The College Football Playoff selection committee last week released the first version of its rankings, triggering the annual reframing of commentary around “postseason positioning.” After debuting at No. 11, the Oklahoma Sooners can see a potential bid to the tournament if they squint really hard. It’s not like OU hasn’t made a late playoff charge before.
Even in a good year, the debate about which teams will make the playoff is tedious. The weekly update by the committee provides ample grist for speculation about its members’ motivations and criteria (In reality, you can reverse engineer a methodology that shows the committee makes fairly predictable decisions from week to week.) Expect the pontificating this year to reach a fever pitch of ridiculousness . Between slapdash schedules and all manner of potential caveats available thanks to Covid-19, your David Pollacks and Joey Galloways will find no shortage of ammo for firing off hot (and absurd) playoff takes.
Aside from winning the rest of its games, OU’s hopes of reaching the top four hinge on lots of other teams around it losing. However, out of all the years for fans to get invested in this, 2020 just isn’t it. No matter how good you believe OU’s team may be, it will have a fairly weak case. Teams are most likely signing up to get blasted by Alabama anyway, so keep the kvetching to a minimum.
Other thoughts from the holiday weekend’s slate:
*The top headline in Big 12 country had to be the Iowa State Cyclones’ 23-20 win over the Texas Longhorns. ISU’s march to a spot in the Big 12 title game makes for a nice story and all, but the intrigue is in Austin. Texas coach Tom Herman may be heading for the exit as his team muddles through another disappointing season.
If and when Herman gets his walking papers, I’ll have more thoughts on the state of play at OU’s biggest rival. For now, I’ll just note that Herman built his reputation at Houston playing the role of David versus higher-profile programs. He never really seemed to adjust his coaching style to fit being Goliath.
*Speaking of Iowa State and coaching changes, Matt Campbell’s name keeps coming up in connection with Michigan, where the Wolverines are cratering under Jim Harbaugh.
I honestly don’t view that as a no-brainer decision for Campbell. Despite the Maize and Blue’s prestigious tradition, winning big in Ann Arbor gets harder by the day.
I’d still bet on Campbell saying yes to the Wolverines if it comes to that, of course.
*Most impressive performance of the weekend: Notre Dame 31, North Carolina 17.
The undefeated Fighting Irish notched arguably the best win of the season in early November when they upset Clemson. Two resounding victories since then have proven that ND didn’t just reap the benefits of playing the Tigers when they were shorthanded.
The Irish absolutely locked down UNC on Friday in their 31-17 win. The Tar Heels gained an average of 5.2 yards per play, the lowest mark of the season for their explosive offense. Meanwhile, the Irish thumped away at the UNC defense with a combination of physical receivers and runnings backs to help quarterback Ian Book control possession with a precise offensive attack.
*Most surprising performance goes to Oklahoma State, which clawed its way to a 50-44 victory of Texas Tech.
This was surprising more in terms of the context than the actual outcome. The Cowboys found themselves in one hell of a flat spot, and they were missing star running backs Chuba Hubbard and LD Brown. The Red Raiders managed to stay within striking distance in the second half, but the Pokes didn’t crack.
*After watching Texas A&M against LSU on Saturday, I can’t envision a playoff game going well for a team quarterbacked by Kellen Mond. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko has put together a tough unit, though, led by one of the best defensive lines in the nation. Ironically, it’s Jimbo Fisher who needs to get his side of the house in order for the Aggies to compete for an SEC title.