Weekend watch list

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The two games on my must watch list this weekend have the potential to really shake up the rankings. As we enter the second half of the season and get closer to playoff season, game outcomes are event more important.

The first Saturday match up is in SEC country with No. 1 Alabama traveling to No. 9 Tennessee.

Tennessee has put up quite the impressive performance this year. It has just one loss and that was in Week 6 against Texas A&M in double overtime. But perhaps the most notable Vol stat is that in five of six games this season, they have turned up the heat in the second half to come from behind and either win or force overtime.

Alabama has been the undoubted favorite since the beginning of the season. Nick Saban’s Roll Tide won’t go down easy, but this is their second straight road trip. Last week they were at No. 16 Arkansas, which actually put up a challenge. Bama only won 49-30.

I believe Roll Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts will decide the game. Hurts has 256 yards of total offense this season and he could be a real struggle for a Vol defensive line down two starters.

The Vols have more on the line with this game than the Tide. If Tennessee loses, the University of Florida is right back in the mix for the SEC East. If that is the case, Tennessee would need Florida to lose one more time. With both teams having two losses, the Vols would own the tiebreaker.

It wouldn’t be a huge deal to Bama if they lost to the Vols. Suffering just one loss the Tide would most likely still be in playoff contention but the pressure would be on to win out the season. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m.

A few hours later is the biggest match up in the Big Ten: No. 8 Wisconsin versus No. 2 Ohio State. A Badger win could heavily change the playoff picture, but this game is more about the Buckeyes and other Big 10 opponent, University of Michigan, than it is the Badgers.

The Buckeyes need the win in order to cement themselves over the Wolverines until they face off on Nov. 26. Plus a Buckeye win over the Badgers on the road would be much more impressive than the Wolverines’ win over the Badgers at home, 14-7.

The loss to the Wolverines is the only loss for Wisconsin this season. A win over the Buckeyes and winning out the remainder of the season is needed to keep the Badgers’ playoff hopes alive. If Wisconsin wins on Saturday, it will be the third win over a top-10 team this season.

This game will come down to defense (Wisconsin) versus speed (Ohio State). Wisconsin has one of the best defenses in the country, but Ohio State has more playmakers, including one named J.T. Barrett. The Badgers have proved themselves a lot more than the Buckeyes this season as well, with games against LSU, Michigan State and Michigan. Ohio State’s toughest opponent was Oklahoma, who maybe wasn’t as big of a deal as we thought.

MLB

In case you haven’t heard, it’s postseason in Major League Baseball. Friday night starts the race for the American League pennant and Saturday for the National League pennant.

In the American League Championship Series, we have the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians. Both teams are unbeaten in the postseason. Toronto started by having to beat Baltimore in the AL wild card game, and the Indians had to beat the Red Sox at Fenway. This should be a series for the books with both teams red hot, not to mention on July 1 they competed through 19 innings to determine a winner. Cleveland has home field advantage to start, and first pitch is at 6 p.m.

In the National League Championship Series we have the headline winners of the month: the Chicago Cubs. If anyone has heard anything about the MLB postseason, it has most likely been about the Cubs. Chicago had to take down San Francisco in order to enter the pennant race, and not many thought it was possible — it is an even year mind you — but they got the job done. Joining Chicago is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers and Washington Nationals faced off Thursday night in the NLDS Game 5 with Los Angeles taking it, 4-3.

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Be Prepared for Week 12 Upsets

In the last two weeks we have witnessed games that have had quite the impact in the College Football Playoff rankings. In Week 10 Clemson showed its dominance with a win over Florida State; the Tigers’ only real chance to lose in what is left of the season. The Crimson Tide was ranked No. 4 when they took down No. 2 LSU, dropping LSU to just inside the top 10. Michigan State traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, to take on the unranked Cornhuskers and lost, dropping the Spartans six spots to No. 13. Oklahoma State defeated TCU, removing the Horned Frogs from the top 10, and moving the undefeated Cowboys closer to playoff contention.

Week 11 brought another slew of game changers. No. 10 Utah lost to unranked Arizona. LSU fell for the second week in a row, to an Arkansas team who beat Ole Miss the week prior. The Tigers have moved from No. 2 to No. 15 within two weeks. The undoubted favorite in the Pacific-12, Stanford, lost to the Oregon Ducks, solidifying the Pac-12’s fate of having a two-loss conference champion. Finally, Oklahoma beat No. 6 Baylor to make the Bears’ path to the playoffs even more difficult than it already was.

