Every Sunday, I will play Selection Committee member, take a look at the College Football Playoff picture and offer my bracket. Feel free to agree or disagree, starting with the latest development in Forde’s Fab Four: We are starting over after the craziest week I can recall. How it would stand if the bids were going out today:
Sugar Bowl: No. 1 seed Auburn vs. No. 4 seed Florida State
The last time these two met it was pretty important and dramatic, if you recall.
Congratulations and condolences to Auburn, which becomes the fifth different team atop Forde’s Fab Four. Clearly, this is a position fraught with peril in a topsy-turvy season, but Auburn has earned the bull's-eye. The Tigers dominated an LSU team that isn’t great, but I still believe isn’t bad either. Combine that with victories at Kansas State and by 24 points over Arkansas, and the 2013 national runners-up have put together a very solid resume to date. Stat: Auburn is in the top 25 in total offense, total defense and turnover margin, but not near the top in plays per game. Gus Malzahn’s famous hurry-up no-huddle offense is not hurrying that much yet, averaging 73.2 plays per game, which is 75th nationally. Next: At Mississippi State, in the latest SEC West monster showdown.
Florida State had a laborious first half against lousy Wake Forest, then put the hammer down in the second half for a 40-point victory. The Seminoles have played a mediocre schedule to date, and their lack of a victory over a big-time opponent is why they’re no higher than fourth here (and why I strongly considered putting either TCU or Arizona in this spot). The Oct. 18 game against Notre Dame could change that, if both teams hold serve next week. The best thing the defending champs have done is simply keep winning and let the carnage pile up elsewhere. Stat: The Seminoles have developed a habit of slow starts, being outscored 27-10 in the first quarter of their three Atlantic Coast Conference games. Next: At Syracuse, which should be a walkover.
Rose Bowl: No. 2 seed Mississippi State vs. No. 3 seed Mississippi
Could there be a matchup more improbably delightful than the Egg Bowl relocated to the Rose Bowl?
I was a Mississippi State backer in August, but even this is above and beyond expectations. The Bulldogs shot up the rankings with their domination of Texas A&M, leading by 31 points before the previously undefeated Aggies scored a couple of cosmetic touchdowns late. They did the same thing in their previous game, at LSU, rolling to a 34-10 lead and then holding on at the end. Those are two huge SEC West victories, and they’re solid indicators of the all-around strength of Dan Mullen’s team. Stat: This offense is more than just Dak Prescott. Mississippi State has piled up more than 500 yards of total offense in all five games this season – and six straight if you go back to the bowl game last year. Next: The Bulldogs host Auburn, with College GameDay and much of the national media scheduled to invade Starkville.
Mississippi showed its mettle by coming back against Alabama on Saturday, rallying from a 14-3 halftime deficit to win 23-17. There were plenty of anxious moments, but Ole Miss displayed some clutch playmaking with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to take over the game. Mercurial quarterback Bo Wallace completed five passes in the fourth quarter, all of them for either first downs or touchdowns, and a guy with 33 career interceptions threw none against the Crimson Tide. Stat: The Rebels are good on offense but really good on defense, ranking fifth nationally in yards allowed and third nationally in interceptions. (They cinched the game Saturday with an interception in the end zone.) Alabama was held to about 100 yards less than its season average by Ole Miss. Next: Incredible October schedule continues at Texas A&M on Saturday. One thing Ole Miss has not done yet is win amidst a truly hostile crowd, since its only true road game to date was at Vanderbilt.
Dropped out: Everyone. Goodbye, Oklahoma, Oregon, Alabama, Texas A&M.
Also considered: TCU, Arizona, Notre Dame, Baylor, Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Michigan State.