It really is crazy and a whole lot of different things can happen in the next couple weeks to upset an apple cart here and there.
Consider the Big 10 (actually 14, but who's counting)? Michigan State controls its own destiny. After defeating the reigning national champ Buckeyes on the road --with their starting QB out no less -- the Spartans have jumped to #5 in the eyes of the almighty Selection Committee. Still on the outside looking in at the Final Four. MSU's next game is at home against Penn State. This should not be a problem. It would be a huge upset if the Nittany Lions knocked off MSU.
On the other side of the Big 10 ledger is Iowa. The Hawkeyes have quietly remained undefeated and are now among the Final Four indeed. But they have to go to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have a long history of knocking off undefeated teams when they dare visit Lincoln. They did so to Michigan State just a couple weeks ago, else the Spartans would currently be in the Final Four as well.
But let's assume both IU and MSU win their last regular season contests in a couple days. Those two would meet in the Big 10 conference championship game in Indianapolis. Somebody'g gotta win, and somebody's gotta lose. The winner will almost certainly be a national championship semi-finalist, while the loser will go to a lesser bowl game somewhere else. In the latter case, there will be a lot of fanfare/local hype, and the marching bands will put on a great show. But the result of the game actually means very little.
Elsewhere, who wasn't a bit surprised when Clemson emerged #1 after the SC's initial bowl rankings? True, the ever lovable Dabo Swinney's boys are undefeated, but Clemson as #1? Really? And remember, those rankings came out before the above-mentioned defending champs and then still undefeated OSU went down to MSU.
No surprise with Alabama rising to #2. Though the Tide got spanked by Ole Miss earlier in the season -- if there's a way to get Bama in the Final Four, rest assured the Committee will find it. Something about ratings -- see cha-ching.
What IS a surprise is Notre Dame being demoted. True, they lost a close one at Clemson earlier in the year, no shame there, but they had risen to #4 in the only poll that matters. They were tentatively in the semis and won their following game. And when it comes to media darlings -- not to mention the horde of Irish faithful, alumni, and pretty much the Pope's football flock the world over -- we're talking legions of lemmings here -- it's astounding the Committee all but booted them from any chance of playing for the national championship. The Irish have to go to Stanford to finish their regular season, no easy task, and even if they totally demolished the Cardinal (highly unlikely) they probably STILL wouldn't get in. Thing is, Notre Dame can't showcase itself in a conference championship game -- because they don't belong to one. That independent status can work both ways.
Know what's goofier yet? Besides the fact one Condoleezza Rice (remember her?) still sits on the Supreme Football Committee -- as if she ever knew the difference between double roll-up coverage and the Sunday morning talk show circuit -- her and her fellow geniuses have deemed Oklahoma to to better than Iowa at this point in time. The Sooners are #3.
That seems quite odd, given OU needed overtime to beat woeful Tennessee, lost at lowly Texas, and at home barely squeaked by TCU 30-29 just last week. Next up, the Okies face their cross-state rival Okla St, on the road, in Stillwater. Again. somebody's gotta win and somebody's gotta lose. Though both teams already have one loss, whoever emerges victorious from that rodeo might well be in the Final Four.
So here's how yours truly sees it playing out.
Clemson's almost home free in the ACC. They'll wallop South Carolina this week and North Carolina the next. Count the Tigers in. Hurray for Dabo.
Same with Alabama. They'll cruise over Auburn and roll in the SEC conference title game. Nick Saban's crew gets another shot at a ring. Boo, hiss.
The winner of the Oklahoma Bowl is likely in if they do it convincingly. If not, and those pesky Leprachauns from South Bend absolutely trash Stanford -- well -- there's that ratings and cha-ching thing again. Who do you think the TV people would rather feature in a world-wide broadcast? An Oklahoma team or the Irish? Is it even a close call? And tell me the TV people don't have influence with the mighty Committee, and I'll tell you I don't believe it. After moving on down for apparently no reason, it would hardly be a surprise if Notre Dame moved right back on up at the closing bell.
But you know who the best team in the country is right now and probably has been all along?
Look out for these guys. They've gone through their Rodney Dangerfield treatment for the last several years while watching other high profile schools get the nod when it counted most. Yet top to bottom, they are most definitely the real deal, perhaps more so than ever this year.
Sure, they've been underwhelming in some games against vastly inferior competition, but they won. An argument could be made an elite team plays up or down to the level of their opponents, but in the end they win.
Also true enough is MSU needed a prayer to be answered in their game against Michigan. On the last play of that contest, it was granted. But it's also true that State got robbed of a win at Nebraska by a horrible non-call that was obvious (even more so with replays) that was blatantly apparent to everybody but the officials on the field. The Michigan miracle aside, had the zebras got that one right, the Spartans would now be undefeated and likely #2 in the committee rankings.
But it is what it is, and sometimes breaks even themselves out that way.
Therefore, don't be surprised if Michigan State finds it's way not only into the national semi-finals -- but wins it all.
I'm just saying, but how can a neutral observer root against Clemson with a goofball head coach named Dabo?
Love ya, Spartans, but I gotta get behind the Clemson Tigers. Hey, the whole state of South Carolina has no, as in ZERO professional teams in the big leagues. Not baseball, football, pucks, or hoops.
This might just be their only shot at glory.
And who can argue with that?