Two weeks ago when the first rankings were released I said not to let the rankings bother you, it was early and there was still a lot of football to be played. Going into Week 10, there were 11 undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Currently there are five and none from two power five conferences, the SEC and the Pac-12. I can’t say that the CFP rankings released this past Tuesday make any more of a difference, but as we wind down the regular season, what the committee is saying does tend to have more of an impact. We all want to see where our teams stand and if our top-four picks coincide with the committee.

The final ranking will be released on Dec. 6, and that is the only one that matters. It’s the one that seals each team’s fate for the season, and Week 12 is going to have a huge say.

This week there is a high chance that two more teams could be receiving their first loss. Week 12 welcomes six games between two ranked opponents, two of which have both teams in the top 10.

First there is No. 9 Michigan State traveling to Columbus to take on the No. 3 and undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes. The biggest thing the Buckeyes and Spartans have had to answer to this season is weakness of schedule. Neither team has gone up against top-notch programs, and the Spartans fell to unranked Nebraska. This game is the end all for either team as the loser will automatically be removed from playoff conversation.

The Buckeyes have the Spartans this week, followed by a trip to the Big House to take on the Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 28. If the Buckeyes close out the regular season undefeated and then add a win against the undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big 10 championship, Ohio State has every right to be in the top four. If Michigan State wins out, a controversial loss to the Cornhuskers would almost definitely have to be overlooked to send the Spartans to the playoffs.

No. 10 Baylor is on the road at Boone Pickens Stadium, where both teams need a win to remain in the top 10. Oklahoma State comes into the game at No. 6 and is the only undefeated team remaining in the Big 12. Even if the Cowboys win, they have a season closer at home against state rival No. 7 Oklahoma on Nov. 28. Like OSU, Baylor would need to win out to potentially make the playoffs. If Baylor loses to the Cowboys, it would be the Bears’ second straight loss; but if they win, they end their season on the road at TCU.

The Big 12 has been the talk of the town for the last two weeks and it will continue for the next two weeks. An extremely backlogged schedule created this mess or in a way “blessing” for the college football playoff committee. No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 18 TCU are also in “do-or-die” mode in Week 12 with the loser out of the top four guaranteed. A TCU loss and potential drop out of the top 25 would devalue the entire Big 12 conference.

No. 15 LSU and No. 22 Ole Miss fight to stay in the top 25. No. 24 University of Southern California needs a win against No. 23 Oregon to win the Pac-12 South. The Ducks need a win, and a Stanford loss, to win the North.

No. 20 Northwestern travels to No. 25 Wisconsin in a fight to stay in bowl contention — but in all reality their outcome matters more to No. 5 Iowa than anyone else. The Hawkeyes’ resume depends on how both of these teams finish the season.

QUESTIONABLE RANKINGS

Every week the committee leaves college football fans confused and with way too many questions floating around in their heads. This week is no different.

Clemson is undefeated and has proved itself with wins over Notre Dame and Florida State but does the SEC team truly deserve the No. 1 spot? Sure a spot in the top four, but No. 1?

No. 2 Alabama and the SEC excel where the Big 10 falls short, strength of schedule. The Crimson Tide worked its way into that top spot with a win over LSU, but with the Tigers falling two times in a row does that win still hold that much weight? Also, who can forget Alabama’s loss to current No. 22 Ole Miss? Heads up: after their loss to Arkansas, the Rebels dropped out of the top 25. They’re only back in because they had a bye in Week 11.

Speaking of Ole Miss, how did they manage a jump in the rankings after a bye week while TCU made a drop following a win over Kansas? The Jayhawks have been considered the worst power five football team, with only Oregon State being mentioned in the same sentence, but a win is a win and a bye is a bye. TCU dropped three spots.

Perhaps the biggest question following this weeks ranking is No. 13 Utah being ranked one spot behind No. 12 Michigan. The Wolverines are coming off a Week 11 win over unranked Indiana, but the game went into double overtime and could have easily went either way. Michigan didn’t prove itself in any spectacular way. In fact putting themselves in the double overtime position with an unranked opponent is pretty equivalent to a loss.

Like the Wolverines, the Utes also found themselves in a double overtime situation against an unranked team in Week 11, but Utah lost. The difference is Utah lost to previously ranked Arizona, but Michigan beat never ranked Indiana.

Finally, how does Baylor remain in the top 10 after a loss to Oklahoma when TCU dropped nine spots after losing to Oklahoma State? The Horned Frogs lost to the Cowboys by 20 points whereas the Bears lost to the Sooners by 10. That’s a 10-point difference, but the bigger loss came by an undefeated opponent.

