Rivalry week brought the finality of the regular season in college football upon us. The underdog reigned supreme as Michigan dominated Ohio State, Oklahoma State won over Oklahoma, and Minnesota overcame Wisconsin. This week also brings the final article of the season and with it a dissection of last week transitioning into a quick look ahead to championship week and the postseason.
1. Georgia 2. Michigan 3. Everyone else
As a Michigan fan, I will proclaim it, I have been cautiously waiting to see if this team truly was different like they have said all week long. With Saturday’s dominating win over Ohio State’s Buckeyes I think they have declared themselves the number two team in the country. College Football seems to have tiers at the top this season, Georgia has set themselves above the rest all season and now Michigan seems to have established themselves as a clear number two. Last week now gives Michigan two wins, one over a team ranked first in EPA offensively, and one over a team ranked 2nd in EPA defensively. Georgia does have a defense that presents a completely different challenge, grading out to -0.315 in EPA/play defensively while Wisconsin, the second highest team, grades out to -0.202 in EPA/play. This weekend Michigan will be presented with another defense ranking top ten in EPA/play when they play Iowa in the Big 10 championship game. Iowa is ranked 8th in EPA/play, 9th in EPA/rush, and 12th in EPA/pass. This will be the best defense the Wolverines have faced since Wisconsin earlier this season. Michigan traveled to Camp Randall Stadium and absolutely boat raced the Badgers 38-17 but didn’t pull away until after halftime. Wisconsin does have an offense that is better than Iowa’s but barely. Both offenses are terrible and with the amount of time Iowa’s defense is on the field I don’t see this game being close much after half time.
Overreaction: Michigan is coming off of a dominant performance against the former number two team in the nation rushing for 297 yards, controlling the game. Expect the Wolverines to do the same this week, wearing down the Hawkeyes front and rolling into the CFP for the first time under Harbaugh. *Knocking on wood profusely*
Alabama is OUT…
…and their performance against Auburn only solidified it. Barely surviving the Iron Bowl in 3 OT’s was something I didn’t see coming. As referenced last week, Auburn has an average defense but they are poor against the air. Coincidentally, Alabama’s strong suit is in the passing game. One would think that that’s a recipe for the Crimson Tide to put up many points but with a minute to go in the fourth quarter all they had was… 3? Heisman candidate and possible favorite Bryce Young had to lead quite possibly the best drive of his career to even have the Tide heading into Overtime. Young and the Tide traversed 97 yards in just 1 minute and 11 seconds scoring the overtime clinching touchdown. It then took three tries for their defense to stop Auburn’s offense with a quarterback who was playing on basically one leg. Going from Auburn’s mediocre defense to Georgia’s stellar defense in the matter of a week is no tall task and when your offense only had 3 points in 59 minutes. Georgia’s defense ranks FIRST in EPA/pass while Auburn’s ranks 77th. Don’t expect too much normalcy in the SEC Championship in regards to Alabama continuing to beat Georgia. Georgia’s defense allows just 1.4 points per opportunity and has what many consider to be a Heisman candidate on their defensive line in DL Jordan Davis. If you don’t know who he is, look him up and you will immediately understand why.(UGA’s Jordan Davis) Davis is an X-Factor this weekend on a defensive line in order to continue to stifle Bama’s run game (ranking 80th in EPA/rush) and make their offense one dimensional. Turning the Tide one dimensional will play directly into Georgia’s strengths and make this game what Kirby Smart fans have been waiting for. An SEC Title, number one ranking, and proof that Georgia’s continued strong recruiting classes are finally coming to fruition.
Overreaction: Georgia becomes the second team in as many weeks to get over the hump (Michigan > OSU), and beat what is becoming their arch nemesis in Alabama, thereby eliminating Nick Saban from CFP contention. Georgia by two scores.
Chaos is Fully Possible
Let’s say that chaos does ensue. Michigan, Cincinnati, Alabama, Oklahoma State, and even Oregon for that matter all lose. Who is in then? Based on the Committee’s rankings this week, one could argue that Baylor is a shoe in. Georgia wins because a loss wouldn’t take them out. 1. Georgia and 2. Baylor could be established but where do you go after that? Ohio State slotted in at seventh but has the head to head loss against Michigan and the committee hasn’t necessarily been straightforward when it comes to that rule specifically. (See OSU-Oregon/Michigan-MSU) The playoff committee is probably more likely to put in a few two loss conference teams rather than a one loss Notre Dame team given that one of their specifications is regarding a coaching change and Brian Kelly just left Notre Dame. They also specified recently that they look to take the most complete teams which I think one could argue Michigan still has an argument as they rank in the top 30 of every EPA stat, along with shockingly Ole Miss. The Running Rebels’s defense has quietly been giving up just over 19 points a game in the last seven weeks since they narrowly outlasted Arkansas 52-51. They have been much improved since the beginning of the season as Lane Kiffin slowly realized he couldn’t win games by running away from opponents offensively. The one stopper for Ole Miss would be if Alabama played Georgia fairly close as the Crimson Tide rolled Ole Miss earlier this season 52-21.
Overreaction: If the committee is truly about taking the four best teams at the end of the season for the playoff, then the chaos scenario would reveal their true opinions. The committee would have to take into play how each team has looked in the past few weeks. My prediction in the chaos scenario would be 1. Georgia, 2. Baylor, 3. Michigan, 4. Alabama with 5. Ohio State and 6. Notre Dame narrowly missing the playoffs.