College Football Thoughts: The Playoff, The Major Bowls & The Heisman

We’re down to two weeks left in the college football regular season, and then Championship Saturday on December 2. Here are some thoughts on how the College Football Playoff, the New Year’s Six and the Heisman Trophy race are shaking out…

*I think one of the more underrated parts of the CFP rankings are the lack of focus on who is in position for New Year’s Six bowl bids—including the four non-playoff major bowl games. This year that would be the Orange, Cotton, Fiesta and Peach.

Instead of simply focusing on the top four, how about a broader focus on who is in the top 11? (the 12th bid goes to the best team out of the midmajors)? That would mean some outrage for why TCU, at #11, is ranked behind Oklahoma State, who is #10.

The Horned Frogs beat the Cowboys head-to-head and they have the same overall record at 8-2. Depending on how the last couple weeks shake out, that one spot could be the difference between playing in the Fiesta/Cotton bowls, or dropping into the faceless realm of minor bowl games.

*Auburn and Ohio State are clearly the sleeping giants when it comes to the Playoff. They each have two losses, but each has big opportunities ahead. If Auburn wins out it means they would have followed their 40-17 blasting of Georgia on Saturday by knocking off unbeaten Alabama and then beating Georgia again in the SEC Championship Game. There is no way Gus Malzahn’s team could be denied under those circumstances.

Otherwise, most scenarios for a two-loss Playoff team probably require undefeated Wisconsin to get beat. While that could be Saturday against Michigan, it could also be the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State.

I won’t go so far as to say that puts the Buckeyes in control of their destiny, but given the way November college football goes, I’m guessing Ohio State is in pretty good shape to make the leap from #8 to #4 if they beat Michigan and Wisconsin to close the year.

*Baker Mayfield is clearly in command for the Heisman Trophy. He’s ahead in the ESPN projections and is a prohibitive 1-20 favorite in Las Vegas to pick up the award. I won’t argue the point—he completes 71% of his passes at 11.9 yards-per-attempt and has only thrown five interceptions. His team is in position to make the Playoff and has already won at Ohio State.

But…given the way the Big 12 basically plays flag football every Saturday, I’m one of those who feel at least a little skeptical of quarterback numbers in this league. Because Mayfield went to Columbus and played well in the Shoe, he gets innoculated from that, but I still find the race among the running backs to the most compelling part of this Heisman campaign.

*Specifically, I’m referring to the trio of Bryce Love (Stanford), Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin) and Josh Adams (Notre Dame). Taylor in particular has tremendous opportunity ahead of him—if he puts up good numbers against Michigan and Ohio State and leads Wisconsin to a 13-0 record, he’ll be tough to deny, especially if Oklahoma loses the Big 12 Championship Game.

And speaking of running backs and the Heisman, did anyone fall faster than Saquon Barkley? When he took the opening kickoff of the Ohio State game to the house, I remember thinking that he was close to locking up the award. Then the Penn State defense collapsed, lost that game and again the following week at Michigan State. Barkley’s a terrific talent, but I never thought he took on the kind of workload the three backs mentioned above do, and as such found his Heisman campaign a bit overrated.

With that, we’re ready for another big Saturday. Here’s your games to watch…

Noon ET: Virginia-Miami (ABC) or Michigan-Wisconsin (Fox)
3:30 ET: Kentucky-Georgia (CBS) or Navy-Notre Dame (NBC) or Kansas State-Oklahoma State (ESPN2)
Prime-Time: UCLA-USC (8, ABC)
Late Night: Utah-Washington (10:30, ESPN)

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