1. It’s a bit of a concern that not only did UCLA not pass any of the 1-loss teams ahead of it despite a big win over USC, but that there was also no movement in the top 7 of any kind. These weekly releases are supposed to be blank slate analyses of the teams every week, so how is it that Ohio State, which looked really unconvincing against bad Indiana, is still ahead of No. 7 Baylor, which looked very convincing against bad Oklahoma State? It’d be a shame if over the last two weeks of the rankings only losses caused movement — that’s not the theory behind the playoff committee.
2. It’s equally concerning that the Big Ten appears to be getting love from the committee now. Minnesota vaulted up the rankings after beating Nebraska, going from No. 25 to No. 18. Wisconsin, likewise, moved up, now to No. 14. With Ohio State as UCLA’s primary competition as a potential conference-winning playoff hopeful, any positive movement for the Big Ten is a concern. The hope now must be that Wisconsin wins out and beats the Buckeyes in the conference championship game, because otherwise, it appears that the committee has set it up for Ohio State to have a resume-boosting win heading into selection weekend.
3. The Pac-12 is still getting its share of love, though. One-loss Oregon is still ranked above undefeated Florida State at No. 2, UCLA is the highest rated two-loss team, Arizona and Arizona State are still in the top 13, and Utah, miraculously, is still ranked at No. 25, the only four-loss team that is ranked. Given that, if Utah and USC both win this weekend, you’d have to imagine both will be ranked in the final top 25, which should give UCLA a good boost to the resume.
4. The love for Georgia at No. 9 is inexplicable. The Bulldogs lost to two really mediocre SEC East teams in Florida and South Carolina, and have no wins even remotely close to what Arizona, for one, has produced this year. Very strange.
ANYWAY, a little bit of concern for UCLA’s chances in the playoff selection just makes for more fun viewing this weekend and next. On to the viewing guide.
Again, we’re only selecting games where one outcome over another would be at least somewhat relevant to UCLA’s interests.
Texas A&M (7-4) +3 over LSU (7-4)
4:30 P.M., ESPN
Ever so narrowly, we want the Aggies to win this game because of what it means for the Big Ten.
Neither team winning is really all that significant for the SEC — each team has played more or less the same opponents. But in the non-conference, LSU beat Wisconsin, the Badgers’ lone loss outside of…wait, Wisconsin also lost to freaking Northwestern. How the hell is Wisconsin ranked No. 14 after two trash losses to unranked teams? In any case, LSU losing here would mean Wisconsin lost to two teams with a combined 12-12 or 13-11 record this year (depending on what mighty Northwestern does against Illinois this week). If Wisconsin looks worse, that makes the Big Ten look worse, and if the Big Ten looks worse, Ohio State looks like the king of an increasingly stinky pile of refuse. And that’s a win for UCLA.
4:30 P.M., Fox Sports 1
This would be an absolutely huge win for UCLA. First, it would take away the more obvious of the two Big 12 contenders for the playoffs (Baylor’s strength of schedule still seems to be killing them with the committee). Second, a win for Texas over a ranked TCU team would give one of UCLA’s early season opponents a huge resume boost, which would in turn help the Bruins. Texas has come on strong (GET WHAT I DID THERE?) of late, particularly on defense, and an upset here is not out of the question.
Iowa (7-4) PK over Nebraska (8-3)
9:00 A.M., ABC
Because the committee, in its infinite wisdom, decided to overrate the Big Ten again, we have to care about stupid, awful Big Ten football games between unranked teams. A Nebraska loss would help to take the shine off of Wisconsin and Minnesota, who are riding the momentum of beating currently unranked Nebraska to their current lofty positions (don’t ask us why). If they can get downgraded for Nebraska losing this game, it should help make Ohio State look worse.
No. 17 Missouri (9-2) +2 over Arkansas (6-5)
11:30 A.M., CBS
A win for Missouri keeps Georgia out of the SEC Title game, and likely prevents an East winner from making it to the playoffs — in short, a win for Missouri keeps two-loss Georgia from ever leaping a two-loss UCLA team. If the Tigers win, it also keep the SEC Nuclear scenario still alive — if they move on to beat a two-loss West team in the SEC Championship game, there’s a slim chance that no SEC team has the resume necessary to make it to the playoffs. KEEP THE DREAM ALIVE.
