Undefeated Mississippi State and Florida State are making things easy for the 12 members of the College Football Playoff selection committee.
They’re the only ones.
Committee chairman Jeff Long has stated repeatedly that the group will start with a clean slate each week, and that’s a good thing; it’s going to need one after Week 11, when four of the top 10 teams lost. Only 10 Power 5 teams remain with one loss or none. Some of them played their way into the conversation on Saturday, while other teams tumbled out. Who helped themselves the most, and who was hurt the most?
Here’s a ranking of which teams helped themselves the most on Saturday (ranked by most helpful to least):
TCU: The Horned Frogs lost the head-to-head matchup against Baylor, but they have beaten every other ranked opponent on their schedule, including No. 7 Kansas State on Saturday. Equally as important was how good they looked in the process. Quarterback Trevone Boykin was outstanding, and TCU racked up an astounding 334 rushing yards -- no small feat against the Big 12's best rushing defense, which was holding opponents to an average of 101 yards per game. It was also the most points allowed by the Wildcats this season. With games against Kansas, Texas and Iowa State remaining, TCU has cleared its toughest hurdles. The Frogs’ main task now is to avoid an upset -- and hope the committee remains consistent in the precedent it has set. The importance of TCU’s performance on Saturday can’t be understated, especially considering ...
Baylor: Bears fans are screaming, "Head to head!" Critics are yelling, "Strength of schedule!" The committee has to figure out which matters more. The good news? Baylor’s 48-14 smackdown of the Sooners will make the committee members reconsider it. In spite of Baylor’s 61-58 win over TCU on Oct. 11, the committee has ranked the Horned Frogs higher not only because it was impressed with their wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State but also because of a nonconference win over Minnesota. Now, in addition to the win over TCU, Baylor has a win over a common opponent: Oklahoma. Baylor’s win was more convincing than TCU’s 37-33 escape on Oct. 4, and it came on the road. Will that be enough to overcome a nonconference lineup that is currently 8-19 and doesn’t include a Power 5 opponent?
Arizona State: The committee gave the Sun Devils the biggest bump in the rankings last week, promoting them from No. 14 to No. 9, and they should rise again after a 55-31 win over Notre Dame. The Sun Devils’ defense was smothering, and their 55 points were the most allowed by the Irish since 1985. ASU rushed five or more on 73 percent of Everett Golson’s dropbacks, and that’s when he committed all five of his turnovers. If Arizona State wins out -- which isn’t far-fetched -- the Sun Devils should be in. Their résumé includes wins over USC, Stanford and Utah, and Arizona and a possible Pac-12 title game still loom.
Marshall: Just because the Herd weren't ranked last week doesn’t mean they can’t play their way in. The fact that they are still undefeated should be an edge. The best conference champion from the Group of 5 will play in a lucrative New Year’s Six bowl, and Marshall proved Saturday it can overcome adversity. After a slow start, the Thundering Herd left no doubt they were the better team in a 63-17 thumping of Southern Miss. Marshall trailed 14-0 in the first quarter -- without taking an offensive snap -- but rallied despite the fact that one of its best players, running back Devon Johnson, was sidelined with a knee injury. Johnson missed the game and the Herd still ran for 335 yards and seven touchdowns. Marshall improved to 9-0 for the first time since 1999, when it ran the table (13-0).
Who's hurtin' (ranked by most pain to least)
Notre Dame: Crash and burn. Notre Dame’s playoff hopes are over. The Irish had a chance to unseat a conference champ for a spot in the playoff -- until they committed five turnovers in the loss to Arizona State. This scenario might make Notre Dame secretly wish it belonged in a conference. Think about it: Several two-loss teams could still redeem themselves with a conference title, giving them one last push before the committee’s final ranking on Dec. 7. Notre Dame’s chances at redemption have run out.
Auburn: The 41-38 loss (at home!) to Texas A&M was not a “good loss.” It wasn’t an example of the depth in the SEC West. It was a flat-out upset. Auburn blew it. The Tigers lost three fumbles, including two in the fourth quarter. Auburn’s first-quarter fumble led to an A&M touchdown, and the first of its fourth-quarter fumbles came on the Aggies' 1-yard line with the game on the line. College football’s Team of Destiny is now destined to be a spectator of the playoff. There have been too many mistakes for the Tigers to remain in the conversation unless they somehow wind up winning the SEC.
Kansas State: TCU might have run all over the Wildcats’ playoff hopes. K-State was beaten soundly, and it took a double hit when Auburn lost at home to Texas A&M. And there’s no guarantee that K-State’s woes end here. The Wildcats still have to play at West Virginia on a Thursday night and end the regular season against Baylor in a game that could decide the Big 12 title. Would the committee take a two-loss Big 12 champ? Probably not over a one-loss Big Ten champ. Speaking of the Buckeyes ...
The Big Ten: You thought Ohio State helped itself, didn’t you? It did. But it’s also all the Big Ten has. Sure, the Buckeyes looked good in their win at Michigan State, but they lost at home to a Virginia Tech team that is now 4-5 and in last place in the ACC Coastal Division. There’s nothing else on the Buckeyes' schedule -- including the Big Ten title game -- that’s going to do much to boost their playoff résumé (especially if Nebraska can’t beat Wisconsin). The best scenario for the Big Ten would have been for Michigan State to keep winning with style. Now the Buckeyes have to hope the committee considers Braxton Miller’s injury was a factor in Week 2 against the Hokies, when J.T. Barrett was making his first career start in front of a home crowd. They also have to hope the committee was so impressed with the win in East Lansing that it makes up for no other wins against a ranked opponent, save for maybe Nebraska in the title game. Is one win against a ranked team enough to be in the top four?