Nine things we learned in college football week nine
- The Big 12 has made the Playoff Selection Committee’s job a whole lot easier
Though they would never say it, the Committee’s job is a lot easier when an entire conference eliminates itself from Playoff contention. A four-team field automatically means one of the Power 5 conferences has to be excluded. With West Virginia and Baylor losing over the weekend, and Oklahoma holding two out-of-conference losses, the Big 12 can essentially be written off. The committee’s job is still incredibly difficult, though. With the SEC, ACC, and Big Ten all with multiple teams with one or fewer losses, the Big 12’s exclusion does not guarantee a spot for everyone else.
- The Big Ten division race is not just Michigan and Ohio State
The Big Ten has been scary good this year. Like, ‘they have a legitimate shot at 11 bowl-eligible teams’ good. But while we’ve assumed the East division would be either Michigan and Ohio State, one team has sneaked its way into the conversation. Penn State currently stands at 4-1 and second in the conference courtesy of their win over Ohio State. Their loss to Michigan needs they’ll need two Wolverine losses to make the Big Ten championship, but one upset before Michigan’s face-off with the Buckeyes means the Nittany Lions could earn a surprising berth in the championship.
- Chris Petersen is a really good coach
We already knew this after Petersen’s amazing run as coach of the Boise State Broncos, but the program he’s built at Washington further reinforces the fact. After the Huskies win at Utah, the Playoff is staring them right in the face. In his 11th season as head coach for the Broncos and Huskies, Petersen’s record stands at 115-24. It may be time to throw Petersen’s name into the ‘best coach’ ring.
- The New Year’s Six Group of 5 berth is wide open
Speaking of Boise State, a New Year’s Six bowl bid was theirs to lose. Losing to Wyoming 30-28, though, was not the way to keep it. The Broncos are not yet out of the race, but the loss opens the door for a still undefeated Western Michigan squad to claim the prize. Boise State has one chance left to make an impression. If the Broncos can still make the Mountain West championship, which they’ll need two Wyoming losses to do so, a clash of two ranked teams between the Broncos and San Diego State could give Boise State enough power to leap over the Western Michigan Broncos in the rankings.
- The 10 FBS conferences ranked from best to worst: Big Ten, ACC, SEC, PAC 12, Big 12, MWC, AAC, MAC, Conf-USA, Sun Belt
- We’re going to have more teams with losing records make a bowl game
There are 41 bowl games this year. Currently, there are only 75 teams in the country that have even four wins. While there are probably several current 3-win teams that will close out the season on a win streak to qualify for a bowl, the mere math of the equation makes it incredibly likely that several 5-7 teams will receive a bowl invitation. For those of you who may be wondering, academic excellence is the criteria used to select which 5-7 teams make a bowl.
- Arkansas State is proof that the Sun Belt is not that good
The Red Wolves found themselves at a disappointing 0-4 after their out-of-conference schedule, losing to Toledo, Auburn, Utah State, and FCS Central Arkansas. But those who discounted Arkansas State’s chances at competing in the Sun Belt conference grossly overestimated the rest of the conference. The Red Wolves now stand at 3-0 in conference play after a 51-10 trouncing of UL-Monroe.
- Wisconsin could be the first two-loss team in the Playoff
The Big Ten is all but guaranteed a spot in the Playoff. At this point, the only question is who that will be. After two heartbreaking losses to Michigan and Ohio State by one score each, the Badgers looked to be dead in the water. But with a win over Nebraska, and the Huskers set to play at Ohio State next week, the Badgers may be given another chance at the Big Ten championship game. If the Badgers emerge as the Big Ten champs, the Playoff committee will have a difficult time excluding Wisconsin from the four-team field.
- The Playoff blood bath has begun
By my accounts, the field has been reduced to only 11 teams after losses from West Virginia, Baylor and Boise State effectively closed any Playoff hopes those teams may have had. With the Big 12 and Group of 5 conferences eliminated from contention, those 11 teams come solely from the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, and PAC 12. Many of those 11 teams are set to face off against each other over the final weeks of the season, while conference opponents would love nothing more than to spoil a Playoff bid. For those teams who have held on to Playoff hopes this late into the season, the final few weeks will be football’s version of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.