Cavalcade: What Matters In The Rankings

Cavalcade of Whimsy: The CFP dream and nightmare scenarios, what's going to matter?

Cavalcade of Whimsy

October 28

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- 2013 Cavalcades 
- Aug 26 Josh Shaw, playoff talk, and there's a new network?  
- Sept 2 College Football's big new problem  
- Sept 9 The impossible: defending the Big Ten 
- Sept. 16 More Big Ten issues, UCLA Jerry & More 
- Sept. 23 Read it right in the ...  
- Sept. 30 No, Florida State isn't No. 1 
- Oct. 7 Trevor, Katy & Ole Miss
- Oct. 14 Gurley, Jameis & Autographs 
- Oct. 21 The Play, and is Florida State that good?

Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I need a PR firm to combat the PR firm hired by Conference USA to combat Marshall’s effort to get into the College Football Playoff.

The committee members get a hat? Yes, I did get a free bowl of soup when I was there … First of all, I can’t seem to write any column about the College Football Playoff without reiterating the same thing over and over again, so I apologize. R-E-L-A-X when it comes the first rankings from the committee – it’s a snapshot, that’s all. We aren’t going to know anything in terms of the top four until there’s a list of the Power 5 conference champions up on a board, so while the first unveiling might be a fun indicator of what’s to come, don’t think that the weekly rankings are going to have anything to do with what the actual four team playoff is going to be.

Here are four key things to look for, and don't worry for now about the SEC, which will sort itself out over the coming weeks.

- Notre Dame. This is the one team that really does matter in the pre-December rankings, because if it keeps winning, with games ahead against Arizona State and USC, and if Florida State keeps winning, at 11-1 it’s going to be a major threat to a possible one-loss Big Ten or Pac-12 champ.

- Where are the Big 12 teams? It seems like the Big 12 is at the table looking around to see who the sucker is, but it needs to establish some love throughout the next few weeks and its teams need to be in range. A one-loss Big 12 champ isn’t a lock unless Notre Dame and the Big Ten and Pac-12 champs have two losses.

- The highest-ranked ACC team. The ACC is in the Orange Bowl no matter what, so if we’re assuming Florida State gets into the four, then the highest-ranked ACCer is in one of the New Year’s Day super bowls.

- East Carolina vs. Marshall vs. all the other Group of 5ers. Again, we’re not going to really know anything until we know who the conference champs are, but these rankings will be an interesting indication of just how much the committee cares about the Herd schedule, and who else might be possible for the Group of 5 automatic slot in the New Year’s Day bowls.

"You see a Tyrannosaur doesn't follow a set pattern or park schedules, the essence of chaos.” … Trust me when I say this – the CFP people are more than cool if there’s a massive controversy with lots of teams involved, but in this first year, if it’s cut-and-dry and the top four are obvious, they aren’t going to complain. So here’s the dream scenario for the CFP committee to make this nice and easy.

- Florida State and Mississippi State both go 13-0, and Alabama, Ole Miss, Auburn and Georgia – who’d lose an SEC title game – all have two losses.
- Oregon is the 12-1 Pac-12 champ having ripped through everything in its path. A two-loss Pac-12 champ and a one-loss Big Ten champ would be fine, too, but considering Oregon beat Michigan State, the one-loss Ducks would make this a stronger field nationally.
- Notre Dame is 11-1 and coming in strong, while Florida State is 13-0 making the Irish loss in Tallahassee appear to be more than acceptable.

This would accomplish everything. There’s Notre Dame, who brings the house when it comes to ratings, there’s the unbeaten and defending national champ, there’s the unbeaten SEC champ, and there’s a loaded Oregon, who has earned its stripes over the years. However …

”You know what I am? I'm your worst (bleep)in’ nightmare, man. I'm a (bleep) with a badge which means I got permission to kick your (bleep)in’ ass whenever I feel like it!” … And here’s your meltdown scenario.

