Last weekend fans of college football witnessed one of the more exciting Saturdays in recent memory.
Seven of the Associated Press (AP) Top-10 ranked teams in the nation played decisive games, with each involving fellow Top-25 ranked teams or heated conference rivals. And fittingly enough, each of these five-high profile games finished within 9-point margins or closer.
With top-ranked Alabama (8-0) on a bye, second-ranked Michigan (8-0) downed Michigan State (2-6) 32-23; third-ranked Clemson (8-0) outlasted then 12th-ranked Florida State (5-3) 37-34; fourth-ranked Washington (8-0) dispatched then 17th-ranked Utah (7-2) 31-24; fifth-ranked Louisville bested Virginia (2-6) 32-25, sixth-ranked Ohio State (7-1) escaped Northwestern (4-4) with a 24-20 win; and eighth-ranked Wisconsin (6-2) topped then seventh-ranked Nebraska (7-1) 23-17.
The only AP Top-10 ranked team to convincingly take care of business on the scoreboard was seventh-ranked Texas A&M (7-1), which dismantled New Mexico State (2-6) in a 52-10 thrashing.
This high-octane performance may have given the Aggies the extra push they needed, because when the College Football Playoff Selection Committee released its first set of rankings on November 1, Texas A&M found itself sitting in the fourth and final playoff spot.
The unbeaten defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide currently claim the first playoff seed, followed by fellow unbeatens Clemson and Michigan in the second and third seeds, respectively.
With its sole loss coming to Alabama, Texas A&M may have benefited from a more difficult SEC schedule to make the playoff rankings, passing by an unbeaten Washington Huskies (fifth in the playoff rankings) team that feasts on Pac-12 also-rans like Arizona (2-6), Oregon (3-5), and Oregon State (2-6).
The rest of the playoff rankings shake out predictably, with Ohio State in sixth position, followed by Louisville, Wisconsin, 11th-ranked (AP) Auburn (6-2), and Nebraska rounding out the Top-10.
This Saturday the top team in the land returns for their fourth straight game against Top-25 ranked SEC rivals. Alabama blew out Texas A&M last time out, preceded by big wins over Tennessee (5-3) and Arkansas (5-3), and this week they’ll face 15th-ranked LSU (5-2).
Despite its proven ability to pound even talented SEC teams into submission, Alabama must travel to dreaded Death Valley to play a resurgent LSU team that has won three straight laughers. Accordingly, online sportsbook Bovada has Alabama as only 8-point road favorites – making this the closest contest the Crimson Tide have faced all season.
The Buckeyes take on the Cornhuskers at The Shoe, and after nudging past Northwestern last Saturday, head coach Urban Meyer will be looking to get his Ohio State team firing on all cylinders once again. The bookmakers at Bovada believe they’ll do just that, and the Buckeyes are big 17-point home favorites for this pivotal Big Ten clash.
That tough Northwestern team will look to give another Big Ten rival a scare this week, when the Wildcats host Wisconsin. And after last week’s rousing effort against Ohio State, Bovada expects another tight game, making Northwestern only 6.5-point home underdogs against the Badgers.
As for Washington – the first Playoff bubble team – they’ll visit California (4-4) for a Pac-12 game against the Bears. The Huskies will need to run up the score and win convincingly to break through the four-team logjam ahead of them, so Bovada is erring on the side of caution by making Wazzu big 17-point road favorites.