College Football Bowl Preview Part II 2014

Nebraska football - (Getty Images)

 

Nebraska will take on USC in a marquee bowl matchup in the Holiday Bowl.  (Getty Images)

 

At the start here, let me go ahead and point out (proudly, it must be said) that my bowl season simply could not be starting out much better. I mean, my picks have been dead-on.

In fact, after the first weekend of bowl action, my record stands at a remarkable (yeah, I said it: remarkable) 5-0.

It just doesn’t get any better than that, dear readers.

Whether or not I can keep up this pace remains to be seen. But I’m going to give it a shot anyway, as I offer my picks and predictions for the next round of 2014-2015 bowl games. Enjoy.

December 26

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dec. 26, 1 p.m., ESPN)

Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech: It seems like we say this pretty much every year, but yeah, this is a big bowl season for the Big Ten. But though I’d like to say that I have some level of confidence in the Illini, well, I don’t. Louisiana Tech 28, Illinois 17

Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 26, 4:30 p.m., ESPN)

Rutgers vs. North Carolina: I’d like to say I have some level of confidence in Rutgers, too. Well, I don’t. North Carolina 24, Rutgers 13

BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl (Dec. 26, 8 p.m. ESPN)

N.C. State vs. UCF: Remember way back in September, when the 2014 college football season kicked off with that comeback win by Penn State over in beautiful Dubiln, Ireland? Remember who the Nittany Lions beat? Yep, they beat UCF. And given what we saw out of Penn State in the second half of the season this year, you have to wonder how UCF managed to let that opener slip away. Central Florida 34, N.C. State 27

December 27

Military Bowl (Dec. 27, 1 p.m., ESPN)

Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech: I am still trying to figure out how in the world this completely average Virginia Tech team went into Columbus and thoroughly beat an Ohio State team that is playing as well as anyone in the country at the moment. Just a staggering result. Cincinnati 23, Virginia Tech 20

Hyundai Sun Bowl (Dec. 27, 2 p.m. CBS)

Arizona State vs. Duke: After the seasons these two teams just had, you have to wonder if both of them were expecting to do a bit better than the Sun Bowl (all due respect to the Sun Bowl, of course). David Cutcliffe continues to amaze with the Blue Devils. And he’ll pull the upset here. Duke 37, Arizona State 34

Duck Commander Independence Bowl (Dec. 27, 3:30 p.m., ABC)

Miami vs. South Carolina: A wonderfully named bowl game that will this season welcome two teams enduring borderline miserable seasons. In a battle of Who Cares Less?, the Ball Coach will, well, outcoach Al Golden. Who simply hasn’t delivered the results I expected him to in Coral Gables. South Carolina 21, Miami 17

New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m., ESPN)

Boston College vs. Penn State: No, it could not be said that either of these teams plays attractive football. And no, it could not be said that this figures to be among the most entertaining bowl games of the season. And yet somehow, it’s already sold out, and tickets are selling in the secondary market at more than $100 a pop. In other words, the Pinstripe Bowl people are pleased. Penn State 17, Boston College 14

National University Holiday Bowl (Dec. 27, 8 p.m., ESPN)

Nebraska vs. USC: A fantastic matchup for one of college football’s most consistently entertaining bowl games. I have no idea how the Huskers will react to the firing of coach Bo Pelini, but I am going to go ahead and assume that the reaction will not be a positive one. USC 38, Nebraska 28

College Football Playoff: Final Rankings Reaction and Analysis 2014

Ohio State Big Ten Champions - (Getty Images)

 

Ohio State made a statement against Wisconsin–and earned a playoff spot in the process.  (Getty Images)

 

Predictably, it ended in controversy. And complaints. And two really, really unhappy fan bases.

The College Football Playoff was created to cure the alleged ills of the BCS, which was itself created to cure the alleged ills of the Bowl Alliance and all of the poll-based systems that preceded it.

And yet, anyone who really understands college football knew that the College Football Playoff was never going to cure anything. Because while the system expanded the “playoff” field from two teams to four, at its heart this new system is basically built on the same structure as all of the systems that came before.

That structure, broadly speaking, is this: A bunch of folks making their best guess at the best team in the country, or the two best teams in the country, or the best four teams in the country. That’s it.

There are no metrics here. No methodology. No objectivity, even. It’s all subjective. It’s all guesswork.

Which is to say, no, there is no way to know whether TCU and Baylor are in fact better than Ohio State. Or to say that Florida State, undefeated though they are, are one of the top four teams in the country. Or to say even that Alabama is the top team in the country. We just don’t know. We can only guess. And that’s what the committee did, too.

FINAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS

1. Alabama: Finished off another great season with an emphatic beating of a good Mizzou team. To my mind, the clear No. 1.

2. Oregon: I still have my doubts about this program’s ability to compete with the Alabamas of the world on a regular basis, but the Ducks are playing great football right now. I expect them to blow the doors off Florida State.

3. Florida State: The simple reality is that they aren’t playing like one of the best four teams in the country. That being said, you have to respect going to undefeated. I think TCU and Baylor are better teams. But you just couldn’t leave the ‘Noles out.

4. Ohio State: They needed to make a statement and they did. Incredible performance.

5. Baylor: The Big 12 co-championship mess didn’t help matters. But in the end, Baylor was done in by its awful non-conference schedule.

