1. More, please: Last week was epic, and not just for the state of Mississippi. The Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8 teams lost. After five weeks of relative calm, college football’s heavy hitters got busy updating their Final Four projections. There’s no consensus, only myriad combinations:
ACC: It’s FSU or bust.
Pick your stat or trust your eyes. The answer is the same: The defending champs were more dominant last year, but they have the easiest road to the Final Four. Notre Dame is the only remaining ranked team they’ll face, and it’s at home Oct. 18. Then they coast into (and through) the ACC title game. Given the schedule, however, one loss could doom their playoff hopes.
SEC: Most assume the SEC will occupy two of the four playoff spots. Thus far, the only argument is why not three? It will get really interesting if Georgia wins out (which would include beating Auburn at home on Nov. 15) and then upsets the West winner in the SEC title game. A closer look at the West:
Auburn: Now No. 2, the Tigers benefited more than anybody from the upheaval last week. They sat at No. 5 since Week 2, yet never received a single first-place vote until this week. They’ll have to earn it: They still play five SEC teams ranked in the Top 15, starting Saturday at No. 3 Mississippi State.
Ole Miss: The Rebels started in the Top 20 and have climbed steadily to No. 3, their highest in-season ranking since 1963. The schedule is manageable (by SEC standards): at No. 14 Texas A&M on Saturday, but then Auburn and rival Mississippi State at home. Oh, and they visit LSU, which took out then-No. 14 Wisconsin in the opener on a neutral field.
Miss. State: The Bulldogs didn’t crack the Top 25 until Week 5; maybe they’ll have more street cred with Final Four voters. They beat No. 8 LSU and No. 6 Texas A&M, host No. 2 Auburn on Saturday, then still play at No. 7 Alabama and No. 3 Ole Miss. One loss is likely, maybe more.
Alabama: Don’t count them out, not with Texas A&M, both Mississippi powers and LSU remaining.
Big 12: Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma are in the mix. Assuming FSU and two SEC schools make the Final Four, six teams could battle for the final spot. Baylor still plays four ranked teams, starting Saturday against No. 9 TCU. If TCU wins, the Horned Frogs become the Big 12’s best option. Oklahoma’s loss was at TCU, but Baylor is the only Top 10 team the Sooners will face all season.
Notre Dame: The ultimate wild card. The Irish’s fate likely will be determined at FSU. Beat the Noles in Tally, and they might be able to withstand a loss later at No. 20 Arizona State.
Pac 12: Do you believe in Arizona? The Wildcats didn’t receive a single vote in either preseason poll (Vanderbilt, for instance, received two). They weren’t ranked until beating Oregon and now are No. 10. They squeaked past a 1-4 Texas-San Antonio team 26-23.
Big Ten: If these voters are like the basketball selection committee, they will look for a reason to kick you out. Michigan State lost to Oregon, which just lost at home to Arizona. Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech, which then lost its next two.
The committee releases its first rankings Oct. 28. Can’t wait.
2. Heisman watch: Tarboro’s Todd Gurley’s Heisman hopes all but ended Thursday when news broke that Georgia suspended him indefinitely for possibly violating NCAA rules. Mississippi State dual-threat QB Dak Prescott (1,232 passing yards, 455 rushing yards, 19 combined TDs) has jumped into contention and will be a threat as long as the Bulldogs stay undefeated. QBs have hoisted the Heisman 12 of the past 13 years, and six of the past seven QB winners were dual-threat guys.
Tracking the Top 25
Saturday’s games ... comments where deserving.
No. 1 Florida State (5-0) at Syracuse (2-3), Noon: “I promise you,” QB Jameis Winston told reporters. “Just wait, just wait, just wait on it. We’re going to get it going.” Not exactly what Syracuse wanted to hear.
No. 2 Auburn (5-0) at No. 3 Mississippi State (5-0), 3:30 p.m.: In the SEC West, it never ends.
No. 3 Mississippi (5-0) at No. 14 Texas A&M (5-1), 9 p.m.: See above. (Cheapest seats for Nov. 29 Ole Miss-Miss. State game are $195. And rising.)
No. 5 Baylor (5-0) vs. No. 9 TCU (4-0), 3:30 p.m.: Baylor ranks first in points (51.0) but hasn’t played a team with a winning record, so we’ll learn a lot Saturday. Winner jumps firmly into the Final Four picture.
No. 6 Notre Dame (5-0) vs. North Carolina (2-3), 3:30 p.m.: Irish QB Everett Golson (13 TD passes) gets headlines, and Notre Dame’s defense gets three-and-outs.
No. 7 Alabama (4-1) at Arkansas (3-2), 6 p.m.
No. 8 Michigan State (4-1) at Purdue (3-3), 3:30 p.m.
No. 10 Arizona (5-0) vs. Southern Cal (3-2), 10:30 p.m.: Trojans lost to Boston College and Arizona State but beat the only ranked team they played: Stanford. At their tree house.
No. 11 Oklahoma (4-1) vs. Texas (2-3) at Dallas, Noon
No. 12 Oregon (4-1) at No. 18 UCLA (4-1), 3:30 p.m.: Road win in Los Angeles will help the Ducks’ chances, but it won’t completely erase home loss to an unranked team.
No. 13 Georgia (4-1) at No. 23 Missouri (4-1), Noon: The Bulldogs have much bigger problems now that Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely.
No. 16 Oklahoma State (4-1) at Kansas (2-3), 4 p.m.
No. 19 ECU (4-1) at South Florida (2-3), 7 p.m.: Pirates firmly in the easiest stretch of the season. Bulls have had two weeks to prepare/worry.
No. 22 Georgia Tech (5-0) vs. Duke (4-1), 12:30 p.m.: Tech has won the past 10 matchups, including the past two against Duke bowl teams. Dual-threat QB Justin Thomas already has two 130-yard rushing games.
Number to know
11 Top 25 teams that lost last week. This week at least five more are guaranteed to lose.
“Sadly, this has become an annual Heisman race tradition.” – Tweet from college football writer Stewart Mandel after Todd Gurley’s suspension was announced.
Compiled by Chris Wright, with help from AP, Pat Forde, ESPN.com, SI.com and various team websites