SCENE: The selection committee has left the Manning residence, and Archie himself, in the Big Easy. They are no longer a baker's dozen as they cruise along the back roads of Georgia on the way to the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Their limo van, complete with rope lights and cheap champagne, suddenly turns off the road into an eerie place, replete with gloomy monuments and streaked by ashen ferny tendrils wisping down from the branches of stately oaks.
Pat Haden: Gosh, this is a weird place for a meeting. Dan, why did you take us here?
Dan Radakovich: Halloween week, right? Who needs a cheesy haunted house when you can visit the garden of good and evil? This is way better. You know I read that John Muir slept on these graves when he hiked through here? If he could do that you can sit through a little meeting, Paddy!
Haden: I... uh...
Tyrone Willingham: I am Groot - I am Groot.
Tom Jernstedt: He says the sedge grass would make for nasty rough.
Barry Alvarez: Yeah, OK. I don't know, Dan - I don't agree with Mr. Left Coast too often, but in this case... Listening to the talking tree over there hasn't freaked me out, hanging out at the reactor site in Illinois didn't freak me out, but this place is creepy. Let's just get the meeting done so we can get back on the road.
Radakovich: Man... You guys are no fun. Alright, let's start. Well, the Bulldogs staved off disaster, so they can stay at #1. I have FSU moving back up after the Ole Miss debacle. Really, who throws to the end zone in the final seconds when they just need a makeable field goal to avoid an upset? Who does that? Anyway, then Alabama, and then...
Steve Wieberg, Tom Osborne, and Mike Tranghese: Alabama?
[The debate begins in earnest while the driver, unnoticed, furiously scribbles notes in a small pad. After some time, a soft rustling off in the distance is followed by the unintelligible but unmistakable sound of voices. The committee members all start as one at the sudden intrusion.]
Mike Gould: What in sam hill is that? [Heads towards the voices and gestures to the group to follow him.] Well, I'll be.
[On the stylized steps of an ornate grave marker, two shadowy figures converse. One is an ancient woman, as crooked as she is old; the other is a middle-aged man, vibrant but with an air of madness to him. He seems to be thanking her and hands her a gift; as he reaches out to her, his face slides into a shaft of light from the fading sun. It is Les Miles.]
Limo driver: Huh - that explains an awful lot.
Oliver Luck: Wait, why are you out of the van? Have you been eavesdropping? [Peers intently as the driver fidgets.] Aren't you the guy with the "satellite dish" next door to Archie? And the waiter from Five Guys? And - hold the phone - the parks department worker from Red Gate Wood? What's your deal?
Driver: There's this website, see, and they really like football there, and they were curious about what you guys were thinking, and...
Jeff Long, thunderously: WHAT?!? How did you get in here - did you have help from the inside or something?
[The driver glances nervously around the circle, and catches a wink from one knowing face - that of former National Security Advisor Condi Rice.]
Driver, literally backpedaling: Um, nobody, just was able to work it out. Sorry for the inconvenience, and, um, good luck with everything, and can't wait to see the first rankings... [Turns and runs.]
Note: With the first-ever real playoff selection committee rankings coming out later tonight, this is the final installment of the OFD selection committee parody/soap opera/saga/journal/etc. I know this will create a big hole in your life, but change is inevitable so... wait for it... Get used to it. What we'll do going forward is post the actual committee rankings, along with our Top 10 and a review of who likely was bumped out of the playoff picture in that week's games.
The OFD Top 25
1. Mississippi State: Had to sweat it out against Kentucky, and are very grateful that the Cats have no idea how to execute an onside kick. In their last four games they've given up 29, 31, 23, and 31 points - they better keep that offense humming. They're hosting Arkansas, who's still looking for their first SEC win since 2012 but has looked better recently. Stay tuned.
2. Florida State: Joined the Irish on the sidelines this week and was the main beneficiary of the Rebels' largesse. They travel to Louisville for a marquee Thursday night matchup, which will give the Cardinals a chance to show whether their statistically excellent defense is actually elite.
3. Auburn: Ended each of the first three quarters tied with South Carolina before winning the fourth 7-0 to get the game. With one notable exception (more on that later), SEC defenses had a bit of a rough weekend; it's hard to imagine that any of them will manage to make it through the home stretch unscathed. They'll have a double playoff elimination game this week at Ole Miss.
4. Alabama: Jumped on Tennessee in the first quarter, enough that it didn't matter that they lost the rest of the game. They'll sit this one out and benefit from the guaranteed SEC West attrition this weekend.
5. Notre Dame: Tasty cheeseburgers. With two weeks to cultivate their bile and prepare for Navy, the trip to FedEx Field should provide some Irish fireworks.
6. Ole Miss: Tough loss at LSU - and they'll need to get their heads in order quickly as Auburn is coming to town this weekend. The loser of that game will almost certainly be out of the playoffs, so no pressure guys! I'm still trying to decide if the 10-7 LSU win was the work of two great defenses or two inept offenses; I'm leaning towards a mix.
7. Oregon: For the second year in a row, they had some early difficulty with Cal before putting them away - but they did give up 41 points. This Ducks team seems a bit softer on both sides than recent editions; could that spell the usual kind of trouble at home against Stanford this week? Well... Not likely. A Stanford win would be huge for ND on multiple levels, so Irish fans might want to swallow their pride here and pull for the Tree.
