My presumption all season is that in the first year of the college football playoff era, the committee deciding who exactly was going to be in the four team tournament would try to avoid putting more than one team per conference into the field. Maybe if there were two incredibly strong teams from one conference, probably the SEC, they'd relent and allow two teams in, but it was their aim to avoid that.
I was wrong.
The College Football Playoff committee released the first of their weekly top 25 rankings on Tuesday, and lo and behold: THREE (count 'em, 3) SEC teams in the four team field.
So everything is in the wind now, and all things are possible. Honestly, that makes this more fun, because that means that everyone's fighting tooth and nail for a spot and there's no one who's being excluded just because they're the fourth place team in a conference.
Sadly, Louisville couldn't pull an upset of Florida State last night, so things are not as up in the air as they could have been. There's still some very intriguing games tomorrow, so hopefully we'll get some nuttiness tomorrow. Since the CFP rankings are the only ones that matter from here on out, we'll be using those rankings to determine which teams we're focusing on. As always, all times are Central and all lines are courtesy of Bovada.
#1 Mississippi State (7-0) vs Arkansas (4-4)
When: 6:15pm on ESPN2
Line: Mississippi State -10.5
Chances Of Losing: Medium
Possible Chaos Level: Medium High
My first thought was to call this a "High" level of chaos. But with so many other SEC West teams bunched towards the top and losses possible elsewhere, I don't think losing one conference game will really knock the Bulldogs too far down the charts. Arkansas has played three and a half close SEC games so far this season (they got bombed out of the building in the second half against Auburn), so it stands to reason that they'll at least keep it closer than that 10 and a half points that the betting line gives you. Meanwhile, Mississippi State will be looking to wash the taste of their narrower-than-the-final-margin win over Kentucky out of their mouths.
#3 Auburn (6-1) at #4 Ole Miss (7-1)
When: 6pm on ESPN
Line: Ole Miss -1.5
Chances Of Losing: Well, someone has to lose.
Possible Chaos Level: Complete and total anarchy
Someone's staying in the top four, and someone's getting booted out. Pure and simple. Either the Tigers or the Rebels will end up being replaced by someone with one loss, and the list of candidates for that is looooooong. Given that both squads still have their yearly in-state rivalry game yet to play, neither one can afford a loss here if they want to keep their hooks in a decent chance at a playoff spot. Auburn's coming off a near-loss to South Carolina, while Ole Miss went in to Baton Rouge last weekend and came out with their first loss of the season. They can't afford to come away with two in a row, but they get the advantage of The Grove backing them up here.
#5 Oregon (7-1) vs Stanford (5-3)
When: 6:30pm on Fox
Line: Oregon -8
Chances Of Losing: Medium
Possible Chaos Level: Low
Oregon's on the outside looking in right now, so a loss by them doesn't affect anything other than the Ducks' own ranking. This game has the possibility of compound insanity, though, as a loss by Oregon throws the doors wide open for a lot of teams do stake a claim to the spot opened up by the loser of the Auburn-Ole Miss game. Hmmm. Maybe this should be higher for that reason.
Oregon has been thrashing people since losing to Arizona, so that bodes poorly for the Cardinal. Also not in their favor: they've split their last two games, with the losses coming to ranked opponents. In fact, all three Stanford losses this season have been against teams with numbers in front of their names.
#7 TCU (6-1) at #20 West Virginia (6-2)
When: 2:30pm on ABC
Line: TCU -4
Chances Of Losing: Medium High
Possible Chaos Level: Very Low
If it wasn't for the SEC West, this would be the most exciting game of the week. Morgantown has been riding high since their upset of Baylor two weeks ago and now they get another top 10 team at home. Meanwhile, TCU attempted to burn out all the lightbulbs in Fort Worth last week when they hung EIGHTY-TWO points on Texas Tech. If head coach Gary Patterson has his squad's offense clicking on even half as many cylinders on Saturday, the Mountaineers are in a lot of trouble.
Or maybe Texas Tech is really really bad and TCU's in a lot of trouble. Either way, all a loss by TCU here does is knock TCU down several pegs. Well, okay, it probably causes the already insane WVU fans to forget about that time that Buzz Williams danced on their court logo so they can focus their energy on burning couches while demanding that they be included in the playoff grouping. Sorry, guys, you have two losses and need about 10 more teams to come hang out with you there for that to happen.