The biggest game of the year (so far) was on this past Saturday, and even with all the hype that it was getting, it did not disappoint. The matchup between former #1 Mississippi State and #5 Alabama was essentially a play-in game for the inaugural College Football Playoff. However, assuming both schools win all of their remaining games, they both have a chance to play for the title come early January. This past week definitely shook things up at the top of the rankings, so let’s look at what changed.
Week 12 College Football Playoff Forecast
#1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Even with a close final score of 25 to 20, the Crimson Tide never let Mississippi State get into a position to win the game. They succeeded in limiting Dak Prescott during the whole game, but especially in the first half. Bulldogs running back Josh Robinson only carried the ball 12 times for 37 yards, and Prescott added another 82 yards on 22 carries. The Bulldogs dynamic duo’s yards per carry was the lowest it had been all season, coming in at 3.5 ypc. The Alabama offense was able to control the ball and get downfield when necessary, as seen with Amari Cooper’s 50-yard circus catch over two Bulldog defenders, which was reminiscent of something Randy Moss would do. That being said, there is no better choice for the game ball than the Alabama defense. The Crimson Tide shut down the vaunted Mississippi State offense, stopping the run and intercepting hopeful Heisman candidate Dak Prescott three times. Alabama defensive coordinator will be a name to keep in mind for head coaching vacancies, as a mid-level program should be backing up the truck full of cash to lure him away from Tuscaloosa at some point in the near future.
#2 Oregon Ducks
The Ducks had a bye week, which is a blessing this late in the season. Look out for them to be firing on all cylinders heading into their last couple of games.
#3 Florida State Seminoles
Another week, another upset narrowly avoided by the preseason #1 Seminoles. Even though they are undefeated, Jimbo Fisher cannot be happy with his team’s performance so far this season, specifically Jameis Winston (Read this piece on Famous Jameis from our own Derrik Klassen). Winston has not performed up to expectations but he is under immense pressure and media scrutiny, which is truly unfair.
I believe that the saying “defense wins championships” holds true in many sports, but especially football. If Florida State wants to have a chance to play in the national title, they will need to rely on their defense. Sophomore defensive back Jalen Ramsey made countless plays on Saturday night, none bigger than the interception late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for the Seminoles. Jimbo Fisher needs to stop putting Jameis Winston and the offense in a position to blow the game. They need to get back to the basics of running the ball and controlling the time-of-possession. Freshman Dalvin Cook has proven to be an asset to the rushing attack, and they need to keep feeding him the ball. FSU’s remaining games are versus a 6-4 Boston College team that could prove to be a tough test, and versus the Florida Gators in what will head coach Will Muschamp’s last game. If his players want to send him out with a bang, which I have a feeling they might, the Seminoles better watch out.
#4 Mississippi State Bulldogs
How far did people really think the Bulldogs were going to fall? They still only have one loss, and their one loss is to a much better team than any other teams’ one loss. Alabama is a force to be reckoned with, and while Oregon is the #2 team, no other team has the resume that Mississippi State has. The Bulldogs just need to win out and they’re in the CFB Playoff, which may be a tougher test than it looks on paper. Ole Miss, who can still win the SEC West with a lot of help, is surging and the Egg Bowl looms on the horizon.
#5 TCU Horned Frogs
Excuse my French, but the Horned Frogs really shit the bed on Saturday. In what should have been an easy win versus a subpar Kansas team, TCU went down early in the game and struggled throughout in all aspects of the game. The committee seems to be very high on TCU, and the fact that they are still the first team out shows that. We have to remember that this is not the BCS system anymore, there is a definitive human element involved in the rankings. There will always be controversy and disagreement, and the Horned Frogs ranking this week seems to be the major point of contention.
#6 Ohio State Buckeyes
Urban Meyer has his Buckeyes rolling and they are definitely among the contenders for the national championship. The Buckeyes are licking their chops at the thought of any of the top four teams faltering in the final weeks of the regular season. This is a team that nobody wants to play right now, and while they played a close game versus Jerry Kill’s gritty Minnesota team in the snow, Joey Bosa and the Ohio State defense came through on multiple occasions to close out the game and walk away with the win. If Ohio State can somehow fight its way into the final four of the College Football Playoff, they could easily walk away with the championship trophy.