Louisville’s close loss to Clemson on Oct. 1 was a hard hit from reality in that the Cards could no longer control their own destiny in the race for one of those four precious spots for the College Football Playoffs.
The aftermath resulted in varying thoughts on the best route for U of L to still make it in. Do you want Clemson to lose? Do you want them to win out and be #1 so our loss at their place comes down as a “good loss”? What if there is a 1-loss SEC or Big Ten team since both of those conferences are up this year? What if Washington is undefeated despite not playing a tough schedule?
For the most part, it looked like the Cards were in a good position as they were blowing teams out of the water (not including Duke) and ranked #5 in the AP poll in the week leading up to the first CFP rankings of the year.
When Louisville was
mistakenly ranked 7th in the first CFP rankings, they were knocked down a bit, but not quite out. Remember, Oklahoma last year made the playoffs despite being ranked as far back as 15th in the first CFP rankings that were released. All we could hope for is that there would be November Chaos in this final month of the season, and in the first week of November, we got exactly that. Let’s take a look at some of the games that have a direct impact on Louisville’s chances to make it to the playoffs.
Mississippi State 35, Texas A&M 28
Going to start with the biggest November Chaos game of the week with this SEC West matchup. The Aggies surprised everyone by jumping up to that fourth playoff spot ahead of undefeated Washington. I guess that the playoff committee has it somewhere in a contract that they have to rank at least two SEC West teams in the top 4 spots in the initial rankings as last year they had LSU and Alabama while having Mississippi State, Auburn, and Ole Miss in 2014’s first CFP rankings.
Anyway, A&M proved everyone who questioned them being in that fourth spot right by losing to a Mississippi State team that came in to the game with a 3-5 record. The Bulldogs ran all over the Aggies as quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (was really hoping Wyatt Roberts would start) rushed for 182 yards on 20 carries. The Bulldogs would rush for a combined 365 yards on the day with 3 rushing touchdowns.
While I never really thought A&M would make a real threat to be the second SEC team to take that final playoff spot, it’s nice to get them out of the way.
Washington 66, Cal 27
Washington continues to cruise through its schedule with a dominant victory over the Golden Bears on last night’s late PAC-12 game. The Huskies continue to be a thorn in Louisville’s side as they are basically ranked ahead of the Cards by default of being unbeaten. I agree 100% that Washington is a very good team, but I just don’t see how they’d beat the Cards if the two were to matchup.
Hopefully we get a nice surprise upset of the Huskies in these last few remaining weeks.
Auburn 23, Vanderbilt 16
I wanted to bring this game up because while they may not directly prove to be a threat to us, Auburn is quietly sneaking up in the rankings. They started out 1-2 with losses to Clemson and Texas A&M early in the year, but since then have won every game and are still in the thick of the SEC West race. While ultimately I think Alabama will win the SEC West for the 100th year in a row, Auburn is still lurking in the top-10 of the CFP rankings and could possibly knock off ‘Bama in that final week of the regular season to really make things interesting.
Ohio State 62, Nebraska 3
I wasn’t sold on Nebraska being a top-10 team, but I didn’t think they were blowout loss to OSU bad. While the Buckeyes do have a bad loss to Penn State, they are still proving that they are one of the best teams (second best team next to Alabama, in my opinion) in the nation with wins over Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma. If there is a conference that will put two teams in the playoffs this year, right now it is realistically looking like that will be the Big Ten. The Wolverines will travel to The Shoe this year during rivalry week, and if they come away with a close loss, that might be all it takes to get them and the Buckeyes both in the playoffs if the Buckeyes go on to win the Big Ten.
Other Notable Wins
Michigan 59, Maryland 3-Michigan continues to roll through its schedule. Very real possibility that there might be two teams from the Big Ten in the playoffs this year if Ohio State wins the conference.
Clemson 54, Syracuse 0- Clemson just demolished the Orange in Death Valley today. Watson sat out the second half of the game with a shoulder injury, but it’s looking like it shouldn’t be something too serious for the Tigers.
Alabama 10, LSU 0- If the Crimson Tide finish the season with one loss or less, they are basically automatically guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. Such is life in the SEC when you run the conference.
USC at Washington (7:30 ET)
I think USC heading up to take on UW next week should be one to keep an eye for the Cardinals. USC had a horrendous start to the season with a 52-6 loss to Alabama and finishing out September with a 1-3 record. Since then, they have rattled off five straight victories and scoring at least 40 points in all but one of those victories. While the other teams ahead of Louisville have fairly manageable opponents, I think the Trojans have a very good shot at upsetting the Huskies.
While there is still a long way to go before the Cards have a clear shot at the playoffs, at least the first week of November helped move some other teams out of the way. I don’t think that too much happened this weekend to really shake up the college football landscape other than the Aggies going down. I’m predicting that the top-3 stays the same while the Buckeyes take over that fourth spot. With the Cardinals offense back to humming like we are used to, they should move up to #6 with Washington staying put at #5.
Hopefully next Sunday we’ll have more upsets ahead of us as we inch closer to the playoffs.