College Football Playoff Path: Who’s In After Week 4

    Utah shook things up for the Pac-12, for the Big Ten, and, obviously, Oregon. Who'd be in the playoff right now? What happened this week that mattered?

    September 28, 2015

    Path To The College Football Playoff: Week 4

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    It’s not about what we believe, it’s about what we can prove.

    The College Football Playoff committee should put that on a sign across the top of the meeting room as they’re making their selections a few short weeks from now, because that’s how this whole thing is supposed to work.

    The 2014 season didn’t happen, and no one is supposed to be able to predict the future.

    Act as if you’ve never seen Ohio State before.

    Pretend that Northwestern and Utah are named something different.

    All that matters are the four weeks that have happened so far. Past recruiting rankings don’t count. History means nothing. School size, fan bases, TV markets, coaching pedigrees – none of it is supposed to count.

    Unlike the utter nonsense that the AP and Coaches polls have become – really, USC ranked ahead of Stanford in both polls? Can someone get these people a television? – the CFP rankings are supposed be only about the games that have been played.

    Of course there will be preconceived notions, and of course it’s impossible to totally block out that a team like Ohio State might return loaded from the one that won the national championship so impressively, but that’s the job of the CFP types to try.

    It’s not about what we believe, it’s about what we can prove. And after another telling week, this is what we can prove after Week Four on the Path to the Playoff.

    Ohio State and Michigan State are way, way, way overrated by those other polls.

    At least they are at the moment.

    If you’re really going to do this the right way, then again, you can’t think Ohio State is anything other than what it showed over its first four appearances, and you can’t let Michigan State live off its reputation from the previous two seasons.

    The Spartans have been painfully pedestrian so far, struggling to put away two MAC teams – Western Michigan and Central Michigan – along with Air Force. It’s not fair to do “if” and “but” hypotheticals, but if Vernon Adams could’ve just relaxed and hit one open target, the Oregon game in East Lansing probably would’ve gone the other way. The Spartans won 31-28, and they deserve credit, but it’s hard to put too much stock into that after Utah obliterated the Ducks in Autzen Stadium.

    Michigan State is 93rd in the nation in total offense, the pass defense has been awful, and outside of a win over an Oregon team that’s done nothing but put up big numbers on two bad teams, there’s been nothing done so far to suggest that it really is one of the top four teams if the CFP rankings were done right now.

    Meanwhile, Ohio State – outside of a fun burst against Virginia Tech in the opener – has hardly looked like the rock-solid No. 1 team in the land.

    It was sloppy in wins over two MAC teams, and it slept through a blowout win over a Hawaii team that was also just shut out by Wisconsin.

    The defense has been great and the running game stellar at times, but with Ole Miss beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Oklahoma winning at Tennessee, Northwestern’s win over a Stanford team that beat USC and is on a roll, LSU going 3-0 against all Power 5 teams, UCLA’s destruction of Arizona, and with Notre Dame beating three Power 5 teams, the resumes of the two Big Ten big boys don’t quite compare. The biggest killer this weekend, though, was …

    Utah’s destruction of Oregon crushes the Big Ten’s argument

    A one-loss Big Ten champion is going to get into the playoff, and an undefeated one is an obvious mortal lock, but if things go according to form and Michigan State and Ohio State don’t lose to anyone else, the fun CFP theoretical question will be about the Spartan-Buckeye loser’s chances to get in. The thought was that the Michigan State win over Oregon was going to give the Big Ten enough juice to make the Big Ten Game of the Year something even bigger, but that was also contingent upon the Ducks not being mediocre at playing college football. Utah’s win just changed all of that, begging the question …

    Is Utah the real No. 1 team?

    Not really, but there’s a case to be made. Struggling over a bad Utah State team didn’t look great, and beating Fresno State this year is about as difficult as ordering a Jimmy John’s. However, the win over a Michigan team that just thumped BYU and Oregon State is starting to look stronger, and even if Oregon is down, going into Eugene and coming out with a will-be-talked-about-forever-in-Salt-Lake 62-20 win is jaw-dropping. Was that better than Ole Miss beating Alabama in Alabama? Nope, but it makes the Pac-12 South season that much stronger and put the Utes on the 2015 map.

