2015-11-12

FBS - Week 11 Preview

This week became the 1st strike to clear the playoff picture.
Hopefully, when all games are played, we will have a clear picture and not a blurry one.

The Committee did post their 2nd playoff list and it had a surprise this time.
Remember their approach is different, they have an earned value approach while my list a bit later in that blog post is a "most likely to stay alive" approach.
But the Committee has the final say end of the season, no me… damn.

Here is the list:
1 Clemson 9-0
2 Alabama 8-1
3 Ohio State 9-0
4 Notre Dame 8-1
5 Iowa 9-0
6 Baylor 8-0
7 Stanford 8-1
8 Oklahoma State 9-0
9 LSU 7-1
10 Utah 8-1

Compared to last week did Alabama rise and got basically the spot LSU had last week.
The surprise is that Notre Dame got the 4th spot this week. I’m sure this will change, but at the moment this means the ACC, the SEC, the BIG10 and an Indy team do get a ticket and the BIG12 and the PAC12 are left out. If this would be the final standing, those conferences would go nuts.
Well I like the signal behind this, because it says, if you play pushovers with your 3 to 4 non-conference games and are not willing to play good or at least better teams, you get not the love you need to make it into the playoffs.
The next few weeks will sort this out.
The BIG12 is on basically on playoff mode at the moment, with all the top teams meeting the next few weekends in an almost round robin mode, which should boost the reputation of the last team standing and the PAC12 has still some crucial games against better teams coming AND a championship game.

For now we have 1 ACC team, 2 SEC teams (-1 to last week), 2 Big 10 teams (-1 to last week), 1 Independent, 2 Big 12 teams and now 2 PAC12 teams (+2 to last week) in the mix.
Highest non-power5-team is now Navy at #20, followed by Memphis (#21), Temple (#22) and Houston (#24).
Navy is interesting, since they went under the radar so far, but because of their win against Memphis got now into the spotlight. I don’t see them at the end at the top, but you never know.
If Navy is still relevant at season final, the Committee would delay the final rankings by 1 week, since Navy does play Army traditionally 1 week after the conference finals and a final judgement could only be made after that game.
THAT would be a fun week of speculations and gossip.

Last week, only 1 Team did get the knockout on my list with their 2nd loss (Florida State) and 3 teams did get their 1st loss (Michigan State, TCU and LSU).

15 teams are left in the list.

The so far remaining 1-loss or better Power5 teams + Independents after week 10 are:

ACC (2 teams)
Clemson Tigers (9-0) - has to play none of that list
North Carolina Tar Heels (8-1) - has to play none of that list

dropped out:
Florida State Seminoles (7-2) - lost to Clemson

BIG10 (3 teams)
Iowa Hawkeyes (9-0) - has to play none of that list
Ohio State Buckeyes (9-0) has to play Michigan State 21.11.
Michigan State Spartans (8-1) - has to play Ohio State 21.11.

dropped out:
none

BIG12 (4 teams)
Baylor Bears (9-0) - has to play Oklahoma 14.11., Oklahoma State 21.11. and TCU 28.11.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-0) has to play Baylor 21.11. and Oklahoma 28.11.
Oklahoma Sooners (8-1) - has to play Baylor 14.11., TCU 21.11. and Oklahoma State 28.11.
TCU Horned Frogs (8-1)- has to play Oklahoma 21.11. and Baylor 28.11.

dropped out:
none

PAC12 (2 teams)
Stanford Cardinal (8-1) - has to play Notre Dame 28.11.
Utah Utes (8-1) - has to play none of that list

dropped out:
none

SEC (3 teams)
Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1) - has to play none of that list
Florida Gators (8-1) - has to play none of that list
LSU Tigers (7-1) - has to play none of that list

dropped out:
none

INDEPENDENTS (1 team)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-1) - has to play Stanford 28.11.

Let's have a look at my list of the

TOP10 teams for the playoff spots (sorted by likeliness)
#1 Clemson Tigers
With the win over Florida State (23-13) did Clemson not only secure the ACC division, they also got the top spot in the AP polls and do only have 1 tough game ahead, the ACC Championship game.
Mark this date: 05.12. ACC Championship game (most likely North Carolina), neutral site. Of cause they have still to win all remaining games to stay in the playoff hunt, but the ACC title game is set.
Next game: Syracuse, on the road
The remaining opponents are not that successful so far. But they HAVE to avoid upsets, since they are only 1 loss away to be left out of the playoffs. The ACC does not have the strength of schedule to get a spot with 1 loss if all other champions do have also 1 loss or better.

