And we’re back! This season is too much fun! Since the SEC is on their pre-Rivalry Week conference-wide sabbatical, we only have six games of significance this week. Pretty slim pickings to whet your college football appetite before the Washington State Cougars take the field against the Arizona Wildcats late Saturday night. But there’s a few that have some importance for us. Before we get there, and with apologies to TV Guide, let’s recap last week.
- Nobody. It was a terrible week for our College Football Playoff chances, as all seven teams above us went chalk, and the one below us did as well. Arkansas didn’t do enough to make the CFP committee flip us and LSU, and I mean I guess Alabama did its thing and UCF won for the 76th time in a row. But whatever.
- Everybody. You’re all dead to me. Unless we need you to win this week.
As always, I’ll be using 538’s predictive model for the percentages you see referenced. Our chances dipped a little bit, as we are never allowed to have nice things. We’re at 14% to make the playoff, and up to a 25% chance of winning out. But we’re down to a 52% chance of getting in just by way of winning out. To make matters worse, West Virginia has leapfrogged us, sitting at 15%. If the top four (Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Michigan, which now has a slightly higher chance than Oklahoma) win out, we’re at 31%.
Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame look like playoff locks.— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) November 11, 2018
Who is next in line? My hunch:
1. 1-loss Michigan
2. 1-loss Oklahoma (w/ UM loss)
3. 1-loss Ohio State (w/ OU loss)
4. 1-loss WVU (w/ Northwestern winning B10)
5. 1-loss Washington State (chaos)https://t.co/oUmgcM7HDy
YES HELLO MAY I SPEAK TO CHAOS PLEASE I’LL HOLD.
12:00 EST SLATE
#10 Ohio State @ Maryland
WHO 538’S PREDICTIVE MODEL SAYS YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR: Maryland. Immediately, it raises our winning percentage up to 18%, and all the way up to 59% if we win out. Ohio State doesn’t have as much of an effect on our percentages as Michigan does, which makes sense considering that Michigan’s loss was to CFP #3 Notre Dame while OSU’s was to future Louisville head coach Jeff Brohm and unranked Purdue. If we can’t get two losses for both Michigan and Ohio State, then Ohio State winning the B1G East division is the better outcome. In a perfect world, and for the best chance of Wazzu getting in the CFP, Northwestern wins the B1G title game regardless of the outcome of the Big Game. That is not a sentence I expected to ever type.
WHO YOU WANT: Maryland. It feels kind of gross rooting for the Terps after the whole DJ Durkin debacle, but at least the school (eventually) did the right thing and gave the finger to the Board of Regents in rescinding Durkin’s reinstatement.
WHO YOU ACTUALLY SHOULD ROOT FOR: Maryland. Two losses is the key.
WATCHABILITY: Somewhere between 5/10 and 7/10, entirely dependent on how ridiculous Maryland’s uniforms are. Football-wise, Ohio State seems ripe for an upset. They come across as a team on the edge. Of course, with all the athletes they have on both sides of the ball, they’re only ever so close to that edge. But the last few weeks have not been pretty. Maryland needs one of the next two to get to bowl eligibility, which would be a helluva thing considering the turmoil in the program.
In the midst of writing this article, news broke that Maryland’s starting QB, Kasim Hill, has torn his ACL and is out for the year. So that’s less than ideal.
#12 Syracuse vs. #3 Notre Dame, at Yankee Stadium
538 SAYS: Syracuse. A Notre Dame loss puts us up into the 60s percentage-wise, and the lowest we go if you click in any combination of the other three teams winning out, plus Alabama and Clemson, is 39%.
WHO YOU WANT: Syracuse. Because oh my god the pinstripe jerseys that Notre Dame is going to wear are from the deepest, coldest depths of hell and they deserve to stay there.
WHO YOU ACTUALLY SHOULD ROOT FOR: Syracuse. A late-season loss, even to a highly ranked Syracuse team, should be enough to knock out the Irish, who haven’t exactly played a juggernaut of a schedule. You might worry that this would bring Syracuse into the picture, but they already have two losses and they’re locked out of the ACC title game.
WATCHABILITY: 8/10. It’s a light week, and this is one of two match-ups between two ranked Power 5 teams, the other being Iowa State and Texas. So this is the marquee game, despite the atrocity of that uniform. Blech.
Indiana @ #4 Michigan
538 SAYS: Indiana. It also puts us up to 63%, so that kind of shows you where the Cougs are. One of the games of significance goes in our direction, and our chances of making the playoff are about 2 out of 3. And on the other side, we’re running out of chances.
WHO YOU WANT: Indiana. Michigan has won 22 in a row and 36 of the last 37. THEY’RE DUE.
