Week 9 provided a subtle change to the College Playoff picture after No. 4 Ole Miss suffered another late game loss and other contenders emerged victorious.
College Football Playoff Contenders
No. 1 Mississippi State – Heading into the locker room down 10-7 at the end of the first half against an Arkansas team that has yet to win a conference game had to have been troubling. Struggling to find an offensive groove, the nation’s top team started the fourth quarter tied with the Razorbacks before Dak Prescott found a wide open receiver for a 69-yard touchdown to take their first lead of the game. A red zone interception and game ending defensive stop quickly calmed the nerves felt throughout Davis Wade Stadium as they realized their perfect season was still in reach. It wasn’t pretty, but no game in the SEC West this year will be. In a division that strong, any team that remains undefeated after nine weeks deserves the nation’s top ranking and a spot in the College Football playoffs. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs still have games at Alabama and in-state rival Ole Miss. Next game: A home game versus FCS opponent, University of Tennessee-Martin (5-5).
No. 2 Florida State – Trailing 21-0 on the road on a Thursday night game is not most teams’ cream of the crop. However, Florida State is not like most teams and most teams aren’t led by a reigning Heisman trophy winner who just happens to love playing from behind. Jameis Winston helped the Seminoles to their 24th straight win after outscoring Louisville 35-14 in the second half. Three of the Seminoles’ final four games are at home and all four are against unranked teams, so the path to the playoffs looks favorable for FSU fans. Next game: A home game versus Virginia (4-5).
No. 3 Auburn – It’s arguable that Auburn holds the hardest schedule in the nation. With each and every week pretty much being against a top 25 team, Auburn has managed to be alive with only one loss after nine weeks. With wins at Kansas State and Ole Miss, the Tigers are reckoned to be the best 1-loss team right now — especially considering their one loss was an away game at No. 1 Mississippi State. The Tigers still have games at Georgia and Alabama, but if they’re able to reach the SEC Championship without another loss, it’s hard to argue they won’t be in the College Football Playoffs. Next game: A home game vs Texas A&M (6-3).
No. 5 Oregon – Marcus Mariota finally got his revenge as most Duck fans know. After two straight years of suffering against the Stanford Cardinal, Mariota and the Ducks laid it on them Saturday evening. With the win, Oregon is now one win away from clinching the Pac 12 North Division. Even more significantly, the Ducks are now likely in position to control their own destiny in hopes of making it to the College Football Playoffs. Next game: An away game versus No. 17 Utah (6-2).
No. 6 Alabama – Although the Crimson Tide is on the outside looking in right now, there is a reason to believe that Alabama has the best shot among SEC West teams to make it to the College Football Playoffs. With their two games versus Mississippi State and Auburn being at home, the Crimson Tide should be favored to win. If they are able to win out, they will be headed to the SEC Championship and most likely the Playoffs. Next game: An away game versus No. 19 LSU (7-2).
No. 7 TCU and No. 9 Kansas State – Both these teams are favored to win the Big 12. They face each other this coming Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas. Whoever wins will not only make a big stride towards representing the Big 12 champion, but will also be closer to CFP contention. Kansas State still has away games at TCU, West Virginia, and Baylor. Meanwhile TCU faces three of the bottom four teams in the Big 12.
Outside of CFP Contention
No. 4 Ole Miss – The toughness of their schedule finally caught up to them. Unfortunately for the Rebels, the College Football Playoffs don’t look within reach. It’s hard to imagine a two-loss team making it in over any one-loss team this year.
No. 8 Michigan State – Although the Spartans have looked impressive since their Week 2 loss to Oregon, it’s hard to see the Spartans in contention until a few one-loss teams lose. College Gameday will be headed to Lansing, Michigan this weekend for their matchup versus Ohio State.
No. 10 Notre Dame – They are on the outside right now, hoping some one-loss teams lose. However, they better make sure they don’t overlook their road game vs Arizona State this weekend. Otherwise the Fighting Irish will be out.
Oregon is one step closer to clinching the Pac 12 North title. If the Ducks can win one of their three remaining games, then they’ll be headed back to Levi Stadium for the Pac-12 Championship.
The Pac-12 South is a little more uncertain. Arizona State is out in front right now with a good home win vs Utah. That still doesn’t mean it’s not close, though. USC, UCLA, Utah, and Arizona are all within striking distance and capable of representing the Pac-12 South. Keep in mind that if Arizona State wins out, and wins the Pac-12 Championship, they would be a strong candidate for the College Football Playoffs.
Other Oregon Duck Fall Sports
Volleyball – The Oregon Ducks volleyball team battled through three close sets (25-23, 25-21, 25-21), but was unable to win a single one in its loss to No. 1 Stanford. Three of the final four weekend matchups for the Ducks are on the road beginning a matchup versus No. 2 Washington this Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Cross Country – The No. 3 Oregon Ducks women’s team pulled away from No. 11 Stanford last Friday at the Metropolitan Links Golf Course. Seven women finished in the top 20 to win its second Pac-12 women’s cross country title in the last three years. Edward Cheserek won his second consecutive men’s Pac-12 title while leading the Ducks to a runner-up finish. Cheserek was awarded the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Athlete of the Week on Monday after his outstanding performance.
Top photo by Kevin Cline