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» Seventh Day Adventure: Week 13

The biggest game this week is the Iron Bowl, where the playoff hopes of Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia hang in the balance.

01 Dec 2014

OFI: Prepare Your Resume

by Chad Peltier

Rivalry Week is over, and now we just have a week of mostly championship games left before the first Playoff group of four to be revealed. The 14th week of the season certainly gave the Committee a lot to think about, starting with the No. 4 spot, which was presumably vacant after Mississippi State's loss. Ole Miss ended the Bulldogs' dreams, Texas Tech nearly blocked Baylor's, and Michigan made the Buckeyes' odds much longer with an injury to Heisman contender J.T. Barrett. All three one-loss teams are in action again next week (Baylor-Kansas State, Ohio State-Wisconsin, and TCU-Iowa State), but is it possible for a two-loss team to sneak in to the conversation if any of the top six teams fall?

The SEC East had a rough Rivalry Weekend, with four East teams falling to ACC opponents. Of those four losses, only one was really unexpected, with Georgia (sixth in F/+ rankings) falling to Georgia Tech (12th). Otherwise, Florida State, Clemson, and Louisville all outranked their SEC foes (by 34, 28, and 65 spots, respectively).

The theme of the weekend was really the same as it has been all season: good teams doing just enough to remain at the top. Alabama dominated the second half and the red zones to win by 11; Florida State survived four Jameis Winston interceptions to top Florida in Will Muschamp's final game; Ohio State had a late scoring spree to run away from Michigan; and Baylor survived a Texas Tech rally. Really, only Oregon and TCU were able to score some style points in their wins. With a Committee that seems to vary their primary ranking criteria week-to-week, style points are at a premium -- but at least nobody has to contend with an undefeated Marshall anymore.

TOEDRAGS

  • The end of the Georgia-Georgia Tech game was the kind of crazy that defines rivalry games: a Justin Thomas fumble with 2:41 left, followed by a Georgia go-ahead score on fourth down with 18 seconds left on the clock, which led to a squib kick and good return, a Thomas run, and a tying field goal to send the game into overtime. Then, the Yellow Jackets struck first with a touchdown in overtime, only to have their extra point blocked by defensive lineman Ray Drew, who had blocked an earlier Georgia Tech kick as well. Needing only a touchdown and extra point to complete the rollercoaster comeback, Georgia's Hutson Mason threw only his fourth interception of the season to end the game and seal the Yellow Jackets' win. But almost as crazy as the fourth quarter and overtime battle was the Bulldogs' red-zone inefficiency earlier in the game. Georgia had three possessions end inside the Georgia Tech 2-yard line, but ended with only three points from those three scoring opportunities. Two of those were fumbles from freshmen running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. This was very uncharacteristic of Georgia: the Bulldogs were best in the country in turnovers lost, but they have dropped to fourth after their three-turnover performance versus Georgia Tech.
  • Nebraska avoided an upset from Iowa in their season finale last weekend, but it wasn't enough to save Bo Pelini's job, since he was fired on Sunday. The Cornhuskers fanbase has been divided on whether Pelini merited a dismissal since Pelini took Nebraska to a 9-3 regular-season record. But it looks like "good" isn't good enough in Lincoln -- the athletic department wants a football program that sees 9-3 as a bad season, a program that isn't getting blown out by Wisconsin and is winning Big Ten championships instead. Going by the F/+ rankings, Nebraska's best win was easily the 41-31 victory in week four over Miami, which ranked 17th in the F/+. Besides the Hurricanes, however (who finished 6-6 despite their top-20 F/+ ranking from last week), their second-best win was over 50th-ranked Iowa, and their three losses are to the other top teams they faced, including Minnesota (31st), Wisconsin (13th), and Michigan State (18th). Nebraska wants a coach that can recruit with the best teams in the Big Ten -- and there Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State are generally the only consistently-ranked teams in recruiting each year -- and then develop the talent they bring in to compete with those top-30 programs. Whoever takes over for Pelini will have their hands full next season, with BYU, Miami, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan State all on the regular-season docket.
  • The 48-10 final score of Texas-TCU made it look like the Horned Frogs just overwhelmed the Longhorns, but the large margin of victory had as much to do with Texas' self-inflicted wounds as anything. Texas went -4 in turnover margin, but they also had an astounding eight three-and-outs in the game. The Horned Frogs then capitalized on Texas turnovers by starting five possessions on the Longhorns' side of the field. The Horned Frogs' offense averaged 0.52 points per play, but Trevone Boykin can thank the Texas offensive line and Tyrone Swoopes for those gift-wrapped scoring opportunities.
  • The Iron Bowl was historically defense-less, with the winning Crimson Tide outgained in total yards 628-539 and Nick Marshall passing for 456 yards. The Tide also lost the turnover battle and time of possession, so it's actually a surprise that Alabama was able to run away with the second half like it did. The key was in red zone efficiency: the Tide scored touchdowns on all five red-zone trips (and all five of Alabama's drives after Sims' third interception), while Auburn kicked five field goals in its seven red-zone opportunities. Alabama is third in the country in opponent red zone touchdown efficiency, allowing touchdowns on just 38 percent of opponent opportunities.

