Before last Saturday’s slate of games the college football world was in its usual uproar, when the Playoff Selection Committee’s first set of rankings included a one-loss Texas A&M team in the four-seed over undefeated Washington. The Aggies were in based on the strength of their rugged SEC schedule, which gave them the edge over the Huskies’ relatively weak Pac-12 competition.
Texas A&M (7-2), though, lost to Mississippi State (4-5) over the weekend in a 35-28 defeat that was never as close as the final score would indicate. The Huskies (9-0), meanwhile, shellacked California (4-5) by a score of 66-27 to re-state their case for a spot in the College Football Playoff field.
The other three teams in the playoff – Associated Press (AP) top-ranked Alabama (9-0), second-ranked Michigan (9-0), and third-ranked Clemson – each held serve and won without trouble.
As the season winds down, three of the four playoff teams are riding Heisman Trophy candidates to the finish line – as Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (+1200), Wolverines safety Jabrill Peppers (+1200), and Huskies quarterback Jake Browning (+1400) are all still listed on the board at online sportsbook Bovada. J.T. Barrett (+5000), quarterback for a fifth-ranked Ohio State (8-1) team that is right on the fringe, is the final player still left on the board.
But this foursome is trailing badly behind Louisville (8-1) quarterback, and consensus Heisman favorite, Lamar Jackson (-2000) – who has thrown for 26 touchdowns while adding 19 more on the ground.
As for this week’s games, defending national champion Alabama hosts the playoff disruptors from Mississippi State on the heels of a relatively tight 10-0 defeat of 13th-ranked LSU (5-3). Even considering the Bulldogs’ upset of the Aggies, the oddsmakers don’t give them much hope of a repeat performance against the Crimson Tide, installing Mississippi State as massive 29-point road underdogs.
Michigan had more breathing room than Alabama last week, rolling Maryland (5-4) in a 59-3 laugher, and head coach Jim Harbaugh’s team will look for another walkover against Iowa (5-4). The road-bound Wolverines are pegged as 21-point favorites, and Harbaugh should keep his pedal to the proverbial metal with blowouts bolstering playoff seeding.
Clemson blew out Syracuse (4-5) in a 59-0 whitewashing, and with ACC rival Pittsburgh (5-4) coming to town, the Tigers are tabbed as 20.5-point home favorites against a Panthers team that has lost two straight.
Looking to prove its bona fides for the fourth playoff spot, Washington routed California on the road, and the Huskies will seek a repeat performance against another Pac-12 rival from the Golden State. Washington hosts a resurgent USC (6-3) squad that has reeled off five straight wins, and even with the venue advantage, the oddsmakers expect a fairly tight affair after making the Huskies 9-point home favorites.
As for the one-loss teams lurking just outside the playoff picture, Louisville faces Wake Forest (6-3) as huge 35-point home favorites. Meanwhile, Ohio State battles a Maryland (5-4) team still smarting from the Wolverines’ whooping last weekend, and the Buckeyes are 29-point road favorites.