2015-11-19

FBS - Week 12 Preview

The playoff race got a nice twist with several teams losing last weekend.
Now can the arguing and chatter start.
Will we see many 1-loss teams in the bracket?
Which teams will be left out?
Will it even happen that I have to put in all the 2-loss teams back in the picture?

I have to say, with 4 spots for the playoffs, the rule makers did at least created a journalist dream, since every week there is something to discuss about.
Image it would be clear that the champs get a ticket, and only the champs?
It would cut down the discussion to some very simple questions.
Now we have discussion all over the FBS.

The Committee did post their 3nd playoff list and it had again some surprises.
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.
The whole process is a bit ridiculous since only the final standings are interesting and that will be done by a complete examination of the whole season, so there is no progress in terms of “Oh, I’m at #4 now and if I keep winning I’m in”. No, the progress is “keep winning and hope for team X to lose, because if they win all their remaining games, their overall performance will be judged better than yours” and don’t forget the “Hope for your former opponents to win their last games to raise their value in your schedule and to raise your wins value.”
So, those in between rankings are just for fun and the press. Thank you.

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

Not much change in the top 10, Oklahoma State got the spot Baylor had, Stanford slipped out of the top 10 (to #11), as did LSU (fell to #15) and Utah (did fall to #13). The surprises were that those PAC12 teams did not fall too far.
If you think about the remaining games, there is still room for Stanford and Utah to make the playoffs. Let Stanford win all games, then they would rise and Notre Dame would fall, Let Ohio State win and Alabama also, and let the BIG12 self-destruct by winning against each other. Iowa, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan State, Baylor … all gone.
Winner?
Stanford.
Surprising. And just a theory.
For now we have 1 ACC team, 2 SEC teams, 3 Big 10 teams (+1 to last week), 1 Independent, 3 Big 12 teams (+1 to last week) and now 0 PAC12 teams (-2 to last week) in the mix.
Best non-power-5-team is at the moment surprisingly Navy at #16.
Houston is now #19.
Well, both teams will meet soon, so this will be decided on the field.

Let’s get to my personal list.
There were 3 teams send packing last weekend, Stanford and Utah from the PAC12 did leave the conference with ZERO contenders (at the moment, the barrier of 2 losses is only set by myself) and also LSU did fall with 2 losses in the last 2 weeks.
And 1 team got the 1st knock, the Baylor Bears.

12 teams are left in the list.

The so far remaining 1-loss or better Power5 teams + Independents after week 11 are:

ACC (2 teams)
Clemson Tigers (10-0) - has to play none of that list
North Carolina Tar Heels (9-1) - has to play none of that list

dropped out:
none

BIG10 (3 teams)
Iowa Hawkeyes (10-0) - has to play none of that list
Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0) has to play Michigan State 21.11.
Michigan State Spartans (9-1) - has to play Ohio State 21.11.

dropped out:
none

BIG12 (4 teams)
Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-0) has to play Baylor 21.11. and Oklahoma 28.11.
Baylor Bears (9-1) â€"has to play Oklahoma State 21.11. and TCU 28.11.
Oklahoma Sooners (9-1) - has to play TCU 21.11. and Oklahoma State 28.11.
TCU Horned Frogs (9-1)- has to play Oklahoma 21.11. and Baylor 28.11.

dropped out:
none

PAC12 (0 teams)
none

dropped out:
Stanford Cardinal (8-2) â€" lost to Oregon
Utah Utes (8-2) â€" lost to Arizona

SEC (3 teams)
Alabama Crimson Tide (9-1) - has to play none of that list
Florida Gators (9-1) - has to play none of that list

dropped out:
LSU Tigers (7-2) â€" lost to Arkansas

INDEPENDENTS (1 team)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-1) - 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
There are just 2 games left on the schedule and both do look manageable.
If Clemson does really let that kind of mind-set slip into the players head, they might learn it the hard way. Those games are not won yet. And then there is the ACC Championship game coming. Also not won yet.
Clemson is at the moment the #1 in all rankings, but I’m not sure they are really the strongest team in the country. We might have to wait for the playoff to learn it the hard way.
Mark this date: 05.12. ACC Championship game (most likely North Carolina), neutral site. If that North Carolina matchup happens, I’m OK with that. The Tar Heels do look good enough to give Clemson something to play for. This title is not won by Clemson by default and 1 loss will doom them maybe out of the playoffs. Why maybe? Because not only would then the ACC field 1-loss teams, but because of the PAC12 let-down, they might still let the ACC participate in the playoffs.
Next game: Wake Forest, at home
Those last 2 weeks will be awesome.

