'Twas the night before the Playoff, when all through the land
Not a creature was stirring, not even the band
The bracket was drawn on the whiteboard with care
In hopes that an SEC team soon would be there
The committee was nestled all snug in its beds
While visions of game control danced through their heads
With a Big 12 title in hand, their second straight
Baylor fans settled down for a long day of debate
When on to your Twitter feed arose such a chatter
From TCU fans screaming, "HEAD-TO-HEAD DOESN'T MATTER!"
Away to the den I ran like Amari Cooper
Flipped on the TV, and stared in a stupor
With his stats so fresh, his narratives so strong
I knew in a moment it must be Jeff Long
More subjective than computers, his voters they came
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:
Now Tom! Now Steve!
Now Tyrone and Barry!
On, Pat! On, Dan!
On, Oliver and Condi!
To the top of the Gaylord!
To the behind that boardroom wall!
Now vote away! Vote away!
Vote away all!
He was dressed in a suit, from his head to his foot
Breaking the heart of the team that you root
A bundle of talking points he kept in his head
Judging not the final score, but how long you led
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work
And filled out the brackets, while the nation went berserk
And with resigned regret he let out a sigh
While he dropped your team to dreaded number five
He sprang to his feet, hopping on ESPN
To explain away who's out and who's in
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he whisked out of sight
Happy Playoff to all, and to all a good night!
With that out of the way, a few thoughts on this weekend's conference championship action:
Oregon and Arizona should make you glad the playoff starts at four. Let's be glad Friday night's game was only an unofficial quarterfinal game. After Oregon blew out Arizona to the tune of a 51-13 final score (it was 51-7 until the final play of the game) and a 627-224 yardage advantage, this week's eighth-ranked team would be either 10-2 Michigan State, 10-2 Mississippi State or 9-3 Ole Miss, a trio of teams that didn't win their respective divisions. I'll go ahead and speak for all of us and say the previous 12 games have proven we don't need a 13th to see if the Spartans, Bulldogs or Rebels are the best team in the country.
Alabama makes its case for No. 1. Alabama blew out Missouri 42-13 in a result that was somewhat expected. The only question now is if the committee will play matchmaker for the semifinals (Saban vs. Jimbo! Saban vs. Urban!) or go with a strict 1-2 ranking and let the chips fall where they may.
And now TCU must grab the rail and hold on. The Frogs must be cursing the schedule makers, because its rivals were beating teams ranked seventh, 11th, ninth and 13th while TCU handed Iowa State its 10th loss. They'll spend the next 12 hours praying a 55-3 win - and a 722-236 yardage advantage - is enough.
Ohio State demolishes Wisconsin. And to think the Buckeyes were underdogs entering Saturday night. Ohio State led 38-0 at the half and won 59-0. Though the opponent was different this time around, this most reminded me of Alabama's blowout of Florida in the 2009 SEC Championship (and consider Urban Meyer was on the opposite sideline of that one), where you could tell the staff started preparing to avenge a conference championship lost and a national championship appearance denied the second they left the field the year before. The Buckeyes just weren't going to be denied.
Three true champions, it's the American way. Memphis clinched at least a share of the American championship last week, Central Florida did the same in dramatic fashion on Thursday night, and Cincinnati joined the group with a 38-31 win over Houston on Saturday. There's no Big 12 situation here, as a 41-14 Memphis victory over Cincinnati back in early October was the only game between the group. For Memphis, it's the program's first conference title since 1971. For UCF, it's two American titles in the league's first two years of existence. And for Cincinnati, it's seven nine-win seasons in eight years, and under three different head coaches.
Oklahoma... what happened? With a minute left in the game, Oklahoma led Oklahoma State 35-28. The Cowboys had no timeouts and were set to take over at their own 15. But a Cowboy was flagged for running into the kicker, and Bob Stoops chose to punt it again. He immediately regretted that decision. Tyreek Hill took the ensuing punt for a 92-yard touchdown. Oklahoma had a chance for a 54-yard Hail Mary on the next possession, but Stoops chose to let the clock expire with a timeout in his pocket. The Sooners took the ball first in overtime, lost two yards, and then missed a 44-yard field goal. Oklahoma State responded by bulling OU for 22 rushing yards, letting Ben Grogan chip in a 22-yard field goal. Ballgame.
The win allowed Oklahoma State to reach its ninth straight bowl game. Oklahoma, meanwhile, concludes a wholly unsatisfying 8-4 season. After opening the season ranked fourth by the AP and third by the coaches, the Sooners went 0-3 against ranked teams, gagged away a win against Oklahoma State, and managed to beat Texas while getting out-gained by 250 yards.
Baylor beats, but does not blow out, Kansas State. Blowing out the No. 9 team in the country is an impossible standard to set, but here we are. The Bears won its second straight Big 12 title with a 37-28 win over Kansas State, but if the Bears are left wanting on Sunday, two sequences may prove to be the difference. The first was a Bryce Petty interception inside the K-State end zone that could have put Baylor up 14-0, and the second was a 3rd-and-17 conversion at the Kansas State three-yard line that the 'Cats turned into a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown drive. A 38-27 win is nice, but 45-20 would've been even better.
Florida State survives. Again. After trailing 7-0, 14-7 and 21-14, Florida State pulled out a 37-35 win over Georgia Tech, pulling out its third straight ACC title and 29th straight overall victory. At some point during the upcoming AFCA clinic it is my sincere hope that coaches from Oklahoma State, Clemson, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami, Boston College, Florida and Georgia Tech gather and ask, "Man, what is it about those suckers?"
Marshall wins Conference USA. Last week's loss will put a damper on things, but a 12-1, conference championship season is a heck of a consolation prize for Doc Holliday and the Thundering Herd (which, by the way, is the name of my next band.)
And finally, congrats to SMU. Tom Mason and the Mustangs' staff played good soldiers after June Jones left after week two, slogged through an impossible season and learned they would not be retained this week by new head coach Chad Morris, and Saturday they were finally rewarded with a victory a 27-20 victory at Connecticut. In a bit of black comedy, the Mustangs didn't know what to do once they had the game won.