Still A Long Way From The Inaugural College Football Playoff

After 11 weeks of the 2014 college football season, there is but one certainty remaining. There will be playoff-caliber football all November long.

Mississippi State, which got a reprieve from its SEC opponents last week and toyed with Tennessee- Martin, still sits atop the polls with an unblemished 9-0 record. It is the first time in school history that the Bulldogs have ever been 9-0 and head coach Dan Mullen is cautiously optimistic.

After the 48-16 win over UT-Martin, Mullen said, “We still haven’t achieved all that much. With three games left to play we’re in first place in the West, but there’s still a lot of football.”

Indeed, there is. Mullen’s squad will get to prove to the college football world that they really do belong when they travel to Tuscaloosa this weekend to take on No. 5 Alabama. If history is any indication, the Crimson Tide have won the last six meetings, including last year’s 20-7 victory in Starkville.

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Should the Bulldogs manage to get out of Tuscaloosa with a win, they still have to face arch-rival Ole Miss in the annual Egg Bowl on Nov. 29. Sandwiched between those two contests is a visit from 3-7 Vanderbilt. As Mullen said, there is still plenty of meaningful left this season.

Florida State, which has won 23 straight games, is also unbeaten and ranks second in the most current College Football Playoff standings. The Seminoles were not impressive last week but did manage to defeat Virginia, 34-20. Quarterback Jameis Winston will lead the ‘Noles in two big rivalry games down the stretch. FSU will face Miami this weekend and take on Florida on Nov. 29. They will also face a 6-4 Boston College squad that could give them trouble.

With Auburn’s upset loss to Texas A&M, the door is now open for Oregon, Alabama, TCU, and Baylor. All four schools have just one loss and, at this point in the season, another will most likely take them right out of playoff contention.

The Ducks destroyed a pretty solid Utah team last Saturday night, 51-27. Quarterback Marcus Mariota took another step toward a possible Heisman Trophy win with 239 yards and three TDs passing and another 114 yards and a TD rushing against the Utes.

Of the school’s remaining in the playoff hunt, the Ducks might have the easiest path. After a week off, Oregon closes the season with Colorado and then the Civil War at Oregon State. The Ducks, which have clinched the Pac-12 North, would have to face the South Division winner, most likely Arizona State, in the conference championship game.

One could argue that TCU should be one of the top four schools in the playoff rankings with wins over five ranked opponents, including last week’s win over No. 7 Kansas State. The Horned Frogs will also benefit from their year-end schedule and the lack of a Big 12 championship game. TCU finishes up with Kansas (3-6), Texas (5-5), and Iowa State (2-7).

TCU’s only loss came at the hands of Baylor, which re-staked its claim to a playoff spot with a 48-14 thrashing of 15th-ranked Oklahoma last week. Quarterback Bryce Petty once again leads the nation’s top scoring offense (50.1 points per game). Only a Week 7 loss to West Virginia is keeping the Bears out of the top four picture.
When the college football world talks playoffs and national championships, that discussion usually includes Alabama. The Crimson Tide have won three of the past five national championships and could do so again this year. Head coach Nick Saban and company have won four straight since losing 23-17 to Ole Miss back on Oct. 4. While they haven’t been dominant, they are still Alabama and that means tough defense, a strong running game, and team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.

The problem for the Tide is they must face top-ranked Mississippi State this weekend and then close the season with Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Luckily for Alabama, both games are at home. If the Tide can win out, there is no doubt they will be one of the top four in the very first College Football Playoff.

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