#2 Alabama Crimson Tide
Since Baylor lost I had to reshuffle my list a bit and I had to rethink the rankings. With Oklahoma State facing off against some tough teams and Ohio State also facing 2 big games as a minimum, it looks at the moment most likely that Alabama will reach the playoffs.
All they need 2 wins over a FCS opponent and Auburn in the Iron Bowl and then punishing Florida for being the strongest of the weak SEC East. This season at least.
Mark this date: 05.12. SEC Championship game (Florida), neutral site.
There is still room for a big failure. If Alabama loses in Auburn, the SEC West will be won by … I don’t know. LSU, Arkansas or Ole Miss would have to win all remaining games and then the tie breaker would have to deal with it. In a 2 team tie the direct compare is taken, which is Alabamas except if Ole Miss is the 2nd team, in a multiple team tie at first would be the combined head to head record would be taken. Then the record of the teams inside the division and then a few more rules.
Fact is, Alabama is at least co-divisional-champ, but could still drop from the top spot, if the last 2 games are happen to become a disaster.
Next game: Charleston Southern (FCS), at home
The Iron Bowl is waiting a week later. I hope it will be a good one.

#3 Ohio State Buckeyes
Now that OSU did won against Illinois, the most anticipated games are waiting to happen.
Those games will define the season and it’s totally not sure, the Buckeyes will survive those games.
Mark that date: 21.11. Michigan State, at home. The Buckeyes are lucky to have this at home. A road game would put another few more tons of pressure on the team. I think Ohio State can handle this, but what I can’t say is, whether they can handle Michigan, on the road, a week later. These are 2 very intense games in a row, while both opponents also have to play games, but not in that dimension.
Next game: Michigan State, at home
It’s the last home game of the seniors, so intensity should be high.

#4 Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys do only have 1 chance to make this right. Win all games and you are in. Easy.
No.
There are 2 big games coming, lucky for them both at home.
Mark this date: 21.11. Baylor, at home. Playoff match number 1. Baylor lost last week and will very likely try to make that right again. I’m not sure what will happen if Baylor wins this. It might happen that the BIG12 is doomed again and will fall from the playoff bracket, again.
Next game: Baylor, at home
The Cowboys are the BIG12s last hope to be sure a playoff spot is possible. Some do see Oklahoma also in the mix, but with assuming the win all game and Notre Dame does the same, I would pick Notre Dame as #4, because they lost only against Clemson, and not the BIG12 champ with a catastrophically loss against a maximum 6-6 record Texas team.

#5 Notre Dame
Notre Dame did leap frog all other teams, because they are more or less only a Stanford win away from being (almost) in the playoffs.
What did hurt them were the Stanford loss and the Temple loss this weekend.
This will lower the value of those games.
The Irish will face Boston College and Stanford and then it’s all up to the other conferences beginning of December.
Mark this date: 28.11. Stanford, on the road. With the upsets of last weekend, the rules have changed for the surrounding teams, but 1 thing is sure. Notre Dame needs that win.
Next game: Boston College, neutral site
I think this is a bad game for the Shamrock series, but as were most of that Series anyway. Officially this is also a rivalry game (Holy war), but it’s a boring one.
I think everyone wants to get over this to concentrate on the Stanford game.

#6 Iowa Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes did win against Minnesota and do only face Purdue and Nebraska as their last regular season games opponents. There is still potential for upsets. If they keep on winning, the BIG10 Championship game will be great.
Mark this date: 27.11. Nebraska, on the road. The Huskers won their last game, will have a BYE week and will than face the Hawkeyes with only 1 goal, getting that win to play in a Bowl.
At the moment the football world is not sure, whether Iowa can win this, or not.
It’s very likely that Iowa will go to the BIG10 Championship game anyway, but with 1 loss they would have far worse playoff chances.
Next game: Purdue, at home
The Hawkeyes do need 1 more win to seal the division title.

#7 Florida Gators
At the moment it looks like the Gators could make it, if some domino stones do fall the right way.
For them it’s first rule of business to win all remaining games, even the SEC Championship game.
I’m not sure if that’s enough, but it would help if the BIG12 does shout them self in the foot, like the PAC12 did last weekend.
Overall, I think a 1-loss SEC-Champ will very likely make the playoffs.
Mark this date: 28.11. Florida State, at home. Granted, the Seminoles are not that high flying they were the last few seasons, but this is far from a Gator-win which did not happen yet.
The Gators will face a rival here and this game won’t be easy. The strength of Florida is not 100% proven, so an upset is possible.
Next game: FAU, at home
The Gators do have 1 warm up game until the rival game happens and AFTER that they will face the SEC West champ, which is for sure no light weight.

