COW, Part 2: Interesting Playoff Contenders

Cavalcade of Whimsy Kickoff, Part 2 - The sleeper playoff teams

Cavalcade of Whimsy

September 30, Part 2

E-mail Pete Fiutak
Follow me ... don't cost nothin' @PeteFiutak 
Fiu on TV?! Beautiful people talking college football on Campus Insiders

- Part 1 - No, Florida State isn't No. 1 

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The ten key teams outside of the obvious in the hunt for the College Football Playoff ...

10. Nevada THIS WEEK: Boise State
In a bounceback season from a rough 2013, Nevada doesn’t have the offense rolling like it was under Chris Ault, but it’s effective. The team isn’t making mistakes, it’s hanging on to the ball to give the defense a break, and it’s hanging tough under pressure with a convincing win over Washington State and a close battle loss at Arizona. On the other side, Boise
Why It’s Going To Happen: The Mountain West just isn’t that good. If Boise State screws up like it did against Air Force, the Wolf Pack could come away with a huge win this weekend to set up a showdown against Colorado State. If Nevada wins those two, then it’s all about the date at BYU with a shot at making a big national mark.
Why It’s Not Going To Happen: Nevada is good, but it’s not special - it isn’t going to beat Boise State, Colorado State and BYU, and if it does, it’s not going to beat San Diego State and Fresno State to get to 11-1 before a Mountain West championship. However, it’s Wolf Pack or bust for a Group of Five spot – Boise State might be done after the Air Force gaffe.

9. Georgia Tech THIS WEEK: Miami
The Paul Johnson offense and style might have its detractors, but the thing works. Don’t get hung up on the close-call 42-38 win over Georgia Southern – that’s a dangerous team that’s playing well – and the 4-0 Yellow Jackets found a way to survive and get the job done against a pumped up Virginia Tech team on the road.
Why It’s Going To Happen: The schedule works out really, really well. Clemson is the one truly dangerous game from the Atlantic, and that’s a home game. There’s no Florida State to face – at least until a possible berth in the ACC title game – and there’s a chance for big-time credibility late in the year going to Georgia. If Tech can get to 11-0, it’ll be playing for the ACC title and the game against the Bulldogs won’t matter. Win the ACC championship and finish 12-1, and Johnson’s team is in.
Why It’s Not Going To Happen: The three-road-game-in-four-week stretch going to North Carolina, Pitt and NC State wrapped around a date with Virginia. This is a typical Johnson team, but the running attack isn’t quite as devastating as it needs to be and the defense can’t get off the field.

8. TCU THIS WEEK: Oklahoma
Shhhhh. No one like to talk about it, but the Big 12 just isn’t that great. Gary Patterson has dialed up a defense that’s been among the best in the conference since joining the Big 12, and now there’s an offense to help the cause with good balance and enough weapons to pull off a few upsets. The pieces are there to weave through the conference in a sneaky-interesting run to a possible title.
Why It’s Going To Happen: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State have to come to Fort Worth. The defense that shut down Minnesota cold is rested and should be ready with the big boys coming up right away on the conference schedule.
Why It’s Not Going To Happen: It’s not time to get there quite yet. Minnesota is one-dimensional and the other blowout win was over Samford. The road game at Baylor in a few weeks could break dreams of a Big 12 title before they can really get started, and Texas and West Virginia on the road won’t be easy. Beat Oklahoma to start the Big 12 campaign, and then it’ll be time to talk.

7. East Carolina THIS WEEK: SMU
Losing to an SEC team like South Carolina is almost like a badge of honor, but that could ultimately be what keeps the Pirates from having a truly phenomenal season. As is, with the nation’s sixth-best passing attack and an offense that can put up points in a hurry, it did its job against the porous North Carolina defense with an eye-opening 70 points, and the win at Virginia Tech a week after the Hokies’ impressive win over Ohio State was special.
Why It’s Going To Happen: It all depends on whether or not Ohio State rocks. If the Buckeyes blow through the Big Ten on the way to a 12-1 season, ECU can reasonably argue that it beat the team on the road that beat the Big Ten’s team on the road. A trip to Cincinnati will be tough, and the season-ender against UCF isn’t going to be easy, but the Pirates should be favored the rest of the way.
Why It’s Not Going To Happen: The schedule just isn’t strong enough to warrant a spot in the big four. Throw in South Carolina’s losses to Texas A&M and Missouri, and assuming there’s at least one more coming, and the resume won’t be good enough. However, win out, and ECU is probably in the Group of Five slot unless there’s an unbeaten ...

