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Playoff Committee Review & OFD's Ballot: Week 10

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In a mostly uneventful week, there were still some developments that shook the playoff picture. And hey, we won! Shouldn't I be happier?

Arrrrr!
Arrrrr!
Ralph Freso

As promised, now that the honest-to-goodness playoff selection committee is actually up and running, we've switched the format of this weekly post from a committee parody and OFD top 25 to a committee rankings review and how OFD would've voted. Without further ado, then, let's get started.

The Playoff Selection Committee Rankings

Rank Team Last week Week 10 result Toughest opponent left (per F/+) If the season ended today ...
1 Mississippi State (8-0) 1 Won 17-10 vs. Arkansas Ole Miss Sugar Bowl vs. Oregon
2 Florida State (8-0) 2 Won 42-31 at No. 25 Louisville Miami Rose Bowl vs. Auburn
3 Auburn (7-1) 3 Won 35-31 at No. 4 Ole Miss Alabama Rose Bowl vs. Florida State
4 Oregon (8-1) 5 Won 45-16 vs. Stanford Utah Sugar Bowl vs. Mississippi State
5 Alabama (7-1) 6 Idle Auburn Orange Bowl
6 TCU (7-1) 7 Won 31-30 at No. 20 WVU Kansas State New Year's bowl
7 Kansas State (7-1) 9 Won 48-14 vs. Oklahoma St. TCU New Year's bowl
8 Michigan State (7-1) 8 Idle Ohio State New Year's bowl
9 Arizona State (7-1) 14 Won 19-16 vs. No. 17 Utah Notre Dame New Year's bowl
10 Notre Dame (7-1) 10 Won 49-39 at Navy Louisville New Year's bowl
11 Ole Miss (7-2) 4 Lost 35-31 vs. No. 3 Auburn Mississippi State New Year's bowl
12 Baylor (7-1) 13 Won 60-14 vs. Kansas Oklahoma
13 Nebraska (8-1) 15 Won 35-14 vs. Purdue Wisconsin
14 Ohio State (7-1) 16 Won 55-14 vs. Illinois Michigan State
15 Oklahoma (6-2) 18 Won 59-14 at Iowa St. Baylor
16 LSU (7-2) 19 Idle Alabama
17 Utah (6-2) 17 Lost 19-16 at No. 14 Arizona St. Oregon
18 UCLA (7-2) 22 Won 17-7 vs. No. 12 Arizona USC
19 Arizona (6-2) 12 Lost 17-7 at No. 22 UCLA Arizona State
20 Georgia (6-2) 11 Lost 38-20 vs. Florida Auburn
21 Clemson (6-2) 21 Idle Georgia Tech Orange Bowl
22 Duke (7-1) 24 Won 51-48 at Pittsburgh Virginia Tech
23 West Virginia (6-3) 20 Lost 31-30 vs. No. 7 TCU Kansas State
24 Georgia Tech (7-2) NR Won 35-10 vs. Virginia Clemson
25 Wisconsin (6-2) NR Won 37-0 at Rutgers Nebraska

Overall impression: The logic behind the initial rankings released last week seems to have largely held. Note that Ole Miss was #4 and lost a close game to #3, yet dropped all the way to #11 because of the importance of having two losses. They're the highest-ranked two-loss team, true, but I don't have a problem with them being ahead of the three one-loss teams right behind them - Baylor, Nebraska, and Ohio State. Note that the committee's apparent "just win" philosophy held for Notre Dame, as contrary to some Irish fans' expectations we stayed at #10 despite waiting until the end to pull away from Navy.

Also of note is that aside from Auburn, every team that beat a ranked team jumped - even if all the teams they jumped also won. This lends further credence to the idea that the committee places prime importance first on number of losses (hence Auburn staying where they were) and second on quality of top wins. It also bodes well for the Irish, because...

Surprise Team of the Week - Up Mode: Arizona State. The Sun Devils had to go to overtime to pull out a tough win over ranked Utah, and were rewarded by jumping from #14 to just past the Irish at #9. Notre Dame fans should be giddy, as the team now has an unexpected chance to record a top 10 win. It won't be easy, but the opportunity is there.

Surprise Team of the Week - Down Mode: Utah. The flipside of that coin, the forlorn Utes, didn't move after losing to Arizona State. In the traditional polls, even barely losing a game that the rankings said you should lose big would drop you considerably. Utah dropped two spots in the AP poll and four spots in the coaches' poll, but held steady with the committee.

Who's Out This Week:

Just a brutal loss for Ole Miss. Yes, Auburn is a tough opponent, but that's their second straight loss and they lost their best offensive player to a gruesome leg fracture on the go ahead score game-clinching turnover. With two losses and a bleak future, their playoff dreams are essentially dead.

Georgia... My word. Did they take the "cocktail party" part too literally? The Bulldogs now have two losses to unranked teams after coach-in-crisis Florida ran over, around and through them for over 400 yards. Getting the kiss of death is always bad, but getting it from Muschamp is twice as bad.

The SEC East. The little big brother is out. It's hard to envision Mizzou, even if they win out and take the SEC championship, getting a spot in the playoff - and that's the SEC East's best chance at making it in right now (you read that right).

Utah was a fringe playoff contender with one loss and the Pac 12 championship still in play. Their second loss may well have killed off both of those possibilities, though.

The OFD Playoff Ballot

1. Mississippi State: Arkansas threw an end zone interception from the Mississippi State 16 with 15 seconds left. Missed it by that much... Survival is survival, though. They'll host Tennessee-Martin this week.