Plenty of Football Left

Tuesday night the first college football rankings by the College Football Playoff (CFP) selection committee were released. I had been anxiously awaiting these rankings for weeks, but as the day got closer and closer I lost interest.

This season has been a weird one. By week 10 in 2014 there were only three undefeated teams left in all of the NCAA, in 2015 we have 11. What are we supposed to do with 11 undefeated teams?

Now I know by the end of the season there is no way there will still be 11. Considering how many of them play each other in an extremely backlogged season, it is absolutely impossible for there to be 11 come December 1. And for that very reason, I knew that these rankings in the end would turn out to be meaningless.

If the CFP was this weekend, the selection committee has Clemson No. 1, LSU No. 2, Ohio State No. 3 and Alabama No. 4 playing for the national title. While I don’t 100 percent disagree with the committee considering how strange of a season it’s been, I can’t help but question one loss Alabama’s spot especially when eight undefeated teams fall lower in the rankings. But the Roll Tide will have a chance to defend the committees choice in placing them fourth and those undefeated teams lower in the rankings will have a chance to work their way up as well.

There is still plenty of football left to be played. Plenty of big games to make sure you are in front of a TV for. And plenty of potential upsets are on the horizon.

First up are No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Alabama. The Roll Tide will look to defend their No. 4 ranking and knock the Tigers out of contention when the two square up Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Second we have Clemson, the ACC’s only chance to enter the ring, but a game against Florida State on Nov. 7 at home could jeopardize that. The remainder of the Tigers’ season is pretty uneventful.

Next we have No. 3 Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the undefeated Michigan State Spartans on Oct. 21 in Columbus and then they close out the season against the Michigan Wolverines at the Big House. If Ohio State remains the only undefeated team in the Big Ten then the defending National Champions definitely deserve a bid. But if they don’t will the Big Ten still have a representative?

If MSU beats the Buckeyes and then goes on to beat No. 9 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship I’d count the Spartans in, but if they’re what some are calling “miracle” wins like they had against Michigan, the Spartans may still find themselves on the outside looking in. Michigan and Iowa have a much harder path to the CFP.

Currently the Big 12 finds itself in the same position they did last year, right on the cusp. Undefeated Baylor ranks in at No. 6, undefeated TCU at No. 8, undefeated Oklahoma State at No. 14 and 7-1 Oklahoma is No. 15. Crazy thing is all of these teams have yet to play each other.

Saturday Nov. 7, TCU visits Oklahoma State. On Nov. 14, Oklahoma travels to Baylor. TCU takes on Oklahoma and Baylor takes on Oklahoma State all in Oklahoma on Nov. 21. And in the final week of the season, the Bears are on the road to the Horned Frogs and the Sooners are at the Cowboys. If one of these teams comes out undefeated, a huge “if,” the Big 12 may finally see themselves in the top four.

I don’t know about you but I am definitely ready for November. Bring on the football!

Should Utah be in the top 4?

If college football playoffs were this weekend, there would be much debate. The AP Poll has Ohio State, Michigan State, Ole Miss and TCU. The Coaches Poll has Ohio State, Michigan State, TCU and Baylor. The Football Power Rankings chose Ohio State, Ole Miss, Michigan State and UCLA.

In all reality, how you feel the rankings should be going into Week Five is entirely dependent on what you think of Oregon in 2015. The biggest upset of the season so far was the 62-20 Utah win over the Ducks in Eugene. This game dropped Oregon from the top 25 for the first time in over four years, and now the Utes boast the best resume of the season.

This is the Ducks’ worst season opening in over a decade. Their two losses come from the current No. 2 Michigan State (31-28) and Utah. Their only wins came against “eh” teams — Eastern Washington (61-42) and Georgia State (61-28) — and the Ducks’ defense doesn’t leave anyone feeling very comfortable. This week Oregon heads to Boulder to take on Colorado, so it will take another few weeks to truly evaluate this Oregon team.

With the Utes’ upset over Oregon, some think they should be given a higher ranking than 10. Michigan State owes its No. 2 rank to a close win against the Ducks in East Lansing. The Spartans are 4-0 right now, but their other three wins come from “OK” teams and none were blowouts like they should have been.

Utah’s other big win of the season was against Michigan, who has broken the top 25 this week for the first time since 2013. Utah’s 24-17 win over the Wolverines didn’t seem like much until the Wolverines beat Oregon State and BYU, but even that’s not exactly impressive.

BYU’s most impressive game this season would be its 24-23 loss to UCLA despite their wins, by Hail Mary’s, against Nebraska and Boise State. UCLA is either in people’s top fours or just outside of it thanks to their 56-30 win over Arizona. The win wasn’t notable besides the fact that the Bruins were able to hold the Bears, who have a strong offensive game, to 20 points at home. UCLA’s win will look better if Arizona can take down Stanford on Saturday.