#2 Baylor Bears
That win against Kansas State on the road (31-24) was a nice meter to measure the strength of Baylor and to see if that freshman QB can carry the load. So far, the team did pass the test.
Should be Oklahoma State at that spot? Maybe.
For now Baylor stays.
Mark this date: 21.11. Oklahoma State, on the road. This can become the season defining game. The Cowboys are the best hidden secret of the season. No real hype around them, but they are unbeaten and a real scoring machine.
Next game: Oklahoma, at home
The Sooners will be either strong as an ox or weak as a kitten. Why I say that? Remember the Texas game.
I think the Big12 will develop different as we might expect it and this game might be 1 step to that.
Makes it interesting and that’s the best for the sport.

#3 Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes won 28-14 against Minnesota, which was for me not that convincing.
Fine, a win is a win, but they need more to overcome Michigan State and Michigan (and Iowa if that’s going to happen).
Ok, they had to play with their backup QB.
Mark that date: 21.11. Michigan State, at home. With the Spartans losing last week, this game did not lose any value. The only thing which can happen now is, that at the end there might be a 3 team tie, if Ohio State beat MSU and UM beat OSU.
Next game: Illinois, on the road
That one I like. Illinois is not dead and the interims coach is fighting for a permanent job.
This can become a tougher match than expected and that before the 2 most crucial games of the season.

#4 Alabama Crimson Tide
The Tide did keep the Tigers in check and won 30-16.
They have still some big games ahead, but the nation does see the SEC championship game coming.
I think they will make it, but that path has 2 road games in front of them. Mississippi State is not a national contender, but ranked at #20 they are not a lightweight. And the Iron Bowl against Auburn is always special, even if Alabama might win big there. Played in Auburn, this will be tougher.
Mark this date: 05.12. SEC Championship game (Florida), neutral site.
This is not fixed at the moment, but for now, Alabama has all the tools for that ticket.
Next game: Mississippi State, on the road
The Bulldogs are threat. The Tide cannot sleep on that game.

#5 Utah Utes
The road win against Washington 34-23 was a big step to the title game.
With 3 games remaining, the Utes are still on top of the Pac12 South and could win the division and the conference.
Mark this date: 21.11. UCLA, at home. If the Utes do win all games, including this one, they are the division champs. Losing another game would make it all much tougher and complicated.
Next game: Arizona, on the road
Arizona is struggling, but in every game they do come to play. Utes watch out.

#6 Iowa Hawkeyes
With the Spartans loss last weekend, the Hawkeyes are the only unbeaten team in the BIG10 beside Ohio State. If the world would be perfect, both teams will meet in the Championship game and the winner would go to the playoffs.
The Hawkeyes did win against Indiana last week, on the road, 35-27.
Mark this date: 27.11. Nebraska, on the road. With the Huskers win against MSU, this game got a bit hotter and became a serious step stone for the championship game. It’s very likely that Iowa did already secure the championship spot at that moment, but a loss here would set the BIG10 a bit back in the playoff hunt.
Next game: Minnesota, at home
The division looks like almost won. The conference is something else.

#7 Stanford Cardinals
Stanford did beat Colorado 42-10. That was just a bump on the road. With Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame coming to town the next 3 weeks, the team will face some tough teams.
If they survive this, they will face the PAC12 South champ. Win this and they might get NOT get a playoff ticket.
I think it’s safe to say, that Stanford and Utah need a loss by the other conferences to sneak into the playoffs.
Stanford will not think about that much at the moment and will concentrate on the next games.
Mark this date: 21.11. Cal, at home. You might still ask, why Cal is the tough one, but this is a rival game and Cal can play, if all pieces come together.
Next game: Oregon, at home
A PAC12 Champ not in the playoffs would be a disaster for the conference.

#8 Oklahoma State Cowboys
They still try to hide, but that win over TCU (49-29) did put them on the map.
Now ranked at #5 in the AP polls, the Pokes will face the toughest games of the season, soon.
Mark this date: 21.11. Baylor, at home. THAT is a deciding match, and after that does loom the Bedlam Series against the Sooners.
Next game: Iowa State, on the road
The Cowboys do have the right schedule to get this done, they have to stay focused.