No. 11 Arizona (9-2) PK over No. 13 Arizona State (9-2)
12:30 P.M., FOX
First, if UCLA somehow lost to Stanford, it’d be much less obnoxious for Arizona to go to the Pac-12 Championship game than Arizona State. Second, if UCLA does beat Stanford, a win for Arizona more or less guarantees there will be another top 10 Pac-12 team at the end of the season that UCLA beat, which looks great for the Bruins’ resume. If ASU had been the team to move up to 11 rather than 13, we’d be picking the Sun Devils right now, but it feels altogether cleaner to root for the Wildcats (and UCLA is competing with Arizona for fewer recruits than it is with ASU, so that is also good).
No. 8 UCLA (9-2) -5 over Stanford (6-5)
12:30 P.M., ABC
Just in case you weren’t paying attention.
Virginia (5-6) -1 over Virginia Tech (5-6)
5:00 P.M., ESPN
This is a sneaky fun game for resume purposes: the battle of one of UCLA’s early-season close wins vs. Ohio State’s lone, awful loss. If Virginia wins, it means that Colorado and California are the only teams that still have a chance at a losing record among UCLA’s opponents. A win for the Cavaliers also means that Ohio State’s lone loss was to a team that finished the year 5-7 after losing last week 6-3 in double overtime to a horrible Wake Forest team.
South Carolina (6-5) +4.5 over No. 21 Clemson (8-3)
9:00 A.M., ESPN
This isn’t a hugely significant game, but it sure would be nice to knock another ranked win off of Florida State’s pretty barren resume.
No. 16 Georgia Tech (9-2) +13 over No. 9 Georgia (9-2)
9:00 A.M., SEC Network
This is a significant game. If Missouri does lose to Arkansas (which could very easily happen) a Georgia Tech win here keeps the SEC Nuclear Scenario alive and well — heck, the scenario might even have a better chance with Georgia as the 3-loss SEC East winner. There’s no way a 3-loss Georgia team makes the playoffs, but Georgia might have a better chance than Missouri to beat whatever ugly thing comes out of the SEC West. Whether Missouri wins or loses, though, root for Georgia Tech, because a win eliminates any possibility of Georgia leaping the Bruins, and would help to make the SEC look worse, which is good for America.
Kentucky (5-6) +12.5 over No. 22 Louisville (8-3)
9:00 A.M. ESPN2
If both Kentucky and South Carolina somehow won their games, Louisville and Clemson would likely both drop out of the rankings, taking away all of Florida State’s wins over ranked opponents. The Seminoles’ record would then be on par with undefeated No. 24 Marshall, which also hasn’t played anybody.
Iowa State (2-8) +13 over West Virginia (6-5)
9:00 A.M., FOX Sports 1
Baylor’s lone loss came to West Virginia, and them dropping to 6-6 after a bad loss to Iowa State would make the Bears look a little bit worse come selection time, which would help UCLA.
Michigan (5-6) +21 over No. 6 Ohio State (10-1)
9:00 A.M., ABC
I have it on good authority from Ryan Kartje that Michigan is going to win this game, so blame him if they don’t. The Wolverines have the talent to play with the Buckeyes, but the question is whether they have the coaching. Obviously a win for Michigan eliminates Ohio State from contention, unless something bizarre happens over the next week and a half. Ohio State is probably the biggest realistic barrier right now to UCLA making the playoffs, so this game should be a focus for you on Saturday.
No. 25 Utah (7-4) -9 over Colorado (2-9)
10:00 A.M., Pac-12 Network
Colorado is sneakily dangerous, and we wouldn’t put it past them winning this game. It’d be big for UCLA and the Pac-12 if Utah could finish the year 8-4 and still in the rankings, since it’d mean UCLA’s losses came to two ranked opponents.
USC (7-4) -7 over Notre Dame (7-4)
12:30 P.M., FOX
Do whatever you want here. From a playoff perspective, it’s probably better for UCLA if USC wins and gets back into the rankings. From an everything-that-is-good-and-holy perspective, it’d be great if both teams lost. From a recruiting perspective, it’s probably better that Notre Dame wins, but you could make a case either way depending on how you feel about Alize Jones. In any case, let’s hope that the final score is 5 to 2 and generations of fans never want to watch either team again.
