As the national title picture changes every week, so too does the primary question surrounding the Playoff and who may end up as Unlucky Number Five. Two weeks ago it was what would happen if Auburn and Kansas State both finished with one loss (we can go ahead and forget about that one), and last week it was the TCU-Baylor debate (which still stands, but sits in neutral at this point). This week? Where does Mississippi State fit into the Playoff landscape? That's what everyone will talk about this week, right up until next weekend when we're all talking about something else.
In advance of Tuesday's fourth bracket reveal, here's how each of us see things stacking up.
Last two out: and
No. 1: Sure, Alabama has only one win over a currently ranked team. But it happens to be the best win of the season to date. Couple that with one of the most forgivable losses of the season and you have this week's No. 1 seed.
No. 2: Arizona State's loss means the Pac-12 Championship probably won't also double as a national quarterfinal, and it could put the Ducks in the unenviable position of having to beat a UCLA team twice to reach the Playoff.
No. 3: I dropped the 'Noles not because of their win at Miami (FSU actually covered the spread), but because their strength of schedule took a trashing with losses by Notre Dame, Clemson and Florida. Florida State doesn't own a win over a team currently ranked in the AP top 25.
No. 4:Baylor makes its first appearance of the season in my top four, and it's in the No. 4 spot. TCU's close win in Lawrence coupled with Minnesota's loss to Ohio State was enough for me to push Baylor past TCU and Ohio State (and Mississippi State) into the rankings.
Last two out: and
TCU has two wins over teams ranked in the latest AP top 25; Ohio State and Mississippi State both have one. TCU's win came over No. 12 Kansas State and No. 23 Oklahoma, while Ohio State beat No. 10 Michigan State and Mississippi State beat No. 16 Auburn. TCU and Mississippi State suffered very similar losses, though the Horned Frogs were much more competitive in their loss (the Bulldogs out-gained Alabama, but never held the ball with a chance to take the lead in the second half), while Ohio State's setback was one of the most inexplicable results of the season. However, I bumped the Buckeyes because they are the hypothetical Big Ten champions at this point and beat the current American co-leader in Cincinnati and played a Virginia Tech team that should at least rebound to make a bowl game outside of Big Ten play, and Mississippi State's non-conference schedule is no better than Baylor's.
No. 1: I can't say with any degree of certainty that Florida State is the best team in the country, but being the only undefeated team, I think they're deserving of this spot for the time being. Still waiting for these guys to put a full four quarters together. Their wins over Clemson and Notre Dame are looking a lot less impressive after last weekend too.
No. 2: Oregon didn't play Saturday, and thus give me no reason to not include them in the #2 spot here. They have Colorado this weekend, and then play an Oregon State squad that just knocked off Arizona State in the Civil War, where anything can happen between two rivals. I think they run the table and win the Pac-12 and head into the playoff as no lower than the 3-seed.
No. 3: Alabama really impressed me in their win over Mississippi State, especially their defense clamping down in the red zone and forcing a few turnovers.
No. 4: Mississippi State had every opportunity to beat Alabama Saturday, and just couldn't string together enough plays to get it done. The good teams find a way to get it done. Vandy and a huge match up with Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl remain, and another loss (or even a close game) may be all that Baylor needs to nudge into this spot
Last two out: and
Baylor's remaining schedule (vs. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State) lead me to believe that they'll all need to be wins in convincing fashion and a little bit of help to make their way in the top 4 come playoff time, but there is no doubt in my mind they're among the top 4 or 5 teams in the country at this point.
Yes, so TCU won a close game against a Kansas team that has seen better days, but they won, and I see no reason for them to move from the #6 spot on my board especially when you take a look at the teams inching up behind them. in the rankings.
I've seen a good number of playoff projections with Ohio State in a number of spots, but for me, the one loss on their resume (Virginia Tech) doesn't hold a candle to the resumes of Baylor and TCU.