Hello, college football/Big Ten fans!
We're only three weeks away from the selection of the four teams in the College Football Playoff.
The Ohio State Buckeyes (#4 in last week's CFP Rankings) were not going to let Purdue (#19) end their season the same way they did back in 2018. Yesterday's 59-31 win a statement. If you don't think it was, just ask Iowa and Michigan State. If it were based on last week's results, Ohio State would be ranked #2 behind Georgia. For sure, they'd be ranked above Alabama. The AP and Coaches weren't impressed, as the Buckeyes are ranked #5 in the AP and #4 in the Coaches poll.
Ohio State can certainly improve their ranking with their two remaining games against Michigan State (#7 in the CFP rankings) and at Michigan (#6). There is a bit of controversy in that Michigan is ranked ahead of MSU but that should be fixed after this week. Either Sparty will lose and Michigan will have one loss to MSU's two or Sparty will win and will no doubt be ranked ahead. But if Ohio State completes the Michigan double, we'll have the same Michigan vs. Michigan State argument two weeks from now. Michigan will have to do something they hate to do more than anything else in the world, root for Ohio State this week. If Michigan State wins this week, they win the Big Ten East unless somehow they lose to Penn State and Michigan beats Ohio State.
Over in the West, Wisconsin and Iowa now lead. Wisconsin has the tiebreak having beaten Iowa earlier this year so they control their destiny. Iowa would win the West with two wins and a Wisconsin loss. In a three way tie between Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota at 6-3, all three teams would be 1-1 vs. each other but Wisconsin would only have lost one Big Ten West Division game, Minnesota two, and Iowa three, so Wisconsin wins the West. If Purdue is also 6-3, Minnesota and Wisconsin would be 2-1 vs. the other three while Iowa and Purdue would be 1-2 vs. the other three so it would come down to Minnesota and Wisconsin and Minnesota would win the West.
Big Ten Championship Game Pick: Ohio State over Wisconsin
I've been picking the Alabama Crimson Tide (#2 in the CFP) to lose to Auburn. Then Auburn lost at home to Mississippi State. Alabama can clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game with a win over Arkansas in Tuscaloosa this Saturday. Should they win, their game over Auburn means nothing towards the SEC West but a loss ends their Playoff hopes.
If Alabama loses to Arkansas, they can still win the SEC West with a win at Auburn or if Mississippi loses one of their last two games. There's no way Mississippi is losing at home to Vanderbilt but they travel to their in state rival Mississippi State on Thanksgiving and Miss State has beaten both Auburn and Texas A&M on the road.
Meanwhile, in the SEC East the Georgia Bulldogs (#1) clinched the SEC East in October. Unless they somehow lose to FCS Charleston Southern (what's the line going to be on that game?) or Georgia Tech, they should make the Playoff, win or lose in the SEC Championship. The problem for UGa is that they probably can't count on Auburn to beat Alabama after yesterday's choke job vs. Mississippi State and might have to beat Alabama to maintain the #1 ranking going into the Playoff. Georgia hasn't beaten Alabama since 2007, they're still Alabama.
SEC Championship Game Pick: Georgia over Alabama
The Oregon Ducks (#3 in the CFP) continue to win. This Saturday is the big road test as Oregon travels to Utah. Two years ago, Oregon looked in position for a CFP spot but lost a Saturday Night Football game at Arizona State the week before hosting Oregon State.
Could history repeat itself? Oregon will still win the Pac-12 North if it beats Oregon State or if Oregon State loses to Arizona State this Saturday but will see its Playoff hopes end if they leave Salt Lake City with a loss. Utah would clinch a spot in the Pac 12 Championship Game if it upsets Oregon or if Arizona State loses to Oregon State in Corvallis (no I have no idea where that is, nor do I care) since Utah beat Arizona State and has the tiebreak. Utah can still win the Pac 12 South simply by beating Colorado at home on Black Friday.
Pac-12 Championship Game Pick: Oregon over Utah
I've been saying Oklahoma would lose a game all season and they did. The Cincinnati Bearcats (#5) benefit since Oklahoma won't be able to finish undefeated and pass Cincinnati in the rankings. Right now Cincinnati trails Georgia, Alabama, Oregon, and Ohio State. They should move up to the Top 4 if they win out and either Alabama or Oregon loses or if Ohio State loses and the team that beats them doesn't win the Big Ten with just one loss. I don't think Alabama will beat Georgia but Alabama is still Alabama and they might still be in Georgia's head.
