I enjoy listening to former Colts’ punter Pat McAfee’s podcasts online. He hits it right on the head when he says, “every game matters in college football … until you lose one”.
Realistically, only a handful of teams have a shot at making the College Football Playoff when the season begins. That small number has dwindled considerably by late November. You have to be a Power-5 school and finish at least 12-1. It’s a tall task reserved for the CFB elite.
Schools named Alabama and Georgia can overcome one loss to make the Playoff. Baylor, Minnesota, and Oklahoma are going to be on the outside looking in because of one slip up. The committee demands perfection from these three due to a slightly weaker schedule and not passing the “eye test”.
The way I see it, 6 teams are still alive for the 4-team Playoff. The committee has zero respect for Minnesota, Baylor, or Oklahoma – as evidenced by their positions way down the list in the latest college football rankings.
The 6 teams still alive for meaningful postseason football are LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, and Utah.
The list of playoff candidates shrunk from 7 teams to 6 Saturday night when the Oregon Ducks dropped their 2nd contest of 2019 – a 3-point road loss to Herm Edwards in Tempe.
Awaiting each of these 6 teams are challenging Week 14 rivalry matchups. Take a look at what is in store Saturday on the college football landscape. Sweating through this 6-game slate will be an excellent way to burn some calories this weekend.
Clemson (11-0) at South Carolina (4-7)
The annual Carolina-Clemson game – the Palmetto Bowl. The Tigers lead the all-time series 70-42-4 and have won the previous 5 matchups.
Clemson is a decent football team, I guess. Dabo Swinney has not lost a football game since October 13, 2017 – if that means anything to you.
Some will look at the disparity in records and the 23.5-point spread and determine that Clemson is a sure fire winner. Not so fast.
Remember this game? Skimming these highlights reminded me just how well SC’s defense played in Athens. The Gamecocks forced Jake Fromm into committing 4 turnovers while sacking him 3 times and forcing 3 punts.
Who has the advantage in the trenches in this matchup? Clemson. Who has the advantage at quarterback? Clemson.
Clemson is obviously the better team, but Georgia was obviously the better team when SC came visiting in October.
The Gamecocks have already done it once. Can they break up two perfect seasons?
Ohio St (11-0) at Michigan (9-2)
I am all too familiar with the recent history of The Game. The Buckeyes have taken 14 of the past 15 contests, with an average final score of 35-23. Most of these games became lopsided early. It hasn’t been fun.
I was not around when Michigan was competitive in The Game, but the Wolverines lead the all-time series 58-50-6.
Speaking of all-time, Michigan still leads the college football all-time wins race, but OSU has been gaining for some time now.
I wrote last week about the vulnerability of Ohio State heading into their final two regular season matchups. The Buckeyes did not look great on their Senior Day against PSU.
Ohio State turned it over 4 times and watched Penn State dominate the second half. The Buckeyes were able to win the game thanks to a fast start, but were not close to covering the spread.
Saturday was the most uncomfortable I have seen Ryan Day and Co. this season … and they were at home! The sportsbooks are beginning to wise up and realize OSU is good but not invincible. Oddsshark reports an opening line of MICH -3 (-105). Michigan is favored!
Despite losing SU to the Buckeyes nearly every season, Michigan is 4-2 ATS in the last 6 editions of The Game. For what it’s worth, the over has not lost since 2012 when these two powerhouses collide.
They say records and seeding do not matter when rivals collide. Neither does the total. I always think back to 2013 for proof. Michigan was not playing well – unranked and entering The Game 7-4 after starting the season 5-0. Ohio State was stacked, as always, ranked 3rd in the nation at 11-0.
The game was in Ann Arbor and Vegas listed Ohio State as 15.5-point favorites with a 58-point total. Vegas thought the final score would be roughly 37-21. OSU exploded for 42 points, but the Wolverines matched OSU hit-for-hit, answering each of the Buckeyes’ 6 touchdowns.
Michigan HC Brady Hoke elected to try a 2-point conversion for the win down 42-41 at the end of the game … pick. Michigan was that close to a major upset.
Those thinking Michigan is going to roll over and hand OSU their 12th victory are mistaken.
Georgia (10-1) at Georgia Tech (3-8)
Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate – the annual GEO-GT rivalry dates back to 1893.
The Bulldogs are 67-41-5 all-time versus Tech and winners of 2 straight. Georgia is also 6-2 ATS in their last 8 meetings with the Yellow Jackets.
The committee loves Georgia. The Bulldogs’ odds to make the Playoff look favorable despite a bad home loss to a 4-7 team.
