It took a while for a big upset to happen on the penultimate Saturday of the regular season but happen it did. Arizona State held off a furious Oregon rally to knock off the No. 6 Ducks 31-28 in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday night. That effectively ends any realistic hope of a berth in the College Football Playoff for Oregon, and it even damages No. 7 Utah's chances as well. The Utes mowed over Arizona 35-7, but if they do run the table now, the quality of a win over Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game would be somewhat diminished.
Of course, Utah still has to secure a berth in that title game. The Utes must beat Colorado this coming weekend to do that. A loss would put USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Oregon has already clinched its spot. Nobody in the Pac-12 North is within three games of the Ducks, and if they beat rival Oregon State on Saturday, they will win the division by four games. I am still projecting Oregon to win the conference title and secure a spot in the Rose Bowl; however, the Utes should rank high enough to stay in a New Year's Six game. I have them projected to the Cotton Bowl to face Group of Five representative Memphis.
To start the day, No. 8 Penn State put up a pretty good fight with No. 2 Ohio State, forcing three turnovers and overcoming a second-half injury to quarterback Sean Clifford. In the end, the Nittany Lions came up on the short end of a 28-17 score. Penn State is the first team to come within 24 points of the Buckeyes this season.
Adding another high-quality win could mean that Ohio State jumps No. 1 LSU, which pounded Arkansas 56-20 on Saturday, in this week's the CFP Rankings, but I think the CFP Selection Committee may not be quite ready to do that yet. Even if the Buckeyes do move up, that move may not be permanent. Not much separates these two teams.
2020 College Football Playoff
|Date||Game / Loc.||Matchup||Prediction|
|Title game|| Semifinal winners|
(2) Ohio State vs. (3) Clemson
As for the Nittany Lions, I believe that performance will keep them ahead of No. 12 Wisconsin in the rankings, which is important because -- if Ohio State ends up in the playoff as expected -- the higher rated of those two could end up in the Rose Bowl. Of course, that is based on a prediction of Wisconsin beating No. 10 Minnesota next Saturday to get a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Gophers downed Northwestern 38-22 to set up the winner-take-all match in the Big Ten West. If Minnesota wins, it will either be in the playoff or the Rose Bowl.
With Penn State and Utah replacing Wisconsin and No. 11 Florida, respectively, in the New Year's Six bowl game projections, the team and bowl pairings in their leagues also shuffled around some.
No. 9 Oklahoma, which is looking for style points to enhance its playoff prospects, jumped out to a 21-0 lead on TCU on Saturday only to watch it evaporate. Three Jalen Hurts turnovers, one of which was an interception on the goal line that was returned for a touchdown, meant that the Sooners had to hold on for a 28-24 win. In Oklahoma's last six games, one of which was the loss to Kansas State, the only one decided by more than seven points was the Sooners' 52-14 win over West Virginia on Oct. 19.
The Sooners did clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game with that victory over TCU. They will face No. 14 Baylor, which punched its ticket with a 24-10 win over Texas. The Longhorns are now 6-5 on the season. I guess they are not "back" just yet.
In the only game of any potential significant consequence in the SEC this weekend, No. 4 Georgia beat Texas A&M, 19-13, between the hedges. Otherwise, it was Sabbatical Saturday in the league with many members playing FCS opponents.
New Year's Six bowl games
|Date||Bowl / Location||Matchup||Prediction|
SEC vs. Big 12
| Georgia vs. Baylor|
Big Ten vs. Pac-12
|Penn State vs. Oregon|
ACC vs. SEC/B1G/ND
|Virginia vs. Alabama|
At-large vs. At-large
|Memphis vs. Utah|
Missouri was not one of those teams. The Tigers lost their fifth straight game, 24-20, to Tennessee. Missouri has been awaiting word on its appeal of its bowl ban for this season, but it seems that the NCAA is waiting to see if it is even necessary. The Tigers are now 5-6 and must beat Arkansas to have a bowl-eligible record. I have had Missouri in my bowl projections this season because they are still eligible to play in the postseason until the appeal is decided and the bowl ban is upheld.
Army West Point is another strange case. The Black Knights are 5-6 on the season with a game at Hawaii this week and the season-ender at Navy on Dec. 14. However, two of Army's wins are against FCS opposition, so only one of them counts for bowl eligibility. It has to win both of its remaining games to be bowl eligible, but the problem is that bowl pairings are announced on Dec. 8, before the Army-Navy game.
So, the question becomes, will a bowl wait a week to see if Army is eligible? I would guess not, but nobody knows for sure. And if there are not enough eligible teams on Dec. 8, does that change things for Army? As of now, that may not be an issue. There are currently 79 teams projected for 78 spots.
That has always been one of the potential issues with the Army-Navy Game being played after championship weekend. The other is that Navy could be eligible for the Group of Five spot in the Cotton Bowl this season, which is based on the committee's final rankings. The committee would need to have a backup plan in case Navy loses.
Either way, it is possible some bowls, including the Cotton Bowl, could have to put their plans on hold for an extra week.