    The cannibalization of the Pac-12

    Will the league get enough respect to potentially get a two-loss champion in? Oregon already has two, Stanford already has a loss, and no one believes Cal, Utah or UCLA will get through their respective slates clean. The Utes still have to go to USC and Arizona and have to host Cal, Arizona State and UCLA. The Bruins got by Arizona, but defensive injuries are going to be a problem at some point with road games at Stanford, Utah and USC to deal with, along with home games against Arizona State and Cal. Can the Bears somehow get by USC? Before that they have to go on the road to face Utah and have road games at Oregon and Stanford, to go along with home dates against USC and Arizona State.

    The Pac-12 champion isn’t going to be unbeaten, and it’s going to be a shocker if it has just one loss.

    This is where the Oregon loss to Michigan State, the Stanford loss to Northwestern, the Arizona State loss to Texas A&M and the ugly in-conference performances this weekend by Arizona, Arizona State and the Ducks might matter. The league might be the second best in college football, but it might also need a bunch of help to get into the post-season fun.

    All of a sudden, Alabama had better beat Georgia next week

    Alabama is the SEC’s most talented team, but it could also be the SEC’s most talented team with an 0-2 conference record.

    That wouldn’t be that be that big a deal – Georgia would all of a sudden be the new big thing – except that a desperate and still very good Crimson Tide team could really screw up the rest of the conference.

    Bama could take down Texas A&M on the road. It could certainly blow up Tennessee at home and stuff Leonard Fournette and LSU. It could also easily win out, catch a few breaks, and still get back to the SEC championship and throw a wrench into the whole system. Georgia, on the other hand, if it’s the real deal should be favored in every game the rest of the way.

    The SEC will be fine no matter what. A two-loss champion could still get the nod over another one-loss Power 5 champ.

    All of a sudden, Clemson had better beat Notre Dame next week

    Is anyone any good in the ACC? Florida State has yet to wake up, but it’s the most talented team in the conference. NC State and Miami are still unbeaten, but that’s just a question of time before that changes. Now, with Virginia Tech getting whacked by East Carolina, Georgia Tech losing two in a row, Louisville stinking it up, and no real killer emerging from the pack – we’re all waiting on you, Seminoles – Clemson needs to step up and take down Notre Dame at home to announce that it might be the team to beat. With Florida State and Georgia Tech at home, it’s a favorable schedule the rest of the way, but the Tigers need to give the ACC a shot in the arm. Every other Power 5 conference has its pizzazz moment – now it’s Clemson’s turn.

    Based On What Happened So Far, RIGHT NOW, The CFP Would Be …

    1. Ole Miss. The committee would look at the various resumes, and the win over Alabama would trump everything else.

    2. Ohio State. There’s still the I Think This Is The Best Team factor to what the CFP does. It won’t like the body of work, but OSU would get the respect because it’s OSU.

    3. Utah. The Oregon win combined with the victory over Michigan would be good enough to get the nod. UCLA would be in the discussion from the Pac-12.

    4. Oklahoma. TCU and Michigan State could easily find its way into the fourth slot, but the OU win over Tennessee, combined with the overall impressive performances, would be enough – for now.

    At The End Of The Fun, The CFP Will Be

    1. Ohio State/Michigan State winner. Watch out for Michigan, though, tripping up at least one of these two.

    2. Alabama. The Crimson Tide will run the table, Ole Miss will lose twice along the way.

    3. Oklahoma. TCU’s defense is too injured and Baylor will struggle once it plays a team that can play college football. An 11-1 OU will be the One True Champion.

    4. UCLA. It’s not going to happen with Myles Jack and other key defenders out, but I’m not going to bail on my preseason CFP pick after that win over Arizona.

    MORE: Who’s Hot, Who’s Not Following Week 4


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