If you talk to a college football coach, you’ll quickly learn that every game and every weekend is of the utmost importance. College coaches have a saying that they use with their players almost every week: “The most important game of the season is the next game.” While that is somewhat true, when looking at the big picture, some games are obviously more important than others.
The regular season is winding down quickly and most teams have only three or four games left on the schedule. Some of the Power 5 conferences have a conference championship game, which will play an important role as to who gets in the first ever college playoff.
There were six games played over the weekend between teams ranked in the top-20 of the college playoff poll. In essence, those games were going to separate the contenders from the pretenders. And looking back at the weekend, that’s exactly what happened.
#10 Notre Dame at #9 Arizona State – In college football, it’s always tough to play on the road. In Notre Dame’s case, the Irish went to Tempe and turned the ball over five times, two of which were returned for touchdowns. That ended up being the difference in this game.
Notre Dame has virtually no chance of getting into the four-team playoff, while Arizona State looks like they will play Oregon for the PAC 12 championship. If both of those teams win out going into the championship game, the winner has an excellent chance of being in the playoffs.
#14 Ohio State at #8 Michigan State – Right up until kickoff on Saturday, Ohio State didn’t look like they had a chance of getting into the playoffs. But with the Buckeyes’ win at Michigan State, OSU is now in the driver’s seat to win the Big Ten outright. A 12-1 record and a Big Ten Championship should get them a berth in the playoff.
Saban and the Tide needed overtime, but found a way to defeat LSU.
#5 Alabama at #16 LSU – One of the toughest venues for a road team is without question LSU. Despite that, Alabama went in there and won 20-13. The Crimson Tide were not playing consistent football early in the season, but they are clicking on all cylinders at the moment.
The Tide still have some tough games left starting with a home date this Saturday against top-ranked Mississippi State. They also have to play at home against Auburn in the near future. It’s real simple: If Alabama wins out, they will be the top seed in the tournament.
#7 Kansas State at #6 TCU – I have all the respect in the world for Kansas State coach Bill Snyder. Year after year he does one of the most remarkable coaching jobs in the country. But we have to be realistic and that means realizing the fact that Kansas State doesn’t have the manpower to compete against the top teams in the country. The Wildcats keep games close because of coaching, not talent.
That showed Saturday night in Fort Worth. TCU had too much speed and overall talent for Kansas State to overcome. It’s my guess that TCU will win the Big 12 and finish with an 11-1 record. However, as good as the Horned Frogs are, I don’t feel they are quite as good as multiple teams from the SEC, Arizona State, Oregon and now Ohio State.
With their current position in the rankings as high as it is, if TCU wins out, it will be tough to keep them out of the playoffs, but it’s my feeling they really don’t belong. Don’t forget, TCU already lost to Baylor, which is a lower ranked team.
#4 Oregon at #17 Utah – This was the last tough game on Oregon’s schedule. The Ducks’ speed and overall depth was just too much for Utah to handle on Saturday night. It looks as if the only thing standing in the way of Oregon getting to the playoff is the PAC 12 championship game against Arizona State. Assuming Arizona State gets to the championship game, the winner is a lock to qualify for the playoffs.
#12 Baylor at #15 Oklahoma – Oklahoma already had two losses and, as a result, I felt there was no chance the Sooners could get into the playoffs. At the moment, their job is to play spoiler.
Baylor dug itself a big hole with its 14-point loss earlier in the year to West Virginia and the Bears still have tough games coming up against Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Even if they win out, based on where the Bears were ranked going into the weekend, it still may be too difficult for them to get in.
Mississippi State at Auburn
Top-ranked Mississippi State won easily at home versus FCS UT-Martin. Now that the Bulldogs got their scrimmage out of the way, they have two very difficult games in the next three weeks. Mississippi State has to play at Alabama this week and then travel to Ole Miss for the final game of the regular season. If the Bulldogs run the table, they are no doubt in the playoffs. But if they lose to Alabama (I’m predicting they will), then they have to beat Ole Miss to have any sort of chance.
Auburn went into the weekend with a top-3 ranking, but lost at home to Texas A&M, which knocks the school out of the top ten. Having two losses will most likely keep the Tigers on the outside looking in unless they dominate Alabama in the finale.
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