Five teams during the final week of the season.
Of course, that’s assuming Memphis wins its own division.
The Tigers own the tiebreaker over previously unranked Navy (now No. 25 in the newest AP Poll released today), which is a game up in the AAC’s West Division, but the Midshipmen have a game in-hand and have yet to face Notre Dame and SMU in consecutive weeks, offering some opportunity to move up.
It’s a muddled picture, for sure, and there’s a long way to go.
No matter where Memphis finds itself come Tuesday, it will be squarely in the thick of the race for a New Year’s Six spot.
And if the Tigers win that race, their fans may forever have Saturday night to thank.
What We’d Like to Forget
So Many Top Teams Taking the Week Off
I’m sure the data is out there somewhere, and if I happen to unearth it at some point, I’ll gladly report my findings.
Until then, I can only assume that Saturday was some type of anomaly.
Because of how Labor Day and Thanksgiving fell on the calendar this year, every team was bestowed the gift of two open dates — which, surprisingly, is not as uncommon as you might think — but I cannot imagine there’s been another time in which four of the nation’s top five teams all enjoyed the same bye week.
And it felt a little weird, did it not? It was kind of like the Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs.
Top-ranked LSU, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio State, and No. 5 Penn State all enjoyed the day off Saturday, watching comfortably from their couches as the teams below them in the polls went to work.
By not playing, nothing was gained, but nothing was lost, either. And with each of the top five teams retaining its previous ranking in the new AP Top 25 Poll, the top 5 spots of the first College Football Playoff rankings probably won’t look much different— with the possible exception of Oregon.
But maybe it’s better this way.
It certainly is for LSU and Alabama, both benefitting from an open date the week prior to their matchup in Tuscaloosa. The Tigers are at the finish of a brutal stretch in which they will have played three Top 10 teams in four weeks, while the Tide will take all the time it can get to nurse quarterback Tua Tagovailoa back from a high-ankle sprain.
The Buckeyes, arguably the best team in the country at the moment, face listless Maryland and Rutgers the next two weeks but then wrap up the season with Penn State and Michigan.
And the Nittany Lions? They still have to get by undefeated Minnesota before they can worry about before that big game in Columbus.
Far be it from me to ever turn down an off day, but let’s hope the scheduling gods don’t decide to pull another fast one soon.