#8 Stanford Cardinals
I gave Stanford the lead in the PAC12 race, because they have a much tougher rest schedule than Utah. Mostly because of Stanford Notre Dame game coming.
But with the Cardinals loss last weekend, the PAC12 need many things to get back into the playoff spots. It’s totally possible, under quite realistic assumptions, that even a 1-loss team from another conference gets the 4th spot in the playoffs which the same conference has the #1 or #2 spot already, than having a 2-loss PAC12 Champ in the mix.
Still, at the end does the committee decide and there are still 2 weeks to play in regular season and another week for the championship game. Many things can happen!
Mark this date: 21.11. Cal, at home. Last weekend did prove the PAC12 does field many almost equally strong teams, so everything is possible.
Next game: Cal, at home
The chances for being NOT in the playoffs did rise dramatically last weekend.

#9 Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners win over Baylor did push them far enough to be in reach of the playoffs by their own efforts.
They will have to play TCU and Oklahoma State as final games and those will determine their season.
Mark this date: 28.11. Oklahoma State, on the road. The Cowboys are the main opponent the next 2 week, even if they have to face TCU first. The Bedlam Series is very likely the difference maker.
There are 2 things to consider. If the Sooners beat the Cowboys, the BIG12 Championship is split, again, and it can happen that still Oklahoma State will make the playoffs, or a completely different team. The other thing is, that there is also Baylor and TCU in the mix and Baylor could end up also with 1 loss. That won’t help.
Next game: TCU, at home
I’m pretty confident, that the TCU game will be won in Norman, but things can happen.

#10 Baylor Bears
The Bears took a dive with their loss to Oklahoma.
I think they could make the playoffs, if things turn out right, but the chances did get slim.
Mark this date: 21.11. Oklahoma State, on the road. Now this game is a finale already.
Played on the road, this will end Baylors playoff hopes for good, or will hurt the BIG12 overall standings.
Next game: Oklahoma State, on the road.
Baylor has still 3 games left to play and this might save them.

Dropped out:
LSU Tigers, lost to Arkansas
Utah Utes, lost to Arizona

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

#1 Houston Cougars
The Cougars did win the close game against Memphis and are still not the highest ranked team in the playoff standings.

Mark this date: 27.11. Navy, at home. The Cougars don not get a big break, playing Navy next weekend after the UConn game and then will probably face Temple for the conference.
Next game: UConn, on the road
At the moment it looks like it will be Houston or Navy for the new years bowl spot. But … if Houston does win ALL games, will they get high enough to really spoil the party?

#2 Temple Owls
Temple lost to South Florida last weekend and will have a hard time to get back on the list (which they did drop from). But, if they win against Memphis, UConn and the West Champ in the Championship game, they will rise fast. Otherwise the West Champ will be the winner.
Mark this date: 21.11. Memphis, at home. This is now essential to win.
Next game: Memphis, at home
If they lose this, they are very likely out for ever.

Dropped out:
None

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 5-1
South Florida 4-2

West Division
Houston 6-0
Navy 6-0
Memphis 4-2

South Florida did their homework and won against Temple. Houston vs navy will be the west decider.


ACC
Atlantic Division
Clemson 6-0

Coastal Division
North Carolina 6-0
Pittsburgh 5-1

The Atlantic is won by Clemson.
The Coastal is still open between Pittsburgh and UNC. The Tar Heels do need 1 more win to secure the division.

BIG10
East Division
Ohio State 6-0
Michigan State 5-1
Michigan 5-1
Penn State 4-2

West Division
Iowa 6-0
Wisconsin 5-1
Northwestern 4-2

No changes in the BIG10. It’s safe to say, that next week will give us a much better picture.

BIG 12
Oklahoma State 7-0
Oklahoma 6-1
TCU 6-1
Baylor 5-1

This will be sorted out very fast now. But all teams do have chances.

CUSA
East Division
Western Kentucky 6-0
Marshall 6-1
Middle Tennessee 4-2

West Division
Louisiana Tech 5-1
Southern Mississippi 5-1

The East is still a bit more open, the West got cut down to LT vs Southern Miss.

MAC
East Division
Bowling Green 6-1

West Division
Toledo 6-1
Northern Illinois 6-1
Western Michigan 5-2
Central Michigan 5-2

Bowling Green is set, the West is wide open.

MWC
Mountain Division
Air Force 5-1
Boise State 4-2
New Mexico 4-2
Utah State 4-3
Colorado State 3-3

West Division
San Diego State 6-0
Nevada 4-2

The Mountain did give Air Force the lead; The West does still prefer SDSU.

