In political elections, they have the "October Surprise." In college football, the moments that rock the vote tend to come a little later: Of the top 10 teams in the BCS standings on Oct. 31, 2011, for example, eight went on to lose games in November they were favored to win. That included needle-moving lapses by three top-five contenders -- Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Oregon -- on the same weekend, all at the hands of double-digit underdogs. Just two weeks in, November 2012 produced its first major shock Saturday in Texas A&M's 29-24 ambush of No. 1 Alabama. The upset sent the Crimson Tide tumbling from the top spot and leaves the SEC, home to the last six BCS champions, suddenly on the outside of the championship picture looking in, waiting for another tremor to open up a path back to the top.
|College Football Final Four|
|1. Oregon||Oregon OR Alabama|
|2. Kansas State||vs. Kansas State OR Notre Dame|
|3. Notre Dame|
In the world that replaces the BCS with a four-team playoff, however, Alabama's fall would not be so cataclysmic. Or so says the CBSSports.com playoff selection committee, a panel of 10 reporters, columnists and bloggers who convene each week to simulate a mock playoff -- just like the real one that's coming in 2014. By that standard, the Tide remain very much alive: Although Saturday's surprise loss predictably sent Alabama tumbling from its season-long perch at the top of this week's ballots, our collective wisdom still believes Bama deserves a shot to redeem itself. (Hey, does that sound familiar to anyone else? Maybe a limited playoff isn't going to be all that different, after all.)
In fact, the four teams making the playoff cut this week -- Oregon, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Alabama -- are the same four that made the cut last week, and the week before that. All that's changed is the order: The new void at No. 1 has been filled by Oregon, an overwhelming favorite over No. 2 Kansas State, earning the top spot on eight of 10 ballots.
As in the mainstream polls, undefeated Notre Dame follows as a unanimous No. 3 following another routine, by-the-book win over Boston College. The key difference is that No. 3 in our format actually gets an opportunity to prove itself on the field. You know, hypothetically.
The final spot was a much closer call between the best of the SEC, Alabama and Georgia. The Bulldogs just wrapped up the East Division crown with a 38-0 romp over sad-sack Auburn. (Alabama will wrap up the West with a win over Auburn in two weeks, which may as well be a straightforward statement of fact at this point: Alabama will wrap up the West with a win over Auburn.) For now, the panel narrowly opted for the Crimson Tide in the fourth slot, but in this case, the question will answer itself when Bama and Georgia go head-to-head in the SEC Championship Game. It won't be the first time that game has served as a de facto play-in game for a shot at the national championship, and it won't be the last.
The CBSSports.com playoff selection committee is: Tony Barnhart, Dennis Dodd, Bruce Feldman, Tom Fornelli, Jeremy Fowler, Jerry Hinnen, Matt Hinton, Chris Huston, Jerry Palm, Chip Patterson.