Last Week: 21 - 10 67.7 %
Overall: 205 - 66 75.6%
From the way the College Football Playoff committee ranked the teams this week, it's apparent they're sending a message about quality of schedule. Washington's 8 - 0 start got them ranked behind a 6 - 1 Texas A&M because, as I emphasize each season, the Huskies chose to start their season with Rutgers, Portland State and Idaho. But they don't really have anything to worry about except a match-up with USC and a season closing game at Washington State. Among the one-loss teams trying to find a path to the playoffs, Louisville seems to be in a tough position. Their signature win is now against a three loss Florida State and the only real quality opponent left on the schedule is Houston team that seems to have forgotten how to win football games. But it's only the first week of the rankings, and in the first two seasons of the playoffs, only three of the combined top eight have made the field.
Tuesday: (from an earlier post)
(23) Western Michigan (8 - 0) 30 @ Ball State (4 - 4) 24:
Western Michigan has been dominant this season with two wins over mid or
lower level Big Ten teams. With a recent resurgence, Northwestern is
making Western Michigan's resume is better by the week. The Broncos
should be able to take care of business against Ball State, but the
Cardinals have been competitive in all of their losses and solid in
their wins. Tuesday games are an oddity, so the schedule difference as
well as the increased pressure on Western Michigan to keep winning and
get to a big bowl game could make this game a bit closer than the 17 1/2
point spread out of Vegas. The Broncos really have played well and
haven't really been challenged during this eight game run. But we've
seen some odd results in the Group of Five going back to last season's
upset by UConn over a seemingly invincible Houston team, so strange
things have happened on the road to New Year's Day. I'll still stick
with Western Michigan, but it could be tougher than many people think.
Thursday: (from an earlier post)
(12) Oklahoma (6 - 2) 37 @ Iowa
State (1 - 7) 28: No matter how big a favorite a team is, traveling on a
short week can still be an issue. The Sooners have started playing at a
higher level than earlier in the season, but they still have some holes
on defense. Iowa State has lost four in a row, but only one of those
has been by more than seven points. Oklahoma definitely needs to pay
attention in a place that has historically yielded at least one big
upset in most seasons. The Cyclones took Baylor to the wire earlier in
the season and probably should have won the game. All I can say is
beware of Ames.
UCLA (3 - 5) 20 @ (21) Colorado (6 - 2) 24:
UCLA's sophomore quarterback, Josh Rosen, is out for the season and the
Bruins just haven't been able to generate enough offense to win more
games than they've lost. Colorado has been a pleasant surprise and like
the Bruins, is coming off a bye week so they should be rested after a
tough win over Stanford. I don't think UCLA is consistent enough on
offense yet to pull off a road upset in a tough environment.
Friday: (from an earlier post)
San Jose State (3 - 6) 17 @ (24) Boise State (7 - 1) 38:
Boise got caught looking ahead last week and was beaten by a Wyoming
team they probably should have been able to beat easily. I'm thinking
they'll have a little more focus at home this week and will take care of
business to stay in the hunt for a New Year's Day bowl game as the
Group of Five representative. San Jose State is winless on the road,
where they give up a lot of points. It probably won't be much different
in this one.
(4) Texas A&M (6 - 1) 31 @ Mississippi State (3 - 5) 20: The Aggies snuck into the top four of the Playoff Committee's first rankings despite a loss to Alabama earlier in the season. Is it likely the semifinals will consist of the teams currently there? No, considering that only three of the eight teams in the first rankings the last couple of years made it to the playoffs. For this game, Mississippi State is in a rebuilding mode after losing Dak Prescott and other key performers.
Vanderbilt (4 - 4) 13 @ (9) Auburn (6 - 2) 28: Auburn is on a roll and the committee seems to have recognized it with their ranking. But if they start reading their press clippings and look ahead to the Alabama game, Vanderbilt and Georgia are probably dangerous enough to cause them problems.
(7) Louisville (7 - 1) 37 @ Boston College (4 - 4) 16: The committee seemed to be less impressed with Louisville than much of the rest of the college football community. But with three losses by Florida State, a lackluster performance against Virginia and non-conference wins so far over Charlotte and Marshall clearly affected the ranking. Boston College's lack of offense and the added motivation from the slight should result in a Louisville victory.
(8) Wisconsin (6 - 2) 21 @ Northwestern (4 - 4) 13:Wisconsin has just completed a brutal stretch of games that finds them in the top ten and in contention for the Beg Ten West title. They should be able to handle Northwestern, but the Wildcats have improved over the course of the season. But that Badger defense is pretty tough to move the ball on.
(21) North Carolina (6 - 2) 28 @ Georgia Tech (5 - 3) 30: Georgia Tech opened with three wins, then dropped three in a row, and is now on a two game winning streak. With that logic, it makes sense to go with them to win this week. That aside, though, Carolina is giving up over 200 yards a game on the ground and the Yellow Jackets are averaging almost 250, so this is not shaping up as a very good matchup for the Heels, who can't afford another conference loss if they want to contend for the ACC Coastal title.
