Well here we are TCR fans, the last full weekend of Illinois football. While a good chunk of the year has been frustrating and stressful, we still find our beloved Illini with a chance to play postseason football. All that's required is a win over the team from up north (or more specifically, Evanston). Winner of the game this coming Saturday morning will represent the state of Illinois in the postseason, while the other will be left to lick their wounds and debate which part of the coaching staff stays and which part goes. As someone who thought the season would come down to this game, I'm quite excited to be there to support the team (win or lose).
As for the rest of the conference, last week didn't present a whole lot of movement as only one Top 10 team fell. HOWEVER...the last week of the college football regular season will determine the fates of many teams looking to make a splash in the postseason this year.
First, a look at my proposed Top 10
1) Alabama Crimson Tide (10-1):
They did what they were supposed to do last week. Winning 48-14 over an FCS team gave the Tide plenty of time to gear up and prepare for an Auburn Tiger team that's foaming at the mouth to play Bama. If Blake Sims and the Tide can get through the Auburn game (played in Tuscaloosa this year), they will be headed to the SEC Championship game. [L/W 1]
2) Oregon Ducks (10-1):
Blowing out a conference foe is always a great way to make a statement in your case for the College Football Championship. You can argue that Colorado isn't the toughest opponent in the world, but beating them by 34 points is waayyyyy better than barely squeaking by (see below) [L/W 3]
3) Florida State Seminoles (11-0):
(Sigh...) They just keep winning. If you take away the Wake Forest game, the Noles' average margin of victory is 10.6 PPG. That's nuts for a team that has arguably the easiest schedule in the Top 25 right now. That season finale against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game looks interesting though! [L/W 2]
4) Mississippi St. Bulldogs (10-1):
51-0 over Vandy last week showed us that there is still plenty of fight in the Bulldogs. But after Ole Miss fell to Arkansas, the Egg Bowl suddenly doesn't look that impressive on a CFB Playoff Resume. Will a big win over the Rebels be enough to keep Mississippi St in the Top 4? [L/W 5]
5) Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1):
Here's where this whole thing is one big mess. I put Ohio St at #5 as they are the first of a 3 team argument that has 10 wins. They certainly control their own destiny with only Michigan and the B1G Championship left. It looks like a good showing in these last two events COULD vault them over Mississippi St and into the playoff, since the Bulldogs are on the outside looking in on the SEC Championship game. For the sake of the conference, I'm hoping they do. [L/W 7]
6) Baylor Bears (9-1):
Baylor looks like a team that could also vault themselves into the Top 4 with two good showings against Texas Tech and #12 Kansas State. Since they have the head-to-head advantage over TCU, the Bears are the only hope that the Big12 has to get a team into the playoff. [L/W 6]
7) TCU Horned Frogs (9-1):
Even though I'm a HUGE Trevone Boykin fan, it looks like the clock is striking zero on TCU as they have no more ranked opponents left on their schedule. There is a chance they can make the Top 4, but they are going to need to rout Texas (which would be okay) and Iowa St in order to make a case. If Baylor falls to Kansas St, then TCU would be the last 1 loss team left in the Big 12 and could certainly have a look at a spot in the playoff. [L/W 4]
8) UCLA Bruins (9-2):
U-C-L-A Fight! Fight! Fight! Thank you Bruins for beating up on the Trojans last weekend. It was the perfect end to a really good day of football (Illini win+Notre Dame losing+USC losing=Good day). Provided they can beat Stanford this weekend, UCLA will have the chance to play Oregon in the PAC 12 Championship game and have the chance to maybe make a push at the Top 4. It's a bit of a stretch, but they certainly have a swing at it! [L/W NR]
9) Georgia Bulldogs (9-2):
Well, Georgia is looking like they're going to be in the same place as Mississippi St in the SEC. If Missouri beats Arkansas at home this weekend (not an easy game at all), they are playing for an SEC Championship. Honestly, I don't see any "real" situation where Georgia makes the Top 4, but they still have a GREAT shot at playing in a Top-Tier bowl game on New Year's Day! [L/W 9]
10) Michigan State Spartans (9-2):
A nice win last week over Rutgers and a big win this week over Penn St could push the Spartans up into a nice Top-Tier bowl game. They certainly look like a team that could represent the B1G well against an SEC team (looking at you Peach Bowl). [L/W 10]
With a slightly re-arranged Top 10, here's where everyone else falls:
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (Jan 1) ~ Ohio State Buckeyes vs Baylor Bears
Literally every match-up looks rough for the Buckeyes no matter who they play. As much as I'd like to see them make the Playoff or an upper-tier bowl, it looks like they're going to have their hands full.
