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 this: there are an unprecedented seven Southeastern Conference teams ranked in the top 15, but only one in Forde’s Fab Four after Week 3:
Rose Bowl: No. 1 seed Oregon vs. No. 4 seed Florida State
Oregon vaulted from outside the top four to the pole position last week by beating Michigan State 46-27, and did nothing to compromise that by blowing out Wyoming 48-14 Saturday. The Ducks spotted the Cowboys a 7-0 lead after one quarter but then scored 41 points in just 24 minutes and 54 seconds. They’ve now had seven quarters scoring at least 14 points out of 12 total quarters this season. Marcus Mariota produced 294 yards total offense and four touchdowns in three quarters, but took a big risk by going airborne on a dive for the end zone. “I hope he never does that again,” said receiver Keanon Lowe, knowing how vital Mariota is to Oregon’s season. Stat: Mariota’s 10.6 yards per play is second nationally to Cincinnati’s Gunner Kiel, who has played only one game – and that was against a Mid-American Conference opponent. Next: At Washington State, Oregon’s first road game.
Florida State maintains its spot after having last weekend off. In the all-important schedule-polishing department, the Seminoles got a slight boost from opening-week victim Oklahoma State, which routed a decent Texas-San Antonio team 43-13 behind its backup quarterback. The problem for Florida State heading into Atlantic Coast Conference play is that the rest of the league is pretty uninspiring. Virginia Tech and Louisville both dropped out of the top 25 this week, leaving only the 'Noles and Clemson ranked. Which at least is good timing, because the Tigers come to Tallahassee on Saturday. Stat: Florida State has never trailed this season and has only been tied 0-0 for 11 minutes and 21 seconds. Next: Clemson at home.
Sugar Bowl: No. 2 seed Texas A&M vs. No. 3 seed Oklahoma
The best thing that happened Saturday for the Aggies’ credibility was not beating Rice 38-10. It was South Carolina beating Georgia 38-35 on the same field where A&M rolled the Gamecocks by 24 points to start the season. That makes a quality win look all the better. Kevin Sumlin’s explosive offense took a while to get going against Rice, but still rolled up 35 points in less than three quarters. Sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill continues his brilliant play: he’s ninth nationally in efficiency and has thrown 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Stat: There was pretty much nowhere to go but down from that exalted opener, but that’s where the Aggies have gone in terms of total offense: 680 yards against South Carolina (most in Gamecocks history) to 630 against Lamar to 477 against Rice. Perhaps opponents are starting to get a read on how to (partially) slow down A&M. Next: at SMU, which figures to be another bloodletting. The Mustangs are awful and will be playing their first game since the abrupt resignation of coach June Jones.
The new arrival in the bracket is the Sooners. They earned their spot by playing and beating their first Power-Five opponent of the season, Tennessee, 34-10. Oklahoma jumped out to a 13-0 lead and controlled the game, but a 100-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter turned what could have been an anxious finish into a breather. Nobody has been able to move the ball with any consistency against Oklahoma to date – it is surrendering just 3.9 yards per play, seventh-fewest in the nation. Stat: After struggling to throw the ball most of last season, this year’s edition of the Sooners is well-balanced. They’ve run the ball 105 times and passed it 105 times in three games. Next: Sooners open their Big 12 slate at West Virginia – a long trip to play an improved opponent. Oklahoma’s two victories over the Mountaineers in Big 12 play have come by a total of just 10 points.
Dropped out from last week: Georgia. The Bulldogs played from behind almost all game against South Carolina but had their chances late and could not cash in. The SEC East looks wide open once again.
Also considered: Michigan State, Notre Dame, Alabama, LSU, Mississippi, Auburn and UCLA.