Hello, college football/Big Ten fans!
For the past four weeks, my top four projected teams had been the same: Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon, and Cincinnati. Only the order changed.
Then came Saturday. Utah 38, Oregon 7! Well Utah was the Vegas favorite in the game so it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise Oregon lost but could anyone outside of Salt Lake City have thought Oregon would have been blown out? Was this the same Oregon that beat Ohio State back in early September?
So for the first time since the start of the season they'll be a new team in this week's Playoff projections.
The other big surprise yesterday other than Oregon getting blown out was the Ohio State Buckeyes 56-7 victory over the Michigan State Spartans. I thought their victory over Purdue last week was impressive. What they did to Michigan State was unbelievable (or really exposed Sparty as overrated). I turned off the OSU game at halftime but if I were a Buckeye fan yesterday I definitely would have chanted "Overrated!" yesterday.
The Michigan Wolverines host Ohio State in Ann Arbor Saturday. It's always the Big Ten's showcase game of the season. This year, they are playing for the Big Ten East title and the winner will likely be the favorite in the Big Ten Championship and if they win will likely make the College Football Playoff. With Oregon now out of the Playoff picture, there is no doubt if Ohio State beats Michigan and the Big Ten Championship Game that they will make the Playoff. Still, Jim Harbaugh is winless vs. Ohio State, the last time Michigan beat Ohio State was 2011, and the way Ohio State beat Purdue and Michigan State how is Ohio State not the favorite in this game, even at Michigan? Ohio State moved up to #2 in the AP poll and #3 in the coaches' poll. I feel Ohio State is clearly better than Alabama (of course considering this is Off Tackle Empire I'm supposed to say that:) I'm not going to say Ohio State is better than Georgia but I'm sure Ohio State can't wait to make the Playoff and not have either Alabama or Clemson in the way (I'm assuming Georgia will take care of Alabama but you never know). I'm definitely getting ahead of myself, but wouldn't Ohio State vs. Georgia be a fantastic national championship game between CJ Stroud and the Buckeye offense and the Georgia defense?
But in addition to Ohio State beating Michigan, they will also have to beat the Big Ten West Division champion. Wisconsin controls its own destiny for the title, playing at Minnesota. If Wisconsin loses, Iowa would claim the title if they beat Nebraska and Wisconsin loses. Should both lose, Minnesota wins the division if Purdue beats Indiana but Wisconsin wins if Purdue loses. Thank you to the CSNBBS board for helping me figure out the tiebreakers. I post a lot there so here is a link to join the board. The board could use some more Big Ten fans. I would say watch out for Nebraska this week. Considering how big Ohio State won over Purdue and Wisconsin, Ohio State only beat Nebraska 26-17. The Cornhuskers also lost close games to Nebraska, Michigan State, Michigan, and Wisconsin with three of those games on the road. Nebraska has one last chance at a big victory and Iowa is their "Super Bowl".
Big Ten Championship Prediction: Ohio State over Wisconsin
Ohio State beat Michigan State (#7 in this week's CFP Rankings) 56-7
The Georgia Bulldogs beat an FCS school 56-7
I'm not saying Ohio State is a better team than Georgia but is it more impressive to beat MSU or an FCS school 56-7?
As for the Alabama Crimson Tide,
They beat a 5-6 Florida team 31-29.
They beat a 5-6 LSU team 20-14 at home.
They beat a 7-4 Arkansas team 42-35 at home.
They lost to a Texas A&M team that was swept by the state of Mississippi. Mississippi State can beat Texas A&M at Kyle Field, why can't Alabama?
Does this look like the #2 team in the country? Why are they better than an undefeated Cincinnati? Yes, if they beat Georgia they deserve to be in the Playoff. But would a two loss Alabama team belong in the Playoff more than two loss Michigan and/or Michigan State among other teams? You know the SEC sucks when Ole Miss is 9-2. Alabama wouldn't win at Michigan or Michigan State and Wisconsin right now (they would have early when Wisconsin was down). If you're Ohio State, would you want Alabama out or in so you can beat them?
