It's weekends like last weekend that define why I love College Football. There were 6 games played where ranked teams faced off against each other, and 3 teams in the Top 10 fell to lower ranked opponents. Once the dust settled and Oregon finally finished off a resilient Ute squad, we finally began to assess the current status of the Top 10.
Here is my Top 10 as of Week 11:
1) Mississippi St. Bulldogs (9-0): Just keep winning games, and you'll be top (Bull)dog.
2) Florida State Seminoles (9-0): Yes, they have probably the easiest road to the College Football playoff, but it's tough to leave an undefeated "Power 5" conference team out of the mix.
3) Oregon Ducks (9-1): These guys looked REALLY good against Utah this past weekend, and will be in the PAC-12 Championship game no matter what by clinching the North Division.
4) Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1): What. A. Game. Winning in the SEC West is like trying to convince Lou Holtz that Notre Dame isn't the greatest program to ever walk the face of the earth...it's tough.
5) TCU Horned Frogs (8-1): They've put in their work against the bulk of their schedule and was able to get out "mostly" alive. With more SEC West match-ups weeding out top teams, the Frogs are in GREAT position to sneak into the Top 4.
6) Arizona State Sun Devils (8-1): Couldn't be happier with what happened last Saturday afternoon. Sparky still has to take down Arizona at the end of the season and run the table to earn a date with the Ducks in the PAC-12 Championship.
7) Baylor Bears (8-1): Art Briles and company looked REALLY good against the Sooners on Saturday, and running the table (which means beating K-State in the last game of the season) vaults them OVER TCU and into the Top 4.
8) Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1): Your Big Ten East Division winner! As long as they don't have any hiccups against Indiana or Michigan (could you imagine!??!).
9) Auburn Tigers (7-2): Texas A&M is a good football team. BUT, losing this late in the season could hurt the Tiger's chance of making the Top 4. Although, they do play ranked Georgia next week AND Alabama to end the season...
10) Ole Miss Rebels (7-2): It was a close call to take the Rebels over Nebraska here...but when your best win is against Miami (FL), you haven't proven that you belong in the Top 10. The last 3 games will determine the Husker's fate.
So where does this put the B1G teams?
Let's take a look...
Cotton Bowl (Jan 1) ~ Ohio State Buckeyes vs Baylor Bears
This game scares the living daylights out of me, as Baylor has the highest scoring average per game in the country. While we know that J.T. Barrett has all the ability in the world to lead the Bucks, it's the defense that would need to find a way to contain a very powerful Bryce Petty passing attack.
Fiesta Bowl (Dec 31) ~ Nebraska Cornhuskers vs (Loser of the PAC12 Championship)
Stay with me here...
Considering Oregon is already in the PAC12 Championship game, all they need to do is keep winning. Arizona St has a great chance to finish the season strong and flirt with a Top 5 spot in the standings. If both teams make it to the PAC12 Championship game with only one loss, the winner will likely head to the College Football Playoff. That leaves (in my opinion) the best 2 loss team and a likely contender for a Top 10 ranking. If Nebraska can keep winning and make it to the BIG Championship game with only one loss, they have a chance to play in the Cotton Bowl (or a Top 10) bowl against the #7-8 ranked team (see Baylor in above poll) with a win over the East Division Champion (likely to be Ohio St). HOWEVER, a loss would drop them back to a likely 9-10 ranking which still puts them in a Top 10 At-Large Bowl Match-up (what we predict will be the result). This creates a "consolation Rose Bowl Game," and could truly be a gem if it comes to fruition.
Get all that?
Capital One Citrus Bowl (Jan 1) ~ Michigan State Spartans vs (Loser of the Iron Bowl)
Here we go again with the hypothetical scenarios!
Michigan St has likely missed the boat on a Top 10 bowl game, but there is always the slight chance they sneak in with their losses coming to two REALLY good football teams. Nonetheless, I slotted them in the Capital One Bowl against the loser of the Alabama Auburn game at the end of the season. Considering the loser of the Iron Bowl will have 3 losses (all to high ranked opponents), they are the likely pick to represent the SEC in this traditional BigTen-SEC battle in Orlando. Like the PAC12 Championship game, it's too close to call who's going to take on Sparty.
Outback Bowl (Jan 1) ~ Wisconsin Badgers vs Ole Miss Rebels
YAHOO!!! A clean prediction! But in all honesty, this looks like the match-up we will see on New Years Day since nobody really thinks Ole Miss can knock off Mississippi St. This means we get to see how Wisconsin's defense and rushing attack can handle Ole Miss and their defense. Keep in mind, the Rebels have given up an NCAA best 11.9 average points per game. Remember, defense wins championships (or sometimes bowl games).
National University Holiday Bowl (Dec 27) ~ Minnesota Golden Gophers vs USC Trojans
Come on Goldy, beat the snot out of USC for us all. Some of us remember the brutal day that was the '08 Rose Bowl, and we Illini fans would LOVE to see you beat down on Cody Kessler. Plus, you beating USC also means by the transitive property WE beat USC...and it's NEVER a bad day when that happens.
Tax Slayer Gator Bowl (Jan 2) ~ Maryland Terrapins vs Missouri Tigers
Maryland has had quite a streaky year to date. With games like West Virginia and Syracuse to games like Wisconsin and Penn State, I haven't decided whether or not you'll win 8 games or 6. So I took the middle ground and went with 7. This would slot them with the SEC West winner (there's an SEC West division this year!?) which will likely get trampled in their conference championship.
San Francisco Bowl (Dec 30) ~ Iowa Hawkeyes vs Arizona Wildcats
With the PAC 12 South being as good as it is, this game could be a disaster for the B1G as a very good Arizona team would face an Iowa team that just gave up 50+ points to Minnesota last weekend. And for those of you who skip right to the predictions and don't read the descriptions, you'll see why I think Iowa won't be in this spot for too long.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Dec 27) ~ Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs Boston College Eagles
I still think this match-up of New England teams would really be fun to watch. A statistically sporadic Eagle squad and a rather consistently fair Rutgers team would make for a really fun game to watch in the House that Jeter built.
Quick Lane Bowl (Dec 26) ~ (Read below...) vs N.C. State Wolfpack
Now, depending on what happens we have a few options here. The Michigan Wolverines didn't look good AT ALL against Fitzy and the Cats last weekend, but they still have a chance this coming weekend at home against Maryland to become bowl eligible. If they do, Detroit's Quick Lane Bowl looks like a winner for them as they will likely succeed in selling out the game.
BUT, if Michigan falls to the Terrapins this weekend, that gives the Penn State Nittany Lions the geographic nod which means...