Forde's Fab Four: Florida State drops out of projected playoff field

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: the defending national champions are out, making room for the initial appearance by Alabama.

The lesson this week: bye weeks are your friend. With several of the top teams receiving scares, it was better to sit out the final Saturday of September and move up by not playing.

SUGAR BOWL: No. 1 seed Oklahoma vs. No. 4 seed Texas A&M

The Sooners watched everything from home in Norman, secure in the knowledge their standing as a top-four team would not be jeopardized. Then they got the added boost of narrow victories by Texas A&M and Florida State. Solid victories over Tennessee and West Virginia have gotten them this far, and now it is time for Big 12 play. Stat: The Sooners are a plus-10 in sacks vs. sacks allowed. They have proven adept at getting to the opposing passer and creating havoc, while OU quarterback Trevor Knight has the mobility to avoid negative-yardage plays – he’s only been sacked twice in four games. Next: Oklahoma visits undefeated TCU, the start of a five-game stretch that features three ranked opponents, two true road contests and one neutral-site matchup with rival Texas. Get through that unscathed and Bob Stoops’ team should be within reaching distance of the playoff.

Texas A&M falls from the Forde’s Fab Four pole position after its narrow escape over Arkansas, coupled with the home loss by South Carolina. The former showed the Aggies are vulnerable – they led for less than five minutes of regulation, and all in the first quarter. But Texas A&M showed its mettle by rallying from two scores down in the fourth quarter, with coach Kevin Sumlin wisely choosing when to punt and play field position and when to push the envelope. The Aggies were the much stronger team late, and quarterback Kenny Hill demonstrated considerable growth by making big plays when his team was behind after spending a month comfortably playing from ahead. Stat: The Aggies were gashed for 285 rushing yards by Arkansas, an unsettling throwback to the 2013 A&M defense that surrendered 222 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry. That is not championship run defense, and there are plenty of opponents left on the schedule who can exploit that weakness if it persists. Next: at undefeated Mississippi State on Saturday, as the SEC West gauntlet intensifies.

Blake Sims threw for 445 yards and four TDs in Alabama's Week 4 win over Florida. (AP)
Blake Sims threw for 445 yards and four TDs in Alabama's Week 4 win over Florida. (AP)

ROSE BOWL: No. 2 seed Oregon vs. No. 3 seed Alabama

Like the Sooners, the Ducks benefited by being spectators Saturday. Sketchy victory at Washington State on Sept. 20 looks better now, after the Cougars went into Salt Lake City and upset previously unbeaten Utah. And the landmark victory over Michigan State also continues to shine as the Spartans steamroll another opponent (this time Wyoming). Stat: Oregon has won six straight Pac-12 home openers, and none of them has been close. Average score in routs of California (2013), Arizona (2012), Cal (2011), Stanford (2010), Cal (2009), and Washington (2008): 46-13. And three of those opponents were ranked at the time. Next: Sorry, Arizona, you’re the opening Pac-12 cannon fodder in Autzen Stadium on Thursday night. The Wildcats are undefeated themselves.

Well, look who wandered into the bracket. It’s the little old fixer-upper program from Tuscaloosa. I was slower to embrace the Crimson Tide than most, but the Seminoles have had zero dominating wins over FBS competition and that cleared a spot for a program that has been in the national title mix annually at this time of year since 2008. Alabama was off Saturday, which gave quarterback Blake Sims a chance to rest a bruised shoulder suffered against Florida. Stat: Nick Saban has been lauding new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin for opening up the offense. How open is it? The Crimson Tide is fourth nationally in total offense at 594 yards per game, which is miles ahead of where it has been at any point in this powerful run since ’08. Only once in the previous six years has Alabama finished the season in the national top 30 in offense, and that was 22nd in 2010. The highest yards-per-game total in that time has been 454 last year. The Tide is well ahead of that pace, but SEC West play should deflate the current numbers some. Next: ‘Bama is at undefeated Mississippi, one of the biggest games in Oxford in decades. Ole Miss must play better than it did Saturday in wheezing past Memphis.

Dropped out: Florida State.

Also considered: Florida State, Auburn, UCLA, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Mississippi State.