Alabama is in the SEC West Championship by default. Georgia has the same mental block vs. Alabama that Michigan has vs. Ohio State but no doubt this year Georgia is the better team. Alabama will have plenty of fans in Atlanta but the game is being played in the state of Georgia.
SEC Championship Game Prediction: Georgia over Alabama
I think the biggest winners of Oregon's loss are the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincinnati should move up to #4 in the CFP rankings after Oregon's loss. Michigan State (#7) will certainly drop. If Michigan (currently #6) loses to Ohio State, they will drop (and if they beat OSU, OSU will drop). Notre Dame (#8) already lost at home to Cincinnati. Even if Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC Championship, Cincinnati shouldn't drop below #4 in the CFP rankings. The teams, if any, that could possibly pass Cincinnati, would be either a one loss Big 12 champion, Oklahoma State (#9) or Oklahoma (#13), because both teams would beat the other and then a top Big 12 team (Oklahoma would beat Oklahoma State again, Oklahoma State would likely play Baylor in the Big 12 Championship). Last year, an unbeaten Cincinnati finished behind a two loss Oklahoma team in the final CFP rankings and last year THREE Big 12 teams lost to Sun Belt teams. Also, Iowa State got in the CFP despite having THREE losses (one to a Sun Belt team) over a one loss Indiana whose only loss was at an undefeated Ohio State. In fact, Iowa State got into the New Year's Six over the one loss Sun Belt team that beat them (Louisiana). The previous year a Baylor team that beat no one good finished #7 in the CFP rankings. If the Committee is biased towards the SEC first, they are biased towards the Big 12 second. I hope Cincinnati doesn't get left out of the Playoff in favor of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State but I wouldn't put it past the CFP Committee. I hope Georgia takes care of business and it won't matter. Cincinnati does have to play at East Carolina and a one loss Houston team to make the Playoff, a one loss Cincinnati most likely doesn't make the Playoff even if it wins the AAC. But hopefully Cincinnati does become the first non Power 5 team to make the CFP. I'm sure Ohio State fans don't want to see it, but I'd be intrigued by an Ohio State-Cincinnati matchup.
AAC Championship Game Prediction: Cincinnati over Houston
If you believe Georgia will beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, someone has to be the #4 team in the Playoff behind Georgia, likely Ohio State, and likely Cincinnati. Both the Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys enter Bedlam with one loss and a 12-1 Big 12 champion would have a strong case for the #4 slot in this case. The winner of Bedlam is the #1 seed in the Big 12 Championship Game. If Oklahoma wins, Oklahoma State is the #2 seed by virtue of their win over the Baylor Bears earlier in the year. But if Oklahoma State wins and Baylor defeats Texas Tech the Bears will go to Jerry World and Oklahoma will be eliminated and for the first time since the Big 12 restarted their championship game in 2017 someone other than the Sooners will win it. Going back to 2006, Oklahoma has won eight of the past nine (Texas won the other). This is the statement game for Oklahoma State. Oklahoma has beaten Oklahoma State six straight times. Oklahoma State can't be pleased Oklahoma is leaving for the SEC. If Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma they will eliminate Oklahoma from the Big 12 title (unless Baylor chokes vs. Texas Tech). Even if they lose, they will still get another chance in Arlington. But if they don't beat them at home, they will have little confidence beating them on a neutral field. If Oklahoma State wins, they still have to beat Baylor and has Oklahoma State proven they could beat Baylor on a neutral field? The nightmare scenario for the Big 12 is a two loss conference champion. Oklahoma has not been impressive this year and the home field does favor Oklahoma State but I just feel Oklahoma has their little brother's number and will win the conference, beating their in state rivals twice in eight days.