2. Florida State: Speaking of survival... The Noles were in serious poop for most of the game against Louisville before seizing control in the waning minutes. A game Virginia squad will visit this weekend.

3. Auburn: They had to cripple Ole Miss's best player (legally) to win but win they did, in what was essentially an elimination game for both teams. The defense has started to look soft lately, just in time for Texas A&M to come to town.

4. Alabama: Enjoyed some cheeseburgers, and while they didn't move up as a result they did get some of the debris cleared from their path to the SEC championship game. They'll travel to Death Valley for a rivalry/elimination game.

5. Oregon: Stanford was within one score with 16 minutes to go - and then Oregon scored 21 unanswered to turn it into a laugher. Jumping ND here this week on the strength of a better performance against a common opponent. They'll head to Utah this week.

6. Notre Dame: Survive and advance. I never look forward to playing the option, and this year was no exception. A tough matchup at Arizona State this week, especially since Joe Schmidt is now out for the year. This is the best chance the Irish will have at a statement win during the remainder of the regular season.

7. TCU: Just barely escaped Morgantown with a win. Will they be able to carry that momentum over as they host Kansas State in a playoff elimination game?

8. Kansas State: See above. Manhandled Oklahoma State in preparation for this week's excellent matchup, which should have Irish fans watching the scoreboard and pulling for a Wildcat win.

9. Michigan State: Sat idle this week before easily their biggest game of the season, at home against Ohio State. If they lose this game, they're done for the playoffs. Irish fans, distasteful as it may be, have to pull for the Buckeyes.

10. Ohio State: Again, see above. I'm not sure this is really a playoff elimination game as the Virginia Tech loss is probably bad enough by itself to knock them out, but if they have any hope they need to win this game and the Big Ten title.

11. Baylor: In a result that surprised absolutely no one, hammered Kansas at home. They'll have a chance to spruce up their resume as they visit Oklahoma this week - but a loss will knock them out of the playoff.

12. Arizona State: Staved off Utah in a tough overtime game, and will now host Notre Dame for one of the weekend's marquee matchups. Arizona State is still alive for the Pac 12 title and could knock the Irish out of the playoff picture, so expect them to be focused.

13. Oklahoma: Steamrolled Iowa State and now have a chance to exact some revenge for their TCU and Kansas State losses on Baylor. Is their defense up to the task, though?

14. LSU: Coming off a bye, they'll host Alabama in a rivalry game that could eliminate the Tide from playoff contention. Believe it or not, LSU is still not mathematically eliminated from the SEC West crown - pull for chaos!

15. Ole Miss: Covered above so I won't rehash it, but man, that was tough. With a second loss they have to fall behind the team that beat them in Week 9, so here they are. They won't miss Treadwell too much this week, as they host Presbyterian.

16. UCLA: I've been a little schizophrenic on UCLA because I haven't believed in them all year, but beating Arizona with defense was impressive. They'll travel to Washington, who is 6-3 overall but 0-3 against ranked-at-the-time teams.

17. Nebraska: Handled Purdue easily, but Ameer Abdullah left the game with a knee injury. Pellini says he's optimistic; still, whatever hopes Nebraska has of making playoff and/or Big Ten noise rest completely on Abdullah, so these are anxious times in Lincoln. They'll have a week off to let everyone get healthier.

18. Arizona: Gained 75 yards on their opening drive and looked like they might have had a big night, but they gained only 180 yards and were shut out the rest of the way. They'll host woeful Colorado.

19. Utah: Came oh-so-close to knocking off Arizona State, but... well, they didn't. They'll have to regroup quickly as they're hosting Oregon with the opportunity to knock the Ducks out of the playoff discussion.

20. Georgia: Lucky to be here, mostly because I couldn't justify putting them below Clemson given the head-to-head result. They travel to Lexington this week to face Kentucky.

21. Clemson: Sat idle this week and will almost do the same this week, facing Wake Forest on Thursday night. It's on the road, so that increases the degree of difficulty slightly, and... Eh, who am I kidding?

22. Duke: Scraped out a double overtime win in Pittsburgh in what looked like a Big 12 game. They'll travel to the Carrier Dome to play the Orange this week; hopefully they just kept traveling after the Pitt game. Fuel ain't cheap.

23. West Virginia: Probably the best three-loss team in the country. These guys pushed Alabama and Oklahoma, beat Baylor, and came so close to knocking off TCU. We'll see if there's any hangover when they play Texas on the road this week.

24. Wisconsin: Shut out a non-awful (by Big Ten standards) Rutgers team and will travel to Purdue this week. They'll go to the Big Ten title game if they win out over Purdue, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota - so we should all be Wisconsin fans.

25. Colorado State: Could Jim McElwain's third year in the Centennial State be his last? The Rams are 8-1 with wins over Boston College and Colorado. That kind of performance will garner some attention from some of the higher-profile openings this offseason.

Dropping out:

  • #18 East Carolina - Probably no chance of climbing back into the rankings after losing to Temple. This is very significant, as there is now no non-Power-5 team in the rankings and an at-large slot is currently open in the elite bowls as a result.
  • #23 Marshall - Followed the committee's lead here and dropped them out based on their awful schedule, which I'm tired of writing about. It seems unlikely that the committee will change their minds, also.
  • #25 Louisville - Learned just as the Irish did that when you have Jameis on the ropes you need to knock him out.