8. TCU: After embarrassing Texas Tech 82-27, the Frogs are now averaging 50.4 points per game - not bad for a program that's known for its defense. They have a dangerous matchup this week in Morgantown, where West Virginia will try to further muddy the Big 12 title picture.
9. Michigan State: Little Brother once again kicked the ever-loving you-know-what out of Big Brother Michigan, who just cannot get out of their own way this year before, during, or after games. Dantonio answered Hoke's sad trombone two point conversion and the ridiculous pregame tent-stake ritual with an unnecessary punch-in at the end of the game. At this point, I'm starting to feel bad for Michigan. Oh, wait, no I'm not. Not even close.
10. Georgia: After taking the week off, they'll head to the World's Largest Outdoor
Cocktail Party against the Gators in Jacksonville. Still has a chance to make the playoff if they win out, so expect them to be focused. Sorry, Gator fans.
11. Kansas State: Handed Texas its first shutout in a decade, and now will host hammered-twice-in-a-row Oklahoma State. The potential exists for them to look ahead to their week 10 tilt with TCU, which could go a long way towards deciding the Big 12 title and a playoff spot. But we trust likely wizard Bill Snyder to keep it together here.
12. Ohio State: Needed overtime - and some questionable officiating early and late - to put away a weak Penn State team that had lost to Michigan the week before. Yeah, they're that bad. They'll host Illinois this week, who is fresh off an upset of Minnesota and can score some points. Ohio State should win, but it could get interesting. A loss would pull the plug on their playoff chances.
13. Baylor: After having the week off to recover from their loss to West Virgina, the Bears will host a Kansas team that is still looking for its first conference win this year. And in all probability will still be looking next week as well.
14. Arizona State: Logged a quality road win against a decent Washington squad, and will host the upstart Utah Utes who are fresh off an emotional win over USC. Will Utah be able to avoid a letdown? Irish fans better hope not, as ASU represents Notre Dame's best remaining chance for a resume win.
15. Arizona: Easily dispatched noisy Washington State, but it must be a little worrisome for them that the Cougars scored 21 in the fourth quarter and racked up 543 yards of total offense. They travel to UCLA this week, where they're actually 4.5 point underdogs - to a team that has looked very shaky for the last month. Time for Rich Rod to play the respect card.
16. Oklahoma: After taking a week off, they'll head to Ames to face not-at-all-fearsome Iowa State, who like Kansas is looking for their first Big 12 win this year, and like Kansas will probably also have to wait until next week.
17. LSU: The Mad Hatter pulled out some of that Bayou voodoo to upset #3 Ole Miss - Bo Wallace was trying to throw short, but spasmed when Miles stuck a pin in his little #14 doll. The rest, as they say, is history. They'll get a week off before their next chance to play spoiler, when Alabama comes to Death Valley.
18. East Carolina: Had a much harder time with UConn than probably anyone outside of Storrs expected, entering the fourth quarter tied before finishing strong to win by 10. They'll take on Temple in Philadelphia this week.
19. Utah: They're very much alive for the Pac 12 South title, sitting in a three-way tie with Arizona and Arizona State after taking out the Trojans on Saturday. It'll be at most a two-way tie after this week as the Utes head to Tempe to face the Sun Devils. As noted above, Irish fans should watch this scoreboard with great interest.
20. Nebraska: Ameer Abdullah ran over, around, and through an overmatched Rutgers defense to the tune of 225 yards and three touchdowns on only 19 carries. They'll host the World's Largest Drum this week, as Purdue travels to Lincoln in another pulse-pounding Big Ten matchup.
21. Clemson: Hung on against Syracuse, who might just be the best 3-5 team in the country. Is that a thing? I'm not sure. Anyway, unless they Clemson it up against Wake Forest or Georgia Tech, the Tigers are likely to end up as the ACC representative in the Orange Bowl. Not a bad spot to be in.
22. West Virginia: Demolished Oklahoma State on the road, and will get the chance to throw a serious monkey wrench into the Big 12 title picture when they host TCU this week. The newly-minted offensive juggernaut TCU against a Dana Holgorsen-led West Virginia? Hope the scoreboard can go to triple digits.
23. Marshall: Trailed Florida Atlantic at the half. TRAILED FLORIDA ATLANTIC AT THE HALF. Yes, I had West Virginia jump them this week. They're better. If Marshall had any sense they would try to set up a regular rivalry game with West Virginia to strengthen their schedule, but they prefer to go out of conference to the MAC and FCS.
24. Duke: After a week off, they head to Pittsburgh to take on the up-and-down Panthers. Hard to know what to make of this matchup, but a win by either team wouldn't be surprising. In fact, Pitt opened as a 1.5 point favorite, so Vegas agrees.
25. Louisville: Why not? There's a pile of non-compelling teams vying for this final spot in the rankings. Their two losses are by a total of eight points, and they've looked pretty good in their wins. They face a stiff test this week as they host Florida State, so it could be a short stay here.
Dropping out: #20 USC - the Sark Era is off to a rousing beginning; #25 Minnesota - it was fun while it lasted, right?