College Football Playoff Top 25: Oregon is No. 5
The College Football Playoff selection committee released its first top 25 rankings Tuesday afternoon, and if the playoff were to begin today, the Oregon Ducks would just miss out on the final four as the No. 5-ranked team in the nation. Other Pac-12 teams in the top 25 are Arizona (No. 12), Arizona State (No. 14), Utah (No. 17) and UCLA (No. 22).
If the national semifinals were held this weekend, fourth-ranked Ole Miss would take on No. 1 Mississippi State, while No. 2 Florida State would greet third-ranked Auburn in a rematch of the 2013 BCS national championship.
As the No. 5 team, the Ducks are fully in control of their own College Football Playoff destiny it would appear. "All” Oregon has to do is win out and grab some hardware in Santa Clara (home of the 2014 Pac-12 Football Championship Game), and the Ducks will be playing a 14th game with a chance for a 15th because three teams in front of them – Mississippi State, Auburn and Ole Miss – still have games against each other (Ole Miss still has to play Auburn and Mississippi State). Of course, winning out means beating a Stanford team it has lost to two years in a row – both times as the higher-ranked team – winning at Utah (who wants to play there?), beating Colorado at home and taking the Civil War in enemy territory. Three of Oregon’s final four opponents have winning records, so while the road won’t be easy, 4-0 against that slate should assure the Ducks that they wouldn’t slide outside of the top 4.
No. 12 isn’t the worst spot in the world to hold at this juncture of the season. With all the SEC teams in front of the Wildcats, some of them have to lose (Mississippi State still needs to play No. 6 Alabama and Ole Miss, Auburn needs to play Ole Miss, No. 11 Georgia and Alabama and Georgia will also have to play one of those SEC West teams in the SEC title game, assuming the SEC East Bulldogs win their division), and you would think those losses would allow Arizona to move up in the committee’s eyes… as long as the ‘Cats keep winning, of course. Nothing is guaranteed at UCLA, and a game in Utah doesn’t look fun, either. If Arizona can avoid those pitfalls, how fun will that game against ASU be right after Thanksgiving? I’m salivating at the thought of it, but plenty of football ‘til we get to that stage.
Right on the Wildcats’ heels are the 14th-ranked Sun Devils, who have really improved on the defensive side of the ball over the last couple of weeks. Stanford and Washington don’t sport the best offenses in the conference, but Arizona State held ‘em both to 10 points (and really only three for Washington since it scored a defensive touchdown). The Devils really have a chance to state their case in the next couple of weeks with home games against Utah and the College Football Playoff’s 10th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Win those two games, and Arizona State is 8-1 and almost certainly looking at a top-10 placing.
The Utes have won three consecutive games by six points or fewer. As a result, these 6-1 boys are No. 17 in the eyes of Condi and Co. They’re going to continue to need that close-out-ability, because none of their next four games – Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford and Arizona – look like ones they’ll be able run away with. If Utah can make it through that gauntlet at 10-1, it’ll be impossible to keep them out of the top 4 with a game against Colorado to wind things down before a Pac-12 title contest.
It hasn’t been easy really in any game for the Bruins, save for the Arizona State win, but UCLA has been able to pull off a few wins down the stretch, and at 6-2, it’s still on the periphery of the College Football Playoff. On the outside looking in at No. 23 for the moment, potential wins against Arizona, USC and Stanford would really bolster the Bruins’ campaign for a top 4 spot, but two losses might be one too many. We'll see.
For what it’s worth, which is probably $0.00 since it was a completely different system, but the No. 4 team in the final 2013 BCS standings was Michigan State, which did not make the first BCS top 25 of 2013 and was No. 22 in the second week of the BCS standings, which was also the last week of October (there were eight weekly releases of BCS standings as opposed to seven for the College Football Playoff). As the 22nd-ranked team by the 12-person College Football Playoff selection committee, can UCLA pull a 2013 Michigan State?
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