Take Tuesday: Amateur Edition – 2016 CFB Week 4 Recap
Arthur W Mueller
Let’s get things started by talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers because they played so badly they’ve been demoted to this column. However everything is going to be okay because LeVeon Bell is coming back and he will fix everything (force defenses to pay attention to someone besides Antonio Brown). Maybe Ladarius Green can play at some point. Here’s a tip for the Steelers: some good NFL tight ends play basketball in college so be on the lookout for that. Also, next season when Martavis Bryant comes back, the Steelers offense will be unstoppable. The Steelers always have one or two games every season where they don’t show up and play hard against inferior competition. As long as it doesn’t happen in the playoffs, we’re good.
Okay, let’s move on to Pitt. Watching Pitt with a fourth quarter lead feels like a cross between Groundhog Day and Final Destination. There was no point in that game where I was confident in Pitt; not when they were leading by, 13 midway through the 4th quarter, not when they had the ball only needing a few first downs to run out the clock, and certainly not on any of their three chances to get a fourth down stop and win the game. Pitt’s secondary is just not good enough to cover receivers one-on-one and opposing teams know this. Pitt’s defense is like me in Little League. I just stood still and hoped the other team’s pitcher wasn’t good enough to throw strikes. Pitt’s defense drops back and hopes the other team doesn’t have a good enough passing attack to beat them. If you can consistently complete passes downfield, you can beat Pitt. I don’t know how Pitt gets better this season. In the coming years, once Pat Narduzzi actually gets a chance to recruit some secondary talent, Pitt should be fine. In the meantime, they aren’t going to be a complete team, so stop expecting more than eight wins in a season. Narduzzi hasn’t had enough time to transform Pitt football into an ACC Coastal power.
The ACC had a great weekend winning all of their non-conference games. Duke beat Notre Dame, Virginia beat Central Michigan, and even Virginia Tech was able to blow out ACC tormenter East Carolina. The most important story of the day was Wake Forest remaining undefeated with a 33-28 victory over Indiana. The ACC is starting to look like the deepest conference in college football, with very few possibilities for a team to take a truly bad loss and a virtual guarantee of a playoff berth. The ACC also has the best opportunity to be the first conference to put two teams in the playoff. It would be hard to make a case against a one loss ACC team that misses the ACC championship game on a tiebreaker. If the cards fall right, the ACC could replicate their March Madness success and have two of the final four teams vying for a national title.
The Big 10 got a little more clarity as Wisconsin stomped Michigan State 30-6. Michigan State isn’t out of the playoff race yet with games left against Michigan and Ohio State, but their loss helps simplify the Big 10 East pecking order. It is now clear that Michigan vs. Ohio State will function like a Big Ten semifinal with the winner heavily favored to win the Big Ten championship game and advance to the college football playoff. Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa, and Nebraska are on the outside trying to crash the party. It’s unclear what would happen if the Big Ten West winner upsets the Big Ten East winner. We’ll have to wait a couple of weeks as Michigan and Ohio State play some teams from the Big Ten West. Barring any unusual upsets the balance of power should remain in the East.
The SEC still has Alabama so that’s good for them. Alabama has made it past Ole Miss and it’s hard to imagine a College Football Playoff without Alabama. Outside of Alabama, Texas A&M looks really strong, but the SEC West is the kind of division that chews up teams. Whoever wins that division is likely in the playoff, and winning the division means beating Alabama. Until Texas A&M does that, they are on the outside looking in.
The Pac-12 almost got interesting, but Stanford survived UCLA, Washington survived Arizona, Utah survived USC, and Arizona State survived Cal. Survived is the right word; Stanford and Utah scored their game-winning touchdowns with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, Washington had to go to overtime, and Arizona State got their first lead of the game with 3:16 left in the fourth quarter. Last year, the Pac-12 teams kept each other out of the playoff. The Pac-12 has four teams still alive right now, but I doubt if any Pac-12 team can lose a game and make the playoff. If the selection committee has to decide between a one loss Pac-12 champion and a one loss ACC/Big 10 team that missed the conference title game, the Pac-12 will have to cross their fingers and hope, and if Houston goes undefeated, a one-loss Pac-12 playoff entrant is almost impossible.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have two losses. Texas has a loss to a mediocre Cal team. West Virginia is undefeated, but does anyone really see West Virginia running the table? For the Big 12, it’s Baylor or bust.
Right now, the playoff looks like it is going to feature the ACC winner, the Big 10 winner, and the SEC winner. The fourth berth is up for grabs between:
1. Pac-12 undefeated winner
2. Undefeated Houston
3. Undefeated Big 12 team
4. Pac-12 one loss winner
5. ACC/Big 10/ SEC one loss runner up
6. Big 12 one-loss “winner”
Obviously, this list is flexible and could change depending on who wins each conference. An undefeated Stanford team might edge out an undefeated Houston team, but an undefeated Arizona State team probably isn’t as lucky. Lets save this debate for future weeks when we have fewer teams with zero or one loss.
2. Ohio State
9. Texas A&M
12. Florida State
15. Michigan State
18. Ole Miss
20. Arizona State
22. West Virginia
23. North Carolina
24. Wake Forest
25. Virginia Tech