#9 LSU Tigers
They lost to Alabama 16-30, but I think they are still the 2nd best chance for the SEC, behind Alabama. For me is Florida not that strong.
LSU needs an Alabama loss and some more magic to reach the SEC championship game, but if that happens, I think they would beat Florida, again.
Mark this date: 21.11. Ole Miss, on the road. LSU needs of cause every game as a win, but this will be the last road game and crucial for the division standings.
Next game: Arkansas, at home
I’m not giving LSU up already. Worst thing to happen for the SEC, Alabama gets beaten by Florida in the conference final. That might keep Florida out of the playoffs. Maybe.

#10 Notre Dame
I thought I could keep them out of that list forever, but they do keep winning and their schedule does look stronger with every win their opponents get, week after week.
That 1 loss against Clemson does now look like a close match against two even teams and Clemson is #1 in the AP this week.
The Irish got into the top 4 of the committee rankings. Unbelievable. I don’t want to take anything away from that team, but top 4? Really?
The Irish won against Pitt last weekend 42-30 and now do face Wake Forest, Boston College and Stanford.
Mark this date: 28.11. Stanford, on the road. I think Notre Dame needs that win, plus a Stanford win in the Conference final and a bit luck to get a playoff spot, regardless of the current standings. There are still 3 possible unbeaten conference champs in the mix and a 1-loss SEC champ will get ahead of any other 1-loss team.
Next game: Wake Forest, at home
Serious, the Irish do have a slim chance and it might even be better than the #10 spot here.
I think they will look at the Big10 and the Big12 and do hope for upsets, because with a clear unbeaten champ there, the Irish will be left out. Probably.

Dropped out:
Michigan State Spartans, lost to Nebraska
TCU Horned Frogs, lost to Oklahoma State

Here are the 2 most likely non power 5 teams to crash the party:

#1 Houston Cougars
And another big win, this time against Cincinnati, 33-30.
Not as dominant as expected, but this I don’t think the current record of Cincinnati does show their real strength.
The playoff committee now has 4 American Athletic teams in the mix and I’m still behind the Cougars.
Mark this date: 14.11. Memphis, at home. With Memphis losing to Navy last week, this got a bit of a downer for some, but be assured, Memphis can still win here. The Cougars better tame the Tigers.
Next game: Memphis, at home
Here are some serious questions: 1) which coach will leave his team to get a better paid job? All coaches of Temple, Houston, Memphis and even Navy? I guess not all will leave their teams. 2) Which team will get love from the BIG12 for a possible expansion? The BIG12 needs 2 teams from all we learned over the past 2 seasons to get a championship game and the have to get at least 1 American Athletic team, since there are not many possible teams in all the other conference.

#2 Temple Owls
Oh damn, I had to put Temple back into the list.
Why that?
Here is my math: There are Houston, Navy, Memphis and Temple left in the AAC to win the conference.
Houston I see as front runner.
Navy did win against Memphis, but has to play Houston on the road. Tough. I think they will lose that one. So Navy is out. Of cause they could win 1 or all games, but I think they will lose at least against Houston, which would make them full toast.
That leaves Temple. Their problem is Memphis, at home and the championship game.
If they lose to Memphis, it’s getting tricky, even if they win the conference.
For now, I see them with the best chance to stay as 2nd best non power 5 team.
The Tigers did beat SMU 60-40, which should raise some questions regarding defense.
Mark this date: 21.11. Memphis, at home. They don’t need the win for the conference title game ticket, but for sure for the playoff rankings.
Next game: USF, on the road
Temple gets a lot of attention and it’s well deserved. If the Irish are #4, which lost to #1 Clemson in a close game, what does this male Temple, losing close to Notre Dame? But watch out, even that USF game can be a stone they might stumble over.

Dropped out: Memphis Tigers, did lose to Navy

Let’s u p d a t e fast the standings and the division and conference championship contenders.
I will go through this by alphabetical order and will only point out the conference standings.

AAC
East Division
Temple 5-0
South Florida 3-2

West Division
Houston 5-0
Navy 5-0
Memphis 4-1

Temple is leading in the East and South Florida has only the chance to get near them by winning the next game which is against Temple at home. If they lose this, Temple is the division champ.
The West is still totally strange, but Memphis lost against Navy this week.
At the moment Houston looks best suited for the last few weeks, but thinks can happen.