6. TCU: And TCU was done in by the loss to Baylor, obviously.

7. Mississippi State: A great year. Simple as that.

8. Michigan State: What a test they’ll face against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl.

9. Ole Miss: What a test they’ll face against TCU in the Peach Bowl.

10. Arizona: Will be interesting to see how far RichRod can take this program.

11. Kansas State: Another solid season for the Wildcats under Bill Snyder.

12. Georgia Tech: Pushed Florida State to the limit. Defense let them down.

13. Georgia: Overrated.

14. UCLA: Underachieved.

15. Arizona State: Will take on Duke in the Sun Bowl. Could have done better.

16. Missouri: Moving to the SEC was clearly the best thing that ever happened to this program.

17. Clemson: The way the Sooners have given up, you have to like the Tigers’ chances in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

18. Wisconsin: Inexcusable performance against the Buckeyes. Never showed up.

19. Auburn: Will take on the Badgers in the Outback Bowl. Hint, Auburn: Wisky can’t throw the ball. At all.

20. Boise State: The Fiesta Bowl?

21. Louisville: They’ll beat Georgia in the Belk Bowl.

22. Utah: Tricky game on tap against Colorado State.

23. LSU: LSU vs. Notre Dame in a bowl game? I’ll take it. Even taking into account the fact that neither team is any good this year.

24. USC: Scored a nice matchup against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. Always an entertaining game.

25. Minnesota: Will have their hands full against Mizzou. But hey, if Indiana can do it …

Poll Week 1 Reaction and Analysis College Football 2014

Dak Prescott - (Getty Images)

Dak Prescott and the Mississippi State Bulldogs are the No. 1 team in the country.  (Getty Images)

Hey, SEC haters, I’ve got some bad news for you: The much-ballyhooed College Football Playoff hasn’t solved anything.

Which is to say, yes, even in this new iteration of college football, That League Down South still reigns supreme.

On Tuesday, ESPN unveiled—in typically grandiose ESPN fashion—the first rankings of the new College Football Playoff system. As we have explored earlier in this space, while this system may seem relatively straightforward—a panel of “experts” will rank 25 teams each week, with the Top 4 at season’s end being rewarded places in the four-team playoff and everyone else falling into any number of bowl slots—it’s actually very, very complicated. For a refresher on how voting in this system works, I would encourage you to check out my explainer here. And don’t worry if it gives you a headache.

In the meantime, I present to you the first Top 25 of this brave new world—along with my thoughts on each of the teams that made the cut.

1. Mississippi State (7-0): Everyone expected the Bulldogs to come in at No. 1, and that’s precisely what the committee delivered. No team in the country has looked as good, and no team in the country has as many impressive wins. I only wonder if this program is going to be able to handle their success.

2. Florida State (7-0): It’s patently clearly that this Florida State team isn’t as good as last year’s national championship squad, but they’re still 7-0 and they’re still holding the title. I don’t necessarily think that they’re the second-best team in the country—in fact, I’m pretty sure they’re not—but they certainly deserve a place in the Top 4, at least.

3. Auburn (6-1): The Tigers may be the only mild surprise among the Top 4. They are certainly deserving, but I half expected Alabama or Oregon to claim this spot.

4. Ole Miss (6-1): The fact that Ole Miss lost just last week to LSU and retained a Top 4 spot tells me the committee is really impressed with this bunch. As well they should be.

5. Oregon (6-1): I have been saying it for years now—I’m not buying Oregon as a national title-caliber team until I can buy the Oregon defense. Sure, the Ducks put up a ton of points. But that defense? Not good enough.

6. Alabama (7-1): With games coming up against No. 19 LSU, No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 3 Auburn, the Tide will certainly have their chance to leap up into the Top 4.

7. TCU (6-1): Boy, that loss to Baylor has got to hurt for the Horned Frogs.

8. Michigan State (7-1): The best team in the Big Ten comes in at No. 8, lower than the best teams out of the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12. That’s today’s Big Ten.

9. Kansas State (6-1): Bill Snyder’s bunch has a lot of work to do. I respect that guy as much as any coach in the country, but I’m having a hard time seeing how they can make that leap into playoff contention.

10. Notre Dame (6-1): Given that Notre Dame’s only loss came on the road against Florida State—and given that a dicey call stole away an apparent Irish win—I would have expected the committee to give this team more respect.

11. Georgia (6-1): The only legitimate contender out of the SEC East will have to pin their hopes on an SEC title game. That’s the only way they’re making the playoff field.

12. Arizona (6-1): Given all that’s gone on at Michigan lately, it may not be a stretch to say that the best thing that ever happened to Rich Rodriguez was being fired by the maize and blue.

13. Baylor (6-1): It’s simply amazing to me that are living in a time when Baylor can consistently be found in and around the Top 10.

14. Arizona State (6-1): Todd Graham is doing a fantastic job in Tempe. Having both Arizona teams playing well is great for the Pac-12.

15. Nebraska (7-1): Like Georgia, the Huskers only stand a chance of making the playoff if they can knock off either Michigan State or Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. And even that likely won’t be enough.

16. Ohio State (6-1): Buckeye fans won’t be happy with this ranking, but I think it’s more than fair. The Virginia Tech loss is nothing short of an awful loss, and being taken to double overtime by a short-handed Penn State team that was coming off back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Michigan didn’t help any.

17. Utah (6-1): Probably the most underappreciated team in the country.

18. Oklahoma (5-2): Of late, consistently disappointing.

19. LSU (7-2): You could see that upset win over Ole Miss coming. Another great home performance for the Tigers under the lights.

20. West Virginia (6-2): What an incredible turnaround Dana Holgersen has engineered in Morgantown. He has to be in the running for coach of the year.

21. Clemson (6-2): Very clearly on the outside looking in.

22. UCLA (6-2): I expected a lot more from the Bruins this year.

23. East Carolina (6-1): Speaking of coach-of-the-year candidates, don’t forget Ruffin McNeill.

24. Duke (6-1): Or Duke’s David Cutcliffe, who is basically on that list every year.

25. Louisville (6-2): Or Bobby Petrino, who may be genuinely unlikable, but is undeniably good at winning football games.