As the 2014 season continues to play out, the Big-12 is proving to be the second best conference in major college football, but this past weekend may have been a death sentence when it comes to earning a birth in the first-ever College Football Playoff. That’s good news for the Pac-12 and unfortunately, the Big-10.
That “question bubble” that has hung over my head all season regarding Baylor finally popped on Saturday in Morgantown, WV. Despite three turnovers, the Mountaineers Clint Trickett threw a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to lead West Virginia over Baylor 41-27, essentially ending any shot Baylor had at a playoff birth. 18 penalties costing the Bears 215 yards sure didn’t help.
It also didn’t help Baylor that I – along with everyone else – had overvalued Oklahoma yet again. OU dropped its second game this season losing 31-30 to Kansas State, at home in Norman. Senior kicker Michael Hunnicutt had made all 31 extra point attempts and eight of nine field goal tries coming into the game, but had an extra point blocked and missed a pair of field goal attempts, the worst a 19 yard attempt with 3:53 left after the Sooners couldn’t punch it in for a touchdown after a first and goal from the K-State four yard line. This loss hurts more than just the Sooners. It hurts the Wildcats, who have already lost at home to Auburn. It hurts TCU by devaluing their victory over the Sooners, and it makes meaningless OU’s match-up with Baylor. Way to go “Big Game Bob.”
The biggest, and perhaps most undeserving benefactor for the Big-12’s meltdown is the Big-10. As I’ve said for a while the “committee” won’t eliminate from the playoff hunt a one-loss Ohio State or Michigan State at the expense of a two-loss team, and now the rest of the college football critics seem to agree. (That two-loss rule probably even includes you SEC, where four of the Top Five ranked teams right now reside in the Western Division.)
The Pac-12, or more specifically Oregon, also benefits from the Big-12’s overall strength. Now if the Ducks can manage to get by Stanford – no easy task for Oregon – and beat whichever underperforming team comes out of the Pac-12 South, they’re likely in.
Florida State didn’t need help from Oklahoma’s loss, their help came from the refs. Thanks to a controversial offensive pass interference call against the Irish, the Seminoles held on for a 31-27 win over Notre Dame in Tallahassee. Everett Golson couldn’t convert on the second fourth-down attempt as time expired and the despicable head coach Jimbo Fisher and his Criminoles keep their winning streak alive. That credit goes to Jameis Winston who completed 15-16 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown in the second half. (All this after apparently signing more than 2,000 memorabilia items – all for free. Guess that explains the need to steal crab legs at the local Publix grocery store.)
In the SEC, Alabama re-established itself as a VERY playoff worthy team by humiliating A&M 59-0 in Tuscaloosa. While the Tide look completely capable of beating LSU, MSU and Auburn – who are hurdles left on the Tide schedule, the Aggies have some issues they can no longer overlook and simply firing Mark Snyder may not solve all the ails in College Station. After playing so well he gave himself the nickname “Trill,” Kenny Hill – the first quarterback to lead a Sumlin coached team and actually be recruited by Sumlin is proving he’s no Johnny Football, unless you believe the rumors about his being over-served on Thursday night before the loss to Bama. Sumlin’s coaching career also now includes a complete absence of emphasis or importance when it comes to defense and that can’t all fall on the shoulders of Snyder, though it likely will.
Ole Miss kept its playoff hopes alive by dispatching Tennessee 34-3 in Oxford. Still the Rebels get a second visit from ESPN’s GameDay, this time when they meet LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday (after the Tigers sent Kentucky back to reality with a 41-3 beat-down), and follow up that visit to Red Stick by entertaining Auburn.
Georgia has re-entered the playoff race despite losing RB Todd Gurley to the NCAA by dismantling Missouri in Columbia last weekend, and Arkansas in Little Rock on Saturday. It would appear the Bulldogs running game will do just fine with Freshman Nick Chubb, who ran for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 30 carries against the Hogs.
Following the weekend, my guess is that only TCU can work it’s way into the playoffs from the Big-12. Two teams will come from the SEC provided they both only have one loss. (For instance, Alabama runs the table meaning they beat both Miss. State and Auburn, and the winner of the Egg Bow between Ole Miss and State ends the year with just one loss. So long as Georgia finishes the regular season without losing, despite the SEC Title game outcome there will be two playoff teams from the SEC with just one loss. Whether its Alabama, Georgia, Miss. State or Ole Miss is anyone’s guess.)
Oregon will probably earn a spot if they win out, and Notre Dame would probably trump a Big-12 or Big-10 team if they go 11-1 because of their close loss at FSU would be better than TCU blowing a 21 point lead to a Baylor team that’s likely to end up with at least two losses.
If the playoff committee chooses finding the best four teams over politics – which I think is HIGHLY unlikely – two teams will come from the SEC and at least one from the Big-12.
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