The wait is over.
The inaugural College Football Playoff rankings were finally made public last night at approximately 7:34 p.m. EST (not that I was counting or anything), and they have already sparked controversy across the entire college football landscape. Outside of the actual rankings themselves, the most interesting dynamic to this entire process was finding out what the committee values the most when it comes to ranking these teams. Well, we now have our answer.
It is clear that while the selection committee takes into account many different factors, head to head matchups are undoubtedly what the committee values the most. Take, for example, an Ole Miss team that is fresh off a loss against LSU; they find themselves at #4, two spots ahead of Alabama. The AP Poll currently has Ole Miss ranked at #7, so the committee is showing that they will reward the teams who have an impressive body of work and not be as reactive on a week-to-week basis as the AP Poll tends to be. Oregon and Michigan State are another example; Oregon beat Michigan State at home by a score of 46-27 earlier this year, and they are ranked higher in the rankings mainly because of that head to head win, but also because their body of work is better at this point.
The most controversial ranking of the week would have to be Notre Dame. Here is a team who was one badly timed pass interference penalty away from walking out of Doak Campbell Stadium unscathed and unbeaten, but instead they find themselves at #10 and on the outside looking in. With a ranking that low, it’s hard to like the Irish’s chances of making it into the playoff seeing as though the game against Florida State was their one chance to have a signature victory this year.
See, all of this talk about playoffs and rankings, and it’s not even Halloween yet. College football fans need to relax and let the season play itself out. That will happen sooner rather than later because this weekend features three matchups between teams ranked inside the top 25: #3 Auburn at #4 Ole Miss, #16 Ohio State at #8 Michigan State, and #7 TCU at #20 West Virginia. Buckle up.
Death Valley is still Death Valley.
Forget the fact that Ole Miss was a National Championship contender. Forget the fact that LSU’s starting lineup was littered with talented, but very raw underclassmen. Actually, just throw out every piece of information you thought to be true, because this is Death Valley we’re talking about. The place where opponent’s dreams go to die. The same place that has triggered a reading from the on-campus Richter scale due to incredibly loud and passionate (crazy) fans. Oh, and did I mention it was a night game?
Strange things tend to happen to opposing team’s game plans once they enter the “friendly” confines of Death Valley at night. This past Saturday, Les Miles’ squad proved once again just how hard it is for opposing teams to come into Death Valley at night and walk away with a win. Les Miles is now 46-4 in night games at Death Valley, and the reputation of that stadium grew even more so after this past weekend.
Inside the white lines, however, the story of the game was LSU’s defense. They were able to keep constant pressure on Bo Wallace all night long, and never allowed the Ole Miss offense to get into any sort of rhythm. The defense absolutely fed off of the crowd’s energy, and they really excelled at keeping the Rebels from putting drives together after forcing them to go 5-17 on third down. For the most part, the Rebels defense put together another impressive performance by forcing four turnovers on the night, but the offense simply was not able to put any points up on the board.
If Ole Miss still has aspirations to win the SEC West, then Bo Wallace has got to make better decisions in clutch moments than what he displayed on Saturday. There’s no excuse for heaving the ball into double coverage when all the Rebels needed was a quick out to the sidelines in order to stop the clock. As great as their defense is, the Rebels can only go as far as Bo Wallace will take them.
Mississippi State and Auburn looked… ehhh.
Both teams are serious contenders to not only make it to the SEC Championship, but to make it to the National Championship as well. With that being said, their matchups this weekend proved to be a little tricky.
Mississippi State played a Kentucky team that is leaps and bounds from where it has been in recent years, and Mark Stoops is the man to thank for that. Kentucky gave Mississippi State everything they could handle, and the Bulldogs should expect this sort of effort from opposing teams the rest of the season because they are now the ones who have the target on their back thanks to their unanimous #1 ranking. However, the Bulldogs have given up at least 23 points to every SEC team they’ve faced this season, and they must get better as a unit before they play the likes of Alabama and Ole Miss.
Auburn, on the other hand, barely walked away with a win at home against South Carolina. There’s no doubt that Gus Malzhan will take a win any way he can given how difficult the remaining schedule is for the Tigers, but after giving up over 450 total yards to Mississippi State and over 530 total yards to South Carolina, one has to question if that defense can hold up for the rest of the season. The offense is fine and will continue to put up points, but the defense must figure out a way to slow down the prolific offenses of Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama.
Give credit where credit is due.
Last week, the Georgia Bulldogs completed their investigation into whether or not Todd Gurley received improper benefits for signing autographs, and they proceeded to file for his reinstatement with the NCAA. This morning, the NCAA announced that Gurley’s suspension would be extended to four games and that he would also have to pay a portion of the $3,000 he received to a charity of his choice, as well as do community service. Gurley will be eligible to play against Auburn on Nov. 15 in what should be an unbelievable game.
In regards to the investigation process itself, everyone affiliated with Georgia took the necessary steps to ensure that their actions were on par with NCAA guidelines. Mark Richt did not enable Todd Gurley, nor did he risk the university’s integrity by choosing to play him despite what the reports were saying. No, Richt and the University of Georgia chose to suspend the team’s most valuable player because they believe in doing the right thing no matter what the cost may be.
Whenever Gurley hits the field against Auburn, Georgia fans have every right to give him a standing ovation every time he touches the ball, because thanks to their university, he was brought back onto the team the right way. Richt and the University of Georgia deserve all of the credit in the world for being a shining example of how to handle these sorts of infractions, and one thing is for sure: the Auburn Tigers better be ready for a heavy dose of what will undoubtedly be an angry and motivated Todd Gurley. Good luck.