- Florida State wins the ACC championship, and then loses Jameis Winston to suspension OR, Duke shocks the world and goes 12-1 with an ACC championship.
- Mississippi State loses to Alabama and the Bulldogs and Tide each finish with one loss. Alabama – having beaten Miss State – goes to the SEC title game and loses to Georgia, who finishes 12-1, meaning the committee might have to put in a one-loss Mississippi State team and keep out the Tide team that won the head-to-head battle, OR …
- Georgia wins the SEC championship and every SEC West team has two losses, while the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big Ten champs all have one loss, meaning the SEC West might be shut out despite its epic season, OR …
- The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 champion all have two losses or more, Notre Dame is 10-2, and Ole Miss runs the table, Alabama goes 11-1, and Georgia or LSU, or Mississippi State have two losses.
- Oregon dominates the regular season and then loses close to a two-loss South team in the Pac-12 championship, and/or someone other than Nebraska from the West wins the Big Ten title.
- In terms of ratings, you want the ultimate doomsday scenario? Mississippi State goes unbeaten, and Utah, TCU, and Duke all win their respective Power 5 conference titles with just one loss.

But that’s nothing compared to my problems trying to figure out what’s for dinner … Honestly, I’m totally confused when it comes to the playoff and I’m not sure what I’m rooting for. As a writer, chaos … PLEASE. As a fan, I want to see four absolute killers in my final four with two epic matchups leading to a definitive national title game. I’m also lost on my belief system. I hate wild-cards and I despise the idea of a team being in a playoff if a team didn’t win it title. But I do want to see the four best teams in college football play, and I’m 99.9999% convinced that at least three of them are in the SEC. Even so, I’m still going to stick with my “conference champion only” belief. If you can’t win your conference title, you’re not good enough. Period.

Yes, setting mattresses on fire in protest is still a strong move to really and truly get things done … Seriously, Tennessee fans. LANE KIFFIN LEFT FOR A BETTER JOB. Tennessee was about to get pounded by sanctions, USC, at the time, was what Alabama is now as a superpower among superpowers, and the Trojan head coaching gig was just bigger and better. I like Butch Jones, but we’re Tennessee has been “a year away” for four years now and it’s about to finish up with its fifth-straight losing season since ... 2009 when Kiffin took over a 5-7 team and went 7-6 with a 37-14 Chick-fil-A bowl win over a fantastic Virginia Tech team.

Not that Bo Pelini’s rant against the SEC needed any tweaking, but … 32-1. The SEC West is 32-1 against teams outside of the SEC West, and that one loss is the division’s worst team – Arkansas – losing to the East’s best team – Georgia. America, don’t bother to continue to fight me on this until the facts start to skew differently.

Because SOMEONE has to watch ULM vs. Texas A&M … There’s absolutely no one in the business who does better work or whose opinion I respect more than Chris Fowler’s. He’s the sharpest knife in the drawer, and he and Kirk Herbstreit really and truly are as unbiased as they come. However, of course ESPN cares that the SEC is really, really good, because if it sucked, no one would pay attention to the shiny new toy. Of course ESPN has a massive, MASSIVE interest in the SEC succeeding, even if it’s not in the way Bo Pelini was implying.

Does that mean that Fowler and company are biased in their work or their reporting? Absolutely not. Does that mean ESPN is influencing the CFP committee? No, because the 12 in the room are going to be more about hard facts and figures than you might think – this would be a bigger problem if the playoff relied on the AP or Coaches polls.

Does that mean Pelini is right when he complained about ESPN’s relationship with the SEC? Not really, at least not in his context when he questioned the neutrality of ESPN, and in that way, Fowler’s GameDay rant against Pelini and those who question the ESPN/SEC marriage was right on.

In terms of the playoff, ESPN wants ratings, and that doesn’t necessarily translate to the SEC no matter how good the teams are. In ESPN’s dream world of viewers, the four playoff teams would be Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State and an unbeaten Florida State. It might work this year because it’s the first season of the playoff, but down the road, three SEC teams would be a ratings disaster, as would SEC on SEC action in the national championship.

The Alabama-LSU rematch in the 2012 BCS championship was a relative ratings dud, and, shockingly, the 2009 title game that you think would’ve been a TV whopper – Tim Tebow vs. Heisman-winner Sam Bradford and the high-flying Sooners - wasn’t. What national championships really rocked? 2006 USC vs. Texas, 2003 Ohio State vs. Miami and 2001 Florida State vs. Oklahoma.

However, there are still 19 bazillion promos across the ESPN family for the SEC Network, and nothing more than a passing mention, for example, about the Big Ten Network’s slate since FOX owns a large portion of the BTN. ESPN might have relationships with the other conferences, but it owns the SEC channel. Owns it. As in it makes money if the network does well, and it only does well outside of one region if the SEC rocks. Yup, it going to make for a bumpy public relations ride at times.

