We are impressively stupid creatures. We think we're smart because we look around at every other species on this planet and know that we're smarter than them, but just because you can beat a 70-year old man in a foot race, it doesn't mean you're fast.
I cooked him, though.
Anyway, we're stupid creatures with remarkably short memories. A team loses a game in September or October every college football season and people begin declaring that their playoff hopes are done. They do it despite all the evidence that suggests otherwise. I mean, I could understand if the College Football Playoff had existed since 1880, and we don't remember the way things were in the early years because we weren't alive, but the CFP began in 2014. It's only been around seven seasons. There isn't a lot to remember.
Yet nobody does.
On Saturday, Oregon lost to Stanford in overtime. It was a game Oregon deserved to lose only because of how sloppy it played -- and considering the team was without offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, it's understandable -- if not because of what the final box score told us (Oregon had a postgame win expectancy of 63%). As soon as Stanford scored in overtime to finish the game, the tweets came raining down upon timelines as far as the eye could see.
There were 100 different versions of somebody saying, "LOL Oregon's playoff hopes are done" or "the Pac-12 has done it again!" Which, fine, the latter is a perfectly legitimate statement. The former, however, is reactive, reductive and utterly ignorant of reality.
I guarantee you that no fewer than 50% of the people who deemed Oregon ineligible for the playoff following Saturday's loss would tell you that Ohio State can still make the playoff. The same Ohio State that Oregon beat at Ohio State last month. After all, Ohio State's loss was to mighty Oregon! The Ducks, meanwhile, lost to lowly Stanford!
The truth is that both are alive and kicking in the College Football Playoff race. Again, this event has existed for only seven years, meaning 28 different teams have been selected to participate. Of those 28, only 11 were undefeated when they arrived and one of those was an Ohio State team that made it despite playing only six games during the 2020 regular season. Of the 11 undefeated, eight have been Alabama, Clemson or Ohio State.
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Then there are the 17 teams, a full 60.7% of them, who arrived with a loss to their name. Of those 17 teams, 11 suffered their first loss within the first eight games of the season. On average, the seventh game of the year served as the lone loss for the 17 teams to arrive with one, with the earliest being 2014 Ohio State (second game) and the latest being 2017 Alabama (12th game).
When Ohio State lost that second game to Virginia Tech in 2014, people said their playoff hopes were done. When Oregon lost a few weeks later, they said the same thing about the Ducks. Both teams would meet in the title game that season and Oregon would receive its second loss, and the second loss has proven to be the real killer of playoff hopes so far.
Of course, in 2014, we had an excuse. It was our first time and we didn't know any better. Unfortunately, seven years later, we still don't. I'm sure a lot of this is due to recency bias. Of the 11 teams to get through the regular season undefeated and reach the College Football Playoff, eight have come in the last three seasons. From 2014-17, the only undefeated teams at the start of the CFP were 2014 Florida State (lost in the semis), 2015 Clemson (lost title game) and 2016 Alabama (lost title game).
None of this is to say Oregon -- or any other one-loss team -- will reach the playoff. There's a lot of season left to play, and as every single weekend tries to remind us with a brick upside our dumb heads, just about anybody is capable of losing to anybody in this chaotic sport. The team that seems invincible now is rarely invincible next week.
Let's try to remember this on Saturday when at least one of the 17 remaining undefeated teams loses.
Worst Awesome Week of the Week
Speaking of teams that won't make the College Football Playoff, Cincinnati picked up an impressive 24-13 win on the road against Notre Dame. It's one of the more impressive regular-season wins any Group of Five playoff-hopeful can claim since the event began. Still, unfortunately for the Bearcats, it's probably not going to be enough.
Even if Cincinnati wins out, something it's capable of doing but should not be taken for granted, the committee already has the ammunition it needs to keep it out. Which it will. Cincinnati's game against Indiana was supposed to be a resume-booster, as the Hoosiers entered the 2021 season with a top-15 ranking. Instead, Indiana is 2-3 after losing 24-0 to Penn State. With games remaining against Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan, Indiana could conceivably miss out on a bowl game this year, which would render Cincinnati's win over it meaningless to the committee.
Then there are the Bearcats conference mates letting it down, too. Maybe UCF is jealous of somebody else being the G5 playoff candidate, and that's why it decided to lose to Navy? The loss drops the Knights to 2-2, meaning a potential Cincinnati win against UCF in a couple of weeks won't mean as much. Memphis, the other AAC team with CFP resume street cred, lost to Temple to drop to 3-2 on the season. While the Tigers don't play Cincinnati, they do play UCF, which guarantees that at least one will finish the season with three losses.
On a weekend when Cincinnati fans should be able to feel like there's a legitimate chance they can reach the playoff, everybody else went and stacked the deck against it further.
Bellyflop of the Week
I swear, there are at least two Purdue home games a season that finish with standing water at least 10-feet deep on the sidelines. It's an engineering school, so I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt and assume things are designed that way.
Bo Nix Moment of the Week
I have given Bo Nix a lot of grief over the years, and deservedly so. For all the spectacular plays of which he's capable, there are far more back-breaking mistakes. A part of me has always wished he'd iron out the dumb parts because, if he did, he'd be a spectacular quarterback. But maybe we need those dumb parts. Maybe they're what make Peak Bo Nix one of the most entertaining players to watch in the country.
Bo Nix is the duality of man.
Stock Advice of the Week
BUY -- Kenny Pickett draft stock: Coming back to Pitt for another season has proven to be a brilliant decision by Kenny Pickett so far. I don't know where he'd have been drafted had he declared last year or if he'd have been drafted at all. Odds are he'd have been a third-day pick and a guy teams saw as a developmental project worth stashing on the practice squad.
Now he's being talked about as a possibility in the first few rounds. The combination of a weak draft class at the QB spot and Pickett having the best season of his career have worked wonders for him. So far, Pickett has set career highs in passer efficiency (194.4), completion rate (72.5%) and yards per attempt (10.29). Perhaps more remarkably, he has a touchdown rate of 11.1% right now. His previous career-high was 3.9%. On the other side, Pickett's interception rate is the lowest of his career at 0.6%. He's never finished a season with a rate lower than 1.5%.
HOLD -- Iowa: This week's upcoming game against Penn State will tell us a lot more about the Hawkeyes than any other game they've played this season, but Friday night's 51-14 win over Maryland was the best the Hawkeyes have looked on either side of the ball. Still, I'm only holding on the Hawkeyes because I do have some concerns about how they play and how sustainable it is moving forward. All of which I went over on The Cover 3 Podcast.
SELL -- Ed Orgeron's job security: I don't think it's going to happen this week, but the only thing I could think of as I watched Auburn come back to beat LSU in Death Valley on Saturday night is that it's only a matter of time for Orgeron. It hasn't even been two years since Orgeron and the 2019 Tigers put together one of the most impressive performances of any college football team in history, but it sure feels like a long time ago.
Coach O seems destined for the same fate as Gene Chizik at Auburn.
Catch of the Week
It's not always receivers making the spectacular grab. Syracuse's Darian Chestnut diagnosed this play quickly, broke on it and made one hell of a play on the ball. Unfortunately for Syracuse, it wouldn't be enough as Florida State would win the game 33-30 with a field goal as time expired.
Social Media Team of the Week
I swear, when I saw this video go viral on the internet earlier in the week, my first thought was, "If Georgia beats the Gators, we are definitely going to see this video again." I did not think we would see it so quickly, but shout out to Kentucky for beating the Gators in Lexington for the first time since 1986.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
Doing this has been so easy the last few years, but it's nearly impossible this year. So let's just stick with the chalk.
- Ohio State
Until the next Monday After!