Of the 6 teams with playoff hopes, Georgia has the easiest Week 14 game on paper. This is a blessing, but may also be a curse. Two words, trap game. The SEC Championship game is already set – it’s UGA vs LSU.
Georgia is likely looking past their inferior in-state foes and mentally preparing for facing Joe Burrow and the Tigers. The Bulldogs may not be taking GT 100% seriously, but this is Georgia Tech’s superbowl.
The Yellow Jackets can take a page from Penn State’s book in how to keep strong opponents off-balance. Last week, PSU ran a ton of read option against OSU. Penn State is not a read option team, but James Franklin noticed that OSU had not faced the read option all year. He put his opponent in an uncomfortable spot and took advantage – keeping the game close.
Look for Georgia Tech to pull out all the stops. I’m talking reverses, flea flickers, double moves, 4th down attempts, 2-point conversion tries, fake punts – the whole works.
Georgia is favored by 4 touchdowns. I see this game staying close longer than Vegas or Georgia fans anticipate. The Bulldogs may pull away at the end, but I will be betting Georgia Tech to keep it close in the first half.
Alabama (10-1) at Auburn (8-3)
Iron Bowl. The annual battle for football supremacy in the state of Alabama dating back to 1893. The Crimson Tide have enjoyed moderate success in this rivalry, leading the all-time series 46-36-1.
Auburn dominated the rivalry at the turn of the century but have relinquished control back to Alabama in the 2010s. The Crimson Tide are 6-3 SU and 5-4 ATS against Auburn this decade.
Football fans witnessed a rare sight a couple of weeks ago – Alabama lost at home. Don’t get used to it. The last time Nick Saban lost multiple regular season games was 2010.
Auburn has impressed me this season, but War Eagle is one step shy of greatness. This makes Auburn simply “good”. Nick Saban eats good teams for breakfast.
Alabama is favored by 3.5 points on the road, a sign of confidence from the boys in Vegas. I got burned by Alabama in the 2017 Iron Bowl so I am hesitant to put my faith (and dollars) in them again this year.
I’ll put it this way, I may still bet Bama in this one. I would never bet against Bama, even on the road.
Texas A&M (7-4) at LSU (11-0)
Since joining the SEC in 2012, Texas A&M has matched up with LSU 7 times … and are 1-6. ATS, the Aggies are even worse, 0-6-1.
LSU has beaten A&M by an average of 12 points since 2012. This year, LSU is favored by a TD. Can we expect the Tigers to pull away again?
LSU has their division clinched and are one of the 3 undefeated teams remaining in college football.
LSU coaches are working hard to maintain the team’s focus, but deep down the Tigers’ players have to know that a loss to Texas A&M would not derail their playoff hopes. A 13-0 LSU would be ranked #1. A 12-1 LSU would probably be 3rd or 4th.
Ed Orgeron LSU teams have always finished the season with Texas A&M. Remember how the 2018 regular season ended for the Tigers?
The Aggies are a very good football team again this year with an explosive quarterback, Kellen Mond, who can make defenses pay if they are not disciplined.
One of three narratives is going to play out:
One – LSU fails to adequately prepare for A&M because they were looking forward to Georgia in the SEC title game. The game is a toss up.
Two – LSU comes out tense while A&M plays loose and free. The game is a toss up.
Three – LSU is fine, avoids distraction, and kills Texas A&M
Colorado (5-6) at Utah (10-1)
The Rumble in the Rockies dates back to 1903 and pitts the Colorado Buffaloes against the Utah Utes. Neither side has dominated the other. Colorado holds a slim lead in the all-time series 32-30-3.
This rivalry does not get much press. Few football fans feel like tuning in to Colorado-Utah after watching both The Game and the Iron Bowl. The Rumble is as important as any other game this season from a Playoff perspective.
Utah is 10-1. That loss was on the road to USC by one touchdown. USC is 8-4 and 7-2 in the Pac-12. This was not an embarrassing loss. Georgia losing at home to South Carolina was a far greater upset.
A victory against Colorado would put Utah into the P12 title game at 11-1 with a chance to improve to 12-1 with a win over Oregon. It would be difficult for the committee to keep 12-1 P12-champion Utah out of the top-4.
Nothing that happens between Utah and Oregon will matter if the Utes do not take care of business at home in the Rumble.
The Utes and Buffs have squared off 7 times since 2012, Utah taking 6 of these games SU. The Utes are heavily favored by Vegas. Utah controls their own destiny.