I’ll admit it. The TCU horned claw thing freaks me out … In 2008, Oklahoma lost to Texas, but finished the season averaging 51 points per game. Going into November of this year, let’s say Oklahoma was 6-1 – with that one loss coming in an epic fourth quarter – and was averaging 50.4 points per game, while the defense – despite several shootouts – was a not-that-bad 52nd in the nation. Also, let’s say that one of the key wins came against a program on the level of an Oklahoma. OU would be a sure-thing top four team, right? At some point, we have to get past the idea of brand names and realize that it’s okay to think TCU is really, really good. It’s acceptable that Mississippi State really might be the No. 1 team in America right now. There’s a chance Duke goes 11-1 and has a puncher’s chance at Florida State in the ACC championship, and Utah really just might be that good as it pounds its way through the Pac-12.

However, this might not be true in Michigan's case … Patience doesn’t exist in sports, but it really does take a few recruiting cycles and it takes some tweaking and adjusting to succeed. I know we’re in a win-now-or-die society and mindset, but sometimes it takes a little while. Utah and TCU had good, sound coaching staffs in place, and good, sound programs when they each made their respective jumps up into the Power 5 world. TCU struggled in 2012 and 2013 as a Big 12 team – going 11-14 in the two years after double-digit campaigns were the norm in the Mountain West, Conference USA and WAC, but it took the time to start to recruit at a Big 12 level and start to act more like a Big 12 team in terms of attitude and ability to be more big-time. The same goes for Utah, who dominated as a Mountain West team for years, and then struggled after joining the Pac-12 in 2011 going 18-19 over the last three seasons.

”A man has the right to change his name to vatever he vants to change it to. And if a man vants to be called Muhammad Ali, (bleep) this is a free country, you should respect his vishes, and call the man Muhammad Ali!”… Here’s the problem with having to say Marcus Milquetoast’s – ahem, excuse me – Marcus Mariota’s name correctly. I’m going to do it, because if it’s Maree-oh-TAH, then that’s what it is, but no one else is going to say it right and I’ll be the guy who walks into a Mexican restaurant and orders the en-chee-LA-DAHs and a side of wak-a-mo-LAY.

India Pakistan nuclear war scenario? Nothing to see here … No more getting mad about a school breaking off a deal with another school for a football game to potentially be played several years from now. Texas A&M was supposed to play Oregon in 2018 and 2019, but now it’ll play Clemson instead. Of course, Duck fans got all mad in an “ooooh, the Aggies are wussing out” sort of way, but what if Oregon sucks in five years? Maybe Clemson is an unstoppable juggernaut and Oregon turns into a quivering pile of football jelly. I do get it that Pac-12 fans, and fans of other non-SEC Power 5 conferences, are ticked that SEC teams just don’t travel that often outside of their comfort zone, but let’s just hope to be alive as a species in 2018. Let’s start with that and go from there.

”I got an idea... let's just stop right now and gather up all these bricks and let's build a shelter for the homeless so maybe your mother will have a place to live!” … Apparently, there’s good Bo, bad Bo, and your mother’s an astronaut Bo. There’s still time for Ole Miss to run the table and win the SEC title, and the loss to LSU might not have truly mattered – the Rebels still control their own destiny and have to probably beat Mississippi State no matter what – but on a team full of young superstar talent, and with a defense that’s going to hold its own, all Bo Wallace had to do is not let LSU get into his kitchen and make biscuits with all the woofing and yapping, and he just never seemed right up until that final ill-fated throw. I get it that Hugh Freeze didn’t want his freshman kicker trying a 47-yarder in Death Valley with the game on the line, but when your starting quarterback doesn’t have his fastball, you don’t ask him to groove one down the middle to Mike Trout. Wallace should’ve known better than to make that throw, and Freeze should’ve made 1000% certain that his QB’s only throw was a quick sideline out, or nothing at all.

"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." … Keeping the train rolling .. So Far: SU 30-11, ATS 25-16

1) Florida State -4 over Louisville
2) Notre Dame -14 over Navy
3) East Carolina -7.5 over Temple
4) Wisconsin -11 over Rutgers
5) Air Force -3.5 over Army
6) Ole Miss -2.5 over Auburn
7) USC -7 over Washington State

Sorry if this column sucked, I wasn’t my fault … Mark Dantonio scored an extra touchdown on me to make up for eating a steak, instead of pulling a Michigan and planting a stake, in the middle of the field.


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