The Southeastern Conference’s chance to get two teams in the College Football Playoff took a hit Saturday.
Or maybe it would be better described as a chomp.
Florida’s emphatic upset of No. 9 Georgia took a chunk out of the resume of what looked like the SEC East’s best team. The Bulldogs (6-2, 4-2, No. 11 CFP) seemed to have a fairly manageable path to the conference championship game, along with the opportunity for a big victory against Auburn on Nov. 15 when star tailback Todd Gurley returns from suspension.
Now, with two losses to a pair of teams (South Carolina and Florida) that have been inconsistent at best this season, Georgia’s looking like a long shot. The Bulldogs will need help just to get to the SEC championship game now.
And if the Bulldogs were to go on a run and win the conference, how would the committee handle that?
Leave out the SEC West winner and take the Bulldogs? Take one of those SEC West powers over the conference champion?
It’s all about the West in the SEC now as far as the playoff is concerned. The best the teams in the East can do is not get in the way.
As for the West, Auburn (7-1, 4-1) handed Mississippi (7-2, 4-2) its second straight loss, 38-35 in Oxford, Mississippi.
“This was a playoff game,” Auburn linebacker Kris Frost said. “But from here on in, every game is a playoff game. They just get bigger and bigger.”
The Tigers and Rebels were in spots three and four in the playoff rankings. It’ll be interesting what the committee does with them this week. A case could be made that Auburn has the best overall resume in the country, with this road win added to the one at Kansas State.
Could the Tigers jump past one of the unbeaten teams? No. 2 Florida State pulled off another comeback on the road at Louisville on Thursday night. No. 1 Mississippi State survived a scare against Arkansas on Saturday.
The Bulldogs have a victory against Auburn so that should be enough to keep the Tigers at bay in the rankings. As for Florida State, for all the complaints about how the Seminoles have played, they still have that zero in the loss column.
Then there’s Ole Miss. The Rebels will major chaos to win the West now. Barring that, they are probably done.
The Big 12 avoided its own problematic upset Saturday when No. 10 TCU (7-1, 4-1), which was the conference’s highest ranked team in the playoff top 25 at seventh, beat West Virginia on a last-second field goal.
The Horned Frogs return home to play Kansas State next week in a game that will go a long way toward determining the Big 12 champ. After that, TCU has a relatively smooth path with at Kansas, at Texas and Iowa State to close the season. The Frogs will have to hope for somebody to knock off Baylor, but the Bears still have some heavy lifting, starting with a road trip to Oklahoma next Saturday.
PAC-12 PECKING ORDER
No. 5 Oregon (8-1, 5-1) took control of the Pac-12 North by running Stanford out of Autzen Stadium. The Ducks seem like a good bet to move into the top four of the playoff rankings and replace Ole Miss, though it’d be interesting to see if the selection committee breaks typical poll tendencies. The Ducks have made a strong case since their loss to Arizona.
Over in the Pac-12 South, Arizona State (7-1, 5-1) is all alone in first after it beat Utah in overtime and UCLA topped Arizona.
The Pac-12 grinder sends Oregon to Utah next week. Best case scenario for the Pac-12 in the playoff race is the Ducks and Sun Devils playing for the league title with one loss each, but that might wishful thinking.
“Our teams are in great shape if they win,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scot said at halftime of the Oregon game. “We’ve got several teams that feel like they’re in control of their destiny. But you don’t know what’s going to happen in the other leagues. I’ve got a high degree of confidence in the committee and the process.”
BEST OF THE REST
East Carolina was in the driver’s seat to the one guaranteed spot for the Group of Five conferences for the American as the only team in the playoff rankings last week, but a sloppy visit to rainy Philadelphia could cost the Pirates dearly.
Temple pulled a stunner of an upset, beating the Pirates (6-2, 3-1 CFP 23) 20-10. The beneficiary of ECU’s misstep could be Marshall (8-0) of C-USA or Colorado State (8-1) of the Mountain West.
PROJECTING THE NEXT RANKINGS
Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn, Oregon.
PROJECTING THE PLAYOFF
Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State.
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Oxford, Mississippi, contributed to this report.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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