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New from Jim Harbaugh’s podium, the Michigan coach finds a parallel between his team and Ted Lasso’s.
Here’s what else is happening in college football Until Saturday …
CFP Rankings Preview
Predicting tonight’s Top 25
The College Football Playoff selection committee will reveal a new set of Top 25 rankings at 7 p.m. ET today on ESPN. Here’s my prediction for the top four:
1. Georgia (11-0)
2. Ohio State (11-0)
3. Michigan (11-0)
4. Washington (11-0)
I had Washington in the top four last week, and another win against a ranked opponent (this time at Oregon State) should be enough for the committee to follow suit. Say what you will about Washington losing steam after beating Oregon, the Huskies have found ways to win against some of the best teams, including my No. 6 team. That should trump all else in this discussion.
My prediction for Nos. 5 and 6 tonight:
5. Florida State (11-0)
6. Oregon (10-1)
I am not leaving Florida State out of my top four because of Jordan Travis’ season-ending injury (more on that later). The Seminoles just don’t have the same resume as the other top teams. Oregon should remain at No. 6 with another solid performance, but the Ducks need a rematch with Washington in the Pac-12 championship game (which will happen with a win over Oregon State) to make a major move in the rankings.
Check out Austin Mock’s projected rankings here. And in our latest bowl projections from Stewart Mandel and Scott Dochterman, Oregon jumps Florida State for No. 3.
In The Committee’s Eyes …
Should Travis’ injury alter rankings?
When I attended the CFP selection mock exercise in September, our media committee agreed we couldn’t penalize a team for the opponents on their schedule, especially when that team was the only undefeated program entering the postseason (Cincinnati in 2021). We said that with strength of schedule being a key principle in the selection protocol along with conference championships won, head-to-head competition and comparative outcomes.
But here’s the last principle in that selection process: “other relevant factors such as unavailability of key players and coaches that may have affected the team’s performance during the season or will likely affect its postseason future.”
The committee could drop Florida State for Travis’ season-ending injury, just like it could have dropped Cincinnati for ranking 80th in schedule strength two seasons ago (according to the committee’s data analytics platform). But it didn’t then, and it shouldn’t now … at least not yet.
Tonight’s rankings aside, if Florida State goes 13-0 (beating Florida this week on the road and then Louisville in the ACC championship game), the Seminoles should be in, with or without their starting quarterback. Any other decision is based on ambiguity.
You can’t pick a Playoff field based on what-ifs. “What if Cincinnati played in the SEC/Big Ten?” was likely something the committee thought about in 2021, and maybe even discussed, but a hypothetical can’t be the basis of a make-it-or-break-it CFP decision. Similarly, “What if the Seminoles can’t win without Jordan Travis?” doesn’t have any tangible meaning if FSU wins out. This, of course, is all dependent on Tate Rodemaker going 2-0 as the Seminoles’ starter.
Plus, if you didn’t check it out yesterday, David Ubben makes a solid case for the committee to keep FSU in consideration. Just ask Ohio State in 2014-15 (and that team won it all).
New Heisman Leader
Could this be the top four?
After weeks of being in the mix, Oregon QB Bo Nix has taken over first place in The Athletic’s Heisman straw poll. Nix and Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. both received 11 first-place votes, but Nix jumped to No. 1 with 64 total points to Penix’s 54.
Only two players joined Nix and Penix in the poll this week: LSU QB Jayden Daniels in third and Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. in fourth. Could these be our final four in New York?
The Athletic enterprise writer Chris Kamrani has had Nix at the top of his ballot for the past four weeks, so I brought Chris in to give us Nix’s case for No. 1:
“I’m admittedly not a big stats guy, but when the stats are so alarmingly good that a non-big-stats guy like myself makes the big eyes emoji on my laptop, that means something.
“Nix’s 2023 season has been big eyes emoji good. Through 11 games, he has accounted for 40 touchdowns (35 passing, five rushing) and has thrown just two interceptions. Beyond that, in what is a truly stunning stat added to his list of stunning stats, Nix hasn’t fumbled the ball once (!) in his two seasons at Oregon, let alone lost a fumble.
“Nix is completing 78 percent of his passes, balled out in Oregon’s only regular-season loss on the road against the No. 5 team (Washington) and left the SEC and Auburn to blossom into the QB so many envisioned him becoming once upon a time in Oregon.”
Also: From the people who know him best (including his high school coaches and current quarterback), what makes Harrison so special?
The Results Are In!
After Washington and Washington State’s Apple Cup defied the odds of conference realignment and was renewed through 2028, we ran a poll to identify the next rivalry fans feel most passionate about saving. Here are the results:
Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State was the overwhelming favorite, followed by Oregon vs. Oregon State. The Sooners and Cowboys first met in 1904 back when Oklahoma State was Oklahoma A&M. The rivalry has been played annually since 1910, alternating between games in Stillwater and Norman. OU leads the all-time series 91-20-7.
For a largely lopsided rivalry, fans aren’t ready to let this one go. Or maybe the Sooners’ fans just can’t fathom leaving the rivalry on a loss.
Speaking of Oklahoma State, Justin Williams details the Cowboys’ transformation from early-season disappointments to Big 12 championship contenders.
Max Olson and Sam Khan Jr. preview Oregon State’s trip to Oregon with former Ducks wide receiver Bralon Addison on today’s Until Saturday podcast. Addison also gives his thoughts on the importance of rivalries.
Scott Dochterman tells the tales of Iowa’s best rivalry moments, from games against Notre Dame and Iowa State to Big Ten foe Minnesota.
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(Top photo of Michael Penix Jr.: Jesse Beals / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images))