PAC12
North Division
Stanford 7-1
Oregon 5-2
Washington State 5-2

South Division
USC 5-2
Utah 5-2
UCLA 4-3

Both divisions are now quite open.

SEC
East Division
Florida 7-1

West Division
Alabama 6-1
LSU 4-2
Ole Miss 4-2
Arkansas 4-2

Florida wins the East; the West will be decided in 2 weeks.

SBC
Arkansas State 6-0
Appalachian State 5-1
Georgia Southern 5-1
South Alabama 3-2
Louisiana Lafayette 3-2

Arkansas State is in the lead.

Now let's have a look at the BLOCK OF GRANITE TOP GAMES FOR WEEK 12

Sat. Nov. 21 - 3:30 pm ET
#9 Michigan State @ #3 Ohio State
This is the game many do see as the defining BIG10 matchup. I still believe that Ohio State could fall against other teams, but for sure is this matchup against the Spartans the biggest game Ohio State has to play so far in the season.
I give you the Vegas line, which is 13 points in favour of the Buckeyes.
Hands up who thinks Michigan State will lose by 13 points or more?
My hands are not up.
I’m expecting a close game and it won’t be pretty.
I can even imagine a loss the home team.
Ohio State is a good team, as is Michigan State.
I give OSU the game because of the home field advantage on senior day.
Buckeyes win.

Sat. Nov. 21 - 3:30 pm ET
UCLA @ #13 Utah
The battle for the PAC12 South part 1.
UCLA is 1 game behind, so they do need that win desperately.
Utah is on the same level as USC (see battle for PAC12 part 2) but are behind in the direct compare.
So they need a win and do also hope for a USC loss in the next 2 games.
If UCLA loses, this is over for them. If Utah loses, they need more than a prayer to get back on the top of the PAC12.
Utah did struggle a bit in the last few games and UCLA did had their last-second-loss against Wazzu last weekend.
I don’t think this will be close as Vegas think it will be. (-2.0) I think either UCLA or Utah will run the table and will win this by a score or more.
As home game, I see Utah up front, but I’m not 100% convinced about that.
Still, Utes win.

Sat. Nov. 21 - 3:30 pm ET
#24 Southern California @ #23 Oregon
The battle for the PAC 12 South part 2.
Granted, USC is playing a PAC12 North team, but for USC it’s eliminator time.
They are on the same level as Utah in the standing, but are leading because of their win over the Utes during the season.
A loss here against the reborn Oregon Ducks would mean they would give up every advantage they have gained over the past few weeks.
Vegas do see Oregon as the favourite in this, with 4 points up front.
I think this is a tricky game.
USC made great progress after they solved their HC situation. The interims coach did motivate the team and they do play very good.
Oregon on the other side does find step by step their old self back from last season and are actually on the verge of winning the Pac12. All they need is winning games and another Stanford loss.
This is a home game for Oregon, but this time I’m willing to give the visiting team the lead. If USC would have played in the beginning the way they played the last few games, this discussion would not even exist. They would be the leading team in the PAC12 South and for sure would be the favourite in this game.
Trojans win.

Sat. Nov. 21 - 7:30 pm ET
#10 Baylor @ #6 Oklahoma State
And now the battle for the BIG12, part 1.
Baylor did lose last week and did show problems with teams better than average.
Oklahoma State did win in Iowa State, which was also not THAT convincing, but still, they won, and they are far from average.
The situation is quite clear. If Baylor wins, the BIG12 does lose the last unbeaten team and maybe even a spot in the playoffs. If Oklahoma State wins, they have at least a share of the conference title.
My pick here is, that Oklahoma State will beat Baylor with their own medicine. Points, Points and more Points. On the other hand will the Cowboys be able to contain the Baylor offense enough to win.
Cowboys win.

Sat. Nov. 21 - 8:00 pm ET
#18 TCU @ #7 Oklahoma
Normally I have only 4 games a week, but this week was to packed with high impact games, so I did put another game in.
The battle for the BIG12, part 2.
This game is even worse from the impact point of view than the Baylor-Oklahoma State game.
If TCU wins, Oklahoma is out, if Oklahoma wins, TCU is out.
Very simple.
The big picture impact would be, that in case of a TCU win, the better ranked Oklahoma would drop and TCU would very likely not rise as high as Oklahoma was. If Oklahoma wins, they would rise a bit more and TCU would drop dead.
Fine.
Now, who will win here?
I have to admit, this is easy for me.
The Sooners are playing good so far since the Texas loss, while TCU did get their wins very often by luck and did finally lose one lately.
I don’t trust TCU in this, so for me it’s Oklahoma winning this game, at home.
Sooners win.

'Til next time
Jack6 on BLOCK OF GRANITE

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