- I was right
Remember what I said last week about the in-conference road game? Well, this past week, both Ole Miss and Virginia Tech fell victim, at Arkansas and Syracuse, respectively. Ohio State survived their own scare at Wisconsin while Nebraska barely escaped from Indiana with their undefeated record intact. This week, with Wisconson, UNC, Utah, Houston, Ohio State, and Oklahoma all facing unranked, conference opponents on the road, I may become even more right. That doesn’t happen all that often, so I’ll be sure to remind you.
- The ‘Group of 5’ race for a New Year’s Six Bowl is heating up
Early in the season, this looked like Houston’s to lose. But after losing to Navy two weeks ago, and with Memphis and Louisville still on the schedule, the race has been blown wide open. Boise State is undefeated with chances to impress this week left on the schedule. Western Michigan looks to be headed to an undefeated season in the MAC. And Navy, thanks to their win over Houston, has the inside track to the AAC championship. Usually, only one team from the non-Power 5 conferences makes it to a New Year’s Day bowl. At least four teams will be looking to stake their claim over the next few weeks.
3. Wisconsin is a top-five team
They’re 4-2 on the season, and now 1-2 in conference play in the Big Ten. But the Badgers are one of the best teams in the nation. Those two losses? At Michigan by a touchdown and at home versus Ohio State in overtime. In short, they played both the No. 2 team and the No. 3 team in the nation to one score. The Badgers are well out of Playoff contention with those two losses, but are well within contention for a well-deserved New Year’s Six bowl.
- The ACC is REALLY good
Ten out of the 14 members hold a winning record on the year. We’ve focused a lot on Clemson and Louisville so far this year, and rightfully so, but the rest of the conference is no slouch. UNC and Florida State still hold a spot in the Top 25 while Pittsburgh, NC State, Wake Forest, Miami, Virginia Tech and even Syracuse have all proved to be tough outs so far this year. With the SEC having a down year, the ACC is putting forth a good case to be considered the best conference in college football.
- Alabama is miles ahead of the rest of the SEC
I’ve said several times that the only way you can say the SEC is still the best conference is because Alabama is still the best team in the country. But they are head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. After a 49-10 drubbing of Tennessee at Neyland Stadium, that much is clear. So far, Alabama has played four ranked opponents. The closest game? A 48-43 win at Ole Miss that featured two garbage-time touchdowns by the Rebels to make it close. At this point, the only game Alabama should fear is the Iron Bowl against Auburn, and only because that’s a rivalry game.
- The Big 12 has a last gasp shot at the Playoff
The only two undefeated teams left in the Big 12 are Baylor and West Virginia, currently ranked #9 and #12 respectively. Both still have tests left against Texas, Oklahoma, and TCU left on the schedule. If they get through those tests, December 3 looms large. Baylor at West Virginia. A spot in the Big 12 championship could be on the line, with a massive chance to impress the Playoff committee, as well.
- Nebraska has a shot to bust the Big Ten
In the preseason rankings, Nebraska was No. 37. Now, they’re No. 8. After what should amount to a bye week against Purdue, the Cornhuskers have two straight games at Wisconsin and at Ohio State. Thanks to the division alignments, they could lose to the Buckeyes and still appear in the Big Ten championship, but in terms of the Playoff, the Huskers have a shot to shake up the picture more than almost any other team in the nation.
- The best game left on the schedule you’re not aware of is in the MAC
Sometimes, the schedule works out perfectly. In the MAC, it’s done exactly that. The two best teams in the MAC by far are the 7-0 Western Michigan Broncos and the 5-1 Toledo Rockets. And on the final week of the season, with a MAC championship berth on the line, Toledo plays at Western Michigan. The MAC doesn’t often have a must-watch game, but there might just be an exception this year.
- There’s only one spot open in the Playoff
Let me explain that a little. The SEC is guaranteed a spot, probably with Alabama, though Texas A&M and Florida each still have a shot. The ACC is guaranteed a spot, either by Clemson or Louisville. The Big Ten champ is guaranteed a spot, from either Ohio State, Michigan, or Nebraska. That leaves one spot open for either an undefeated Washington, a one-loss Utah, an undefeated Big 12 champ that’s either Baylor or West Virginia, or a second team from the Big Ten or ACC. That’s pretty much it. The only other case you can possibly make is maybe for Boise State if everyone else loses and they run the table. Even then, that’s highly unlikely. In short, only 13 teams still have a hope for the Playoff. That number will only continue to shrink.