No. 19 Ole Miss (8-3) +2 over No. 4 Mississippi State (10-1)
12:30 P.M., CBS
Here’s where we start to hit the fun stuff. Ole Miss is out of playoff contention after dropping 11 spots in the most recent rankings, but they’re still probably one of the most talented teams in the SEC West, and more than capable of beating Mississippi State. If Ole Miss wins, Mississippi State is almost certainly out of the playoff picture as well, since they won’t win the SEC West and it’s hard to picture the committee selecting a two-loss team that didn’t even win its own division. Again, this is part of the SEC Nuclear Scenario, which is looking more reasonable by the day.
12:30 P.M., ESPN
Speaking of talented teams that could absolutely upset their higher ranked opponents, hello Florida. The Gators have already put an inexplicable beatdown on No. 9 Georgia this year, and Florida is probably the most purely talented team that Florida State has faced since one of Miami (who they beat by 4), Notre Dame (who they beat by 4), or Clemson (who they beat by 6, in overtime). The Seminoles have flirted with disaster all year, and if Florida somehow did pull off the win, Florida State, which is already in a precarious position in the committee’s eyes, would fall like a rock.
Texas Tech (4-7) +24.5 over No. 7 Baylor (9-1)
12:30 P.M., ABC/ESPN2
Again, we think Baylor is already probably one of the top four teams in the country this year, and Texas Tech has virtually no shot of beating them — but it would be really nice if they did!
Penn State (6-5) +13 over No. 10 Michigan State (9-2)
12:30 P.M., ABC/ESPN2
This is pretty easy: Ohio State’s resume is in large part built on a win over the Spartans. If a pretty mediocre Penn State team can knock off Michigan State, that should help to take some of the luster off of the Buckeyes, which could help UCLA come selection time.
No. 14 Wisconsin (9-2) -14 over No. 18 Minnesota (8-3)
12:30 P.M., Big Ten Network
We’re operating under the assumption that Wisconsin has the best chance of beating Ohio State of any team that would play against them in the Big Ten Championship, so we’d want them to win out.
Kansas (3-8) +28 over No. 12 Kansas State (8-2)
1:00 P.M., FOX Sports 1
Only because it would make the Big 12 look that much worse.
Memphis (8-3) -21 over Connecticut (2-8)
1:00 P.M., ESPNews
While it looks like Memphis is unlikely to be the Group of Five representative in the New Year’s Day bowls, a win for the Tigers makes UCLA’s early season win over them look pretty damn good. Memphis would finish the year 9-3 and the winner of the American Athletic Conference.
California (5-6) -4.5 over BYU (7-4)
1:30 P.M., Pac-12 Network
If Cal and Virginia both win on Saturday, they’d guarantee that the only UCLA opponent this year that finished with a losing record would be Colorado. We don’t want to figure it out, but we can’t imagine there are many, if any, teams that can say they only played one team with a losing record.
No. 15 Auburn (8-3) +9.5 over No. 1 Alabama (10-1)
4:45 P.M., ESPN
Think of it this way: UCLA would like one or both of Alabama and Mississippi State to lose on Saturday. If Mississippi State loses earlier in the day, this game isn’t quite as critical, since the SEC is more than likely getting at least one playoff berth, but it would still be nice. Alabama, if it lost here and Mississippi State lost, would still be in first in the SEC West, but if the Crimson Tide then lost to three-loss Georgia or two-loss Missouri in the SEC Title game, there’s reason to think the SEC could be shut out of the playoffs. And wouldn’t that be fun?
No. 2 Oregon (10-1) -19.5 over Oregon State (5-6)
5:00 P.M., ABC
The Ducks need to be undefeated if UCLA gets to them in the Pac-12 Championship, and if Alabama loses this weekend, it’d be great for UCLA to get a chance at No. 1 Oregon.
Washington (7-5) -3.5 over Washington State (3-8)
7:30 P.M., FOX Sports 1
UCLA played Washington, it didn’t play Washington State. A win for the Huskies looks better for UCLA’s resume.
And how’s this: if TCU, Baylor, Mississippi State, Florida State, Alabama, and Ohio State all lose this weekend, and then Bama loses to Missouri in the SEC Title game, and then UCLA beats Oregon after Stanford, UCLA could end up the No. 1 team in the country and playing the first round of the playoffs at home in the Rose Bowl.
So there you go.