College Football, Week 12 — 4 Winners, 4 Losers
There were definitely warning signs for the Cougars before heading to UConn
Well, we're getting down to it now in college football. Two weeks to go in the regular season, including a Saturday full of conference championship games in two weeks that could turn the selection process for the College Football Playoff into the most controversial selection of anything since the 2000 Presidential Election. Just the way the playoff peeps want it!
If I had to predict (and in my job, I kind of do), I'd say this will be your top ten come tomorrow evening:
3. Notre Dame
6. Michigan State
8. Ohio State
10. Oklahoma State
Honestly, though, the only ones I feel confident about are the top two. After that, there are holes in everyone's platform. How do you move Notre Dame up after a three point win against BC? Well, it was in Boston and Notre Dame actually dominated if you extract the FOUR red zone turnovers by the Irish. Iowa is undefeated, but beat Purdue at home by 20, so they just took care of business. Oklahoma needed to squeak out a one point win over a TCU team without Trevone Boykin. Michigan State beat Ohio State in Columbus, so who knows…maybe they go all the way to three! Just two weeks after losing to Nebraska in Lincoln! And Baylor also knocked off an undefeated OSU in Stillwater. How much does the committee value those wins?
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It's crazy, so let's assess where we are here….
Right now, Clemson is the only team with no drama, and that's probably just the way head coach Dabo Swinney likes it. On Saturday, they had a nondescript 33-13 win over Wake Forest. They close out the regular season with a tune up against South Carolina before playing a white hot North Carolina in the ACC Title game. By the way, the only thing holding the playoff together from total chaos is that ACC Title game. If Clemson loses to UNC on December 5, look the hell out.
3. Mike Leach
It was the opening weekend of the season when Mike Leach's Cougars lost to FCS regional foe Portland State, and immediately sand began running through the hourglass that on Mike Leach's career in The Palouse. But don't look now, on the strength of QB Luke Falk's nearly 4,300 yards, the Coogs (Pacific NW edition of Coogs) are 8-3, 6-2 in the Pac-12, and could go to nine wins with a victory over UW in the Apple Cup this weekend. Life is more fun when Mike Leach is good!
2. Hugh Freeze
How do you know Hugh Freeze has done a nice job at Ole Miss? Well, the Rebels are 8-3 and there's mild disappointment that they don't factor into the SEC West race, despite beating Alabama, Auburn, and now LSU in the same season for the first time since Houston Nutt did it at Arkansas in 1998. Hugh Freeze is trending toward "been underrated for so long that soon he will inherently be overrated" status. In short, I think Freeze is a good coach.
1. Big Ten
We all knew Ohio State was going to be good this season. Michigan State, too. But the found money in the Big Ten this season has been Jim Harbaugh's resurrection of Michigan and Iowa's undefeated season in the West. Michigan State's win in Columbus on Saturday has set up a slew of late season permutations whereby any of these four teams could still win the conference and make the playoff. Even Michigan. The conference has to be thrilled just one season removed from being a punch line in college football discussions, until Ohio State's late season run in 2014.
4. University of Houston
Well, I can't say that the warning signs weren't there for Houston heading to UConn. Week after a comeback win over Memphis, leek before a division deciding game against Navy, long travel to cold weather — that was just a brutal sandwich game for the Cougars, and UConn knew it. Here's the silver lining, I guess, for Tom Herman's crew in the wake of Saturday's 20-17 loss to the Huskies — all of your goals are still right there in front of you. Beat Navy and you're in the AAC title game. Win that game and you're likely in a big bowl game against a Power Five foe. Win that and you go into 2016 with all sorts of buzz for a season opener against Oklahoma. See, it's not so bad!!
3. South Carolina
The week before rivalry week in the SEC, the schedule is generally dotted with all sorts of controlled scrimmages against FCS schools. How do you know you're one of, if not the, worst teams in the SEC? When your controlled scrimmage becomes a one point loss to The Citadel. The Gamecocks' coaching job is the most intriguing vacancy to me this offseason because I don't know that they're going to find anyone who will do better than Steve Spurrier did for the last decade or so. South Carolina may be living that Vandy/Kentucky life regularly very, very soon.
Before the season started, the Big XII game that was supposed to have all of the playoff juice in the final weekend was Baylor against TCU. Instead, even with Oklahoma State losing to Baylor on Saturday, the more marquee matchup is Bedlam in Stillwater between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. For OU, it's a borderline play-in game. For OSU, they need a little more help, but remain alive for a playoff berth. The Big XII's spot on the landscape should be fun to watch unfold these next two weeks.
1. Urban Meyer
I struggled with which Ohio State person to use here — Ezekiel Elliott for calling out his coaches after the 17-14 loss to Michigan State or Urban Meyer for creating an atmosphere where his star player feels compelled to call out his coaches. Look, I'm not condoning what Elliott did after the game, when he trashed the play calling (Elliott only had 12 touches, for the record) and basically announced he's going pro, but Meyer wears on people, even amidst winning, and it's starting to happen in Columbus. He is a great coach, but apparently very little fun to be around.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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