6. Marshall THIS WEEK: Old Dominion
With QB Rakeem Cato at the helm, the offense is fantastic averaging close to 600 yards per game and putting up huge points with a balanced attack that can do just about everything. While the Herd has blown through a MAC schedule of Miami University, Ohio and Akron, it did so with ease including a 48-17 win over a Zip team that shocked Pitt. The team is humming and might not be stopped – the O is that good.
Why It’s Going To Happen: 13-0 with a Conference USA title still won’t get the Herd within ten miles of the playoff, but it might lock up a spot in the Group of Five by being the lone unbeaten outside of the Power 5. If nothing else, the offense will be fun enough to see a primetime bowl.
Why It’s Not Going To Happen: The schedule is horrific. When your best game is against Western Kentucky, you’re not exactly dealing with the SEC West. Good team, easy schedule, great record. There’s a chance the committee will look at East Carolina – if it finishes with just one loss – and determine that the schedule was better and might pass over the unbeaten Herd. One loss, and Marshall is out.

5. Arizona THIS WEEK: at Oregon
How’s it going up there, Michigan? Rich Rodriguez is sorry, but he can’t here you with a 4-0 record in his ears. Of course, life could change in a big hurry with road trips to Oregon, Washington State and UCLA up in the next month to go along with a home date with USC, but the Wildcats are still unbeaten with the nation’s sixth-best offense that’s having lots of fun in shootouts.
Why It’s Going To Happen: The O can keep up with everyone. Down and out against Cal, the Wildcats came up with an epic fourth quarter with a Hail Mary for the win – this might be a charmed team and a strong season in a Pac-12 South that might not be as strong as it appears on paper.
Why It’s Not Going To Happen: It took that Hail Mary to get by Cal and it was way too much of a fight to get past UTSA and Nevada. The secondary is shaky, and for all the good things the offense has been doing, it’s barely getting by. Three of the four wins have come by a touchdown or less – that’s playing with fire.

4. Wisconsin THIS WEEK: at Northwestern
The schedule is a joke. No Michigan State. No Ohio State. Nebraska and Maryland are home, and the toughest road game is at Iowa. Any team good enough to have LSU in trouble after three quarters should be able to blow through this ridiculous slate of layups. The running game is third in the country, and QB Tanner McEvoy appears to have found a groove after a rocky start.
Why It’s Going To Happen: The Badgers should be favored in every game the rest of the way, and If they’re not, that’ll mean they lost once and won’t be in the playoff picture. Rip through the road of cream-puffs, and then get cuts against a Michigan State or Ohio State. Get to 12-1 with a Big Ten title and the only loss in the opener against LSU, and a spot in the big four might be there.
Why It’s Not Going To Happen: By the way, the schedule is awful. It’ll be a really, really tough sell to put the Badgers in over a second SEC team or a champion from another conference, even if there’s a good home win over Nebraska. Beating Western Illinois, Bowling Green and USF isn’t going to scare anyone – the offense took a while to get going in the three home games. This is a good team, but it’s not nearly as strong as some of the recent versions.

3. Nebraska THIS WEEK: at Michigan State
The close call against McNeese State might still seem a bit too fresh, but with 41 points or more against everyone else, the offense is working behind a legitimate Heisman candidate in Ameer Abdullah. No. 2 in the nation in rushing an seventh in scoring, the Big Red Machine is back.
Why It’s Going To Happen: The opportunities are there. As the only unbeaten team left in the Big Ten, and with wins over Fresno State and Miami, it’s been a strong start to the season with several easy chances to pad the record with Northwestern, Purdue and Minnesota still to play.
Why It’s Not Going To Happen: At Michigan State, at Wisconsin and at Iowa. The Huskers can still be in the mix for a College Football Playoff spot with a 12-1 record and a Big Ten championship, so they could probably lose this week to Michigan State, but they can’t lose at Wisconsin or Iowa. No matter what, this year, one loss in the Big Ten might mean elimination.

