Welcome, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, to the unveiling of perhaps the greatest technological innovation of our time: THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF HOPE-O-METER! Over the course of the 2019 season, we will put our ultra-violet spectrum of college football emotion to the test, processing each weekend's scoreboard—and its array of hopes, dreams, and delusions—to determine the state of the all-important CFP push. Here's where things stand as of today...
Happy Thanksgiving, humble college football pilgrims. This week Hope-O-Meter gives thanks to Western Carolina, the Big Ten ankle gods, and Herm Edwards, long may he (and chaos) reign.
Mortal Lock – Ohio State
There was a moment late in the fourth quarter of Ohio State’s 28-17 victory over Penn State on Saturday, Justin Fields lying prone in the silent maw of the Horseshoe clutching his ankle after a pointless fourth-down call that could have just as easily been a field goal try or punt, when it seemed like all of Ohio State’s hard work and potential seemed to go up in smoke like an unlucky Avenger. But after a minute that felt like an eternity, Fields climbed back to his feet and jogged to sideline, and Ohio State got asterisk-less statement win they had been waiting all season for. It wasn’t always pretty, but the reality is that Penn State wasn’t able to do anything that Ohio State didn’t hand to them. With the exception of five third quarter minutes, the Buckeyes were in complete control from kickoff to victory formation, and have put themselves in position to split their last two games and still make the CFP. Lose to Michigan and win the Big Ten Championship, and Ohio State—with wins over Wisconsin, Penn State, and one-loss Cincinnati—waltzes into the CFP ahead of one-loss Big and PAC-12 champs, and almost certainly holds off Mac Jones’ Alabama as well. And that’s assuming Georgia wins the SEC Championship game. If they don’t, suddenly two spots open up. You can argue that Ohio State have got a bum rap from the Committee the last two seasons, but this year they won’t be denied.
Cautiously Optimistic – Alabama
Speaking of the Mac Jones era, things got off to a rip-roarin’ start on Saturday with a 66-3 whoopin’ of Western Carolina. Sure, it’s Western Carolina, but the win proved that Alabama are more focused and motivated following the loss of Tua Tagovaiola than they have been all season. If they go to Auburn this weekend and hard-boil their arch-rivals in the Egg Bowl, and Ohio State goes to the Big House and loses their big one, things could get very, very interesting up there at CFP HQ. There’s no doubt that 2019 Alabama isn’t the best vintage we’ve sampled. There’s no question they are a better team with Tua than without him, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that there is no more dangerous creature on earth than Nick Saban backed into a corner.
Realistically Pessimistic – The chasing pack
Despite Alabama’s eye-test boost, it was overall a pretty rough week for the chasing pack. Oregon and Penn State lost (more on them in a second), Utah had the potential for an impact win vs. the Ducks stolen from them, and Oklahoma played yet another tight one against an unranked team. Utah will be pulling hard for Auburn and Michigan, Oklahoma will be praying for a Utah collapse, and Alabama has to go out and rack up both the style points and the actual points. Needless to say, with just two CFP rankings left and effectively one spot to play for (LSU, Clemson, and Ohio State are all but home free), things are looking pretty grim for the chaos merchants ranked 6-10.
Fuggedaboutit – Penn State and Oregon
Looks like we’re having duck for Thanksgiving this year. Oregon were the stars of our first Fuggedaboutit of the season, and now—after a brief flirtation with CFP relevancy—things have come full circle with a loss to The Fightin' Herms. Likewise, Penn State pretty much sealed their fate with a loss to Minnesota two weeks ago, but made it easy on the Committee with a second L in quick succession on Saturday. Despite what their records suggested, neither of these teams ever really looked like CFP contendahs (Marlon Brando voice), and now we know, definitively, that they’re not. Throw in the potential for a rivalry loss for Alabama this week, an Utah letdown against Oregon in the PAC-12 Championship, and a likely second loss for Georgia against LSU in the SEC finale, and this all adds up to good news for a little team called Oklahoma. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?
This Week's Case For Expanding the Field to 64
The game of the weekend in college football? Harvard vs. Yale, a 51-43 Double OT thriller that also included a student protest of climate change at midfield. Seriously, just put both these teams in and see what happens. It can't be worse than Alabama-Michigan State.