If Oregon loses at Utah, Cincinnati will be much happier. Cincinnati though could have their hands full with SMU. They've struggled with some of the AAC schools this year and SMU (8-2) is the best AAC team the Bearcats will have played all year (they did beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame). Houston (9-1) also likely awaits in the AAC Championship Game although that game, like SMU, will likely be in Cincinnati, and Cincinnati is a long trip from Texas.
AAC Championship Pick: Cincinnati over Houston
The Oklahoma Sooners finally lost a game this year. I knew they would although I thought Oklahoma State would be the one to do it. Oklahoma isn't out of the Big 12 Championship race but likely needs help to make the Playoff. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State now are tied atop the Big 12 regular season race with Baylor a game behind. Neither Oklahoma school has a gimme next week, Iowa State beat the Sooners last year and TCU beat Baylor in Fort Worth the week before the Bears beat Oklahoma.
Baylor also goes to Kansas State, not an easy place to play either. But if the top three all win next Saturday and Baylor beats Texas Tech Nov. 27, Bedlam will determine the top seed for the Big 12 Championship in Arlington. Because Baylor beat Oklahoma and lost to Oklahoma State, Baylor would be rooting hard for Oklahoma State to win since they would win a tiebreaker with Oklahoma and lose one with Oklahoma State.
I've picked Oklahoma State to beat Oklahoma but with Baylor beating Oklahoma I now think Oklahoma will win the game as well as the Big 12 Championship.
Big 12 Championship Game Pick: Oklahoma over Oklahoma State
Based on last week's Playoff rankings, the ACC is for all practical purposes irrelevant as Wake Forest is the highest ranked team at #12. Wake Forest needs one win in its final two games to win the Atlantic Division (if you know what teams are in which ACC division without looking it up, you must be an ACC fan). If Wake Forest loses both games, and NC State loses one of its remaining games then Clemson would win the Atlantic as they would have the head to head over Wake Forest (they play Saturday).
If NC State also wins out, the three teams would be 1-1 vs. each other. Divisional record eliminates Wake Forest (both losses would be divisional losses, NC State lost to Miami, Clemson to Pittsburgh, NC State beat Clemson so they win the ACC). In the ACC Coastal, Pittsburgh clinches with a win over Virginia, Virginia wins if it wins out.
The chaos situation would be Pittsburgh, Virginia, and the winner of Virginia Tech-Miami finishing 5-3. If Miami wins, Virginia would have beaten both Miami and Pittsburgh so they would win the Coastal. If Virginia Tech wins, all three would be 1-1 vs. each other and all three would have two Coastal Division losses so I'm not going to try to go any further in the tiebreaker.
Notre Dame (#9 in CFP Rankings) was impressive beating Virginia on the road and still has just one loss to an unbeaten Cincinnati but Cincinnati will likely be ahead of Notre Dame. For them to get into the Playoff, they likely will need Oregon and Alabama to lose and probably doesn't make it over a one loss Big 12 champion either.
ACC Championship Game Pick: Wake Forest over Pittsburgh
College Football Playoff Picks:
No changes from last week, no changes in teams from the beginning of my projections this season.
Orange Bowl: #1 Georgia (13-0) vs. #4 Cincinnati (13-0)
Cotton Bowl: #2 Ohio State (12-1) vs. #3 Oregon (12-1)
New Year's Six Bowls:
Rose Bowl: Michigan State (10-2) vs. Utah (8-5)
Sugar Bowl: Alabama (11-2) vs. Oklahoma (12-1)
Peach Bowl: Wake Forest (12-1) vs. Michigan (10-2)
Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame (11-1) vs. Baylor (10-2)
New Year's Day Bowls:
Citrus Bowl: Iowa (10-2) vs. Mississippi State (8-4) - Edited, Miss State already has four losses.
Outback Bowl: Wisconsin (9-4) vs. Texas A&M (9-3)
Other Big Ten Bowl Assignments:
Purdue: Music City Bowl
Penn State: Las Vegas Bowl
Minnesota: Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Phoenix)
Maryland-Rutgers winner: Pinstripe Bowl
If Rutgers beats Penn State but loses to Maryland: Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit)