Our chances of seeing the inaugural College Football Playoff filled with undefeated teams have gone down dramatically. And a playoff with one or more teams with losses is going to be complicated to fill.
Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA, five of the top eight teams in the AP poll, all lost in Week 6 – the first time that has happened in college football history.
The Crimson Tide, Oregon and Oklahoma were all the prohibitive favorites in their conferences to open the season. And while each of the three conferences features at least one undefeated team, the Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC are the three toughest conferences in the country. Given what we saw over the weekend, can we realistically expect an undefeated team to emerge from each?
If we don't, it creates a dilemma for the playoff committee. If Baylor loses to Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., and both teams finish with a loss, do the Sooners get the edge because of the head-to-head matchup and its preseason ranking?
What if Ole Miss loses a game over the course of the regular season but advances to the SEC championship game via the head-to-head tiebreaker over Alabama and loses the title game? Does the Tide's one loss in one fewer game play to its favor because of how Alabama was viewed at the beginning of the season?
With the BCS, we were able to figure out the formula as the season evolved and got a good idea of each team's advantages because the formulas of the computer polls were easy to replicate. It's impossible to replicate the thoughts of 13 people who will meet weekly behind closed doors.
College football took a wacky turn in Week 6 and we think it's likely going to continue. Couple that with an unknown commodity deciding the four playoff representatives and the craziness may not stop when the games are over.
Here are this week's winners and losers:
Arizona: Rich Rodriguez and his Wildcats know how to ruin an Oregon Ducks party. They stunned the No. 2 Ducks 31-24 on Thursday (in Eugene, no less), Arizona's second straight win over Oregon. It turns out that Rodriguez can coach, and he picked the perfect week to show it as his old employer, Michigan, spiraled deeper into the abyss that has swallowed the program under the watch of the man hired to replace him, Brady Hoke. Meanwhile, Arizona has cleared arguably its biggest hurdle on the schedule, though plenty of tough challenges remain, including USC next week, a road trip to UCLA on Nov. 1 and the Duel in the Desert against Arizona State on Nov. 28. The way the Pac 12 has started, anyone else could sneak up on the Wildcats, but it's nice to get a big one out of the way early.
Dak Prescott: The Heisman race has been anything but clear up to this point in the season, but if anyone threw his name into the hat on Saturday, it was Prescott. He was nearly flawless in a 48-31 drubbing of Texas A&M, completing 19 of 25 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and rushing 23 times for 77 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Prescott entered the game with all the talk surrounding his counterpart, Kenny Hill, and left with Hill and A&M in the rearview mirror in the Heisman and SEC West chases, respectively.
SMU: The Mustangs scored more points against ECU than they have all season in a 45-24 loss. No, seriously. In case you weren’t paying attention (and why would you?) SMU lost to Baylor 45-0, North Texas 43-6, Texas A&M 58-6, and TCU 56-0. Put in that context, they announced their presence with authority in AAC play.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets are 5-0. Georgia Tech beat Miami 28-17, scoring a touchdown in every quarter to keep the Hurricanes at bay. And guess what? There's a chance that Georgia Tech could be 10-0 too. No, we're not saying that the masters of the triple option are legit threats for the national title, but Paul Johnson's bunch is going to start garnering some attention at the bottom of the polls. Before facing Clemson on November 15, GT's next five games are all eminently winnable against Duke, North Carolina, Pitt, Virginia and North Carolina State.
Memphis: Are the Tigers one of the best teams in the American Athletic Conference? Memphis beat Cincinnati 41-14 in its first conference game of the year as QB Paxton Lynch accounted for all six touchdowns. And guess what? The Tigers could run the table in the conference as the schedule doesn't contain Central Florida or East Carolina. The toughest remaining games for Memphis are against Houston, Tulsa and Temple. Could the Tigers go 10-2 with losses to Ole Miss and UCLA?