Another game outcome affecting rankings is the Ole Miss 43-37 win over Alabama, which was not great. The Roll Tide played sloppy, both teams had major turnovers and Bama had more yards despite the Rebel win. If Nick Saban and his team fall in Georgia this weekend, do the Rebels deserve to be in the top four either? Maybe a win against Florida on Saturday will help their case.

No. 1 seed Ohio State hasn’t been proving itself of that top spot. The Buckeyes’ only significant win was against Virginia Tech (42-24), but now that Virginia Tech lost to East Carolina, we are stuck wondering if they are only No. 1 because they were the 2014 champions. The Buckeyes head to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers on Saturday.

Baylor and TCU round out the teams in current playoff spots. TCU needed that tipped-pass miracle to avoid an upset by Texas Tech, 55-52. TCU has been challenged in every one of its games and its offense despite returning most of its players is not where it was last year.

Baylor’s first true match up of the season comes against the Texas Tech team that almost upset TCU. The Bears’ only other wins were over SMU, Rice and Lamar.

Looks like it will be another few weeks before I start to feel confident with my top-four choices and even then I will probably disagree when the CFP committee releases its first rankings on Nov. 3.

Really CFP Committee? Ohio State?

When the CFP committee announced the teams for the first college football playoffs ever my initial reaction was shock, which was quickly taken over by confusion and anger. I completely agree with Alabama and Oregon ranked first and second. And while I do believe that Florida State may not be the strongest team and there are many arguments that go against them being in that top four, the only fact that matters is that they are still the only undefeated team. Where my confusion and anger comes in is with the number four spot and how it was given to Ohio State.

Now I know some people could say that my anger with this decision comes from the fact that I am a Michigan State Spartan and we lost to them this season, but as a fan and supporter of the Big 10 conference, this is the best thing that could have happened for us. Regardless of those feelings though, my anger about the committee’s decision comes from the fact that TCU and Baylor were shafted. I believe that TCU and Baylor are both better teams than Ohio State and in all reality, are probably better than Florida State, despite their undefeated record.

In the last 24 hours the reasons I have been hearing for reasoning as to why TCU and Baylor weren’t chosen are that they need to add two more teams to their conference and that they need a conference championship. A Big 12 conference championship would have been played between TCU and Baylor, their second meeting of the season, and would have solidified an overall winner and probably would have helped their position with the committee, but they both still played games this weekend.

So point against TCU, they played non-ranked Iowa State, but Baylor played 11th ranked Kansas State, Ohio State played 17th ranked Wisconsin. Now yes, Ohio State vs. Wisconsin was a conference championship, but Baylor’s game was tougher. This past weekend isn’t the only game that Baylor had that was tougher though; their whole schedule was harder. TCU and Baylor had a tougher schedule than Ohio State, whose only big opponent was Michigan State, who is still ranked 7th. TCU’s only loss was to Baylor and Baylor’s only loss was to West Virginia. Ohio State’s loss was to unranked Virginia Tech.

Prior to Ohio State’s win this weekend, the only legitimate thing they had going for them for playoff contention was their win against Michigan State. Michigan State’s losses this season were to 2nd ranked Oregon and now fourth ranked Ohio State, but everyone has pretty much agreed Michigan State did not look strong that day and the Spartans still hold much respect.

Currently the number one reason behind the committee’s decision to make Ohio State number 4 is the fact that they have had to overcome two season ending injuries to quarterbacks. The Buckeyes lost their starter Braxton Miller before the season started and back up J.T. Barrett led them to the Big 10 championship and their win over Michigan State. But J.T. Barrett got hurt in their final game of the season against the Michigan Wolverines, a season ending broken ankle, which made the Buckeyes rely on third stringer Cardale Jones.

I must give my props to Cardale Jones and the rest of the Buckeye team for they have been proving all season that their team is not just a top notch quarterback, but great players all around. It is this fact that I feel made the committee pick Ohio State for that fourth spot. The Buckeyes have had to overcome to injuries that for most teams would have been season changing and they overcame them with flying colors.

Despite Ohio State’s successes this season, myself as well as many other college football fans around the country remain unhappy with the committee’s decision. People can continue to point out the adversity faced by Ohio State and their win against the Spartans, but TCU and Baylor continue to be the stronger candidates in my mind. With tougher schedules, better performance and I’ll say it overall eye test, the Horned Frogs or the Bears should be playing against Saban and the Crimson Tide on January 1st.