ACC
Atlantic Division
Clemson 6-0

Coastal Division
North Carolina 5-0
Pittsburgh 4-1
Miami (FL) 3-2
Duke 3-2

The Atlantic is won by Clemson.
The Coastal is still open, but UNC has the edge now. The did beat Duke and Pitt. Next week against Miami can be the next step. But with 3 games remaining, they could drop dead fast.

BIG10
East Division
Ohio State 5-0
Michigan State 4-1
Michigan 4-1
Penn State 4-2

West Division
Iowa 5-0
Wisconsin 5-1
Northwestern 3-2

Penn States loss did more or less send them packing. In theory they could still win this, but the reality is, they would need a totally crazy finish to win this. MSUs loss did not change much, only that they need to win against Ohio State very badly.
The West is Iowas territory for now and it looks like they will bring that title home.
Wisconsin has only 2 games remaining, which they need to win both and they still need 2 losses by Iowa.

BIG 12
Oklahoma State 6-0
Baylor 5-0
Oklahoma 5-1
TCU 5-1

This weekend will be a bit less critical, but the final 2 weeks will be the deciding ones.
Baylor has as only team from that list a game beginning of December, so worst case could be, they survive all this and then lose to Texas in December ….

CUSA
East Division
Western Kentucky 6-0
Marshall 5-1
Middle Tennessee 3-2

West Division
Louisiana Tech 5-1
Southern Mississippi 4-1
UTEP 2-3
Rice 2-3

The East looks like a 2 team race and they will meet to settle this at season final. But Middle Tennessee gained some steam with the Marshall win last weekend.
The West will be decided by LT and Southern Miss. Again this is done at season final.

MAC
East Division
Bowling Green 6-0

West Division
Toledo 5-1
Northern Illinois 5-1
Western Michigan 5-1
Central Michigan 4-2

The East of the MAC is won by Bowling Green. They did beat Western Michigan this Wednesday and that’s that. Next stop, MAC Championship game.
The West on the other hand is open. Toledos loss did show that the final word is not spoken. Western Michigans loss this Wednesday did open the division up as it was 1 and a half week ago.
This won’t be finished until regular season ends.

MWC
Mountain Division
Boise State 4-1
Air Force 4-1
Utah State 4-2
New Mexico 3-2
Colorado State 2-3

West Division
San Diego State 5-0
Nevada 3-2
San José State 3-2

While the Mountain does not have a leading candidate is the West already almost closed.
Last weekend was almost a complete BYE for the conference, so no big changes here.

PAC12
North Division
Stanford 7-0
Washington State 4-2
Oregon 4-2

South Division
Utah 5-1
UCLA 4-2
USC 4-2

Stanford has to win at least one game to seal the title. Both other north teams have to hope for 2 losses by Stanford and have to win all games.
The South became a 3 team race, with ASU dropped out last weekend.

SEC
East Division
Florida 6-1

West Division
Alabama 4-1
LSU 4-1
Ole Miss 4-2
Mississippi State 3-2
Arkansas 3-2
Texas A&M 3-3

Florida did seal the East with their sloppy win last weekend. They can now wait for the west to settle the standings there.
The West is still wide open, but Alabama can win now by their own work. All others do need a Tide loss to get back on top. I think A&M is done, but you never know.

SBC
Arkansas State 5-0
Appalachian State 4-1
Georgia Southern 4-1
Louisiana Lafayette 3-1
South Alabama 2-2

Arkansas State can win it all by winning the last few games. They have only low level teams left on the schedule, so if they don’t struggle big time, this should be done.
All the others have to hope for a complete Arkansas State blackout.