Maryland (5 - 3) 21 @ (3) Michigan (8 - 0) 38: Michigan is playing at a very high level, but most teams have a flat outing at some point. If they do, Maryland has enough offense to give the Wolverines some issues. I don't see it happening.
Syracuse (4 - 4) 17 @ (2) Clemson (8 - 0) 31: Syracuse shocked Virginia Tech a couple of weeks ago, but that was at home in the Carrier Dome. Clemson is playing solid football and should be able to prevail.
(19) Virginia Tech (6 - 2) 34 @ Duke (3 - 5) 20: Duke is in a bit of a rebuilding season and will have trouble duplicating last year's four overtime win over the Hokies. New head coach Justin Fuente has Tech playing offense and scoring points at a level not seen in Blacksburg in quite a while. With a tough defense to go with it, the Hokies are looking to run the table to meet Clemson in the ACC Championship game.
(18) Oklahoma State (6 - 2) 27 @ Kansas State (5 - 3) 19: This is a very important game for Oklahoma State if they want to stay in hunt for the Big 12 conference title. Kansas State's defense is very good and could give the Cowboys some problems, but the Wildcats have some trouble putting points on the board.
(11) Florida (6 - 1) 20 @ Arkansas (5 - 3) 23: The Hogs got pasted two weeks ago at Auburn, probably because of some fatigue and lack of preparation for an improving Tigers team. Florida comes in with flashy defensive statistics, but they've been posted against a mediocre schedule. I've been asked all week what I thought about this one and it's a tight one. I expect a game very similar to Arkansas' win over Ole Miss, but with less offense.
Arizona (2 - 6) 24 @ (25) Washington State (6 - 2) 34: Washington State eased into the CFP rankings this week. They could be headed for a season-ending showdown against Washington for the Pac-12 North title. Arizona is having a rough year and coach Rich Rodriguez may be on the hot seat. One more loss and the Wildcats will be eliminated from bowl consideration, probably later today.
TCU (4 - 4) 30 @ (17) Baylor (6 - 1) 27: Baylor entered the meat of their schedule last week with an upset loss to inconsistent Texas. TCU has been a disappointment, but they've faced a much tougher slate. I'm not impressed with Baylor and look for the Horned Frogs to hand the Bears their second consecutive loss.
Kansas (1 - 7) 13 @ (20) West Virginia (6 - 1) 37: The Big 12 two unbeatens last week and appears to be headed to being left out of the playoffs. West Virginia should be able to bounce back nicely from their loss to Oklahoma State.
(22) Florida State (5 - 3) 27 @ NC State (4 - 4) 23: NC State has been competitive, but has struggled against top teams. A loss to Boston College last week was a low point for the season. Florida State will be trying to bounce back on the road after tough loss at home to Clemson, two by less than three points the Seminoles have had to ranked teams.
Iowa (5 - 3) 20 @ (12) Penn State (6 - 2) 31: Penn State was able to consolidate their upset win over Ohio State with a pounding of Purdue. Iowa will present more of a challenge, but the Nittany Lions are on a roll after getting mauled by Michigan. The Hawkeyes are having trouble scoring and that will hurt them today.
(10) Nebraska (7 - 1) 27 @ (6) Ohio State (7 - 1) 24: Its victory over Oregon diminished by the Ducks' disappointing season, Nebraska is still looking for their first signature win in their second season under Mike Riley. They head to the Horseshoe after an overtime loss to Wisconsin, but they still control their own destiny in the Big Ten West. A young Ohio State team that looked invincible earlier in the season has struggled the last three games. I have a feeling it's time for the 'Huskers to breakk through.
(1) Alabama (8 - 0) 26 @ (13) LSU (5 - 2) 17: Last year it was Alabama winning 30 - 16. The Tide is better than last year's team, but this one is at night on the road in Death Valley. LSU is hoping for running back Leonard Fournette to make some big plays, quarterback Danny Etling to avoid mistakes and the defense to limit Alabama's offense. I don't see it happening.
(5) Washington (8 - 0) 37 @ California (4 - 4) 30: This is the first time in a while that Washington faces a big game ranked as high as they are this week. Can a young team go on the road and continue their possible road to a playoff berth? After a big win at Utah, they now take on a high scoring Cal team that plays much better at home than on the road. I'm going to stay with the Huskies. I think they''ll lose one along the way, but it probably won't be this week.
Pittsburgh (5 - 3) 34 @ Miami (4 - 4) 27: After a weak non-conference schedule and a win over Georgia Tech, the Hurricanes found themselves highly ranked and undefeated. They haven't won since and are taking on a Pittsburgh team whose three losses are by a combined 11 points to ranked opponents.
Texas (4 - 4) 37 @ Texas Tech (4 - 4) 35: These are two teams that are difficult to figure out. The Longhorns have looked great at times, and stumbled at others. Texas Tech can really score, but defensively they struggle.
Michigan State (2 - 6) 27 @ Illinois (2 - 6) 21: I'm going to have to stick
with the Spartans this week, even though they've had a very
disappointing season and dropped six games in a row.
Navy (5 - 2) 24 @ Notre Dame (3 - 5) 28: Notre Dame seems to have
righted the ship a little bit and they see the style of offense Navy
plays multiple times a season.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.