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl (Dec 31) ~ Michigan State Spartans vs Georgia Bulldogs
From last week:
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (Jan 1) ~ Wisconsin Badgers vs Ole Miss Rebels
After falling to Bret Bielema's current team, the Rebels look like an easy target for his former team as the Melvin Gordon and the Badgers are primed and ready to run wild. Anyone in the top 3 of the B1G looks like a team that could beat Ole Miss and earn some credibility for the conference with a win over an SEC opponent. Also, can we agree that B-Dubs sponsoring the Citrus Bowl is a bit odd? The only thing Citrus-y about Buffalo Wild Wings is the slice of orange they put in my Blue Moon.
Outback Bowl (Jan 1) ~ Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Missouri Tigers
Minnesota has continued to
surprise impress me as the last few weeks have gone by. They were able to beat up on Iowa, come back against Nebraska, and could really throw off Wisconsin's season with a win in Madison this coming Saturday. While I think they'll come up short against Bucky, I do think they could beat a Missouri team that fell to Indiana earlier this season. Sure as heck rooting for it...
National University Holiday Bowl (Dec 27) ~ Nebraska Cornhuskers vs USC Trojans
Nebraska's struggles as of late have dropped them into familiar territory. Husker fans may remember the last disaster of a Holiday Bowl they played in, but fortunes may change since it's the Trojans facing Nebraska this time. Either way, Bo Pelini will continue to take heat.
Tax Slayer Gator Bowl (Jan 2) ~ Maryland Terrapins vs LSU Tigers
Initially, it looked like the Hawkeyes would get a chance to play LSU again (which I'm sure would delight their fans considering the previous games they've played). But now, Maryland might get the nod with a win over Rutgers this weekend putting them at 8-4. Two up-tempo offenses would certainly equate to one high scoring game, and I'd be curious to see if Maryland's defense would be able to contain the Tigers.
Foster Farms Bowl (Dec 30) ~ Iowa Hawkeyes vs Utah Utes
As long as Iowa controls the football, they have been very consistent offensively. The interesting part about a game like this is the contrasting styles between Utah and Iowa, and how both teams would adapt to the other offensively AND defensively. Though I don't think this game would bode well for Iowa, it still would be fun to watch.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Dec 27) ~ Penn State Nittany Lions vs Duke Blue Devils
Bring a pillow and a blanket for this one guys, as both teams offer a TON of defense and not a lot of offense. Again, it's a really nice idea hosting either Penn St or Rutgers in NYC, but I'm sure the bowl committee will take the Lions as they offer a bigger fan base.
Quick Lane Bowl (Dec 26) ~ Illinois Fighting Illini vs Virginia Cavaliers
Yes, I do think the Illini will win the LOL-Beck vs Fitzy Bowl this weekend. That means the Illini would "most likely" travel to Detroit to take on SOMEONE from the ACC. Detroit is the easiest location for the Illini to travel to and wouldlikely draw more fans than Dallas. The list of 5-6 teams that play Saturday from the ACC are Virginia, Virginia Tech Hokies, and the Pittsburgh Panthers. Then you have a list of 6-5 teams that COULD fall in North Carolina Tar Heels, N.C. State Wolfpack, Boston College Eagles, and the Miami-Florida Hurricanes. I'm rooting for a re-match of the 1999 Micron PC.com bowl. Hopefully it goes just as well a second time around.
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl (Jan 1) ~ Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
I feel bad for whoever has to play this game IF Marshall isn't playing. Next best option is an 8-4 CUSA team...