Page 2 Of The CFP Survival Guide: The Big Dogs Stay Alive
After a closer-than-expected win against Duke, Louisville’s still alive for a shot at the CFP. But how did the other conferences fare?
Well, this conference took a wild turn this past week. Syracuse upended Virginia Tech in a surprising win for the Orange, already giving new coach Dino Babers his first signature win in upstate New York. The Coastal has likely beaten themselves up to the point of eliminating each other from CFP contention, as Miami now has three conference losses after Virginia Tech dominated them. The Coastal Division is now down to the Hokies, Tar Heels and Pittsburgh, who each have one conference loss. However, they could set themselves up as a potential spoiler down the road, if Clemson loses to either of the two in the ACC Championship Game.
In the Atlantic, though, Clemson narrowly avoided disaster with NC State missing three field goals. Clemson would score a touchdown in overtime, and intercept an errant throw from Ryan Finley to seal a close win. Clemson gets a bye this week, but they’ll face a major road test at Florida State next week. This game is an absolute must for Clemson to lose, if Louisville wants to have any shot of getting into the ACC Championship.
Other than Wisconsin’s narrow loss to Ohio State in overtime, nothing really changed in the overall Big Ten picture. Wisconsin’s two close losses to Ohio State and Michigan won’t necessarily eliminate them from the title picture, especially with an upcoming tilt against a top ten Nebraska team.
Speaking of the Cornhuskers, they narrowly avoided a loss at Indiana and remained undefeated, heading into what should be another tune-up game against a Purdue team that just fired their former head coach Darrell Hazell. However, with two upcoming road games at Wisconsin and at Ohio State in back-to-back weeks, it could open the door for the Badgers to (A) still win the Big Ten West Division, and (B) play spoiler in the conference championship by potentially winning a rematch against Michigan or Ohio State. However, in situation B, that could also open the door for two Big Ten teams in the College Football Playoff, and as strong as the Big Ten has looked, that would pose a challenge to Louisville’s chances down the road.
But let’s not sleep on the Cornhuskers for a minute. If Nebraska can somehow net one – or two – road wins like those, the Cornhuskers could be a major figure in the CFP going forward.
Baylor and West Virginia remain undefeated after two dominant wins against Kansas and Texas Tech, respectively. The Mountaineers, however, have another step up in competition when TCU comes to Morgantown on Saturday. That matchup will pair up the Big XII’s best defense against Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill, who has been up and down up to this point in Fort Worth.
Oklahoma also has an interesting matchup against Patrick Mahomes and Texas Tech, who looked mortal against the Mountaineers defense. Expect another high quality QB matchup with Mahomes and Baker Mayfield, and a Sooners team that is looking to get back in the fold after two early losses.
Will anyone from the Pac-12 please stand up? Other than Washington and maybe Utah, the conference still lacks a lot of depth in the CFP scene. There aren’t a lot of games to keep an eye on this week out west, but Utah at UCLA could be an interesting game that affects Washington’s strength of schedule. Even though the Huskies will likely remain undefeated after this week’s game against Oregon State, they will need some help from others to stay ranked, if they find themselves as a one-loss team at the end of the season. Colorado at Stanford is also one to watch, as Colorado has made a huge leap this season while Stanford has looked heavily regressed even with Christian McCaffrey. Stanford will need to turn it around and net some wins for Washington’s blowout victory to look more impressive, similar to Louisville’s over Florida State.
It’s safe to say that after Tennessee getting drummed by Alabama (and the injury bug continuing to wreak havoc on the Vols roster), they have likely been eliminated from the playoff picture. Alabama just keeps looking more and more dominant with every team they easily dispatch of, and Jalen Hurts is also looking more and more like a Heisman Trophy candidate. The SEC West might have enough teams to pad someone’s resume, in the event that the Crimson Tide fall this week to Texas A&M. Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss are all ranked, but that may be cut to half after this weekend. Arkansas travels to Auburn tomorrow while Ole Miss faces a LSU team that has reeled off several wins in a row under interim head coach Ed Orgeron.
Group of Five:
Needless to say, Boise State’s unbeaten rise above the Cougars in the polls is interesting in their New Year’s Six chase. The Broncos got a dramatic win against BYU last night, but looked extremely sloppy with five turnovers nearly dooming their chances. Western Michigan continues to look extremely dominant, and PJ Fleck is increasing his chances of netting a big time job this season (looking at you, LSU).