Big 12 Championship Game Prediction: Oklahoma over Oklahoma State
The other "upset" among CFP Top 10 teams was #10 Wake Forest losing at Clemson (that wouldn't have been considered an upset until this year). Wake Forest can still clinch the ACC Atlantic Division by Boston College in Chestnut Hill (that's in the Boston area for those not familiar). If Wake Forest loses, NC State wins the Atlantic if they beat North Carolina. Wake Forest, NC State, and Clemson would be 6-2, 1-1 head to head, Boston College would be eliminated because they lost two divisional games, and NC State beat Clemson. If Wake Forest and NC State both lose, Clemson (which has three losses and might lose at South Carolina) would still somehow win the Atlantic. Over in the Coastal, the Pittsburgh Panthers won by beating Virginia. One thing is sure however, no ACC football team will make the College Football Playoff.
On the other hand, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish might have an outside chance. They are now #5 in both the AP and Coaches polls. Currently they are ahead of both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the CFP although I wouldn't be surprised if the Bedlam winner jumps the Irish in the following week's CFP rankings (Notre Dame beating Stanford isn't going to help the Irish's case).
If it comes down to Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State, Notre Dame's one loss was at home to Cincinnati while Oklahoma State's was at Iowa State. Oklahoma State would have beaten a 10-2 Oklahoma and (likely) a 10-3 Baylor. Notre Dame's best wins are Wisconsin (projected 9-4) in Chicago and Purdue (projected 8-4) at home. If it's Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma, Oklahoma's loss was at a 10-2 Baylor and they will have two wins over a 10-3 Oklahoma State.
ACC Championship Game Prediction: Pittsburgh over Wake Forest (Thought I'd change it up this week)
So much for the Oregon Ducks. For the fifth consecutive year, they will miss the Playoff. Oregon certainly had the signature win to get them in the Playoff (and that win over Ohio State looks really good now). A one loss Pac-12 champion likely makes the Playoff easily. But Oregon knew they couldn't have lost, were embarrassed 38-7, and that Stanford loss looks worse and worse each week (Stanford got humiliated at home by rival California Berkeley).
Oregon will still win the Pac-12 North if it beats Oregon State in Eugene this Saturday. Washington State would win if they win the Apple Cup over Washington. The game is in Seattle but Washington is terrible this year. Utah already has clinched the Pac-12 South. If Oregon beats Oregon State and gets a rematch vs. Utah, the game won't be in Salt Lake City but it's hard to believe that the Ducks will overcome 31 points. Utah has never played in the Rose Bowl and back in 2019 Utah was playing for the Pac-12 Championship and a possible Playoff berth and Oregon beat them. Could this be Utah's big chance or will Oregon rebound and win the Pac-12 for the third straight year.
Pac 12 Championship Game Prediction: Utah over Oregon
College Football Prediction:
Cotton Bowl: #2 Ohio State (12-1) vs. #3 Cincinnati (13-0), first game
Orange Bowl: #1 Georgia (13-0) vs. #4 Oklahoma (12-1), second game
New Year's Six Games:
We have a shakeup.
Rose Bowl: Michigan (10-2) vs. Utah (10-3)
Sugar Bowl: Alabama (10-2) vs. Baylor (10-2)
Peach Bowl: Pittsburgh (11-2) vs. Michigan State (10-2)
The CFP Committee has ranked Michigan ahead of Michigan State the last two weeks. For sure they will be this upcoming week. Now if Michigan loses 56-7 to Ohio State or a similarly lopsided score maybe Michigan State jumps ahead and the Committee will recognize the head to head win but it just seems like they like the Wolverines better.
If Iowa beats Nebraska, they will have a chance to jump BYU but they trail them now (BYU #14, Iowa #17). I don't think selling tickets matters anymore but the Fiesta Bowl would love to have a Western team for a change. I have Mississippi losing at Mississippi State, should Mississippi win they'll definitely head to the New Year's Six. Could they dump Michigan State for the Peach and dump Sparty to the Fiesta? It is the CFP Committee and they certainly favor the SEC.
New Year's Day Games:
Citrus Bowl: Iowa (9-3) vs. Mississippi (9-3)
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
I'd rather go to New York than Phoenix (of course I live in the Philly area) but the Pinstripe Bowl is outside and Phoenix is at least under 100 degrees this time of year and a lot warmer than New York so I think the Maryland-Rutgers winner will get stuck going to New York.