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 it's array of hopes, dreams, and delusions—to determine the state of the all-important CFP push. Here's where things stand as of today...
You may think there wasn’t much to learn from Week 3, a classic “sure honey, we can go apple picking” college football slate, but you would be very, very wrong. From Clemson kind-of, sort-of clinching to Florida’s disastrous victory, the College Football Playoff picture took further shape on Saturday and as always we're here to break down what it meant and what it most definitely didn’t. TO THE HOPE-O-METER, BATMAN!
Three games into the 2019 college football calendar, and Clemson’s season is officially a wrap, concluding with a 41-6 thumping of Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Saturday night. As Porky Pig once said, th-th-that’s all, folks, and Porky Pig is always right...
That’s the remaining schedule for the number-one-ranked, defending-national-champion Clemson Tigers, which is probably even easier than it looks on paper. Florida State were -7.5 dogs to mighty Virginia this weekend (who Clemson don’t even play this year) and barely covered, falling to 1-2 on the season, with the lone win being a last-gasp victory against Louisiana Monroe. The most difficult remaining game is a visit from Wake Forest on 11/16, and no matter what Golf Digest’s resident Deacs superfan Alex Myers might tell you, they are going to get Wile E. Coyote-level steamrolled (big Looney Tunes morning, apparently.)
There will be an ACC championship game to survive, of course, and Clemson’s French pastry schedule probably means they have to go undefeated to make the CFP, but Trevor Lawrence hasn’t even hit second gear yet and the Tigers' season, barring some sort of earth core-flipping upset/locker room MRSA pandemic, is already a lock. Go ahead and book those tickets to New Orleans now.
Don’t look now but Utah—members of the Pac-12, which I have spent the last two weeks burying in an unmarked grave—have crept into the top 10 following a 31-0 blanking of Idaho State on Saturday. It’s not exactly a statement win against a quality opponent, but it’s something. The Utes will have their chance to make some noise as well, with four currently ranked teams—the Fighting Leach’s of Washington State, Arizona State, Cal, and Washington—still to play (plus whatever's left of USC.) They’re going to need "The Big One" ahead of them, but just like Talladega, college football chaos is a matter of if not when. In other words keep your eyes on the Utah, who have, through three weeks, more than lived up to their dark horse billing.
While the SEC is sitting pretty with a trio of teams in the top four and a very conceivable path to placing all three in the CFP come December (a potential first for the competition), the Big Ten, by comparison had a shaky weekend. Michigan State put up seven measly points in a home loss to Arizona State, Penn State edged Pitt 17-10, Iowa stole one against their in-state rivals, and Purdue, who were supposed to be a contender in the West, fell to 1-2. And all of this came just a week after idle Michigan’s moral L against Army. This is bad news for an under-the-radar Ohio State team (an oxymoron, I know), who creamed Indiana 51-10 in their Big Ten opener on Saturday. Led by Justin Fields—who deserves to be in the Heisman convo but thus far isn't (13 total TDs, 0 INTs, a third-in-the-nation QBR of 92.9)—and Jadaveon Clowney’s upgraded clone, Chase Young, this looks like the best Buckeyes team since their 2015 National Championship edition, but their hardest non-conference game was last week’s 42-0 romp over Cincinnati. In other words, they’re relying solely on the Big Ten for that all-important FPI, and the College Football Playoff Committee has cold-shouldered the conference since Michigan State and Ohio State suffered a combined 69-0 nothing shellacking in consecutive semi-finals back in 2016 and 2017. With both LSU and Oklahoma sitting between them and the CFP, Ohio State need to beat teams that are beating other teams from here on in, at least half of which looks far from certain after Week 3.
Well Florida, here’s the good news: You narrowly avoided a second consecutive upset at the hands of Kentucky. The bad news? You had to score 19 unanswered 4th-quarter points to pull it off and lost quarterback Feleipe Franks to a gruesome ankle injury in the process. Franks is now out for the season, which, for Florida, no longer carries any realistic CFP aspirations. It was always going to be a long shot to survive one of Auburn and LSU in the West and Georgia in the East just to get a shot in the SEC Championship, but now the dream is well and truly dusted. On the bright side, they'll have opportunities to hammer Tennessee next week and Florida State in the regular season finale, which should help to sooth the scaly souls of Gator nation as they plummet headlong into a newly pointless season.
Hopeless College Football Moment of the Week
Let's get this out of the way right now: Michigan State were abysmal on Saturday, but they shouldn't have lost...at least in regulation. The weekend's stupidest sequence of sports events began when Matt Coghlin trotted onto the field to attempt a game-tying field goal, which he summarily drilled. The only problem? Sparty had twelve men on the field. After the five-yard penalty, Coghlin took at a whack at the now 47-yarder and absolutely shanked it. Arizona State celebrated the win, but as everyone, including the official Pac-12 officiating office, quickly noted, Coghlin should have gotten a third kick from the original 42-yard distance after a Sun Devils player was not flagged for leaping over an offensive lineman. Would her have made it? Who knows! But on a football weekend dogged by incompetent officiating, this was yet another unfortunate feather in the cap (a fedora, if we had to guess.)