Saturday, November 12, 2016

College football shake-up

Not since 1985 have the #s 2, 3, and 4 all gone down in the same week in college football. But it just happened. How the rankings will shake out in a couple of days is anybody's guess.

Certainly, #1 Alabama will remain so after thrashing Miss St. 52-3. Yet it was carnage elsewhere.

#2 Michigan lost a squeaker at Iowa 14-13. Does this kill the Blue's chances of making it into the four team playoff for the national championship? Not necessarily. More on that later.

#3 Clemson also lost a nail biter to Pittsburgh. But the Tigers went down at home. Losing to an unranked team at home is, or should be the kiss of death.

Likewise, #4 Washington got beat in their own backyard by USC. Rather convincingly (26-13) at that. Say goodbye to the Huskies' aspirations for a title.

Meanwhile, formerly #5 Ohio State was blistering Maryland 62-3. The one loss Buckeyes will be moving on up. Their only L came @ Penn State, narrowly, and the Nittany Lions are a top ten team. The Buckeyes are back in it.

Same with formerly #6 Louisville. They had lost a close one to Clemson earlier, but they just demolished Wake Forest 44-12. The redbirds will be trending up as well.

Here's the scenario for Michigan. The narrow loss at Iowa will likely drop them 2 or 3 spots, but they still control their own destiny to a great degree.

Assuming they rout lowly Indiana next week, that sets up the annual showdown with Ohio St. The game will be played in Columbus, which is bad news for Michigan. However, should they manage to win over what will probably be the #2 or 3 ranked Buckeyes at the time, UM is right back in the hunt. OSU would then be a two loss team, the last being at home, and THEY would be out. This game will determine which team from the Big Ten East plays in the conference championship game, likely against Wisconsin, a worthy opponent. However, it should be noted that the Badgers have already lost to both UM (narrowly on the road) and OSU, again narrowly, but at home. Other than that, they've pretty well taken care of business. A rematch against either at a neutral site would at least give them a shot.

Thing is, already having lost twice, the Badgers have little hope of reaching the Final Four. Yet they could spoil it for either Mich or Ohio St.

If Michigan wins out over Indiana, OSU and the conference title game -- they're in as a one loss team. A tall order, especially the game against the Buckeyes on the road, but the loss @ Iowa didn't ring a death knell. Had the Hawkeyes blown them out, it would be one thing. But they didn't, winning the game by one point on a last second field goal.

However, to become national champions, even if UM gets their shot and improbably make it to the Final Four, somewhere along the line a match-up with Alabama likely looms. Currently, the Crimson Tide is the only non-tainted team in the field, and nobody doubts they deserve their #1 ranking.

Given how the Iowa Hawkeyes stymied the Wolverines for much of the game (5 yards rushing in the entire third quarter?), one can only imagine (and shudder) at what the lightning fast and bruising Alabama defense might do to them.

As things currently stand, Bama is clearly the class of the field. Barring a slew of injuries, it's difficult to foresee ANYBODY knocking them off. Chattanooga sure isn't going to do it next week, nor will Auburn likely fare well the week after that, both games being played @ Alabama. And who could beat them in their own conference championship game? Florida or Georgia? Please. Count the Tide in.

Despite all the success he has had at various stops in his career, remember how UM coach Jim Harbaugh couldn't get over the hump in the Super Bowl -- his San Fran 49ers losing to his brother John's Baltimore Ravens a few years back?

Harbaugh is now the highest paid coach in all of college football -- a shade north of $9 million a year. More than Nick Saban or Urban Meyer, who both have superior track records.

If he wants to earn it, his big chance will be in two weeks against Ohio St. THAT game will likely make or break UM's chances of getting invited to the big dance.

While the narrow loss @ Iowa no doubt stung, it didn't kill their chances -- yet. And with two weeks to go in the regular season, plus the conference championship games to be played, college football is still very much a crapshoot, mighty Alabama notwithstanding. And even THEY aren't totally unbeatable, though they certainly will be the heavy favorites to once again be crowned national champs.

It would be a stunner indeed if somebody -- anybody -- found a way to knock them off.

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