2. Notre Dame THIS WEEK: Stanford
Isn’t this team supposed to be hammered by academic suspensions? It’s not really being talked about at parties, but the team is off to a much better start than the 2012 version that went to play in the national title game. That version two years ago struggled to get by Purdue and got ugly in a 13-6 win over Michigan. This year’s hasn’t been threatened in blowout wins over the first four games. Everett Golson is playing like a Heisman contender and the defense has reloaded up in a big hurry despite some key losses.
Why It’s Going To Happen: Golson is proving to have the same magic he showed in 2012, while the defense has been nothing short of stifling. There haven’t been any killer offenses yet to face, but still, allowing 46 points in three games – with seven of those coming from a Golson giveaway against Syracuse – the D is rocking. There’s a chance 11-1 still means a shot at the playoff, with a little luck.
Why It’s Not Going To Happen: Going to Florida State could end the dream. With Stanford, a trip to Arizona State, Louisville and a date at USC still to deal with, it won’t be easy. One loss probably means a big bowl spot, but not the playoff, and two losses means one of the ACC’s bowl bids.

1. BYU THIS WEEK: Utah State
This could turn out to be the biggest and toughest call on the lot. 12-0 gets BYU in, right? That would mean wins over Texas at Texas, Virginia, at Boise State, Nevada, and at Cal. Hardly a murderer’s row, but blasting Texas 41-7 was impressive. QB Taysom Hill will eventually be in the Heisman chase as the leader of a devastating running attack, while the special teams – the Cougars lead the nation in punting and are near the top in kickoff returns – have been terrific. The running game isn’t unstoppable, but it’s extremely effective and Hill seems able to rise to any occasion.
Why It’s Going To Happen: Will BYU be favored in every game the rest of the way? There aren’t any truly bad games to deal with – going to Boise State and Cal really isn’t that bad. While the committee might not be impressed, 41-7 over Texas stands out. If the Longhorns can make any noise in the Big 12, all of a sudden, the early September game will carry extra weight.
Why It’s Not Going To Happen: Even at 12-0, the Cougars aren’t a sure thing for one of the four spots, and 11-1 – depending on when the loss comes – might knock them out of one of the big bowls and into their slot in the Miami Beach Bowl. This is a good, sound team, but it’s not a top 15 one – it’ll have to be perfect, and it’ll have to dominate the mediocre schedule in the back half.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Jim Mora Jr. now 20-0 when his UCLA teams lead at halftime … Underrated: Jim Mora Jr. now 23-0 when his UCLA teams lead after the game is over.
2) Overrated: Wake Forest Punter/Kicker Mike Weaver … Underrated: The greatest knockout ever. Keith Jackson calling the 1980 Mike Weaver-John Tate fight. (It’s worth spending an hour watching the entire fight, but if you can’t, fast forward to 59:30 – Jackson’s call is epic.)
3) Overrated: The idea of Jim Harbaugh returning to college ... Underrated: The idea of Les Miles as the 2015 Michigan head coach
4) Overrated: NC State whining about Florida State injuries ... Underrated: Defenses using every loophole to slow down the hurry-up offenses
5) Overrated: Mack Brown, ESPN/ABC talking head ... Underrated: SMU head coach Mack Brown

"If it were me, I'd bet everything. But that's me. I'm an aggressive gambler. Mr. Vegas. Come on. Go for it. Go for it. Yes, yes, there we go. I'm in." … Sorry for not helping the cause last week. I would've given you Missouri and the Northwester/Penn State under. I'll make up for it this week by going jumbo .. Last Week: SU 5-0, ATS 3-2 - So Far: SU 16-3, ATS 11-8

1) Georgia Tech +2 over Miami
2) Kansas +26 over West Virginia (WVU straight up)
3) South Carolina -5 over Kentucky
4) Arizona State +11.5 over USC (USC straight up)
5) Florida +2 over Tennessee
6) Alabama -5.5 over Ole Miss
7) Nebraska +9.5 over Michigan State (MSU straight up)
8) Georgia Southern -17 over New Mexico State

Sorry if this column sucked, I wasn’t my fault … my decided schematic advantage led the way to a 6-22 record with just one win over a Power 5 school.

- Part 1 - No, Florida State isn't No. 1 

Scout CFB Top Stories