Now let's have a look at the BLOCK OF GRANITE TOP GAMES FOR WEEK 11

Sat. Nov. 14 - 3:30 pm ET
#2 Alabama @ #17 Mississippi State
Let’s start with the facts. Nick Sabans Crimson Tide did only lose once to the Bulldogs, in his 1st season as new HC of Alabama. Since then, all games were won.
Last season were at that point the situation that Alabama had lost to Ole Miss early in the season, were ranked #5 and Mississippi State were unbeaten at that point and ranked #1 in the country.
Alabama won 25-20 at home.
This season Alabama had lost also to Ole Miss, but Mississippi State has already lost to LSU und Texas A&M. But … this one is now in Bulldogs territory.
The Bulldogs do have a very good QB and will very likely try to win the game by an air attack.
Can Alabama keep that in check?
Maybe … no … likely.
The Tide is good, their line is very good.
They have the tools to destroy the passing game before a pass is thrown.
Does have Mississippi State a chance?
Absolutely.
But I guess they need a bit of a down game of Alabama or a perfect game on their side to make this happen.
You won’t find many people betting against Alabama this week.
I stick with Vegas, which does see the Elephants as 8 point favourite.
Tide win.

Sat. Nov. 14 - 7:00 pm ET
#21 Memphis @ #24 Houston
This is one of the most anticipated games this season.
It became that way, when Memphis and Houston played perfect football and did win.
Memphis did lose against Navy last weekend, so the battle of the unbeaten is canceled, but the battle for the division crown is still on and the winner will very likely be in the top spot for the New Year bowl spot and cash in big.
Both coaches are under wild speculations, which will get which job opening, forgetting totally the wishes and desires of the coaches in question.
It can happen that both will move on, but there were several hot candidates in the past, which did say ‘no, thank you’ to the 1st, 2nd or even more job offers, until they decided to move on.
Clear is, the game will be watched, closely by many directors and I think the game itself will be good.
Both teams do field a good offense and the key will be who will be able to score more.
I see Houston here as home team in the favourite role, as does Vegas, which have them a score up front.
It might come down to the last drive to determine the winner and I think the home team is best suited to win this, either as last effort offense drive or as last defense stand avoiding a score. The home crowed will carry the team to a win.
Cougars win.

Sat. Nov. 14 - 8:00 pm ET
#12 Oklahoma @ #6 Baylor
Kitten or Ox?
I did say that Oklahoma might be soft as a kitten or strong as an ox in that game.
The reason for that is the Texas game.
It did show, that with the right preparation and motivation Oklahoma can be beaten, easily.
We are not talking about gaining momentum and sealing a win with the last drive, we are talking about a clear humiliating destruction. That’s what the Texas game was.
But this is not Texas, it’s only a team from Texas, which was for years 1 of the dirt eaters of the BIG12.
But Baylor did grow, Baylor is now a force.
So far they did win every game of the season and they are on their way to the biggest success in team history.
Oklahoma is in their way.
So there shouldn’t be a question about motivation in Baylor.
How is the motivation in Oklahoma? If a Texas Longhorns game can’t motivate them, how can they be motivated for this game?
Then there is the Bob Stoops can’t win big games curse.
If you look at all the active HCs of the teams winning at some point a national championship, those teams do win big games, often. Except Bob Stoops. He is the worst in that category.
I think the reason behind this is, if Oklahoma has a GOOD team, it’s really a GOOD team. Then they win BIG. But if they are not GOOD, they lose the close ones. So maybe Oklahomas just don’t field GOOD teams any more, which is the reason for the last few seasons of Oklahomas not-over-the-top-seasons?
The football experts are divided, I saw 50-50 picks for Baylor or Oklahoma.
My take on this: Oklahoma has reputation, Baylor does not have.
The Sooners are not a bad team for me, but they need to prove they can win the crucial games. So, prove it. I stay with Baylor in that game, I think they are way better than people think and I also think they will not only outscore the Sooners, they will also keep the offense of Oklahoma in check enough to get away with a win, at home.
Bears win.

Sat. Nov. 14 - 10:00 pm ET
#10 Utah @ Arizona
I picked that game, because it looks like the perfect game for the Utes to fall from grace.
Utah did gain some good press during the season and Arizona did underperform in most of the games.
It would be a crucial mistake to underestimate a Rich Rod lead Wildcats teams.
Arizona will play and this is a home game for them.
Utes can win here, no doubt, but they can also fail.
They can even fail so big, that some might ask themselves if they were fooled by the team over the season.
Vegas does see Utah in the lead, almost by a score.
I’m divided.
On one hand we have a strong Utah team, on the other hand we have a good Wildcats team, which did destroy Utah the past few seasons. But that was in the past.
My gut says, Utah can win this in a close one. The rest of the body say Arizona.
I’m willing to give my guts the call.
Utes win.

'Til next time
Jack6 on BLOCK OF GRANITE

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