TOP 25

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Florida State
4. Ohio State
5. TCU
6. Baylor
7. Michigan State
8. Arizona
9. Ole Miss
10. Mississippi State
11. Georgia Tech
12. Kansas State
13. Wisconsin
14. Georgia
15. Auburn
16. Arizona State
17. LSU
18. Oklahoma
19. UCLA
20. Louisville
21. Arkansas
22. Clemson
23. USC
24. Colorado State
25. Nebraska

The fight for the final Playoff spot will go down to the last week of the season, when Kansas State and Baylor face off in the Big 12 and a J.T. Barrett-less Buckeyes team is matched up with a surging Wisconsin Badgers squad in the Big Ten Championship. If all three teams win next week, then it will be an extremely difficult and undoubtedly controversial decision to exclude the fifth- and sixth-ranked teams. Beyond those three one-loss teams is a lot of parity -- you could likely rank Michigan State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arizona, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, and Wisconsin in any order you'd like, as they have all had big wins and upsets.

HONOR ROLL

  • Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama. It's not too much of an exaggeration to say that Amari Cooper was the difference in the Iron Bowl for Alabama. Alabama overcame three interceptions from quarterback Blake Sims largely because Cooper took advantage of a Tigers pass defense with 13 catches for 224 yards. Cooper now has 1,573 total receiving yards this season with the SEC Championship against Missouri next week. Alabama's next group of Tigers has a much tougher pass defense (15th in Passing S&P+) than Auburn (38th), but Cooper hasn't been slowed by anyone except Arkansas this season.
  • Cody Kessler, QB, USC. The Trojans may not be "back" just yet in Steve Sarkisian's first season, but it's clear that he has the right quarterback under center in Cody Kessler. Kessler passed for 372 yards and six touchdowns in three quarters of work, dominating an apparently demoralized Notre Dame defense (ranked 36th in Defensive F/+). He is among the nation's leaders in ratios of both passer per interception, and touchdowns per interception.
  • Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech. Freshman Patrick Mahomes passed for 598 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception against Baylor in Texas Tech's two-point loss. In the freshman's fourth start, Mahomes led the Red Raiders to 46 points, with the 48th-ranked F/+ offense against the tenth-ranked F/+ Baylor defense.

DEMERITS

  • Rivalries going too far. Georgia Tech players celebrated their thrilling overtime win over Georgia by pulling out pieces of the Sanford Stadium hedges that line the field and then taunting Georgia fans with them as they left the game. It's a rare event for the Yellow Jackets to beat the Bulldogs, but that is no justification for celebrating with pieces of the iconic hedges.

  • Injuries to star players in final regular season games. It's a shame for a player to get injured in any game, but you've got to feel for Baylor's Bryce Petty, Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, and Clemson's Deshaun Watson, who were all injured last week in their last or second-to-last regular-season games. Petty left with concussion symptoms and is questionable for next week, while Barrett's broken ankle sidelined him for the rest of the season. Clemson's Deshaun Watson actually entered the season finale with South Carolina with a torn ACL suffered during practice this week, but a brace held him together enough to account for four touchdowns.

LOWSMAN WATCH

  • Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona. It's not an exaggeration to call Scooby Mr. Havoc Rate, 2014. Wright had thirteen tackles, two sacks, five tackles for loss, and a forced fumble in the Wildcats' win over the Sun Devils. Wright is third in the country in sacks, first in tackles for loss, and first in forced fumbles. It's clear that Wright's ability to put opposing offenses behind schedule and force turnovers has been instrumental in getting Rich Rodriguez's team to the Pac-12 Championship game.
  • Paul Dawson, LB, TCU. The Horned Frogs are solid year after year on defense, and part of the reason is that Gary Patterson gets insane production out of guys like Dawson. Dawson was under-recruited as a Texas wide receiver prospect, but made the transition to defense for Patterson. Against Kansas, Dawson racked up ten tackles, two tackles for loss, and an interception, putting those receiver skills to good use.
  • Dadi Nicolas, DL, Virginia Tech. After Virginia Tech's loss to Wake Forest, you couldn't really expect the Hokies to beat anyone this season (how again did Ohio State lose to the Hokies?). But the Virginia Tech defense stepped up and held Virginia to just 38 rushing yards, and Dadi Nicolas was a big reason why. He finished with nine tackles, two tackles for loss, an insane five quarterback hurries, and a sack.

Posted by: Chad Peltier on 01 Dec 2014

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