WHO YOU ACTUALLY SHOULD ROOT FOR: Definitely Indiana. Tell Harbaugh to keep his khakis packed.
WATCHABILITY: 2/10. The Hoosiers need to win one of their last two to make a bowl game, so they should come out with something in the tank. Indiana has a pretty good offense, especially for a B1G team, but it’s not 1987 and... [checks Wikipedia] ...Van Waiters is not walking through that door.
#9 West Virginia @ Oklahoma State
538 SAYS: Oklahoma State. 56% if we win out, and if we lock in Alabama and Clemson, the lowest our percentage goes for any of the other three contenders is 36%. Which, somewhat weirdly, is if Ohio State wins the B1G.
WHO YOU WANT: West Virginia. They’re still probably the funnest team in college football that doesn’t wear crimson and gray, and if we can’t get in, they’re the team I’d like to be able to root for to lose to Alabama by 60.
WHO YOU ACTUALLY SHOULD ROOT FOR: Oklahoma State. West Virginia and Oklahoma are still set up to have two cracks at each other, so the Big XII cannibalizing itself is still fully in play. Okie State could have knocked Oklahoma out last week, but...
... maybe they’ll redeem themselves this week?
WATCHABILITY: 9/10. What else can be said about Big XII football? Set the O/U at 90 and go from there.
Duke @ #2 Clemson
538 SAYS: Duke. The upset moves us up to 58% to make the playoff, while a Clemson win only drops us to a coin flip, at 50% even.
WHO YOU WANT TO ROOT FOR: Duke. They’ve scored 45 in a loss and 20 in a win, both in ACC play, so they’re a little tricky to get a handle on. They also haven’t beaten Clemson since ‘04, and it hasn’t been particularly competitive either.
WHO YOU ACTUALLY SHOULD ROOT FOR: Clemson. I know, I know, we’re probably fine if they lose a game because they’re in either way. I get that, and it’s a valid argument. It still feels better to me if Clemson either has zero losses or two losses, just so we’re not fighting over the same spot at the table. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll lose to both Duke and South Carolina, or in their ACC coronation game against Pitt, so I think zero losses is better for us here. I could be wrong though.
WATCHABILITY: 3/10. It probably won’t be pretty. Duke does have a weapon at quarterback in Daniel Jones, but that won’t be enough to threaten the Tigers.
Kansas @ #6 Oklahoma
538 SAYS: It’s weird, I tried to click on the box for Oklahoma to lose, but the thing just moved and I swear my computer started laughing at me. (66% if Kansas wins.)
WHO YOU WANT: Kansas. Peyton Bender, the erstwhile Cougar backup, has been the starter for the Jayhawks and has played reasonably well. Kansas also hasn’t beaten OU since before Leach was in Norman, and all of those losses have been by at least two touchdowns. It hasn’t been pretty.
WHO YOU ACTUALLY SHOULD ROOT FOR: ROCK CHALK.
WATCHABILITY: 1/10. This is going to be a bloodbath.
OTHER GAMES ON WHICH TO KEEP AN EYE
Oregon State @ #18 Washington - If the title of this article was “WSU in the Rose Bowl,” we’re definitely getting tickets for the Jonathan Smith revenge tour and rooting for the Beavers. Coupled with a WSU win over Arizona, that would have the added benefit of locking up the North division for the Cougs regardless of the outcome of the Apple Cup, which is basically the dream scenario. However, that is not the title of this article. So it’s better for us if Washington is ranked, so we should technically root for them to win blah blah blah Go Beavs.
#24 Cincinnati @ #11 UCF - Ol’ Crimson is coming to visit DisneyWorld. Cincinnati is coming too, and Cincy is the best team UCF will face outside of a possible NY6 bowl game. This might be the week that the defending champs lose their claim to the throne. And if that happens, the chatter about playoff expansion is going to die down considerably.
#16 Iowa State @ #15 Texas - This could have some influence on the CFP. If Iowa State wins then beats K-State next week, and West Virginia beats Oklahoma that day, Iowa State plays for the Big XII title, effectively locking out Oklahoma. It also means that Washington State, Iowa State, and Northwestern could feasibly win their respective conferences. In the same year. Vive la révolution.
Arizona @ #8 Washington State - Another late night on the Palouse, and another crack at Khalil Tate. However, this version of Khalil Tate is markedly different from last year’s. He like... doesn’t run the ball. Which is weird, considering you know, this is what he did to defenses last year:
But hey, if Kevin Sumlin wants Mr. Tate throwing the ball, by all means, let the young man spin the magic bean. JJ Taylor is still a beast in the run game, so it’s not like they have zero run threat without Tate. But I feel a lot better about Tate getting rid of the ball than holding on to it and running. Tracy Claeys has passed just about every test so far. This might be his biggest. I’m looking forward to the chess match.