Pac 12: The goal for any major conference is to get at least one team into the College Football Playoff. If you’re lucky, another conference beats up on each other so much that maybe two of your teams have a shot. The problem for the Pac 12 is it’s off to a start that suggests it will be the conference cannibalizing itself. UCLA beat Arizona State. Arizona beat Oregon. USC beat Stanford (and Stanford also lost to Notre Dame). USC then lost to Boston College just to screw things up more and then lost again Saturday to Arizona State.
And then previously unbeaten No. 8 UCLA fell 30-28 to Utah in a lackluster effort at home. The Bruins had a 55-yard field goal attempt with just seconds left, but the kick from Ka'imi Fairbairn sailed way right -- but a controversial running-into-the-kicker penalty gave the Bruin kicker one more try. Alas, it didn't matter. Fairbairn's second kick sailed on him too and UCLA suffered its first loss of the season.
Arizona has been a nice story, but it is also flawed enough that it’s hard to envision the Wildcats going undefeated. Can Oregon or UCLA rebound and finish with just the one loss? Will one of the upstarts find a way to shock everyone? Just six weeks into the season, the Pac 12 is already asking itself which team will find a way to keep the conference in the playoff picture.
BYU: It was all going so well for BYU. Off to a 4-0 start, QB Taysom Hill was on the verge of cult hero status (and the Heisman convo), and the Cougars were quietly and steadily laying a foundation for an argument to be included in the College Football Playoff picture. As Hill went, so went the Cougars, which is why it all came crashing down the minute he crumpled to the ground with a broken leg. Sure, BYU was already trailing 21-14 at the time, but rallying from there became all the more complicated without the heart of their offense. Quarterbacks should never feel safe in this game each year, with Hill suffering a season-ending injury in 2012, and Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton doing the same last year. This time, it came with the ultimate price: A dream dashed for BYU. No undefeated season, no major bowl bid, no Heisman Trophy. Just like that. A cruel way for it all to end.
Jeff Driskel: If we’ve seen the last of the Gators’ QB, his exit came with the sort of Florida performance that has often accompanied his starts: Poor pocket protection and no way for Driskel to overcome a significant lack of support. It also came with a stat line that only the air of the murky Swamp could distort into anything but awful. He completed just 11 of 23 pass attempts for 59 yards and three interceptions. Down 9-0 to Tennessee, Driskel gave way to Treon Harris, who led two scoring drives en route to a 10-9 win on the road, and now Florida has a QB controversy, with Harris holding all the momentum. Maybe he’s been criminally unsupported, and yes he’s by all accounts a good guy who deserves better than an ending like this, should it be the end. But the numbers have never been on his side. If he never takes another snap for Florida this year, Driskell will finish the season with a completion rate of 55 percent, five touchdowns and six interceptions after entering the year with experience in parts of three seasons. Hard to argue with a change.
The Minutemen were a special kind of catastrophic against Miami (OH). Both teams entered Saturday’s contest at 0-5, and UMass played like a team determined to end the skid in the first half, scoring 41 points to take a 41-21 lead into the break. Miami proceeded to score 21 unanswered, stunning UMass, which turned the ball over three times (among four total turnovers) in the fourth quarter, and came up two yards short of a game-winning score, adding salt to the 42-41 wound.
Wisconsin passing game: The Badgers’ big offensive line seemingly did its job in a 20-14 loss to Northwestern and Melvin Gordon ran for 259 yards and a touchdown. Wisconsin ran for 284 yards overall, and on paper, that’s the start of a good recipe for a Badgers win. But that’s before you factor in the Wisconsin passing game against the Wildcats. Quarterbacks Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy combined to complete just 12 passes on 29 attempts for a touchdown and a four interceptions. Four. They threw for a paltry 138 yards and Wisconsin’s 17-game streak with at least 20 points was snapped. Even a serviceable performance would usually be enough to complement the Wisconsin ground game, which shows just how terrible the Badgers were through the air.
Sam Cooper and Max Thompson contributed to this post.
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