SportsPulse: Paul Myerberg breaks down how Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State and UCF can get into the College Football playoff as well as what chaos could occur on Saturday.
Unpredictable events are often the norm during the college football season, especially as the College Football Playoff chase comes a conclusion and the stakes are raised higher. But that is what makes the sport so beautiful to watch.
So it makes sense to try to go out on a limb and take a guess at some possible outcomes that on their face might not be expected to happen under normal circumstances.
Five members of the USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, George Schroeder, Erick Smith and Eddie Timanus — weigh in with some bold predictions for the games during Week 14.
The longest winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision will end in the American Athletic Conference title game as Memphis will beat Central Florida. Unfortunately for fans of college football, and all teams involved, the moment won’t be as special due to the devastating knee injury suffered by UCF QB McKenzie Milton last week. The Knights have become a divisive figure in college football while accumulating 24 straight wins, thanks mostly to UCF’s proclamation of being 2017 national champions as FBS’ only undefeated team that year. But in losing the central driver of that streak in the senior Milton, the magical run will not get the ending it deserved. The bet for this weekend is that Memphis – which really should have beaten UCF earlier this year as it went up 30-14 before a second-half meltdown – will ride Darrell Henderson, FBS’ second-leading rusher, to victory against a Knights team that seems primed for a letdown without their leader.
Memphis takes the American Athletic Conference title by upsetting McKenzie Milton-less Central Florida and knocks the Knights out of New Year’s Six bowl contention. Instead, the access-bowl bid goes to Boise State, which beats Fresno State for the second time this season to win the Mountain West Conference. This would be the second time the Broncos have made a New Year’s Six bowl and serve as a strong statement about coach Bryan Harsin’s ability to keep this program among the most consistently successful in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
After losing to rival Washington by 13 points in a snowstorm last weekend, Washington State inexplicably dropped from No. 8 to No. 13 in the College Football Playoff rankings last week (while 10-2 Michigan lost to a rival 62-39 and dropped from No. 4 to 7), seemingly leaving the 10-2 Cougars (with a controversial loss earlier in the season) out of the mix for a New Year’s Six bowl berth.
But after Washington State athletic director Pat Chun and coach Mike Leach publicly lobbied for a rankings correction – noting they’d been ranked behind four 9-3 teams (including Washington) – the Cougars will climb a couple of notches despite not playing this weekend. They’ll get a New Year’s Six bowl berth because the committee will recognize it ranked them far too low this week.
It is painful enough for Oklahoma to deal with one loss to Texas in a season. The idea of losing twice to the rival Longhorns, including the second being in the Big 12 championship game, is just plain cruelty. But that’s the situation that awaits the Sooners.
While everyone remembers the field goal by Michael Dicker on the final play in the Cotton Bowl that won the game for Texas, people forget that the Longhorns dominated most of the game. They led by 21 points in the fourth quarter until a furious rally led by Kyler Murray brought Oklahoma back.
Mike Stoops was fired after the game. But the leaky Sooners defense has taken on even more water since. They’ve allowed at least 40 points in four consecutive wins. You have to assume Texas will reach that total in AT&T Stadium. And the Longhorns do have enough defense to slow down Murray for a second time. It will be along ride home back across the Red River after OU sees its playoff and Big 12 titles go up in smoke.
This is a prediction I hope is wrong, but here goes. Absolutely nothing interesting will happen this weekend. The favorites will win, the status shall be quo, and the playoff committee will do the right thing and give us the Tua vs. Kyler semifinal we all want to see.
Sidenote: I’d like to take this opportunity to lobby the official Scrabble dictionary to include the word ‘quo’ on its own as acceptable. It’s hard enough to ditch that darn Q as it is, and I think it has achieved enough common use without being part of a phrase to merit inclusion. Thank you.
Now then — Sure, a couple of the games might be interesting for a while. Georgia and Alabama will hold serve for a few possessions, and the Oklahoma-Texas rematch if it’s anything close to the first Red River showdown will be worth watching. But in the end, not much will change. The Sooners will find a way to score more points this time, the Tide will eventually roll, and Clemson and Ohio State will do as expected to overmatched opponents. Sorry, chaos fans, no go.